Dec. 25, 2005:
We arrived today on Christmas morning at Rodney Bay on the island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Hooray! We crossed what would have been the finish line at 11:57:44 UTC which is 7:57 AM local time. The finish line was non existent as all of the ARC staff had left as of the 21st of December to be back with their families for the holidays, but we had the Lat/Lon for where the ARC committee boat would have been, and we passed the imaginary boat to starboard. Our crossing from the Cape Verde Islands took 14 days, 22 hours and 40 minutes. We had spent a total of 12 days in Mindelo, Cape Verde Islands repairing our boat and had taken nine days to sail from the Canary islands to the Cape Verde Islands. In total we were at sea for 24 days and, including our lay over, our trip has lasted 36 days.
Whew! It is nice to be on dry land at last. The temperature here at noon is a balmy 87F with 63 percent humidity. The hills surrounding this protected harbor are verdant green, almost as green as the ocean we have been sailing over for so long is blue (an unbelievable azure blue). So far we have only scouted out the marina, cleared customs and taken a wonderful shower with copious amounts of warm water which was a luxury in comparison to the few meager squirts of water that we had to bathe with on Speranza. Over the next few days we plan to clean up the boat and explore the island.
This will be our last daily log. We send our love and gratitude to all of you who have been our faithful supporters during this great adventure. Happy holidays to all of you. The Speranza Crew/rcw
Dec. 24, 2005:
'Tis Christmas eve, and all through the boat, every board it is creaking, yet still we are afloat. Speranza is decked in genny and main, while Captain Ed's lack of tuna is causing him pain. The crew members are nestled all snug in their berths, taking naps and reading, despite their increasing girths. The laundry is hung on the lifelines with care, in hopes of reducing the onboard polluted air. With I in my kerchief and Gene in his hat, we had just set course for 60.57 LON 14.09 LAT, when up on the deck there arose such a clatter, that we jumped from our berths to see what was the matter. And what to our wondering eyes should appear but a microwaved feast of chorizo, eggs and beer. Then Captain Ed, so lively and quick, bade us watch "Captain Ron," a comedy flick. Then using his fingers to hold his nose, Ed urged us to bathe and put on clean clothes. With the tropical sun, turning our skin a bright fuscia, we must not offend when we land in St. Lucia. Like a sleigh gliding on new fallen snow, Speranza just loves the 20 knots air flow. I heard Captain Ed, as he sailed through the night, now Robert, now Gene, now Nina, let's do this gybe right! Merry Christmas to all! The Speranza Crew/nb
Dec. 23, 2005:
Skippers on a roll as the rest of the crew burns out on daily logs. Well were wondering about the stats on the ARC tee shirt, "2156 Tuna caught". We haven't seen a Tuna. Six Dorado and a Wahoo. Did the last 20 ARC's catch any other types of fish? Did they count? Did they throw them back? Are they so rare that the 2156 number is staggering? I'd just like one. I've left the lines out all night, I want a tuna, the wasabi awaits. Other than that obsession we've been talking about our favorite meals for the trip. Nina's coffee cake way up there along with some of the special breakfasts. Meat loaf with mash potatoes a biggie. Fresh fish was a hit, not to beat the horse to death but I bet Tuna will be a favorite, if it's ever on board. I realized today that part of the crew had never had the experience of double handing a boat on the ocean for any period of time. After a long discussion I got Gene to agree that we should give up the rest of our watches to Nina and Robert, it being Christmas and all. They declined the gift, thinking the sacrifice was to great. We are devastated by the rejection, it was all we had to give on this the giving holiday. Well maybe I can give a Tuna. An email from Halberg Rassy checking in to wish us a Merry Christmas and hoping our luck had changed. And a thanks back to them for getting our parts to Cape Verde, not an easy task. I have saved the routing for the package as I hope to do the same trip myself someday. Five countries in 5 days all inclusive vacation. 162 mile day and still counting, looking at Christmas in St Lucia. Good Fishing from the "Speranza crew".
Dec. 22, 2005:
Well skippers day at the log. The crew is really on other stuff today, the sextant was out for sun shots, I'm storing weather data on the computer for future reference. The winds a little light. We had a 172nm day it didn't even seem like we pushed it. Looking at "Christmas in the Caribbean" with mixed feeling. It's been a longer trip than expected and everyone has a little stress from deadlines missed, but the sailing has been great and the company of the crew with great meals and entertaining conversation, has made for a fabulous trip. All for now short as usual from the skipper and crew of Speranza.
Dec. 21, 2005:
Happy Solstice! It is a bit odd to be here in the middle of the Atlantic during the Christmas holidays. The weather is warm and balmy. We live in t-shirts and shorts day and night. The sky is a beautiful, piercing blue. There is no Christmas music or snow or Christmas trees - just our little boat in the middle of a big, blue ocean. Speranza is charging along now, averaging close to 7 knots. The trade winds have built to 20 knots, gusting to 30 knots. We are sailing dead down wind with the main on the port side and the genoa held out with the spinnaker pole on the starboard side, and heading directly towards St. Lucia. As I write this, we have 629.3 miles to go. At this rate, we could be in St. Lucia as early as midday on Christmas day!
Our spirits are good. We have 5 foot rolling swells from astern, combined with a pattern of smaller waves from the north, so our ride is rollicking and rolling. This makes cooking much more interesting as things tend to fly off the counter and onto the floor and makes stumbling around in the dark looking for a berth after a night watch much more entertaining. Our genset (generator) is purring nicely in the background recharging our batteries, our water maker is replenishing our water tanks, and the autopilot is driving the boat (with guidance from Robert). So what you might add is there left for us to do? Robert is on watch and is fishing. Several of us just finished practicing tying monkey fists (a type of knot). Ed is napping, Gene is doing some laundry, and I am writing this log. We send you best wishes and Christmas winds!
Dec. 20, 2005:
More "firsts" continue for Speranza and her crew. Most notable, the last 24 hours produced building winds in the 18-25 knots true range, seas 7-8 feet and a noon-to-noon run of 184.6 nm, 7.65 knts average. Along the way, there were squalls and zero visibility rain bursts, gusts to 32 and a rollicking ride below for the off-watch with virtually everything aboard either banging, clinking, creaking or sliding across the sole. This is the kind of performance and adrenalin pump that sailors go to sea for.
In celebration of yesterday's half-way across achievement, the crew experienced a "Nina's Special" breakfast coffee cake "from scratch" acclaimed by the crew as "best ever." Sorry, Grandma Etta Pearl, but your's now takes second place. Solar showers on the aft deck, clean clothes (whew! thank goodness!) and a dinner Dorado courtesy of of Captn Witts' cedar plug. Along the way, there were also harmonica lessons, iPod blues greats blasting from the cockpit speakers and a bit of R&R reading by the off-watch.
Meanwhile, competition is building for best "watch" runs: Robert is currently in the lead w/a 7.65 average, Gene second w/7.53, followed by Nina and Ed at 7.33 and 6.66 respectively, though Captn Ed has the max speed honors w/10.1 during a squall and 32 knot gust. Who says H-R's can't surf!
All agree on the goal: put as many miles under the keel as quickly as possible while keeping the "fast is fun" quotient high. Meantime, the GPS tells us we've got 798.3 nm to go... Rollick On!
Dec. 19, 2005:
Speranza achieved several milestones, if such can be used in a nautical context, in the past twenty-four hours: We had our first noon-noon 140+ nm day; our bow seemed to dip a bit as our keel scraped across the halfway line of 1042 nm to go; we altered course at midnight to avoid a French boat--overtaking it literally in the middle of the Atlantic--and passed within several hundred yards trading "bon nuits;" and we've now broken into three digits for miles to go--974.9 as of this moment.
Mostly cloudy skies above, a 4-6 second interval, 2-4' swell with about 1'wind waves; wind is 19.3 true on the starboard beam. Speranza is loving this, loping along like a friendly pony under main and full genny with consistent high 6's and low 7's.
Thank you, Santa!
Dec. 18, 2005:
Dateline: Mid-Atlantic [15.17N;41.38W]
Newsflash: Speranza Logs Best 12 Hour Sailing Time To Date
Captn Ed Witts (aka "Captn Weather")at a news conference this morning aboard the Hallberg-Rassy 40 "Speranza" proudly announced the vessel's best twelve hour sailing performance in the ARC to date, having covered 77 nm at an average speed of 6.42 knts. "This is clearly the product of a team effort," he told the assembled crew, "and a good example of what 'heads-up' sail trim and Grib files can accomplish." In a calculated gamble that appears to be returning dividends, in yesterday's early morning hours Speranza spent precious diesel motoring toward a Grib quadrant showing more favorable winds. Captn Witts also used this occasion to silence some crew mutterings that Grib file predictions were on the same level of reality as Santa's "naughty/nice" book.
Not wanting to jinx the possibilities, Captn Witts declined to speculate about Speranza's possibility of matching this performance for the second twelve hour period, merely noting "we'll cross that nautical mile when we come to it." He was observed surreptitiously eyeing the speedo's SOG reading of 6.5 however.
Dec. 17, 2005:
Experiencing the shift from light breezes to no breeze, Speranza's crew looked at an Atlantic sea masquerading as a giant, gently undulating mirror in the full moon's beautiful light. This was spectacular but, for sailors needing wind, also disconcerting. Captain Weather consulted the latest Grib download, instructed crew to hoist the iron genny and Speranza motored through the night in the quest for illusive trades. More or less where the Grib indicated, the breeze filled and, since approximately 1500 this afternoon, we've been sailing at consistent high 6's w/ENE'lies between 11-13T,flat seas, flying the code zero and main.
We send best wishes to our fellow ARC cruisers who are celebrating their Atlantic crossing in St. Lucia's festivities tonight and we are only sorry that we can't be part of that fellowship. But, for now, we take solace in the present: the boat's performing beautifully; there was a sunset last night that made one think of a group of celestial artists gleefully running amok with their palettes; and steaks are cooking in the galley for our own private celebration. Life can be worse.
Dec. 16, 2005:
So far, a theme for this trip (aside, of course, from fire, mechanical failures and engine problems)is no, light or flukey wind. Like ninos wondering if Santa is going to leave goodies under the tree, we're wondering if maybe the crew's "naughty vs nice" list is resulting in Santa not gifting us w/our trades. The last 24 hours have produced very little wind and the iron genny has frankly been a comforting substitute. But wind frustrations also seem to have channeled into galley energies: recent productions have featured a wonderful Mexican eggs/chorizo/totillas breakfast; a "comfort food" feast with Mama Nina's meat loaf, mashed taties & down-home gravy topped off w/Captn Witts' baked apples dessert. Recriminations did fly briefly when it was discovered French Vanilla Hagan-Das had been omitted from the provisioning list. This morning was another gourmet apple pancake breakfast featuring dustings of shredded chocolate and cinnamon. Dinner tonight will feature freshly caught dorado done in one of Captn Witts' signature sauces. We gotta find those trades soon or we'll stagger off this vessel as the el-blimp-o crew. Ahh...little glimmers of hope: the zero's just gone up and the speedo's showing 5 over the ground. Maybe it'll be back to Power Bars and Tang soon...
Dec. 15, 2005:
For the last 24 hours we have had moderate winds (approx. 5 to 11 knots) from east north east, and have made steady, gradual progress at 3 - 4 knots using the code zero and occasionally the code zero and main. One of the highlights yesterday was definitely the food! Robert cooked us a fabulous breakfast of chorizo, cheese, eggs and tortillas, and Nina and Ed cooked a great "comfort food" dinner of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, baked apples and shortbread. Last night, the night watch encountered early morning rains and a squall, where winds went from 4 knots to 20 knots in a flash, and the crew had to take down the code zero. As I write this the winds have dropped and are flukey so we are motoring. Once again, the weather is beautiful and clear.
Dec. 14, 2005:
Yesterday evening we were treated to a gorgeous full moon and spectacular clouds lit up by the bright moonlight. The clouds heralded some unstable weather, and the night watch sailed through rain showers and a squall which produced a 180 degree change in wind direction. The rain gave the boat a much needed rinse, cleaning off salt and dirt. Today we have 10-13 knots of wind from the north, and are moving along nicely on a beam reach with the code zero and main both up. The weather is beautiful and clear, the water a deep azure blue. Earlier this afternoon we stopped for a swim in the ocean and a much appreciated shower (with water heated in our sun showers). Captain Ed caught two small fish on his lure, but released both. So far, we have sailed 438 nautical miles since leaving Mindelo, and have 1644 nm more to go. Overall, life is good and the livin' is easy.
Dec. 13, 2005:
For the last 24 hours, the winds have gradually built from 5 knots to 16 knots (hooray!), and have come primarily from east north east. This has allowed us to sail on the code zero alone on a very deep broad reach, and to sail close to our target heading of 283 degrees. The seas have been large rolling swells of 8 feet in height, and the weather has been beautiful. Crew members on the night watch were treated to a beautiful moon, and after moon set, to a stunning array of stars which stretched from horizon to horizon. Sunrise was particularly beautiful this morning, as the sun rose through a patchwork of clouds, turning them orange and gold, and framing them in a halo of golden rays. The repaired genset continues to work, so we are able to recharge our batteries. Captain Ed is trolling with a 6 inch cedar plug, using parachute cord for line! We are settling into our watch routine, and our spirits are good.
Dec. 12, 2005:
Nigel Calder quotes an anonymous sailing cynic: "He who goes to sea for pleasure would go to Hell to pass time." This sentiment doesn't represent the feelings of Speranza's crew--nor, we'd suspect, our ARC companions who're experiencing various travails in the Western Atlantic--but a non-sailor might look at our luck so far and wonder if the critic's not right. To quickly recap, Speranza first experienced a water pump failure on our Fisher-Panda genset; subsequently, while charging batteries with the engine, an alternator failed, a short resulted and all the wiring on the starter side of the engine burned, filling Speranza with smoke and anxiety. With no engine, no way to generate electricity,Speranza limped to Mindelo, on the Cape Verde island of Sao Vincente, bedeviled with light to no wind. Until, that is, we approached the harbor and sailed in with winds a steady 25 and mid-30's gusts. Locals & cruisers alike watched with curiosity, wondering why in these conditions a boat would be short tacking through a crowded anchorage: "show-off Americans" some might have been tempted to think. Dramatic it might have been but the onboard tension was palpable: with only one chance to do it right the tension release was visible as the Delta bit, held and Speranza settled on her rode, safe in the confines of Porto Grande. Skipper Ed reminded us it could've been worse: we could have diverted back to Las Palmas and coincided with the hurricane.
Mindelo's harbor is the largest in the Cabo Verde islands and in earlier times served as a major shipping port in eastern Atlantic as well as "new world" trade. Now, it's dotted with rust-streaked freighters of varying sizes and functions but virtually any looking as though they might have been ordered up from a Hollywood prop department to provide "maritime local color." Then there are the cruisers: several dozen wildly different vessels ranging from big, sleek yachts to the "can you believe that floats?" variety representing a broad European sample, but the French seem to predominate, both in numbers and intriguing sailing craft. Though windy, the harbor offers good protection and good holding. There are no chandleries or any sources for marine supplies or parts so Speranza's crew spent ten alternatively frustrating and fascinating days there waiting for replacement parts from Halberg-Rassy. Frustration arose from the combination of trouble-shooting onboard problems,uncertainty about the length of delay and the ambiguity of waiting for parts and information from Halberg-Rassy; but there was also the excitement of exploring a different culture and a geography so different from any of our experiences it, too, was like something from a movie. This is particularly true of the closest neighbor island, San Antao, visited by the crew while Skipper Ed maintained DHL parts watch. Volcanic in origin with unbelievably dramatic spires,valleys and vistas, if the soil can get moisture it produces--and virtually every square foot of available land is terraced to catch any water or facilitate remarkable viaduct/irrigation schemes. Crew Nina and Robert were ready to look for real estate.
Repairs complete, Speranza departed on a fresh breeze Saturday 12/10. Soon, though, the light winds that have plagued her sailing returned and, with only short respites of speed, our average hovers a bit above 4 knots--a bit like walking across the Atlantic, speed-wise. If we weren't in a hurry to get home to family and at least experience the shank of the Holidays with loved ones, this would be classed as pleasant sailing: a broad Atlantic swell is running; the breeze is soft and night watches are a combination of brilliant moonlight, glistening seas and shorts & t-shirt weather.
But, the mechanical glitches won't stop or, to quote Yogi Berra, "it's deja vu all over again." Yesterday, the genset overheated and shut itself down. The good news: the new pump was OK; the bad news: something's glitching in the fresh water cooling system, but what? So, for the umpteenth time, Speranza's main saloon and cockpit looked like the wreck of the Hesperus as the lazarette emptied, tools, supplies and gear emerged and Ed and Robert contorted in midget-sized spaces to once again attempt to trace the source of our genset's dilemma. A couple of "Mcguiver's" later and an hour of OK test running raises hopes, but our experience with the boat's mechanical systems is enough to tarnish the most cockeyed of optimists.
As the newest of the Hallberg's in this year's ARC, we looked forward to acquitting ourselves and the boat well in terms of the ARC fleet. Our hard core racer crew members had fantasized various sail combinations and we all were looking forward to the end-of-crossing festivities with our fellow ARC sailors in Rodney Bay which, with 1876 nm to go, won't happen. But, we may also be spared the hammering our compadres are experiencing, based on sketchy reports we've heard, and if we get the trades that Captain Weather (aka Skipper Ed)promises soon from the Gribs, we may peel off some 200 mile days and acquit ourselves well, regardless. In the meantime, the iPod's still not had to repeat a song, the water's a cinematographer's blue, there's at least enough breeze to keep the big, blue-striped code zero walking us toward St. Lucia and, as the ever-optimistic Captn Ed points out, "life could be worse." Any endeavor worth doing is going to have some downside and "s/he who sails for pleasure" understands a bit of hell occasionally is a small price to pay.
Dec. 11, 2005:
Were rolling again, boats fixed and were beating to weather towards St Lucia. Where are those tradewinds I keep hearing about? Looking for that illusive 200nm day.
Dec. 1, 2005:
We arrived safely in Mindelo on Sao Vicente, one of the Cape Verde Islands on November 29 and have been here in the harbor for the last three days. After our genset broke on 11/23 we set our course for the Cape Verde Islands in search of the simple water pump we needed to repair it. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day and dinner, and then on 11/25 at 2335 smoke began to pour out of the cockpit locker and engine compartment. The captain sent out a May Day call on VHF radio and SSB radio and received no response. The crew readied fire extinguishers and prepared the abandon ship bag. Once we fully understood the extent of the smoke/fire, and established that there was no immediate danger, we canceled the May Day. One of the two alternators on the engine had overheated and melted/burned wires all around it. The crew worked hard all the next day to clean up the damage and make repairs, but were unable to start the engine. Without a working engine and without a genset we were unable to recharge our batteries, so we switched into power conservation mode, and sailed a "dark ship" for the next three days. Our arrival in the Cape Verde Islands was slowed by three days and nights of light to non-existent winds, which finally began to build early in the morning of 11/29. We sailed into Mindelo on a beautiful sunny day in NE winds gusting to 35 knots, and anchored under sail. Here in Mindelo, we have found a marina that does repairs and have ordered the necessary parts from Sweden. Now we wait. In the best case scenario, the parts will arrive by DHL next Wednesday, and we hope to be underway later next week.
Nov. 28, 2005:
We are still sailing towards Cape Verde will update on arrival we are moving slow so it could be a couple of days.
Nov. 26, 2005:
As you may have gathered from our previous communications, Speranza is experiencing significant electrical generation issues. We are diverting to Mendelo on the island of St. Vincent in the Cape Verde Islands where there are facilities for boat repair. We are south and east of projected consequences from the hurricane in the Atlantic, so that shouldn't be a source of concern (present position is 18.35.94N/20.42.13W). Winds have been favorable and the boat's moving at 6-7 knts for the past 24+ hrs. We have various cruising guides aboard to assist us in making Mendelo landfall and the harbor itself looks like we can sail into it. Projected arrival there is early Mon assuming continued favorable winds. Since only essential systems will be up, this likely will be our last communication until reparis are affected next week, so not to worry about the communication lapse. Sailing is a challenge irrespective of the boat or the waters; the crew is in good spirits and, taking inspiration from the boat's name, are hopeful of happy ending to this particular chapter of the ARC adventure.
Nov. 22, 2005:
We were given a wonderful send off from Las Palmas, which included a brass band, a man speaking over a loudspeaker wishing us all goodbye in several languages, and crowds waving to us from the breakwaters. The 265 participating boats filed out of the marina as if in a parade. The committee boat at the starting line was a huge grey naval vessel, and the start was quite spectacular as 265 boats crossed the line in two groups (the racing boats departing first). We flew the code zero (an asymmetrical spinnaker) in less than 15 knots wind as we headed south along the Eastern side of Gran Canaria. We soon encountered a strong westerly breeze (25 to 30 knots) which forced us to furl and drop the code zero, furl the genoa, fly the staysail and put four reefs in the main - all in six to eight foot seas. An exciting start to our journey! After sunset, to either side of us and in front of us we could see the tricolor lights on the top of the other sailboats' masts - flickering like fireflies in the dark. The crew members on night watch were treated to a beautiful moon, and the wind abated to 8-9 knots apparent as dawn arrived. We can still see a few other sailboats around us as we continue south.