2012 Atlantic Day 1 to 7

Leaving Las Palmas  Day 1

Malua is at 27:27.574N 15:43.32W at 1800 on 20/11/2012 50nm from Canaries 2705 to go
Malua is shipshape and Bristol with full diesel and water tanks. Things are generally in their correct place. I have moved out of the main cabin and now sleep in the quarter berth aft of the navigation station so I can see the instruments when I am in the berth.
We had just finished the morning MOzzie net when I spied an official vessel visiting the yachts anchored in the bay adjacent to the Marina. He was collecting the Euro 50 light dues payable by every yacht visiting the Canaries. We had not paid it yet although we had been in two marina's who's responsibility it is to collect this tax. With post hast we upped the anchor and headed off, passing the fellow as we exited the bay. A goodbye wave was all he got from us that day.
We were finally off on the long 2755 nm to Barbados in the Caribbean. It took Bernard Mortessier 33 days and Beth Lennard 26 days so our estimate of 16 to 20 will be good going.
Our first day was spent with no wind so be turned on the engine and motored out of the Canaries local wind. My sunrise on day two the trade winds from the NE had come up to 10 knots and we were sailing along down wind with the genoa out on the spinnaker pole. The seas are calm and it is easy to move about the boat getting all the lines and blocks adjusted to reduce chafe.
During the period that we had the motor on I did an inspection of the engine and noticed one of the fuel filters had a lot of gunk in the collection bowl. I immediately switch to the other filter and drained the bowl. It must have come from the aft tank when I ran it very low. Thankfully the design of the fuel system permitted me to take action before anything serious occurred.
Another magical moment on Malua

Day 2

Malua is at 25:22.5N 18:32.3W at 0600 on 22/11/2012

Distance travelled: 250 nm
Distance to go: 2508
24 hour run: 143 nm

Yesterday afternoon the wind started to go round to the east so our down wind sailing became more of a reach. It was time to put up the big reacher – the first time this season. With all the lines ready, Piers pulled the snuffing cover up and the white and blue sail billowed out and Malua jumped forward at 7 knots. It was a great sensation to sit on the foredeck under this large sail as it pulled us down south. The wind was a steady 10 knots and the sea has remained quite flat. I expected to carry it until dark at 19:00 but the wind was behaving itself and as it got dark the moon was up so we could see the sail in the moon light.
I had dinner – spag boll – prepared and turned in for three hours with instructions to keep the apparent wind between 90 and 120 for all of the watch. I came on at 23:00 and the wind was still about 10 to 12 and we were doing more than 7 knots. Unfortunately there is no phosphorescence so as the moon set at 2:00 it was quite dark but the reacher continued to pull us along although the wind dropped off a bit and continued to swing.
I came back on watch at 5:00 with the wind going into the east which meant we were no longer sailing down the African coast towards the Cape Verde but heading more towards the Caribbean which at this stage was not the plan. I let the sheet out and the sail moved forward. I adjusted the course and we were back on track. Just as I had decided to drop the reacher in preference to the boomed out genoa the worst thing happened. The sail collapsed and wound itself round the forestay. Piers off watch and asleep woke to a call of "Piers, Piers quick come and help". We went forward and after about 10 minutes of pulling and letting go to let the wind take the sail the reacher was free and we were able to pull the snuffer down and control the large sail. Down it came, back in its bag for another suitable day. Lesson learned when you think it is time to reef/drop a sail, do so immediately.
Another magical moment on Malua

Day 3

Malua is at 24:14.6N 20:57.7W at 0600 GMT on 23/11/2012

Today was a good day: for settling into the cruising routine. The wind was from the aft and the seas were relatively flat, however at lunch (bean,tomatoes and tuna salad) the swell increased to almost the size of those we saw in the southern ocean. Fortunately it did not last and the wind did not increase from about 12 knots we had had all day. The sky was clear and we settled down to some reading when the first rod started to go off. Piers had a fish on the line. After a bit of a struggle he landed a nice size dolphin fish which was duly dispatched and cut up into steak size pieces. We had hardly reset the lines when my rode screamed and again we had another fish. This time a wahi wahi which as always lost its beautiful colour right before your eyes as you bring it on board. A kodak moment and we recorded the event.
At sun set, the weather had not changed but the swell was dropping and it looked as if we would have a good night although the wind was swinging putting us on a 270 westerly course well before we wanted to go west. We contacted via VHF a yacht which passed directly ahead – no AIS. They are on the way to the Verdes and had also caught some fish.
Dinner was a stir fry with cabbage and some meat from Morocco. A change from the pre-prepared stews.
A magical moment on Malua

Day 4

Malua is at 24:14.69N 20:57.79W at 0600 on 23/11/2012

We have covered 404 nm but have 2360 still to go. Over the last two days we have done 142 and 143 over a 24 hour period – not great but very average.
We have had very clear warm days since leaving the Canaries. The wind has not been great but at least it is blowing from the north. It is predicted that the ARC will start on Sunday into a southerly – no spinnakers for them.
The watch system we keep is quite flexible. Piers being young stays up late and sleeps in in the morning so we have created a 3 on 3 off system taking that into account. It gets dark at 7:30 local time which is just after we have eaten our evening meal. The cook washes up his own mess and then we adjourn to the cockpit to see the darkness fall. I then go off the my quarter bunk leaving the youngster to do his shift to 11:00 pm. I then do a three hour shift to 2:00 am and Piers takes over just as the moon is setting. I am then called at 5:00 for the last shift to 8:00 when I talk on the net. Piers gets to sleep the extra hour before breakfast. I see the sunrise just after 7:00 although it gets light around 6:00.
The day has no formal watches although I tend to sleep after lunch and Piers takes a sleep before 5:00pm. The dinner cook does not cook lunch which was today Mahi Mahi with rice, avocado and tomatoes. This evening will be fried chicken breast. Not a bad life.
Last night we did have a scare in that the autopilot was working very hard with a nasty cross swell. Malua was swinging around under poled out genoa and full main in 10 to 14 knots of true wind. When I came on watch I noticed the battery bank 1 was down to 11.7 volts. Well below what I like to keep it. I switched the autopilot over to bank 2 and hoped the wind generator would put enough charge in it before my next watch. Unfortunately that was not the case so we had to run the engine for an hour to charge the batteries. The generator is loosing water so I am not using it until I can solve that problem.
Tomorrow we turn more west to try to get more towards our destinations. At the moment we are chasing the trade winds which are further south.
A magical moment on Malua

Day 5

Malua is at 22:28.61N 21:47.94W at 0600 on 24/11/2012

We have travelled 528 miles with 2279 to go.
Daily 24 hour run 124 nm
Main item on the agenda for today was to look at the generator to see what caused it to loosing water out of the filler cap. Something it has done previously but not such great volumes . I cleaned out the cooling water system but found nothing then took out the thermostat. Not a good idea on a diesel but still you have to make compromises being so far from land. Added the water back again and ran the generator for half an hour. It looked better but not fixed. While it was running it did add more than 50 amps charge to each battery bank. I miss this wonderful power source. While I was getting into the engine room I put my hand up to grap a hand hold and right into the engine room extractor fan. There was a loud bang and a cry. Luckily the blades of the fan are only plastic. My finger is slightly red but two blades from the fan have disappeared so it is unbalanced. It lasted only a few minutes before it ground to a halt and tripped the fuse. Just another job for tomorrow. I hope the fan in the store is still working but I doubt if it is. Now that will be a challenge.
We have been having unusual weather with the wind more from the north and north west. This has meant that the expected course of SW has not been made and we have had to zig-zag our way south. I heard on the MOzzie net this morning that the ARC is not going to leave as planned on Sunday but be delayed two day to Tuesday due to a strong southerly in Las Palmas. To quote one participant " I'll be able to finish off the to-do list" while another " just more time for a drink and a little party".
We are making reasonable time but cant wait fro the NE trade winds to fill in and we can sit back and enjoy the down wind ride.
A magical moment on Malua.

Day 6

Malua is at 20:40.67N 23:22.8W at 0600 on 25/11/2012

We have travelled 677 and have 2159 to go
Daily run at 0600 an improved 159 nm
Lovely day with little swell but the wind is light and not from the right direction, still north but not down wind. We had the reacher up for 12 hours and brought it down at the change of watch at 23:00. A good decision because the wind rose and went more westerly so we are almost beating south. The boats on the westward net are getting good trades down on the 15 degree latitude so I cant wait to get down there.
The spare fan is in fact an old noisy fan I removed some years ago. It lasted a few minutes before it also stopped. How to make one good fan from two broken fans. A few hours later I had a working fan unfortunately the bearings are worn so it only works facing down which is well and good if the boat does not rock. After a few minutes it trips out. I still have one option using a computer fan and mounting that in some form next to the extractor pipe in the engine room.

George the wind vane has saved itself and is working as expected. I have spent many hour working on adjusting it and aligning it as per the instruction manual which must have been written by some person who knows the product well. "the line goes to the block opposite and to the top..." Opposite to what?? The alignment can be adjusted by turning the connecting rod..... Longer or shorter? Give me strength. I thought computer manuals where difficult but this manual is so short it leaves huge gaps. Well after I had made a detailed drawing of the workings and the principles I finally figured it out and adjusted it to work. I knew it worked because it had taken us all the way to New Zealand from Sydney. It came very close to going to the bottom of the Atlantic.
Tomorrow I start seriously studying celestial navigation. I got the sextant out, cleaned and adjusted it, so tomorrow I will know where I really am.
A magical moment on Malua

Day 7

Malua is at 19:31.2N 25:10.0W at 0600 on 26?11/2012

We have 2042 to go and have covered 806
Days run was 130 not be best because the wind is down.
Serious navigation and almost anything was put on hold today because we had a nasty cross sea with a bit of chop on top. Malua was slewing around and it was difficult to do anything even lie in your bunk. So the day just passed. I had been up since 5:00 so I was quite tired. We needed to cook some beef pieces we obtained from the butcher so towards evening I set about making a stew. The beef turned out to be tasty and tender – I sampled a few pieces while I was browning it. In with the meat went some carrots, onions and a large tin of mushrooms along with an able quantity of French Rose in one of the refillable glass bottles. After 20 minutes in the pressure cooker it was time to eat a wonderful meal. Unfortunately we sat in the cockpit with the non slip bowls in our hands rather than trust then to the table. Tinned apricots and cream followed then off to bed to try to sleep. Not easy so by my watch at 23:00 I was still very tired.

I tuned into the Westward net at 08:30 to listen to the boats moving towards the Caribbean and found that right across the ocean people have been affected by a large swell so we are not alone. The Southern Cross a cat are 1000nm ahead of us and also had a bad night. We are all looking forward to some smoother water.
I have changed the power sources because of the generators unreliable water system and now battery bank two has the solar panel, wind generator feeding into it. With the chart plotter turned down and the auto helm off with George doing the work we are self sufficient in power. The fridge still draws a lot but all the vacuum bagged meat is still frozen solid and the fridge is quite cold. The drinking water tanks seems to have lost more water than I expected so we may have to reroute the other tank through the charcoal filter.
A magical moment on Malua