Kurukulla at Englishman's Bay, Tobago

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Across the Atlantic

In she goes. Pasito Blanco
The preparations for departure started in earnest in mid December with Christoph, Yorgos and I catching a 0630 flight, from Gatwick to Gran Canaria, and thence a return to the marina at Pasito Blanco. Our plan was to spend ten days onboard Kurukulla, antifouling her and getting her ready for launch; then, once she was safely in the water, this would be followed by a relaxing Christmas and New Year in a small resort hotel in Maspalomas (10 minutes by car from Pasito Blanco). Thereafter we would despatch Yorgos back to Greece on the 2nd of January (he was not keen to make the passage across the Atlantic) and collect our final crew member, Malvena, from the airport on the 3rd. All of this would be followed by victualling with all the fresh produce we required on the day before departure. All we needed now was to determine the date!
Rustica restaurant, last night
The forecast for our intended day, 6th of January, was not good; strong winds from a not particularly helpful direction; but the 7th looked OK. As the 6th is a public holiday in Spain, when nothing opens, victualling had to be done on the 5th and thus it was that the early morning of the 7th saw us doing a final top up at the fuelling jetty followed by motoring out of Pasito Blanco for the final time. 07/0900Z and we were off! The only item that got missed was publishing a pre departure blog!

Our first two hours were dogged by light winds as we moved out of the wind shadow of Gran
Fruit and veg stowage!
Canaria but as soon as we were clear we settled onto a broad reach, doing 7 kts plus and heading south west towards the Cape Verde Islands. Our plan was to head for 20N/20W until the winds started to veer and then turn westwards as the winds would permit.
Atlantic sunset
The old sailing adage “Sail south until the butter melts and turn right” still applies today!

The first night at sea was lively, not only because of the remaining seas from the earlier strong winds but we had 20+ knots over the deck and were doing 8-9 kts. This lasted for most of the first 48 hours, a good start! From there on we had following winds throughout, reducing as we moved further west until we were three days out of Antigua when the winds started to increase again.
Leaving Pasito Blanco
Our worst two days were two consecutive days almost becalmed in the middle of the Atlantic, but at least that gave us a chance for a swim and good wash!

Part way across
Before departing we had also procured some fishing gear, nothing fancy just a reel and lures; and so on the eighth day of the crossing, after our fresh meat supplies had been exhausted, we streamed it astern, more in hope than expectation.
The skipper in preferred dress style
Two hours later we were hauling in our first catch, a Blue Fin Tuna we think, which made for a rather special meal the following evening.
Surgeon at work.
Inspired with our success we streamed it again for several days later in the crossing..... we caught nothing else, only seaweed!

As I have said above the winds were all from astern (with the exception of one very short period of fickle headwinds in the lull) and almost too much so. Running directly down wind in the following seas of the Trade Wind belt is not particularly comfortable and hence we tended to tack downwind, keeping the wind 15 deg on the quarter for comfort and to avoid excessive flogging of the mainsail when the winds were light. Notwithstanding this the cacophony of sounds from the mainsail and mast kept us awake on several nights!
A happy crew!
I can understand why some adopt twin foresails and dispense with the mainsail for such conditions! The other variable was rain. Almost not a day passed without us encountering at least one rain cloud and the associated stronger winds in its vicinity. Sometimes no more than drizzle but just occasionally a real downpour.
The gathering rain clouds

My one concern for the crossing had been water supplies. We started with full tanks (240 ltrs) and 40 ltrs of reserve in bottles. To my amazement we used only 130 ltrs for the whole crossing.

In fact, once it became evident that water was not in short supply, it became a challenge to see how little we could use! Cleaning one's teeth in salt water really is not unpleasant!
Chasing the end of the rainbow

At 1500 on Saturday 27th of Jan we sighted Antigua for the first time, in the haze, at a range of 9 miles. It was to be another three hours before we dropped anchor in Five Islands Bay and settled down for a well earned rest! The crossing had taken exactly 20.5 days with an average speed of 5.7 kts.
Mid Ocean dip
The forecast for the next two days was not great and so we were in no hurry to move into Jolly Harbour Marina. We spent 36 hours at anchor in the bay relaxing, swimming and generally recovering from the crossing. By 1000 Monday the 29th we were ready for entry. We motored southwards through the gap between the Five Islands and the mainland and entered the buoyed channel leading to the marina. Within 15 minutes we were alongside the Immigration/Customs/Harbour Master's offices and the process of entering Antigua commenced.
Entering Jolly Harbour, Antigua
The officials were jolly, courteous and welcoming whilst the system was efficient and all executed in one place. Both Turkey and Greece could learn a lot from the authorities in Antigua on how to manage visiting yachts!

Five Islands Bay, where we anchored after arrival.
From here we radioed in to Jolly Harbour and confirmed our request for a berth at which point we were told to wait where we were for 20 mins when they would contact us again. 20 minutes later William arrived in a RIB to pilot us into our berth and assist with the berthing manoeuvres; very efficient he was too. That was it we were here and ready to relax.
Berthed in Jolly Harbour
Lunch in one of the waterfront restaurants was the next order of the day................

More once we have departed ….....

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