Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

Atlantic Crossing Part 2

DAY 10: Wind increased to 20-25 knots before sunrise so dropped mainsail and Fathom ran on happily with staysail flying out to port and partially furled yankee poled out to starboard. Around 07:00 the AIS signal of a yacht named ‘Venture Lady’ appeared. We had a chat on the VHF and it turns out she is the bigger sister of Fathom – a Vancouver 36 from the UK. Venture Lady quickly caught up from astern and sailed alongside for several minutes. Was quite surreal having a chat with another boat face to face and a Vancouver get together mid Atlantic. A good opportunity to take photos and video of each other too.  Later in the day after sunset a large passenger ship called ‘Berlin’ passed a few miles to the north also bound for Bridgetown. The watch officer called me up for a chat and we spent about 20 minutes having a natter. He surprisingly offered to give me the ships internet wifi password which I could have picked up for a few minutes if I sailed a couple miles closer! Amazingly sociable day mid ocean. Daily run 129nm

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DAY 11: Moved the boats clock back another hour today as past 45 degrees west. Especially nice sunrise this morning and I grabbed the camera for a few shots. Weather much more humid and by 20.00 it had become quite squally. Wind up around 27 knots after dark but Fathom continues to make good progress under staysail and partially furled yankee. Baked some more bread which turned out much better than the previous attempt. One large wave disturbed the tray containing the eggs this afternoon the result being my last half dozen have cracked. Sadly that means no more cake. Daily run 122nm.

DAY 12: Tired today as didn’t get much sleep last night. Fathom travelled through a fairly potent area of disturbance with frequent squalls requiring sail area to be quickly reduced. The squall clouds always approach from the east and the wind typically goes from 15 knots before the cloud to 25 knots plus as the rain hits. I tend  to use the radar to look for the squalls which works well and allows more time to prepare. Around 03:00 conditions became fairly wild with the wind constantly over 35 knots for a couple of hours the highest gust I noted 40.5 knots. The sea became very confused with waves from the north combining with the swell from the E.N.E. Fathom sailed on comfortably under staysail alone but a few times she surfed down some big waves which was a little too exciting. Conditions not much better through the day but my appetite remained and a large pan of carbonara was cooked for dinner. Despite the wind and sea state I feel good and comfortable. Daily run 123nm.

DAY 13: By 05.00 this morning wind had moderated so hoisted mainsail again. At 07.00 a squall approached with 30 knots wind so dropped mainsail. Mainsail raised again at 07.30 as wind down to 15 knots. Another squall hits just before 08.00 so mainsail dropped etc etc. This becomes quite frustrating after a while as the boat goes too slowly between the squalls if sail area isn’t increased.  This pattern continued throughout the day before the wind dropped to 9 knots by sunset and I pulled in the tow generator. Managed to get some sun sights between the showers. A few more episodes of Breaking Bad on the laptop. Watching this is becoming guilty pleasure of the trip. Daily run 110nm.

DAY 14: During the night I heard a thump above my head and a flapping sound for several minutes. After going on deck to investigate I saw a fairly large flying fish which I took pity on and threw back over the side.  Baked another loaf of bread this morning which turned out to be the best yet. Tried to finish watching the last series of Breaking Bad because it had become so addictive but in doing so ran the boats batteries down by having the laptop on too long. Forced to deploy tow generator again.  Spent a couple hours before sunset trying new places to mount the go pro. Sea state much better today and the motion of the boat more comfortable. Finally a day of no squalls! Daily run 127nm.

DAY 15: Weather forecast suggests plenty of wind to push Fathom to Barbados with 20 to 25 knots expected for the next days. Surprisingly I feel in no great rush to make landfall and still enjoying being at sea. Despite racing the other boats have decided to slow down slightly so as to arrive in Barbados in daylight. At current rate of progress would arrive around 23.00 local time on the 19th. Most of the fresh food has been eaten or gone bad. Had to throw away the last two bananas. Thankfully don’t think scurvy is a threat. Onions and garlic last for ages as do the potatoes and sweet potatoes. Spent a couple of hours on deck after sunset stargazing which was most enjoyable. Daily run 125nm.

DAY 16: Confused sea arrived later in the night and Fathom is rocking and rolling all over the place. Makes any task in the cabin difficult. One particularly large wave hit just as I was pouring water from the kettle into the Aeropress to make my morning coffee and the whole lot ended up on the cabin sole with coffee granules ending up everywhere. Sailing at reduced speed of 4.5 knots under staysail alone in 25 knots wind.  While I was on deck after breakfast I noticed a dark shape in a wave behind the boat. For the next minutes it would disappear then reappear again and then all of a sudden a whale surfaced right next to the boat. For the next couple of hours it seemed transfixed with the tow generator which was spinning at the end of 30m rope behind the boat. The whale would then surf down inside the next big wave and dive under Fathom before surfacing alongside. I was completely transfixed watching it and also quite terrified it would hit the boat as I estimated it to be about 5m long. My initial thought was that it was a killer whale but I have since realised it was a fin whale – black top and white bottom. One of the most memorable moments of the trip for sure. Fred and Mel on Arwen arrived in Barbados today which is very fast passage indeed. Daily run 125nm. Today is Friday and aiming to arrive Bridgetown Monday morning.

DAY 17: Not a good nights sleep due to motion of the boat in the increasingly rough sea. I estimate the biggest waves to be between 5 to 6m. While I was asleep a particularly large wave hit the starboard quarter causing Fathom to lay right down on her port side. I later discovered the life belt which sits on the port side of the pushpit had been washed out of its holder and a lighter and a roll of electrical tape which sit below the window on the starboard side had fallen vertically down to a shelf on the port side of the boat rather than falling onto the floor. Thinking a bit more about landfall now. From the email correspondence Fathom appears to be about 150nm ahead of Sturmschwalbe and a day or so behind Hent-Eon and Ribouldingue.

DAY 18: Back to short 30 minute cat naps during the night as Fathom closed on Barbados. By 04.00 the lights of Bridgetown could be seen from the top of the waves. The squall clouds made a reappearance and the motion of the boat was again uncomfortable in the large waves. I had timed arrival to be just after sunrise and as Fathom rounded the southern point of Barbados another squall hit. Once this passed a double rainbow appeared which I took to be a piece of good luck and a good omen for arrival. As Fathom motored into the anchorage at Carlise bay I was called on the VHF by Andy on Venture Lady who had arrived a couple days before.  The anchor was dropped alongside Arwen, Hent-Eon and Ribouldingue, just as we had been 2,020 miles ago in Mindelo. I had crossed the Atlantic single handed in 16 days and 23 hours!

Posted on 25 Dec in: Atlantic Crossing (No Comments)

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