Passage from Cape Town, South Africa to St Helena

Day 1

Left the V & A (Victoria and Alfred not Albert – strange!) marina at midday with a blue sky and brilliant sun – something we had become accustomed to over the last couple of months.  Once out into Table Bay , we had to motor sail for about 2 hours until we picked up a good breeze. With flat seas and a beam reach with around 15 – 20 knots of wind we had a great start.

By late afternoon (just before dinner time!) we put a reef in the main as the wind and waves had started to pick up – preparing our dinner was a bit of a challenge!  With the seas at around 2m and wind of around 20 – 25 knots we had a bit of a boisterous first night.  Early in the morning the wind got up to around 30 knots and more from behind and the seas about 3m.  Washing machine conditions!  Fortunately we had put the pole out before the seas got up the evening before so we were able to goose wing the genoa without too much hassle.  At the same time we put more reefs in the main.  So we're currently trucking along at around 8 – 9 knots.

Date and time: 20 January 12.00;      24 hour distance:  212nm;      Position: S31:44:029 E015:06:996

Day 2

All the books say this is a fast, comfortable and easy downhill sail. Huh! Most of the day passed in similar fashion to the first day – grey skies, winds of around 25 – 30 knots and seas of 2 – 3 m.  We kept the 4 reefs in the main and the genoa poled out during the morning.  After a fruit lunch (!) the conditions did ameliorate a little and the wind went forward a bit again so we were back on to a 2 sail reach. 

There is definitely a correlation between me preparing dinner in the galley and the wind and waves getting up – and yesterday didn't disappoint.  Halfway through the dinner preparations we had to put the genoa away and downsize to the staysail.

Sailed all night with 4 reefs in main and staysail. The seas did flatten out a bit during the night so we were doing around 9 – 10 knots over quite a period of time.  Just as I was thinking that maybe I could make pancakes with bananas and blueberries for breakfast the seas started up again – maybe someone knows we need to lose weight after the excesses of South Africa ! 

Wind has now died down a bit to around 20 knots so we are back on reefed genoa. Hoping for more trade wind like conditions in a day or two, but looks like we might have to negotiate some light winds first.

Just before we left we noticed that the solar panels were not producing what they should. It looks like one of the four is defective again. We've fixed it a couple of times now, but the corrosion inside is growing faster that our ability to repair it. However with not a sight of the sun for two days now, they wouldn't be doing much anyway. Just means 2 – 3 hrs generator running every morning to charge the batteries.

Date and Time: 21 January 12.00;     24 hours distance:  200nm;     Position:   S29:46:485 E011:52:331

Day 3

After lunch and a look at the daily grib file, we shook out a couple of reefs from the main and the genoa.  Reasonably pleasant conditions with wind around 20 knots and a smattering of sunshine during the afternoon.  Then came the big black cloud which brought us a little well needed rain.  Believe it or not come dinner time, just as I was starting in the galley, the wind and waves got up again – had to put the reefs back in for the night!

Unfortunately the swells are just at an awkward angle – just aft the beam - so we are doing quite a bit of rolling about.  Wind and seas kept up most of the night.  As per the grib file, the wind has dropped now to below 20 knots and the seas have flattened out a bit, but we still have a swell just aft the beam, though we've poled out the genoa and borne away a few degrees to better align with the swells.  The water must be getting a bit warmer – we've actually seen a few flying fish (unless of course there's a cold water species!)

Doing a lot of lying around and sleeping, but hoping for more conducive conditions soon to have a shower and do some reading.

As usual we have an SSB radio schedule with other boats. The evening one doesn't work due to too much interference, but the morning one is fine. There is one German boat (who we don' know) about 140nm ahead who we have been catching at around 50nm per day, and another British boat (who we do know) who left CT a few hours after us, who are about 80nm behind us.

Date and Time: 22 January 12.00;     24 hours distance: 204nm; Position:      S27:39:48 E008:48:866

Day 4

The wind abated during the day and the large swells calmed – no whitecaps – so we had pleasant sailing conditions for most of the afternoon.  The sky cleared and we even had some sun for a good few hours.  During the afternoon we shook out a couple of reefs from the main – now have only 2 reefs in and have been sailing goose winged.  With the wind at around 20 knots we are still managing to make between 8 and 9 knots – long may it continue although I think we may have lighter winds from tomorrow.

In the better conditions we actually managed to do some reading and have a shower! Whoopee!  Not much in the way of wildlife – the odd bird (yes that one) and a few small flying fish.  Currently it's reasonably comfortable with not too much rocking and rolling but we have grey skies again and the boat up ahead reported rain this morning on the SSB net. 

Date and Time: 23 January 12.00;     24 hours distance:  196nm;     Position:   S25:19:351 E006:00:302

Day 5

Wind up and down most of the day but still managed decent speed.  Seas much calmer so very pleasant conditions – especially when sun comes out – everything looks so much more colourful!  Got rid of the last reef in the main early afternoon and of course a while later the wind got up but we persisted with 10 – 11knots speed for an hour or so and the wind did finally die down a bit!  Continued goose winged all day until watch changeover at 1am when the wind went forward so we changed to a 2 sail reach. 

Woke up this morning to a gloomy, grey, drizzly day – maybe getting us ready for the UK (hopefully not!)  However it is a bit brighter now and we're hopeful for some afternoon sun.  Wind gone further aft so we're back with a poled out genoa.  With 845nm to go to St Helena we're now over half way.

We're definitely back in the ‘land' of the flying fish with half a dozen large ones and a couple of small ones together with a squid or two on deck this morning!  All's well with daily check – although the plastic tube protecting the genoa sheets had come loose again so we had to sort that out before we could pole it out again.

Date and Time: 24 January 12.00;     24 hours distance:  193nm;     Position:   S23:23:145 E003:16:226

Day 6

The sky brightened as the day wore on and by afternoon we had glorious sunshine again.  Stayed poled out the whole day – wind a bit less and seas fairly flat – just rolling a bit – very pleasant.  During the night the wind came and went and this morning it seems to have filled more from the south east, so we have just gybed onto starboard.  We're still poled out with the wind coming and going.  Woke up to another greyish day and drizzle – let's hope it clears again this afternoon.

We passed the boat which was ahead of us around 3am (Dutch not German as previously stated), and had a chat on the VHF.

Couple of flying fish this morning on deck.  The sun isn't going down now until around 8.40pm and rising around 7am.  We're not sure what time zone St Helena is on, assuming GMT + 0, but for the moment we're still working on S African time of GMT +2 hours. We are nearing the Greenwich meridian so will soon be back in the western hemisphere for the first time since 2012!  Right now we are 4362nm due south of Folkestone, and about 2463nm due east of Rio De Janeiro . If only it was a simple 4000nm home – more like 10000nm!!

Had a play with the solar panels yesterday, and although not perfect, not as bad as first thought. The villain is the fridge which seems to stay on continuously. May have a play today with replacing the thermostat. These little compressors have been running now for 12 years almost non-stop, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the problem is more fundamental.

Date and Time: 25 January 12.00;     24 hours distance:  178 nm;     Position:   S21:30:714 E000:49:823

Day 7

Well we got back into the western hemisphere around 11 pm last night – getting on for 4 years that we've been in the east!  Had a bit of a slower day yesterday when the winds went quite light and we were down to around 3 – 4 knots.  However it didn't last that long and after faffing around gybing and then back to a 2 sail reach then back to being poled out we picked up speed again.  The sun came out in the afternoon and we had very pleasant conditions – maybe there is some truth to the books after all about this being one of the best passages! 

I've not actually been taking my seasick pills apart from the first day and I've been fine so it shows how good the conditions have been.  We've even been eating well too – last night had the leftovers from James's veg curry – very nice it was too – thank you James.  Other nights we've had a good variety – ranging from roast chicken, roast potatoes and veg to chilli con carne with rice. 

Been spending the time getting our December web site ready to upload when we get an internet signal. 

Another couple of flying fish on deck this morning and the odd bird but no sightings of any cetaceans – we've not even seen many ships – very quiet route so far.

Date and Time: 26 January 12.00;     24 hours distance:  176nm;     Position: S19:34:031 W001:25:791

Day 8

Not a lot to report really. Pleasant day with winds around 15 knots most of the day. Stayed poled out on port gybe all day.  Wind switched to SE during the night but managed not to have to gybe until 8 this morning.  Sun out early this morning so quite hot already. 

Finished off our December update for the website so hoping we can get wifi in St Helena to upload it.

Matt had a sighting of a USB (unidentified sea beast) – something big leaping out of the sea.  Apart from that very quiet – not even the odd bird!  A few more flying fish on deck this morning and a squid stuck to the windscreen (must've been a jet propelled one!)

He have 165nm to go now, and the winds are fair. So we hope to be anchored in St Helena around local noon tomorrow (Thursday).

Date and Time: 27 January 12.00;     24 hours distance:  172nm;     Position:   S17:52:092 W003:48:755

Arrived St Helena – just 9 days and 30 minutes!  A huge chunk of rock rising out of the sea!  Looks as if there's quite a hike out of the place (Jacob's Ladder – approx. 680 steps).   All good – about to have traditional English.

Totals:   1697nm;      Time: 216.5 hours;       Average speed: 7.83

Well we were just about to start cooking when we had a call from the customs – the taxi service was coming to collect us!  So we're now back after having been through harbour master/customs/immigration and had a lunch out and a walk around the town.  Looks like a really fascinating place – so looking forward to the next few days.  We've actually booked to go swimming with whale sharks on Saturday – apparently they're around the area until March.

Now just need a good nights sleep.  We're the same time zone as the UK.

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