Musings From an Atlantic Crossing

We had a lot of requests for our tracker musings as we crossed the Atlantic. Here they are in full! Grab a tasty cold rum cocktail and sit back and read the antics of four crazy sailors crossing a big ocean in a “little” boat!

Erin, Kevin, Henry and Geoff setting off from Tenerife, Canaries, Spain.

12/10/2022 Out of Cape Verde

Off we go! And we are sailing 🙂 Just over 2100 miles to go.

12/11/2022 Still Sailing

Sailing has been good so far as we alternate between our downwind sails, the spinnaker and code 0. Mango salsa made, waiting impatiently for a catch of the day. 1 AM bonus entertainment which included a HUGE pod of dolphins, maybe 30, with the “zoomies”. They were certainly enjoying playing around our bow in the 2m swell and Erin enjoyed the hour long show on an otherwise dark quiet night.

Spinnaker flying

12/12/2022 Trades

Three days out of Cape Verde and the winds have fully shifted into the normal trade-wind pattern.  All systems performing great and only preventative maintenance required so far. (knock on wood) Few scattered clouds keeping the sun from baking us but also reducing the total solar panel output. The main rests easy on the hayrack while we swap between the asymmetrical spinnaker and code zero pulling us along between 5-9kts. Bit of a fishing dry spell even though we’re seeing plenty of flying fish scared out of the water by a larger (more delicious?) predator. 

On another note, we are feeling warm and sunny in mid-December

12/13/2022 Fresh PAN (Bread!)

Three days out of Cape Verde and the winds have fully shifted into the normal trade-wind pattern.  All systems performing great and only preventative maintenance required so far. (knock on wood) Few scattered clouds keeping the sun from baking us but also reducing the total solar panel output. The main rests easy on the hayrack while we swap between the asymmetrical spinnaker and code zero pulling us along between 5-9kts. Bit of a fishing dry spell even though we’re seeing plenty of flying fish scared out of the water by a larger (more delicious?) predator. 

Feeling warm and sunny in mid-December.

12/14/2022 The fish are fighting back

Another wonderful day on the water. Making 7kts running downwind under spinnaker to get closer to the rhum line.  Still no fish for eating 🙁  That said we have had several kamakazi flying fish end up on deck. Their attempts to hurt WW are in vain but they have been very successful in leaving scales and blood all over the deck, we are debating using them for bait. That’ll teach ‘em. In thousands of square miles of ocean, 600 NM from land, we find ourselves as 1 of 3 sailboats within about 10nm of each other. It must be a race…obviously. WW usually maintains the lead during the day but conservative night sailing configuration gives them the overnight advantage. (It’s a marathon not a sprint as they say.)

Flying fish who made a poor decision

12/15/2022 Sir Charles, the uninvited

Sir Charles Sh*ts-A-Lot

The flying fish have slowed their assault on WW and attempted a new unexpected tactic. We assume in some sort of back alley deal, the fish have gone so far to hire an egret, Sir Charles Sh*ts-a-Lot, of unknown origins, to board our vessel and attempt to box us into a corner by covering the deck in some most unsavory droppings despite our hospitality in providing water and small pieces of fish from our morning Albacore Tuna catch (Finally!) to tide him over during his short 24 hour respite. Probably getting more sleep on board over night than any of the current crew. He attended a morning brainstorm session on how to McGyver some unexpected issues with our mainsail but had nothing useful to add sadly, just giving us a quizzical look. Perhaps some dodo in his family tree? We were finally able to nudge him on his way to his next stop by raising and lowering the asymmetrical sail a few times and sending Kevin up the mast to retrieve an errant line and finally get the sail to set correctly.  Apparently this proved too much drama for our new friend. We wish him a fine journey wherever he is headed next, despite the mess he left behind.

Kevin up the mast

12/16/2022  Longest Sail to Date

Today around 1000 local as we start our 7th day underway, we are officially on our longest passage to date usurping our previous passage to Cape Verde. All under sail. We are ‘celebrating’ by motoring for a bit due to a lull in the trade winds. 

Deep thought: it’s a bit crazy to think we are moving our 14-ton home from one part of the world to an entirely different part of the world via wind across an ocean. Bit mind blowing. Tomorrow afternoon we should reach our halfway point which will be a welcome sight, perhaps a buoy, a pod of party dolphins or gam of whales will greet us to celebrate?! Maybe even Sir Charles Sh*ts -a-lot will make an appearance…or just another blue spot in the ocean. Who knows?! We don’t. We’ve never been there! 😜

12/17/2022 Halfway Day!

To all those following the oceanic ramblings of the WW’s crew, we don’t know who to be more concerned about, you for still reading them, or us, who actually post such thoughts, either way here’s another update. 

After surpassing the 1000nm mark and qualifying for the world ocean cruising club we slowly approach the halfway mark of our journey. It’s really just the point at which we pass from the Eastern Atlantic into the western Atlantic but finding the actual 1/2 way mark might have taken items like sundials, sextants, lubber lines, mermaids, and fathom readings which we were woefully unprepared for (or just picked the middle line of longitude between our starting and end point). But I digress, we cross halfway point around dinner time at which point we will celebrate with pizza, brownies, red wine, music and some ridiculous pirate decorations Erin found at a “China Bazaar” store in Tenerife. Side note: that’s the actual name of the store. Pretty much a Walmart knockoff, just a touch more honest on the origins of what fills their shelves perhaps. 

Halfway!
Halfway Party! Yaaaarrrrrrr.

Crossing hasn’t been without troubles; We have had to make some sketchy repairs to a water leak on the generator, fixed battens and connectors in the mainsail, pulled both of our headsails down to untwist them, fish a sail out of the water that came down wrong and clean salt water intakes of incredibly large amounts of sargasso weed (perhaps another tactic the flying fish have employed in an attempt to impede our progress?). All that said, we sailor on west with fair winds and following seas. Happy Halfway Day!

12/19/2022 Strikes and Gutters

Don’t mind the bowling analogy, I was too sleep-deprived to come up with a sailing one. Long passages are rarely simple; salt water, constant movement, and ever changing conditions are tough on systems and material.

The last couple days have been no exception. We’ve had beautiful weather, seas on the calmer side, and predicted (though a little light) winds -Strike

-Our mainsail(s), a complicated setup, powerful in upwind and reaching winds blew out some of its more necessary parts and we had to remove it from the line up, slowing us down more -Gutter.

-Caught a delicious Tuna for dinner -Strike

-Our generator, whose salt-water pump we replaced just prior to leaving Spain, has developed a leak in the same location as the previously replaced pump. It will require extra TLC for the remainder of the trip to continue to operate -Gutter

-We hit the halfway point and celebrated with pizza, brownies and the musical stylings of Jimmy -Strike

-Our code 0 sail furling failed us, leading to a more dramatic evening sail change and another sail that will be temporarily removed from the lineup (halfway was not supposed to equal half the usable sails!)-Gutter

-We went under 1000 miles to go, into triple digits! -Strike

-Kevin had a MASSIVE mahi on the line, but the creature proved to be one tough SOB and after a 15 min battle royal, broke away taking 300m of fishing line and a souvenir lure with him. -Gutter

-We made some repairs and modifications to the mainsail(s) bringing it back into the line up, just in time as the TWS (true wind speed) is now steadily hovering around 20 kts and our light-wind downwind sails are out of limits. -Strike

-We will sadly not be making a Pre-Christmas landing in the Caribbean as originally planned. -Gutter

-All crew are healthy and in generally good spirits, crushing books, solving life’s problems over late night turnovers, and becoming slowly less picky when snack grazing as the food supply variety slowly dwindles.  -Strike

This is sailing. 90% tranquil, 10% terror. 100% Adventure and once-in-a-lifetime experiences!

Fresh Tuna
Last intact flying of Code 0

12/20/2022 Off the Rhumb

Sailors have been moving their ships across the oceans on “the trades” for centuries. The WW route was follows the sailors who went before us and use the well known winds and seas in this portion of the ocean to do the same. There are, however, some “slight” differences between WW and the galleons that traveled before us. The largest one is that IF we wanted to we could turn around and sail ~40° off the wind back east though it would be painful. The other is that WW’s is designed to travel in all sorts of wind angles and not just downwind. This has its drawbacks; the biggest being that we can’t let out several thousand square meters of square sails to increase our downwind speed. 

Why do we bring this up? Well, WW is currently in a situation where we can’t use our larger downwind sails due to higher wind speeds, but those same winds aren’t strong enough to carry us on the most direct course or with great velocity using the other available sails. And so we slowly work our way to our destination with what we got. Such is the sailor’s life. a bonus for us though compared to many of those who went before us is we have many more ways to stay entertained, we have Kindles with 1,000s of books, computers with movies, modern cooking conveniences, and satellite communications providing up to date weather forecasts. So, hard to complain about slow travels!

Off to look for the rum and hard tack.

12/21/2022 Fresh or Strong?

Coffee? Beer? No, wind! Sir Beaufort had numbers and classifications for wind speeds. But unless you’ve memorized the 13 line items on his list from calm to hurricane it’s much easier to deal with zero to twelve. That is unless you want to sound all classy nautical.  So today WW deals with the line between breezes. The cutoff line being 21kts for a fresh breeze and the strong breeze starts at 22kts…but what if we’re routinely seeing 21.5? We’re in purgatory breeze apparently. 

About 600nm from our destination and we’ve made our first jibe in…months? This means that we traveled about 1,300 leagues (3K+ miles) above the sea on a starboard tack. Currently we’re “sailing by the lee,” and while General Sherman (or Bow and Luke Duke) might be jealous this just means that we’re almost dead downwind with our foresail (jib) pushed to the windward side of the boat while the main sail is on the leeward side of the boat. This configuration puts us in the “accidental jibe” territory with the sea state, but we have lines attached to prevent such things. We’re making about 6kts to our destination and a well needed drink. Sadly rum was not found yesterday…maybe today. We have some limes that are just barely hanging on that would love to dress up a tasty beverage vice being tossed into the sea like some errant flying fish that made a poor decision in the middle of the night.

12/22/2022 WW Arts & Crafts Day

The early morning hours presented us with an incredibly dark moonless sky with more stars than we have ever seen. And we’ve been in some pretty remote places before. You want to feel small and insignificant in the universe? Sit outside floating in the middle of the ocean on a moonless night and look up. Not only that, but huge shooting stars blew out in every direction as we continued westward in light winds under the main and jib wing-on-wing configuration trying to make our way back towards our rhumb line. We are hoping to set ourselves up for a no-more-jibes straight shot into our destination, which is still a few days away.

Then, all the overnight tranquility screeched to a halt at the sunrise sail change when the main decided we haven’t had to work on her enough over the course of this trip. As we lowered her, the halyard line parted at the bitter end. We pulled the remainder of the sail down, which if you’ve heard us talk about this specialized, complicated rig, you know we’ve gotten good at over-handling these sails to make them work. Today we leveled up again! 

After, the spinnaker went up, and the team spent the better part of the day participating in an impromptu arts and crafts day on the foredeck to find a way to (again) bring the broken mainsail back into rotation for when the winds were forecasted to pick up around sunset. They spliced new eyes in the main halyard lines, made two new soft shackles and a new downhaul. The boat now looks like a tool shed and we are about one random soft shackle away from being self-taught master riggers at this point.  Parts, lines, and tools everywhere. A lot of creative juices were flowing down to the wire. Success! Main is back up right at sunset and is pulling us into another star-filled moonless night. We’ll see what tomorrow brings! Hopefully at least another 150 miles closer to Antigua.

Henry & Geoff gettin creative

12/23/2022 Signs of Life!

Some post midnight watch thoughts on the day. We started the morning with a big breakfast and settled in for a routine day. We were quickly overtaken by a decent sized squall. Clear blue skies and warm light winds quickly turned to chilly driving rain and squirrelly 30 kt winds. An “exciting” 20 minutes passed as we steered the boat from the wind and suddenly were back in warm light winds and blue skies slowly drying out. At Mid-day we were presented with our daily battle with the mainsail. This time our reef line for the leech of the sail showed significant chafe and needed a remedy. Another day, another challenge, another random solution. Life at sea continues as expected.

The remainder of the day was calm as we counted down the miles and got into a more festive spirit with an impending holiday quickly approaching this weekend. Far from family and friends this year, we wanted to still get in the spirit and picked up a little tree and some lights in the Canaries, which are now up and twinkling away! Just in time as we spotted the first signs of civilization on the distant horizon. We haven’t seen any sign of life in days, with the exception of the ever present flying fish which continue to hurl themselves at Water Wings with reckless abandon. No marine mammals, no other boats. Today we saw the edge of the Caribbean charts enter our chart plotter screen and airplane blinked across the night sky. Didn’t even realize we have not seen even a plane in sky in well over a week or so. Getting close! Our Christmas wish this year…landfall! …and maybe a less needy mainsail would be a bonus 😉

12/25/2022 Christmas on the Caribbean Sea

Merry Christmas to all our friends and family from the Caribbean Sea.  As we start or 16th and final day at sea (hopefully?!) for this passage, Guadeloupe is currently to the southwest and we have Antigua less than 50 miles off the bow. Seas are a bit confused as they have been over the last 24 hours making the homestretch a little more sporty than expected.  

As the winds picked up yesterday to a sustained 18-20 kts gusting up to 30, we were able to finally pack away the ever deteriorating mainsail for the remainder of the trip.  Our little Jib will be able to pull us the remainder of the way into port and if winds wane, we still have plenty of fuel on board since we have pretty much sailed the entire 2181 NM up to this point.  

We planned a fun dinner last night for Christmas Eve. Cubed chicken with all the fixins, including mashed potatoes, gravy, mushy peas (to the delight of our resident Brit), fresh bread and cranberry sauce.  Ironic that this was probably the meal the required the most pots and pans and our first that we had to cook while being bombarded with Squalls and crazy seas.  Of course the fun started just after we started cooking or we may have opted for something much simpler.  While we were able to sit down together as a crew every night, Christmas Eve dinner was not to be with the rain, wind and waves, but we still managed some laughs and good cheer as we rotated through the meal.  

Christmas eve at sea

Santa may have missed us, not quite knowing where to find us this year, but we are incredibly thankful for the crew, Henry and Geoff, for spending the holiday season with us.  They helped Water Wings safely cross the Atlantic. We had planned to be in Antigua around the 21st or 22nd and get them home for Christmas, but the weather had other ideas. We thank their families for letting them be with us over the holiday season.

It’s been an adventure of the expected and unplanned.  The beers are cold, the champagne is chilled, and in a couple hours from now, we will enjoy these delicious beverages all while attempting to not get “land sick” during which time we will relax and spin the tales of our crossing that we can enjoy (and commiserate about) for years to come. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story after all!  

We made it! Checking in beverages at Jolly Harbour

 We are looking forward to what 2023 will bring. Let the Caribbean/East Coast adventures begin…

2 thoughts on “Musings From an Atlantic Crossing”

  1. Great sea stories and love the references to the days of yore and old sailing ships and sailors. Enjoy the life of freedom, stay safe and keep writing. Thanks and see you all one day again.

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