Atlantic Crossing

Leg 3/5 – Atlantic Crossing

TROSSEN LOS! 2000 MILES TO PARAMARIBO
The cupboards, the water tanks (yes, both of them again), the dieseltanks and the fruit and veggie nets are are all full.  The boat, the clothes and the crew have been washed and we have enough reading, viewing, playing, making things materials to stay busy for a year. And the boat has been checked and checked from the top of the mast to the bottom for the keel. After a blissful week in an apartment with Opa and Omi.
We are finally ready to step back on the boat and loosen the lines for our longest passage of this trip, the 2000 nautical miles from Mindelo to Paramaribo, Suriname.
Our tummies are rumbling with anticipation, nerves and a little excitement. Although Macsen claims he would prefer to fly than sail, the entire crew seems ready for the challenge. The trade winds look steady and to date the forecast is calling for a steady, if lightish, wind for the first week to keep us wobbling towards the other side of the ocean.
Sadly, we bid goodbye for now to the Alutia and Olav and Birgitte.  Fair winds and thank you for sharing some great adventures!
DAY 1 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Emma said “this passage is, for me, the biggest step and reason for taking this trip.”

After an emotional send-off we headed out into the Mindelo bay, took a short detour to wave at Opa and Omi on their apartment balcony and headed out into the channel. As we glided out of the bay we spent some time together discussing the significance of what we were undertaking and gathering our various opinions, hopes and fears related to this long trip. As Emma said “this passage is, for me, the biggest step and reason for taking this trip.” There is a great deal of truth in that, this passage is the longest, most intimate, most testing of our skills, creativity and capability as sailors and more importantly, as a family. And this passage is bringing us across the ocean to Canada.

The winds were slightly unpredictable between the islands but less chaotic than expected. We gybed out onto a south westerly course at about 1900UTC, the course that we will hold for the coming 3 days before heading along the rhumb line (or great circle, they differ little here) route towards Paramaribo. We made good progres for the last 24 hours but the winds have gone down significantly with the predicted impact on our speed. Waves are wobbly but comfortable enough and the mood on board is positive.

Day 1: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 08, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 15’36.752N / 26’23.177W
COG/SOG: 227 degrees / 6.4kn
Trip distance: 126nm (avg 6.3)
Distance to go: 1848nm
24h distance n/a
Cabin temp: 29.0C
Sea temp: 22.4C
Conditions: overcast, wind NE 13-15kn, sea slight-moderate
Sails: full main and genoa wing-wing

DAY 2 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Full content school day

Macsen is very wave sensitive and he mentioned to me this morning “The waves are much smaller and more comfortable that I expected.” Whew. So far a very comfortable and speedy crossing with indeed a relatively settled sea with only a small roll from side to side and the occasional big whoomp against the hull to remind us that we are indeed in the middle of the ocean.

To date, no seasickness and we have been having full meals, afternoon borrel and extra yummies in between as hoped. This morning we even had a full content school day. For English, both monkies were studying a piece about Galileo so of course we had to take a short break to play Bohemian Rhapsody (a few times) at top volume. Fortunately, noone out here was bothered by the music or our variably tuned voices yelling “Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, Figaro-o-o-o!” In this way we could include music, dance, history, physics etc. etc. all into one very well rounded and fun lesson.

Day 2: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 09, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 14’09.157N / 28’18.601W
COG/SOG: 235 degrees / 6.4kn
Trip distance: 260nm
Distance to go: 1746nm
24h distance: 146nm
Cabin temp: 30.0C
Sea temp: 22.4C
Conditions: partly cloudy, wind NE 13-15kn, sea slight-moderate Sails: full main and genoa wing-wing

DAY 3 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Wing and wing going a steady 7-7.5 knots. Wooohooo!

Emma made playdough (her own recipe of oil, lemon juice, flour, water and salt cooked until firm) getting it to a good consistency so that she and Macsen could build little ornaments and figures. She loves making goopy things. We were also able to have another full school day with somewhat fewer complaints than when we are on land. The monkies are generally relatively good about school but they do whine a bit to get it over with when there is swimming, playing with friends and running about to be done. Seems rather a desperate measure to take your kids to sea to minimize distractions…but it does seem to work.

We went through a small squall early this morning with winds rising to 28 knots and a little rain but reduced sail and were soon through it. The waves have become larger and the wind has picked up slightly but we are still sailing comfortably. The period of the swell is so long that you hardly feel the boat being lifted and dropped although we are traveling up and down >3 meters every few seconds. To date we have been heading in a more southerly direction to pick up the trade winds and give ourself a better angle on the wind. We have just gybed onto our rhumbline for Paramaribo and are wing and wing going a steady 7-7.5 knots. Wooohooo!

Day 3: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 10, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 13’07.323N / 30’26.483W
COG/SOG: 255 degrees / 7-7.5kn
Trip distance: 404nm
Distance to go: 1524nm
24h distance: 144nm
Cabin temp: 29.0C
Sea temp: 22.8C
Conditions: sunny with some clouds, wind NE 19-22kn, sea moderate Sails: full main and genoa one reef (starboard now) wing-wing

DAY 4 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Very slightly beating our progress to date vs. our journey with the Pjotter.

We opted just to rely on our satellite telephone for communication this time and not install an SSB radio. As such, we exchange emails and SMSs with other boats on the way but can only listen and not speak during the daily SSB nets to gain more frequent updates. From the 1230UTC net we heard that the ‘Tijd’ is only 40 nautical miles ahead of us. Emma tried to call them on the VHF but we are still too far away. We hope to get close enough to them later today to talk over the VHF (range approximately 30 nautical miles in these conditions).

All is still well on board, we are settling into the daily rhythm and see that we are very slightly beating our progress to date vs. our journey with the Pjotter. With the Pjotter we left Mindelo on December 7th and arrived in Paramaribo on December 21st. Seb and I are on watch 3 hours on and 3 hours off through the night and during the day we share responsibility based upon who is free and awake. Macsen has taken a 1 hour watch during the day and the monkies are desperate to take a night watch together. If they do this it will not be for a full hours, they cannot go outside and they must wake us (I don’t think we will really be fully asleep) if there is anything in the area. They see it as a great opportunity to stay up late and eat candy, we see it as a great step in the development of their sense of responsibility (or something like that…).

Day 4: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 11, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 12’30.798N / 32’59.656W
COG/SOG: 261 degrees / 6.5kn
Trip distance: 562nm
Distance to go: 1370nm
24h distance: 158nm
Cabin temp: 29.2C
Sea temp: 22.9C
Conditions: some clouds, NE 19-22kn, sea moderate/rough
Sails: full main and reefed genoa wing-wing

DAY 5 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

We are now really out in the middle of the ocean.

It is 1100 miles or almost 2000 km to South America and the same distance to the mainland of Africa. Staring out at the water today I saw 3 birds, kestrels I think, hundreds of flying fish, loads of seaweed and miles and miles of undulating waves…and nothing more. Very beautiful but repetitive and oh so vast. The closest land is 5km below us and we have not seen another ship in a few days. Unfortunately, due to the incredible volumes of seaweed we have not yet been able to fish, it does show signs of dissipating so hopefully we will hear the sing of the line again in the coming couple of days.

Life goes on on board, bread has been baked and a cheesecake. The energy level is a little low as the days of broken sleep patterns catch up to us but I expect this to be a temporary dip and that we will all be fit again tomorrow. Tensions are high as we are in the middle of a highly competitive Rummikub tournament but this is a great distraction and good fun.

Day 5: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 12, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 12’05.754N / 35’34.811W
COG/SOG: 261 degrees / 6.5kn
Trip distance: 720nm
Distance to go: 1217nm
24h distance: 158nm
Cabin temp: 29.3C
Sea temp: 23.1C
Conditions: some clouds, wind NE 19-22kn, sea moderate/rough Sails: full main and reefed genoa wing-wing

DAY 6 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

The water has a thousand shades and shapes and the reflections of the sun make wonderfully sparkles.

Seb did some highly effective sail trimming last night and the boat is zinging along happily in winds from 17-25 knots and we are still making good progress. We had a family excursion on the deck for a daily rigging check, to collect and count the flying fish and squid that have flown on board in the night and to enjoy a slightly different view. We found a cosy perch in the boom with a great view of the waves and a funky view of the way the boat moves through them. I found this spot somewhat nerve wracking but the monkies thought it was fantastic.

Although our days are remarkably busy we do spend quality time just staring out at the sea. The waves are incredibly beautiful, the water has a thousand shades and shapes and the reflections of the sun make wonderfully sparkles. At night the sky is vast and full of more stars that I can ever remember seeing. Even though this boat is twice the size of the boat that took us on our previous crossing we still feel incredibly small with this great ocean around us. Very small, but somehow also strangely powerful, not to overcome or tame the power of the sea but to experience it and work with it. All well on board and looking forward to our halfway party tomorrow!

Day 6: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 13, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 11’41.527N / 38’05.875W
COG/SOG: 259 degrees / 6.5-7kn
Trip distance: 873nm
Distance to go: 1069nm
24h distance: 153nm
Cabin temp: 29.2C
Sea temp: 23.2C
Conditions: cloudy, wind NE 21-23kn, sea moderate/rough
Sails: full main and reefed genoa wing-wing

DAY 7 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Whumpf…no wind, no motor and no autopilot.

Pffff. I’d gone to bed afer my first watch feeling extremely grumpy and worried. Our speedy voyage to date had slowed to a crawl, the wind down to 8 knots over deck and very uncomfortable waves brought our speed to a measly 3-3.5 knots. The sails were banging as there was too little pressure to keep them full so we took them down and turned on the motor. Sounds are important on the boat and unfamiliar sounds generally indicate some sort of issue. There was an strange ticking in the propellor and the motor was not generating the same level of speed as normal. It was already pitch black and checking under the boat was not an option until morning. So off I went to bed in a slow, bumpy boat with a feeling of dread…there was something wrong with the motor and there was a very good chance that someone would have to get into the water in the middle of the ocean in 3 meter waves with several tons of bucking boat over their heads. Not a nice prospect.

Then at 0600 Seb woke me up with the fabulous news that the autopliot had leaked all of its hydraulic oil and he had been steering manually for an hour. Whumpf…no wind, no motor and no autopilot. Three very important pillars of a safe and speedy passage. We’d crossed the halfway mark in the night and had planned a great celebration, this would have to wait.

At first light, Seb hung from the swimming platform into the water with the GoPro (on a long stick) to get a first view of the damage. First films showed a huge black and yellow mass stuck in the propellor. Before venturing into the water we took a second look while running the engine at high rpm both forwards and backwards. The film was hilarious, as the engine goes into reverse a massive explosion of seeweed comes hurtling towards the camera. Whew! First problem solved. Now on to the autopilot.

Day 7: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 14, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 11’03.561N / 40’10.607W
COG/SOG: 250 degrees / 5.5-6kn
Trip distance: 1007nm
Distance to go: 941nm
24h distance: 134nm
Cabin temp: 30.2C
Sea temp: 23.1C
Conditions: cloudy, wind 45 degrees / NE 15-18kn, sea moderate Sails: genoa

Live position tracker at: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=02nKvBqvxOgtWvAPCDkUEUqyTcWFsO96a

DAY 8 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Whoooopie!!! We are past the halfway point.

If you had suggested yesterday morning that it would be a good day, I would have laughed in your face (or perhaps something ruder). No wind, no motor and no autopilot. Fortunately, the motor problem solved itself. And with some very good advice from Jean-Francois from Boreal, a little Locktite on the o-ring of the pipe exiting the oil reservoir, and some humming and hawing and scratching of our heads…Bingo! the autopilot was also back in business. In the downtime, Seb and Emma also hooked up our trusted Windpilot (an automatic pilot that steers using wind direction) so we now have a back-up as well. Whew!

And the other news…? Whoooopie!!! We are past the halfway point. For such a momentous occasion there are a few traditions to follow. The cabin was decorated to look like a seascape with various sea creatures (some more comical, some more realistic) and strands of seaweed hanging from the ceiling. Neptune’s fishy henchman also hid a couple of halfway surprises. Once the boat was prepared we settled into a special halfway meal of stewed duck, stoofperen, French fries in paper cones with lots of mayo, chocolate cake a la Emma all accompanied by a bottle of fine champagne (and kinder champers for the monkies). Delicious and super fun. Finally, we poured libations (from both champagne bottles) overboard in thanks to Neptune for our safe passage.

To top it all off, the wind is back and we sailed at >7 knots all night.

Day 8: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 15, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 10’29.160N / 42’32.500W
COG/SOG: 255 degrees / 6-6.5kn
Trip distance: 1153nm
Distance to go: 796nm
24h distance: 151nm
Cabin temp: 29.6C
Sea temp: 22.7C
Conditions: some clouds, wind 53 degrees / NE 15-18kn, sea moderate Sails: Full main and genoa wing-wing

Live position tracker at: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=02nKvBqvxOgtWvAPCDkUEUqyTcWFsO96a

DAY 9 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Today has been an exceedingly tiring, frustrating and grumpy day.

The wind died down and the sails began to bang as the boat was tossed about in the waves. Seb and I donned our life jackets and got to work changing sail configurations and trimming. Genoa in, gennaker out on the pole, main up, main down, all configurations tried for port and starboard, gennaker off the pole, pole gibed, gennaker port, genoa starboard on the pole etc. etc. This is heavy work that went on for 3 hours while we were sailing very slowly in the wrong direction. Finally, we settled on gennaker to port and genoa to starboard on the pole (double foresail configuration). This worked for about 2 hours and then the wind changed again. Agggghhhhh! Sailing is soooo stupid. It feels like being on a very long flight trying and trying to get comfortable in your seat knowing that the more comfortable you are the faster the plane will arrive at your destination.

That said, all is well on board. The monkies are happy (generally meaning that we are happy) and Macsen continues to build on his collection of flying fish. The poor things seem to bump blindly into or onto the boat as they flutter to escape some other seemingly greater danger. We have managed to save a few by catching them as they land and tossing them back. And we have had other company as well…a group of large brownish gray dolphins came to play with us (the first on this passage) and a container ship bound for Iceland (due to arrive December 28th) crossed our path.

Day 9: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 16, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 9’59.747N / 44’52.242W
COG/SOG: 250 degrees / 5.5-6kn
Trip distance: 1294nm
Distance to go: 657nm
24h distance: 141nm
Cabin temp: 28.5C
Sea temp: 22.7C
Conditions: sunny few clouds, NE 12-16kn, sea slight-moderate Sails: all configurations..

Live position tracker at: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=02nKvBqvxOgtWvAPCDkUEUqyTcWFsO96a

DAY 10 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

So today was Science Day

And we collected our first microbiome sample for Indigo Expeditions (see http://www.indigovexpeditions.org/meet-the-explorers-ambtman-family/ for some more background on them and what citizen scientists like us are doing to support them). Indigo Expeditions focuses on developing a greater understanding of marine microbiomes or plankton that make up 90% of the ocean’s biomass and are critical in maintaining the levels of atmospheric oxygen. These microbes are also the first to respond to changes in the ocean environment and are thus a valuable indicator of our ocean’s health.

It costs them 1000USD to process each sample so we needed to work carefully. It took some time to sort through all of the syringes and pipettes, understand the strict sampling instructions and figure out how the refractometer worked to test the salinity in the water. The monkies loved it! They donned their surgical gloves (the sample must NOT get contaminated) and got to work filling syringes, flushing filter cartridges and mixing solutions until we ended it with a clean filter containing one carefully labelled sample that is now sitting in our freezer.

Our 24h distance was lowish due to lower winds and all of the fiddling that we needed to do to get the sails working and to collect our samples. The wind has now picked up again and is expected to stay for the coming 48h so hopefully we can make some more good progress.

Day 10: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 17, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 9’12.948N / 46’53.992W
COG/SOG: 253 degrees / 5.5-6kn
Trip distance: 1427nm
Distance to go: 529nm
24h distance: 133nm
Cabin temp: 29.5C
Sea temp: 23C
Conditions: sunny few clouds, wind NE 12-16kn, sea slight-moderate Sails: Full main and genoa (port) wing-wing

Live position tracker at: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=02nKvBqvxOgtWvAPCDkUEUqyTcWFsO96a

DAY 11 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Expletive, expletive, expletive.

So according to the forecast the wind was supposed to veer some 15-20 degrees so we set out into the night on starboard hoping to just keep our course of 255 degrees. Unfortunately, forecasts lie. And the wind shifted 15 degrees in the other direction. Putting us on a very southerly course moving very slowly in the wrong direction all night long. Sitting at watch staring at the chart plotter getting angry and frustrated doesn’t help much but given that we didn’t want to gibe in the dark unless absolutely necessary this is what I spent the night doing. This morning we made the gibe and set off happily exactly on course for about 1 hour. Then the wind decided it would do the promised shift a day late. This is the shift that would have been highly desirable yesterday but is completely undesirable today. Now we are heading slightly more quickly in a northery direction also about 30 degrees off of the desired course. And to top it all off we now have current against us! Expletive, expletive, expletive.

We check the boat and rigging thoroughly at least once a day as such a journey is taxing even to strong materials and from time to time something breaks and a small break can become nasty if you don’t get it in time. Seb is particularly diligent in his checks and is constantly alert. We all know the fairy tale about the princess and the pea. Well, Seb is as sensitive about small sounds on the boat as that princess was sensitive about that pea. Yesterday evening, while standing talking in the pilot house he stopped suddenly “Did you hear that?” He then donned his life vest and tore outside to make a full inspection of the deck and rigging. My prince then returned with a look of triumph carrying a tiny rivet that had sheared off with the banging of the boom. Over the racket of the water, the flapping sails, the wind and my voice he had heard a different sound, the wrong kind of sound…the tiny ‘plink’ of a rivet hitting the deck.

Day 11: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 18, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 7’53.883N / 48’42.179W
COG/SOG: 245 degrees / 6kn
Trip distance: 1565nm
Distance to go: 402nm
24h distance: 139nm
Cabin temp: 29.6C
Sea temp: 23.4C
Conditions: sunny few clouds, wind 72 degrees / NE 15-20kn, sea moderate Sails: Full main and genoa (port) wing-wing

Live position tracker at: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=02nKvBqvxOgtWvAPCDkUEUqyTcWFsO96a

DAY 12 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Squally, squishy, skewed.

Those three words describe the last 24 hours all too perfectly. It all started with a mini-squall containing just enough wind and rain to be refreshing. It has been months since we have seen rainfall. Despite a good fresh washdown with the hose in Mindelo, the boat rigging was still covered with fine red sand from the Sahara picked up in Morocco, The Gambia and the Canary Islands. The decks were also salty and scattered with the residue of unfortunate flying fish and squid. So during this first mini-squall Seb and I ran outside in delight, took advantage of the rain to have a outside shower and delighted in the unusual cleanliness of the boat.

But as they night progressed the squalls became more frequent, the winds higher and the rain torrential. We clocked wind shifts within seconds of 60 degrees and the wind developed in minutes from 15 up to almost 40 knots. Although squalls are always a threat here and we keep a good watch for them this was something more intense and had not been picked up in our forecasts. Seb downloaded an updated weather chart and saw a large trough had moved further North West that expected and caught up to us. So with the help of the radar giving us heads up on rain activity we spent the night dodging the worst activity and came through the night tired but fortunately unscathed. And the morning brought calm waves and clear skies and we started again to have stable winds and are making good progress.

Day 12: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 19, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 7’40.100 N / 50’55.600 W
COG/SOG: 252 degrees / 6.5 kn
Trip distance: 1708nm
Distance to go: 272nm
24h distance: 143nm
Cabin temp: 27.8C
Sea temp: 28.1C
Conditions: sunny with clouds and rain showers, ENE 15-17kn, sea moderate Sails: Full main and genoa on port side wing-wing

Live position tracker at: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=02nKvBqvxOgtWvAPCDkUEUqyTcWFsO96a

DAY 13 – MINDELO TO PARAMARIBO

Today is a gift.

The waters are calm, the wind at 15 knots, 1 knot of current with, the sun is shining and we are flying our beautiful big blue gennaker and gliding with a whispering whoosh through the water at 6.5 knots. Sailing is perfect about 1% of the time and this is that 1%. And what more? At 0830 this morning we heard the lovely ziiiiing! of the fishing line and managed to land a beautiful bonito. Fresh tuna for lunch. A little lemon juice, garlic and pepper and lightly seared in a red hot pan with a little butter…nice and pink and soft inside. Yummie!

We are now less that 100 nautical miles from the outside buoy marking the entrance to the Suriname River. The water have already begun to become shallow and instead of 5 kilometers under the keel we now have only 50 meters. The current is giving us a lift but also pushing us sidewards, our heading is 222 degrees while our course over ground is 254 degrees. Strange. We will have to slow our progress tonight and if all goes well we expect to arrive close to the buoy just before daylight. Almost there!

Day 13: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 20, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 6’50.396 N / 53’22.106 W
COG/SOG: 249 degrees / 5.5-6 kn
Trip distance: 1856nm
Distance to go: 118nm
24h distance: 160nm
Cabin temp: 31.4C
Sea temp: 28.0C
Conditions: sunny with clouds and rain showers, NE 10-13kn, sea slight-moderate Sails: Gennaker only on starboard

Live position tracker at: https://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=02nKvBqvxOgtWvAPCDkUEUqyTcWFsO96a

 

LAND IN ZICHT!

After 13 days and 17 hours at sea we have reached the outer buoy of the Suriname River. We have been steering towards this little red and white striped buoy for 329 hours straight and it is a wonderful sight to see it finally up close. The current on the river is against us (it was a choice between daylight and current and daylight won) and we expect to reach the moorings in Domburg (35 nautical miles up the river) at 1400 or exactly 14 days after departing Mindelo. The night was full of fishing boats and lots of rain so not very restful. The monkies are super excited and we are all feeling a little dazed but happy.

Ohhh, and other news. At dusk yesterday evening the fishing line rang out again and this time we landed a 1 meter long, 4.5 kilgram wahoo. A big beautiful fish with very sharp teeth. Wahoo is a delicious white fish and we have filled the fridge with lovely fillets.

Day 14: Atlantic Crossing
Date: December 21, 2017
Time 12:00 UTC
Position 5’59.396 N / 55’13.106 W
COG/SOG: 170 degrees / 4.5kn
Trip distance: 1981nm
Distance to go: 26nm
24h distance: 130nm
Cabin temp: 28.5C
Sea temp: 27.2C
Conditions: cloudy and rain showers, ENE 10-13kn
Sails: iron jib (engine..)

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