Atlantic Passage: Message Log

1030 on Tue 6th Dec

Sailing along in wonderful conditions, as we have done since leaving on Sunday. Almost flat sea and just enough wind to make 4-4.5 knots.

Received 1500 on 8th Dec

The first two days out from Canaries gave us perfect weather. We went at only moderate speeds (4.3 knots) but the seas were calm, the skies clear and the living was easy. Then on Tuesday evening, although the fair winds continued a steep cross sea developed. The boat rolled heavily and at times was thrown sideways. We didn't sleep well and cooking was difficult. The sail emptied and filled again with such force that the boat shuddered, so we repeatedly reconfigured the sail plan attempting to give drive but without the slack that allowed slamming. The shackle holding our cruising chute to the top of the mast failed (had to get it down quickly), our GPS crashed ( it's working now but we got out and tested our spare)and our auto pilot failed (poor wiring now fixed). Everything much better since 0800 this morning (Thurs). Seas have evened and we are making good progress south to 20N22W to avoid a weather system which is approaching - looks like we will make it in time to avoid the bad stuff. This and our first shower today have boosted moral immeasurably. We report in to a "net" of other boats each day and share weather info and positions. John (Mark's Dad) is also supplying very helpful weather advice. We are now technically in the tropics (posn 22deg28'N 020deg44'W) but it looks and feels more like the English Channel! Flying past Cape Verdes on Tues, if all well will then shape course for Caribbean.

1400 on Fri 9th Dec

Current position at 1400 Fri 20deg49'N 21deg40'W. Currently heading for Soa Vincente course 220-230. Will wave to them as we pass!
Good NE last night and we raced along. Currently slight sea and NE 8knots - motor sailing. Will replace block later and launch chute again."

Received 0751 on Monday 12th Dec

Off the beaten track:
Only a few more hours and we will be in Mindelo on Sao Vicente, Cape Verdes (16.53N 25.00W). Our first landfall outside of Europe. Our quest for fair winds has brought us closer to these islands than we ever thought and after eight nights at sea an overnight stop to rest is hard to resist. It's been quite a week. Log entries have been a bit scarce we admit, but - by way of explanation - we've been busy getting into the swing of things and even busier amassing our tales of the high seas. In our last entry we mentioned some of the problems we had run into on Wednesday - cruising chute halyard block broke, auto pilot etc. The problems unfortunately didn't stop there. On Thursday at dawn we managed to hit a submerged object, we think a whale or shark. It was pretty scary, and while sharks circled the boat, we kept ourselves busy checking all the lockers thoroughly for any damage to the hull. The only visible damage was to the small paddle wheel which sits on the bottom of the boat and tells us our speed - on removing it we found it was bent and unfortunately beyond repair. Seeing as the wind was taking us past the Verdes we felt it wise to stop and inspect the hull underwater before continuing. We also plan to fix the cruising chute block at the same time as we have to go up the mast. We plan to back at sea in time for the trade winds to kick in tomorrow (Tues). Friday and Saturday we sailed in lighter winds, using the engine for periods. The weather felt warm and tropical for the first time and we lounged in the cockpit catching some sun. We sailed SW resisting the temptation to turn west toward our destination as we knew a weather system approached to block our path.
Yesterday (Sunday) we struggled against light headwinds and the weather was more overcast and looked squally. We also found our first flying fish on deck and had the company of 5 or 6 dolphins for about half an hour as the sun set.

Received 1531 on Tuesday 13th Dec

Sao Vicente, Cape Verdes

Hull all fine, although flake of our new antifoul paint has been knocked off. On the road again. Posn 1652N 2511W. Heading for 15N30W but will reassess with weather and routing advice. Nat baking celebratory Lemon Cake.

Received 1210 on 14th Dec

The Cape Verdes made for a spectacular landfall. Grey/brown mountains rising sheer from the Sao Vincente,Cap Verdesocean. No vegetation just rock and sand. We anchored in the busy but large anchorage in Mindelo on Monday at 1000 near several boats that we have met in previous ports or met virtually over the SSB net. A happy discovery was that checking into the country through customs etc was not required as we did not intend to go ashore. I got into the murky water straight away, nervous of what damage I might find in addition to the bent speed meter. Thorough checking revealed a few black rub marks and an area of flaked paint but nothing more. Much more happy we had a beer and enjoyed the prospect of a few jobs on the boat and the treat of a full night's sleep. The surrounding yachts were extremely friendly and helpful - like good friends even though we had met only briefly or not at all. They took our rubbish ashore and did some shopping for us. We slept for 12 hrs uninterrupted and woke feeling fresh and ready. Departing at 1100 on Tues into a fair breeze and much refreshed Nat baked a lemon drizzle cake to celebrate (baking supplies now refreshed by Joan on "Growl Tiger"). Also Nat made up our bed on the larger bunk on the starboard side surrounded by a "tent" of light fabrics to make for a darker and more separate sleeping area. We emerged from our pitstop almost alongside Kika and seem set to travel near them for much of the way. After good breeze yesterday the breeze died last night and left us for the first time in the situation common to voyaging sailors over the centuries - the heat, frustration and noise of light winds. The sails crash from side to side making the boat shake and waking you from sleep. The boat moves at only 3 knots and you try not to divide 2200 miles into 3 miles per hour. However the wind has just picked up from the NE and the boat is moving again, the sails are steady and it's bliss! We are now positioned well for the trades when they kick in, which they will soon, and we are looking forward to some glorious trade wind sailing over to the Caribbean. Current position at 1200ut is 1619N 2646W.

Received 2330 on 15th Dec

Days 2 and 3 from Cape Verdes:

Now 3 days out from the Cape Verdes the trade wind continue to evade us and the forecasts Making the best of limited time togethersuggest we must wait a little longer. We are making steady but slow progress; a mixture of slow motoring (to conserve fuel) and ghosting along under poled out sails. Thankfully the sea has calmed down which reduces the rolling and crashing mentioned earlier and allows us to make the best of what wind there is. Today (Thurs 151205) we sailed almost silently downwind at 3 knots with a great spread of sail to catch any small gust and our wind steering gently keeping the boat on track. The heat and gentle rolling make us feel sleepy and we doze on deck under the bimini. Night watches in shorts at last! Posn at 2100 1529N 2839W with 1879M to go.


Received 1115 on 17th Dec

Position 1503N 3105W at 0830 on 17th Dec. Sailed all day yesterday in light winds. Motored last night. All is well. Forecast looks light until Tuesday. All we want for Christmas is a brand new motorboat.

Received 0251 on 18th Dec

Breeze picking up a little. Boat going well and all well on board. Had showers today (big treat). Becoming addicted to mini chocolate bars and may need dentures by time we arrive! Posn at 0200 on 18th 14deg58N 032deg27W.

Received 0450 on 19th Dec

Days 4,5 and 6 out of Cape Verdes
The last few days have followed a similar pattern. The winds have been light and, convinced I can squeeze another knot of speed out of the boat, I spent a few hours each morning changing the sail configuration. This serves as a morning workout. Up goes the mainsail, fit preventer, rig genoa pole, decide mainsail should be on other side, gybe mainsail, re-rig pole to other side and on and on. The boat speed remains the same but sails now flap and slam and so I return the sails to their This sailwork is exhaustingoriginal setting and slump in the cockpit realising my energy would have been better spent hanging the dinghy oars over the side and pulling on them. The rest of the day generally goes well, I read and do some simple maintenance, Nat cooks some fantastic food for us and writes some emails and the evenings are spent chatting to Kika and watching the full moon track across the night sky.
Today (Sun 18th) was a bit different. In the morning I only wasted one hour on the sails rather than the three spent on previous two days (you can't say I don't catch on fast!). Then I was relaxing in the cockpit looking at the increasingly overcast and moody sky when Nat emerged with the first loaf of home made bread. It was delicious. We devoured half immediately with tea and jam, then Nat served the remainder with home made houmous, olives and tomato for lunch. After lunch the wind died down and we began motoring in gentle rain. During the afternoon the engine, which had sounded a little unhappy since Cape Verdes, spluttered a few times then lost power. I suspected the fuel filters were blocked. Luckily I had done this job a number of times before and managed it without pouring hot diesel over the rolling boat. The fine filter was very clogged and I suspect we got bad fuel in Cape Verdes. We felt relieved when the engine burst into life and willingly pushed us onward for the afternoon.
Shortly before nightfall it started to rain harder, and harder. Initially quite fun we started to get a sinking feeling as it became absolutely torrential. This felt like a squall - a small but sometimes violent thundery storm. Sure enough before long the wind turned around to blow in our face and got up to almost gale force bringing a really choppy sea. The boat stopped and just crashed around in this demented sea for a while. Thing were flying everywhere down below. We ran off to the south and after an hour of madness the wind eased and we could carry on. As things settled down and Nat, now tired, went to bed I checked the Radar for other squalls and to my horror saw a line of violent activity running for 20 miles north-south right across our path. This looked just as bad as the last one and with no way to run south like before. Nat got up, we prepared for the worst and ....nothing happened. The clouds seem to dissolve, or part in front of us, and we passed through with no problem. Nat thinks it's because we saved a flying fish which had landed in the cockpit earlier. So now it will hopefully be a quiet night so that we can get some sleep and a nice breeze so we can speed along before any other squalls can form. Posn at 0330 on 19th Dec 14deg55N 034deg20W.

Received 0352 on 20th Dec

Come north a bit to avoid bad squalls. All well and breeze may be picking up a little. Posn at 0330ut onTues 20th 15deg34N 036deg12W.

Received 1000 on 21st Dec

Seem to have cleared the squalls and joy of joys the wind has kicked in and Free Spirit is flying along at last. More details soon. Posn at 0800 on 21st is 15deg31N 038deg43 (24hr run of 127M).


Received 1230 on 21st Dec

Days 7 and 8 out of Cape Verdes(Mon 19th and Tues 20th)
The word was out - "area of bad squalls with 50 knots of wind south of 14N, go north to 16N to avoid". We were at 14deg52mins north after slowly working our way south for the last week in search of wind. Not a welcome weather report! But neither would a 50 knot squall be welcome. We dutifully turned the boat northwest on Mon morning. We have often felt that weather reports simply supply us with things to fear. The more weather information we get the more things we have to worry about and run away from. As a result we either sit in port or run around the ocean in a deranged way looking worried. But can we ignore warnings from reputable sources? Can we go to sea without seeking a forecast? These and other questions may be answered in time. In the event the trip north was very pleasant; with the wind on the beam (side) Free Spirit felt comfortable and fast for the first time in a week. Happy, we munched our way through another few kilos of mini chocolate bars; my current favourites are lion bars and twirls (all time favourite is still Picnics but haven't got mini version so not included here), Nat's favourite is Twix although she seems to be moving onto KitKats (I like those and there aren't many so I need to watch this carefully). Our approach to squalls is very different now. We learn this stuff fast. Unaware we sailed directly into the centre of the first squall wearing smiles and no trousers. Now we watch the sky and radar carefully, keep the boat ready for rough weather and change course to avoid suspicious areas. The one we couldn't avoid found us on Tues at dawn well reefed, waterproofed and directing affairs from inside. Nat specialises in lightning strike preparation. Any flicker of light in the atmosphere within 100miles sends her racing down below and encasing important electronic equipment in the pressure cooker or oven (this is supposed to protect it from from the high voltages if we did get hit). I fear it is only a matter of time before we get baked handheld radio or a GPS stew. As if to signify this increased level of seamanship my beard has come of age A genuine beardalthough I suspect I look more like a religious figure born around this time than any great mariner I can recall. After that squall on Tues morning the wind filled in properly for the first time since Cape Verdes and we have had 15-20 knots from northeast ever since, (closer to 20-25 on Wed morning). The boat has come alive racing through the waves and the tow generator is giving us enough power to run the boat with care without using the engine to charge the batteries. Our new and successful sail configuration keeps the boat balanced and allows us to easily increase the sail area from the cockpit. We are running double reefed mainsail and poled out staysail on the downwind side and poled out genoa on the windward side. We are sailing on a broad reach around 130deg to the wind. Fresh food on the boat has been masterminded by Nat and is lasting well. This our 17th morning at sea from the Canaries and we are still eating fresh fruit salad for breakfast.
Boat speed for 24hrs to 0700 this morning was 5.3 knots average. Posn at 1145 on Wed 21st 15deg29N 039deg05W with 1273 miles to go.

Received 0050 on 22nd Dec

"We've passed halfway between Cape Verdes and St. Lucia. Only 1074M to go! Posn at 2330 on 22nd 15deg16N 042deg32W."

Received on 23rd Dec

"We wish all friends and family a happy Christmas and we will be thinking of you all on the day.
Love Mark and Natalya."

Received 26th Dec 1230

Still going well although seas pretty big last night and really warm (30degC at 2200). Weather forecast looking good until Thurs at least. More than three weeks at sea now (23rd day today)! Position at 1145 ut 26th 14deg36N 50deg20W.

Received 27th Dec 1252

Still making good progress. Clear skies both day and night. Log update soon. Posn at 12ut 14deg33N 52deg41W daily runs of 130M for last few days.

Received 29th Dec 1600

Thurs 29th Dec - All's well on board but changing conditions through the night and successive squalls since dawn give us constant work. No danger to us but getting tired as little sleep last night. Still making good progress. Posn at 1530ut 14deg22N 57deg18W. 215M to go! We can almost smell the rum!

Received 30th Dec 1500

"Current situation: Posn 14deg15N 059deg11W at 1230ut (0930 ship's time), 104M to go, fair winds and good progress."

Day 9-15 out of Cap Verdes(21-27 Dec)

Very pleased with the arrival of our, long awaited, trade winds on 20th Dec we pressed on as fast as we could, making the most of the breeze. Free Spirit made great progress and we enjoyed eating up 130 miles each day. However, with this wind came larger waves and our new pace sent Free Spirit surfing down the front of them, sometimes reaching speeds in excess of 8 knots (our average is 5!) It was wild and exhilarating. Moving around the boat though became exhausting and sleep difficult. We had now moved our sleeping quarters to the port side bunk in the saloon, using the lee cloth to ensure we didn't fall out. Now some weeks out of the Canaries - and with that full night's sleep in Cape Verdes a dim memory - we started to feel tired. Really tired.
Although during the day we often had either clear skies or limited cloud, as the evening approached large banks of dark threatening cloud appeared around us making the night very dark and holding the threat of squalls again. Mixed with our fatigue these unfriendly nights made the night watches a source of dread, especially for Nat. These days, 21st-24th were the worst of the trip and we had to dig our heels in and get through it. Nat worked valiantly to make wholesome food for us throughout and I took over as much of the night watch as I could.
Then on Christmas Day the nights started to clear to reveal a canopy of stars once more. Night watches became pleasant once more and this raised our spirits. Also on Christmas Day we had a special "SSB concert" with Nick and Ellen on Kika (now 100 miles in front). This was very funny and festive!
The waves became very large around this time. Large but long so not dangerous. It was fascinating to look behind the boat watching the tow generator rope running horizontally out of the water across the chasm between waves to plunge into the steep face of the next wave like a tightrope between hills. Then as this wall of water got closer and began to tower above us the boat would rise up and we would find ourselves safely on the top. With Christmas behind us we began to think of our landfall and our wish to make it on New Year's Eve. The seas dropped again on day 15 (27th) and we set more sail again and pressed on, determined to make it in 2005.

Received 31st Dec 1030 (New Years Eve)

We are almost there!
It is 0800ut and 0400 local time. We are at 14deg10N 060deg49W, 10M north of St Lucia. It's still dark and we are sailing slowly to time our final approach with the first daylight. ETA the marina approx 0730. Our welcoming committee Margaret and Rodger arrived yesterday afternoon so we are looking forward to seeing them very soon. Happy New Year to you all and I think we are up for a celebration later :-) Bring on the rum!


Days 16-18 out from Cape Verdes and 24-26 out from Canaries Although the weather forecast was excellent on 28th we started to enter yet another area of disturbed weather. The wind became more changeable requiring much more attention to the sails. Dawn on 29th found us in a "jungle" of squalls. These heavy clouds with torrential rain and strong winds surrounded us. The radar showed us the worst of these and we managed to dodge a couple but they had us cornered. Watching the curtain of warm rain and strong wind racing across the sea toward us we prepared the boat, sealed ourselves inside and watched the strange moon scape of rain flattened waves through the windows. The weather steadily improved throughout the day and sunbathing in the cockpit resumed. It was hot. We had settled trades by the evening which continued through today (30th Dec) giving wonderful sailing conditions. This allowed us to spend the afternoon checking the boat over and preparing for our arrival. In the evening we sat under stars eating veggie spag bol with red wine and feeling very pleased with ourselves; our Caribbean landfall was imminent.

Received 5th Jan 1520

Arrived 0730 local time( 1130ut) on New Years Eve at Rodney Bay on St Lucia. Met Nat's parents - Margaret and Rodger - and proceeded to celebrate our arrival and New Year. Saw New Year from their balcony high above Rodney Bay. Tired for first few days - it's quite humid here. Yesterday we moved out of marina and anchored in the Bay near Pidgeon Island. We dinghied ashore to our favourite restaurant so far "Jambe de Bois" and had another great meal watching our boat in the anchorage. This morning we set off north to Martinique and are currently half way across the channel between the two islands. The weather is wonderful and we are beating to windward in bright sunshine. We plan to anchor off the seaside town of Ste Anne. Tomorrow we will head into Marin for check in and shops. See also GuestLog from MargaretandRodger





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