692 Miles……..Altantic crossing practice session

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Day 1 (Wed 21 Oct)
We left Sines anchorage at around 6:30pm and after walking Scrumpy, picking up a supply of tobacco (very important for the Capt!) and filling up on fuel, setting off to catch up with Shavora.
It was a calm evening, but unfortunately that can also mean no wind, so we started off on the motor. This time we didn’t mind we were just glad to have hit the high seas & finally started our journey after all this contradictory info on the weather.
We had to sail out 75 miles to get past the traffic separation zone, which is 40 miles off shore.
This meant it was busy area with cruise ships, tankers, container ships, U.S. War ships all entering & leaving the zone. It makes it easier to stay awake when you have their lights to concentrate on & the Vhf radio was going nuts with ships asking each other their passage intentions. We weren’t worried about us as like most sailing yachts we have a radar deflector so despite not having AIS (a marine identification system) our route & speed would still show up on the ships AIS allowing them to avoid us……That’s not to say that we didn’t make sure we avoided them at all costs.
We did 3 hour ‘look out’ shifts through the night between 10pm-10am. The sky was clear & overflowing with stars, as well as lots of shooting stars. There was a 3 quarter golden orange moon which light up the darkness and slowly made it was down disappearing out past the horizon in the early hours, as if it was a giant orange Borocca dissolving into the ocean.

Day 2 (Thu 22 Oct)
The sunrise was spectacular and it was a gorgeous sunny day…… With flat calm seas & NO WIND! However we had been expecting this from the forecast. We spent all day taking turns to take Scrumpy to the bow for a pooh/wee but he was having none of it the stubborn little fur ball. We continued in our unsuccessful search for some Whales but did catch a glimpse of what looked to be a Turtle just under the surface. (We will confirm that turtles are sighted in these waters using the Internet just to make sure we are not twats). A little bird just like the one on our trip to Santander but I got some really good pics this time with the SLR. He did shit on Simon’s arm after eating a moth he found on the boat but who could blame him after seeing his face! Scrumpy then attempted to eat him when he flew into the boat & was mere inches from being a goner. After that he decided to venture to Freddie & Jacqui for some shelter!
Scrumpy finally wee’d & poohed after a full day of holding on & this was a great relief to us both. It took some persuading but as soon as Simon slid the piece of astro turf (that had been unused in the cockpit since leaving the UK) under him on the bow deck he went straight away, this was great as it meant we hadn’t wasted £40 after all. Since our departure we had motored for a good 24 -32 hours, we’d hope it would pick up through the night but it didn’t, it was starting to become a little tedious! We regularly chatted with Shavora over the radio every 4-5 hours & it was nice to share the experience with someone else. During the night there was a bit of a lightning show in the far West, Jacqui had our eyes pinned to it all night praying it didn’t come our way & luckily it didn’t. It was great to have someone to chat to for moral support on the radio during the graveyard shifts & it helped to keep us awake! Although the Lightning was more than enough to keep us on the ball this night!

Day 3 (Fri 23 Oct)
First thing in the morning Scumpy Poohed without any prompting….. Result! We tried to get him to pee in the afternoon but our efforts were wasted as we were rudely interrupted by 4 dolphins, once they turned up there was no hope as its all his is interesting in!
Simon decided to make some short bread biscuits but unfortunately over cooked them slightly. They were still a nice treat though & A* for effort ….. (Not trying to sound patronising at all!) I think we had a few hours sailing here & there through the day but nothing very spectacular and had to motor in between but at least the engine got a little break. This was however now turning from tedious to frustrating. I saw another turtle while Simon took a nap in the late afternoon/early evening and I made a split pea & vegetable curry to amuse myself. We were 135  miles off shore now and in the early evening the wind had picked up so off went the engine…. Yes, Great, Brilliant your all thinking …..! But then soon the night came, along with it a big black cloud, the wind we had wished for & then some…. In the form of a storm! Just to add further insult to injury torrential rain was also thrown into the mix! I’m not going to play it down I was shitting myself, in reality it wasn’t anywhere as near as bad as the storms our fellows sailors had endured over the previous weeks, but at the time you have no idea how bad it is going to become especially as it was not in our earlier weather update! This is where I will pay Simon his dues, he knows I am scared so when I got up at 1am to relieve him of his duties he stayed up with me & keep at the helm. We chatted to Jacqui over the radio giving her wind updates as her wind vane had broken & helped to make her feel at ease as much as we could, but when it reached 22 knots she had to wake Freddie so they could reef in the sails. At about 3am I was cold & tired (despite Simon doing ALL the work) so he pulled an all nighter while I stayed dry & resorted to sleeping on the mid ship floor! The only spot remotely comfortable as its nearest to the keel. I can’t fault the boy for looking after me & Scrumps he always puts our comfort before his. I woke at about 7am & it finally started to settle. Simon told me it had reached 30 knot winds, which isn’t that bad (Lucky for us!) but still not pleasant.

Day 4 (Sat 24 Oct)
I started the morning shift at 7am & as soon as everything started to settle I made the most amazing cup of tea, I’d waited all night for this! Simon got his head down for a bit & when he awoke I made him a well deserved Bacon Sarnie with Tommy K, just the moral we needed after last nights events! I unreefed the sails so they were fully out now the wind had reduced & we sailed for a few hours but the wind went to 30 degrees port (this equals flappy sails & you can’t sail in it) & to top it off died down so on went the motor as trying to make any progress in this was sole destroying. The forecast for today before we had left said 20 knot winds up the chuff which is prefect sailing weather so we had all been setting our hopes up to cover some serious miles today but clearly it was not to be! Jacqui & I enjoyed complaining about over the VHF radio … Nothing like a good whinge.
Some more Dolphins turned up to improve our mood but they don’t seem to play for long the further off shore you are. I killed some time doing some boat house work & hung out all our soaking wet clothes from the storm to dry when the sun came out. It actually turned into a nice calm warm day so Simon and I spent the afternoon bottomless as we were sick of clammy itchy bums from sitting on damp cushions & in damp clothes all the time! The wind did pick up slightly so off went the engine & things improved in the form of a 2 knot tide/current taking us up to 6.2 knots …. About time we saw some speed. It turned out to be my favourite day so far, Simon & I laughed and chatted & I caught up on my diary. We reached a milestone of 399 miles to go & all celebrated over the VHF.
Unfortunately with all highs, there comes a low its natures way of balancing the books! We were hoping to catch up on last nights missed sleep but the wind changed direction & was coming from behind again, shifting about a bit & not very strong. This meant we weren’t as steady & there was a bit of a swell resulting in extreme rolling. It throws you from one side of the boat to other & it’s impossible to sleep or get comfy. This did not go down well with our already tired state, to say we were ratty as hell was an understatement. We ended up having to go off course to help improve it slightly & both had to sleep in the saloon making a bed on the seats.With Shavora’s wind handling being slightly different to ours we ran slightly different courses & lost sight of each other, but were still in touch on the radio. I suppose I shouldn’t complain as at least we actually sailed all night!

Day 5 (Sun 25 Oct)
By the morning full rage had set in as the rolling was still in full swing. We had reached the peak of tolerance & were beyond shattered, in the worlds biggest life troff. I resorted to random outbursts of screaming to help vent my frustrations, but it didn’t make it any more bearable. The wind had started to die off, increasing the rolling so on went the motor ….again. I questioned whether I could cope with this if this is what 3 weeks across the Atlantic would be like!
We were now 8 miles ahead of Shavora (after the different courses & bit of motor) but still able to talk on the radio however we lost contact with Jacqui & Freddie by the afternoon. This was a bit gutting as we’d wanted to stay together & arrive in the canaries together, it was such a big sailing milestone for all of us but at least we’d managed 4 days which we thoroughly enjoyed. Just another voice at the end of channel 6 made such a difference. We’d all talked about how we would celebrate when we arrived, all agreeing on tree hugging, showers & alcohol!
We didn’t hold out much hope of meeting again during the passage as they had limited fuel on board so didn’t have the option of the engine as much as us! We probably should have been more tight on the fuel but with a 6-7 day passage & not even a hint of fair winds we just didn’t want to be out longer than we had to be …. & we had an important vets appointment booked for Sir Scrumpington the World Canine Traveller.
In the afternoon the wind picked up a bit at 90 degrees, making a much comfier sail & steading us again. I even managed to rustle up some chocolate cup cakes, obviously not bothering with the scales! Early evening turned out to be very pleasant & we were now well over half way through so that was a big moral boast, but we were sad we couldn’t share it with Jacqui & Freddie.

Day 6 (Mon 26 Oct)
After some good night sailing and both getting a good kip we woke up in in high spirits. It wasn’t quite the 7 knots we still hadn’t seen but mostly sail & only a bit of motor. I actually enjoyed my 3-7:30 am graveyard shift and it meant Simon got a chance to have a rest after the previous 2 awful nights. We now had 200 miles to go (480 done) & a very faint light was appearing at the end of the tunnel. I enjoyed a cooked breakfast of beans, bacon, eggs, toms & toast courtesy of sue chef Johnson after a few more late morning zzzz’s.
I was feeling much more content and positive on the boat I don’t know if this was because we were getting into a routine, or if it was more comfortable & we’d slept well or because we had about 36- 48 hours to go. Probably a combination of all 3 but comfort is definitely high up on the list!
We sailed most of the day with moderate wind making steady progress but nothing to get excited about & still having to start up the engine now again when there was a lull. However we did need to keep the batteries charged for the autopilot …. We couldn’t live without it as it means we can relax a lot more. This is probably a luxury for some but fuck it you need some luxury when you don’t have a fridge or a never ending water supply!
At one point we couldn’t see crew mate Senior Whosits ( Scrumpy- Scrumpy Doodles – Doodles – Doodle Who – Whosits …… You can see how his many nick names evolve), panicking we thought he had fallen overboard. Despite this ordeal only lasting 15 seconds before realising he was doing a Tommy Cooper impression in the very back of his den we felt so over emotional at the thought of anything happening to the furry baby. It was as if the world hand ended for a split second and Simon & I had to ‘hug it out’ to help us cope. He has been such a star on the trip & it has had no negative affect on him. He’s so resilient & has taken to his new life like a duck to water. We are so glad as he is a central part to Boat Hobos & life on board just wouldn’t be the same with out his waggy tail & morning breathe doggy kisses!

Day 7 (Tue 27 Oct)
Another good night sail, much the same as the last one. Mostly managed sailing but with a bit of motor (standard! ….. F U non existent trade winds). I had managed to sail throughout my shifts doing between about 3.8 – 5 knots. Both of us had another good nights sleep …. Which is worth its weight in gold as far as I am concerned, we were both happy & upbeat. The last few days had been get significantly warmer & the nights were no longer damp…. So No more itchy bums! At about 6am we had 91 miles to go. By this point though we couldn’t keep our eyes off the mileage, the term “A watched pot never boils” springs to mind but we couldn’t help ourselves we were starting to get over excited at the thought of finally arriving. Basically we just spent the whole day trying to kill time, I read about half a book, made more cup cakes, played with Scrumpy, Simon watched the laptop & played games on his phone ….. But even that only took us to about 4pm. By then we could just make out a lighthouse & very faint outline of land. Eventually darkness approached around 7pm & we could make out the lights of Gran Canaria but it still looked bloody miles away ….. But that was because it was bloody miles away (but at least not 600!!!!).
Then the dreaded rolling started again, we had reached a peak of excitement & then irritation set in. Then we got irritated with each other …. Which is funny because if this was a movie you could lay money down that we’d still be excited at this point & when we reached there we’d be in full euphoric hysteria. In reality the last 15 miles took what felt like a life time & we spent most of it in silence. Then we perked up a bit rounding the harbour wall & by the time we finally got to the anchorage at midnight we were so tired & hungry that all we just wanted to eat & sleep!!! Not celebrate!
We took Scrumpy ashore which was lush as I love watching him at his happiest bounding around the beach after his ball, however even he wasn’t more excited than usual to be on land! We figured that he has no concept of time so didn’t even have a clue that it had been 6 days & 7 hours since his last walk! …. Which bodes well for the Atlantic crossing! Happy Days!

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6 thoughts on “692 Miles……..Altantic crossing practice session

    • Thanks Michael good to hear from you, it is a shame we are not on the same island as we would have liked to bump into eacher again. Are you still planning on doing the Atlantic Crossing? There are lots of hitch hikers here looking to act as crew on boats. We met a really nice polish guy called Mark who is looking for a boat to cross on. If you are interested in taking anyone across let us know and we can give you his details. x

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      • Holly, WordPress driving me mad! May already have replied..Now planning a month or two in Canaries/C.Verde before Caribbean, so hope to catch you there? When are you going. I’m not seeking crew thank you. There are a few friends in UK who were ready and willing, but for now I’m happier going solo. Keep safe and enjoy yourselves, Michael

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  1. Wow solo good for you Michael, your braver than us! Yes would be amazing to catch you in the Caribbean. We are planning on leaving on Sat 21st Nov and have already done our dry food & water shopping. We managed to wangle a discount and free delivery despite not being part of the ARC!!!! We are heading for St Lucia as that is where we must book the dog in. x

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