• Bermuda to St. Martin,  North Atlantic Ocean

    Bermuda to St.Martin Day 5:

    Well, it’s day 5 and I have discovered that I have power over the wind. In order to make it go away I can:

    • go below to go to sleep
    • set the main sail
    • write an optimistic entry in the log

    In order to make it change direction constantly so that it requires my undivided attention I can:

    • go below to go to sleep (results vary)
    • have a beer
    • commit myself to working on something other than actively sailing the boat
    • be in contact with a ship that has requested me to ‘maintain course and speed’
    • develop an urgent need to visit the head

    I feel that these are a good start, and that by developing these newfound abilities I may one day be able to do things that will bring about positive changes in the weather.

    On the plus side I have not yet had to find out whether my design for the solar panel mounting on the lifelines can survive wave strikes, since I haven’t actually seen a wave in quite some time and have not at any time during this passage shipped any water whatsoever. In fact, I discovered this morning two things. First, that the cowl vent for the starboard side of the cabin top had come adrift (probably knocked off its mount by me pulling in vain on a genoa sheet while trying to make the sail….. well…… be a sail) and second that a piece of canvas that I had lashed (poorly it would seem) to the boom preventer line to prevent it chafing on the shrouds had also come adrift. Fortunately both items were simply lying on the deck exactly where they had fallen, and were both hence recoverable with no harm done.

    Also on the plus side is that I have not felt the need today to take any codeine and my back is feeling much better. I have high hopes that by tomorrow it will feel fine and that by the time I reach St. Martin (some time next month if the current weather remains) I may even be able to retrieve the anchor from the locker in which it was stored (for fear of it being banged about by waves coming over the bow! As if!) and be able to use it as it was intended. In fact the whole experience has been quite beneficial in many ways as it has forced me to find ways of doing things with the minimum of effort. Since I am always a fan of doing things with a minimum of effort, I rather think that I have been neglecting a veritable plethora of ways in which I could have been more lazy in the past had I only devoted more time to thinking of ways to be lazy. I think that one can go through life being either mentally lazy or physically lazy and still be successful, but one can’t be both, and I was perhaps in danger of becoming so.

    The sea is glassy and shows no signs of improving (see what I’m doing here? Reverse psychology on the weather. Here we enter the second phase of my explorations into commanding the elements). I wouldn’t normally pay much attention to weather charts that are 5 days old (usually they’re good for 3 days at best) but they do appear to have been remarkably accurate so far. Unfortunately they also show that the centre of this high pressure I’m in is due to move South at about the same rate as I’m moving, which means I might be stuck for a bit as I’ll run out of diesel before I reach any breeze if that’s the case. According to Messrs Jimmy and Ivan Cornell, who published a very pleasant-looking set of pilot charts in a beautiful book that I am fortunate to have a copy of (thanks mum and dad!) the incidence of calms in this part of the ocean in December is between 0 and 1 percent. Interestingly the incidence of gales is also 1 percent. Last time I sailed through these waters in Bob I experienced the worst weather I have ever been in, with 50-knot winds and steep waves 30 feet high from trough to peak. That was also in December. Ah well, I’ll take calms over gales any day.

    There are cumulus clouds on the horizon and they look as though they have some vertical development……… dare I hope? No, they’ll undoubtedly herald headwinds I expect.

    Update at 6:30pm:

    Yup, they are indeed headwinds, though mercifully only a couple of knots and not impeding progress much. The amazing thing is if I look at the 5-day-old weather chart it predicted exactly this just in the tiny bit of sea that I’m in. Basically I have been too slow getting South so I’ve missed out on the decent winds that were here yesterday (although the swells still remain from them). Unfortunately it also looks like I won’t get any wind for another two days. I have altered my fuel consumption estimate to make it less conservative, and based on my new estimate I have enough fuel to motor another 150 miles, or 37.5 hours, which is pretty good I think and still fairly conservative because it leaves me with 6 gallons left in the tank. I’ve got about 450 miles to go (I’m still not quite half way) so that leaves at least 300 miles to do under sail. At the moment I’m planning on motoring until I have 12 hours of motoring time left and then whether I have any wind or not I’ll stop and wait. By that time I’ll be at about 24 degrees north latitude, which is just inside the northern limit of the trade wind belt (traditionally about 25 degrees north) and far enough South that I should be able to wait for a favourable wind while any storms that pass by should do so well to the North and not affect me at all.

    That’s the plan at least. It assumes that the very old weather forecast will continue to be accurate, that my less-conservative estimate of fuel consumption isn’t too far off, that I won’t encounter any strong or even moderate headwinds and, most importantly, that the engine doesn’t blow up. Hopefully a beautiful breeze will spring up forthwith and make all of these musings so much spume on the wind! Yea right…… who am I kidding?

    Even more calm seas…

    Even more calm seas

  • Bermuda

    The time has actually come to leave…

    Well, it’s now December 10th and I’m still here waiting. I decided not to take my chances with that low to the South and I’m glad I didn’t because it’s pretty miserable here right now.

    IMG_5759 (2)

    On the plus side I’m probably more around a 3 now on that scale of 1 to 10. The weather window that is due to open up any time now looks absolutely beautiful though perhaps a little light in patches so I may have to do some motoring. Ah well. If I get really tired of the sound of the engine then I can always start throwing things and shouting loudly in order to release my frustration. In fact I’ll probably do that anyway. The shouting I mean. One of the things that I find so beautifully liberating about ocean sailing is that you can do absolutely whatever you want and there’s no one around to see, hear or care. When is the last time you shouted? I don’t mean raised your voice – when is the last time you were free to scream as loudly and as freely as you can? Wherever you are reading this, I suspect that if you were to let loose a blood-curdling death scream there might be a couple of questions and concerns. Not so at sea! One can shout, scream and otherwise carry on to one’s heart’s content with absolute impunity. In fact, now that I think about it there are a number of parallels that can be drawn between being on a yacht at sea and being incarcerated in a psychiatric institution. First of all, you have to be not-quite-right in the head to be there in the first place. Second, you spend an awful lot of time in your own little world and third, all sorts of anti-social behaviour is not just excused but almost expected of you. Paulo Coelho wrote a fantastic little book called ‘Veronica decides to die’ – one of my favourites – which is not nearly so morbid as the title might suggest and presents a number of these fascinating concepts in a wonderful way.

    Well, the wind was due to have shifted to the North East by now but it’s still staunchly in the South East – the direction I want to go in. That means I might as well resign myself to leaving tomorrow morning (I had hoped to get away this evening) and help myself to a beer as a reward for my patience ?

    The morning of the sail (11th December):





  • Bermuda

    The time has almost come to leave…

    Well, the time has finally come to leave. I’m sitting in the White Horse pub in St. George having sailed up from my ‘home mooring’ in Spanish Point and the voyage has already been eventful. As usual I underestimated how long it would take to sail up here. It took me the best part of 5 hours from leaving the mooring to being anchored in St. Georges Harbour. Since it gets dark at about 5:15 these days that meant navigating through the Narrows in the dark. It’s cloudy too, so no moon, and the chart I have isn’t excellent and only shows the light patterns for about half the lights. To make matters worse, none of the buoys lining the channel into St. George are lit at the moment, the main green light marking town cut is out and the second one further back in the cut might as well not be on because it’s completely overgrown with trees and not visible until you’ve almost made it through the cut. It took me a good half an hour before I could be confident of exactly where I was, take the mainsail down, fire up the engine and aim for the cut. It was what Sir Frances Chichester would have called a ‘shemozzle’. It’s a lovely word don’t you think? Beautifully eloquent; I intent to use it frequently in these posts!

    The weather is looking OK for a departure tomorrow, Tuesday December 8th. It looks like I’ll get about a day of good wind (beam reaching), then perhaps a day of headwinds, then a day or so of very little wind at all and then plain sailing from there on if the high pressure that they’re forecasting materialises. I’m not too keen on the 15 knot headwinds on day 2 (which will probably be more like 20 knots – they always seem to forecast wind speeds about 5 knots under what you actually get) but if I don’t get out there now then I’ll be too far North to catch the high pressure and will be stuck up here forever. I want to be in the tropics and the trade winds!

    On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is perfectly content and 10 is pooing myself, I’m probably hovering somewhere around a 7 at the moment. This will be my first ever solo ocean sail. I know the boat is ready, and I know I’m ready, but I’m just not too keen on the idea of being on my own at sea for over a week. It’s silly really; on a day to day basis I’m not exactly a sociophile (is that a word? It is now!?) but I’ve never spent quite that amount of time on my own before, and certainly not in such a harsh environment. Since Bermudian customs are, quite frankly, a farce, I won’t have any long range communications at all until I get to St. Maarten and pick up the satellite telephone, so I really will be entirely alone. I suppose I should really look on the bright side – there will be no one around to see when I screw up!

    Sarah has informed me that I’m not allowed to die, so that’ll be the no. 1 priority and everything else is a bonus.

    Right, I’m off back to the boat for an early night. Cheers!