St. Helena to Gran Canaria 2013

By Art on (with 0 comments)


Distance (nm)
Average (kts)

We're ready to begin our second passage on the way from Cape Town, South Africa to Genova, Italy. Today we leave from Jamestown, St. Helena and will have the longest distance to cover in one passage, about 3'100 nm or almost twice the distance we just sailed. Along the way we'll cross the Equator and pass the Cape Verde Islands.

The boat and crew are ready, just picking up a few last minute fresh items at the market in Jamestown before we leave. Hope to be able to keep in touch and write some notes for you to enjoy as I did for our first passage. Our internet connection is a bit dodgy so I'm not sure how often I can post updates. Getting weather information is more important as we will be crossing the Equator and this is the season of hurricanes.

Passage Position

Log Entries

by Art, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

We arrived in Las Palmas today about noon time after 16 days on passage from St. Helena. Tracy was waiting for us and we pulled into a nice stern-to position on the main dock and took a well-deserved rest! The last day or so we had to motor as the winds were directly in the direction we had to go and it would have taken us a number of extra days to sail here. We'll spend a few days here and leave on Tuesday for our last passage to Genova. Cleaning the boat thoroughly outside and inside are a top priority after being at sea for so long. A remarkably few number of repairs need to be done so we're in a good position to have a short stopover here and then we're ready to go again! Thanks for following along on this passage. We'll be starting a new post when we leave so be sure to check back in a few days.

by Art, South of the Canaries

Nasty looking radar returns! Sorry for the delay in updating the post but we've been a bit busy dodging thunderstorms and lightening on the way north out from behind this tropical depression that formed over us. At this point, we are safely north of all the bad convective activity but are into a rather unpleasant sea state beating our way north before being able to turn for the Canaries. Our SOG (speed over ground) has slowed some and we are pounding our way though the swells. The forecast is for more of this all the way to Gran Canaria so now we pay for the thousands of miles of downwind sailing we had in the Southern Hemisphere!

Life onboard is good and we had two little birds come stay with us for a couple days. One was very exhausted and we tried to help her with water and a calm place to sleep. She wasn't afraid of us and let us pick her up so I know she was too tired to worry about us big giants. The other bird was more vibrant but also let me pick her up too. We built a little nest for them and the next morning one of them passed away and the other one recovered to the point where she wanted out of the box and flew up on the aft deck to hang with me for an hour. She sat next to me or at my feet then decided it was time to leave so she flew off. We were still hundreds of miles from shore so I hope she made it OK.

We're about 420nm from the Canaries and hope to arrive later on Saturday. It'll be after 16 days at sea from St. Helena. I think everyone is ready for a break on shore before we do the final push to Genova. Next post could be from La Palmas!

by Art, Coast of Africa

Sunday is always 'fresh pasta' day with Francesca! "They sailed into the jaws of a massive hurricane". Well, a bit over dramatic but nevertheless, into at least a recognized (by the US Hurricane Center in Miami) 'area of tropical development'. We are actually sailing right into the center of the low (on purpose) that is forming west of Senegal halfway to Cape Verde Islands. A few days back I spotted the potential for a development of this low into a depression and now it appears to be taking shape. The current forecast is:

The High Seas forecast for our area is:

Guess where we are? Yep, East of Sierra Leone (a wonderful vacation spot I hear). Despite the doom and gloom forecast our sailing today has been glorious with wonderful west winds giving us a fast beam reach and has us clipping along at 10-11kts enroute to an appointment at midnight tonight just east of the center of the low that has formed. The reason? Glad you asked.

The worst place to be is in front of or even worse, to the northeast or northwest of a developing tropical depression. This is where the most convective activity is (i.e. thunderstorm and lightening). On the backside (east of the low) the winds, sea state and CAPE index (Convective Activity for Potential Energy) are the lowest. So, the plan is to slide in behind the low and then sail north as fast as we can on the backside as the depression continues to deepen and move west.

The boat is strong, the crew capable and... it's Sunday so we have fresh ravioli (made by the team of Francesca [Italiano] and Iker [Basque]). What more could you ask for??

by Art, Enroute

Cape Index shows deep red between Africa and Cape Verde Welcome to the topics! It's hot and very humid during the day with pop-up storms all around us as we continue to poke our way north. Cape Verde is known as "The Birthplace of Hurricanes" and it appears to living up to its reputation. Just as we were preparing to sail by there on our way to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. I noticed the familiar weather pattern forming from the Grib files we download for weather each day. The High Seas forecasts don't mention anything but, the pattern as displayed by the pressure gradients clearly show a low pressure area forming.

The winds and waves aren't too bad and if that was all we would't think anything of continuing along northbound. However the CAPE index (a way of telling where there is most potential for severe thunderstorms) is showing a highly elevated area where this low is forming.

Thunderstorms/squalls/storms all have things that make for an unpleasant sailing experience. They have unpredictable high winds, sometime up to 50kts, and lightening. While you can reef down to handle the winds, you don't want to sail for 600 nm with your third reef in 'just in case'. This means the crew has to be in standby mode to be able to quickly reef when we feel threatened. Not like our earlier passages when we would keep the same sail configuration for days on end.

Then, of course, is the problem of a lightening strike. Being the tallest metal object around for hundreds of miles makes us the biggest target out there for a strike. While not life threatening to us, it would damage a lot, if not most, of the delicate electronics onboard. Not a happy thought as having this equipment allows us to sail with all sorts of important information about the winds and weather.

So, our plan is to poke along as slow as we can (2nd reef in, staysail and still doing 8-9 its) in a northerly directly as we continue to get Grib updates and track what is going on ahead.

In the midst of a little uncertainty with the weather, there is a bright spot for me. My favorite watch from 03:30 to 06:30 started out in tropical rain and wind wearing full Musto 'battle dress' and ended with a lovely sunrise as the clouds parted to the east. One of my special moments in sailing.

by Art, Enroute

Tropical depression forming I'm sure every sailor has heard stories of the doldrums and how sailing vessels have sometimes been stuck for weeks waiting for a breath of wind to help move them along. Well, that's the area we've been in for the past few days. We do have some wind but it's been too little and directly from in back of us (180 AWA). So we could have chosen to gybe back and forth across our course for a week to make a little progress toward Cape Verde or... turn on the IVECO engine and make a direct path at 9-10 kts to Cape Verde while we waited for a better wind angle to build in. You guessed, plan 'B'... good old IVECO. At 11 lph and 2550 liters of fuel onboard we can easily accomplish this and so we've been moving along like this for the past three days.

Last night I went to bed after my watch at 3:30 and was reading a scary story when I felt something wet on my leg. I turned on the light and found parts of a bloody fish all over my bed (must have been dropped in by a bird!) What a mess (and stink too!) So this morning I wanted to wash my sheets and went to start up the generator (as the washing machine needs it to run). Oops, generator fault due to the seawater cooling not working. Clara to the rescue as she crawled into the engine room (imagine... Equator... engine running for three days... the heat in the engine room!) and worked for an hour to replace the impeller that was damaged and clean out the heat exchanger from all the broken impeller blades. Go Clara! Generator back online I got my sheets washed and hung out to dry on the safety lines (I know Daniele.. it's not proper to hang laundry out on a yacht like this but no one was looking!)

This morning we find the winds now coming from abeam (-70) at 11 kts apparent and growing. Looks like we can get some sail up to take advantage but first we have several repairs to make. First, the main halyard has been chaffing at the 2nd reef point. We had the 1st reef point reinforced with spectra but for some reason the shipyard didn't reinforce the 2nd reef point. We've made a repair that should last until we get to Genova but it needs to be fixed correctly. So now we are back to sailing with a port tack and straight on course to Cape Verde. It's so nice to be sailing again!

Even though it's early September near the Equator and hot during the day, the nights have held a lovely breeze for us and with the flat seas, we're able to have the hatches open to let all that nice air into the cabins. With only one person on watch for 1.5 hours while we motor, it makes for a wonderful rest period that we are all taking advantage of each night. As the winds are now building in from the north, we're sailing again with our 3 hours watch schedules so back to sleeping on an angle.

by Art, Equator

Party on the Equator! Steady progress over the past few days and we arrived at the Equator at 17:00 UTC at latitude 0 0.00 and longitude 12 55.59. Per tradition, we had a little party for Neptune, did some weird things (can't talk about it) drank some rum and ate some cake. It's neat to watch the latitude change from S to N. One moment you're in the Southern Hemisphere and the next you're in the North. The seas are flat and we have to motor to make progress. We will perhaps motor for another day before we start to pick up some more wind. In the meantime, 10kts VMG is a good tradeoff for the noise of the motor.

We've had to stop fishing now as the water is getting too warm and the fish might have bacteria. Last thing we need is a whole boat full of sick people! Francesca baked a nice cake for Neptune in the shape of a trident and we tossed a piece overboard to make him happy then ate all the rest of it!

It's hot during the day but very pleasant (23c) at night. With flat seas we have the top hatches open and nice air comes through the entire boat. This is a very nice way to travel!

by Art, Enroute

The FG logo in our big gennaker What happens when you have the combination of perfect winds and waves from the perfect direction? Yep, Surfin' Safari! This kind of performance only comes with a light displacement yacht. It has the ability to get up on a wave and surf it taking into account the speed of the wave and the wind in her sails. The result is a speed that the boat can't obtain by itself. While not huge waves with huge speeds, I've seen over 15 kts on a number of occasions and once hit 17.7 kts. Eduardo has seen 22.7 kts (34 kts of true wind, 1 reef in main sail and staysail). And yes, helming is challenging during these surfing adventures but a lot of fun!

We've gotten the gennaker up a few times over the past few days and boy she's big! Over 500 sqm of yellow so the whole world can see us coming. In the lighter winds we are experiencing as we approach the Doldrums near the Equator, the gennaker adds 1.5-2 kts of speed over using the main and genoa. Our gennaker is good for wind speeds up to 22 kts and becomes difficult to handle once we reach those speeds. Just before nightfall we take her down and put her back up the next morning.

Fishing is still a bit dim (ok, we still have no fish!) as the speeds we are traveling attract only the larger predators and when they hit they take the lure and line with it very quickly. We've have 3-4 fish on for a second or two then they are gone. Perhaps some heavier duty gear or stick with frozen fish for now?

It's Sunday so it's Fresh Pasta Day (as opposed to Friday which is Pizza Day). Now we know another week has gone by (oops we forgot to bring a calendar onboard!).

by Art, St. Helena

St. Helena in our rear-view mirror... We left St. Helena behind yesterday about mid-morning and since then have been making great progress with winds in the right direction providing us with a nice, comfortable broad reach in 18-25 kts of true wind. The sea state has been pretty nice but is building a bit now about 24 hours after our departure. Yesterday was blue skies all around and a sparkling fresh sea. Today it's back to the grey cloudy sky, the same we've seem for weeks now. It's amazing how just a day of blue sky can cheer everyone up on board. Not that we're in the much need of cheer, but you know what I mean. Our fishing has been for naught so far but Carlos' rig had something big bite and tear the lure off so we know there are fish out there, perhaps our speed is a deterrent to them biting? If that's the case, then I'd rather eat frozen fish and go fast!

By the way, in case anyone is interested, we are doing in excess of 200nm each day. For the last 24 hours we did 244 nm.

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