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Roving Rear Commodore Report from the Atlantic

by Rhys Walters 23 Mar 2023 14:17 UTC

Five years after we bought her hull, Zora was ready to cross the Atlantic and start her Caribbean adventures.

My friend Steve joined me for the crossing (my wife, Niamh would fly to Martinique to meet us). Here I share a heavily abridged version of the logbook covering the first few days:

Day 1 and 2: we left the Canaries at 15:00 on 11 December, aware that we wouldn't have much (if any) wind for the next 48+ hours, but we were sick of the anchorage and reasoned it would be better to be drifting than rolling at anchor. Luckily, there was 10+kt of wind waiting for us, so we put up full sail and made way on the hunt for the trades. Our good friends on Sytalaus soon caught us up. We did a little photoshoot before saying our goodbyes with a beautiful sunset as backdrop. Just before dark, the wind died so we put on the engine and started our watches. The moon was incredibly bright and the bioluminescence in Zora's wake was vivid green. At sunrise, we made pancakes before hoisting the spinnaker. We made 2-5kt all day on a light and variable NE breeze and a 3m NW swell. The swell was so long you barely noticed it. We set up a hand reel with a lure and trailed it all day. It wasn't until sunset that we finally heard the zipping sound of the reel on the fishing rod. After congratulating each other for our skills as deep sea fishermen, and as the fish got closer to the boat, we fantasised about fish and spuds for dinner. But alas, the rod suddenly felt lighter... our dinner had escaped, humbling us both into (relative) silence.

Day 3: the boat had behaved well so far, with only a few small issues. We lost the leading arm off the top of a winch. Sadly its new home is 3,000m down off the west coast of Africa. Later that day, I heard a light popping sound as a latch broke off the windvane rudder. We stopped the boat, replacing the latch with Dyneema® lashing.

Overnight we had a brief chat with a tug, towing something 0.5km behind them: I definitely wouldn't want to get tangled in that! Sunrise was stunning. I set up Starlink out of curiosity to see if it would work: an incredible 100MB offshore, which - in a way - feels wrong.

Day 4: we spent most of last night drifting in the southbound currents, with almost no wind. Neither of us could bear listening to the engine all night. Just before the sun came up, a NW breeze filled in and our speed gradually picked up. We were soon on a broad reach doing 6kt. The windvane continued to behave and our repair to the rudder latch has held. Today was a day for some mundane domestic jobs: we washed some clothes and gave the cockpit a good clean.

Day 5: last night the sea was confused and things were thrown around a bit. The only major casualties have been a tube of Pringles and a bottle of Worcestershire sauce: dinner won't be the same without it. Steve and I haven't decided if we will stop in Cape Verde. Neither of us are very interested in stopping rather than spending more time at sea, but we are keeping the islands within 150NM of our course - in case we change our minds.

Day 6: at 01:00 the wind kicked up a gear, so we put in a second reef. It was gusty overnight which made for faster sailing, but a lumpy sea. Zora is good at telling us what she wants: often she'll get uncomfortable without enough sail, but once powered up the difference is huge and makes for a much smoother ride. The windvane doesn't seem to be having any trouble steering us quite straight. Without much sun the batteries are under 90% all the time: so reassuring though it is to have, if we need the autopilot we will probably have to sacrifice the fridge as it's quite heavy on power. No wildlife today, but we are finally seeing the long rolling swells typical of the trades. The wind has worked its way further east so we have been forced to run goose-winged.

Day 7: we managed 132NM over the last 24 hours, which isn't too bad and gives us an ETA of 2 January. The Victron solar charge controller has decided it has had enough, so we are on back-up charging systems (Ecoflow Delta Mini with solar panels) and engine charging. When I get to Martinique, I'll redesign the solar system and have separate controllers for each panel: something I should have done before. We considered diverting to Cape Verde to replace it, but we had a backup system. Plus, we were pretty much at the point of no return. If we had headed for Cape Verde, we would be sailing upwind, and "gentlemen don't sail to windward". Onwards!

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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