Before I write about the trip there’s a few things I didn’t get down in the last post about Lagos before we left.
We met some really nice people in Lagos, but we also met some people who were bat shit crazy.
The town has a high proportion of hippies and crystal worshipers. This is where having a large beard has it’s pitfalls, as you can easily be confused with a hemp smoking didgeradoo appreciator. Blokes drinking at bars would call you over as if they needed to tell you something important, bemused you’d walk over and then they’d stare wildly at you, no smile and whisper loudly “Hash!??”.
One day I was carrying a fishing rod back to the boat and a guy in a car said something about fishing, all smiles and hello’s. Thinking he was trying to give me some fishing advice, I went over and he instantly turned from friendly oike to criminal fiend “Hash?!! Cocaine?!!”. Sod off I’m busy!
Whilst we were rushing to get the battery box finished in a bid to make Madiera, I saw a young guy approaching Trina whilst she was fibreglassing on the pontoon. The guy was dressed as a khaki Robin Hood, wearing a pointy hat with a feather in it, scout master shorts and a bag full of hopes and dreams. He also had a dog. In broken English he started saying quietly “South America, I go” “I’ll handle this” I barked, and told him we were busy and not interested in whatever he wanted. The khaki scout boy come Robin Hood turned away solemnly saying quietly “I only wanted 1 minute”, but I couldn’t care less, we were up against it thinking we were a day away from escaping Lagos. We weren’t.
I also didn’t get time to add some of Trina’s jobs to the blog.
Trina found some lovely dayglow wackaday baskets for the cupboards to keep them more organised.
She built the most fabulous wine glass box under the table, which is a game changer and frees up so much space.
The laptop cupboard now has a little cable tray. Again, game changer!
In other news, Ted the Trolley 3 died in combat transporting batteries, RIP TTT3. So we welcomed TTT4 into the family, his wheel fell off after one outing, we never had a chance to bond with TTT4 so we don’t really care about him.
We now welcome to the family Ted the Trolley 5. He’s a bit nervous as the whiff of TTT3 and TTT4 still hangs in the air, but he’s got 4 wheels instead of 2, so we have high hopes for him.
Time to go!
After spending 14 nights in Lagos it was time to go. The weather was good and the swell forecast was easing. The weather forecasting site Windy makes swell look horrific, painting 3.5m swell in blood red on screen. In reality 3m swell with a 10 second period was absolutely fine, so we’ll know for next time.
A group of Swedish boats left in the morning, and we left just after lunchtime as the swell forecast was receding further by then.
This trip was effectively another Biscay crossing, longer in fact though without all the hype. Preparations were just a matter of stocking up on food and water, few checks and we were off.
We were both feeling a bit green as the sun was beginning to set on our first day. Trina was down below sleeping it off when the bloody fishing rod started whizzing away. Our new rig worked a treat and I pulled in our first fish of the entire trip. Problem was I couldn’t bring it onboard myself as the swivel shackle is too big to pass through the rod, so the rest of the line has to be manhandled.
I shouted for Trina who came up half awake half sea sick. She pulled the fish onboard and we both just stared at it for a moment, neither one of us (the fish included) really wanted to be there. Trina jammed a knife into its gills whilst trying not to throw up. The cockpit quickly became a murder scene of epic proportions. Think of a Gladiator or Brave Heart battle scene. Blood everywhere. Blood over the cockpit, blood over my face, inside the spray hood, and somehow even covered the cooker down below. She gutted it, and then I filleted the thing after deciding I didn’t fancy baking an entire tuna for dinner. To be honest I didn’t fancy fish at all. Quodos to Trina for scrubbing off the fish blood without throwing up. Their blood is incredibly thick and congeals quickly, so forget trying to wipe it off with a rag.
Deep sea fishing setup
I think it’s worth documenting our setup for anyone else who know’s buggerall about fishing like us. What we learn’t was from the fishing shop in Lagos.
We have a xxx fishing rod with a xxx reel.
The line is half braid and half nylon (the nylon line being the end with the lure). The nylon stretches under load unlike the braid. I think Trina used a double uni knot to join the two. Obviously go for a really strong nylon line to join the two lines.
We then bought a seriously strong swivel that had a crazy stupid breaking load. Trina used a bimini twist knot to tie the swivel to the nylon line. The knot takes a bit of doing as it’s pretty fiddly, but pleasing to watch. YouTube tutorials are essential for this knot.
We chose a bunch of squid lures which came with leader lines. I was persuaded to get a sod off big lure by the shopkeeper which I’m going to regret. God knows what we’ll catch with ‘Mandy’ (we’ve called her Mandy).
Then its just a case of throwing out 20m of line. No paravane needed, just let it fly skipping across the surface.
We also discovered we’d been holding the rod the wrong way round, the eyes have to point to the sky. I got laughed at in the fishing shop when they found out, and then got laughed at at a boat party the other night by a bunch of guys who think the fishing shop were having me on ffs.
Well I think the fishing shop knew what they were talking about, as everyone on YouTube has their rods pointing upwards 😉
Life at sea
We sailed the first day, and come evening we motored as the wind died to 5 knots. We carried on motoring for another 24 hours as there wasn’t any wind, though at times it felt like there was enough to sail. Trina pointed out after a day of motoring the wind instrument looked different. Turned out one of us must have cycled through the screens on the instrument display to another panel that looked very similar. The 5 knots was our speed through water, and we actually had 15 knots of wind! agggh! So stoopid!
We got the sails up, goosewinged and cracked on at a good pace.
Life down below became pretty intolerable. We rolled back and forth and a chorus of banging cupboards made sleeping tough going. I’d wake up and bang my head, headache + sleep deprivation = a bad watch. I’d wake up and trap my thumb and clobber my ankle as we rolled back and forth. It was like being attacked on the Star Ship Enterprise for days. I spent a lot of time cursing the boat like a madman.
We met our Swedish friends later on who have a cutter rig and used a goose wing setup with the second jib sheeted in hard to soften the rolling.
We started crossing tracks with tankers, cargo ships and cruise liners for the first time. We had a few conversations which can start off with them calling you, switching to channel 06 and being asked what your intentions are. Being asked what your intentions are is the common phrase. Telling them you’re heading to the Canaries was a faux pas on my first encounter, but when you’re sailing you wonder why it matters. If we felt uncomfortable we’d call them up and ask them what their intentions were. Which is paramount to saying “Hey can you budge out of the way please, we’re sailing” and confirms they’ve seen you, or if they haven’t then they will after you’ve called them up. They were all very obliging and professional, we changed course only once on the trip.
We had one call from a tanker asking if we could see him on AIS as he’d had problems and wanted to check it was working. He then asked if he could send us a message, which confused the hell out of me. Once I realised he didn’t know pleasure craft can’t receive messages over AIS the confusion was cleared up.
The night sky is now crammed full of stars. The trip down to Portugal was full of them, but now the night sky is jam packed. You often forget where you are, on a planet, in a universe, spinning around. The only time I normally see stars anything close to this is winter time in my parents driveway late at night, perhaps coming home from the pub on Christmas Eve. Home seems like a long way away.
Looking up at the stars on a night watch, seeing the occasional shooting star and the odd plane flashing overhead can make you feel a bit isolated. So when we caught up with the Swedes after the first day, we rolled in a Red Arrows style formation for a while on the chart plotter. Sailing at night like this is pretty comforting, knowing you’re in an unspoken pact all heading in the same direction.
The nights were pitch black at times, the clouds move over head fast and reveal the night sky, which is preferable to the dark ominous black clouds that turn the sea black, making it impossible to distinguish sea from sky.
Food onboard consisted of good old super noodles for the first few days as we felt rough as a dog. I think we skipped a few meals and opted for crisps and nut bars until we got into our stride. We ate 3 precooked vacuum packed meals, but it’s hard to contemplate stodgy food until your bodies adjust to being on passage.
On the last day the tiller pilot broke. The swell was too much for the metal pivot which broke off along with the plastic base.
We also experimented with running down wind with twin head sails. We took the detachable inner forestay and attached it to the anchor chain plate and ran up a spare jib, and poled it out using the boom. The jib sheet ran to a block on the end of the boom, and from there we cleated it off on the bow cleat. We could in theory run it through a block on the cleat as well, back to the cockpit.
I really like the twin headsail setup as neither of us have to worry about gybing and sending the boom flying across the cockpit whilst on our watches. Our preventer saved us gybing whilst goose winged one evening. I admit it’s a constant worry when setup goosewinged. Especially on a night watch on your own, wondering when the stars disappear and black clouds roll in if a squall is on its way. I spent one night wishing the wind to stay below 18 kts all night long so I wouldn’t have to wake Trina up to reef. I was transfixed on the display for 4 hours playing the nautical version of The price is right “lower, lower, lower!!”. Brucey must have been looking down on me that night. We ploughed along at 6-7 kts probably on the cusp of gybing for my entire shift. Next time we reef before bedtime.
On our final day we were starting to get into the rhythm, just as the Canaries came into view the sun began to set behind the island.
We pottered in at at 19:00 up to the visitors pontoon, 5 1/2 days after leaving Lagos, covering 650nm with one broken autopilot and a list of jobs that’ll improve life on board by at least 10%. After checking in, we headed to the Sailors bar and met up with a Swedish group we met in Porto, and had a few beers, steak and chips.
So now we’re here. Surrounded by a lot of ARC+ boats, these guys are going to Cape Verdes and stopping off for a few days before heading to St Lucia, and the others are heading to St Vincent.
Our job list mainly consists of checking over the boat, and making small improvements. The autopilot can be easily fixed, and just waiting for a new part which is a relief.
We have friends and family visiting now until we depart so we’re doing a few tiny boat jobs here and there, and planning fun stuff like hiking, spa’s and nights out.
The atmosphere here is like a lively holiday camp. There’s a lot of hustle and bustle as people are preparing for their trip. I met up with Neil and Ray, two guys from Gillingham marina who left before I arrived for my liftout. I had a bit of a surprise when they told me we were in the papers. We’re officially the smallest boat in the fleet this year, and there’s a piece in the marina paper much like back in 2012 when I crewed on Troskala.