Sailing to St Helena 2

12 February 2018   Namibia to St Helena (Day 6)
Dawn brought us 80% cloud cover and gentle 1.5 metre seas.  The 10-15 knot south-east winds put us sailing dead downwind wing-on-wing doing a comfortable 6 knots – it doesn’t get much better than this.  The weather forecast shows similar conditions for the next four days – fingers crossed.

I was very excited at 08:00, when I spotted the red and white spinnaker of “Sabir” on the horizon.  After five days of seeing nothing, I finally had a mission – intercept “Sabir” and take a photo.  Glenys didn’t share my joy at the chase and went to bed.  

Chasing Sabir

“Sabir” were about 3 miles north of us, so I had to gybe the mainsail and turn 40 degrees to starboard.  It took me an hour to get onto their track, where I gybed back on course and the downwind chase began.  

Unfortunately, the wind dropped, so we were only doing 3-4 knots and only going ½ knot faster than them, so it took 4 hours to catch up. We slowly sailed within 20 metres; shouted out greetings; had an obligatory photo session and remorselessly drifted off ahead of them – we’ll see them again in 5 or 6 days’ time.

We passed the halfway point to St Helena, so Glenys produced some fruit cake as a celebration.  It was a very calm afternoon, so we ran the watermaker and Glenys washed a few smalls.  I popped off to bed for my afternoon nap and Glenys landed a small Dorado, which we had for dinner.

I was dragged out of bed after an hour, when Glenys spotted a Sperm Whale at the side of Alba.  We reckon that it was nearly as long as our boat, maybe 10-12 metres, and it followed us for five minutes before going off to do whale things.  I did a bit of reading on Sperm Whale behaviour and I think that it was a male – females travel in family groups with their calves and males are kicked out when they reach maturity.

The 8-15 knot winds continued after sunset giving us pleasant sailing conditions all night.

13 February 2018   Namibia to St Helena (Day 7)
The fabulous sailing conditions continued through to dawn and then lasted all the day. The forecast is for this good weather to last for another three days, which is great.  At my 07:00 progress check this morning, we’d covered 140 miles in the last 24 hours and had 550 miles to go.  If this weather keeps up, we’ll arrive on Saturday 17th – only 4 more nights to go.

Sperm Whale

Despite the benign sailing conditions, we’re both feeling a little weary because of the constant three hourly interruptions to our sleeping patterns. We’re sleeping more during the day now – Glenys has at least three hours in the morning and I have the same in the afternoon.  It doesn’t help that the motion of the boat is so soporific. 

The sea temperature has stabilised at 21°C and it’s pleasantly warm during the day, so I’m hoping that we’ll be able to go snorkelling in St Helena.  We’ve not been in the water since leaving Madagascar in October last year.  

Alas, we’ve had no luck with the fishing today, but we only had one lure out.  I’ll get motivated tomorrow and stick out another line.  With no fresh fish on the table, Glenys dug out a tin of salmon and made a very tasty Salmon Lasagne for dinner.

Once again, the 10-15 knot winds continued after sunset giving us mostly pleasant sailing conditions.  The clouds built up on my 1-4 watch and we had a heavy shower giving us 20 knots of wind – not a problem, but the weather is getting more tropical and we’ll have to be more wary of strong squalls as we get further north towards the equator.

We were attacked by Flying Fish during the night. They look lovely with their silvery blue wings glinting in the tropical sun as they glide above the waves.  However, they are very slimy and stink to high heaven.  Several times, we heard a big thump as an 8 inch fish hit the coach roof at 30 miles per hour.  They then flail around, shedding scales, desperate to get back in the water.  By the time we’ve grabbed it and thrown it overboard our hands are covered in stinking slime.

Flying Fish Attack

One hit the windscreen, giving me a right old scare and another hit the cockpit coaming, so hard that it ricocheted over into the cockpit and proceeded to flail about on the seat.  I tried to grab it, but it flipped onto the cockpit floor.  I tried to grab it again, but it flopped towards the companionway way.  Panic - if it got down below, it would cause chaos.  Fortunately, I managed to grab it with two hands and heave it overboard.

14 February 2018   Namibia to St Helena (Day 8)
It looks like we’ll have good wind today and tomorrow, but the 16th and 17th are forecast to have light 5 knot winds - I guess that we’ll be motoring into St Helena on the 17th. Only 3 nights to go.

At 10:29 UTC, we crossed the Greenwich Meridian, so we’re now in the Western hemisphere, directly south of our families in the UK.  Perhaps we were feeling a little homesick, but we’ve finally decided that we’ll leave the boat in Trinidad for the hurricane season and fly back to the UK for three months in July, returning to Trinidad in October.  

We’re going to put Alba up for sale privately and if she sells, we’ll move back to the UK.  If she doesn’t sell, then next year, we’ll cruise up through the West Indies & the Bahamas  to the east coast of the USA.  Our current plan is to leave the boat for sale with the Hallberg Rassy dealer in Annapolis in September 2019.  We haven’t paid UK VAT on the boat, so if we sell Alba in Europe, it will cost us 25% tax whereas the import duty into the USA is only 1.5% + fees. (See for boat details.)

Crossing the Greenwich Meridian

Just before lunch, we spotted a set of sails on the horizon ahead of us.  We weren’t picking up their AIS position, so we didn’t know who they were, but we altered course slightly and gave chase.  It took us 5 hours to get level with them, but it was approaching sunset, so we didn’t want to get too close.  

We chatted to them on the VHF radio and found out that the boat is “Jomaro”.  We met Jos, Yamille and their little girl Isabella briefly in Luderitz - they left with “Sabir”, 24 hours before us.  They are a 53 foot Amel, so I’m very surprised that we’ve managed to overtake them – we must be doing something right for a change.

We put out two fishing lines in the morning and didn’t hear a whisper from either line, but when I pulled in one of the lures, the stainless steel leader was in knots, so something has had a go at it.  I remade the lure and sharpened the hook, ready to catch a big one tomorrow.

It was another idyllic day, gliding downwind with 10-15 knots of wind doing 5.5 to 6.5 knots in comfortable 1 metre waves. Overnight, it wasn’t quite as good because the wind dropped a few knots, which was enough to make us roll every so often, making the sails slat and dropping our speed down to 4 to 5 knots.

15 February 2018   Namibia to St Helena (Day 9)
The wind was a little fickle first thing in the morning, but the breeze filled in nicely and by 09:00, we were back to 10-15 knots and doing 5 to 6 knots, with blue skies.  Glorious.  At 07:00, we only had 260 miles to go, so we should get in the day after tomorrow. The forecast is still for the wind to drop tomorrow, but fingers crossed, we’ll still be able to sail.

Small Dorado

Having passed the Greenwich Meridian yesterday, we put our clocks back one hour after breakfast – we’re now on Greenwich Mean Time.

I put out our fishing lines and, ten minutes later, was rewarded by a small Dorado.  It was soon dispatched and filleted ready for dinner.  Later in the afternoon, we caught another couple of small Dorado at the same time – we must have passed close to a shoal of them.  All three fish that we caught today were small females with roe – we really must find some pleasant way of eating the fish eggs.

As usual, we’ve been eating well this trip.  For breakfast, we’ve been having fruit and yoghurt followed by cereal with granola and raisins, although the yoghurt ran out after day 6. 

Lunch was sandwiches for the first four days until the bread ran out.  Since then we’ve been having flour tortillas, which are great because the vacuum packed ones will last for several months.  Glenys has been converting the left-overs from evening meals into a curry filling to make a Roti or stuffing the tortillas with fried fish with salsa or ham & cream cheese with tomatoes.  

For dinner, we’ve had Cassoulet; Beef Chili with Rice; Navarin of Lamb with Vegetables; Dorado in Peanut Sauce with Rice; Fried Rice with Chorizo; Salmon Lasagne; Dorado & Chips; and Dorado Catalan with Rice.

The wind gradually dropped during the afternoon and past sunset but we were able to maintain at least 4 knots boat speed.  At 01:00, the wind started to veer about and I gybed the genoa a few times, but then the wind dropped below 5 knots. It was pitch black so I couldn’t see, but I was hoping that this was a local cloud bank causing the problem. However, after 20 minutes of slatting sails and drifting, I had to turn on the engine. 

An hour later, the wind came back – it was some damn cloud system causing the squirrely winds. Thankfully, we had steady winds until dawn, averaging 4.5 knots boat speed.