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, 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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!