Last few pics taken in the Las Palmas.
I tried everyday to write a daily log of life on board.
And we’re off! We did our hugs and waved goodbye to Ben & Jo and my folks. There was a bit of a lower lip wobble, but we kept our goodbyes short and sweet. The parting sight of Ben taking away the step ladder like he’d been washing windows made us chuckle (we’d been using a step ladder to board the boat).
The anticipation before slipping our lines grew as boats started to fall out, forming an orderly queue to leave the marina. A brass band was playing in the distance.
We were hoping the two boats next to us would hurry up and leave to give us some space to reverse out. Perhaps nobody wanted to be the first to go. We were like fledgling birds looking over a cliff egging each other to jump off. We wished our neighbours a safe crossing and simply said ‘er right we’re off!’. Next stop, the Caribbean.
A crowd had formed on the breakwater to send everyone off. Caribbean music played out, and we spotted my parents and Ben & Jo on the rocks. I couldn’t make out their faces, but could see their enthusiastic waves 🙂
I blasted out the Howards Way theme tune to surprise Trina as we left the marina, we’ve become addicted to the show and it’s become a bit of a national anthem on board Excalibur. We had it on repeat for at least half an hour.
We saw our friends Neil and Ray from Gillingham come out of their slip as we converged to exit the marina. They headed off away from us as we milled around keeping out of everyone’s way, waiting for the horn to sound over the VHF signalling the beginning of the race. We never did hear the starting signal on the radio (they changed the VHF channel the day before, but we heard nothing on either one), so we made our own.
It’s 3am and I’m on my first night shift (of many) on our first day at sea. I’ve picked up a Spanish radio station on my cheap Amazon MP3 player, playing the typewriter song and jazzy big band music. There’s been a full moon tonight which has lit up the entire night sky to the point I had to cover up my eyes to sleep earlier.
The nearest ARC boat is just 3nm away, a 12.5m racing boat called Purple Rain. God knows how two bumbling sailors like ourselves have come so close to a racing yacht. The 200 boats left have now all spread out. I can see the distant lights of 2 boats and no land, it’s now 14 hours after we crossed the starting line.
Disaster! We noticed our Hydyrovane isn’t working properly. Something is stopping it from turning to starboard. It’s like having a car that only turns right. We can just about live with it, as the sail on the opposing side seems to balance the boat out. However, more worryingly, I’ve noticed the stern flex on the lower bracket where the Hydrovane is bolted to the boat when turning the rudder by hand. I’ve never seen fibreglass flex like that. So we’ve stopped using the Hydrovane and Trina has been hand steering. Cape Verde is 700nm away. About a 6 days sail. We’ve managed to get the electric autopilot working, though it doesn’t like rough seas and uses a lot of electricity. We’ll see how the next few days pan out. If we decide not to stop at Cape Verde, we’ll only be 75nm from our first waypoint to begin heading west to St Lucia. If we decide to go for it and Arthur the autopilot gives up, then we’ll be hand steering for 18 days, 4 hours on, 4 hours off. Not so much a holiday, more of a test of endurance. I really don’t want to stop the trip as my folks have bought flights and hotels at the other end, and wouldn’t want to leave them out there for Christmas by themselves. But we also don’t to turn the trip into a nightmare by having to hand steer across the Atlantic, so we have some thinking to do.
It’s 3am, still on a heading for Cape Verde. We’re currently 137nm off the coats of the western Sahara. I’ve just seen the brightest shooting start heading vertically down at low altitude. I hope there isn’t one with our name on it! Would be an awful way to go!
Today we removed the manual bilge pump to get to the Hydrovane backing pad. It’s parted from the stern, and a slight gap can be seen all away around the edge. It flexes, almost as if it’s breathing, but as long as we don’t engage the Hydrovane the flexing is minimal. We’ve made a new backing pad by cutting up one of the washboards. We have a spare so it’s OK. Never was the saying ‘two is one and one is none’ so true! (eh Dave). We have the unenviable task of removing the old backing pad tomorrow and applying the new one with thickened epoxy. I curse myself for not getting more epoxy. I kept holding out as the price was insane in Portugal and the Canaries. Sorry Trina. My advice to anyone doing a crossing is not to leave anything to chance. The thing that’ll catch you out is the thing you think ‘ahh that’ll be alright’. If there’s a niggle in your brain about something, just do it. We’ve hardly been complacent with our prep, but we should have just bought the epoxy when we had the chance.
It’s 1:30am and I’ve just started my shift. It’s another starry night. There’s almost a half moon, but not halved vertically, it’s been chopped in half horizontally.
We didn’t try fixing the Hydrovane today. Neither of us are fully awake until 4pm, and by that time it was too late in the day to start work as the sun sets at 6pm.
We had a sundowner on the bow watching the sunset, when a small bird (perhaps a chaffinch of some sorts) came and perched next to me, and then hopped onto my arm before flying off to circle the boat. Whilst down below he did a few more laps of the boat looking for somewhere to land. I must have turned my back when he flew in, as when I turned around he shot out of the boat and disappeared. A little later I came on deck and Trina went down below to reheat a curry and the little guy shot out of the tinfoil cupboard. He circled the boat again and disappeared. I suggested we watch a film below (Inbetweeners) and give him some space. After the film I said goodnight to Trina and headed to bed. But guess who was in my bed??! He fluttered around a bit and settled down on a mound of blankets and just sat there next to me, watching intently. So I said goodnight to the second bird that evening and turned the light off. When I woke up at 1am, he was huddled over with his back to me, asleep.