Atlantic Day 9: A change in the weather

Atlantic Day 9: A change in the weather

Up until day 9, the weather has generally been quite pleasant.

And in fact in very recent days we haven’t had much wind at all, and the seas have been lovely and flat, we have been getting in the sea and also doing lots of cooking.

We managed to catch another fish, our first Mahi Mahi.

Somehow we have never caught the same fish twice on this entire adventure.

We roasted it with some veggies along side some fajita filling that we had made earlier.

However this morning the clouds started to appear and the rain started to fall, with the wind speed picking up again.

Before 9am we had our first 2 squalls of the passage, with further increased wind speeds.

At the time of writing this, we are actually in 20+knts of wind with a reef in the main (first time since setting off), and with the cockpit covers closed keeping the rain out, averaging 7.1knts SOG (speed over ground).

Also as writing this, we are crossing the 1,000 mile mark.

A bunch of us that are crossing at the same time are in communication daily, reporting our positions to each other and generally chatting about what’s been going on on each boat .

This now includes plotting all of our routes on a single map.

You can see clearly the 2 different groups that set off a few day apart. We are in group 1 which has headed further east initially, and the second group initially headed further north.

As we start to approach the final 10 days we start to have a better idea of what the weather will look like as we approach the Azores.

The weather routing by predict wind above shows us sailing beneath the Azores high in an area of lower winds for the coming days, before taking up to the Azores. And it look like this might be the route most of us follow.

With any luck (and according to the forecast) this rain should subside as the evening draws closer, and the winds should also stabilize. Otherwise sleeping tonight might be a bit of a challenge.

Until next time!

Atlantic Day 8: It only took 8 days to catch a fish

Atlantic Day 8: It only took 8 days to catch a fish

We have started turning to the east, and in general are making great progress to the Azores. So far we are very happy with the window that we set off in, as we have had rather flat seas the whole way, and mostly enough wind, though we have been motor sailing through some lighter wind spots.

During some of those lighter wind spots, we jump in the sea, have a cool down and a little wash, before rinsing with fresh water onboard Hannah with the solar shower.

We (one by one) hang off the back of the ladder at the back of the boat while sailing, with an extra line also out the back in the water. We wouldn’t be doing this if we were in lighter winds and flatter seas. This time, we also jumped off the bow to try and get a picture of Hannah sailing past before grabbing the line, but you can’t get very far away

During our peaceful sailing times, we keep getting more and more birdy visits. The larger of these birds kept swooping down right next to the cockpit on the look out for scraps of food.

Also recently up for dinner was pizza. Little did we know before setting off, we accidentally bought cashew milk mozzarella. It’s okay, but looking forward to opening the real pack of mozzarella we have soon.

We were not very successful in fishing coming east to west due to all of the seaweed. The rods have been out the back of Hannah during the day time since day 3 of this crossing. We had one bite, that came off while being reeled in. Another bit that took the whole lure and leader. But finally today, we reeled in a little tasty Amber Jack for our dinner. We cooked it with some tomato, onions, courgette, lemon juice, dill and butter.

Another evening draws to a close aboard Hannah, as the magic autopilot continues to steer us on.

Tomorrow might be quite a low wind day, and we may end up motoring quite a bit, after which the winds should come back and allows us to continue sailing on toward the Azores.

Still no sign of the other boats we are near, but hopefully we will catch up with them in the coming days.

Atlantic Day 4: Bananas and Buoys

Atlantic Day 4: Bananas and Buoys

It’s Friday, and we are 2 hours away from being into our 5th day of sailing.

We are currently plodding along northward (course over ground of 15 degrees) at a speed of 3.5 knots. The sea has calmed and we have 4 knots of true wind, so all things considered we are going quite fast.

When looking at the weather some days ago, Friday may have been the right day to break north, and the last 2 weather forecasts also confirmed this, hence the new direction.

Yesterday (Thursday), we didn’t have so much wind and had to motor sail for some hours to keep some momentum up. This included heading a little south hunting for wind, before ultimately deciding to go north this morning.

We left the BVIs with 2 bunches of nice green bananas hoping that they would last some time. Unfortunately, they are already all getting mushy, not helped by the fact that we stood on 2 of them.

Eating 2 bunches of bananas at any speed when they are already mushy is probably a bit much.

So, on with the baking! And delicious banana bread and some breakfast cookies.

While sailing we have now spotted at least 3 buoys adrift, one of which we managed to pick up and which includes the lettering “EH6425” on it.

We jumped in the sea yesterday in the lighter winds (one at a time), and will be doing so again today.

Unlike our crossing from east to west, we have seen and heard quite a few other boats in the first days.

Right now we actually have a boat called “Caringa” (mmsi 211167510) 4 miles in front of us.

You probably can’t see them in the picture, but doesn’t the sea look awesome?!

We will probably be heading this way for some time now, before gradually curving east to stay below the Atlantic low-pressure systems.

Saga and Escapade are still somewhere northeast of us, and the others we know in the BVIs have not yet left.

Until next time!

Atlantic Day 2: Dolphins & Spray

Atlantic Day 2: Dolphins & Spray

We are over 24 hours into a crossing back to Europe, and yesterday (Tuesday) we were visited by the first pod of dolphins we have seen in quite some time!!

They stayed with us for some time and we managed to snap this picture of them playing around the bow

So far it’s been quite the bumpy ride, as we have spent the past 42 hours beating into wind close hauled, and it’s unlikely that will stop in the next day or so, though the winds might vary a little.

The boat is getting sprayed quite a bit as we pound our way through the waves.

We managed to achieve an average of 6 knots so far, but this will probably be unrealistic to maintain for the entire crossing.

The big decision for us will be when to cross the high pressure zone, or just when to head further north. We might decide something for this come Friday.

Generally you might cross to the north of this high pressure, however in recent weeks it’s been all over the place, as well as there being little wind in the western Atlantic, north of the BVIs, so we are taking a slightly less conventional route.

Thanks to Ollie for posting this. We were just about to send it to Ollie to post, and another giant pod of dolphins just appeared, so here is another picture from the bow (Wednesday).

Hopefully these past 2 days are a song of things to come in terms of dolphin sightings. Very excited to have them back, as there were not many around the Carribbean.

Atlantic departure to the Azores (we think)

Atlantic departure to the Azores (we think)

It’s currently the 8th, and we are indeed leaving the BVIs today ⛵⛵⛵.

As we are writing this post we have already been sailing for an hour, and are currently still within internet range and the protection of the islands.

Come 10pm (6hour time) we should be out in the open ocean for the first time in quite a while.

Our day in Road Town was a success, and our marina time was well worth it.

We went out for a final on land dinner last night, that we also didn’t need to cook (lots of cooking coming up during the crossing), and got an early night.

The hunger had really set in, so we failed to get any picture of our main courses. But you can see the pizza that we also ordered, in preparation for having leftovers to take with us.

During the morning of the 8th we did 3 washing machines full of laundry in the marina, bought an additional 200USD of food including fresh veggies, stowed the dinghy, generally cleaned the boat up and put things away, filled out water tanks for the last time and downloaded as much entertainment as we could from the internet!

As 2pm approached we had a little dip in the marina pool, had our first and last on land showers for quite a while, paid up the marina fees and got the Hannah on the move!!!

Good bye to the BVIs, and helllow open ocean.

We will be blogging on the way with help from Ollie (who joined us in Antigua), so keep an eye out for posts in the coming weeks.

Remember, you can follow us using the various tracking links / maps at the top of this site (Predict wind and Garmin will be the best while crossing), and you can even send us messages there.


The last Caribbean week

The last Caribbean week

The boat jobs are done, we have explored the BVIs a bit, and we have made our way back to Little Harbour.

This is one of our favorite anchorages in the BVIs, well protected and nice and flat, shore tieing with friends and a nice sandy bottom to land the anchor in.

We had a BBQ and bonfire on the beach. Burgers, salads, lobster, and steak.

We have had a lot of fun on SUPs and dinghies in this little bay, but we recently added fenders to the club for in-water beers.

One new addition to the dinghy fun was the invention of dinghy baseball. We were all playing so have no pictures, but let me try and paint a picture.

Take 1 SUP and 3 dinghies. The batter has a dinghy and uses a dinghy paddle to hit the ball with. The thrower is on a SUP tied to a shore tie line. The ball must be hit out into the bay and the batter must then untie and drive the dinghy around a boat and a bouy coming back to the shore tie line. The team of fielders has 2 dinghies and must retrieve the ball and get the batter out by making the ball hit them before they get back to the shore tie line. Probably not the safest sport, but very fun!

We were all running rather low on beer, but managed to grab a free 6 pack from a nearby charter catamaran 🎉, all it took was a little dinghy trip (with Tomas being towed still in his fender chair). They were however Bud Lights…

More great food was also had, we probably ate a whole pack of bacon in a day and a half across three meals. With freshly baked bread we made a magnificent breakfast sandwich. Also a bacon salad, and a tasty potato bake thingy.

The snorkeling in the bay isn’t super interesting, but the water is still, very clear and there are a few things of interest.

One thing we have recently been spotting is a turtle missing a leg!

But also these interesting little jelly things, known as “Crown Jellies”.

One not so great moment of the week was when Kathryn went into the aft cabin to get some chocolate M&Ms, and spotted a large cockroach on the ceiling. We managed to quickly catch it with a boat hook and a bowl and kill it off the boat, and while looking closely at it in the bowl we are pretty sure it was a male, so we shouldn’t have any future cockroach problems. Our only guess is that while filling up with fuel and water at the fuel dock a day or so prior it must have hopped aboard 😓.

We are writing this on the 7th May at 8am, and we have not yet checked the weather this morning, but last night it looked like we would be leaving on the 8th May (tomorrow).

It’s not ideal, with high pressures and low wind zones dominating the first week of sailing, but we should have enough wind to get going, even if we lose it in a few days. The forecasts are still quite changeable, so we will see how it goes!

The weather routing on Predict Wind still doesn’t look ideal, but at least one route on departure planning for tomorrow takes us in the direction we want to head.

Time for one last trip to the shop in Road Town, then heading to a Marina for 1 night if they have space, showers, laundry, a meal out perhaps, and then checking out and setting off in the morning!

Pre-crossing boat jobs, again

Pre-crossing boat jobs, again

We wrote up a bunch of boat jobs pre-crossing to the Caribbean from Cape Verde back in December. Similarly, we have collected a mixture of jobs for our last weeks waiting to cross back.

You can already read about our new Iridium and the new flow switch for the UV light in our freshwater system, but here is a summary of the other goings on…

Fix the Danbouy light

A Danbuoy is a floating marker that is deployed from a boat to indicate a person’s location in the water in a MOB (Man Over Board) situation. It typically consists of a long telescopic pole with a buoyant float in the middle, a flag or other high-visibility marker attached to the top of the pole, and a weight at the bottom to keep it upright. In an emergency, such as a man overboard situation, the Danbuoy can be quickly thrown into the water to mark the spot where the person went overboard, it’s designed to float in the wind and current at the same rate a person would in the water. Even in big waves and at night, it should be very visible as the light sits about 2.5m above sea level, allowing the boat to circle back and retrieve them without losing the person’s position.

We have an extendable Danbouy onboard Hannah near our port solar panel. It has a bright LED light made by ACR attached to the top of it, but recently the plastic tube connecting the light to the Danbouy broke when accidentally leaned on.

This would have been fixable, and we were in the process of fixing it to find that the AA batteries inside had also recently exploded, and when trying to clean the mess from the internals, the spring for the battery connection also seemed to have corroded and disintegrated, so it would no longer be possible to power.

We needed to source a new light! Lucky for us one of the chandleries that we had recently been to had the exact same light, so we headed to buy it, but unfortunately it had already been sold since we saw it.

So, instead, we bought a different LED light that is generally used for life buoys, and worked out a secure way to attach it and also have it automatically set off if the danbuoy is deployed.

We started by super gluing a bolt to the bottom of the light, which we then also secured with some twisted wire to the bottom of the light. This was then entirely covered in epoxy putty. The bolt could then be attached to the top of the Danbouy, also using lock-tight to keep everything secure, and the entire contraption was then wrapped in tape. The new light already had a cord to pull to turn the light on, so we attached this to the previous string attached to the boat, so when extending the Danbouy, the light should come on.

Oiling the cockpit floor

Back in Saint Martin, we bought some Teak Oil.

Applying teak oil to teak floors on a boat is a popular practice to help maintain their appearance and protect them from the elements. Teak oil penetrates deep into the wood, providing a protective layer that helps to prevent moisture from penetrating the surface and causing damage. It also restores the natural beauty of the wood, enhancing the grain and bringing out its rich color. Additionally, teak oil helps to protect the wood from UV rays and other environmental factors that can cause it to deteriorate, making it a smart choice for anyone looking to keep their teak floors in top condition.

We used the oil on various parts of the internals of Hannah, but you really can see the biggest difference with this halfway progress shot of the cockpit floor.

Reattaching gas locker

Hannah has 2 gas lockers on the aft deck, each of which holds a single gas bottle.

From lots of sailing and the boat moving around some of the screws into the fiberglass that they are attached to had become loose and the threads didn’t really hold anymore.

So to get a handle on the situation, first, off came the locker.

This is the first time in more than 2 years the lockers came off, so everything was in need of a clean underneath.

You can also clearly see the attachments to both the back of the cabin, as well as into the deck.

Kathryn re-threaded the holes to a larger size, used some new stainless bolts, and then fitted everything back together.

Mast step string

Half way through our East to West Atlantic crossing we put a small tear in our Ghoster sail (now fixed) when it got backwinded and became stuck on one of the upper mast steps on the main mast.

We have had a plan to stop this from happening again since December, but are only just putting it into action.

So, time to go up the mast!

The plan is to tie strings from the steps to the nearest stay so that nothing (including halyards) can get caught on them. And the challenge is to do this in an aesthetically pleasing way.

We went for a zig zag pattern to minimize the number of individual bits of string we would need.

Not long till the crossing now.

At the time of writing this its 6th of May 2023, and we plan on setting off on the 8th May.

An Iridium Go for West to East

An Iridium Go for West to East

On our crossing from East to West, we had a Garmin InReach for both tracking, weather routing (use Fast Seas), and satellite communication with the outside world.

For the crossing East to West this was a great solution for us. Nice and cheap (comparatively), and provided us with enough information for what should always be a rather uneventful crossing due to the trade winds present in the area.

For the crossing West to East, you are much more likely to be affected by low-pressure systems flicking off Norther America, progressing across the Atlantic past Bermuda toward the Azores, before then heading a bit further north over the UK and Europe.

We purchased the Iridium secondhand from Vela who recently sold their boat in the BVIs before flying home, and it now lives “permanently” on the back wall of our Navigation table.

The setup came with an external antenna which is also “permanently” mounted outside near our port solar panel, with the cable routed into the boat using the same route as the solar panel.

The key difference between the Garmin Inreach and Iridium Go for us is the amount of “data” that you can receive and transmit and also the format.

The Garmin Inreach only allows you to send and receive short SMS-like messages (though you can email from the InReach, they are still SMS lengthed).

This means weather retrieval and weather routing can be a bit more of a pain, sending text instructions and receiving multiple test messages back telling you where you should maybe go and what the weather may be if you are there at the right time. It’s very hard to get a big picture from this though.

With Iridium it allows us to download Grib files for detailed weather information across a whole area, but also we can choose to pay for and use Predict Wind, which we will be doing for this crossing.

In comparison to the messages above from Fast Seas, the Predict Wind app can work directly with the Iridium Go, providing all of the routings and weather information in an easy to read display on your phone.

It’s all certainly more $$$, but should make the crossing a little easier to plan and we go.

Let’s see what we think about it all when we reach the other side!

A Tortula loop

A Tortula loop

We have been watching the weather looking for the right window to start the Atlantic crossing either to Bermuda or the Azores now for some time now, but no apparent window presented itself. So we must spend some more time exploring the BVIs!

The Little Harbour anchorage that we still occupy was slowly transforming, from our monohull haven to a catamaran party.

In fact, once our 3 monohull friends had left, they were replaced by an 80ft catamaran (that slightly blocked our sunsets 🥲)

Continuing to snorkel the bay, we had one of our best octopus encounters to date.

Octopuses can be difficult to see while snorkeling because they are masters of camouflage and have the ability to change the color and texture of their skin to blend in with their surroundings. They are also able to contort their bodies into tight spaces and hide in crevices or under rocks, making them hard to spot. In addition, octopuses are generally nocturnal creatures, so they may be less active and visible during the day when snorkeling is most common. Overall, the combination of their camouflage abilities, hiding behaviors, and nocturnal nature can make octopuses challenging to observe while snorkeling, but with patience and careful observation, it is still possible to catch a glimpse of these fascinating creatures.

Just as we were about to hop back onboard Hannah after a snorkel session, we saw it! This is a Brazillian Reef Octopus.

As the day drew to a close, the folks on the 80ft catamaran next to us cracked out their electric hydrofoil board to have some fun on too.

Over the next few days, we would sail all the way around the island of Tortula, head off to a little snorkel spot for 1 night, and arrive back in Little Harbour some days later.

We once again met up with Blue Note, Extress, and now also Atlas in Brewers Bay, where we once again enjoyed a floating SUP bar near the beach.

No evidence of this SUP bar, however, there is evidence of other beach and boat-related antics.

We spent a few days in the bay, relaxing, having a beer or 2, and snorkeling around.

On our last day in the bay, a catamaran that had anchored nearby came over and gave us a bunch of their leftover food from their 2-week trip, as they were about to return the boat (what lovely people). This included desiccated coconut, wraps, red cabbage, numerous limes, potatoes, onions, sauces, seasoning, wine, sparkling wine, some tins, pasta/pasta sauces, crackers, and more…

We took these supplies and tried to split them up a bit among the other monohulls so everyone got something🙂

Even since leaving Portugal, we have had a jar of francesinha sauce that we have been meaning to use. Finally, we had all of the components together, freshly baked bread, the sauce, a strip of steak, eggs, cheese, and some other meats.

Now our creation doesn’t quite live up to the one we ate in Porto, the presentation was hard, but it was damn tasty.

Continuing to sail around Tortula we anchored near Blue Note for another night, sharing the free wine from the catamaran and finally sharing one of our “famous” tinned Fray Bentos pies with them, along with roast carrots, peas, cheesy mashed potato, onions, and gravy.

We then had a leisurely sail around to Norman Island which we had heard had some good snorkeling.

There sure were some interesting caves, but still, nothing to beat the epic snorkeling of St Vincent.

The next day we had another short sail back to Little Harbour, and the total calm and stillness of this great anchorage.

Quite unplanned, but a few minutes later, both Blue Note and Extress arrive in the anchorage as well, with Atlas arriving the following day.

Time for some more relaxing time in Little Harbour, waiting for the weather to do something… Currently, there is very little wind for multiple days on the trot, we might however be able to use this to our advantage and have a break a few days into the sail.

Freshwater UV light Flow Switch

Freshwater UV light Flow Switch

We have had a UV light fitted to Hannah now for 2 years. You can read more about our water filtering setup in a previous post.

UV light kills harmful microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites that may be present in the water, making it safe to drink and reducing the risk of waterborne illnesses. Unlike chemical treatment methods such as chlorine, UV water treatment does not leave any residual taste or odor in the water, and it is environmentally friendly. A UV water treatment system is generally low-maintenance and easy to install.

You can see our UV light below on the back wall.

The UV light of this setup draws roughly 1.2 amps, and out of the box, it is on all of the time. So to save power for the last 2 years we have actually been flicking the “water pump” switch on and off whenever not using the water taps for longer periods of time.

This is a lot of effort for some taps on the boat, as the switch is centrally in the main switchboard, so if you are brushing your teeth in the heads, you need to venture into the corner of the saloon, flick the switch and go back to the heads if you want fresh water.

Since leaving the UK we have had all of the components to fix this problem for us thanks to Matt, a colleague of Kathryn, but we didn’t bring it all together until April 2023…

The solution is made up of a flow switch which will be put after our water pump and accumulation tank that will detect the flow of water through pipes. This will be used to turn the UV light on and off whenever water is flowing. In order to make sure the water does get to see the UV light, and also to avoid the light flicking on and off too often we also then have this switch going through a 555 timer chip circuit to delay the turn off once water flow has stopped.

We were following the following circuit diagram also provided by Matt.

We have multiple soldering irons onboard, but not of the highest quality (on a boat you normally need them for simple jobs), so soldering a circuit board together on a slightly moving boat was a bit more of a challenge than normal. (So let’s ignore the small mess in the top right of the backside of the board 😜)

This circuit board has 5 cables leaving it that need to be connected: +/- 12v power for the board, 2x cables connecting to the flow switch, 1x + for the UV light itself.

This circuit board was then enclosed in a little waterproof case with external LED and mounted near most of our other electrical water components (such as the 12v regulator and UV ballast)

Finding the correct adapters to get the flow switch from a 3/8ths of an inch pipe thread all the way up to 19mm hose proved to be a bit of a problem, but once we had visited all the nearby chandleries we finally had a setup that should work.

We cut the pipe after the accumulator, added the flow switch, fitted everything back together, wired it in, and it all looked fairly nice. The water filter area also has these 2 nice metal bars which are perfectly placed to protect the flow switch from our pots and pans!

Now we can leave the water pump and UV light on all-day knowing that the 1.2 amps will only be drawn when water is actually flowing. The UV light then stays on for a few seconds before switching off.

The switch is nice and sensitive, so even if you just trickle water out of the tap the UV light will be switched on!

Perfect, and thanks Matt!