Home Page - englishHome Page - italiano








Saturday 17th: departure for the Atlantic crossing!

According to forecasts, we will have very light winds for the first 4 or 5 days: presumably we will follow a course along the African coast towards the Cape Verde islands, until the trade winds will show up again.

See you in Antigua!



We left Lanzarote last saturday in a flat calm, and the first 2 days we mostly motored down along the African coast, staying offshore to avoid meeting unlighted fishing boat, nets, clandestine immigrants' boats, whatever!

We had no choice of route, as a depression to the west is giving contrary winds and therefore we go south hoping to meet the Trade Winds before reaching the Cape Verde islands.

Little problem, this route is 300 miles longer than the direct rhumb-line.

After two days motoring and few hours with a nice favourable wind which then died down, we now have a light...contrary wind!!








TWO DAYS TACKING against a very light wind and a current which was against us whatever tack we were doing!...

Just to make things more interesting, we also had some very large FOG banks! Very thick fog, with maybe 100 meters of visibility, in an area where there are a lot of ships...not funny!!

This morning, flat calm again!! The boats ahead of us (almost all the fleet...) say they have no wind as well, while those at the head of the fleet have finally reached the Trades and are cannonballing away towards the Caribbean.

We proceed motoring, in the hope to find the wind before we finish the fuel, which would force us to make a stop for refueling in the Cape Verde islands, not a thought we relish!



Last night, flat calm, we surrendered and motored the whole night, consuming the last fuel that we were prepared to use at this stage of the crossing.

Before dark, Baby says "why don't we start the watermaker while the engine is running?".

Said, done.

Well, almost!! to start the darned thing, you must prime the water pump, which means filling its pipes with seawater, and to do that you must detach the pipes from somewhere in the bowels of the boat. we finally manage to do it, and the thing starts and even produces dubious-flavoured water.

When we decide it's enough (this thing has an electricity consumption which is comparable with downtown Manhattan!! 20 Amps!!) we turn the taps on the "flushing" position (yes, the thing must be flushed with fresh water after each use) a new surprise: the flushing does not work, and after a first examination it turns out that two pipes have been reverted by the yard when they installed the thing!!
No way to fix it now, there is a bulkhead between the two reverted pipes, and now the boat is ROLLING heavily.

Ok,<we can still use the watermaker to produce water, as long as we do it almost daily, we will fix it for good in Antigua.

Darkness comes, and in the flat sea a new phenomenon: a surface plancton, highly phosphorescent, which lights of a bright, green-blue light the edge of our bow-wave: it looks like we have two "V" shaped neon-lights starting from our bows!

Later, the "normal" plancton comes back giving the more usual luminescence to our wake, but also this time with a variance: blobs of light which literally "explode" like miniature depth-charges after our passage! Pim, pum, badabam!!!

Next morning, a bit of favourable wind at last! We can "turn the corner" and head west, towards a point at 20 degrees north, 30 degrees west which is where Trade Winds are supposed to be: it's 600 miles away, just a short trip!!

Despite what the forecast says, the sky is cloudy and sometimes it rains for few minutes.

Antigua, first road to the right!!!



I want my money back! The brochure was not mentioning short, steep waves which make you roll 90, neither of irregular wind which is changing strength and direction every few minutes and certainly was not mentioning the fact that the sky is permanently cloudy with rain every half an hour!!

We have not understood how much this is typical of the Trade Wind belt, or if this is just a common depression which is stationary over our heads and does not want to go away. The fact that the daily weather forecasts sent by the Rally organisation talk of "dry and sunny" weather does not help much as well.

Yesterday morning, I was sitting in the cockpit, staring in the distance with the empty look of one who slept two hours in the whole night, when I perceive something jumping out of the water in the distance; I focus my stare, and here it is again: a dolphin, taking advantage of the waves to do very long jumps out of the water, at least ten meters long and staying in the air for several seconds, sometimes he even turns belly-up during the flight and falls back in the water back-first. He is obviously doing it for fun, we are too far from him to be doing it to show-up with us.

He repeats the stunt several times, then runs to join a group of comrades to ride our bows and do the usual tricks that, by comparison, are pretty lame; we barely look at them (did I say we had had very little sleep, didn't I?).

We continue sailing, this morning we passed the first 1000 miles and the fact that there are still 2000 more to go does not help much with our morale, but in reality everything is more or less ok and we are in good shape: like two war machines!!



Clouds, still a lot of clouds, it's officially a depression that may, just may start moving west and get out of the way. In the meantime, rain and changeable wind which requires continuous sail trimming.

In the early morning, Baby has been slapped in the face by a flying fish: she picked it up and threw it back in the sea: will he survive? Tough, I believe!
Later, we found another one dead on deck: why do they fly at night?

The day was proceeding normally when we decided to run the watermaker: after a while I go to check, and there is no output: we start checking and after a while we find out that:
a) a pipe has disconnected between the pump and the watermaker, and
b) the bilges are full of seawater!!

In fact, the watermaker's high-pressure pump was merrily sinking us!!

4 hours to take everything out of the bilges in a rolling boat, pumping out the water and cleaning everything, and now we are roughly back to normal.

Speaking of normality, the night is expected to be squally!



Well yes, we are halfway through, we still have to go 1492 miles (1492, just like the year of the discovery of the Americas, let's hope this is a good omen!!)

Today we did not have rain, although there are still a lot of clouds. Those ahead of us have bad weather and little wind.

The fleet is now very spread, we are at 35 west and the first ones are at 46, that is about 600 miles ahead; some are even behind us and have serious trouble at connecting by radio, especially in the morning.

A curiosity: today we crossed paths with two other sailboats, one was going towards Margarita island (Venezuela) and the other looked like they were going to Brasil: three boats, with three entirely different routes, meeting in the middle of the ocean and passing by the crossing point almost simultaneously!...

Being halfways means that we may take another 12 days to arrive!! there is no time to get bored, and in case there are the little domestic accidents to keep you busy: this time, a milk bottle which toppled up inside the refrigerator!...











No sightings, neither whales nor dolphins and last night not even flying fishes, while we continue to see birds, this far from land.



Night spent running with a wind which, for a change, was reasonably constant and allowing us to sail on course!!

Yes right, not 20 degrees more north, nor 20 degrees more south, but ON COURSE!! It does not even look like we are on Shaula!!

This morning, we pay the price: a very heavy rainsquall, lasting about 20 minutes, with wind up to 40 knots and both of us soaking wet.

We have been passed by a large motor-yacht: crowded, this part of the ocean!!

Now we are sailing full-speed, with the customary north-easterly wind, and we just passed the boundary of 600 miles to arrival: Rum-punches, wait for us!!



Eh yes, horrendous day, a rainstorm after another, it looked like Brittany!!

Then, all of a sudden, at dusk the sky cleared and we found ourselves in a hole with clouds all around but a starry sky above!

There was just one thing missing: wind!

We decided to motor for a few hours, continuously asking ourselves "will the fuel be enough?", but at dawn the wind came and now we are doing 5 knots under mainsail and genoa. We could hoist the gennaker, but we are waiting after the radio roll-call of 10 o'clock.

Still 350 miles to Antigua!!!



Lucky as we are, there is a depression almost stationary over the Caribbean!!

Anyway, still 250 miles to go, rain or not rain we are approaching our destination!!










OLGA, yes, Olga: the bad weather which is annoying us since two weeks has made up its mind and has started moving west under the name of "Subtropical Storm OLGA".

Not to worry, we are BEHIND the storm, not AHEAD of it, which would be an entirely different situation! presently, we have 25 Knots of wind and rather tall waves, and we are running full speed!!








Still 125 miles to go, only problem is that we will arrive in the middle of the night so we may have to slow down or anchor outside the Harbour, but anyway tomorrow we will be in Jolly Harbour, Antigua!!

I believe we will sleep for 3 days.....




Webmaster: Gianfranco Balducci - email: gfbalduc@tin.it

Last Update: 21/09/2014

The Shaula4 website (text and images) by Gianfranco Balducci is licensed under a
 Creative Commons by-nc-nd/3.0/ Attribution - Non commercial - No derivative works 3.0 Unported License