Monday, 29 February 2016

St Helena Outbound Day 7

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 09 55S 016 55W, saillng at 6.5 knots on a course of 270M. The wind is ESE at 15-18 knots with a 1.5m SE sea and a low S swell.  We are sailing under single-reefed main and double-furled yankee.  Sunny with scattered small cumulus.  Our day's run was 134nm, our DMG was 89nm and we have 3151nm to go.

We are two hours short of completing our first week at sea, close enough to give some stats.  First here is our speed plot for the week up to the early hours of this morning.  Day 2 was certainly a slow day but otherwise we've had good speed.

Week 1 Speed Over Ground

So here are the stats:
  • Log Distance = 976nm
  • Average Boat Speed = 5.8knots
  • Distance Made Good = 669nm
  • Average VMG = 4.0knots (ouch!)
  • Engine Hours = 6 hours (charging only)

Overall it has been a nice week's sailing.  However our progress towards our waypoint off Fernando de Noronha has been disappointing.  The problem is the wind being light and blowing directly towards the waypoint.  Hence the zigzagging we're doing.  We've actually taken a deliberate "hit" sailing north on the non-favoured gybe over the last two days.  We want to be roughly between Ascension and Fernando de Noronha to be closer to other boats.  Once we get to the waypoint we should be able to sail the course, with current assistance.  Bring it on!

Yesterday afternoon we had 10-15 knots of wind and rain-bearing cumulus clouds passing by.  We only got wet a couple of times but we reefed and shook it out twice.  We left the reef in overnight to avoid being caught out by a rainstorm but it ended up being a nice night with 8-10 knot winds.  We were doing only 4-5 knots for much of the night but we both slept very well!

At 1045 this morning we gybed over on to port tack.  This tack seems to be more comfortable and is certainly the leading tack for our waypoint at present.  We tucked a reef in immediately after gybing since the wind was 15-18 knots.  We're now trucking along nicely, and only 20 degrees off the waypoint.

As mentioned a couple of days ago I've been playing with the Winlink HF radio email system.  Last night I managed to connect to PY4LF in Brazil.  This station is the closest for yachts west of St Helena and Ascension.  It has 7MHz, 14MHz and 21MHz frequencies.  The operator Jo has been very helpful, leaving the station on the air for the last 24 hours for me.  Normally it is only on the air from 1800 to 2300utc.  Below is a DX Toolkit propagation prediction for the path between us.

HF Propagation to/from PY4LF

Last night I connected on the 14MHz frequency at 1530, 1700 and 2000utc with the connection being very strong at 2000utc.  This is in line with the prediction, and should have improved further later in the evening.  However I was asleep by then!  In the early hours I tried the 7MHz frequency without success, due I think to interference on the channel.  Hopefully the above info is of use to other Winlinked boats passing this way!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

St Helena Outbound Day 6

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 11 43S 015 59W, saillng at 6 knots on a course of 340M. The wind is ESE at 15-18 knots with a 1.5m SE sea and a low S swell. We are sailing under full main and double-furled yankee. Broken mid-level clouds with scattered rain-bearing cumulus. Our day's run was 145nm, our DMG was 91nm and we have 3240nm to go.

Yesterday afternoon the sea state settled down and we had a nice sail in 10-12 knots of breeze. It was partly cloudy but nice sailing. Late in the afternoon the clouds cleared away which was very nice.

Before 1100 we had a moonless sky which was spectacular. Then we had a beautifully clear sky with a little more than half a moon. Jupiter was very bright, and Saturn and Mars were clearly visible. Spent a while identifying various stars which is easier with a moon since the main stars are clear and the others invisible. Love their names - Procyon, Canopus, Sirius, Achernar etc.

In the small hours a layer of mid-level cloud came in. That was followed by low cloud, some rain bearing. We missed the rain but the wind got up to 20+ knots and we were double-reefed (trisail sized) for a while. It's amazing how little wind this boat needs to move along comfortably.

By mid-morning the clouds had cleared away and the wind decreased to 15 knots. Would have been champagne sailing apart from the leftover sea which was quite messy. It's always uncomfortable when the seas are bigger than the actual wind would make - the seas are breaking all over the place and sometimes over you!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

St Helena Outbound Day 5

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 13 41S 015 09W and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 340M. The wind is ESE at 20-25 knots with a 2m SE sea and a 1m S swell.  We are sailing under double-reefed main and double-furled yankee.  Broken mid-level clouds with scattered rain-bearing cumulus.  Our day's run was 150nm, our DMG was 109nm and we have 3331nm to go.

After the Rainstorm Yesterday Afternoon

Yesterday afternoon the wind gradually built to around 20 knots, with more in rain showers.  One of them caught us and the decks got a nice wash while we reefed the main.  We sailed overnight with one reef and a well-furled yankee.  In the early hours of the morning we put the second reef in as another cloud came over.  Quite an ugly seaway had built up but thankfully the swell is quite low.  Kazi the Aries vane gear handled it all very well indeed.

Between the regular shipboard activities I've been trying to get our Winlink radio system working.  I've described it in previous posts but briefly Winlink is a global system which allows licensed amateur radio operators with HF radios to send and receive emails.  I've had a problem with the program (RMS Express) not recomputing propagation information as we move.  Colin (ZS1RS) who runs the Cape Town station and Jo (PY4LF) who runs the Brazillian station have been assisting me via email (sent using the Iridium Go!).  They have both been very helpful and we seem to have fixed that problem.

Winmor session in progress

Another problem has been using the Iridium Go! from RMS Express, a feature they have added recently.  Still working on this one.

A topic of conversation on the yachties' radio net recently has been the best route along the South American coast.  Boats ahead of us report good wind and excellent current inshore of the Fernando de Noronho islands.  So that's where we now plan to go.  We've modified our route accordingly which had a minor effect on our distance to go.  At this time of year the ITCZ is along part of that coast so we basically sail along the coast in a nice positive current and hope not to meet any really bad storms in the ITCZ.  A couple of boats have sustained sail damage there already, so we plan to be very cautious, particulary at night.

Trust all's well where you are.

Friday, 26 February 2016

St Helena Outbound Day 4

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 15 31S 013 54W and saillng at 6.5 knots on a course of 340M. The wind is ESE at 15-20 knots with a 1.5m SE sea and a 1m S swell. We are sailing under single-reefed main and double-furled yankee. Scattered cumulus clouds. Our day's run was 150nm, our DMG was 110nm and we have 3440nm to go.

Yesterday afternoon the winds remained SE at 10-12 knots. Later on banks of cloud came over and most of the night was overcast. Bigger clouds brought a little rain and more wind. At 0330 we dropped a reef in the main as the wind had increased to 20 knots, gusting to about 25. The wind also backed to the ESE so we gybed onto stbd tack.

Since gybing we've been heading almost directly for our waypoint near the Fernando de Noronha islands. They're off the tip of South America. We expect to get into some good current between them and the coast which should stay with us well up the coast. As we go north along the coast we'll be passing through the ITCZ (or doldrums) so expect unsettled weather there. That's still 10-12 days away.

This morning the wind has settled down and we're going along very nicely with the single reef still in. Unless the wind is quite light we prefer to have the reef in and furl/unfurl the yankee and the wind changes. Much less work for both us and Kazi the Aries vane gear.

Yesterday evening's HF/SSB net (6224kHz at 1900utc) had 6 yachts on the air, two of whom have not yet departed St Helena. One of them had just departed Ascension and will be a couple of days ahead of us. There is also a net running on 6224kHz at 0800utc, with 4 yachts on the air this morning.

An advantage of heading north is that our solar panels get the sun all day. When heading west they lost the sun for much of the afternoon due to the shade cast by the mainsail.

Trust all's well where you are.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

St Helena Outbound Day 3

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 15 44S 011 50W and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 270M. The wind is SE at 10-12 knots with a slight sea and a short 1.5m swell.  We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee.  Scattered cumulus clouds.  Our day's run was 145nm, our DMG (distance made good) was 115nm and we have 3550nm to go.

Heading west into the sunset last night

Another great day's sailing.  The weather has been mostly sunny.  We had only two clouds big enough to create light rain - not enough to collect or wash ourselves but enough to allow us to clean the cockpit.  We wash down the cockpit teak with salt water every day but it's nice to have a little fresh water to clean the other surfaces.

Overnight we had winds up to 15 knots which gave us the better day's run.  The wind gradually backed into the ESE overnight but returned to SE an hour or two ago.  If it goes around to the E we will gybe since we'll no longer be on the leading gybe.  We are basically sailing around the north side of the South Atlantic High so a backing wind is expected.  However the position and shape of the High is constantly changing.  I'm hoping we can stay on this gybe for a few more days.

We had no-one to talk to on the HF/SSB last night.  I think those enroute to Ascension have arrived and no-one else has departed St Helena yet.  Those further ahead have now passed the eastern tip of Brazil and are at least 1500nm away, which requires the HF signal to do two hops up to the ionosphere and back.  I can hear people talking but can't make them out.  We believe several yachts are leaving St Helena today so may have someone to chat to tonight.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

St Helena Outbound Day 2

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 15 22S 009 23W and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 280M. The wind is SE at 10-12 knots with a slight sea and a short 1.5m swell. We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee. Broken mid-level clouds. Our day's run was 119nm and we have 3665nm to go.

Yesterday afternoon the winds remained light at about 8 knots, sometimes less. We dawdled along at 4 knots or so enjoying the sunny weather. Overnight the wind was steadier at 8 knots and we were doing 4-5 knots. It was a lovely moonlit night with gradually increasing cloud.

This morning we've had occasional sun but more often cloud overhead. The wind has strengthened to 10-12 knots which has helped our speed considerably. Our course is varying between 270M and 310M as cloud banks come and go. Our next waypoint is on a course of 310M so we're on the leading gybe. The GRIBs show we should have 10-15 knots of wind for the next few days. We're basically sailing around the South Atlantic high, and so the wind is gradually backing. We'll gybe north eventually.

I listened to the HF net on 4146kHz at 2000utc yesterday evening. I could hear several boats but they were very weak. They are sailing along the N coast of South America - more than 1500nm away. Hopefully a different net will emerge with other boats leaving St Helena and Ascension soon.

At noon today we are putting our clocks back again, having crossed into the UTC-1 time zone yesterday. The day's run was to noon UTC, so was 24 hours.

We were passed by one ship this morning. We only saw her on AIS and she passed 10nm away. She was doing 20 knots which is fairly fast. We keep a close eye on the AIS.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

St Helena Outbound Day 1

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 15 37S 007 41W and saillng at 4-5 knots on a course of 280M. The wind is SE at about 8 knots with a calm sea and a short 1.5m swell. We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee. Scattered small cumulus clouds. Our day's run (1400-1400) was 124nm and we have 3761nm to go. The day's run is pretty good considering the light winds of 8-10 knots.

Last night was very pleasant sailing along under a full moon in quite calm seas. The swell was enough to knock the wind out of the sails occasionally but otherwise it was perfect. Zen Again sails very well in light airs, even when packed full of cruising gear, food, fuel and water.

In the early hours of the morning a small pod of dolphins played around the boat for 15 minutes. All I could see was small patches of white water in the moonlight when they broke the surface. I could hear them blowing all around the boat. It's always nice to have friendly company.

This morning we heard a couple of boats on the HF/SSB. They departed St Helena last Thursday and have a day to run to Ascension. I had a chat with one of them and confirmed the main net is taking place daily at 2000utc on 4146kHz. One of the two sails at about the same speed at us in light airs, so we may end up close to them if they spend 3-4 days at Ascension. Other boats are leaving St Helena later this week and at least one has the same destination as us. They'll overtake us gradually.

Today it's a bright sunny day. It is about 30C below decks - getting a little warm for sleeping so the fans are on. It's nice on deck provided one can find a shady spot in the cool breeze. The solar panels are doing a great job.

As on our last passage we are using the Aries vane gear to steer. It is doing a great job even in these light conditions. Glad I found that loose bolt at St Helena!

Trust all's well where you are.

St Helena Departure

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 15 36S 006 34W and saillng at 5 knots on a course of 300M.  The wind is SSE at 8-10 knots with a slight sea and a low swell.  We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee.  Scattered small cumulus clouds.  Bright full moon.  We have 3820nm to go to our nominal destination of Antigua.

Sailing away from St Helena

We departed St Helena at 1400 on Monday.  Clearing out was very straight-forward, apart from a brief hesitation when the immigration lady said we can stay for 3 months if we liked!  We did like, but do have to move on!  St Helena is a tough place to leave since it's such a nice place with such friendly people.

On Sunday friends on Chesapeake snd Impala arrived at the island.  It was great to catch up with them.  On Saturday Apogee, Happy Bird and Merkava had arrived and it was great to catch up with them too.  Cruising's an interesting lifestyle with friends constantly moving in and out of one's life.

On Saturday we had a great walk from Jamestown around the coast to Rupert's Bay.  A new wharf is under construction there and will be used by the ships which bring goods and fuel to the island in future.  There are an array of gun emplacements of varying age along the way to Rupert's Bay.  The landscape is very interesting with layers of volcanic deposits very obvious along the track-side.

Layers of volcanic deposits

On Monday we spent most of the morning catching up with friends at the Consulate Hotel after topping up our water tanks and clearing out.  Then it was a quick last-minute shop and back to the boat for departure.  It took a few hours to sail clear of the lee of the ialsnd but we are now sailing along nicely and making a good course.  For several hours we were right on course and doing 6 knots.

Our course takes us past the Fernando de Noronha islands off the tip of Brazil.  These islands used to be a popular stopover for cruisers until the Brazilian government applied charges of US$80/day and US$20/person to visitors.  From there we follow the South American north coast to the Caribbean.  As stated, our nominal destination is Antigua but we may call in a little further south, for example at St Lucia, Martinique or Guadeloupe.

It's a shame to bypass Ascension but we think we'll have better wind doing so, and an extra week in the Caribbean.  Can't believe we're enroute to the Caribbean!  The passage will take about a month.

Trust all's well where you are.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

St Helena Day 5

Hi everyone,
Today we went on a tour of the island with Robert Peters.  It was a great day with a very good tour guide.  We saw a lot of the island.  The varied environments are amazing, ranging from semi-desert to rain forest with almost everything inbetween.  There appears to be very little flat land on the island, with most of that used for housing.  The cattle have to graze on very steep hillsides.

View of Jamestown from inland

Napoleon's exile at St Helena seems to play a large part in the island's story.  To us the longer history of use as a stopover for ships returning from the east is far more interesting.  The fortifications on the island are substantial and were kept up to date right through to WW2.  High Knoll is a very impressive 18th century fort. 

Entrance to Longwood - Napoleon's residence/prison

Walls of High Knoll fort - built in the 1790s

View of Jamestown from High Knoll fort

We visited a point overlooking the new airport which is a few months from opening.  The project has provided work for 500 saints, a substantial percentage of the population of 4000.  The airport is apparently designed for 737-sized aircraft.  There is limited over-run at each end - in fact there are cliffs!

View of airport from Millenium Garden

The island is volcanic in origin but no volcanoes have been active in recorded history.  The natural features of the island are extremely varied.  Within a mile or two one moves from desert to lush grassland to forest.

Lot, Lot's Wife and the three Pinnacles

Beef cattle on steep hilllside

We visited The Plantation where HE the Governor resides.  A very impressive building.  Jonathan the giant tortoise lives in the grounds and is the oldest resident of the island.

The Plantation with 150 year old Jonathan

We visited the St Helena Distillery which is run by a dedicated entrepreneur.  He produces spiced rum, a coffee liqueur, tungi and gin.  All very tasty.

The still at the St Helena Distillary

After returning to Zen Again we had a very pleasant swim off the boat.  The water here is very clear, perhaps 20m visibility.  Some of the sailors have seen whale sharks pass under their boats here on the moorings.

This evening we were listening to the BBC World Service on the HF radio when a DSC Distress message came through.  It was from a vessel nearly 3000nm to the NW.  The call was repeated several times without acknowledgement so we called St Helena Radio to inform them.  More than an hour later with the DSC distress calls still coming in regularly we received a broadcast DSC acknowledgement from an RCC in Hawaii - 9000nm away!

Tomorrow will be our last fully day at St Helena.  On Monday we plan to clear out and depart.  We have decided to bypass Ascension Island and sail direct to the Caribbean.  Based on our consumption of water since leaving Australia we will have enough for the 4 week passage.  Can't believe our next port will be in the Caribbean!

St Helena Day 4

Hi everyone,
Yesterday we took a tour of Jamestown.  The guide Basil George presented a very informative account of the history of St Helena generally and Jamestown in particular.

Zen Again

RMS St Helena arrived yesterday

The famous landing on the wharf

The fortifications along Jamestown waterfront are very impressive, having many of the features of a medieval castle, including a moat.  The entire waterfront between the two very steep hills at each side was fortified with a sea wall, deep moat and the the town wall.  The latter is about 8m tall and just as thick.  There used to be only two penetrations through the wall, each only big enough for two people to walk through side by side.  Seventy nine cannons were mounted along the walls.

Customs House

Town wall arch built in 1948

St Helena was vital to the English East India Company from the 1600s until the mid 1800s.  About 1000 ships visited the island every year laden with riches from the east.  With the Cape in Dutch hands the island was essential for provisioning and watering the ships on their way home.  There was a garrison of 1000 soldiers.

St James's Church

The people of St Helena (aka Staints) had full English citizenship

Big Guns

We had a very pleasant afternoon tea at The Consulate Hotel at the end of the tour.  Very civilised.

Friday, 19 February 2016

St Helena Day 3

Hi everyone,
Today is day three of our stay at Jamestown in St Helena.  We're really enjoying the place.  Here's what we've been up to…

Firstly boat jobs:
* Checked the bilges and cleaned out lockers
* Main engine check
* Replaced outboard motor fuel and spark plug to get it running
* Found and made good a very loose bolt on the Aries vane gear mount
* Food stocktake
* Topped up stocks of UHT milk, fruit, veg and some vacuum-packed frozen meat
* Topped up stock of gin with local produce (excellent and very good price)
* Decanted 80 litres of water from jerries into main tanks (60 litres) and bladder (20 litres)
* Cleaned s/s and parts of the deck with fresh water
* Filled jerries ashore and decanted 70 litres into main tanks to fill
* Filled jerries ashore again and stowed
* Decanted 20 litres of diesel from jerry to fill main tanks
* Filled two diesel jerries ashore (@ 1.22pounds/litre) to give 5 full jerries (100 litres)
* Delivered large bag of washing to the Georgetown laundry
* Collected laundry

The sea here is very clear and about 26C.  We've seen a lot of fish, some around 1m in length, from the boat.  At the wharf there are lots of fish and turtles.  It's a popular diving/swimming spot.

View east from mooring

View west from mooring

One gets ashore here using the small ferry boat service.  They monitor VHF16 and are generally quite quick to collect you.  1pound/person one-way.

Ferry approaching!

Ashore we have explored Georgetown which is a lovely little town.  Nice food and coffee at The Consulate Hotel, plus WiFi.  We're limiting our internet access here due to the cost for WiFi of 6.60pounds/hour/device.  There are several quite good food stores with our choice being the Queen Mary on Napoleon Street.

Yesterday we climbed the 699 step Jacob's Ladder to the top of the hill immediately W of Georgetown.  From the top you can also look down over the yacht moorings area as well as the town.  The climb isn't as hard as it looks, but it does look scary!

View of Georgetown from Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder from the top

View of yacht mooring area from signal house

The wharf area of Georgetown has a row of old buildings painted in various pastel colours.  The colours reminded us of our visit to Tobermory in Scotland many years ago.  The buildings are built against the nearly vertical rock face above them.  The entire hill is covered in wire mesh to contain rockfalls.

Surf's up at Georgetown beach

View towards the wharf area from Georgetown beach

The yacht club is one of the blue buildings along the wharf and cruisers are welcome to use their facilities.  Unfortunately their toilets and showers now need a key for access and we haven't managed to get one yet.  There are toilets and cold showers at the end of the wharf, right next to the ferry wharf.  They're fine.

We are booked to do a full day tour of the island on Saturday which should be very interesting.  The RMS St Helena arrives sometime tomorrow so there will be a few more tourists around town.  We'll probably meet some of them on the tour.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Cape Town to St Helena Passage Summary

Hi everyone,
We are now cleared-in to St Helena and had a quick look around Jamestown.  We returned to Zen Again to get to work on post-arrival boat work, one of which is this passage summary!

We had a great passage from Cape Town to St Helena.  This part of the South Atlantic is certainly gentler than the southern Indian Ocean.  This was in line with expectations.

First the usual plots…

Zen Again track

Zen Again speed

The track plot clearly shows how we gybed to and fro in the SE wind as we made our way NW to St Helena.  Initially we laid the course with a nice S wind.  The wind eventually settled in the SE and a-gybing we went.

The speed plot shows we made good average speed but our speed varied substantially all the time.  This was due to the wind being light and quite variable.  Compare the plot to those of our Indian Ocean crossings and you'll see the difference.  This plot also clearly shows how much we slowed down yesterday to delay our arrival to dawn today.

Here are the vital stats for the passage…
  • Distances/Speeds
    • Route Distance = 1700nm
    • Logged Distance = 2074nm
    • GPS Distance = 2010nm
    • Duration = 14 days 17 hours
    • Average speed = 5.8kt  (same as Reunion to Richards Bay!)
    • Average VMG = 4.8kt
    • Average day's run = 141nm
    • Best day's run = 151nm (6.3kt)
    • Minimum boat speed = 3 kt
    • Maximum boat speed = 8.5kt
  • Weather
    • Minimum wind speed = 6 kt
    • Average wind speed = 12 knots
    • Maximum wind speed = ~28kt (in one of several brief squalls)
    • Apparent wind angle range = 90 to 150 (we don't "do" running, choosing to broad reach instead)
    • Seas up to 2m
    • Swell up to 3m
    • Frequently overcast but some gloriously sunny days and starlit nights
  • Engine
    • Total = 12 hours
    • Driving = 2 hours (leaving Table Bay)
    • Charging = 10 hours (mainly to ensure good power for our HF net control work)
  • Consumption
    • Water = 110 litres
    • Fuel = 24 litres
    • Books = 7 (3 + 4)
  • Failures
    • None
  • Stars
    • The boat!
    • Aries vane gear (steered for 13 days non-stop)
    • Satphone.Me email system (over Iridium GO!)
    • PredictWind Offshore app (over Iridium GO!) for obtaining GRIBs
    • qtVlm GRIB viewer and weather-routing software
    • SeaIQ iPad navigation software
    • Icom HF/SSB radio

On departure from Cape Town we found the log was grossly under-reading.  I recalibrated it early in the passage by comparing it to our GPS Speed Over Ground.  I suspect the log is now overreading slightly since we ought to have had a little assistance from current.

There was steady commercial ship traffic for the first few days but that decreased rapidly thereafter.  We went for several days without seeing any traffic.  We saw one AIS-less fishing boat only.  It felt a little lonely out there at times.

The HF/SSB net worked pretty well.  We exchanged positions, courses, speeds and wind info daily between a flotilla of boats spread over more than 1500nm N-S.  The net controllers were communicating successfully over at least 1000nm despite it being a non-optimal time of day.

Overall it was a very pleasant passage.  It was our longest passage to date, both in terms of miles logged and its duration.  That record won't last long though!

We really enjoyed our time in South Africa but were ready to leave.  We are already enchanted by St Helena.  Jamestown is a very nice little town with many historic old buildings.  The people are all very friendly.  We expect to stay here for about a week.

Farewell Africa!

St Helena Arrival

Hi everyone,
We arrived at Jamestown at 0600 this morning.  The final 18 hours or so were done in "slow mode" to time our arrival for first light.  We are now on a mooring at 15 55.44S 005 43.49W.  There are 23 moorings for visiting yachts, five of which (coloured red) are reserved for yachts over 50 feet LOA.  There are several vacant moorings this morning.

Red Duster courtesy flag hoisted

We had a very nice sail yesterday and overnight.  We sailed under single-reefed main and triple-furled yankee to slow her down (which isn't easy!).  Late in the afternoon we sighted land when about 55nm off.  At night the island has a set of red lights around its eastern side which are conspicuous (and helpful).  Most of the night we had clear skies which was very pleasant.  This morning it was grey and a little drizzly but that seems appropriate for landfall at British territory!  ;)

This morning we approached the island from the ENE just in the lit sector of the White FL(2) light on Sugar Loaf Pt.  We encountered no offlying mooring buoys or other hazards.  We passed just N of the charted wreck before turning towards the anchorage.

On the mooring with Jamestown in background

As the photo shows, the cliffs nearby are very steep.  The island looks like an interesting place.

We'll post again this afternoon with the usual passage summary.  It's fantastic to be in St Helena!

Monday, 15 February 2016

St Helena Inbound Day 14

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 17 00S 005 17W and saillng at 5.5 knots on a course of 000M.  The wind is SE at 12-14 knots with a 1m sea and 1m SW swell.  We are sailing under single-reefed main and single-furled yankee.  Scattered small cumulus clouds.  Our day's run was 139nm and we have 70nm to go.  Less than a Bunbury!

Just another South Atlantic sunset

Yesterday afternoon we had a great sail in sunny conditions.  Champagne sailing which persisted until the small hours of the morning when a cloud bank moved over.  The half moon cast spectacular light on the water.

This morning we gybed and are now heading directly for St Helena.  We have the reef in to slow the boat since (as usual) our ETA was 0300 in the morning.  We plan to arrive at first light tomorrow.

Since we expect to arrive in St Helena tomorrow morning I have handed over HF net control to another yacht which is a few days behind us.  The job has been handed on in this way for several weeks now, and should continue for some time yet.  No doubt there will be a separate net running for those heading for Ascension and the Caribbean.

We're really enjoying this passage.  On the whole it has been peaceful and relaxing, despite the often rolly conditions.  We knew it would be a downwind passage and planned to gybe to and fro - and we certainly did.  As a result this may be our longest passage (by the log and by ground miles covered) ever.  It will certainly be the longest duration, exceeding our Cocos-Keeling to Rodrigues passage by a day or so.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

St Helena Inbound Day 13

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 17 36S 003 14W and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 300M.  The wind is SE at 12-16 knots with a 1m sea and 1m SW swell.  We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee.  Mostly cloudy sky.  Our day's run was 143nm and we have 171nm to go.  Less than a Geraldton!

Early-morning sunlit wake

Yesterday afternoon we had enough wind to leave the first reef in the main.  We cruised along at between 5 and 7 knots as the wind fell and rose again.  Much easier to unfurl and furl the headsail than to unreef and reef the main!  We had a few patches of sunshine but mostly the sky was overcast.

Overnight we had some longer periods of clear sky during which we enjoyed very pleasant moonlit sailing.  Only one flying fish overnight, and he caught me in the ribs.  He wasn't a really big one and he survived to fly another day.  Side dodgers are a good "defensive shield" against flying fish.  If a big one hits you at speed, you know about it!

This morning the winds decreased to around 10-12 knots so we shook out the reef.  We've been sailing along nicely all morning albeit mostly under cloud.  Looks like a cloudless patch is heading our way. Champagne's on its way!

Trust all's well where you are.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

St Helena Inbound Day 12

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 17 55S 000 53W and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 290M. The wind is SE at 12-16 knots with a 1m sea and 1.5m SW swell.  We are sailing under single-reefed main and full yankee.  Mostly cloudy sky.  Our day's run was 136nm and we have 298nm to go.

Yesterday afternoon we had quite light winds with an awkward, sloppy seaway.  The sea caused the yankee to slat, which with our dyneema sheets isn't good for the sail, the deck gear or our sanity.  We changed to our double-braid reaching sheets which helped all the above.  Didn't make us any faster though!

In the evening the breeze came up, particularly when rain clouds passed overhead.  We had minor squalls up to 28 knots and at 0200 we tucked a reef in and then gybed onto port tack to head west.

At 0314UTC we passed from the eastern to the western hemisphere.  I was on watch and looked carefully for the line across the ocean but missed it.  Damn - I've seen it at Greenwich so I know it exists! ;)  I did see Ursa Major, aka the Big Dipper which showed me north.  Nicki and I shared tots of rum with King Neptune in accordance with nautical lore and superstitious necessity.  Here's the navigational moment captured for posterity...

Entering the Western Hemisphere

This morning the winds have eased off again and we're cruising along comfortably.  The seaway has improved a little but the headsail still slats occasionally when we're rolled by a big sea.  Our Extreme Sails are taking our cruising in their stride - they look like new apart from the South African coal, manganese and ash which is gradually washing off!  We've had a few brief periods of sunshine but mostly it continues to be overcast today.

The water temperature has risen to 26C.  The fridge is starting to work harder and the cabin fans are back in regular use.  We're "intercepting" an increasing number of flying fish too - another indication of the tropics.  On one occasion a "flight" of six of them came aboard at once.  I expect Blue 2 to 6 were unimpressed with Blue Leader.  Sadly only one was rescued and his callsign is unknown.  His pals were buried with full fishy honours (a tea towel to avoid their go-fast goo and scales).

Friday, 12 February 2016

St Helena Inbound Day 11

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 19 06S 000 34E and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 340M. The wind is ESE at 10-14 knots with a 1m leftover sea and 1.5m SW swell.  We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee.  Overcast sky.  Our day's run was 141nm and we have 404nm to go.

We had a great sail yesterday afternoon under mostly sunny skies.  We are continuing to use Kazi the Aires vane gear.  She's been at the helm for a week now which is by far the longest period we've used her for.

Kazi in control

Last night clouds came through with light rain under them and a little more wind too.  We made quite good progress, reducing only the yankee and holding on to the full main.  Between the clouds we had a great view of the night sky.  Shortly before dawn I saw a satellite pass overhead.  It was very brightly lit by the sun and I tracked it all the way across the sky.  Quite spectacular.  It was moving N-S so I don't think it was the ISS.

This morning we had a brief period of sun and then clouds moved across.  When they first arrived we had 20+ knots of wind but once they were over us it dropped down to 8-10 knots.  Darn.

One thing we always do at sea is read.  Our iPads are full of books of all types.  One of my favourite genres is science fiction.  Recently I've read The Martian and Hal Spacejock.  Both sci-fi but entirely different.  The former has of course been made into a movie but the book is a great read.  Lots of good science and the main character has a marvellously dry sense of humour which really makes the book.  The latter is the funniest book I've read for a very long time.  The robot 'clunk' makes it.  The author is Western Australian.

Good Science with Dry Humour

Funniest Australian SciFi Ever?

You may need to be a science/engineer/IT type to like them as much as I.  The Martian is so good I'm going to read it again soon.  Hoping to understand some of the chemistry!  I also reread Arthur C Clarke's Rendevous With Rama.  IMHO a classic.

Sometime in the next 24 hours we expect to cross into the western hemisphere.  I feel a rum punch coming on, with a goodly share for King Neptune, God bless 'im.

Trust all's well where you are.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

St Helena Inbound Day 10

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 20 43S 001 44E and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 280M. The wind is SE at 14-16 knots with a 1m sea and 1m SW swell.  We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee.  Mostly sunny sky.  Our day's run was 137nm and we have 510nm to go.

Yesterday the Ocean Cruising Club announced its 2015 prize recipients.  A few days ago the OCC informed me I was to be awarded the Water Music trophy.  A very nice surprise!  The award is for my creation of a publicly-accessible library of GoogleEarth imagery KAP charts.  These charts are an aid to marine navigation, particularly in the less well charts parts of the world.  The library is described in the post GoogleEarth KAP library for OpenCPN and SEAiq on this blog.

Chasing the sunset yesterday

Yesterday afternoon we had a great sail although under mostly "anticyclonic gloom" clouds.  The wind was 10-15 knots which was enough to keep us moving along.  Overnight the wind picked up to 12-18 knots and we made good progress, missing several rain showers which passed close by.  This morning there's only patchy cloud and the wind is 14-16 knots from the SE - champagne sailing!

This morning I conducted the South Atlantic Crosser's HF net.  Everyone is making good progress and enjoying the conditions.  There are several boats with DSC-equipped HF radios and we are experimenting with Position Reports prior to the net.  I wonder if this is the first such use of DSC routine calling on a cruising net?

A Famous LP

Treatment of the LP recordings I mentioned yesterday is proceeding apace.  One of the LPs is the well-known Telarc recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.  It came with a warning to turn up the weight on the turntable's stylus to avoid it jumping out of the track when the cannons went off.  Happily I recorded the LP to MP3 on my father's marvellous B&O turntable.  It's a great recording and the cannons are spectacular.

Trust all's well where you are.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

St Helena Inbound Day 9

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 20 58S 004 09E and saillng at 5 knots on a course of 290M. The wind is SE at 10-12 knots with decreasing 1m sea and 1.5m SW swell.  We are sailing under full main and yankee.  Partly cloudy sky.  Our day's run was 148nm and we have 635nm to go.

We had a great sail yesterday afternoon, albeit under an overcast sky.  Our lovely boat trucks along at 7 knots with 20 knots of wind on her quarter.  Overnight the wind decreased to 10-12 knots which slowed us down substantially.  Banks of cloud came over and delivered a little drizzle but nothing major.  Occasionally we got to see some stars which was very nice.

Our Iridium Go! was very busy last night since I had to email several large files of about 1MB each.  Each took about 5 hours to transfer which equates to about 50 bytes/second.  I expect Iridium frowns on the transfer of such large files and throttles them.  Smaller files certainly transfer significantly faster - about ten times faster.  The impressive thing is that the large transfers succeed at all.  Even if one loses satellite coverage and the session is closed one can open a new session and the transfer continues from where it left off.

The flotilla of yachts enroute to St Helena now extends all the way from Cape Town to our destination.  Here's a plot of their positions a while ago.  Some of the boats have blogs with trackers like ours (google them).  Just about all are transmitting on AIS so can be found using various satellite-AIS tracking web sites.

Nice to have company!

The good sailing conditions are allowing us to get a lot done.  While Nic's been cooking I've been sorting out our music library.  Before leaving Perth I recorded a large number of my parent's LPs, some of whiich are real classics.    One MP3 file per LP side.  I've been using the free Audacity app to clean them up, split them into named tracks and export them to iTunes.  Amazing what one can get done at sea!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

St Helena Inbound Day 8

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 21 30S 006 30E and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 310M. The wind is SSE at 12-18 knots with a 1m sea and a decreasing 2m SW swell.  We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee.  Overcast sky.  Our day's run was 149nm and we have 768nm to go.  By the way, the day's run is 24 hours - it doesn't include the extra hour from changing time zones!

Yesterday afternoon we had winds of up to 25 knots so sailed along comfortably under single-reefed main and triple-furled yankee.  The 2m SE sea with 3m SW swell made the sea state unpleasant - rolly and with the tops of square waves occasionally "dropping in" to the cockpit.  The Aires vane gear coped with it very well.

Overnight the swell and the wind eased gradually until we shook out the reef after breakfast.  The sky has been overcast since mid-afternoon yesterday.  'Tis very grey.

This morning we saw our first ship on AIS for about 4 days.  MV Jupiter came past 10nm away.  Interestingly we could still see her when she was 80nm to our south.  I suspect the anticyclonic weather is producing VHF ducting to carry the signal that far.

We expect to stay on this gybe for several days.  We're sailing around the high pressure system south of St Helena.  We'll probably gybe when we're south of our target.  PredictWind says we'll make it direct but I need to modify the polar data I uploaded for Zen Again - we don't sail as low as they expect when broad reaching in light airs.

PredictWind Weather Routing (Green => 10-15knots)

The routing shows recommended routes based on four weather models and including current info.  Here's the RTOFS current info for the same area today.

RTOFS Current GRIB (orange => >1knot)

Trust all's well where you are.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Cape Town Outbound Day 7

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 23 38S 007 00E and saillng at 6 knots on a course of 020M. The wind is SSE at 18-22 knots with a 2m sea and a 3m SW swell.  We are sailing under single-reefed main and triple-furled yankee.  Partly couldy sky.  Our day's run was 141nm and we have 851nm to go.

Dawn this morning

Yesterday afternoon the swell gradually increased.  It's quite deceptive when long swell appears - it's only when one looks carefully that it "materialises".  In the mean time one wonders why the sets of bigger seas are getting nastier and more frequent.  Eventually you realise its the swell under the seas which is upsetting things.

Late in the afternoon a large bank of cloud approached and the wind increased.  We decided to put in a reef and that was a good call.  The winds only got up to perhaps 28 knots but the sea state was messy.  We gybed to the west for several hours before a wind change to the SE had us gybing back.  Since then we've been heading N.

This morning the winds have moderated a little and the seas have too.  It's still a bit of a washing machine, not unlike the Southern Indian Ocean!  We expect conditions to improve tomorrow.  In the mean time we're making good progress.  Twould be nice if the wind went around to the S so we could gybe and head straight for St Helena.  Looks like we'll be gybing too and fro all the way there.

Broad Reaching

We've been collecting an increasing number of increasinly large flying fish on the deck.  Practically all hit the boat at night and some are stranded aboard.  One big one hit the mast which generated a substantial "clang".  In the morning we found a fish eye at the base of the mast.  Later we found the rest of the poor chap on the deck at the bow.  He wouldn't have felt a thing!  We also find a few squid aboard.  They're messy to get rid of.  All this and the water temperature of 25C shows we're approaching the tropics!

We crossed 7 30E early this morning and are in the process of changing our clocks to UTC.  No more converting UTC radio schedule times to/from other time zones for a while!  This afternoon we will reach the half way mark.  We plan a small rum punch to celebrate.  More progress => more rum punching! :)