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S/V Nereida sails around the world

6/7 April Days 2/3 of handsteering to Trinidad....

Sun/Mon 6/7th April '08

Midday Monday: Just tacked around as usual before heaving-to for rest from helming - wind was getting up - timed perfectly as a squall/strong winds ~25knots have just arrived! Took in 2nd mains'l reef I'd shaken out earlier and furled in a lot of genoa - tiny staysail still out - useful!!

Sunday was a continuation of overnight Saturday's rough seas breaking on deck and spraying the helming position - no flying fish to be found on deck these days - washed away pretty quickly!! Having trouble brushing my hair it's so full of salt from wettings! Things calmed down later on Sunday & overnight was fairly clear - lots of stars - Big Dipper getting higher now & can see Pole Star.

Very tiring - constantly having to helm, occasionally lock it off and it stays for just a short while - makes sail-handling pretty difficult.

Monday - started out fairly calm so shook out 2nd reef and unfurled genoa .... wind got up a little bit and we were making a fair speed (6.5kn) in about 15knots... until near midday when I like to heave to to make log entry and turn in for a sleep... lucky timing, as it turned out... (see above!)

Trying to do a continuous routine of 7-8hrs on & 4 hrs off for rest & food... made 101 mls 'distance made good' to noon yesterday but only 81mls today in less strong winds - until now!

To sleep now... food when I wake up before next sailing session.

Sat 5 April - Autopilot not working...it's going to be a 'slow boat' to Trinidad!!

Sat 5th April - Autopilot motor stopped working at around 1300 GMT.

Tried to get Windpilot to take over ..but unreliable (was hoping to sort out that problem in Trinidad...). It holds course for a short while but then gets 'trapped' with vane in an extreme position so we go right off course - a bolted connection has worn & is too loose. So after many efforts, I had to abandon that ... pity!!

Kept going until 2000 GMT when I hove to... we were drifting at 1.5 kn SE!! Then I realized that if we hove to on the other tack that would be more favourable...that has turned out much better - we're nearly making our course (which is 296T)... we're fore-reaching at around 1.5 knots on a course of about 290T - not too bad ... At least now we're not drifting backwards!!

I've looked at the autopilot drive unit - nothing visibly wrong, simply that the motor is not pushing the drive arm onto the steering quadrant - nothing I can do at this point ... it'll have to wait to Trinidad.

I'll have to keep handsteering, with breaks for sleep & food for which I'll have to heave to.... hopefully then, we'll keep up our present good direction of drift/fore-reaching!

3/4/5 April Rough seas & grey skies.... but finally a hint of sun... no!

Thurs/Fri 3/4 April '08 Rough seas, grey sea & sky... but good speed under reefed sails!

We've been making excellent speed (7-8 knots of boatspeed!) in true winds of mainly ENE 15-22knots - but HEAVY rainsqualls on & off over Thursday night!!! Definitely makes life 'interesting'! I was really pleased I'd hoisted my tiny staysail earlier in the day and sorted out the sheets & leads (I'm using three - two on leeward side, because of shrouds interfering, one on windward side ready for a possible tack .. although that's unlikely,being in Trade wind conditions, you never know!) I eventually furled in my genoa almost completely and took two reefs in the mains'l - even so we were making well over 7 knots most of the night and today.

The sky has been overcast, with occasional rain, and the seas have been a bit rough - 3-4m swell from two different directions heaps up regularly to knock the boat about...!

Saturday morning the winds were still good and I actually thought we were about to get some nice sunshine in the morning... but it was a false alarm.. it's clouded over and we've had some more rain.

Made 155mls today and 150ml yesterday - ETA Trinidad is Friday if wind keeps up like this.

1st/2nd April The wind finally arrives - with the ITCZ

Tuesday 1st April - 'Poisson d'Avril'

- no flying or other fish seen .... but I was certainly made a fool of by the supposed fair current.... Around 6pm, I was delighted to see our speed over the ground seemingly creep up to match our boatspeed & stay that way - great... had we finally found the current we'd been searching for?? But by 9pm, we were back to the usual foul current.... and by Wednesday, we were losing a knot of boatspeed to current all day long.

We motorsailed all day in 6knots of ENE-NNE wind, under light cloud cover, with a lovely visit by a small group of acrobatic dolphins at midday ... all very pleasant and warm, with not too much swell. Around 6pm, the sky was quite hazy, almost foggy, all around - humidity was 88% & I wondered if a drop in temperature was causing the effect. At 9.20pm, I was seated down below when I suddenly realized we were heeling way over ... WIND had arrived ....with HEAVY rain!! I turned off the engine and we were finally sailing nicely in NE 10 knots... for all of an hour, before the wind died & boatspeed dropped to below 3knots (and SOG to below 2 knots!) Rain came a couple more times, again bringing wind for a short while only, but by 2am I decided to leave the motor off ... We were under full sail in pitch darkness ... no moon or stars.

Wednesday 2nd April

As the night progressed, the wind came up more - by 4am, I had to put a reef in the mains'l as we heeled over like mad in 18 knots of apparent wind on a close reach. Soon after daybreak, there were lots of impressively big clouds everywhere - we were clearly in the ITCZ! We were now sailing close-hauled really well - making over 7 knots with a reef in the genoa also by now, but losing to current... grey, forbidding skies all around, HEAVY rainsqualls later on, big 3m seas... boat crashing into the seas regularly and water sweeping the decks...very uncomfortable! I got soaked several times in the downpours, while adjusting the sails. We shipped a load of water into the main cabin.... curses...."Who was the idiot who forgot the hatch cracked open in the 'vent' position?" (That took some time to mop up...! Thank goodness the computer wasn't in the line of fire.)

By later in the evening, the wind & swell has calmed down & the wind has veered to the NE, rather than ENE as in the daytime, so sheets have been eased a bit and we're sailing more smoothly under reefed mains'l & full genoa, in light rain still, making 5-6knots SOG.

Maybe tomorrow the grey skies of the ITCZ will be left behind...?? I'm still dreaming of a lovely 2 knot Equatorial current pushing us at speed in good wind along to Trinidad under blue skies with fluffy white clouds.... Dream on...!

30/31March - Across the Equator! But struggling to get through the Doldrums in variable light wind &

Sunday/Monday 30/31 March '08 Crossing the Equator back into the northern hemisphere...

Sunday started sunny, hot & sticky, like previous days, but gradually got cloudier, although the night was fairly clear again - overnight Sat/Sun, it had been really calm. I could see bright stars being reflected in the relatively smooth, dark, sea surface ... hardly any wind and no moon.

I actually managed to sail close-hauled across the Equator on Monday with no motor running during a short period of nice wind: ENE 10 knots .. the time was 1121 GMT, at a longitude of 037deg 30.62'W . I celebrated a little, playing plenty of music and eating various goodies I'd kept by for the occasion, but it rained for a time soon after so there wasn't much dancing in the cockpit...!!

It looked, from what little weather info I'm getting, as though there would be an area ahead of light variable winds for several days, a disturbance of some kind, if I were to keep on my rhumbline course of WNW (297T) from Fernando de Noronha towards the Equator, whereas heading on a more northerly course might avoid that & get to stronger NE winds sooner - so Saturday night, I altered course from 297T to 310T to keep on a NW course for a bit, hoping to get decent Trade winds once I reached the Equator. (Others a few days ahead, well north of the Equator, have been getting strong 25-30 knot rainsqualls mixed in with those NE 10-15 knot Trades...!)

The wind keeps varying so much, depending on whether heavier rain & associated clouds are around or not .. mainly it's NE to SE 2-5 knots, but it's been everything else, even W or NW 6-8kn or more, in rain, but never really strong nor consistent. I have had to motor most of these last two days, occasionally managing to sail for a brief period when I'm lucky. I keep rushing up on deck to set the genoa when I feel the wind getting up, only to have to furl it in a short while later & turn the motor back on when the wind dies to almost nothing, causing the apparent wind to go dead ahead.

Another problem has been the foul current - anything from 0.4 - 0.9 knot East-going, so not helpful - the reason I've now changed course yet again - heading more West to try to get into the fair current nearer the Brazilian coast. It gets very frustrating to be making around 5-6 knots of boatspeed but only 4-5 knots over the ground...! And it's still a long way to go to get to Trinidad - a good 10-12 days away, assuming I find the NE Trades so I can sail at a decent speed in fair current for most of the way.

It was grey and rainy all day Monday - but one nice thing was often seeing a white-rumped petrel flying near the boat, skimming the waves. No flying fish have been spotted on deck on this passage so far.

I forgot to mention that when I went for my swim as I got close to Fernando, I noticed lots of little (for the moment!) gooseneck barnacles clinging to Nereida's hull around the waterline under the stern. I gather that the ones well below the water surface die off once the boat stops for any length of time since they only survive in disturbed water, needing air. I wonder how big I'll find them by the time I next get into the water to look?!

I've had a lot of trouble getting a connection for weather & emails - just can't do it during the daytime, but Saturday night around midnight, I connected to Winlink via Andre, VE2AFQ, (Le reseau du Capitaine) in Montreal and then to Sailmail in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia - both in Canada....! Nearer stations proved useless... Let's see how easy this news item is to send...

26-29 March 08: Fernando de Noronha, Brasil! .... & on ....

Tuesday/Wednesday 25/26th March

I ambled along over Tuesday under motor at around 4-4.5 knots SOG in 3-4knots of SSE wind from astern using minimum revs, trying not to get to Fernando de Noronha too early on Wednesday... & then slowed down even more when I got to the N end of the Archipelago because it was well before sunrise and I'd hoped to get to the anchorage in reasonable light. I was hoping it wouldn't be too rolly & that the strong N swell that had been causing a problem all over the northern S Atlantic coasts over the
previous few days would have lain down sufficiently to allow me to stop there & get some fuel for the ongoing passage. Still another 3-4 days of motoring to get to the Equator & then another 9-11 days on to Trinidad - hopefully, mainly sailing. Fortunately, the moon was still nearly full and the sky clear, so although I came in to anchor in the dark hours just before sunrise, I could see well enough in the moonlight to avoid the many unlit small boats at anchor inshore... and the swell wasn't too
bad... no worse than many W. coast Mexican anchorages I've been in!

It had been very hot and sticky on passage in the daytime 35C, although on deck it was better, with some refreshing breeze. Mostly, it was bright and sunny, with clouds only building a little later in the day & not too many threatening rainclouds except near sunset - big, dark grey, towering..ugly!... but they often dissipated with nightfall.

I saw quite a lot of shipping around - S. of Fernando, we were clearly in the main shipping lanes around Brazil between S.Africa/Indian Ocean & Caribbean/Europe/N.America.

Before sunset on Tuesday, since we were in no rush to make landfall, I had a fabulous dip in the sea!! Turned off the motor, tied a rope around me... and in I went, off the stern... It was beautifully refreshing... The water was a gorgeous clear deep blue and really tepid... I even spotted fresh rainwater in a bucket on deck to rinse off with afterwards.

Wed/Thurs 26/27th March

Fernando de Noronha was definitely a worthwhile stop - such lovely, friendly people! On finally getting ashore on Thursday, I kept hearing, "Welcome to Brazil!" (But unlike Europeans & Canadians, US visitors need a prior visa - with no visa, they are, regretfully, I was told, only allowed to stay the day to get fuel & then leave.) I was continually being offered ice-cold water & tiny cups of sweet strong coffee by the local 'Federal Police' Officer while I was waiting in the Harbourmaster's Office
for various 'agents' to appear to do the obligatory paperwork - everyone I met seemed fascinated by the thought that I was sailing alone...

I had waited to watch the sun rise over the dramatic volcanic 'core' rising high above the south end of Bahia de Santo Antonio after anchoring there... and then went down below for a long sleep! Later that day, I tidied up & inflated the dinghy but by the time I'd finished lowering it into the water, it had started to rain heavily - so I took a refreshing swim and showered off the stern and relaxed - there was no going ashore for Clearance until tomorrow.... especially since the swell was bad enough
to make it impossible for me to lower the outboard onto the stern of the dinghy, we were rolling about so much...

The next morning, the big Leopard catamaran 'Indigo' arrived - they knew me from Simon's Town.... and when they saw me struggling to get my outboard onto the dinghy (in the unabated swell) they took pity & came over to help me - and ended up taking me and my fuel jerrycans onshore, as being safer for me than using my little dinghy and 2h.p. motor in the sea state prevailing... yet more kind people! As soon as I landed, I was met by a local man who insisted on helping me with my cans to the fuel
station up on the hill above the dock, waited for me to fill up... and then insisted on carrying my full cans down to the dock, calling over to a couple of young lads nearby to help with the ones he couldn't manage ... so I ended up walking back down empty-handed...!! His English was pretty good for someone just learning over the last few months, far better than my meagre Portuguese (limited to 'Bom Dias' - Good Day - & 'Obrigado' - Thank you !), although my 'pocito Espanol' came in handy at times.

I later met up with Mike, Lynn & Coen when they came onshore to complete their check-in & then we all jumped on to the local bus to make a quick (& easy!) circular tour of the island (The Port Officer who dealt with my paperwork had told me about the bus, given me a map of the island and, with a broad smile, lent me a 10 Reales note to pay for the return fare..& more - "If you can't pay me back, don't worry"..!!...I repaid him, of course.) The island has a very green interior, lovely little bays
with sandy beaches, rocky outcrops & dramatic volcano cores sticking up as backdrops. There seemed to be lots of 'Pousadas' (B&B!) - the main 'industry' seems to be tourism, with fishing, diving, snorkelling & lying around on beaches clearly very popular! I caught sight of a couple of BIG black & yellow lizards among rocks beside a lovely cove at the far end of the 'tour' while waiting for the return bus. It's all a well-kept marine reserve - with lots of rubbish bins available everywhere ... so
there was no rubbish dropped all over the place & it was all very clean-looking - nice to see, for a change!

Mike & co. dinghied me back out & I filled my fuel tanks while they caught up on sleep. I then decided to use my dinghy to take my empty cans back onshore to refuel again so as not to disturb 'Indigo' too much - they had offered to take me again for that after their nap. I started up the outboard & got going.... the motor died.. I started up again... it died again.. and again... By now I was drifting in the direction of the surf crashing onto the rocks below the high volcanic peak.... Not good
news... & not really the time to start opening up the motor to have a look at it...!! I'd taken my handheld VHF in my bag to contact Indigo earlier but was sure they were now asleep, although I knew the Harbourmaster's Office kept watch on VHF16 so that was one option. I knew that my trying to row would not be effective enough... the dock was quite a distance away up-current and the sizeable swell was causing a big surf crashing onto the beach close inshore of the jetty I needed to get to.

I saw a local tourist boat inshore from me, heading towards the jetty ... I made my 'distress' SOS arm-waving signal, hoping they would see me & understand, .. & also kept trying to start the outboard so they'd see nothing was happening!! (It's a very recogniseable movement from a distance for anyone who's used an outboard motor!!) Luckily, after a short time, I saw them beginning to turn towards me... they had a boatload of people returning from the afternoon on some nearby beach. What a relief..!
I threw my line & they towed me in... "Obrigado mucho!!"

I took my empty cans up for more diesel ... and yet another kind Brazilian couple in a car fetched me back down to the dock with my load of fuel... smiles from them & lots of "Obrigado" from me! .... "No problema!" I then DID have a problem - trying to contact 'Indigo' by VHF to ask them to pick me up to bring me back to 'Nereida' with my load of fuel & an unreliable outboard on my dinghy....! Many more little cups of the Harbourmaster's strong sweet black coffee later, I finally made contact...
but if I hadn't, people on a local diveboat had smilingly offered to take me out... It seemed to me the whole island was full of friendly, helpful, smiling people ... all concerned for my wellbeing!

Before sunset, I'd topped up my tanks, stowed everything back into the cockpit locker and then raised the dinghy, deflated it and stowed it on deck as darkness fell, making sure everything on deck was secure & ready for leaving first thing Friday morning..... Which I did, under sail for quite a time, soon after a lovely sunrise with a rainbow arching over the dramatic peak nearby... and accompanied by lots of leaping, speeding dolphins as I left the anchorage to waves from 'Indigo'... a great memory
& a place to try to return to - I'd like to see more of Brazil!

After a few minor rainshowers over the day, and a total failure, on heading NNW initially, to find the hoped-for 1-2knot WNW-going current to help speed us on our way, we've ended up motoring all Friday night and Saturday, after sailing or motor-sailing over the day on Friday. We're taking the rhumb-line course (297T - WNW) to Trinidad in SE or NE 2-5 knots of wind (the direction seems to depend totally on whether clouds are nearby or not - it's actually 2 knots from every direction as I write this
in a light shower). There's a very slight current - initially, it was SW-going 0.3kn, went S, then W & is now SE-going 0.3kn - it's never been strong nor particularly helpful. The weather forecast seems to indicate no great gain by going off course & trying to head due N or NW to get to the Equator and possible NE Trades sooner.

The sky cleared up by midday on Friday and it has been mainly clear since, although Saturday afternoon has seen a few light showers. The sea has become very calm with a long NE slight swell and a slightly rippled surface. I suppose the one good thing about having to motor is the lack of concern over the batteries - they stay well-charged!!

Easter weekend: 22/23/24 March08 Lots of dolphins - some leaping straight up & 'tail-flopping'!!

Mon 24 March'08

What a wonderful way to start the day!! ... I suddenly realized that lots of dolphins were speeding towards the boat, leaping as they came, often in twos & threes - and some leapt straight up into the air, making a big splash as they landed tail first!! They were quite big ones - possibly Bottle-nosed(?), with a white -edged long 'beak'. One large one (male?) slapped its tail rythmically in the water for some time at one point making a very distinctive deep 'thonk' sound - I think to warn the others to stay clear of his 'patch' because often, later, he made a noisy splash when others came close to him at the bow. He had quite a large sucker fish attached to his side near his tail.

Overnight, there was heavy rain but the dark grey mass of clouds off to the NE cleared away over the morning. Looking to the south, all to be seen were the usual little white fluffy cumulus lined-up 'Trade Wind' clouds. Now, just after midday, there is nothing threatening, despite quite a bit of cloud around, although several larger cumulus are towering up in the heat- it's 32.5C in the shade!

Soon after I'd finished re-fuelling on Saturday, the wind had died so much we were only making 2.6 knots, so I started the engine and we've been motoring, sometimes motor-sailing, ever since except for a blissful, peaceful 3hrs on Sunday afternoon when the wind picked up a bit & I was able to cut the motor and sail... I've still a long way to go before getting to the NE Trades (possibly at the Equator) from here in the Doldrums, so I'm only using minimal motor to conserve fuel. Doing lots of fuel/distance calculations, trying to figure out which way to head.... to get maximum current?... or to minimize time in squalls (when I eventually get them - as I must!) ... all very difficult when you're not sure exactly where the ITCZ is at any point in time - it 'dodges about' unpredictably so much!

I had originally thought I'd head N-NNW when I hit the first set of squalls... on the assumption that's where the ITCZ is so let's get through as fast as possible... but now I'm not so sure since that would take me well off my preferred course (which is WNW). The ITCZ is supposed to be about 200-240 miles or more wide at present. If there's no wind & I have to motor, it might be better to try to get into the maximum fair current (2knots) running parallel to the Brazil coast, since that's almost on my path to Trinidad anyway, & that would help speed me through to the Equator & the NE Trades just as fast as heading in a more northerly direction with less good current.... Lots to think about!! Think I'll go for the current for the time being... I can always change my mind when the squalls start hitting!!

Since I should be passing right by the Brazilian Archipelago of Fernando de Noronha tomorrow night, I'm inclined to stop there & anchor to top up with fuel... From there it's still 3-4 days of probable motoring to the Equator... which is then still well over 1350 mls from Trinidad, or about 9-11 days of (hopefully!) good, albeit 'boisterous', upwind sailing.

Had to re-solder the connection to the 12V outlet at the chart table a day or so back - fiddly job but at least now it's working again as opposed to shorting all the time - the earth wire had come adrift.

I had company on board the last two nights - a storm petrel (I think!) perched on top of the liferaft & was busy preening itself before settling down to rest. I tried taking photos but not many have come out well - it didn't help that the boat was rocking about in the swell so much. It was so unafraid that it didn't seem to mind umpteen strong flashes of light - just looked rather curious. We shared a beautiful full moon ...

I'm almost certain the big bird I saw whilst sailing over to St Helena from Luderitz (Namibia) WAS an albatross - possibly a Shy Albatross, from a photo I came across in a magazine yesterday.... fabulous, graceful bird, it was. I feel quite priveleged to have seen an albatross flying around 'Nereida'!

Later: Well we've definitely hit the 'convection' area - from 5pm on we've had heavy rain- even though I thought I'd dodged my way around the squalls to begin with - we just got surrounded, overtaken and deluged!!
I've filled my water tank and lots of other containers and had a good shower - several times, in fact, since each time I've had to adjust the sails in the variable wind, I've got soaked. We're now motoring (again!) in very light wind - 3-6knots from a variety of directions. This will probably keep up for several days - I gather the ITCZ is spread over a very large area ... Oh well .... this morning and the past few days were so delightful... it's 'payback time'!

19/20/21March08 Wonderfully relaxed sailing in bright sun or under bright moon! ....most of the time

Wed/Maundy Thursday/Good Friday 19/20/21 March'08 - Wonderfully relaxed downwind sailing in bright sun during the day, under a bright moon at night! ....at peace & relaxed until I go to start the engine & it splutters ominously.....!!

What more can I say? This has the reputation of being one of the most enjoyable passages in the world - and it's certainly living up to its reputation!! ....

...Except for this afternoon, when I started up the engine to charge the batteries to get the voltage up for using the SSB for emailing & weather. It was OK for a very short while but then started dying..... I'd just switched to the main tank, worried that maybe the small tank was getting low on fuel. I started to congratulate myself for having done that, perhaps, in the nick of time, as I revved up the engine a touch more, thinking that maybe air had got into the fuel system.... then it started faltering even more .... I rushed down to look in the engine compartment - all looked fine - maybe the filter was clogged .. "& when did you last check for water in the sight-glasses?" I demanded of myself... I caught sight of the pressure gauge attached to the filters - well over into the red.... I tried the other tank - the gauge swung back into yellow. I'm going to have to change that filter .... so I went to turn off the fuel at the main tank ... the valve was closed!! "What an idiot, you are...!!" But what a relief!! I had to laugh.... All was fine after all & I've now bled both sight-glasses - very little water in there - as I did so I remembered that I'd changed every filter (fuel & oil) when I did the last oil change in S.Africa not so long ago.... & I'd obviously forgotten to open the valve on the main tank - which usually gets used last (because it's on the port side and we list slightly to starboard...!) Oh well ... on with the job of transferring more fuel to the small tank... but first I can really relax ... teatime!!..........

Boats a week ahead of me on a similar path reported calms & squalls (but no lightning!) as they got north to around 4-5S and on to the Equator - at which point they found the NE Trades. I still have about 3 more days before reaching that area - so I'm maximizing my present enjoyment of these lovely sailing conditions. Every so often I think the wind is dying - and then find it's come back up again ... so far so good! Daily noon-to-noon runs have been not so bad considering the rather light winds: 107, 124, 136 n.mls

Jobs that have been keeping me busy over the last few days have been:

Checking on daily reported position of other boats to see where the ITCZ (Doldrums) was for them (squalls or calms!)
Lots more passage planning, looking at details on charts & marking in of waypoints on chart-plotter and laptop (I'd previously pencilled some in on paper) for onward passage towards Colon (Panama) from Trinidad.
Trying to get my Windpilot to keep a sensible course - it still keeps wandering off course, but Willem on 'Najade' has the identical one & says he has no problem in light wind on a dead run. Lots of PTFE spray lubrication of accessible joints has helped but it needs more looking at. Suggestions have been to spray more - with WD40, that the servo-pendulum may not be completely vertical or I should put a reef in the main to give better boat balance (I'm not keen on the latter suggestion since I feel it would slow me down!!)
Disconnecting & removing the water pump, which had stopped working, and checking it over .... I'd thought the problem was electrical. Electrics all fine but found filter was completely clogged with fine black layer of gunge and loads of grit ... when I powered up pump separately it worked fine - sigh of relief! - so re-installed it all after thoroughly cleaning filter & holder - ahora, es fabuloso!!
Some cleaning & polishing (always on the list!).... especially of a much-used, little whistling kettle which was looking very rusty & sorry for itself!! (Obviously doesn't like, and wasn't made for, the salty environment)

Today's job is to transfer diesel from jerrycans into my fuel tank while the seas are relatively calm. (It's actually a bit 'rolly' sailing downwind goosewinged, much more so when a bigger wave catches us, but generally it's not too bad - I'll just have to take care). I have my little in-line 12V fuel pump and a manual siphon pump to help with transferring from the big jerrycans but first need to re-make a couple of spade connections for the 12V power supply to the electric pump. (That job got delayed slightly... see above!!)

Last night was wonderful - I keep not wanting to go down below it's so nice sitting in the cockpit, sailing along gently under the bright moon - full tonight (Good Friday).

With that, I'll wish everyone a very Happy Easter!!

18 March 08 Anyone who wonders why I'm doing this should be here now!!

Tuesday 18th March '08 What a great day...!

For the second day, it has been just wonderful ... not fast sailing, but just great being out here on the ocean, sailing gently along under sunny skies with a few fluffy white Trade Wind clouds or a clear sky at night with a nearly full moon and hundreds of twinkling stars. With the gentle wind, the swell has dropped right down, although still there. I feel as though I could sail on for ever....

I eased the Windpilot this morning, spraying everywhere that looked as though it might benefit, and tried it - far better, but it still has a problem on almost a dead run in such light winds (around 6-7 knots all day). The vane seems to flop over and stick there - so we go charging off course...! Dieter on 'Amazon' tonight suggested using a bungy cord to stop it going to the extreme - a job for tomorrow... I later switched the mains'l over to port and the genoa (and pole) over to starboard, goosewinged,
with the wind having shifted to the ESE, & in the afternoon I finally hoisted the new cruising chute - it did quite well, giving us 3.5knots in winds of just 7 knots, and looked just lovely when up.

While going around the deck on my morning flying fish count and deck inspection, I found a webbing tape lying on deck - yet another badly sewn tape connecting batten end to mains'l mast car has come apart. I tensioned the main halyard as much as possible to stop the first batten end from chafing on the mast and lower. I shall keep an eye on things and if needs be, I'll just have to lower the mains'l and sew a new tape in place - a job for calm conditions, that's for sure.

Overnight, I went for a drink of water ... nothing from the tap... I refused to panic (!), waiting for daylight to investigate - and discovered in the morning that the foot-pump worked fine, so clearly there was still plenty of water in the tank (so it hadn't all been pumped out into the bilge through a leak somewhere - my first thought!!) but the electric pump had developed a fault. I checked the pump fuse, that was fine, but when I checked the wires leading to the pump, one moment there was continuity,
the next not... seems like a wiring/connection problem. I got all organized to take the pump out to look at the wiring, but got side-tracked with evening radio 'scheds', taking down the spinnaker come evening and just sitting in the cockpit, enjoying the beautiful evening at sea .... which is where I started, I think!!

Sun/Mon 16/17Mar08 Lovely relaxing sailing in sunshine

Sun/Mon 16/17th March Relaxing sailing most of the time...

Sunday - Flying fish count this morning: 18, mostly tiny, but 2 big ones

Fluffy white 'Trade wind' clouds lined up, clearing overhead overnight to give lots of lovely bright stars - Southern Cross & 'Pointers' high up, Sirius nearly dead overhead and a bright waxing moon (just gone 3rd quarter). I just realized it's Easter next weekend - the moon will be just past full then. It's always nice to have a brightly-shining full moon at night at sea - and that will most likly be when I'll be getting through the ITCZ - full of squalls and thunderstorms, so the lit-up night sky will be doubly welcome!!

Although in the sun at midday it can be very hot (I try to stay mainly in the shade then), the air temperature is tempered by the constant breeze & at night it feels definitely cool - so all very pleasant.

I had to move the pole over this morning.. I'd tried to avoid it for as long as possible after having had to gybe the mains'l on to port tack during the night, but the wind was clearly staying firmly in the SSE-SE direction so I made that my before-breakfast job... with a late breakfast as a result - changing the pole from one side to the other usually takes me about an hour all told, what with lines to be changed & genoa furled in & unfurled...!! But I rewarded myself with a lovely ripe pink grapefruit from Simon's Town. (I usually find grapefruit keep really well on passage.)

The wind has died down to around 15 knots & with it the seas have lessened so we're not rolling around quite as much, although boatspeed is down a bit so our 24hr run is less (only 120ml today). I'd hoped to get the new cruising 'chute up this afternoon, but suddenly realized I had the spinnaker uphaul run wrongly around the forestay/genoa/pole uphaul, so decided to leave it be for today (rather than furl the genoa & bring the pole down to sort it out) since we were still making around 6 knots anyway.

Sunset... and I saw a rare 'green flash' .... a subdued one but it definitely happened - a second or two after the sun had disappeared over the horizon.

Overnight, the wind picked up, as it often has done, so we were making good speed again.

Monday Noon-to-noon run today was 147ml, yesterday's was only 121ml.

A similar lovely day of relaxed, gentle sailing in bright sun. Only a few tiny flying fish this morning.

Lowered the pole to take the spinnaker uphaul over to starboard around the forestay. But with us on a near-dead run, after setting the genoa back on the pole to be goose-winged as before, I decided, as I finally started hoisting the new 'chute, that it wasn't right timing. It was dancing all over the place in its sock & without a spinnaker net up, I reckoned I was very likely to get a big wrap... not worth it. We were doing just under 6 knots still ... so it can wait for another day -at least I've got it all ready now & I expect the wind to die more. It's down well below 15 knots now.

Sorted out another problem - my InmarsatC was not sending messages - turned out not to be a problem with the terminal/modem but the computer... should have guessed...!! I uninstalled & reinstalled the program - all now OK... but took a time to investigate & then sort it out, of course!

I'm looking forward to another beautiful moonlit night - full of stars, peace & quiet. A good time to reflect on life...

Fri/Sat 14/15March08 Flying fish every morning!!

Fri/Sat 14/15th March

Friday morning's tally was four very small flying fish - and one very rotten big one hidden behind the bucket on deck...yuck! Saturday's was nine small ones - & one big enough (6"/15cm long) - & fresh enough! - to eat - filleted it and fried it. They're delicious but have rather a lot of bones.

On the chafe front, I added a second shackle to the one in the bow already holding down the pole downhaul - that brought it slightly further out & higher and gave the line a better lead over the sheave - so no more chafe worries there. While the genoa was furled in to do that, I also moved the genoa car slightly - again, that meant the genoa sheet had a clear run, so avoiding the chafe worry there also. The clear tubing still has its use in one or two places - on such a long passage, even the smallest
amount of rubbing on such a continuous basis spells bad news.

Sailing is going well - consistent 15-20 knot SE/ESE winds, making for 6-7 knots or more of boatspeed with a touch of foul current at times but nothing much. We're rolling most of the time in fairly large swell with the regular 'biggie' turning up to really catch us & knock us around - have had to make sure everything is really secure & frequently have to hang on tightly! Skies have been fairly cloudy at times, but with plenty of sun and not much rain - have seen it around, but so far we've not
got wet since first night out. By noon Saturday, we were creaming along under blue skies - definitely time to relax & enjoy lying in the sun!! First time that's been possible since I don't know when..

Last few days noon to noon runs have been good: 120 (21hrs out); 140; 150 mls. So far so good - but expect lighter winds in a day or so...

13March08 - 13 isn't always a bad luck omen!! Day2: Rocking & rolling from St Helena - Trinidad

Thursday 13th March

Today I've definitely had some good things happen! For a start, my laptop decided to 'wake up' - I decided to try charging it up some more and an hour or so later, saw that the battery light was no longer blinking. In fact, it was off... Aha...!! I kept the charger running while I tried to start it...hey presto! Life after death definitely exists...!! All is well...

Another happy find was my 'best' pair of almost undamaged (!), intact (ie no lens missing!) reading specs I'd lost for quite some time.... found in the bottom of a cockpit halyard bag when I went rummaging for some line when dealing with the other main item on today's joblist... dealing with chafe. The good news there is that I spotted two potential disasters before they got too far down the road to happening... a short length of clear PVC hose was just perfect to protect the areas of concern in good time. This morning, I'd noticed some completely torn webbing which had been holding a block onto a cleat... but, fortunately, I'd already tied in a second one when I first spotted this one wearing some time ago. "A stitch in time..." That's what got me checking around carefully for chafe elsewhere, remembering also the worn lazyjack line & topping lift I very recently had to deal with. So much sailing, often on long passages in big seas and strong wind, puts a lot of stress on all the gear & it's beginning to show.

The sailing has been good since leaving James Bay, St Helena, yesterday afternoon. The wind has been 15-19 knots, more or less SE, which has put us on a run.... I've had to come slightly off my rhumbline course to keep the sails filled nicely in the big SSE swell that's been knocking the boat about a lot. I decided to sail just below my course, on port tack, rather than sail high, since the forecast is for the wind to go more to the East over the next few days, in which case I'll be able to gybe around onto starboard tack to compensate. Even if it doesn't, I think the slightly stronger wind is to the south, so it's not a good idea to head too far north of my course for the time being. It's been mainly sunny and air temperature is consistently 27-28C, so all quite pleasant.

I'm speaking on the SSB to various other boats heading away from S.Africa - mainly people I've seen in S. Africa and elsewhere over the last few months. The exception to that is solo, nonstop, west-about, circumnavigator Glen Wakefield with whom I was put in touch by a mutual friend at the Royal Victoria Y.C. (in Canada) where he started from, after taking five years to rebuild the boat 'Kim Chow' that he's on. Not having seen anyone else to talk to since leaving last September, he appreciates being able to chat to someone on the radio, especially since his Globalstar satphone only works when near land(!!) so he cannot talk to wife, daughters & friends just now, only exchange emails - when he can make contact, which is getting increasingly difficult for him as he gets further from S. Africa.

9-12th March St Helena - "An emerald set in bronze"!

Greetings from 'Nereida' at the start of a long ocean crossing - 1 month to Trinidad across the S.Atlantic from St Helena (where I arrived late afternoon on Saturday, after a 10-day passage from Namibia in SW Africa)

St Helena proved every bit as enjoyable a place as I'd been led to expect - with lovely, friendly, helpful people but a lot more rain & strong wind than I anticipated. But with air temperatures around 28-30C, I soon dried out after each shower.

I was at anchor with 3 other single-handers I know.... & another couple came in from Cape Town Sunday evening. Unfortunately for us, the rockface above the Jamestown wharf is being made safe. Rockfalls over the years have regularly demolished or damaged buildings on the front, and people have been killed both there and elsewhere on the island, the volcanic rock strata being very unstable, especially after heavy rain. (In fact, we couldn't clear in with Immigration on Monday morning because they had had to evacuate their building after an overnight fall of rock onto their roof.) This means that the only time we are allowed to use the jetty for shore landings (I used the highly convenient 'ferry service' in the anchorage) is when work is not in progress - before 7am, 1215-1245 and after 5pm (but 'ferry service' only runs tooup to 7pm) - which is very restrictive.

On Sunday, after a very good sleep-in, and despite the threatening weather, I went on a walk-about/hitchhike around the interior of St Helena. The coast is so very barren & rocky, with steep, stratified bare, brown-grey rock that it came as a very pleasant surprise to see how very lovely & green the island is away from the coast, with a great variety of trees, bushes, flowers & birds (lots of delicate fairy terns, tiny warblers & finches, cardinals, mynahs & tropic birds) - but it was mostly too misty/cloudy for the good views normally had from many highpoints. My first lift was from the very friendly Jamestown Police in their van, up the steep, winding road of Ladder Hill (and the 699 steps of Jacob's Ladder) to St Paul's, from where I started walking. The second was from a lady named Tracy who went out of her way (even though on her way to Sunday dinner with her mother) to show me far more of the lovely countryside (reminiscent of Devon & Somerset) than I had intended walking. (I think she felt bad about my walking in such showery/rainy weather, even though I assured her I was used to getting wet on the boat!!) She dropped me off on Sandy Ridge where I had a lovely walk past the beginning of the footpath to Diana's Peak - which I'd been warned off attempting in view of the wet conditions, but it was far too misty up there to see much anyway. Lower down, I got my third lift from ex-Governor's wife Delia and after another walk past some beautiful wild flowers, the last, in to town, was with a local Cable & Wireless guy Kevin with lots of interesting perspectives on a possible airport here (there is none at present - all people & supplies have to come by sea!!) & the highly-dependent possible cellphone network & mast coverage problems caused by deep little valleys between several good highpoints...

Monday turned into a boaters' group tour, with all of us joining forces to get a good price on a day tour of the island, including the sites associated with Napoleon's exile. Our guide/taxi driver was Peter Roberts who is a very well-informed local man with a good sense of humour who took us to Napoleon's houses and his tomb site which is in a lovely setting, full of flowers. We ended the day back at Ann's Place for a meal under the 'ceiling' of ensigns and burgees donated by passing 'yachties'...

Tuesday was work day for me - I had several things I needed to see to before leaving on Wednesday: re-fuelling, with the ferry man helpfully bringing the diesel out to our boats at anchor, 'mending' the frayed outer of the Spectra topping lift (I used amalgamating tape!) & a few other jobs, including a new Line Isolator installation on the antenna line to the tuner from the SSB radio, after yet more helpful, practical suggestions from Jim Corenman (He's given me a lot of good advice about various radio/Airmail problems I've had). That job actually took all evening & well into the night, I was so determined to finish it but do it properly. The most time-consuming part was getting in behind woodwork to get at the well-hidden ATU and then extracting the unit itself so I could work on it. I made sure that all connections were good and clean and added in some more ferrite 'chokes' at the end of some cable runs - all this effort to try to reduce the radio interference problems I've been having for some time.

I'm hoping I'll have enough water for the 1 mth passage to Trini from here - the watermaker is not functioning (among other thing...!!) I'm having to make sure I use the seawater tap as much as possible .... having to re-train myself in the galley!

Wednesday, I had to clear out with both Immigration and Customs after getting cash to pay for the fuel, but did not want to be stuck onshore for hours on end so arranged to go in at lunchtime. That meant a mad dash around, trying to do everything in half an hour - impossible... there was a time-consuming problem at the bank, ...the Immigration lady had just gone out for lunch (but someone was sent to find her for me)... there were several forms to be filled in...!!

Fortunately, the late start to the French workers' lunchtime turned into an even later return to work, although I suspect that there might have been some helpful connivance on various kind people's part, knowing that I was trying to Clear Out ready to leave that afternoon. The net result was that I was able to get the ferry back out to my boat well after it would normally have stopped running... so an hour or so later, I was ready to raise the anchor and start heading for Trinidad.

P.S. I forgot to mention - my new Sony computer refuses to 'wake up'.... completely unuseable ... can you believe my bad luck with computers...?? It's charged up (light kept flashing while charging), but when I press the 'on' button to start up, the battery light & 'on' light both light up - but the hard drive doesn't start up & so nothing happens - black/blank screen...!! Unbelievable - I can't fathom out why it's happened. All I know is - I can't use that computer!

7/8 Mar08 Arrival at St Helena - Napoleon's exile & last resting place


Clouds were lined up nicely downwind - "Trade wind clouds" at last... and it's warm! But often not much wind so had to motor several times to make be sure of making St Helena before nightfall Saturday, rather than having to hang around for another 12 hours for daylight Sunday - or later. Wind has only given boatspeeds of around 3-4 knots at most, for most of today.

While sailing this morning, seas were fairly calm again so I finally bit the bullet and got into the engine compartment to take the cover off the generator (awkward & heavy) - can't see anything obviously wrong with wiring - checked 25A blade fuse with multimeter & that's OK but there are also two relays - maybe one of those has gone?


Thought I was going to have to motorsail overnight - but wind came up nicely soon after dark and so had an excellent sail all night long, mainly goose-winged with genoa poled out to port. Has been very showery overnight and over the day - had to close the hatches several times so as not to let the rain down below ... but benefit was being able to wipe down decks and generally clean off accumulated salt.

Over the day, sailing has been mainly good, with quite a bit of sunshine in between the showers.

I caught sight of St Helena, which is not so very high, when about 30 miles off, but then it disappeared into thick mist for quite a time - a bit worrying when coming in to land if you can't see where exactly you're heading, even though the coast is relatively steep-to, so I turned on the radar and kept well offshore until the mist lifted & I could see the shoreline clearly.

I was able to keep sailing nicely until rounding the rocky NW point (Sugar Loaf Pt) of the island, when the wind died in the lee of the steep, grey, highly-stratified, mainly bare, volcanic hills as I came towards the Jamestown anchorage on the sheltered west side of the island.

It was fairly obvious where to head for, since there were three other yachts in the bay. As I came in to anchor, Greg, the 'water-taxi' ferryman, came to point out where I should head for - but, in fact, the holding is good almost anywhere, in about 18-20m. When I'd finished tidying up the boat, Greg came by again to take me onshore to clear Customs with the friendly, helpful official there - but Immigration & Port Authority will have to wait until Monday. I made my way to 'Anne's Place' - full of flags & burgees - where I was welcomed by the skippers of the other boats in the harbour - all three were singlehanders I knew from Richards Bay & Simon's Town. As we chatted, they were able to give me useful advice on seeing the island and later we ate together before heading back to the dockside to catch the latest possible (6.45pm!) 'ferry' out to our boats.

Time here is GMT - I'm actually in Britain's time zone!! The money in use is sterling - but I discovered that they have their own 'St Helena & Ascension' notes & coins. I had been intending sending postcards to quite a few people from here - but heard that the supply ship was in this morning to collect post.... and wouldn't be back for another 6 weeks to deliver/collect the next lot of post. The nearest airstrip to here is on Ascension Island, several hundred miles to the NNW. The supply ship makes its run between the U.K., S.Africa, St Helena & Ascension....

5/6 Mar 08 Up the mast again - but at sea, this time!

Thursday 6th March '08

A delicate white tropic bird flew by again yesterday & this evening, shortly after a lovely sunset, I saw a small dark bird skimming the waves - probably a petrel. No other life seen, although a couple more flying fish were on deck again this morning.

The wind has been mainly light from S/SSE, mostly up to 12kn - very pleasant, enjoyable, gentle sailing (with air temperature today up to 30C!) but far too slow at times... I started the motor when boatspeed dropped to under 3 knots & motor-sailed while charging the batteries! Of course, light winds from abaft the beam & overcast skies mean very little help from wind generator or solar panels.

I took advantage of the calmer conditions Thursday afternoon to go up the mast to the top spreader to retrieve the starboard line which held up the damaged lazyjacks. It all went fine & I only had to hold on tightly to the mast a couple of times when we rolled in bigger swell! I sewed & seized a join where a damaged line had chafed and parted and then raised the lazyjack lines back up. I'm hoping my mending will last to Trinidad (nearly 4,000 miles away) where I'll be able to replace the old line with new. As I passed the pole uphaul where it enters the mast, I inspected that as well - I'd noticed from deck-level that there was chafe damage there...but it doesn't look too bad, although that's another item on the shopping list for Trinidad. The mast steps I had installed in San Diego (with help from Selden US) are certainly proving useful!

I've been trying to sort out where in my radio system I should add a new line isolator and ferrite chokes I had sent out to me in S. Africa. I'm trying to get rid of a RFI (radio frequency interference) problem in the SSB radio system which is also affecting the computer & Pactor modem used for emailing via radio. At present, I'm still having major problems: 1) PC often 'hangs up' (telling me, "ERROR: Communications with the PTC-IIpro have been lost.") when trying to connect, especially on 12 & 14 MHz - often JUST as I'm actually getting connected; 2) other times, PC doesn't respond to a successful connection being made by the radio/modem & sits there, still saying it's calling the station ... then I have to close the Airmail program down & re-start it.... all very frustrating, as well as time- & power-consuming. Then, if battery power is below about 12.4V, the call attempt is often unsuccessful anyway, with the Pactor modem showing its anger by flashing all possible lights at me as it refuses to make the call attempt. Then I have to close the Terminal window on the PC down & open it up again & try a different frequency, after switching off & on the radio.... It all gets very convoluted & annoying....

I'm hoping to make St Helena in daylight on Saturday, staying just long enough to do a quick tour of what everyone tells me is a lovely, interesting island, & top up water & maybe fuel before making for Trinidad, 3750 miles away - a passage passing close by Brazil and across the Equator, which will probably take nigh on 30 days. If I can sort out my generator problem in the meantime, so much the better -it's far more economical on fuel for re-charging batteries than running the main engine - which it is not good to run when not under load.

2/3/4 March08 Good progress towards St Helena

As I'm writing this, late on Mon 3rd March, "Nereida" is 'creaming' along. When she's going well, she bounces gently but silently - making no sound at all. It's usually the sign that we're sailing well - and we're making 6-6.5 kn SOG, with boatpeed of 6.5 -7 kn, in wind from SSE around 16 knots - up from the 10-14 kn of earlier today when I nearly got out the cruising 'chute with boatspeed dropping to 4-5 kn for quite a time. So much for the wind dying, although there are several more days yet when that can happen as forecast. The wind seems often to die a bit overnight and then it comes up nicely again by late morning.

The days have continued to be very pleasant - slightly rolly at times but I've hardly had to touch the sails - full main & genoa, goosewinged. There has been some cloud, with a tiny hint of rain spitting today - hardly noticeable. Mainly, it's been sunny with just a few small clouds. I saw my first flying fish in the Atlantic today - it flew quite a distance - & on checking the deck, I found three more: one about 15 cm long & the smallest about 3 cm long. Yesterday, a lovely white-tailed tropic bird came by for a short while - the only bird seen for the last two days. Lookng at the photos & video I shot the other day, I'm sure that the large birds with long wings that I saw then were albatross - but I don't know what kind. I must find out...

I've still not investigated the generator problem.... just not feeling very enthusiastic since I have this nasty feeling it won't be easy to find & since main engine is starting up fine, for topping up batteries when needed, I don't have any great sense of urgency. When it's fairly calm, I need to go up the mast to retrieve a broken lazy-jack line caught at the top spreader - it has chafed through at a metal ring, I think maybe because it was rather too tight & touching the sail. I found the rest of the lines intact but dangling in the water. Something it would be useful to see to before arriving, ready for lowering the mains'l, since the lazyjack lines stop it from flopping all over the place as it comes down towards the boom.

Another single-hander I've made radio contact with is Glen on 'Kim Chow', from Victoria B.C., who is also going westabout, but nonstop around the Horn... He's SSE of me - well down, at about 40S. He hopes to complete in July.

I've done a good amount of clearing up but have been feeling very relaxed. Lunch earlier today comprised S.African kudu biltong (dried venison!) and Australian cheese with crackers - vacuum-packed in Cairns just before I left there - lasts ages!! And breakfast started with half an enormous mango I bought in Luderitz - yummee! I had an excellent dinner the other night to celebrate my engine starting up OK ... chop with onions, potatoes & sweetcorn .... you might say food becomes important on passage!!

Communications are proving difficult - getting a connection with shore stations is often difficult, if not impossible & that is taking a lot of battery power.. Just to add to my frustration, the computer keeps hanging up, sometimes just as the radio is finally connecting with a station .... grrr!!! I presume that's because of the RF transmission, with the PC in the aft cabin being so close to the transmitter, despite loads of ferrites in use. Then, when I decide to use the Iridium satellite phone as a data modem, that frequently has too poor a signal for things to work quickly as they should ... & that must be getting very expensive... The phone being damaged at the serial port connection at its base doesn't make things any easier, either! When I'm having problems sending a Winlink position report, I'll often try to send one via Sailmail to Yotreps at www.pangolin.co.nz in the meantime. (Winlink normally copies my position reports to Yotreps anyway - so they are all there eventually.)

I'm gradually overhauling 'Rhiannon' who left before me: late morning Tuesday - our distance apart is down from 185 mls last Thursday morning to just 65 mls Tuesday morning. With arrival not expected before next Saturday 8th March, we'll probably get in at much the same time! I've got out the cruising 'chute ready - light winds seem to have arrived, & are being forecast for the next few days.

Being north of 23.5S, I'm well into the tropics, but it's been far cooler up to now than it should have been, under the influence of the cold Benguela current, although that effect has been getting far less & has now pretty well disappeared. I'm also nearly back in the Western hemisphere - we'll soon be crossing the Greenwich Meridian !! Time for a party maybe... Wed evening...??

29th Feb/1Mar08 - After a lovely day of fast sailing... generator not charging.. & then engine doesn

Friday 29th February: Leap Day

I suppose I should have guessed that it was too good a day to last.... The wind was frequently up at 15-20 knots, I'd poled out the genoa early in the morning, with the wind having swung a touch more to the SSE & our speed was regularly up around 7 knots.... lovely, fast broad-reaching in sunshine with fair-sized, but not too uncomfortable, seas.

I'd been happily sorting a few things out at the chart-table - pencilling in some positions and courses on paper charts, having finalized my passage-planning to Panama on the computer, using my Nobeltec software, deleting a load of old emails on the computer, trying to see why my Inmarsat C terminal seemed to be misbehaving - turned out to be a computer problem (didn't like a bad shutdown recently) since all was working fine on the back-up laptop. Means I probably have to re-instal the software, if I can find the CD!

Having used a fair amount of power with PC, SSB radio & inverter usage, I thought I'd run the generator a bit - it started up fine but I soon realized it wasn't charging, or rather, no charge was being received ... curses - I'd thought the genset was all nicely mended & sorted in Richards Bay and then Simon's Town... So I then went to turn on the main engine ... nada!! A good thing this wasn't happening as I left Luderitz - I'd have really been in trouble close to those anchor lines!!!

This was clearly an electrical, possibly a starter motor, problem .... so down I went, resignedly, to investigate - this was all feeling way too horribly familiar...!!! There seemed to be quite a few glistening water droplets around - I dried and sprayed around the starter motor terminals & then the use of my long-suffering screw-driver across the terminals finally had the desired effect - the motor was persuaded to turn over & start... sigh of relief!... but this was only a temporary 'fix'. I still have to try to sort the problem out in daylight tomorrow. I let the motor run for a time to bring the batteries up and managed to connect with the radio to send & receive emails while it was running. I'm not looking forward to tomorrow!

Saturday 1st March - St David's Day ... but no daffodils!!

Well, it's been another lovely sailing day in the South Atlantic - and I refused to let my engine/electrical problems stop my enjoyment of that!! We've made good progress, making over 140 mls yesterday and well over 150 miles today, noon-to-noon.

I did a bit more passage-planning work, checking over several of the chart-plotter cards for content. Surprisingly, St Helena is nowhere to be found in detail on them, although the Nobeltec charts on my PC are fine - clearly the detailed British Admiralty charts for St Helena are in use there.

I eventually turned my attention to the engine. When I'd managed to start it up last night, there had been a loud squealing which lasted for some time, with minimal power input, before the noise disappeared and the power input came up dramatically - clear sign, I thought, of the alternator belt slipping. Not a job I like, since I always feel I'm not strong enough to get enough leverage to move the alternator out enough to tension the belt. Anyway, it had to be done, so I loosened the two bolts and got out the length of copper tubing I use when possible to give me a longer lever arm on the thick metal file I was using.... It didn't take long before I was able to tighten the nuts again and the belt definitely felt tighter afterwards. Then for the test, having reconnected the ignition wire back onto the clean, sprayed starter motor..... engine started at the first try - not a hint of a problem ... yippee!! (I just hope it continues to behave...)

I shall leave the generator fault-chasing for tomorrow.... I'm celebrating this small achievement with a mug of tea & a hot cross bun, relaxing in the cockpit.... 'bye for for now!!

Wed/Thurs 27/28th Feb08 Life gets a bit frantic onboard occasionally!!

I took my time, making sure all on board was ready for passage to St Helena. Roger & Dawn ('Katrilli') came by to say goodbye & helped with lifting the outboard & dinghy. I decided to take time to cook a large 'ratatouille stew' ready for the expected rough start to the passage - which was very welcome later that night when it was blowing F6-7 with correspondingly big seas!
Heiko & Stefan came by, worried that I was taking so long to get ready (amazing how many things I found to sort out!). They'd also heard from Bjorn, whose buoy 'Nereida' was attached to, that his diamond ship was due in that night - no problem, since when they arrived I was just about to slip the line.

Of course, as usual over the afternoon & evening, the wind had got up strongly but I was surprised just how strong it was as I went to raise the mains'l outside the harbour entrance channel near Pt Diaz - a good F6-7, around 27-28 knots, from the SW, which became over 30kn apparent when I used the motor, as I had to, to keep us heading into wind to raise the sail (triple-reefed main & correspondingly tiny genoa!).

As I headed out further, making 5-6 knots in 3m seas, the fog I was expecting a short distance out was more murky mistiness in the failing light. I knew a diamond dredger was stationed to the NW of Luderitz Hbr & reckoned I could see it in the distance but my course (300T) seemed fine to avoid it. I heard 'Discoverer' calling a boat on VHF getting close to its anchor lines & wondered where 'Discoverer' was exactly.... someone came on the VHF to say the boat in question "had no engine" - which struck
me as odd. I assumed this was all taking place further down the coast somewhere... & went down below, with the boat going well in the strong conditions, to make a log entry.

Suddenly I heard the radio blare into life: "Sailing ship - you are about to foul in my anchor lines - turn south IMMEDIATELY!"....It could only be addressed to me since I was the only sailing boat around.... I rushed up on deck & dead ahead, too close for comfort, I could see four long lines splayed out from the ship - THIS must be 'Discoverer' (NOT displaying a signal on my AIS unit, for whatever reason, which would have warned me - unlike another ship which I had just been calling, thinking it
was them, to confirm they were anchored & that I would be clearing their lines OK... ). Clearly, in the strong wind, our leeway was sufficient to have caused the drift towards them. Also, the problem was that the lines are VERY long and angled very shallowly - so a really good distance needs to be kept from these anchored diamond dredger ships.

I swung the boat around to the south, but the wind was so strong, & almost from that direction, that now we lost way & actually couldn't make the tack.... as we drifted closer, I started the engine (that's when you're relieved you kept up the regular maintenance - when it works in an emergency...!). It helped us escape, but heading "two km south & then 2 km west" as I was instructed just wasn't happening..... I had to tack like mad, with motor well-revved up, to make any headway away from those
lines..... Going north wasn't an option because of the orientation of the lines. After each tack, either we ended up headed ESE or due W. After what seemed like an age, I nipped down to see where they were on the AIS display (he'd clearly turned on his unit after a comment of mine) ... he was 0.9 ml due east of me. I called him up to ask if that was far enough.... "no, you might foul the other lines - keep heading south & then west & then you're free to head wherever you like!" came the reply.
I was drenched from the spray as waves hit us - thank goodness I'd put on my jacket & hat for raising the mains'l earlier....! More quick tacking for what seemed like an eternity.... but finally we were OK & the ship's lights faded in the gloom astern, as he wished me well on my journey, saying "All's well that ends well!" That's when I really appreciated my earlier cooking...!!

By midnight, about 40 miles off, conditions had calmed down a bit, but we were still making good speed. Around 1 a.m., I contacted another ship, 'Tzini', looking as though they would pass uncomfortably close.... we stayed in touch for some time, until it was clear they would pass well ahead.

In the pre-dawn light, at 6 a.m. (0400 GMT), the wind had died sufficiently for me to let out 2 reefs & unfurl the genoa & by midday I had let out the last reef to try to keep us at the 6 knots or more we'd been making so far. The seas were more regular, the sun had got out, we were sailing smoothly & had the company of several birds for most of the day - dark shearwaters with a pale beak, petrels and, I think, albatrosses - big, graceful birds with long wings, body mainly white with dark upper
wings & shoulders, long, dark beak with an orange leading edge & a dark end to their tail. If anyone can identify them, please tell me!

It's been a really lovely, relaxing day - but now I'd like a touch more wind... we're only making 4.9 kn!!

Tues 26th Feb08 About to leave Namibia for St Helena

Today I managed to re-stitch the tapes holding the mainsail to the mast cars - one was completely undone and another about to be so ... I couldn't believe how skimpily Quantum in Durban had stitched them when asked to re-do them for me recently precisely because I was unhappy with the state of the stitching there after my Indian Ocean crossing. (I should add that Quantum in Cape Town, & Mark in particular, were very good, being helpful & thorough, working over a weekend to get work done in time for me). It took a bit of effort to re-connect the sail to the mast, not helped by the height of the cars & a brisk wind.... I managed to bruise/crush one finger tip when the cars above the one I was dealing with slid down onto it suddenly...ouch!! I shall have to keep an eye on the remainder of the tapes that they don't come undone.

Harry on 'Rhiannon' left before midday and Dieter on 'Amazon' is already on passage - both making for St Helena & then the Caribbean. I went ashore to do my final provisioning, clear Customs & Immigration & see Heiko & family to say farewell. I stayed for a braai & they later helped me down to the dinghy dock, laden with water, UHT milk & food.

Come morning, before the wind gets up strongly, as it really does most days, I need to lift the outboard & raise, deflate & pack away the dinghy. Once I've stowed food etc safely away & tidied up ready for passage-making, I'll be able to leave for St Helena.

Fri/Sat 21/22 Feb08 Luderitz, Namibia

Thursday night, there was finally lovely moonshine - & no fog!! With a clear, starry sky, I could actually see - so much better than Wed night when I had to stay awake so much, keeping an eye on ships around as 'seen' on AIS. I'd had to call several - none knew I was there otherwise - don't think many are bothering with their radar.... No visual on any of them, even though several passed fairly close by.

I managed to keep our speed down around 5 knots or less, although in strong wind conditions that proved very difficult... no genoa + triple-reefed main, centred in a following breeze!! That ploy just about worked & meant I neared Luderitz Bay in daylight rather than having to make a night entry. If I'd had to, I probably could have done, but I prefer to see what's going on in daylight. The wind was consistently up around 20-25kn, ending on a beam reach as we turned the 'corner' to come towards the entrance channel here. I put out some jib to steer better (with just the main, kept tending to head up, of course) and ended up having a nice gentle sail as the sun rose. Fog had come down again overnight, so it was nice to find myself in clear conditions as I got close... and managed to sail most of the way in, only having to put on the motor as I headed south towards the mooring buoys. I picked up a buoy with no trouble in fairly calm conditions with a touch of ebb tide to help.

Luderitz is an intriguing place - a mix of desert (I can see dunes from the harbour), Africa (really feel I'm in Africa with mainly black faces around) & Germany (many old buildings dating from turn of 20th century with a definite German look), with many German-speaking folk around & street names in German. Then there's the fishing & diamond-mining side - lots of working fish boats (many catch crayfish) around me here as well as boats with long pipes which go out to suck up diamond-bearing gravel from the sea-bed to bring back here for processing.

Immigration took no time at all (none of S. Africa's long form-filling!) & when I asked if I needed to go to Customs the guy asked if I had anything to declare .... "No need, then", he said...! I was rowed to shore & shown the way by another single-hander I knew from Simon's Town... & there were 3 other boats I know here... we're all following the same trail to St Helena & on over, of course. I celebrated arrival by going for a nice coffee & chocolate cake!!

I pumped up my dinghy & got the outboard on after a nap in the afternoon, not having had so much sleep overnight - that's the problem with a morning entry - you're so near to shore & possible boats etc, it's difficult to rest properly.

Heiko from 'Stenella' came by to see me when he spotted me entering the harbour (he & family just completed their 10-yr circumnavigation). I first met them in Cocos Keeling. I'm still debating whether to take time out to go to Windhoek to see friends there - but it's such a long way from here...

I spent part of Friday evening trying to sort out some of my shorting 12V circuit problems ... managed to make matters worse in that one outlet which had been working fine no longer is... grrr!!

Saturday morning went by very quickly with a leisurely breakfast and visits from people. I hadn't finally woken up until after 10 o'clock, despite first waking around sunrise - making up on lost sleep again! I heard voices and found a rowboat headed my way. The owner of my mooring, Bjorn, wanted to check how long I intended staying, since his diamond-dredging boat was due back sometime early next week. He agreed I could stay but I said I'd keep my VHF on so he could contact me if his skipper came back needing the mooring before I left. I can easily slip my line & drop my anchor nearby if needs be.

I made my way up to Heiko & Diane's house high up overlooking the harbour, soaking wet from an unintended swim... I had misjudged my approach to the dinghy dock & over-reached... fortunately no harm done & the sun was shining! The local SWAPO supporters were having a rally nearby with much singing & dancing - ladies in lovely dresses and headgear were happy to have their photos taken. The atmosphere around town is very relaxed & friendly.

Diane insisted I have an immediate shower and change of clothes while she put my laundry into her new machine. Later, I headed out with Heiko & their sons to Agate Beach, with its mini sand dunes downwind from each of the many tiny shrubs, to look for ....agates! The scenery en route was dramatic, being right on the edge of the desert with slightly pink, high sand dunes close by and several springbok grazing near to the dusty road. At the edge of a lake made by the outflow from the local water purification plant were lots of pink flamingos feeding and at one point we saw several Nile geese.

The evening was rounded off with other friends arriving for a braai of crayfish and meat accompanied by salads - Stefan is clearly good at catching crayfish & is hoping to get plenty more in the morning at low water.

By the way, Heiko tells me that the patches of red sea I saw were the fatal 'red tide' which causes crayfish (and presumably other sea-creatures) to die from oxygen starvation - they can be seen crawling onto the beaches and collapsing.