You know those feelings when you’re in the last few days of an epic holiday? The feeling of impending doom as your holiday nears its end and you have to get back to the ‘real world’? As your vacation countdown clock ticks away and you feel a tremendous pressure to fully enjoy every last moment? Well, these are what I am feeling now, in our penultimate destination of our three and a half year voyage: the British Virgin Islands, or the ‘BVIs’.
On Wednesday February 10th 2016, Bob hauled in her anchor and set sail from Marigot Bay, St. Martin, bound for Cartagena, Colombia. A little under 3 1/2 years later, on the afternoon of June 10th 2019, the same anchor found purchase on the same sand, and Bob found herself once again clustered
The photo above is looking up at Bob from somewhere in the depths of the South Atlantic Ocean.
We’ve made it from one side of the Atlantic to the other. Woohoo! Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a reasonable chunk of Atlantic lying between us and Bermuda that we’ll be tackling over the coming months, but it still feels like a major achievement to cross such a huge swathe of ocean. We’re currently in the Caribbean and working our way north, from Martinique to Nevis, where Alex will be the best man for his best friend’s wedding. I can’t think of anything better after almost two months at sea than a week of celebrations with good friends.
Day 11 at sea. Perhaps another 7 to go.
We finally made it out of the doldrums five days ago after a frustrating time trying to escape. Every day we worked hard to make it far enough North to find the wind, and every day that wind eluded us. We used up as much diesel as I dare without running the tank dry. The days were slow, grey, rainy and depressing and our daily runs were likewise: we made just 60 miles for two days in a row, then 42 the day after that.
Finally our luck changed and we picked up a nice force 3 breeze, North Easterly, which built and has stayed between 4 and 6 ever since (about 25 knots at times, which is fairly breezy). The mainsail is double-reefed, reducing it’s size to about 40% of it’s full compliment, and with just a sliver of headsail set as well we have averaged 150 miles per day over the last four days, which might be a record for this old lady.
There’s not much out here. We’ve stayed about 350 miles offshore to avoid the wicked currents that are often produced by the outflow of the Amazon river. Millions of gallons of fresh water dumping into the Atlantic can make things difficult closer in, generating rough seas, strong currents and turning the surface of the sea a muddy brown colour even 200 miles out. Or so I’ve heard.
Doldrums – also known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ – is an area near the equator where the winds of the two hemispheres meet. It is characterised by long periods of little or no wind interspersed with rain squalls and sometimes thunder.
We have an estimated two weeks to go before we make port again and we have just twelve hours of fuel left in the tank. Nominally. We don’t accurately know how much fuel is left because the fuel gauge has never worked, but I keep a running total of how many hours the engine has run for and conservatively estimate that a full tank will give us 80 hours of run-time. Having used just 2 hours all the way from Cape Town until two days before Fernando De Noronha we then burned through 43 hours to get there.
Those 43 hours got us through the doldrums, but then we stopped for four days in Fernando and the doldrums moved north, overtaking us and forcing us to cross them again.
When we left Fernando the forecast was for two days of light winds or no wind and then we’d pick up the northern hemisphere trade winds and be on our merry way, but unfortunately that hasn’t materialised. Two days of chug chug chugging and I’ve just downloaded a weather forecast which predicts……. another two days of no wind. I’ll run the engine for those 12 hours and then, if there is indeed no wind, I’ll shut it down and we’ll just have to Bob for a bit and wait for the breeze.