Andres and I motored out of Cape Town harbour on the 27th November, with two reefs in the main in anticipation of the Cape Doctor sending us on our way with 30kts downwind. Heading NW, Galaxy covered over 500nm in 3 days before the SE trades settled down to the regulation 10-20 kts. The first leg of our 5,400nm South Atlantic Crossing is 1,700nm to St Helena ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Helena ) – a British Overseas Territory since 1569 and where Napoleon spent his final days.
The South Atlantic is a much tamer & more orderly proposition than the Indian Ocean – the trade winds are gentle, mostly consistent, with the swell & sea state moving in the same direction. With average winds of 12kts (barely white capping) Galaxy glides along at 6-7kts with a poled-out Genoa. There were a few lulls where the wind dropped below 10kts and once the boat speed dropped to 4.5kts we motor sailed.
We were also out of the shipping lane, so it was a fairly relaxed passage that gave Andres time to sleep off his seasickness. I got off lightly this leg and hoping I have developed immunity to seasickness. After a couple of days, he grasped sailing 24 hours a day for 2 weeks and my advice to bring plenty of music and books.
While he had spent a lot of his life around the ocean, he had never fished in his life – couldn’t bear the thought of wasting his time waiting for a bite! However, trolling a lure behind a yacht was a different matter – no time or attention is required until the sound of the drag running alerts that there is a fish on. Days can pass before there is any action. Our first catch was a small tuna and then a mahi-mahi; if his smile is any guide, he now enjoys fishing.
The magnetic chess set on board that Ben & I used had rusted out and as it happens, Andres bought along his own set – I wasn’t able to win even one game – be wary of lifeguards who play chess.
I’ve settled on the worst thing about ocean cruising is the toilet on board – this time it blocked at 0330 and couldn’t be ignored without fouling the whole boat. It took most of the day to clean the pump and this time, with a service kit and replacing the blocked plumbing. The upside is I can now dismantle and reassemble a Jabsco centrifugal pump, in high winds, in a matter of minutes.
The last two days of a two-week passage are classic ‘are we there yet?’ territory – willing the wind to hold so we make good time, hallucinating about steak & chips on St Helena and wondering if there are any waves we can surf.
On the morning of the 12th day St Helena was in sight & the dolphins had come out to greet us with the island backdrop rising 800m out of the South Atlantic.
St Helena radio called at 0730 – we should be on a mooring by 930 and ashore mid-morning. As we approached the lee of the island the wind dropped and we started the motor – nothing, no response. Possibly a starter motor problem – at least we still have sails. We politely refused offers for a tow – we can sail the last 4nm. Then we got stuck in the lee of the island, with light fickle winds and made no progress for a couple of hours. So, with the day slipping away and not wanting to sound ungrateful, we accepted a tow for the last few miles of a 1,700nm passage and moored at 1300.
We spent a week on St Helena, firstly looking for a “MacGyver[i]” who could repair the starter motor and then when it was declared unrepairable, having a replacement shipped from Cape Town. This was not as straightforward as it sounds, with one flight a week and a satellite internet service that is possibly the most expensive and worst quality on the planet.
Andres & I have decided to depart for Fernando de Noronha, with or without the starter motor – hopefully it arrives today, if not we’ll rely on the trade winds and keeping the batteries charged with wind and solar.
We’ll be at sea for Xmas and have a fruitcake ready for the day! Merry Christmas everyone 🙂