This is the page of our Atlantic crossing.
Canary Islands – St.Maarten (Netherlands Antilles)
2,940 miles
21 days (10-31 Jan 2022)
Boat: Red Rock IV
Length: 45ft

The film of the trip is here on Vimeo.

Day 1: Monday 10 January, 2022
Departure

Time of readings: 17h00pm
Lat: 27, 55.5N
Long: 15, 20.9W
Wind speed (knots): 7.2
Wind direction: East (89 degrees)
Distance travelled (miles): 15.1 (by sunset)
Sea State (swell): 1m
Course over ground: 190 degrees (magnetic)

Final shop (art materials, groceries), filled up the water tanks. Two onboard tanks (100L each), then the tanks strapped onto deck (1 x 25L, 2 X 20L). We also bought 24 x 5L mineral water bottles (stashed below deck). So 405L water in total. Assuming a 24 day trip, that’s 16.8L per day.

Left mooring just after one. The Israeli family and Californian guys from neighbouring boats, and a couple of other people stood on the pontoon to wish us bon voyage. Motored to fuel berth to fill up. The boat takes 120L, and we filled up 2 X 22 L jerrycans. Another 3 were already full. So onboard we have 230L. That’s approx. 72 hrs of motoring.

While we were there a breathless French guy (22-ish) came running up and asked if we needed an extra crew member. He said he heard we were crossing so had sprinted around the marina to find us. He told him sadly we had no need.

We then went to the Marina office to pay for the last night and add me to the crew list, to log my exit from the EU. After queuing for half an hour, the official fellow at the door told us we could not see them without booking an appointment, but then luckily his boss arrived and let us in. It was siesta time so they didn’t charge us for the last night, and didn’t want to fill in any paperwork, so we just left.

We exited the marina at 14h00, heading south, clockwise around the island (Gran Canaria). Decent wind, gorgeous sky. Fishing lines out. A bunch of large container ships under anchor outside the harbour entrance.

Ralph on watch: 23h30 – 03h00
Rob on watch: 3h00 – sunrise

Absolutely stunning night sky, plenty of visibility due to the half moon, perfect wind (12-15 knots)

Blissful being alone on deck. Passing to the south of the Canaries so islands glowing off to starboard.

Last few text message exchanges as we moved beyond the island’s reach.

As the night wore on the wind shifted in increments to the south, so we put in a couple of gybes to maintain our westward trajectory.

Continuous (very annoying) calls on channel 16 from Tenerife and La Gomera marine radio, signaling traffic and navigation issues.

Pan Pan, Pan Pan, Pan Pan,
This Tenerife, Tenerife, Tenerife marine radio.
Navigation warning, Navigation warning, Navigation warning etc…

La Gomera, La Gomera, La Gomera etc…

All through the night.

Also a several of upsetting calls indicating the presence of a sailing boat with 59 people on it coming from Morocco towards the Canaries. Refugees no doubt. The calls were just to be on the lookout for them and report their position if spotted.

Day 2
Tuesday 11 January, 2022
Leaving Land Behind Us

Time of readings: Noon
Lat: 27, 17.9N
Long: 17, 08.66W
Wind speed: 9.1
Wind direction: East (92 degrees)
Distance travelled (miles): 127.7
Sea State (swell): 04 metres
Course over ground: 227 degrees (magnetic)

Rob did the sunrise shift. He couldn’t rouse me despite several attempts. I woke to a gorgeous blue sky and perfect sailing conditions again.

The business of our departure, and actually getting out into open water distracted me from the reality of what was happening here. Two large triangles of canvas powering us across an open ocean. I’d forgotten how beautifully this boat sails. 15 knots on a broad reach is an absolute pleasure. It’s almost as if the boat begins to sing.

The water is a blue-blue, under a cloudless sky.

Shorts & t-shirt weather.

Obvious that it’s going to be too bumpy to paint or draw in ink. If lighter wind I might be able to sketch.

Rob has his kindle, but I have just one book: Moby Dick. Assuming 24 days I’ll have to limit myself to 30 pages per day.

Mid afternoon a pod of dolphins came by to check out our lures. For 10-15 minutes they ducked and danced around our bow. I’ve never seen such large, healthy-looking dolphins. Quite elongated and the larger ones all looked battle-scarred. Lots of scratches on their backs. They reminded me very much lions in the Kalahari – survival of the fittest.

One more large island up the north of us as the sun went down.

A sunset like we’ve never seen. A golden orb that looked like it was melting into the water, so a liquid base around it as it settled. It almost like some kind of hot air balloon.

Burritos for dinner.

My shifts (GMT)
21.00h-24h00
03h00-05h00
07h00-09h00

We need to work out when to change our clocks. We’ll pass through 5 time-zones on the passage.

Rob is used to shifts at night, but I’m finding them quite challenging. Hard to get out of bed, especially for the 7am shift.

But once out on deck it hits you. Each time it feels like a glorious gift. We steer/navigate from the aft cockpit, so we have the full length of the boat in front of us. The wind is E or SSE, so we’re on a broad reach, starry sky and everything feels right.

I’m using my playlist and tea as company.

Very few airplanes. Just two heading west, a several hours apart.

Last night, on my first watch, the wind kept shifting further to the south, forcing towards the last island of the Canaries.

I woke Rob and at 11h02 we put in a gybe, finally sending us out into the open ocean. Our crossing was now officially on. A fantastic feeling.

Day 3: Wednesday 12 January 2022

Time of readings: 16h30
Lat: 26, 30.2N
Long: 19, 41.60W
Wind speed: 10.2
Wind direction: SSE
Distance travelled (miles): 301
Sea State: 1.5 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 265

I was on sunrise watch so I saw it come up. From the first sliver of gold till the whole thing was off the water took 110 seconds.

Far less dramatic than the sunset.

Today has been a perfect day at sea. Mama Ocean is overdelivering. Perfect wind and sea conditions, broad reach, fine company. Bliss.

I slept/napped most of the morning in my bed at the bow.
Gentle wind massaging me from the overhead hatch. The only adjective that comes to mind is luxurious.

The rest of the day was spent in the rear cockpit chatting and eating.

Both lines were out but no bites.

Two ships, both west-bound. One came quite close to us.

One small black bird flying close to the surface. Looked like it was feeding.

The VHF radio is now silent. It can only receive and transmit for something like 8 miles, which is more-or-less to the horizon, depending on sea state and the weather. We keep it open on the emergency channel (16) and will only be used to communicate with passing traffic.

Lunch: Les Oeufs Scrambladine du Carcassonne avec pain d’Allemagne platiforique con tomate de Playa Escondido avec avocado du chateau du region passerelle d’parebrise.

(i.e. scrambled eggs on pumpernickel with tomatoes and avo).

We’re ripping through our fresh supplies.
Most of our avos have ripened.

Looks like we’ll be out of perishables after a week.

Our current view of the weather:

The aim is to get pushed across by the Trade winds. This is a clockwise rotation around the Azores High. It’s a big clockwise movement of wind between Europe and the bottom part of north America.

When it’s working, if should give us 10-25 knots from behind. Nice, constant warm air pushing us over.

But currently there are a couple of low pressure systems to our NE. These are counter-clockwise, smaller (geographically), more intense rotations that can work against us, i.e. their lower part blows wind towards us, and also they kind of mess up the whole Trade wind thing.

So right now, we’re entering a patch of messed-up, light, Trade wind zone caused by the pesky low pressure systems, far to the north of us.

We get weather updates every twelve hours, and they get uploaded into a screen chart.

The current 7-10 day plan is to head further south, zig zagging and improvising our way through the messy low-wind patches, till we reach a nice Trade section. If that works, our last 10 days should be a lovely broad reach to the Caribbean.

Rob went down for a nap at 17h00pm.

I sat on deck typing this.

Deeply interesting.

16h30-19h30 spent working out how to send these updates to Louise & Lisa.

I also spotted a freshly discarded, green, plastic bottle in the water. Must have been from one of the ships we saw earlier.

Dinner tonight is Potato a la Grassin du Boulogne du haute Perpignane.

With two salads:

[1] Cabbage de l’Atlantique midi.
[2] Tomato & avocado memflesseur-du-Grenadine avec red pepper du Chateau de l’Ongostine de Mercredi.

The sunset was not great. There seems to be a layer of copper mist on the horizon, swallowing up and browning the moon as it settled.

Tonight’s watches:

21h30-23h30: Rob
I unsuccessfully tried to sleep.

23h30-01h30: Moi.
The wind dropped (11-12 knots) and quite choppy, so we were bumping around a lot. I watched the sky and ocean for a while, then did some writing on my laptop (including this).

Bright moon and we were heading straight into it, so it was obscured by the sails

01h30-03h30: Rob
The ocean and sky are so beautiful tonight that both of us vaguely resent ending our watches. After half an hour or so one almost seems to enter a trance. In a way it’s like being on a train. All you need to do is sit there and look out. The progress is ongoing. You’re heading to your destination irrespective of whether you’re awake.

03h30-05h30: Moi
At around 04h00 the moon set.

05h30-09h15: Rob
Sunrise watch.

09h15-11h00: Moi

Day 4: From Broad Reach to Beam Reach
Thursday 13 January 2022

Time of readings: 13h00pm
Lat: 25, 50.3 N
Long: 21,46.1 W
Wind speed: 15.2
Wind direction: 124 degrees (SE)
Distance travelled (miles): 408
Sea State: (swell), (chop) 2.0, 0.5
Course over ground (magnetic): 235 degrees

On my last watch last night I could see a glow on the horizon straight in front of us, rather like a ghost ship. Nothing was coming up on the AIS (the Automatic Identification System), which is below deck at the navigation table.

This device lets us know of any other AIS-enabled vessels are in the area. Likewise, it alerts them to our presence.

At first I couldn’t tell whether my eyes were tricking me, because the instruments on board create visual noise. But over time the glow seemed to become increasingly stronger,

Then it appeared on the AIS. A fishing ship.

Rob passed it during his watch.

Rob woke me at 09h15 (he did an extended sunrise watch).
It was hard getting up.

Again, for the third day in a row, what looks like perfect conditions.

Cloudless sky – the small cumulus clouds of yesterday have all but disappeared.
A slightly bigger, choppier sea, ad more wind.

Rob slept till 11h00 and I sat alone in the cockpit, thinking, watching and a little typing.

The wind picked up and we had a few gusts up to 19.5.

As usual, Red Rock IV is comfortable and loving the higher wind. Today is day 4 and I still have not been splashed by a drop of Atlantic ocean.

I’m wearing long pants, a t-short and a light hoodie.

We’re still using GMT on all our devices.

At around 1pm we had breakfast – cereal.
I’m drinking tea all day in my flask.
Rob also has a few cups every day.
Rooibos!

The clouds on the horizon suggest something happening up ahead. Looks like we’re heading into the southern end of the Low, which is rotating counter-clockwise. So soon we might have the wind shifting from behind us (SE), to from the side (S) and then perhaps on our nose (from the W). If the latter happens, we’ll have to gybe southwards.

Lunch is now being made.
Pasta a la Gravinoux avec pot-malouse con Giacometti Benedictione avec Tutti Frutti al la Javanaise. Should be delicious.

1 hr later: It was delicious. We found a great Spanish pasta sauce called PISTO. Luckily we have several cans of it. Perhaps more than several…

Post lunch we’ve been out in the rear cockpit chatting. I have a feeling we’ll be jabbering away up until we hit land. There is lots to be discussed.

The wind is shifting further to the south. Given that we are heading due west, it’s now hitting us on the beam, i.e. on the side of the boat. So the boat is finally listing to the side. It’s called a beam reach. Since we left, until this afternoon, we’ve been on a broad reach, i.e. the wind from almost behind us.

Both lines have been out all day – but still nothing caught.

I’ve been thinking a lot about last night’s ghost ship. The next Dash book is percolating in my head.

Lunch was pasta.

Dinner was toasted cheese, and sauerkraut.

Another pod of dolphins, but this time 10m off our starboard side, trailing us for a while.

Fishing: Our first big bite, whining reel and it took the lure which was disappointing.

Sunset was at 18h58. Another spectacular one.

Because we are nearing the low pressure front, we put 2 reefs in the mainsail. As usual, Rob did all the hard work and I just obeyed commands. For non-sailors, that means we made the sail smaller. The leading-edge of the sail (i.e. the section that runs along the mast) has eyes (holes) in it. To reef the sail we lower the whole sail slightly, and attach a now lower eye into a hook on the mast. The excess sail gets folded into a bag on the boom.

I took the first watch: 20h30-22h30. Rob went to sleep.
Finally we are sailing properly.
We are close-hauled, which for any non-sailors means we’re heading into the wind and the sails are pulled tight and close to the boat. This immediately makes everything tighter and less flappy-floppy, and the boat starts listing over. But now it feels like an arrow or a knife cutting across the surface. We’re on a port tack and finally there are splashes coming over the deck.

When it gets wet, this is what we were:

Survival suit (waterproof overalls) with thick polo neck and hoodie.
Lifejacket, which automatically inflates when it hits the water.
Harness – to attach us to the boat (so when were going foredeck were attached to some lines running along the deck)
PLB: GPS-enabled Personal locator beacon – once activated it sends the wearers exact location to Falmouth Coast Guard in the UK and also the US coastguard.
AIS-enabled beacon: If someone falls off the person on the boat can use the AIS (Automatic Identification System) to find them.

Things are very different now on watch compared to the previous nights. Its mesmerizing, not only because of the sky and ocean, because of, physically, what the boat is now doing. We’re going at around 7 knots with around 15 knots of wind, and it feels like Red Rock IV is in attack mode – a fantastic feeling.

We’re sailing, and the actual sailing is fantastic.

Watches as follows:

20h30-22h30: Ralph
22h30-24h30: Rob
24h30-02h30: Ralph
02h30-04h30: Rob
04h30-08h30: Ralph

Day 5: Rain Showers
Friday 14 January 2022

Time of readings: 17h41
Lat: 24, 40.2N
Long: 24, 39.4W
Wind speed: 4.6 knots
Wind direction: SSW (208 degrees)
Distance travelled (miles):
Sea State: 1m (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 302

I did the 04h30-06h30 watch, but then decided to just carry on. It was too rough and bumpy for me to sleep below deck, and the aft cockpit is pretty comfortable in these conditions. Plus Rob was sleeping nicely. So I carried on till 08h30.

Rob took over and I slept till 11h00.

It was very bumpy, now that we were heading upwind. The boat is now very much not comfortable – it’s wetter and we’re both feeling a little queasy. We both took a sea sick pill.

12h30 (GMT)
We’re both on deck – we can clearly see the front to the NW, and in front of us.
It looks like a lot of rain.

It’s still pretty bumpy. I am relieved that my tea flask from this morning’s watch is still full and warm. The thought of going below deck right now is not very pleasant. It’s warm, damp and bumpy down there – to be avoided.

Quote of the day: “If we can get to the back of the front we’ll be doing well.”
– RJ Newman (skipper)

As we entered the rain showers (on the front) we put the engine on (a. to recharge the batteries and b. because we didn’t know what might be inside these squalls). We chugged nicely through two of them, one of which had some lovely strong wind in it.

After that second squall the sun came out, the wind dropped and stabilised and the boat became more comfy. I went down for a nap.

Rob is currently making early dinner.

Pasta a la Floffison du Moulin Rouge, avec garlic du saison hors saison en hiver, con sauce du tomate de la Fortesque-Poissonnerie du Cotignac-Merillion.

Should be delicious.

We just removed one reef from the main, and then put in a tack. I believe the first one of the trip. 5 days in.

18h19 GMT and we are now on a starboard tack heading 200 degrees (course over ground)
180 degrees is due south and
270 degrees is due west
So we’re heading SSW

Actually, transpires that wind shift was not in our favor as we’re now heading 183, which is pretty-much due south, which is not what we want to be doing, so we’re going to put in another tack.

There are 40 ARC yachts somewhere to the south of us. The ARC is a so-called rally which means the boats all leave together, but are not racing. They’re just cruising across with each other for safety. This lets first-timers do the crossing with a bunch of other boats, plus the organisers throw in some extra safety features. The ARC fleet was moored all around us in the Gran Canaria marina, and they left the day before we did, i.e. they left on Sunday.

They immediately headed south towards Cape Verde before swinging to the west.

We’re doing a rough hypotenuse trajectory to join their westbound course.

There is a chance, with Rob’s masterful navigation and weather instincts that we might hit the target trajectory ahead of them. We’ll know in the next 2-3 days.

When we put in our second tack, Rob noticed the main winch felt odd. So he just took it apart and fixed it. Nice to have a mechanical engineer on board.

Jokes aside, it’s very reassuring to have Rob as Lord Admiral. He has rebuilt this entire boat, from rigging to mechanics to electronics to plumbing, and everything in between.

As evening fell, the wind dropped and was all over the place. No matter what we tried we couldn’t sail in a decent direction.

Concerns about getting trapped in the no-wind zone below us so an executive decision was taken to put the engine on.

We motored for about 12 hours from around 10pm.

Watches:
19h00-21h00: Ralph
21h00-24h00: Rob
24h00-02h00: Ralph
02h00-04h00: Rob
04h00-08h00: Ralph
08h00-11h00: Rob

Day : Day 6
Sat 15 January 2022

Time of readings: 13h30 (GMT)
Lat: 24, 21.1
Long: 25, 50.8
Wind speed: 7.0
Wind direction: 260 (due west)
Distance travelled (miles): 670
Sea State: 0.5 (swell), 0.0 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 313

Ended my morning shift at 08h00.
Still motoring.
Rob killed the engine at 11h00.
For the next half hour we put in a number of tacks but we couldn’t get a decent heading – the wind is still all over the place.

The sun is out. Scattered cumulus clouds and the ocean is an amazing blue-purple, a bit like petroleum. It’s a color I have not ever really seen before. It’s approximately 2km deep here.

We’re both in shorts & t-shirts.

I did some laundry and there are now my socks and underpants hanging all over the winches. Which makes tacking quite amusing.

Today is the day we catch a fish – we both believe.

Plus I’m going to introduce Rob to Jeremy Loops, the SA musician, who has also crossed the Atlantic. And my two favorite songs of his have sailing metaphors in them: Down South & The Shore. You should give them a listen.

Sat for a couple of hours on deck chatting.
Raised the SA flag off the solar arch and now it’s happily flying behind us.
It’s big, the width of a kikoy at least.
Makes me very happy every time I see it.

Weird autopilot stuff happening so Rob rebooted it. Seems to have done the trick. His hero quotient has just gone up to 34.7 (using the Grodzinski Multiplier).

We brought 36 eggs with us.

For lunch we are having eggs numbers 10, 11, 12, and 13.

1hr later: They were delicious.

The wind has dropped.

Another quote of the day: “Oh my goodness, we’re going backwards!”

The upside is I am managing to paint. Not 100% stable but working.

Every two days I go on my phone to text Lisa. When I turn it on, it thinks I’m driving.

I have to press the button “I am not driving”. Hilarious.

I’m now below deck typing this, as it is very calm. Rob is chasing clouds. He’s discovered that under the big cumulus clouds there is wind. So he heads for them and then boom!, suddenly were flying along.

Right now it’s 15h00 GMT, which is probably 4pm local time.

Rob threw an avo skin over the side, and I watched it sink. Will it reach the bottom 2km down, or will some creature munch it en route and wonder for the rest of its fishy life what the heck it was?

15h22 pm: Rob just put the engine on again.

I did some painting. Not flat enough to do anything detailed so I’m just prepping a bunch of boards for when we’re back on terra firma. Or if we have a no-wind day.

Lunch was Cup-o-Noodles avec gratinisse du Languedoc con una sprinklage de la costa de la sierra de la playa luna-grafinette. Totally delicious.
Then I did some more painting.

18h22: Both on deck looking for clouds.

Some rain ahead which hopefully will bring some wind.

We are going to start running out of fresh things soon.

We are out of:
Red apples
Persimons

We have 1 green apple left.

I think we might start numbering things, like:
Eggs
Potatoes
Onions
Lemons

Just for fun.

Just before sunset we were treated to a spectacular dolphin show. They first appeared on the port side and then shot to the bow, where they delighted us for the next 5 minutes. Approx 7 of them, including two babies. They formation ducked and dived and jumped and danced in our bow wave. We whooped with joy. Smaller than the previous ones, and white and speckled underneath.

The sun has set.
Gorgeous sky.
Weird little rain storms messing with us.
We just stopped dead still for the first time on the trip.
3 minutes later we’re flying along again.

No fish today.

Dinner was congealed rice and a weird salad which included cabbage, carrot, olives and beetroot.

While eating in dead silence Rob asked:
“If your friends came to your house and you fed them this, what would they say?”

Watches:

Rob: 21h30-23h30pm
23h30pm-01h00: Ralph
Rob: 01h00 – 03h00
03h00 – 05h00: Ralph

Then after that it got all messy

I didn’t sleep at all last night. While Rob was on watch I lay in my bunk and tried to sleep – without success.

Day : 7 – Wind, Waves, Squalls – Busiest Day So Far
16 January 2022

Time of readings: 11h28
Lat: 24, 19.7N
Long: 27, 15.6W
Wind speed: 17
Wind direction: 250 (WSW)
Distance travelled (miles): 780
Sea State: 4m (swell), 1.5m (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 310
Pinsnoffian coefficient: 0.45
Quadrangulated Ontometer reading: 631

Comment: Heavy seas, lots of wind, an exhausting day, finally tacked away from low

From midnight to 01h00 we were using the windvane for steering and every time there was a wind shift, which was often, the alarm went off, which was extremely annoying. Decent wind around 12kts, but shifting all the time.

03h30: on watch
Really warm.
16.5 knots of wind
We’re flying along
Heading 312 (m)

Small, self-contained downpours (squalls) to the SW and in front of us.
Now gusting up to 18.
We’re in the squall – very windy and wet.

04h10: We’re through the squall and now the wind has completely died. We’re pretty much standing still and the sails are flip-flopping and over the place, and the rigging is grunting and creaking like a captured beast.

It’s extremely bright tonight. Might be full moon. Lots of clouds though.

04h25: Ok, now were actually going backwards.

04h32: The wind is back. 20 knots. Hooray!

04h52: The moon has appeared, casting a floodlit, bright silver patch on the water half a mile in front of us – as if coaxing us onwards.

05h30: Now it’s blowing hard. 19 knots and we’re going straight into big swell. We sail uphill and then downhill. It’s been too noisy down below to sleep, so I’m up on deck with Rob.

06h45: Still blowing
Huge moon right in front of us, sinking into the clouds on the horizon.
Massive swell and behind us it’s getting lighter.

We are both extremely happy.

This big swell is exhilarating.

I just said to Rob: “I can guarantee there’s not a single person we know who’s having more fun that us right now.”

He laughed and replied: “I bet every single one of those people would rather be where they are right now.”

09h32: 16.5 knots
Heading: 300
Rob just put a second reef in the main – scrambling over the spray-covered deck. Using the harness so he’s attached to the boat.
Huge swell.

Quote when he got back to the shelter of the aft cockpit: “The Rock and I are in tune with each other!”

Indeed they are.

The swell is massive. 4-5m we estimate.

And finally, at 11h45, we tack!
New bearing: 250-260.
15-20 knots.
I’m at the helm, Rob is tweaking the sails and the rigging.

We’re flying.

At last we have turned away from the low and now were heading straight for St Maarten!

Boom! We’re hopefully heading the trades and into the land of milk & honey!

13h00: Very fast
Huge swells
Multiple squalls
Very bumpy.

Eggs #13-21 slid off the kitchen counter and got destroyed in the melee. A big setback.

Lots of water (and eggs) in boat
Bilge pump not working
Rob bailing with bucket for over 30 mins
#totalhero

14h00
Hot meal (in which eggs #22, 23 and 24 were consumed)

14h30
Wind calmer – 12 knots
On goes autopilot
Nap time: Rob inside, me outside

18h30
Just caught our first fish. A Mahi Mahi.
But lost it right at the boat, just as we were trying to gaff it.

Then Rob’s line hooked one – pulled the lure off.

Then the same thing again with another one on my side. Snapped the swivel and we lost it.

At sunset lots of squalls all over the place. Moving at different speeds. They are very much like Kalahari storms – seem to develop out of nowhere – all over the place, self-contained and dumping a lot of rain on a small area – totally beautiful.

Navigating through them is like being in a TV game. As you near them, the wind really picks up.

The first one we entered saw the wind jump from 15 to 30 in a matter of minutes. We feel we can read them better at this stage as we’ve gone through a few.

They are like temperamental children.
Lots developing to the north us.
And now lightning in some of them.

Lightning at sea is dangerous, not to us if were inside, but it can take out all our electronics.

So Rob has a trick. He puts all the removable electronics (like handheld gps and sat phone) in the oven. It’s like a Faraday’s Cage inside a Faraday’s Cage he explains.

More squalls. Bumpy. Lots of wind.
I haven’t slept for 36 hrs.

By 9pm we were both feeling queasy so took pills. Quick pasta dinner. Wind and sea state calming down and I wasn’t feeling great so went to bed.

Slept for 10 hours – fantastic – at the bow.

Rob did all the work till the next morning. Navigating and adjusting and on watch from his bed. All the below-deck instruments are right nexto his bed for when sails solo.

Day : 08 Cruisin’
Monday 17 January 2022

Time of readings: 13h30
Lat: 23, 12.3N
Long: 29, 33.1W
Wind speed: 8.7 knots
Wind direction: NW
Distance travelled (miles): 960
Sea State: 2 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 265
Interossiter manifold setting: 14
Gimbled decoagulation coefficient: 672

Emerged to find Rob on deck.
Stunning day
9.5 knots wind.
Boat-speed 5.6 knots.

Not much to report.
We’re both exhausted from yesterday.

So now we’re just sailing along, chatting and waiting for fish.

Lots got soaked inside the boat yesterday.
Now clothes and cushions and shoes are drying on the deck.

Very uneventful day.

We changed all the clocks on the electronics back by 2 hrs.

A full moon has risen.

Rob caught 2 fish. Small things that look like mini Tuna. Perhaps Bonito. Red meat. No scales.

One being fried up shortly.

Day : 9 – Rainbow Alley
Tuesday 18 January 2022

Time of readings: Noon
Lat: 22, 57.8N
Long: 32, 42.1W
Wind speed: 8.1
Wind direction: North
Distance travelled (miles): 1,072
Sea State: 1.0 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 298

Hemple Valve Rectification Status: Blue
Glandulator Coefficient: 66.1 (magnetic)
Waloon Snodometer Reading: 0.137

Note to readers: These dailies are not edited – I just write them down and by the end of the day were usually too busy or it’s too bumpy to read through them.

Watch status: Last night I did the first three hours and then Rob did the next six. He’s just woken me with tea and two Madelines (those cupcake things) to watch a simultaneous moon-set sun-rise.

As per usual, a stunning start to the day. Lots of clouds in dark clumps on the horizon (360 degrees) but few above us.

Horizon clouds mean squalls that we’ll need to navigate, plus messy wind.

The wind right now is light and variable and we’re moving slowly, at around 3 knots, so the boom is swinging a bit, and groaning.

9 days in, and we’ve found our rhythm.

There are two constants: The sailing, and watching the weather.

The sailing, the actual act and fact of sailing, is what has been so surprising and brilliant. It is one of the many things Rob and I have in common; the simple joy we get when we feel the wind powering us over the water – when things suddenly feel right – when Red Rock suddenly stabilizes, we bear off and speed up – when there’s a slight shift and we feel it and point higher.

For any of you who don’t sail, it’s like that feeling you get when you’re starting off on a run down a ski slope, or you’re body-surfing and a good wave catches you.

Sometimes we have the magic for a few hours, sometimes most of the day, and often at night.
When we’re raised from slumber by the vibrating of a boat that is flying.

The realization is often unspoken, and we can just make eye contact and know that the other is feeling it. Or just say something like “I am very happy right now.”

The other constant is us watching the weather and the elements around us. The sky, the wind, the clouds, the swell. And the direction of everything. We’re now completely tuned in to which way things are moving – their nuances and mood swings, and what they seem to feel.

In the first few days of the trip, we had a trade wind. 10-15 knots, from behind us, clear, blue, cloudless skies and star-filled nights. There wasn’t much to discuss about the weather beyond acknowledging and appreciating it. There was little interpretation, little ambiguity.

But now we’re in a multi-dimensional video game, with a plethora of variables simultaneously at play.

07h14: Just put in the fishing lines.

07h30: Fact of the Day #1
It’s 5km deep here.
5km.

Fact of the Day #2
We are now halfway through our Madelines supply

Fact of the Day #3
Something that wasn’t in the brochure is that they have a lot of rainbows in this place. There’s one out in front of us right now.

Fact of the Day #4
Rob sleeps with a pillow on his head.

08h35: The wind just came back after a very, very, very, very frustrating hour of near total calm. Patently obvious how someone could go completely bonkers if stuck in the doldrums.

Another rainbow ahead of us.

09h31: PCL
Post-Cloud Lull

09h30: Lost a fish on my side – total bird’s nest on my reel.

10h48: First flying fish sighting

11h48: Rob caught another fish. Same model as the previous ones, and same size. We’re going to eat it for lunch. Rob’s currently filletin git.

…I mean, filleting it.

12h30: Just had our best lunch of the trip. Confirmed by the entire crew. Fresh Atlantic catch of day. Highly recommended.

Light wind and for the first time, A FLAT OCEAN.

14-15h00: I took the opportunity of a flat sea to sleep, read and write.

Rob fixed stuff.

17h30: Motored for half an hour to charge the batteries.

18h22: Potential MCS
Melon Crisis Situation.
It appears that our single melon might be over-ripe. A decision was taken to refrigerate it overnight and test it in the morning.

18h43: Some swearing coming from the aft Officer Quarters and Navigation Deck where Senior First Officer Newman is attempting the download the weather.

18h47: Interesting Observation for the Day:
Today is the first day of the trip that we are not preoccupied by sailing because the conditions are so chill. Accordingly, we are snacking all day. Both of us constantly rummaging for things to eat.

19h30: Gorgeous warm evening – big moon right behind us. Rob’s gone to bed. I’m on first watch. Wind speed 12 knots. Our speed over ground 7 knots. Fast and comfy.

Day 10: Bilge Pumps and Other Nautical Miscellany
Wednesday 19 January 2022

Time of readings: 13h05
Lat: 22, 25.1N
Long: 33, 17.6W
Wind speed: 10.9
Wind direction: N
Distance travelled (nautical miles): 1,173
Sea State: 1.0 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 270

Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: Dial has fogged over so we are unable to take a reading today unfortunately. We will endeavour to make a repair as soon as the sea state allows our technician to do so.

Decent night.
Usual cocktail of watches.

07h48: 8 knots of wind, beautiful cloudy sky – always looks different – without fail a treat to emerge from below deck.

Lots of flying fish – usually going the same direction as us.

Squalls to the north.

Aiming now for St. Maarten, roughly at 270 degrees, which is due west. We’re on a starboard tack and a beam reach, i.e. the wind is 90 degrees to us – coming from the north.

Because we’ve ducked away from the low and now hitting the trade winds, it might be like this for the next several days.

09h00: 12 knots – Rob asleep below. Lovely sailing conditions – beautiful reach.

Apart from Rob spotting a satellite, we’ve seen no other evidence of any other humans for approx. a week. Not a vessel on the water nor anything in the sky. No planes.

10h00: Rob still asleep below. I’ve been up here on watch, which means reading and napping. Red Rock is flying across a flat ocean at 7 knots – very comfortable – perfect temperature – truly heavenly.

10h26: Rob woke up and decided to replace the fanbelt on the boat’s engine. It was making odd noises early this morning when he ran it to charge the batteries. It took him 20 minutes to find the fanbelt and 3 minutes to replace it.

I carried on napping and reading.

10h44: The manual bilge pump is blocked. So Rob is now constructing and electric bilge pump out of things he’s found on the boat:

A coat-hangar
Plastic piping of two different diameters
A walrus tooth
A comb
Part of an old violin
An electric pump

Lots of rummaging, cutting, splicing and sawing going on below me whilst I was trying to nap.

Once the contraption was completed, we took it the bilges in the front cabin to test. And if you don’t know what a bilge is, I feel sorry for you.

The moment the pump went in the water, it fused the electric circuit. So that was not a successful mission. We’ll need to keep emptying the bilges by hand.

Brunch: Toaster pumpernickel, avo and fry deggs.

Deggs # 25, 26 and 27 were eaten.

We have 9 left.

#28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 and 36.

4 lemons left.

15h30: The wind has dropped to 9 knots and the sea is bumpy. Red Rock is bouncing around like a boat in the middle of the Atlantic in a 9 knot wind.

Several months ago, whilst in the hot-tub, I taught Lisa and Bea the NATO alphabet. You know, A for Alpha, B for Beta etc…

A few days later I heard Lisa on the phone to an airline (if I recall correctly). The line was bad so Lisa was encouraging the lady on the other end to use the NATO alphabet.

I heard Lisa saying “ok, C for Charlie” and then “ok, J for Juliet”, and then I heard her say:

“E for I? E for I?”

What had happened is the lady on the other side needed to think of a word for the letter E. The most logical word was Eye. E for Eye!

Lisa and I found it hilarious.

When I told this story to Rob, he being Lord Admiral of the very vessel on which we now sit, and being, therefore, by necessity, a frequent user of radio communications, also found the E for Eye a most hilarious concept, and roared with laughter to a point where I thought something on the boat might break.

We’ve tried to come up with E for Eyes of our own. So far we have:

G for Gnome
K for Knife
M for Mnemonic
P for Pterodactyl
S for Sea
T for Tchaikovsky
and
W for Why

If you can think of any others, do let us know. It’s fun trying. The aim is for them to be completely confusing in a radio communication.

I’m pleased to report that the Potential MCS (Melon Crisis Situation) mentioned yesterday has been completely averted. Today’s inspection determined that our one and only melon was in fact perfectly ripe and we subsequently ate some of it. Both very much aware that our days of perishables are soon drawing to a close.

17h29: Moonrise

17h45: A squall from the north has hit us – 15 knots of wind. So it is suddenly fast and bumpy.

18h00: The weather.
Me: “It’s all we talk about.”
Agrees Rob: “It’s all that matters.”

18h15:
Wind speed 14.6 knots (N)
Our speed 7.6 knots
Cloudy, squalls
Bearing: 290
Fore-cabin creak ratio: 9.55

19h00:
Both standing up on deck watching the sky.
Clouds everywhere.
Except up ahead, a wedge of orange sky on the horizon, under a large dark stretch of sky.

Now we focus on the wedge.
If we bear up 5 -10 degrees we can make it straight through it.
Hope far away is it?
40 miles – so we’ll be through it by sunrise?
10 miles?
1 mile?
Impossible to tell.
What’s on the other side of it?
Clear skies or more scattered clouds?
More wedges perhaps?
Wedges beyond wedges until the horizon.
The horizons beyond horizons, all with wedges, till infinity?

How wedgified is it as we get closer?
Is it a trick of the eye?
Is it a sharp wedge or indiscernible as we get closer?

We watch it and discuss it for the next hour. It’s pretty-much all we talk about. We both become TWEs (Total Wedge Experts).

Known as Wexperts in some circles.

The wedge draws nearer.

Then darkness descends.

We can no longer discern the wedge, as the sun has gone completely. Clouds melt into the darkness of the sky.

20h00: Rob goes down to sleep.

20h30: Suddenly stars everywhere. We’ve pushed through the wedge into a moon-drenched, cloudless sky.

Far up ahead, 1,500 miles away, St. Maarten beckons.

Watches:

Rolff: 20h00-22h30
22h30-01h00: Rob
Rolff: 01h00-03h00
03h00-06h00: Rob
Rolff: 06h00-09h00
09h00-10h00: Rob

Day 11: “We’ve Worked for This”
Thursday 20 January 2022

Time of readings: 13h00
Lat: 22, 11.18N
Long: 36, 35.13W
Wind speed: 12.5
Wind direction: 40 degrees
Distance travelled (miles): 1,350
Sea State: 2.0 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 274

Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: Dial is still fogged over. We have ordered the spare part and will attempt repair as soon as we have it.

Woken by Rob at 6am for my shift.
Made tea.
Downloaded the weather and realise that there’s a possibility of some low-wind zones up ahead (4-5 days time).

Low wind = blue on the weather map.
The lighter the blue, the lower the wind.
We don’t like seeing blue zones.

When on watch we sit on a cushion below the cuddy (a wind protection shield with some windows in it – hand-built by our Lord Admiral himself), with our legs stretched out. This boat does not have seats on deck (as it was designed as a racing boat). It’s pretty comfortable up there. One can also stand in front of the cuddy, and lean on its roof. This tends to be our sunset position. Both standing up there leaning on it, chatting.

At 06h00 Rob went back down to sleep.

Clouds covering 80% of the sky.
Isolated squalls behind and in front of us.

Wind speed: 10 knots
Our speed: 6.8 knots

A tern just flew over us and circled back to see more of us. A lone bird out here – 1,300 nautical miles from shore.

1 nautical mile = 1.15 normal (land) miles
1 nautical mile = 1.85 kms

So us and this bird are 1,497 miles, or 2,408 kms from shore. Very profound.

08h00: Wind up at 16 knots. We’re going a steady 8 knots on a broad reach straight for St. Maarten island.

Like a Nutribullet – fast and smooth.

09h00: Wind now at 18 knots. Boat speed is up to 8.5 knots – we’re going with the wind and with the swell and with the chop. We’re flying and it’s smooth enough to put the grumpiest of baby to sleep.

Rob just woke up and I told him fast were going.

Quote of the day: “We’ve worked for this.”
– RJ Newman, Chief Commanding Officer

13h30
I’ve been sleeping and writing in my bed below deck for the last 4 hours.

Rob has been aft fixing things.

Time to get up.

Rob has just told me about the lure he spent two hours making – using an old lure, some rubber, insulation tape and a Christmas decoration. Just as a he was about to tie it on to the line, the boat lurched and it was swept overboard.

Apparently there was much swearing.

Fish and rice for lunch.

Quiet afternoon on deck, chatting and drinking tea.

16h46: Gusting to 21 knots.

17h12: Too bumpy to sleep inside – back snoozing on deck.

18h56: Gusting to 21 knots.

Broad reach flying.

Dinner = wraps.

Watches:
Rob: 20h00-23h00
23h00-03h00: Rufus
Rob: 03h00-07h00

Day 12: Halfway There + FHGM Activated
Friday 21 January 2022

Time of readings: 11h48 (GMT)
Lat: 22, 04.67N
Long: 38, 44.29W
Wind speed: 14 knots
Wind direction: 77 degrees
Distance travelled (nautical miles): 1,470
(kms): 2,722
Sea State: 1.5 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 260

Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: Dial is still fogged over. We expect the part (the Gimble Lubrication Duct) to be delivered today.

07h05: sunrise
Kettle on the boil

Both fishing lines have just been put out.

On Rob’s side (port) a new custom-built lure (including a Christmas decoration).
On my side (starboard) a regular Rapallo – going for Bonito.

Wind: 14.5 knots
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 7.10 knots
Cloud cover: 6/8ths
08h00: Wind now straight behind us so looks like we’re on a dead run for the next few days.

Starboard tack. Executive decision taken to put jib out on spinnaker pole (to starboard).

Much HTP (High Tech Pfaffing) on foredeck then ensued.

Just as we got the pole up, the wind shifted, so we took it down again. Will have to wait till later.

Heading for a cloud bank.

Random squalls developing in places.

Found a flying fish on deck. Must have happened overnight. It was a surprisingly small creature.

10h30: Rob just emptied the two red, deck-top jerry cans (22l each) into the fuel tank.

10h45
Squall approaching from the NE
Wind = 16.7 knots
Boat speed over ground = 8.2 knots

11h30: BIG NEWS
We have hit our halfway mark in terms of distance travelled: 1,470 nautical miles (2,722 kms)

Hopefully more than halfway in terms of time. If the forecast holds, the second half should be quicker.

12h00: Back on deck drinking tea.

12h15: Given our position, Rob sent me up the crow’s nest as lookout. Right up to the top of the mast. From up there the view was magnificent.

13h00: MST
Melon Snack Time

14h00: Up goes the spinnaker pole. Jib is now out to our starboard side.

14h10: ZZZZZZZZZinggggggg!
My reel goes berserk – we dash to the back of the boat. There’s something massive on my line. All crew members now in FHGM (Full Hunter-Gatherer Mode), but one of them, who shall go unnamed save for the fact that his name begins with R and ends with FF, makes a rookie error and overtightens the drag. Bang, we’ve lost it – the tracer pops and dinner is gone.

Much cussing follows.

14h30: Rob announces that he is making a new, all-powerful lure.

It shall be called The Mahi Slayer.

I told you FHGM has kicked in.

15h00: Now Rob announces that he making another, even more powerful lure:
The Mahi Extractor.

He has attached a bicycle inner tube to the transom rail. Attached to the inner tube is a thick green string (or a thin green rope), at the end of which is the Extractor – handmade out of Xmas decorations and hooks. The inner tube acts as a shock absorber for the strike.

We now have 3 lures out.

Starboard: Rolff Sector – The Rapallo 2,700
Midship: Central Sector – The Mahi Extractor
Portside: Rob Sector – The Mahi Slayer

No more messing about.

16h05

We just got our first Mahi-Mahi. It hit The Rapallo 2,700 on Rolff’s Starboard Sector. Landed admirably by Chief Petty Officer Newman.

16h10
Fish filleted.
Half in fridge for lunch tomorrow.
Half in a frying pan.

Negotiations underway whether to fry or go the ceviche route. Perhaps both.

The latest downloaded forecast shows we will be going through a blue (low wind) zone tonight. Thusfar the forecasts have proved very accurate.
Blue zones are the least pleasant thing on this trip.

Because of the chop, when the wind dies the boat rocks back and forth. The rigging moans, the sails groan, and the contents of the cupboards beg to get released, but incessantly banging and clattering to let us know they’re in there.

Being inside the boat in such conditions is like being inside the belly of a beast. Jonah comes to mind.

17h45: Spinnaker pole lowered.
Jib eased back to starboard tack.

18h23: Both standing up in our sunset positions, leaning onto the cuddy roof, looking at the skies ahead of us. That’s what we’ll be going through tonight; darker skies, some squalls, a wedge of bright sky to the south, some puff clouds, and a forecast of lower wind.

I say “How about some supper?”
Rob agrees but then says “Shall we bring the fishing lines in or wait another five minutes?”

I reply “Let’s do it now. I really don’t feel like cutting and cleaning a fish right now.”

As that last word rolls off my tongue: ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzinggg!!
My reel starts to whine as a fish takes the lure and makes a run for it.

We’re both laughing hysterically as I’m trying to reel in the fish and Rob is bringing in the other lines and getting the gaff ready.

The laughter eventually subsides and we land it – a respectable Bonito.

When I fillet it, it’s still warm inside.

Once we’ve cleaned up on deck, we head down for dinner.

Freshly caught Mahi Mahi and our third last meal with potatoes.

22h00: Rob says he sees stars ahead. The squalls seems to have dissipated. We’ll only know if they have, when the moon comes up, which will be an about an hour. Until then, we will be sailing in the dark.

22h15: Sailing blind, across a dark sea into an equally dark horizon. But now, a bright moon pops out from the cloudbank behind us. It’s as if someone is shing a spotlight from behind us. The sails are glowing and at last I can see the path ahead.

For the last several hours we’ve been struggling due to the light wind. But when we get under a cloud, the wind suddenly picks up. We’ve just got under one. The wind picked up to 18 knots. Boat-speed in 6.5 knots.

This will continue for another 15 minutes or so until we pass from under the cloud.

And these clouds almost look like they come from a cartoon. They appear darker than the night sky, and are fairly evenly scattered. They are like inverse stepping-stones. We jump from one to the next, slowing down in between.

22h46: We under another one. Gusting to 21. Boat speed 8.5. Heading 300.

23h30: 45 minutes later and now something different happened. Instead of us sneaking under a cloud to find its wind, one stole up over us from behind. This one was a squall and brought stronger wind and really exhilarating sailing. It allowed me to bear off by 20 degrees to 280, and was gusting to 24. We zoomed over a flat ocean for 15 minutes. Flying downwind as the squall overtook us. Then boom, out came the moon again, illuminating us as if we were carrying a king.

Watches:

Ralph: 11h00-01h15
01h15-03h15: Rob
Ralph: 03h15-05h30
05h30-08h30: Rob

Day 13: Into the Belly of the Whale
Saturday 22 January 2022

Time of readings: 21h00
Lat: 22, 15.1N
Long: 41, 57.3W
Wind speed: 9.4
Wind direction: N
Distance travelled (miles): 1,687
Sea State: 4 (swell), 1 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 300
Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: 641

Two things to say:

[1] Today’s post deals a lot with squalls and navigating them. It might be bit boring for non-sailors. It reads as a series of journal entries, contemporaneously recording what we did on the sailing front today.

[2] Since we’ve gained so much experience now with dealing with squalls, Rob and I are delighted to announce that we will be setting up a company. The last time we formalized an entity was when we established the Johannesburg Pyromaniac Association in 1979. Out track-record is unparalleled.

The new entity will be:

Newman & Lazar Mid-Atlantic Squall Analytics & Diagnostics Corp. Inc. (Horporated) Pty (Ltd).

We are unable to disclose the unique boutique mystique of this company on a granular level without a signed NDA, but what we can tell you is that we will be providing bespoke squall solutions for an array of high-end clients.

Because of the Mid-Atlanticness of expertise and customer base, this company will be listed on both the London and New York Stock exchanges.

It will be based in the Caribbean for tax purposes, and so that we can expense this trip, and any future trips, irrespective of which ocean or sea they might take place on.

Todays Journal entries:

24h15: Scattered clouds and lots of squalls, bright night, getting bumpy. We’re on a starboard tack.

The wind has just shifted, forcing us to 333 degrees. Too far north. We want to be going east. In fact, ideally, and little north of east to avoid a blue patch below us, like 290.

Woke Rob to put in a gybe.

Perfectly executed in the light of our red torch-beams. Rob went back down. Port tack. As broad a reach as possible. Course over ground now 260 degrees. Much better.

01h15: I went back down to bed. Decent sleep for two hrs. Rob put in another gybe while I slept.

03h15: Swapped watch with Rob. Squallsville Tennessee. Wind 15.5. Speed 6.5. Starboard tack. Bearing 347. Too far north again. Now looking for a wind switch to bear off.

But the switch doesn’t come. Again being forced too far north.

Someone upstairs doesn’t want us to sleep.

At 04h15 I wake Rob and we gybe back onto port.

Our weather app models an ideal course for us, given our boat’s specifications and recent performance. The ideal course is represented as a blue boat icon on the screen. We’re represented by a red boat icon (for obvious reasons). It becomes very frustrating when we see the theoretical (blue) boat steaming ahead of us.

Decent bearing until I can stay awake no more. Rob comes back up at 05h15.

Beautiful sleep. At some stage I hear the engine go on. I emerge at 06h30. Engine is still on. Rob is at the helm in the rain. There is no wind and the sea is like a washing machine.

I make some coffee for Rob and tea for me.

09h30: I’m below, in the creaking, damp belly of the whale, typing this. Ahab is up in the rain. In anticipation of wind, he reefed the main before going under this cloud, and he’s resolutely staying up there until it kicks in.

Rob briefly came down for some tea, and when he went back on deck, to our delight we saw that Amazon had delivered the part for the Glaxometer.

Repairs shall begin immediately.

10h25: Still in the rain but now the wind has come up. Fast. Gusting to 28 knots. Boat speed 7-9 knots. The heavy rain is flattening the sea state – allowing us to go faster.
Finally making up for lost time.

11h30: Just hit a boat-speed of 10 knots for the first time on the trip.

Rainstorm (heavy downpour) and wind till 1pm.

The wind just hit 28 knots. Very wet. Big swell. 5m we estimate.
We’re both completely drenched.

Lunch = can of baked beans for myself
Bowl of muesli for Rob. And then a wrap.

14h00: Rob asleep. Wind has dropped to 18 knots. Sea still big. Sky clearing – won’t have blue sky but dark clouds lifting. Scattered squalls.

15h15: We’ve dropped the main sail in an attempt to bear off, but the wind is light and the jib alone is not giving us enough power. So we’ve lost speed, its very bumpy and we’re not on a good heading. Altogether unsatisfactory.

15h30: Put the main back up. Gybed. Back on port tack. Now going fast and more comfy. Bearing better at 235.

16h00: Sleep time for me.

17h30: Rob puts in a gybe. Were back on starboard. 14kts wind, boat-speed 707, bearing 305. Squalls behind and in front of us.

17h45: Just came back on deck after my sleep, and BOOM – it hits me again – the sun is out and we are zooming across a vast expanse of beautiful ocean. We’re incredibly lucky.

18h00: The Glaxometer has been repaired. Rob is rebooting it as I type this.

RFOTD: Random Fact of the Day
There’s only one kitchen item that stays permanently on deck with us. A bottle of sriracha sauce.

23h00: Very dark outside, wet.
Wind: 19.5 knots
Boat-speed: 8.2 knots
Heading: 265 degrees

Watches:

Rob: 21h00-23h00
23h00-01h00: Roelff
Rob: 01h00-03h30
03h30-05h30: Roelff
Rob: 05h30-08h00

Day 14: Night-sailing, Squall-dodging
Sunday 23 January 2022

Time of readings: 20h00
Lat: 21, 24.18N
Long: 44, 29.99W
Wind speed: 17.6
Wind direction: 46
Distance travelled (miles): 1,843
Sea State: 3.0 (swell), 1.0 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 245
Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: 651

FSM: Full Squall Mode

03h30
Wind speed: 24 knots
Boat speed: 8.2 knots
Bearing: 277 degrees

09h00
Wind speed: 18 knots
Boat speed: 5.3 knots
Bearing: 260 degrees

Due west is 270 degrees.
Our target island, St. Maarten is at around 250.

13h45
Wind speed: 15.1
Boat speed: 6.7
Heading: 275

13h51: Been napping most of the morning. Starboard tack. Commodore has decided that we’re going to reef the jib and bring it out to starboard side of the boat on a spinnaker pole.

14h30: Executed successfully.
Working a treat. Stable and fast + better heading.

15h26
Wind speed: 16.5
Boat speed: 7.2
Heading: 269

Lazy trade wind day at last.
Balmy, blue skies, sleeping on the deck along with all the mattresses and clothes we’re drying.

Moonrise 23h57

I have finally nailed the night-shift strategy:

Last night I went first. 22h00-midnight. Rob then took over. When he did, I told him to wake me in two hours.

At 02h00 he came and woke me as per the plan. He started making a wrap and asked if I wanted one. I did. It was delicious. I stayed in bed and ate it.

I then decided that I would go back to sleep. Which I did. And woke up at 07h00 the next morning.

Rob did the rest of the shifts from his bed, setting an alarm for every 30 mins.

This was a good solution. Might try it again tonight. Though I could do with more pickle in my wrap.

Day 15: Sailing
Monday 24 January 2022

Time of readings: 15h49
Lat: 21, 9.4N
Long: 46, 49.8W
Wind speed: 19
Wind direction: 90
Distance travelled (miles): 1,977
Sea State: 1.5 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 286
Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: 669

Finally, a perfect trade wind day.

Morning:
Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Ate, Sailed, Napped, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Fished, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed.

Afternoon
Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Ate, Fished, Napped, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed.

Evening/Night
Sailed , Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Ate, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Sailed, Slept, Sailed, Sailed, Slept, Sailed, Slept, Sailed.

…and all is well on HMS Red Rock.

Day 16: Sailing
Tuesday 25 January 2022

Time of readings: Noon
Lat: 21, 01.1N
Long: 40, 01.9W
Wind speed: 15.6
Wind direction: 86
Distance travelled (miles): 2,104
Miles to go: 816
Sea State: 2.5 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 271

Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: 550
Moby Dick page number: 315 of 624
Last sighting of another vessel: 12 days ago
Last sighting of a plane: 13 days ago
Number of eggs remaining: 8
Number of carrots remaining: 8
Number of lemons remaining: 4
Number o’ vorringes remaining: 7

Last night’s watches:

Roelff: 22h15 – 02h00
02h00 – 04h30: Robertus Maximus
Both 04h30 – 06h00 (much to be discussed)
06h00 – 07h30: Robertus Maximus

Moonrise was at 01h05
Sunrise was at 07h50

Now that we’re out of the low pressure zone, and Squallesville Tennessee is but a mere bad memory, the skies have opened up and we had SPECTACULAR stars last night. We started using Rob’s phone app for ID-ing them – challenging with bumpy seas and with sails and the solar panels in the way. But it’s now our mission to try nail the major constellations before we reach land.

We’re both aware that the air we’re breathing (on deck) is probably the cleanest ever to enter our lungs. Different case below deck however.

08h30
Wind speed: 15.2
Boat speed: 7.1
Heading: 293 degrees

It’s been a perfect, dream-like, Trade Wind day since sunrise. Steady wind straight on our tail and the sea is an impossible blue. The sky is looking pretty sweet too. Infrequent small clouds but mainly clear.

We’re now deeply into the zone of TES (Total Element Submission), i.e. we have given ourselves over completely to the wind and sky and waves and stars and clouds. It’s all we watch all the time, and what we comment on and discuss most of the time. A very nice feeling.

A Tiny Speck on a Massive Ocean

So here’s the big question: What does it feel like to be so isolated, and so vulnerable to the elements?

Does some mini existential crisis come bubbling up every time I think of where we are and what we’re doing?

(I thought a lot about this in the 5 days I had to mentally prepare for the trip – what would it actually feel like to be out there, all alone?)

The answer is, strangely and surprisingly, everything feels completely normal. It feels the same as when we used to cross the channel together when we were in our 20’s, or as if we were sailing from Cardiff to Lundy, or any one-day passage across a big piece of water.

The boat creates a bubble of comfort around us, there’s stuff to do, sailing and tweaking and cooking and navigating, so everything feels rather business-as-usual.

Plus there’s the technology. The PLB (personal locator beacon) I carry on me at all times can send the US & UK Coast Guard our exact location at the push of a button. Likewise I also have an AIS (Automatic Identification System) enabled beacon on me which allows the skipper to find a man overboard. In addition, we have an EPIRB on the boat, a beacon that connects directly to the UK Coastguard the moment it is activated or submerged in salt water.

We’ve encountered some strong winds and big seas, and yes, things did feel slightly different then. One obviously can’t ignore the stakes-are-rather-high-right-now feeling, but at the same time, it also felt rather normal. Addressing the task at hand seems to simply over-ride invasive thoughts of vulnerability.

One last observation on this matter. Before the trip I imagined the feeling of vulnerability might perhaps be most acute at night on watch, alone on deck as Rob slept below. In fact, the opposite has been true. Being alone on deck, especially when the sky is bright and the wind is blowing, is the most calm I have ever felt in my life. It’s then, with nothing but the sound of us sliding over the water, surrounded by exceptional beauty, that everything feels just right.

Other Things

On day five I mentioned a fleet of 40 boats sailing the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), who were all in the same marina as us. They left a day before us and we’ve just heard we are ahead of two thirds of them. Not that we’re racing or anything…

Eggs 25, 26, 27 and 28 were eaten at lunch. We are now down to our last four.

Busy Night

Rob went on first watch at 8pm. He woke me at 10pm as a squall was coming up behind us. He’d been tracking it for the last hour.

There are two rules re reefing a sail.

[Rule 1] Reef the sail when you first think of it.
[Rule 2] Undo the reef after the first cup of tea.

We broke Rule 1. We discussed bringing the jib down but didn’t act until it was too late, i.e. the squall was upon us – gusting to 25 and lots of rain. Rob, harnessed it, perched precariously on the bow in bumpy waves and a total downpour, got it down.

Day 17: Sailing
Wednesday 26 January 2022

Time of readings: 10h43
Lat: 20, 38.9N
Long: 51, 34.6W
Wind speed: 16.2
Wind direction: 80
Distance travelled (miles): 2,251
Miles to go: 669
Sea State: 1.0 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 259

Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: 512
Moby Dick page number: 424 of 624
Last sighting of another vessel: 13 days ago
Last sighting of a plane: 14 days ago
Number of eggs remaining: 4 (#29, 30, 31, 32)
Number of carrots remaining: 7
Number of lemons remaining: 4
Number o’ vorringes remaining: 6
Number of tomatoes remaining: 1
Number of avos remaining: 1

Watches:
Rob: 20h00-24h4
20h45-03h00: Rudolph
Rob: 03h00-07h00

24h45: I’ve come up on deck. Rob asleep below. Squalls have passed. Sailing blind into a very dark sea & horizon. But bright stars above.

Wind speed: 15.5 knots
Boat speed: 6.1 knots
Heading: 285 degrees

One thing I haven’t mentioned on these posts is how warm it is. Most days have been shorts and t-shirts, and its getting warmer as we approach the Caribbean. When on watch at night it’s long pants and light hoodie, and occasionally a kikoy for my legs. Except of course if there’s bad weather, In which case we wear our survival suits.

Moonrise: 02h10 (but we changed the clocks later in the day so actually 01h10.

Orion’s belt straight in front of us. Taurus and Pleiades at 1 and 2 o’clock respectively. (we see all three of these in the southern hemisphere btw).

Sunrise: 07h00
Lazy morning and early afternoon.
Rob ran the engine to recharge the batteries.
Has a mission getting the jib back up as it had come under the bow. We reversed the engine to help it.

Jib now up.
Blue skies and great weather.
All the cushions got wet in the squall so are now up on deck drying.

Another GLORIOUS day of downwind sailing

11h23
Rob asleep. I’m on deck in the aft cockpit in my usual spot. Just put on a new Rapallo lure. I have a good feeling about it and I’m hungry. Doing some reading whilst waiting for lunch to bite. Bliss.

Traveling like this, quietly and steadily onwards towards an unseen island destination creates a sense of deep calm.

Unless the wind drops. Then it becomes stressful.

14h00
Wind speed: 16.2
Boat speed: 7.2
Course over ground: 261 degrees (m)

Latest downloaded forecasts shows winds lightening tomorrow for a couple of days. This is very disheartening. When the wind drops and the sea stays bumpy, this boat moans like a harpooned whale in its death throes. Very hard to sleep (as everything is banging and clanking) and hard to enjoy oneself during the day as the boom keeps clunking back and forth, and with every clunk, it feels as if the very bones of the boat are rattling.

It also delays our arrival date.

The light wind patch is behind us. Can we outrun it?

Watches:

Rob: 20h00-21h00
21h00-23h00: Rolff
Both: 23h00-24h15

Squall approached from behind, so we reefed the main (starboard tack) and blanketed the jib (i.e. took it off pole on starboard, moved it over to port and pulled it tight, so it was downwind of the main). Gusted up to 24 knots but then we started to outrun it.

I then went down to bed.
I finally got some sleep (maybe even 6 hours) as Rob stayed on watch.

Day 18: Lighter Winds – Spinnaker Up
Thursday 27 January 2022

Time of readings: 15h04
Ocean Depth: 4.5km
Lat: 19, 56.69N
Long: 54, 16.01W
Wind speed: 10.26
Wind direction: 80 degrees
Distance travelled (miles): 2,411
Distance remaining (miles): 509
Sea State: 0.5 (swell), 0.0 (chop) – very flat
Course over ground (magnetic): 270 degrees

Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: 439
Potemkin-Ossulton ratio: 2.2
Smirren-Valve Cusp-Rotor Liquidity Level: 44.27
Kathrall Manifold Ossification Quotient: 76.4

Moby Dick page number: 506 of 624
Last sighting of another vessel: 14 days ago
Last sighting of a plane: 15 days ago
Number of eggs remaining: 4 (#29, 30, 31, 32)
Number of carrots remaining: 5
Number o’ vlemmins remaining: 4
Number o’ vorringes remaining: 4
Number o’ vavos remaining: 0
Number of tomatoes remaining: 0
Madeline cookies remaining: 8

Moonrise: 02h30
Sunrise: 07h15

08h00: Gorgeous day, light wind. Flattest sea we’ve had on the trip.

There is something extraordinary about the air; the temperature, the breeze – it feels so clear and soothing as if it has magical qualities, almost rosy.

Ralph: “This air is so amazing, it’s like being rubbed in a very expensive moisturizer that one can only buy in a very fancy store in Paris.”

Rob: “Yes. But better.”

Three minutes later.

Rob: “If we could bottle this air we’d be very rich.”

Wind speed: 10.1 knots
Boat speed: 5.1 knots
Heading: 257 degrees

10h00: Spinnaker up, for the first time on the trip.
The wind is very light and we need to maintain boat speed. So we’ve dropped the jib and the main.

Flying a spinnaker always brings a touch of grandeur and magic. Red Rock’s is white & red. Vertical panels at the top and horizontal at the bottom.

15h00
Been a spectacularly lazy day. Dozing, eating, and I’ve even managed to do some painting.

Wind speed: 9.77 knots
Boat speed: 5.68 knots
Heading: 267 degrees

16h14: Fairly big moment on Red Rock IV.
The radar has just started beeping signaling that someone is painting us with their radar. Checked the AIS and saw a vessel 20 nautical miles SE of us. Too small to see from deck but that’s the first sign of other human life out here in the last 14 days.

Spotted a plane!
The first in fifteen days.
Heading the same direction as us.
Us down here on a little bobbing boat.
Them up there, probably all staring at little screens. Oh, here’s the food trolley: “Would you like the chicken or the beef sir?”

Another fairy tern (we think it was a fairy tern – white with a long thin tail) has come and circled the boat. The third one in three days. She flew in for a direct glance, circled two or three times, and then was off…

Sunset 18h30.

Signs of squalls around.
Accordingly, brought the spinnaker down and raised the jib.

21h00
Rain squall. Pretty wet.

22h00
Wind speed: 9.2 knots
Boat speed: 4.2 knots
Heading: 264 degrees

I have come up on watch.
Sailing in the dark again.
No stars behind us so might be another squall coming.

23h48: Whilst alone on watch I saw a plane to the north, heading east. Felt very strange and profound. Like two ships passing in the night. But one in a vast sky and the other on a vast ocean. Two spaceships passing each other off the shoulder of Orion.

Watches:

Randolph: 22h00 – 01h00
01h00 – 03h00: Robertus
Randolph: 03h00 – 08h00

Day 19: Rainbow Alley Reprise + Fresh Tuna
Friday 28 January 2022

Time of readings: 12h43
Ocean Depth: 4.5km
Lat: 19, 29.2N
Long: 55, 58.7W
Wind speed: 10.46
Wind direction: 78
Distance travelled (miles): 2509
Distance remaining (miles): 411
Sea State: 0.5 (swell), 0.0 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 279

Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: 333
Quadrangulated Schmockfeldt Nozzle Reading: 27
Rebmann Cusp-Coil Flex Level: 830
Snee-sprocket-pocket Capacity: 54,870
Pinsnoffian Gimble: 20 degrees
Hind-flap Resonance: 3
Fore-flap Resonance: 2
Glemridge Mode: 15

Moby Dick page number: 597 of 624
Last sighting of another vessel: 15 days ago
Last sighting of a plane: yesterday!
Number of eggs remaining: 4 (#29, 30, 31, 32)
Number of carrots remaining: 0
Number o’ vlemmins remaining: 4
Number o’ vorringes remaining: 2
Number o’ vavos remaining: 0
Number of tomatoes remaining: 0
Madeline cookies remaining: 6

I got no sleep last night. During Rob’s watch I writhed around like a beached tadpole.

Moonrise: 04h00

07h00:
Wind speed: 4.2 knots
Boat speed: 3.2 knots
Bearing: 284

Sunrise: 07h17

Squalls on all sides, including straight ahead.

Stunning morning.

Late breakfast. Trying to head for low clouds as they’re bringing wind. Lots of little showers and associated rainbows around us. Hoping to get straight under one as Rob wants to shower.

Both fishing lines out.

Pace is slow but ok. As long as we’re making progress and the sails aren’t flapping, we’re happy.

MNA (Major Napping Activity) planned below deck for crew members.

Will turn the clocks back a fourth and final time today. It’s been quite strange traveling through 5 time zones – roughly a new one every four days.

Feels like we’re getting closer to land no with the plane sightings, and just had three terns checking out our lures.

No fish in the last few days.

2pm: Rob asleep on deck, myself asleep below.

Then Zzzzzing – Rob’s line with the Mahi Slayer lure (remember, the one made of Christmas decorations) goes berserk. Next thing he’s reeling in a healthy fish, we gaff it, and it’s on board. It’s a yellowfin tuna.

The moment it hits the cockpit floor, ZZZZZZZZINGGGGG, my line goes crazy – the ratchet is whizzing like a bat out of hell – there is something very big on the other end.

I grab the road and before I even have a chance to strike, the line goes slack. When I reel it in, there’s nothing there – snapped where the trace swivel met the line.

Looking forward to dinner tonight.

16h24
Wind speed: 10.0 knots
Boat speed: 6.0 knots
280 degrees

Lots of seaweed around. Usually small handfill-sized pieces – floating and very healthy-looking.

Thusfar we’ve seen very little in terms of litter, i.e. two bottles, a small sheet of plastic and a piece of net in 18 days.

But we just passed over two larger clusters of seaweed, each approximately the size of a car. Both were full of pieces of plastic of all shapes and sizes – lots of bottles. Very upsetting.

Dinner: Fresh tuna, potatoes and cabbage salad.

21h04: Just put in a gybe. Now on a port tack heading straight for St. Maarten.
Watches:

Rob: 21h00 – 24h00
24h00 – 04h30: Roelff
Rob: 04h30- 08h00

Day 20: The Final Fry Deggs
Saturday 29 January 2022

Time of readings: 16h07
Lat: 19, 11.9N
Long: 58, 26.6W
Wind speed: 15.4
Wind direction: 110
Distance travelled (miles): 2,662
Distance remaining (miles): 258
Sea State: 1.0 (swell), 0.5 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 259
Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: 330

CTRs (Core Tension readings)
Head-stay: 45.5
Fore-Saddle: 76.3
Saddle: 44.7
Aft-saddle: 75.3
Spleen: 43.3
Pillion Cushion Surface: 99.3
Pillion Cushion Duct: 99.4
Rectoid Capacitor: 66.2

Moby Dick page number: 624 of 624 (finished)
Last sighting of another vessel: 16 days ago
Number of eggs remaining: 0 (#29, 30, 31, 32)
Number of carrots remaining: 0
Number o’ vlemmins remaining: 3
Number o’ vorringes remaining: 1
Madeline cookies remaining: 6

Up at 8am, sun streaming in the hatches.

Stunning day out here.
Sea looks a darker blue.

Wind speed: 15.3
Boat speed: 6.8
Bearing: 273 degrees

We’re now on a healthy broad reach, port tack and aiming straight for St. Maarten, pushed along by the vigorous mildness of our friend the Trade Wind. It’s a great feeling.

Rob spotted another plane last night – definite signs of getting closer to land. Still no ships.

Toasted pumpernickel and fry deggs for lunch.

Deggs #29, 30, 31 and 32 were consumed, although Rob almost dropped #32 on the floor. That would have been bad.

Plenty of squalls about, one VERY wet, another hit 25 knots.

Watches:

Rob: 20h00-24h00
24h00-03h30: Rufus
Both: 03h30-04h30 (much to talk about)
Rob: 04h30-06h30

Day 21: This is not a Drill
Sunday 30 January 2022

Time of readings: 12h50
Lat: 18, 31.56N
Long: 61, 21.88W
Depth of ocean: 6.2km
Wind speed: 16.2
Wind direction: 136 (SE)
Distance travelled (miles): 2,782
Distance remaining (miles): 158
Sea State: 1.5 (swell), 1.0 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 265
Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: 219

Last sighting of another vessel: 17 days ago
Number of lemons remaining: 3

24h00:
Just came up for watch.

Wind speed: 14.4
Boat speed: 6.5
Heading: 258

Warm night.
Epic sky as usual.

Back in Squallsville Tennessee.

03H30: We had just emerged from a small, wet squall that had gusted up to 20. I’d borne away 20 degrees and it had all gone smoothly. Another one had been following us for the last 45 mins. I was too tired to stay on watch, so when the wind eased back to 15 knots, I woke Rob, and then went below and got undressed.

The second I got under my duvet I heard Rob shout – “It’s 25 already!”.

When the wind jumps from 15 to 25 knots in a matter of minutes, it’s non-trivial.

I knew exactly what to do. After three weeks at sea, on an ocean like the Atlantic, instincts kick-in. Rob needed me up there, and fast.

This is not a drill.

I was out of bed in a second, and putting on my survival suit. This provides protection from the rain and spray, provides warmth, and buoyancy if I go overboard.

Checklist:

Lifejacket on – check
Lifejacket lower clip fastened – check
GPS beacon securely in lifejacket – check
AIS enabled GPS beacon securely in lifejacket – check
Zipped up to chin – check
Tighten ankle velcro – check
Tighten wrist velcro – check
Hood on – check

Time to go up.

By now the boat was thrashing about like an angry tigerfish on a line. I made my way back to Rob’s Sector, to the hatch leading up to the aft cockpit where Rob now fighting the storm. But he’d already sealed the hatch with the thick perspex covers. We cannot afford to get any of the interior navigation or communications electronics wet.

Things below deck were starting to bang about – loudly. I scrambled back to the Rolff Sector, to the mid-deck hatch which leads to the fore-cockpit.

This is not a drill.

I open it and emerge.

Immediately I am pummeled by rain. Buckets of rain. It’s hard and in my face. It’s howling. We’re in the thick of the squall for sure. And it might well be building.

As I am about to emerge, I suddenly remember: My harness!

I duck down again, grope for it in the dark, clip it on, check the clip, double-check the clip, and re-emerge.

This is a full combat situation. Rob is the fox-hole and at all costs I must get to him. But the decking harness safety lines only run in front of the fore-cockpit. There’s nothing for me to clip onto when moving to the rear.

I make the fateful decision. Rob needs me and he needs me now. Instinctively I drop, and then I leopard-crawl through the tangled ropes of the cockpit, up, over the edge, and then over the main-sail traveler. Pain is searing through my entire body, but through the spray and the shrapnel rain I make out the dark shape of Rob behind the cuddy. My advance continues.

I squeeze over two massive winches, past the stanchions and drop down exhausted into the cockpit.

Rob has it on autopilot. I stand up next to his darkened form and grab the hand rail. Its’ hard to see more than a few feet.

But no need for acknowledgement, we are in this together. It’s the unspoken that has all the power.

It gusts higher and now rain comes down harder. Really hard. Within minutes my survival suit starts leaking. Now I’m getting cold. But grim-faced I am determined to see this through with Rob. We have come so far together. We are so close to our destination.

Now my eyes dart instinctively to the instrument panels glowing through the melee. When Rob first cried out to me it was 25 knots. It must be 35 or even 45 by now. I lean down and rub the instrument panel screen as it’s obscured by droplets.

At first it looks like it’s 40 knots. I rub again. Is it 30?

No, it looks like 20. And now it’s falling to 15.

Then, for the first time, I turn to look at Rob.

He’s wearing nothing but his underpants, a very wet t-shirt, and a huge grin.

The sky opens up and the stars jump out.

The squall has passed.

I head back down to bed.
It takes about ten minutes to undress.
Luckily no shrapnel wounds.

Fast-forward several hours and the squall is all but a memory.

Our beautiful Trade Wind is massaging the sails all the way to St. Maarten. Blue skies, blue ocean and we are very happy.

After a very relaxing morning I go below deck and assess what food we have left. There’ still some cheese and some pickled cucumber and to our surprise, some crackers.

I lovingly make a plate full of crackers with cheese and thinly-sliced pickled cucumber on them. Just as I’m about to grab the plate, the boat lurches to starboard and the contents are thrown behind the normally-gimbled work surface.

If they were apples or avos , they’d roll down the back wall and into the bilges below, when they could easily be recovered by simply lifting the floorboards.

But not the case with this menu. I lift the floorboards and nothing. They have stuck to the wall, hidden behind the kitchen cupboards.

I’ll have to retrieve them when we’re at anchor, or perhaps not even tell Rob about them. He’ll discover them in a month or two anyway.

1pm
Wind speed: 17.7
Boat speed: 7.2
Heading: 271

Sun shining, wind blowing, and we’re flying.

163 miles to go. Averaging 6 knots. So that’s 27 hrs of wind stays constant, which it probably won’t. So ETA tomorrow (Monday) at around sunset.

18h00
We’re around 60 miles from the nearest land now.
Barbuda, an island to our SW.

St. Maarten is around 120 miles dead ahead.

Ahab promised a doubloon (gold coin) to his first crew member to spot Moby Dick. We’ve done the same. A half doubloon for whoever spots the first ship (we haven’t seen one in 18 days) without the use of radar or AIS, and a full doubloon for whoever spots land, or lights on land.

We’re both pretending it’s just for fun, but it isn’t.
Believe me, it isn’t.
Rob and I have been competing since around 1971.

8.45PM
Wind speed: 13 knots
Boat speed: 5.4 knots
Heading: 275
It’s going to be an exciting night. I wonder if either of us will get any sleep?

21H00
Rob is on deck. Calls out that he’s spotted a light.
I go up, and yes, there’s a light on the horizon. It looks like a ship. Please let it be a star. Pleeease.

I check the AIS and it is indeed a ship.
It’s a 183m long tanker called Hafnia Topaz, course over ground 117 degrees true, and she’s moving at 12.6 knots, well over double our speed.

Now I owe Rob half a doubloon.
If I had been up deck, I might have spotted it first.
But I wasn’t up on deck. I was here, down below, writing this entry. For you. So it’s your fault entirely that I now owe Rob. Accordingly, you owe me.
Half a doubloon please.
And don’t try duck out of it.

Day 22: Here’s Where the Story Ends… (part 1)
Monday 31 January 2022

Time of readings: 11h48
Lat: 18, 00.7N
Long: 62, 41.9W
Ocean depth: 33m
Wind speed: 14.6
Wind direction: 136
Distance travelled (miles): 2920
Distance remaining (miles): 20
Sea State: 0.5 (swell), 0 (chop)
Course over ground (magnetic): 261
Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: No longer working. Oil leaking from valve 14. But ok as we are in sight of land.

Number of fresh anything remaining: 2 lemons

03h00
Warm breeze, star-filled sky.

Wind speed: 13
Boat speed: 5.8
Heading: 276

In the darkness I can see the glow (loom/penumbra?) of Barbuda to our south – the first hint of land since we left the Canaries.

05h30
Seems to be a glow on the horizon dead ahead. That’s St. Maarten.

Wind speed: 11.
Boat speed: 7.4
Heading: 275

05h45
The sky is starting to lighten behind us. The last sunrise of our trip has begun.

06h43
The sun pops out above the horizon. Our final day is upon us.

50 miles to go.

A question to answer on our last day:

So what’s it like to cross the Atlantic?

[A] Expectations about Sailing Conditions

In terms of sailing, there was no drama on this crossing, which was part luck, and part intention.

In 2016, Rob and I got caught in a storm in the Bristol Channel. It was not on the forecast.

It was exhilarating and pretty hairy (57 knots), and Red Rock IV performed magnificently. Encountering something like that mid-Atlantic could have a different outcome.

Which is why we specifically stayed south and avoided the low pressure (higher wind) systems to the north. This proved the correct call. A drama-free Transatlantic is what one wants.

[B] Mental Challenges & Feelings of Isolation

As I mentioned in a previous post, the feeling of being a small speck in a huge ocean, never really weighed on us. The bubble of the boat and our constant daily business over-rode potential feelings of existential angst.

Mental challenges relating to disrupted sleep, constant rocking, constant noise (below deck is noisy in an aluminium boat), and running out of fresh supplies/water, were never an issue.

Rather, an overall sense of awe at the beauty of our landscape over-rode all else.

Here’s a quick list of highlights:

[1] How well we got on
Three weeks of constantly chattering away and laughing. How did we have so much to talk about? We’ve been jabbering away all morning – and will be until we lay anchor tonight. And after that.

[2] The sailing
Despite the predicted ease of sailing the Trade Winds, I thought it would nonetheless mainly be about defensive, careful sailing. But instead it was like a celebration. I was surprised at what a large percentage of the trip was spectacular and fast.

[3] Night watch
To be alone on deck, flying under a sparkling sky, for hours and hours and nights on end, felt like one of the great privileges of my life.

[4] Ocean Blue
Forever changing. Hour by hour, day by day.
And this ocean…often an impossible blue.

[5] Nature as our everything
Sea, wind, rain stars, sky, clouds, moon, sun – provided us with power, gave us bearings, entertainment, soothed us to sleep, woke us in fright – amazing to be so exposed like this.

07h38
Land spotted by Rob!
The doubloon goes to him.
St. Barts.
25 degrees off our port bow.

08h02
Just spotted our destination – St. Thomas.
15 degrees off our starboard bow.

11h51
Passing St. Barts – 7 miles off our port beam.
20 Miles to go to St. Maarten.

15h46 local time.
Red Rock IV anchor dropped.
Simpson Bay – St. Maarten – Netherlands Antilles
Atlantic crossed.

FINAL READINGS: 19h05
Lat: 18, 01.96N
Long: 63, 05.77W
Ocean depth: 4m
Wind speed: Irrelevant
Wind direction: Irrelevant
Distance travelled (miles): 2,940
Distance remaining (miles): 0
Sea State: Don’t care – someone else’s problem
Course over ground (magnetic): Anchored
Ostrofsky’s Glaxometer reading: Decommissioned