DAY 1: Fathom departed Mindelo today, 2nd December, at 14:36 UTC alongside Jan and Jule on Sturmschwalbe and Fred and Mel on Arwen. Hent-Eon and Ribouldingue still had to finish some preparations and leave tomorrow. Loveboat discovered a small leak around their steering gear and have had to put back their departure. A light wind initially pushed the boats down the channel between the islands of Sao Vicente and Santo Antao and we took the opportunity to photo and video each other. Sturmschwalbe roared into an early lead when they hoisted their spinnaker but it was hauled down swiftly when the wind rose to 20 knots a couple of miles later. As darkness descended the boats were just passing the end of Santo Antao and while I was down below cooking some dinner was unaware the wind had shifted 90 degrees. A slightly concerned Jule called me up on the VHF to let me know I was headed S.E and Barbados was due West. Sausages, potatoes and vegetables for dinner.
DAY 2: Deployed the tow generator at midday to ensure the batteries stay nicely topped up and the fridge can remain turned on 24/7. Played around with sail configurations and decided that the motion of the boat is better and there is less rolling when the staysail is hoisted on the inner forestay and pulled in hard with the yankee (foresail) poled out one side and a reefed mainsail on the other. Only have one pole so poling out two headsails is not really an option (boom is a poor substitute for a pole). Had a chat with both Arwen and Sturmschwalbe on the VHF during the afternoon and all are well. Daily run, noon to noon, of 125nm. Nicely hooked into the N.E tradewinds. Last night set the alarm at 30 minute intervals due to proximity to land but apart from the lights of Sturmschwalbe didn’t see any other vessels.
DAY 3: One big and several small flying fish on deck this morning. The big one went straight into the frying pan and was served on toast with a drizzle of lemon for breakfast. Struggled to get the boat balanced last night for some reason so was up on deck and out of my bunk frequently. Rather tired today as a result. Chat with Sturmschwalbe on the VHF this afternoon who appear to be 7 miles behind Fathom. Baked a cake which filled the boat with a very pleasant aroma. Daily run again 125nm.
DAY 4: Excellent nights sleep due to settled weather conditions. Stayed in bunk from 22:00 until 07.30 this morning. The AIS alarm should warn me if any large ships get close and I transmit an AIS signal too. I am able to connect the Ipad to the boats chartplotter through an app meaning I can stay in my bunk and check the AIS and boats heading. No substitute for a real look out on deck but when sailing alone and far out to sea away from shipping lanes I prefer to get as much sleep as I can when conditions allow. No longer in VHF contact with Sturmschwalbe or Arwen. Daily run of 115nm. Pulled in towgen before dark as wind had dropped to 10 knots and it was causing too much drag. I’m feeling nicely settled into life at sea and enjoying the trip so far. Gybed at 18.00 as wind had gone more easterly. Past 30 degrees west so put ships clock back 1 hour – now UTC -2. Cooked a kind of stew which will provide dinner for a couple of nights – potatoes, sweet potatoes, corned beef, tinned tomoatoes, chick peas, chilli and piri piri hot sauce.
DAY 5: Up on deck at 02.30 to put 2 reefs in the main and a few rolls of the headsail as the boat was over canvassed and the wind had risen to 20 knots. Otherwise stayed in my bunk with the alarm set at 1.5 hour intervals when the boats heading could be checked. Gybed back onto starboard at first light as wind backed to the N.E again. Deployed fishing line for the first time but when hauling it in later discovered something had bitten off the lure. That was my favourite lure too. Determined to master celestial navigation so for only the second time since leaving England was on deck with the sextant. Took morning site and then noon site and obtained an observed position using position lines on a plotting sheet. Latitude from the noon site two miles out but longitude over ten – more practise needed. Towgen deployed as batteries approaching 50% charge. Pasta with pesto and tinned sardines for dinner. Daily run 102nm due to light winds.
DAY 6: Now nicely into a daily routine. Once I am out of my bunk around 07.00 I put the kettle on and make a cup of ‘real’ coffee. None of this instant stuff! I drink this while checking emails via the Iridium satellite phone and download a GRIB weather forecast file. Write up my daily journal for the previous day usually after failing to do it the evening before. Before breakfast go on deck to investigate the nights haul of flying fish and to decide if any are big enough to warrant going in the pan. If not, breakfast is either marmite or jam on toast followed by a banana, or if i’m out of bread, a bowl of porridge with a generous dollop of golden syrup. I then do a round of the deck to check for any chafe or wear or tear and check shackles are tight. A look up the mast with the binoculars to check all is well followed by morning sight with the sextant which then takes me some time to reduce to a position line and draw on the plotting sheet. Clean and tidy of the inside of the boat and do all the washing up which has accumulated since the following evening. Noon sight with the sextant and then position worked out by combining this with the morning sight transferred by distance run in the meantime. After lunch usually a nap followed by plenty of reading. Before dark cook dinner and eat while listening to a podcast or audiobook then on deck to reef down for the night in good time. For last couple of days wind has been blowing around 15 to 20 knots in the day with a slight increase just after dark. The swell only 1 to 1.5m so excellent and very enjoyable sailing. Daily run 122nm.
DAY 7: On deck at 04.00 to put a reef in. Onto last loaf of bread which is nearly stale anyway so will have to start baking soon. Towgen in and fishing line out but no luck again. Feeling well rested and enjoying life at sea. It is nice to be able to send and receive emails with Sturmschwalbe, Arwen and Hent-Eon using the satellite phone. We exchange positions, fishing success stories (or failures) and what’s on the menu for dinner. Nothing quite beats the sound of the water rushing past the hull when I am lying in the bunk falling asleep and Fathom is galloping at 6 knots directly for Barbados. Daily run again 122nm.
DAY 8: Another day similar to the last. Good progress and still the sea is slight with low swell so conditions are comfortable on board. Baked first bread of the trip but used too much salt so I am forced to consume two glasses of water following every slice of bread. Daily run 132nm.
DAY 9: For the first time since leaving Mindelo the sky looks a little unsettled. No longer just blue sky and small cotton wool tradewind clouds. Instead some large cumulus indicating more unstable air with a couple producing short rain showers. Very happy to have calculated position using sextant to within 4 miles of the GPS position so practise must be paying off. Just before sunset one small shower produced an amazing double rainbow. An hour later @ 22:00 UTC Fathom reached the half way point to Barbados – 1,010nm to go! A really fantastic first week with perfect conditions and relatively straight forward sailing.