Atlantic

Antigua - NYC, Overwhelmed

Sincere apologies for vanishing for two weeks. It's been a rollercoaster ride (but not of the Coney Island variety!) and I'm not even sure of where to start. If I wrote everything now, it would result in a novella, so I'm just going to finish off the Antigua to NYC log now, and save the rest for later, when I can collect my thoughts. Thanks so much for all the comments in the last post! Day 13

The wind swung more NE overnight, meaning we're actually sailing direct to NY, and around 3kts. We're still hitting the swell quite hard, but at least we're going in the right direction! 654nm to go, which is still six days of optimal sailing. I estimate another 8-9 days out here. I initially said that I expected the trip to take 21 days, but I didn't really expect that to be a reality ... I have my fingers crossed for W or WSW tomorrow. It's noticeably colder with the north component to the wind. A catamaran just sailed past, within 300metres, and I don't think either of us noticed each other. I attempted to get her on the radio, but no luck. By 6pm we were becalmed, which I hope is the beginning of the westerly wind...

Day 14

Last night I woke up to silence, which was unusual, since the mainsail should have been slapping in the completely windless conditions. However I went outside, and found a north westerly breeze. I hoisted the genoa, set Windy and went back to bed. I woke up to see us on a perfect heading at 3.5kts. By late afternoon the wind was dead west, and Constellation struck up the pace to 5kts. This is probably the fastest we've gone in nearly a week since 27degrees north. Every mile since has been a struggle... By 7pm I had to reef the main, and tried to sleep. The motion was quick, and I didn't sleep very well.

Day 15

We flew overnight, but I hardly slept due to the slamming and speed. Days are so boring now, due to the lack of good books and food. I'll be looking forward to my siesta today! Visibility is very poor, there is an odd haze in the air. I'm also quite certain I can smell land in the air, which I guess is possible, considering its a NW wind (blowing from land). If smells wet, sweet and smoky. Throughout the day an incredibly eery fog descended, and the wind has died right down, which is a terrible shame after the incredible run we just had. As of this evening, we're doing 2kts or less, but I believe at 35dgrees north, we'll get the illusive WSW's. I hear a front is coming, and sincerely hope its nothing bad, as I approach the Gulf Stream.

Day 16

I'm becalmed again. I spent the morning cleaning, the cockpit was beginning to look like a teenagers bedroom. And for anyone that knows me, that means a right chaotic mess. While outside watching the mirrored calm, I caught a glimpse of a fish out of the corner of my eye. I quickly launched a lure, and slowly reeled it in. Calmly following it was an enormous Dorado, nearly a metre in length. It was absolutely stunning, glistening in the light. I quickly brought the lure in so as not to catch it - It was far too big, and far too beautiful for me to eat. I spent half an hour motoring to charge the batteries, for lack of sun, only to notice the Dorado was following me! Right up at the bow, sometimes even jumping! The fish ended up following me the entire day, which was amazing. The last calm I was in, a school of six dinner plate sized fish were toying around near the Windvane. I dropped a lure in and instantly caught one, and then another - These calm periods have shown more sea life than at any other time, and I'm beginning to enjoy the quietness or the whole situation. We have 497nm to go, and it's amazing now that we're doing 2kts, how fast it feels after sitting in mirrored waters for 12 hours!

Day 17

Overnight the wind slowly veered to south west, and I was up and down trying to capture every last gust throughout the transition. I payed the mainsail right out, and ran the genoa off the end of the boom through a block. This configuration doesn't allow for true downwind sailing, but the boat is stable and relatively fast, and what can't be made for heading, can be made in speed. I also believe a north wind will develop next, which will allow me to make up for any course inconsistencies. We're now at a nice 3kts, the only sound is the swish along the hull of the sea, and the odd creak from Windy. This is the nicest part of sailing, when recovering from a calm, the wind picks up but the sea is dead flat - You glide over the water, as if your keel were a hot knife through butter, and the quietude is stunning. I enjoy offshore sailing more and more, and how my jaunt down the coast of Europe would have change if I were to do it again! Well, maybe not so much, since I really wanted to visit most of the ports I stopped... It's much nicer watching the fish, trimming the sails and reading my books, than dealing with the irritations that magnetise themselves towards groups of people. I say all this now, but the amazing forgetfulness and adaptability of humans will have me back to enjoying the spoils of civilisation within a matter of weeks. Visions of following fish and still moons will but but a distant memory, triggered only by reading this very passage.

Later in the evening, out of nowhere came strong winds. I would estimate 35kts, at which we were nearly knocked flat. I put two reefs in and dropped the genoa at pace. Right now we're hove-to, while I wait out to see what's going on. I hit the jackpot and found four boxes of macaroni in a cupboard, so while this storm does what it wants, I'm going to whet my cheesy pallet with a change of dinners. The sunset was very ominous, and bright red. What is it, 'red sky at night, sailors delight?' It certainly doesn't seem like it... I'm terrified! (Two hours later): Wow, steer clear of Better Valu Macaroni - What an absolutely loathsome culinary experience. Talk about genuinely disappointed. Back to rice and chilli sauce. While thinking (uh oh), I wondered, can you claim parts of the sea, like squatters rights on land? If so, I'm going to invest heavily in building a series of floating QuickStops along this route, selling tax-free diesel, fine European chocolates and DVDs. I'd make an absolute killing. Every purchase gets you a free two day forecast too. Oh, the opportunities!

Day 18

Last night the wind didn't die down, but rather steadied. I knew were were going to have a full night of good wind, when the sky to the NE cleared (the direction of the wind), which indicated it wasn't simply squall generated. I shook out a reef and put up the jib, and we were off on a bumpy overnight jaunt towards the Apple. I didn't sleep very well, and as such, have spent most of the day energy-less, reading a Flaubert novel or simply lying with my eyes shut, the odd wave crashing over the cabin roof. During the night the mainsheet worked itself loose, and I woke up to fix it, dodging the chilling spray. What awaited was utterly surreal: To the stern were multiple banks of clouds, full of electrical activity, firing like ships cannons in a dense fog. To our port side, the moon was surrounded by a deep red hue, just about to set on the horizon. The scene was without doubt the most amazing display of sky-bound phenomena I've ever witnessed. Being out here in variable latitudes for such a long time, has been quite an experience. Unlike the Atlantic which mostly consists of setting your windvane and eating noodles for a month, everyday out here brings something new. Whether that be a new species of bird, a curious fish, calms, excessive wind, mirrored seas or water bounding over the deck. The sky seems to double in magnitude every night, bringing squalls, electrical storms or cumulus bound sunsets. There is no constant in this region, which is why I believe it has such an eery reputation; and rightly so.

It's calm now, the genoa is back on centre stage, we're doing 2.8kts steady, and there is 378nm to go.

Day 19

The wind yesterday and last night was a steady NE, which meant were were on a reasonably good NW tack to NY. At 3am it swung to the north, and started varying. I couldn't sleep, because every 10mins the genoa would back itself. I kept making course alterations to Windy, but it was pointless. For the first time on this trip so far, I got angry and frustrated. I just wanted a good sleep, and it was rolling like made. I yelled at the horizon as the cover of darkness was evaporating to a new day, pulled the genoa down and hove-to. I tried to sleep but everything was annoying me - The ballpoint pen rattling on the chart table, the kettle moving inside the sink. I threw the kettle into the cockpit, and cleared the chart table onto the adjoining bunk in frustration - I was furious! Eventually I put some calming music on, and fell asleep for an hour... Until the hot sun seemed to intentionally focus its full strength onto my face, and I woke up. Realising the futility of it all, I got up and raised the genoa, and sailed west. I still have a headache and remain very irritable, but I think I'll sleep well tonight. Oh how I wish the damn wind would settle itself from the west!! It's been N, NW, or NE for days... We've been virtually close-hauled the entire time. Beating sucks. I'm going to invest the millions I'll make from the QuickStops in making an upwind Spinnaker!

Day 20

I was woken up at 2am by the noisy mainsail, to see the #1 reefing line had snapped clear through. It was old anyway, but I was still annoyed. I have one reefing line left, which means should anything blow through that requires the second or third reefs, I'll have to tie the line up when needed. As the wind was picking up, I setup reef #2 and tried to sleep. By 03:30, still without sleep, I watched the GPS as we began averaging 6.5kts. I can never sleep if we're doing 5.5kts or more, and this was no exception. At daybreak (04:30), I changed down to the jib, getting completely drenched on the bow. Still we were too fast, and now headed NE. I figured we might have hit the Gulf Stream already, with the wind howling from the NW. By 9am after sitting in my bunk listening to the terror going on outside, I couldn't take anymore breaking waves in the cockpit, and changed to reef #3 and put the storm jib up. I hailed the cruise ship 'Explorer or the Seas', which I saw in La Coruna (Spain) for weather advice, to which the watchman gave me a 96hr report. He was 12hrs out of NYC, and had already covered 200nm. I told him it had taken me a good part of a week to get that mileage, to which he laughed, and said he had 100,000 horse power onboard. I said I had 10 horspower, and no fuel, which he thought was very amusing. At 1pm a haze descended, with the smell of smoke. Ensuring first that I wasn't on fire, I presumed there were large fires in the USA, but I wasn't entirely sure. At 3pm through limited visibility, I spotted the ghost-like sails of another vessel in front of me. I hailed them on the radio, but they couldn't see me. I had contacted the Challenger 67 'Discoverer', recently up from the ice pack in South America. He had Inmarsat C onboard, and gave me a forecast, and we chatted for awhile. I was confused about the Gulf Stream, but he confirmed that we were in the grips of it, and said he'd radio with a latitude when they escaped the east-going current. I heard him later in the evening on VHF, but he was too far away to receive my signal... I need a bigger boat, so I can have a bigger mast for the antenna! The stream has pushed me way off course, with 'Discoverer' headed for Boston, I thought maybe I should just go to Boston too... I'm very tired... I hope tonight is trouble free, I just want some sleep, we've been pounding like heck, and I haven't slept since 2am.

Day 21

Last night after the very bumpy Gulf Stream, we became becalmed, yet again! I woke up to no wind, and having nothing to do, cleaned the boat up, mopped up the floor and soaked up the wet spots around the windows. When I get to NY, I'm going to fix every damn leak on this boat, if its the last thing I do! It's quite cold now, I had no idea the effects of the Stream would be so apparent, so fast. The water is green instead of blue, and the water actually smells like the sea. There are different birds hanging about, and I even saw a moth this morning. It was a nice suprise to find an Australian radio station on shortwave too, having become thoroughly annoyed (and quite disgusted) by the fundamentalist Christian radio - They have the most powerful transmitters, along with China Radio International. Propagandists have all the watts. I can never seem to find the BBC, which along with Radio Canada and ABC Australia, are the only voices of reason which are transmitting into the stratosphere. In other news, ramen noodles have become a delicacy of days past, and the chilli sauce has nearly run out. I did open a carton of milk though, now that its a bit colder, so its nice to have tea with milk for a change. I'm glad I'm not a fussy eater, I'd most certainly have perished out here at least two weeks ago. I do however look forward to a bagel with cream cheese and salmon, I must admit... My first stop on land will be to the very first metal-clad diner I see, for which I will request one of everything on the menu. I've lost weight, I can tell - Another kilo off, and I will have shrunk enough for Constellation to appear considerably larger than she is.

A fly just landed on the tiller. Tony tells me there is a whale alert for this area, which is why I'm out in the cockpit. I have a harpoon ready (my dinghy oar), and I've stoked the coal in the boiler for the oil extraction. My port & starboard lamps need refilling, and I wouldn't mind some light for this evening, in order to finish Voltaire. Not to mention the lads in Nantucket, who might jeer at me for arriving with nothing from my travels, having only a piece of seaweed and one shilling I won from an arm wrestle with an armless fishermen in Portugal, I'd be laughed out of the tavern without at least one whale to speak of!

While at the tiller, I can't help but to sail up to any strange things I see floating in the water. For example, today I came up to a floating peanut butter jar, and a piece of wood that looked like a set of deer antlers. Minutes later, a shiny object was spotted, which turned out to be a toy helium balloon! What an amazing thought to be able to find the little kid that released it, and tell them what had become of their silver balloon!

Day 22

Last night Merv the Mer-Veille picked up a Coaster headed straight for us. I could hear the hum of its engines, and see its nav lights dead on. I radioed to no response, but five minutes later and to my great relief, the vessel slowly changed course, and I stayed becalmed overnight. I had numerous reports from SMS's that I was going to be hit by a front, so in the morning I called Commanders Weather to see if I was in for a pummeling - No, no front was going to hit me. Later in the afternoon, what little wind existed died out completely, and a large swell came out of nowhere - It must be a result of strong winds further NW kicking up the sea. It's rolling hard now, and still there is no wind. It's very irritating and makes me feel somewhat queasy. I really just want to get into port now, it's kind of ridiculous in terms of calms and unhelpful wind. The swell is very confused now and completely non-directional, this is really, really weird.

Day 23

I'm in a very, very bad mood today. I didn't sleep all night due to the rolling, and am just fed up with the lack of wind. The swell didn't die down at all, but rather increased, and still there is no breeze. I had the mainsail up to keep the boat steady, but we still rolled like crazy. It must be terribly bad for the rig, but its either that, or we go rail-to-rail with no sail up. Not a chance. We're at 38deg31N / 69deg53W and the GPS has gone mad. We're only doing about 1kt into a NW wind, but the GPS can't figure out which direction we're going, and misreports speed. We must be in a strong current - I've given up on the GPS, and am now steering by the compass. I tested my position with a backup GPS, but still it's all strange. We're clearly in a strong eddy or something. I'm confused. (1 hour later): Confirmed, we're stuck the SW portion of an eddy. I'm doing about 3kts through the water north, and actually heading SW at 1kt.

Day 24

I couldn't sleep last night, worried I would be dragged back into the Gulf Stream and start riding it east. I sent a message to Marty, to pass on to Tony about my concerns, and at 2am I received the eddy location, and rotation info. I had assumed the eddy ran clockwise, because I know Newport/Bermuda racers try to find the SE meander, which wouldn't be possible for a counter-clockwise rotation. I was heading west, hoping the current might take us W/NW... Tony confirmed this, and I was very relieved to have someone else help me out - I thought the eddy phenomenon was an unusual occurrence, and hadn't been too concerned about it. Apparently it is not to be messed with, and is a genuine concern for small boats without good engine capability. At 3am after plotting out the eddy on the chart and thinking through everything, I could finally sleep. I got up at 07:30 to a little bit of wind, and barreled west at 6kts (3kts of current). This lasted only a few hours, and now we're becalmed again, but heading WSW at 2.8kts from the eddy. Prediction of flow is S,SW,WSW,W,NW - Like being on the edge of a circle (which we are). Commanders Weather updated Tony on the current, and confirmed that going west was the only option. They also predict Saturday to provide nice SW winds which will carry me into NY - Please be right! It's hot again and the sea is back to be beautiful blue. The Gulf Stream at work! I spotted a whale at 38deg00N 70deg56W.

Day 25

Last night a brisk NW wind kicked up, and we were finally heading to NYC at 6kts. By 01:00 it had shifted NW, and we were beating into chop. I reefed and put the jib up, and proceeded (pushed by the eddy) NNE until this morning when it all died out. We've only 160nm to go, and today was predicted to be 15-20kts of SW wind, which is incorrect, as usual - I've not had an accurate forecast for weeks. Not even predictions for the conditions of the day have been correct. I've had enough of sailing right now. I feel like sitting in a decrepit bar, drinking, oblivious to my own thoughts. My sailing gusto will return en force, but after the Atlantic, less than a months rest which included over 300nm of sailing in the Caribbean, and then another month out here - I'm tired. And for what? I'm not in a race. I have no idea why I'm pushing so hard. I should have stopped months ago and made some real money so I can enjoy things - It sucks buying a chocolate bar and then feeling guilty about wasting money. If I had any sense, I'd go back to Europe and work. Anyway, this is the end of my complaining. Sorry. (2 hours later) Wow, I'm so fucked off - We're doing a complete circle in the eddy, now going SE. We were supposed to go NW, but now I'm in the northern portion of the eddy system. I was going to blow the remaining fuel I had on trying to get out of it, but the engine has just stopped working. Suspected fuel filter. This is driving me insane. (1 hour later): I took out and cleaned the fuel filter in Turpentine, bled the fuel system and August the mighty Yanmar is happy. A light SW wind has started while I was working, and we're now countering the current - Not making progress, but not going backwards either.

Day 26

Last night the SW wind died at midnight, and turned to NE. The damn eddy continued its grip on us, and without wind we are being pulled east. Any ground I made yesterday has just all been lost overnight. I can't believe I've been caught in this thing for so long. I called the Newport - Bermuda racers on VHF, and suprisingly they could hear me. I asked when the eddy would stop, since they were actively looking for it. They said about another 30nm. I hope I see the racing fleet, but as to why someone would actually want to 'race' in this area is beyond me - There ain't no wind! This whole situation is very difficult on my mind, because every mile made in a small boat is one fought for... Being becalmed is one thing, but when you've spent days and nights at the tiller or trimming the sails to coerce every foot of progress, only to have it wiped out the next day, is very difficult to deal with. Especially when you've already been dealing with calms, and not to mention the fact that I've been out here for over 3 weeks, and we're so damn close to the seemingly unattainable NYC. I can see how one could go mad out here. Already I've been prancing around deck, punching the mast in frustration, or waking up at 3am to see the sails flogging and us going SE at 3kts, screaming out loud and cursing the Gulf Stream.... ARGH!

(2 hours later) This all being said, I must say I feel very much more connected to this area than I did on my Atlantic crossing... Out here there is just so much variance - The Atlantic crossing was relatively simple and uninspiring (except for my sail configuration difficulties, and one or two bad days). The environment in an Atlantic crossing is incessant, whereas out here there is ever constant change. I've also learnt a great deal about sailing, the weather, and the sea in general. If you have the patience to go outside and gaze at the void, you're also bound to be rewarded with some kind of spectacle.

The VHF has just lit up with Bermuda racers, navy warships conducting live tests in my region, and even coast guard warnings of an exploded yacht off Rhode Island, helicopter crashes and reports of a 19ft vessel on fire - I must be getting closer to the madness of 'civilised' society!!

My mood has gone from mediocre to exceptional - We've broken Eddie the eddy, doing 4kts NW on a W breeze. 130nm to go, great day. I could be eating bagels for breakfast on Monday. The weather is colder now, the sea has gone back to being green. That is all.

Day 27

I was woken up by the sonar of dolphins through the hull. I got out of my bunk, and on the horizon were hundreds of dolphins bounding towards me. We're on the continental shelf now, they must be fishing. This is the most amazing thing I've seen, it's almost impossible to believe. The sun is rising, there is the squeak of these most beautiful mammals, and I'm so close to New York City.

(2 hours later). Wow, we were just hit with an incredible squall. The wind speeds may have been the fastest I've experienced. We're hove-to with the last reef in the sail, and even then we're heeling hard, but on a nice angle to the increasing chop. The fishing boats around me are stunned at the suddenness of the squall. They could see it on radar, and I was hoping I'd miss it, but here we are. I'm just sitting here reading a boat catalogue, waiting for it to pass. We're so close now, I don't care about he squall. In fact, it's almost exciting. We're being blown to pieces, but at least I know it'll be over in half an hour.

Day 28

I'm keeping a close watch coming into New York. At 2am there were 6 fishing boats, spaced equally on the horizon. They seemed to move as I approached, to create a path for me. We're going to make it today. I'll be at anchor, I won't know what to do with myself.

An amazing fog has now descended, if it wasn't here, I could probably see land. We're on approach to Sandy Hook Channel now, I can hear the tankers in Ambrose Channel. The gongs are gonging, I can hear fog horns, and big engines. We're ghosting at 3kts, I've chanced a favourable tide, I'm nervous of being hit... A research vessel has radioed me, they know where I am, but I can't see them. I've been told to maintain course and speed to avoid a collision. I can now see the first marker for Sandy Hook Channel. We've made it. We're in the channel, this is the home stretch, I'm starting the engine. A fishing boat just past, I waived, they didn't return it. I can see the sand now of New Jersey, it's a long beach, the fog has lifted slightly, a tug has just past me, the lights are backwards here... Red light returning? I hope so!

We're in. I'm at anchor, I just met Phil, he paddled over with a cold beer and a banana, this is wonderful, I'm in America.

nick.

Antigua -> NYC in 28 Days

Before I digress, I have a lot of people to thank: Thank you so much to Kevin, Jim, Phillip and Adam for sending through paypal funds while I was at sea, they were very nice arrival presents, and I really, really appreciate it. Thank you also to Marty, Adam (again!) and Mark for helping complete my Fundraising efforts. It made all my meandering around the Atlantic ocean worthwhile. Not to mention the appreciation of a local community in Cambodia who will be receiving a bridge to help them traverse their landscape. I'll be moving those funds around to get it to Oxfam over the next week. Thank you so much to Tony for watching my back on the weather, as well as sponsoring my voyage with Commanders Weather text and verbal updates. Especially big thanks for his researching my friend Eddie the eddy, who had me in his clutches for three whole days. Tony sent through the eddy centre coordinates and radius, as well as confirming my thoughts on its rotation, so I could get out of the damn thing. Thank you also to Crusty, Adam and Lenseman, as well as all the others that didn't provide names but sent through regular weather reports.

Thank you to everyone who sent messages. I received over 250 SMS's via the satellite phone, which was a highlight of the morning when I checked them. Lots of encouragement, jokes, cricket scores, weather and silly comments I unfortunately couldn't reply to! A lot of people sent messages without a name, so if you did, please email me so I can reply. And a big thanks to Marty for managing the website in my absence. None of this is properly automated, so all those updates were manually put up by Marty after receiving voicemail's from me. So many people are supporting me, it warms the cockles of my heart; it's unbelievable.

I will be at the 79th St Boat basin, this Saturday the 28th. If there are any people out there that would like to see my beaten up boat, you're welcome to come down! I hope to be there about 1pm.

Anchored, New Jersey Anchored, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. Photos

So, that took a while. 28 days. 2 days less than an Atlantic crossing. Wow.

When I said I thought it would take 21 days, that was worst case scenario. I secretly hoped I would do it in 16-17 days... A friend said they knew someone who did the voyage in 29 days, which I thought was a bit drastic. How wrong I was.

What an epic journey. Early on, I experienced a Tropical Wave (this is what can become a hurricane later in the year) on my second day out of Antigua, blowing through with perilous looking lightening and rough seas. I then spent a good part of one and a half weeks (all together) completely becalmed, or progressing at a snails pace. The NW winds blew smoke from fires in North Carolina all the way to my little boat in the middle of the Bermuda triangle. The fires created a ghost like haze, bright red sunsets, a stunning moon and gave electrical storms a horrifying hue. Constellation and I became the gold at the end of the rainbow, and experienced such amounts of rain, I thought we might have involuntarily become The Ark. A group of six birds followed me all the way to New York from the Caribbean, an enormous Dorado 'piloted' us for an full day on the bow, occasionally jumping out of the water like a Dolphin, before teasing the birds floating on my stern, by nipping at their feet. A school of Tuna nearly jumped onboard as I was switching to the storm jib in the very bumpy Gulf Stream, after which I received weather updates from an enormous cruise ship I had last seen in La Coruna.

I conversed with a Challenger 67 recently up from the ice pack in South America, who commented on the 'bumpy conditions in the Gulf Stream', to which I replied 'you should see what it feels like a boat a 3rd your size!'. The boom developed cracks, a reefing line snapped, and every change of wind direction required manually shifting the mainsail from side to side. When at last I thought I was on the home stretch, I became trapped in an eddy that spun me around for three days before there was enough wind to get out of it, and on my last day in its grip, I talked with the Newport-Bermuda race fleet, sailed in the vicinity of American Warship '68' conducting live cannon tests, heard the US coast guard report of an exploded sailing yacht near Rhode Island, a downed helicopter and of vessel on fire (I don't think they were connected to the warship tests!). Just 140nm out of New York, two squalls blew through with such force, we lay hove-to under a fully reefed mainsail, with windspeeds which may have topped all my other experiences. Entering into New York harbour, we were encapsulated in a fog which reduced visibility to not much further than my bow lights. Through the depths of fog, one could only hear pumping diesel engines, fog horns and gongs. I didn't see a single ship until I was in Sandy Hook, but I was constantly radioed asking to maintain course to avoid collision. There was never a dull day, I assure you!

Below is my daily log up until day 12.

Day 1

I didn't want to leave today. I tried to come up with excuses, but already I'm a day late, and everything is ready to. I motored to my favourite part of English harbour to finish packing things away, had my last Caribbean swim and pulled the dinghy on deck. This was the worst part of the day - Worse than pulling up the anchor. The dinghy is your last connection with land. I stowed it, and set the mainsail, to the applaud of a Catamaran full of Frenchmen. They asked where I was going next, and I shouted "New York City!", which was exciting to hear myself say out loud. They all clapped and and I bowed, before hauling the Genoa and exiting the harbour. Rounding the bottom of Antigua, I scared myself to death, with the crystal clear waters becoming "shallow", suddenly the bottom becoming visible. I thought I was about to hit a reef, but then realised the water was still over 30feet deep. I double checked my chart and continued on. A tanker from Venezuela came a little to close as I set my course North, after which I lay in my bunk, thinking about the long trip ahead.

Day 2

At 2am the reported Tropical Wave arrived. I tried to use this as an excuse not to leave, however it was a good opportunity to use the 40kts+ of windspeed to make good progress. An incredibly dark and ominous formation approached from the stern, and I put a reef in the mainsail quicksmart. In the distance I saw lightning, and worried about not having proper grounding equipment. I ended up reefing all the way down to the 3rd reef, leaving the jib up for speed. Within three hours it had gone, so I shook out the reefs, only to have a squall appear from nowhere 20 minutes later. I reefed back down, and by the time all this was over, the sun started to rise, and I'd hardly slept. The swell has remained from the nights weather, and we're bumping along.

Day 3

A gentle breeze propels us at a steady 4.5kts. I relish in our current rate of progress, but try not to get too excited, knowing the calms will come the further north I go. As Street says, calms are "A rule not an exception!". With only ten litres of fuel on board, I'll be at the mercy of wind statistics. The pilot chart indicates I'll be going through a belt of latitude which has a 15% chance of calms within any given month. I started fishing today in earnest, inspired by the pictures of what the Kon-Tiki expedition caught. And I'm hungry for something healthy, as all I have on board (thanks to the really, really bad and really really expensive supermarket in Antigua) is 20 packets of Ramen noodles, a bunch of plain pasta, bags of rice, four bags of flour, six packets of cookies and a bottle of chilli sauce. As a backup I have my bags of Gofi, which I bought in Las Palmas. Basically it's ground cereals, like flour, but very healthy. I hope I don't get down to that...

Day 4

Lots of squally activity overnight. The wind and rain constantly hammered through for 15 minutes, and then we'd be becalmed for another 20, the sails banging around overhead, windless. The breeze would then pick up again, and I'd have to reset Windy the Windpilot, and attempt to sleep. This continued right on until daybreak, however now things seem to have stabilised (it's 06:20). I made plaincakes (they're like pancakes, but with just flour and water), and listened to Crowded House. A tanker headed for Rotterdam skirted by my bow, and I had a conversation with the watch keeper. He was Bulgarian, and invited me to sail in the black sea! He also said the weather was fine, with a stable high pressure system overhead. He also said he couldn't see me on radar.

Day 5

I found a flying fish on deck (on my Atlantic crossing it was covered...) and tried to use it as bait, but the fish are too smart around these parts. The wind has decreased, but we're still doing a pleasant 3.5kts. I made plaincakes again, and wondered what to do with the day. Tradewind clouds are banked on the eastern horizon, with lofty cirrostratus formations overhead. I was reading Miles Smeeton and listening to my MP3 player, but it's just cut out for the third time, and I sincerely hope it l lasts to NYC - I'll go mad without music... I'll be stuck with Christian Radio on shortwave. The cabin is sweltering by 10am, and I dump water over the boat in an attempt to keep it cool, however this pen is still slippery with sweat. It may only be the 5th day, and while we are slowing down as the Trades drop out, this is the best sailing I've done. I'm very happy about everything; you could take away the land I wouldn't be too displeased (until my cookies ran out, of course). At 17:40 sailing yacht 'Eternity', under the American ensign sailed past - We spoke briefly, she was on route to Europe via Bermuda/Azores. After she sailed past, the wind picked up for the night, and we're doing a perfect 4kts.

Day 6

For the first time, maybe in my life, I don't want to be doing anything else: What's here, what's now, is finally enough. And it's funny, because what's around me is on the one hand, a complete void, yet this nothingness is rich in everything. As if nothing were everything, and vice versa. It's taken nearly 11,000km's and over 250 days en route for this feeling to arise, and I think it was worth every terrifying, frustrating and difficult moment (of which there were many)t. I know this won't last; it's a passing occurrence, but a worthy one no less.

Day 7

I was kept up all night running to and from my bed to the cockpit, as a series of squalls blew through, rocketing us forward, and then spitting us out without a lick of wind. I didn't really feel like sleeping last night anyway, so I didn't mind so much being awake. I tried to read for a while, and to coerce a few miles out of the ever-lessening wind. We're almost back up to 27degrees north, which is in line with the Canary Islands, the point of departure for my Atlantic crossing. Here is where the Trades begin to disappear, and we approach the 'variable zone'. It's still very much enjoyable out here, however I do look forward to living in a big city again. I haven't seen a movie since August of last year, and poor Constellation needs some dedicated tending to. What an incredible journey for a nearly stock-standard boat from 1972. Jeremy Rogers certainly built an exceptional little boat. There is so little wind right now, we're doing 2kts, sometimes less. I won't motor, and couldn't even if I wanted. The wind is veering slowly to the south west, which is nice because it cools the cabin, and makes the day much more bearable. It's hard to keep the sails filled at this angle, so we are heading more north towards Bermuda than New York.

Day 8

Very light and contrary winds. Over the past 18hrs we've only done 40nm. I am working hard to keep us moving, bu there si only so much I can do. I can hear the swish of Sargasso seaweed (?), as Constellation creeps over it. From our current position, it's 290nm to Bermuda, and 890nm to new York The sea has lost some of its warmth; I suspect it will also begin to lose its incredible shade of blue soon as well. By mid-morning, torrents of rain screamed down from the low clouds, reducing visibility to a few hundred metres. It created the most amazing sound against the sea, and produced more rain than I've ever seen in my life. I jumped outside with a bar of soap, and had an impromptu shower, filling bucket after bucket from the scuppers or the dripping boom. The rain was cold, and I shivered outside waiting for the sun to return and dry me out. As I waited, a great sign of biblical proportions appeared before my eyes: With a light drizzle, the sun penetrated the grey, and created a rainbow, which through the wonders of optics and illusion, ventured right to the very port side of Constellation: The little red sloop and I, in the heart of the Bermuda triangle, had seemingly become the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! I've never witnessed anything like that before.

As the storm cleared, I tried to get Constellation going again. While I was adjusting the boom, I noticed two cracks. I moved the mainsheet to the end of the boom, and have been running it off of cleats on the port and starboard side, near the pulpit. With every tack, or every change in the mainsail, I have to manually swap over the sheet, and also be very careful not to encourage the crack any further... I was scared of the damage, and spent two days with a reefed mainsail. It seemed the cracks were 'stable', and went back to full sail whenever needed.

Day 9

Lots of electrical activity last night - I managed to cobble together enough parts to ground both backstays to Windy the Windpilot. I doubt grounding has any real effect - If you're hit, I think that's it. At around 2am, winds steadied, and checks throughout the night had us doing a good 4.5kts. This morning we're still maintaining our speed, which has made my day. There is nothing worse than dribbling along at 1.5kts with the sailings flogging overhead. Our course is directly to Bermuda, with 200nm to go. I have no intention of stopping, but I'm sailing in the vicinity because of the wind direction, and also because it is quicker for me to hop in if I need to. I'll get a weather update tomorrow, and then if I must, I'll stop, but I really don't want to. I can feel it getting ever so slightly cooler in the evenings. For the first time in what could be months, I might have to start wearing pants!

Day 10

The foresail woke me up, banging around, and I looked out of the port window to see were were utterly becalmed. After yesterdays run, I thought we'd latched onto some reasonably steady wind, but apparently that was only wishful thinking. We're now 135nm from bermuda - That's a good 24 hour run for us... However it really just seems to be the carrot on the end of the stick, forever just in front of me: And we're not even stopping there! As New York is the goal, I can't stop thinking about what on earth I'm going to do when I get there. Since the Canary Islands, NY has been my port of rest, yet I don't want to stop.... I have to keep going! But to where!? Canada? For the past 9hrs, we've been doing less than 2kts; I've been glancing at the clock only to see 45mins has past, and it's too hot to read. Ransacking the boat for something nice to eat yields absolutely nothing, except a packet of raisins from Lisbon. Some hours I want to go into Bermuda just to get a bar of chocolate. I wish I had a 'secret' stash onboard.

Day 11

I called Commanders Weather today, and the outlook is not so great. Very little wind, and what little wind there is, will be coming from the north west (where I need to go). With this news, I began motoring to Bermuda. After four hours, I realised how futile it was, for a 10hp engine to be motoring in the open ocean: It's just not enough power to make any headway. I killed the motor and scrapped Bermuda off the plan. In the afternoon a silly bird grabbed my trolling line, and I had to haul it in, and unhook it. Thankfully it was ok, and the hook hadn't drawn blood, rather the bird was just tangled.

Day 12

I'm pointing directly into a choppy swell, doing 1.5kts. The wind is from the north, veering north east, and I'm sailing away from Bermuda. I really don't want to stop. It's 21:00 now, and while we're still slamming, I can almost get Constellation on a decent tack towards NY. I hope on Monday we get some west wind, or I can get enough latitude to find these mysterious WSW winds which are supposed to frequent the area... Commanders reports they won't start until 35deg north!

nick.

Off to NYC, Fundraising, Oceanwatch

(Note: I am currently at sea, and there will be no blog posts until New York. Positions and messages will however be updated, and can be viewed on the new dedicated Latest Updates page, or from the homepage. You can now send me an SMS if you feel like it from the SMS page.)

Wow, after less than a month in the Antilles, I'm heading back into higher latitudes, to New York City! It's a long voyage, of 1552nm in a direct line from Antigua, which is over half my Atlantic crossing, a trip I seemingly just completed yesterday. With the fluky winds predicted, I expect it to also take nearly as long as my Atlantic voyage, at roughly 21 days. I'm carrying very limited diesel due to cost, so this leg will be under 99% pure sail.

Special thanks to my new American friends David and Tony - David has been 'rooting for me' (see, I'm American already!) in New York, making contacts and giving a lot of moral support. Tony has generously sponsored this part of my trip with Commanders Weather forecasting to keep me safe, and as of today the weather looks good, but rather light on the winds. Better too little wind than too much though, right? Thanks guys, see you soon!

As I have decided to skip Bermuda (unless directed that way due to bad weather or some other reason) and go non-stop, this meets the criteria for my fundraising efforts, which I vowed to attempt on all legs over 1000nm. On my Atlantic voyage I attempted to raise $675 to build bridges in Cambodia, however I was just $275 short of my target. I would like to resurrect that goal, and raise the remaining money on this part of my trip.

I would also like to raise awareness for Oceanswatch, an organisation that "in close co-operation with the world's yachting and diving communities, undertakes marine conservation projects and offers humanitarian aid to coastal communities in developing countries." I'd like to raise awareness for Oceanswatch for two reasons: Firstly, because it's a wonderful cause (that's fairly obvious), and secondly, because another historic Contessa 26 voyage is about to begin in the Atlantic Ocean by Stéphane Tremblay of Canada. From the beginning of his Peaceful Journey project, Stéphane has been supporting Oceanswatch, and I very much liked the idea of two Contessa's battling it out in the Atlantic to support such a wonderful cause together. I therefore urge you to take a look at the Oceanswatch website, and think about donating or becoming a member. Bon voyage Stéphane, safe (peaceful)journey, and see you in the Pacific!

That's it from us and the beautiful Caribbean!

Antigua Constellation, Antigua

nick.

St Lucia, Visa's, Interviews

Before leaving Barbados, I met Norman on the beach as I rowed in. A diplomat of sorts for Guyana and local journalist, he was intrigued about my trip, and did a small interview onboard for the Caribbean Compass newspaper - So, if you find a copy over the next few months, maybe I'll be in it! As scheduled, I left for St Lucia, with my Australian passport in the hands of the US embassy, to be posted on to the Castries DHL office. I think I mentioned the trip from Barbados was only 67nm, which was a mistake. I had punched in the northern most waypoint given by a 2006 St Lucia Imray chart, without first plotting it to get an idea of the distance, and it read 67nm... When I did do a proper sail plan, I plotted the waypoints and noticed the provided waypoint was a printing mistake, with the true distance being 104nm! I was a little disappointed at the mistake, having timed my journey based on the first figure. Nevertheless, I left anyway at 5pm, hoping I could arrive in under 24 hours, so I wouldn't be stuck anchoring in the dark, or without customs clearance.

Little happened on the trip across, except a strange vessel mid-way that was lit up like a Christmas tree. It was at anchor, but showed no signs of life other than the vast array of lights. Headed straight for it, Merv the Mer-Veille, (a new addition to Constellation) picked up the vessel several miles out. I failed to mention that just before I left Las Palmas, and one of the reasons I was a few days late in leaving, was because I received a generous present from my Uncle, which performed really well across the Atlantic. Merv picked up several vessels I'd missed doing visual checks, and picked up all the ships I'd seen myself along the way. It's not a fail-safe means to just going to sleep all night without looking around, but it does give an added sense of security. And if it's good enough for all the French singlehanders, it's good enough for me!

Constellation also seemed a little confused on the trip, thinking she was a catamaran, because we flew the entire way! Past Deep Water harbour in Barbados, a ferry was about to cross the Atlantic, with a few passengers waving to me in the distance, as I seemingly headed back into my old habits of sailing towards the setting sun. I was a little queasy with seasickness, but munched on a stick of ginger I had, and lay in my bunk as we averaged 5.5kts to Rodney Bay:

While the above anchorage is rather pretty, I decided to stay in the inner lagoon, as there was quite a wind blowing, and my anchor setup is less than perfect. Also not having an outboard makes it hard to row around in the bay itself, especially when the wind is up. I'm quite certain I could be the only person in the entire Caribbean still out here paddling about with oars... I try hard to pretend I'm an old tough fisherman from Maine with steely arms, as I slowly venture past the charter boats and other assorted expensive vessels in the lagoon, but I'm only kidding myself. The charter catamarans are the worst, with 20 beautiful people from Martinique, drinking rum punch with a pumping stereo, waving to the guy rowing into 25kts of wind.

Constantly nervous about the rusty 6mm chain on my anchor, I splurged on buying 35ft of new 8mm chain from the local chandlery. It was all I could afford, and less than adequate, but it's better than what I have, and the idea of dragging backwards into an expensive boat gives me nightmares. I'd have to sell up to pay for the damage.

Thanks to Matt & Karen aboard S/V Where II, I received some new photos of me departing Las Palmas to cross the Atlantic - Thanks guys!

A few more on the photos page.

Tomorrow I hope my Visa will have arrived from Barbados, and so I'll keep trucking north, possibly on Tuesday or Wednesday. Martinique is around 25miles (but don't quote me!) so I think I'll stop there for a day or two on route. I have some housing difficulties back in Berlin, with a suprise bill from the electricity company I'm trying to sort out, before it drains every last penny I have, and I have to start selling Guava from my dinghy...

nick

Fundraising, Days 15-30

Thank you very kindly to all the supporters of my Bridge Project, I really appreciate it (as does Oxfam Australia). I don't quite have enough to purchase a bridge, but there is still lots that can be done with the money at the Oxfam Unwrapped store - So I'll transfer the money out and go on a charity shopping spree in the next few days. Across the Atlantic I had no idea if I'd raised more than $50, and thought the idea might fizzle, however I was happily suprised! Thank you once again. The two podcasts that went AWOL when the site went down (days 24 and 30) can be played here:

Day 24 Day 30

I have a few photos on my Photos page, however as I said, my camera broke pretty early on - I have a video camera on loan from Jack, which I took some photos with, but it's really for video, not for stills!


A regular but sorry sight! Kamikaze flying fish on deck


Also a fairly regular sight - Line squalls.


Windy the Windpilot, rocking it for 2700nm across the Atlantic. Look Ma, no hands!


The last photo is at Port St Charles, Barbados, at the clearance dock for immigration/customs and health. You can't tell, but there was swell surging around the breakwater, and poor Constellation was being crushed. I put tons of lines on after that photo, and high-tailed it out of there to the anchorage after the paperwork was done with.

Check the few other photos I have (but I have tons of video, although I don't have a fast enough computer to extract it!!) here.

And last but not least, are the the days from 15 - 30 of my crossing. As I said earlier, the quotes are from books I was reading at the time.:

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Day 16

I.am.bored.

"We seem to be born to be dissatisfied" -Steiner

Day 17

Felling a little stir crazy and impatient now, with still at least 12 days to go, assuming wind stays as is. Thinking way too much... It's impossible to stop all this mental junk coming into your head and invading your thoughts. On land you can distract yourself. Here there is nothing, but to battle it in an mental arena. Except *I* (or is it the id?) always lose...! Days, nights and weeks are all one. Or none. I ate jelly beans for breakfast.

"God growed us up till we could wear long pants, then he licensed his name to dollar bills, left some car keys on the table, and got the fuck outta town... Don't be lookin up at the sky for no help. Look down here, at us twisted dreamers." -DBC Pierre

Day 18

I found some old cough drops in my jacket pocket. I don't have a cough, but they taste good. The first tanker I've seen in two weeks steamed past today, and was picked up by the radar detecter. We did 125nm today.

"Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of the years, spend every minute of their lives travelling" -Basho

Day 19

Hairy sail change at dawn... At least the water is warm now, because I got an involuntary shower, the bow dunking heavily. But the boat is happier now, not have so much canvas up. Swell is annoyingly choppy, and we are doing 5.5kts under my smallest Jib (one before Storm jib). I would be intrigued to know exactly what speed the wind is at the moment... We did 135nm today (our record).

"We live as we dream; alone" -Joseph Conrad

Day 20

Very bad day. Squall, then contrary winds. Boat rolling around like crazy. Curled up in my bunk, bracing myself with knees and back just to hold me still. It's difficult to explain, but there is this little thing underneath your psyche out here all the time, which is silently aware that some things are just chance. No matter how good you are at sailing, there is always the possibility you will be hit with bad luck, and this is a thing that goes over in your mind out here when you're alone. You suppress it 99% of the time, but today, I guess I weakened up. I feel like crying, Ellen McArthur style, but what I'm doing is nothing in comparison so I don't. Much'o extra respect for her.

"See, it's a brave man that weeps!" (Starbuck exclaims to Ahab) -Melville

Day 21

Three weeks. Two more ships picked up on the radar detector. Today I feel much better. We're still rolling a lot, but that's life. My noodles are balanced on a washboard, on my lap. I raised more sail to ensure we did the minimum 120nm/day quota. I think we are in good shape to make landfall in eight days. Night fell with an ominous squally horizon. Reduced sail just before dark.

Day 22

Increased sail this morning, and cleaned the deck of flying fish. Man, they get everywhere! Today is as was yesterday, as was the day before, yet one day closer to land....

"I've neer been lonely. I've been in a room. I've felt suicidal. I've been depressed. I've felt awful beyond all, but I've never felt that one other person, could enter that room and make a difference. In other words, loneliness is something I've never been bothered with, because I've always had this terrible itch for solitude." -Charles Bukowski

Day 23

I have a bit of a sore throat today, which I suspect is the result of 23 days of bad food. The wind died down a bit today... Argh! I'm not sure if we'll do our 120nm today. I found a rusty old can of tinned Tesco Rice Pudding in the caverness depths of Constellations storage crannies. Great day! The Genoa is flogging in the light airs. This annoys me.

"No, I must lie alone Till it comes for me; Till it takes the sky, the sand And the lonely sea." -Thomas Pynchon

Day 24

Woke up again with a sore throat. I also feel tired. Rummaging around I managed to find a bottle of expired vitamin C tablets. I overdosed. Last night a flying fish some how landed in the cabin, and buzzed around the floor. I was asleep, and dreamt of short circuiting wires. All of a sudden I realised it was a localised sound, and thought the boat was short circuiting! And then I looked down to see a smelly fish on the floor - Still flapping, I picked it up with the frying pan and hurled it out the door. I estimate the wind to be blowing F3 now. This is frustrating, because it's consistent, and I'm concerned we've simply hit the belt of light-airs. But, it's a perfect sunny day, and the swell is much less, so I can't really complain.

Day 25

We have really slowed down now... Doing around 90nm/day. Some parts of the day I am frustrated by this, others I'm non-plussed. The only problem is, I'm really running out of nice things to eat! ('Nice' being a relative term...!)

"Without serious storms my small ship of fate sailed through the sea of life; and if on the occasion it took the wrong course, then providential navigation steered it back in the right direction". Xaver Scharwenka

Day 26

Ok, now speed is really frustrating me a lot. Forget the zen stuff, I'm fucking annoyed. I decided to try out a goosewing configuration with the rig, which all up took 35 minutes to put up, including the time to dismantle my previous setup. I smashed my elbow raising the mainsail, and it's bleeding and really hurts. I jumped around on deck yelling profanities for quite some time, remembering soon after my sore throat. Which is worse now. Finally up, it turned out to be useless. The swell simply kicks the boat sideways, and we gybe. I thought maybe we'd get away with it, but no... I should have trusted my instincts. Now I have to put everything back. We're doing a whopping 3kts, and now the wind keeps changing, so the windvane sends us off course. Already three squalls have blown over, leaving behind a windshadow, and rain. I suspect it's these squalls hovering around that have been playing with the wind. Every morning I have such a feeling of urgency, and glancing at the GPS 'To Go' field makes me furious at our slow progress. However, by mid to late-afternoon, my anger subsides, and I don't really care if we have another 1000nm's to go. Mornings are for impatient youth/evenings for more gentlemanly thoughts/and aspirations.

"Let others bemoan the maliciousness of their age. What irks me, is its pettiness, for ours is an age without passion... My life comes out all one colour." -Kierkegaard

Day 27

At our current pace we'll be in Barbados within three nights! Why am I complaining about progress again!? It won't be long before I start feeling nostalgic about this whole voyage... A tanker steamed past me last night on the starboard side. I gave it a solute and went back to bed. As you know I always salute cardinal buoys for guiding me away from dangers - As such, tankers should be thanked, for not running you down! It's hot in here... I spent the afternoon listening to Jeff Bucky bootlegs.

"Waiting for joyous tomorrows, is what kills joyous todays." Raoul Vaniegem

Day 28

Closer, closer! It's Friday, we'll be in port by Sunday. I know it. I feel i'll be stuck on the boat till Monday though due to customs clearance... Maybe I'll sneak ashore though, during the night, just to make sure a place to stand that doesn't pitch and roll actually exists.

"Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very edge of despair." -Bertrand Russel

Day 29

I was hoping to break the 30 day barrier by arriving today, but I still have 24hours to go! Nevermind. I'm so happy, I virtually done it... It's strange though, I don't feel particularly excited, or even anxious right now. I guess now I'm just so used to being out here...

"For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure." -Emerson

Day 30

Wow, it's done. I arrived at 14:10 in Port St Charles. I docked on the fuel birth, and stood on land. It was an incredibly odd feeling. I had to see Customs, Immigration and Health before being allowed back on my boat... I went out and anchored in Six Mans Bay. The water is warm, there are kids playing on the beach, the sand is white, and I just can't believe it. How beautiful; great day.

"The concept of freedom has two aspects; the first concerns the individual, who is free to do as he pleases; the second, more important, has to do with sharing the fruit of our free actions with others." -Lucrezia De Domizio Durini

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nick.