Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Vicious Colombian Coast

Many people have reported that this leg - and in particular the last
stage along the Colombian coast to Santa Marta can be vicious. The
Atlantic trade winds get accelerated around the coast and combine with a
static area of low pressure over the land to regularly produce winds in
excess of 40 knots even when the rest of the Caribbean is benign.
Combine this with an adverse current creeping up the Columbian coast
and the seas can be horrible. The weather forecast for todays says
"EVENING(20LT) (17/00 GMT)(T + 12): WINDS NE-E(45 - 90) INCREASE

We've been ready, sailing with this in mind for a couple of days now,
and now that we are heading SW along the coast from Punta Gallinas (the
northern-most point of Colombia) we have....flat sea and 12-14knots of
wind! We're assuming that it won't last and are ready to reef down and
ride a rollercoaster to Santa Marta, but for now it's hot and gentle.

In St Lucia, we met up with Jo's cousin Peta and her husband Derek, who
were on a cruise in the 3,200-guest 'Celebrity Reflection'. Yesterday
evening, they crossed our wake as they sailed from Bonaire to Fort
Lauderdale and we gave them a wave.

Last night we made good speed with a decent wind and following sea,
and we now have about 170Nm to go - and hope to arrive tomorrow

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

ABC Islands to port

We are making great progress towards the northern Colombian coast, over
halfway to our destination,Santa Marta. It is wonderful to be at
sea again.

This morning the perfect downwind sailing conditions are continuing,
with just the right amount of wind. In addition, Steve Withers has
guided us towards the most favourable pockets of the west-going
equatorial current. It is easy for us to spot when we are in it because
the boat speed over the ground (as opposed to through the water)
increases significantly - imagine it is a bit like going on the moving
walkways at Gatwick airport. But unlike those, it doesn't take a
reliably straight line, and when we are out of it we don't know whether
to turn to port or starboard to find it again. Hence Steve's valuable
help from Carlisle, where he has internet access to the latest current
flow information. Thanks Steve.

50 miles away to the south lie the ABC Islands, a buffer between us and
the north coast of Venezuela. Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are part
of the Dutch Antilles; this trip we sadly won't have time to stop there.
It is 190 nautical miles until we pass Punta Gallinas on the headland
that marks the northern tip of Colombia's north coast. We expect the
winds to strengthen from then on, and the current to turn against us.
With wind against the current the sea will be more choppy, so we plan
to stay away from the shallower water near the coast until our final
approach into Santa Marta.

You have already been introduced to Nicky and Richard, but there is
another new and very important member of the team on board. Working off
the stern of Tintin, just next to Wendy, is the towed generator
"ampair". A steel shaft 50cm long with propellor blades at one end
is connected via a 10m length of rope to a small generator suspended on
the back rail. The spinning of the rope provides the power. Wiring
challenges were solved by Rob over New Year, so we have now
commissioned it and it is working tirelessly to charge the ships's
batteries. We think it needs a better name, answers on a postcard
please! Together with the solar panels on the rear gantry and the wind
generator, we can harness enough energy to power the batteries up
without using the engine.

Of course, the Angling Society of Tintin also has its line out over
the stern. The arrival of the ampair means that only one line can be
deployed at a time. I am sorry to report that, despite early promise,
the AST has not yet managed to match the success of the the previously
formed Tintin Angling Society (Atlantic branch).

Monday, 14 January 2019

Sailing downwind

Nicki here,
Rob and Jo have an unusual sail for downwind which is effectively a
huge double-sided genoa which they call the 'stingray', as it looks
like a white stingray swimming head-down when it is set, with a
spinnaker pole set to windward to keep it stable. It has a sail area
of approximately 129 square metres, which is close to the floor area of
our 3-bedroomed house in New Zealand (excluding the garages and
sheds)..... i.e. a massive display of canvas!
Just after dawn this morning as Jo came on watch to replace me we
experienced some squalls of wind under towering dark clouds, so we
reefed the stingray as a precautionary measure - and 10 minutes later
had over 20 knots of true breeze for which we might otherwise have been
somewhat overcanvassed. The squalls passed through within an hour and
we now have 3/8 cloud cover with mostly fluffy white clouds, blue
sky surrounded by deep blue water - no sign of any other vessels.
At 8am local I successfully received a weatherfax from the US NOAA in
New Orleans onto the iPad via the SSB radio, which I am very
pleased about as I had struggled to do so in Rodney Bay marina and
had very poor reception last night at 1600hrs local time. I
tuned the SSB to a higher frequency which had good propoagation at
that time of the morning and current weather conditions. This
weather information service is likely to be very useful to Tintin as
she travels west across the Pacific and it is also free!

Rob was 'Net Controller' for the WorldARC fleet this morning at
0900hrs local, completing a 'roll-call' with all the boats - again
using the SSB radio. The fleet is now sufficiently spread out that
VHF radio no longer has sufficient range.

All is well on board.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Great Start!

Morning of our 2nd day at sea. We've got a gentle 12knots of breeze
from behind, the sea is flat and the sun is shining - so looking good.

The start yesterday was great. At 12noon, we started - about 25 boats
I think - from Rodney Bay with a 3 mile leg parallel to the coast
before heading west. Everybody was very good-mannered at the start,
with no jostling or shouting for 'water'. We were all close for this
stretch and is was a great sight seeing the whole fleet so close. As we
turned west, all the boats hoisted their downwind sails; some were
relatively conservative wing-on-wing whilst others put up acres of
parasailor, high up in front of the boat.

All the advice we've been given is that this passage tends to be windy
and wavy - so far its lovely, but I'm pretty sure it'll get much more
lively in the next few days.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Ready for the off

Now we are ready to go to Colombia. The race start is at 12 noon, the sun is shining and the wind is fair. We are excited and looking forward to it. We expect this leg of 815 miles to take around 5 days.

Friday, 11 January 2019

The joys of Caribbean provisioning

We have been stocking up on our provisions prior to departure tomorrow, and there were a few items on the shelves that we felt we had to have on board.
A new friend of mine at Rodney Bay, Vincent, has been extolling the virtues of sea moss which will cure almost all know ailments, counteract any acidity in your system, and apparently provide 93 of the 102 essential minerals our bodies need!

Kids' Holiday Video

Here's a link to a video made by Bridget of our time in St Lucia and Martinique over Christmas.  It was great fun!