Temptress Does the Atlantic – Day 1

Wednesday 12 February – the Skipper and Joe made a run ashore to check boat

and crew out, retrieve the boat papers from the port captain, purchase some

provisions, a gas bottle refill and a can of diesel. Meanwhile Paul and I

(the naviguesser) got the boat ready for sea. The fleshpots of Mindelo such

as they are (poor food, pleasant art and craft galleries, beer at European

prices and a taxi tour of the island) did not outweigh the gusting windiness

of the anchorage which at times necessitated leaving at least one crew on

board to mind the boat. We'd all rather be at sea.

Around 11 am the hook came up, a major task as Temptress skitted first one

way then the other round her chain in the strong gusts sweeping down the

anchorage from the hills surrounding Mindelo. It was as if the trade winds

piled up on the other side then rushed over together. By noon we had the

main up with the third reef and were motor sailing out picking our way

between the anchored wrecks and charging the batteries as the sun was

partially obliterated by the large amount of Sahara in the air. Out in the

channel between the islands a strong current heading south and almost gale

force winds as the Trades were funnelled between the two islands mountainous

countryside. We could hardly see Santo Antao opposite. Once clear south of

the land Temptress set a course for Grenada with the watermaker running for

several hours to half replenish tank 2.

The seas were rough and confused with all the streams round the islands

often knocking the wind literally out of the sails. Then below Santo Antao

the western most of the islands Temptress was almost becalmed in the lee of

its mountains despite not being able to see more than a ghostly outline

through the dust of the hamrattan. Lunch (salami and tomato sandwiches) came

and went. The wind gradually increased, it was a wet and bumpy ride with the

north easterly trade on our beam – we are rapidly realising that dodgers

along the guard rails either side of the cockpit could be a good idea in

this sort of sailing. Waves hit the topsides , rose upwards to be blown down

on to hapless crew (mostly Joe).

The skipper preferring to be sailing more downwind queried our course of 277

deg which is slightly north of West; why aren't we heading south? Surely

grenada is south of here? It is but only by some 3 or 4 degrees over 2163 nm

so the angle is shallow about 260 but here in the N Atlantic the magnetic

variation is huge 10 deg about the Cape Verdes increasing to 17 or 18

degrees as we venture west before decreasing a little on the western side.

266 + 10 = 276 degrees ie our compass course will be slightly north of west

but our true course will actually be less. Things will improve as the great

circle route from the Cape Verdes gradually has us turning south as we

approach the half way mark. A yacht was spotted heading in the opposite

direction towards Mindelo, sails down, motoring through the steep seas and

pitied those on board.

We were pleased that we had cooked supper yesterday as conditions in the

galley even simply reheating chicken in a tasty tomato sauce and boiling

some pasta bows was a major effort for the appointed galley slave (me). The

work surfaces pitched and rolled, nothing stayed still for an instance and

using two hands for any task impossible, one was always needed to steady the

chef. However an inspired improvement wrought before we left Mindelo of two

pieces of non-slip matting across the top of the fridge/coolbox surface was

helpful in keeping smaller items in place as the increasing breeze began to

gust F7 at times.

A new night at sea and a new watch rota; the old one was companionable with

two crew on together but the four hour stints difficult to keep awake

through. The new system has one person per two hour watch meaning stretches

of six hours per night in a bunk for the off watch. I took the first watch

7-9 whilst Joe opted not to go to bed for two hours so we sat and chatted

under a full moon. It was an uneventful night, nothing on the VHF, no

shipping and few stars due the brightness of the moon, just one dolphin

moment and one instance of George deciding it was all to much and going

abruptly to standby mode unrequested much to the confusion of the watch who

initially thought the wind had gone forward and sprang to adjust the sails

before realising Temptress was rounding up due to lack of autohelm. AS we

put distance between us and the Cape Verdes the wind moderated a bit to F4-5

gusting 6 and the seas became a little less confused.

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