Atlantic Crossing - verse

Atlantic Crossing

How could we know just what to expect
The Atlantic´s a pretty big space
With potential for storms or discomfort at least
Or a mishap in the most remote place

In fact it´s as good as the best day´s day sailing
But for 18 continuous days
And you don´t have to pack up the yacht at night
And there´s time to relax and laze

After 1% of the voyage is done
The end seems a long way away (it is,2700 nm)
So it´s better to fix on short term goals
And enjoy what arrives each new day

There are busy times rollicking forward
There are quieter times inching ahead
There´s the rise and the fall of the boat under foot
There´the bouncing and bumping in bed

The moon begins full and lights up the sea
The stars set the night sky alight
The evening sunlight skates over the waves
Then sunrise is a most welcome sight

Some dolphins arrive and sing us a song
So we´ll all watch their tricks at the bow
The flying fish skim up the face of the waves
There´s a school dashing past right now

You learn to get by without very much sleep
With a "power nap" during the day
Perhaps we don´t spend enough time awake
Could we lengthen our lives this way?

Early on in the day there´s the forecast
And Bruce´s suggested route
And then there´s the strategy session
Should we keep reaching west or tack?

The trade winds are somewhat variable
We like it from nor nor east
When it´s east nor east as it often is
We need 20 knots at least

We have run goose-winged for long stretches
We have reached on starboard and port
For a short while we flew the spinnaker
(Not so practical,more for the sport)

It´s a quiet and sunny afternoon
The sea´s a huge disc of blue
Should we read,do a sketch,have a guiltless snooze?
A dip is an option too

Now the wind drops out altogether
And we have to motor once more
We must carefully measure the fuel supply
To ensure that we keep some in store

Food becomes an important part of this life
And the Admiral is luckily there
An amazing display of provisioning
Is followed by 4 star fare

The first mate´s responsibilities
Include the trolling line
Fancy barbequed tuna for dinner?
He might catch one just in time

The first mate is also our IT whizz
And he watches from 1 till 4
Someone thought he ought to be losing weight
It´s what job descriptions are for

The mainsail almost gets jammed at the mast
When we furl it in rolling swell
And the batteries need constant attention
But,touch wood,she´s functioning well

The wind comes up from east north east
And we´re bundling along once more
The clew blows out and action´s required
That´s also what first mates are for

We manage repairs and we´re tearing ahead
It feels like 10 knots down below
If the gear stays intact and the wind holds up
We only have 4 days to go

As we come further south the trade clouds build
And they generate the odd squall
Play it safe? Take the risk? Whatever we do
There´s a fair chance we´ll make the wrong call

We leave the sails up,and it generally works
Though one squall knocks us about
But now the track on the mast has worked out
So we can´t pole the headsail out

The angles don`t work for reaching
The swell rolls us abeam without fail
So we run down towards Barbados
Under a modestly furled mainsail

A whale drops by to say hello
He cruises close,he lolls
He stands up straight, he crashes down
He surfs,he belly rolls

He came,we hope,to bring us luck
For our last 200 miles
He did,we´re tied up at Port St Charles
Amongst Caribbean smiles

It´s been happy sailing for 18 days
As you´ll see from the Journal notes
The only occasion things nearly went wrong
Concerned the skipper´s oats.

3 Feb 2011

The British Virgin Islands and the Us Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands

Saturday, 19th. March
Rather than sailing overnight we choose to up anchor at 0430 hours to reach our next destination before dark. We have decided not to visit Anguila as it does not come highly recommended, it expensive to stay there, and it means another session of checking in and out.

We have a lively start to the day with a problem with the headsail.The block that is supposed to direct the furling line into the drum came loose and got drawn into the drum, tangling and blocking it. Fortunately there is a wonderful full moon giving us light and we are soon underway again as we leave the Leeward Islands and head for Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.

It is gorgeous out here today, making the 80 ks. crossing over a calm blue sea with the sun glistening off it. S.O.G. varies from 61/2 - 8 kts. off the beam. We have a very happy skipper!
We track across the Anegada Passage, via Round rock Passage into Francis Drake Passage. There is a large fishing boat up on the rocks just north of Round Rock reminding us of the treacherous area here passing up to the west coast of Virgin Gorda, with some uncharted rocks in these narrow passages.

Wrecked fishing boat up on the rocks

The weather is not suitable to stop at "the Baths" so we track past here and plan to return. We continue north to anchor in St. Thomas Bay outside The Virgin Gouda Yacht Club.

Putting out the stern anchor in Thomas bay

The Virgin Gouda yacht club

The extended reef leaving the yacht club

Everyone is friendly and welcoming here when we go ashore to check in and top up the provisions. The bar/restaurant has a very relaxed atmosphere with an open courtyard garden with palm trees. The internet connection is good here and there is a big screen T.V. to watch the Dokovic and Federer tennis match, and catch up on the C.N.N. news .
Tonight is the largest fullest moon there has been for 23 years. It is wonderfully bright and large giving a beautiful light over the sea and making visibility much easier to return to Impulsive in the dinghy in the dark.

Sunday, 20th. March
Today we track further north up the Francis drake Passage. The winds are 23 kts. from the n.e. and the seas are choppy so it is bashing into it. Once we enter Gorda Sound we are protected by the reef. A mooring off The Bitter End is one of many in this very attractive spot. There are many boats here and being a water sport centre is very colourful with all the activity with kite-sailors and small yachts all over this huge bay. There is a strong current swimming off the back of the boat.

Moored off Bitter End

Now we can relax for a few hours, reading and painting.

A flamingo

Late afternoon we go ashore for an exploratory walk and happen upon a flamingo which seems quite unconcerned we are watching it for sometime. It is so graceful stalking in the mangroves, and later flapping its fully outstretched wings. There are also many pelicans about.

Native birds to this area

Local products

For a change we have a movie night on board tonight - the first for this sailing season.

Monday, 21st. March
Ashore we walk west to the mangrove lined Biras Creek. Here there is a private resort set up behind a small marina. Further around are several mega yachts tied up.
Returning to our mooring ,strong winds have come up so we move to Vixen Point where there is more protection from the wind. Here we can moor close in to a white sandy beach where the swimming is excellent. We enjoy a decent swim in to pay our mooring fees.

A large schooner anchored nearby

After another relaxing time on board we venture ashore for dinner to the small islet, Saba Rock. It is fun bringing the dinghy in here where there are many others already tied up. The water here is lit with spotlights from underneath and there are many reasonable size fish swimming about.
The restaurant and its few guest rooms are built to completely cover the rock.

Saba Rock

Tuesday, 22nd. March
The forecast for today is against us going a few degrees e. of north to Anegada. We set off to try . Luckily the wind direction was as forecast but less force than expected with only 1/2 m. swell instead of 2.4 to 3 m. seas. We have a great sail 2 1/2 hour sail across here leaving by 0830 hours to arrive in time to make sure we can see the bombies. We are out here with many other yachts all with the same idea. It is a lovely sight, looking like a flotilla. We have the headsail and a reduced mainsail up.
A large catamaran coming in the opposite direction clearly isn´t watching. We have right of way but Ross has to change course to avoid it. The crew are all out at the stern fishing!
Poloroid sunglasses help to spot the bombies. They also enhance the colours of the turquoise blue waters. There are not many other boats here on the moorings.

The chart plotter doesn´t correspond to pilot book charts here so we need the poloroids.
Anegada is a great contrast to the other volcanic islands in the Virgin Islands. It is made up of limestone and coral, and is flat. The surrounding waters close to shore are a very pale clear green. The settlement is small, very quiet and relaxed.
We take a local taxi ute out to search for the flamingos, with no luck, and then onto Loblolly Beach. This is the most beautiful and long expanse of beach where we enjoy a swim, and a snorkel along the reef.

Looking for Flamingos

Loblolly Beach

Lobster cages

Fresh lobsters

This area is known for its lobsters and we see some of the fresh catches of the day. We have a treat of a delicious fresh lobster dinner tonight.

Wednesday, 23rd. March
Tracking back across the Francis Drake passage we have a magic sail with almost a beam reach and making up to 6.8 kts. With some difficulty we moor off the "Baths", but the conditions seem much better than when we passed here a few days ago. We take the dinghy to the dinghy mooring lines and then have to swim in. It isn´t possible to take the dinghy ashore because it would be dumped in the surf waves as they hit the shore. It proves to be quite a challenging swim and I am pleased Ross suggests wearing our flippers.

Moored off the "Baths"

Huge granite boulders make up the palm lined shoreline here and you can wade and swim in and out of the huge rocks and caverns. The colours of the water are quite exotic. The short walk across to Devil´s bay, including some scrambling over large rocks and boulders, is very picturesque.
We track the short distance across to marina Cay off the n.east tip of Tortola Island. The reef here gives excellent protection.

Marina Cay

We go ashore later for a simple dinner at the restaurant on this small island. We are thrilled when Matthew from Melbourne comes to say hello. He used to live in our street when the the children were growing up and was in the same year at school as Steve. Another incredible co-incidence is that he is now living with his young family in the same suburb as Scott in Denmark! They are here on a sailing holiday so we have a lovely time catching up, including a drink on their boat once they have their 2 little children asleep.

Thursday, 24th. March

Matthew with his family visiting Impulsive

After an early morning visit from Matthew and the family we set off with just the headsail up for a short motor sail s.west across to Peter island.We have a wonderful time anchoring overnight in Great Harbour. Sometimes it is lovely to be anchored like this and feel totally independent with everything working well. We make our water with the water- maker and get our power by running the generator.
The turquoise waters here are exquisite and it is just a treat to dive in off the stern of the boat.
It is only a short walk across a small spit to the very up-market resort on this island. The two super yachts here look as if they are too big to fit into the small marina here. The palm lined white sandy beach is magnificent.

Swimming off the stern of Impulsive

The beach at Peter Island

Friday, 25th. March
We are enjoying this relaxing time of just tracking a few miles each day to our next destination, giving us time to read, draw and paint.

Soper´s hole

Soper´s hole is 7 n.miles n.west around the western tip of Tortola. It is a very attractive and busy, small port to enter with its buildings painted in bright blues, mauves, pinks and greens. it also offers good protection. We have a lovely night having dinner on board tonight taking in the ambiance of this place with all its lights twinkling on the shore. The skipper is in full swing to dance.

Saturday, 26th. March

Cane Gardens beach

Pelicans diving at Cane gardens

We have to track between 2 reefs to come in to moor at Cane Garden Bay .This has a lovely long stretch of white sandy beach lined with palm trees, and is known to be the best beach in the area. There are lots of pelicans here and they entertain us diving into the water for fish, quite unperturbed by any bystanders. Apparently all this diving eventually affects their eyes and they die because they can no longer see the fish to dive for. Nature is wonderful but often is cruel.
Later as we begin to prepare dinner the husband of an American couple we had been talking to ashore while watching the pelicans, calls by Impulsive to invite us for dinner with them on their friend´s boat. The barb-e-qued prawn kebabs are delicious and there are many yachting stories exchanged. It is a fun night and very interesting. Mark and Karen have sailed for years and have had many wonderful experiences, as have Marty and Susan.

Dinner on board mark and Karen´s yacht

Sunday, 27th. March
This morning we have a visit from our new friends. Marty works with a company of boat builders, and Mark has lots of experience. Ross is very grateful to hear their opinions about our issues with the mast and furling the mainsail.
After being ashore we happen to leave here at the same time as the American yacht and it is fun to sail towards Diamond Cay on the s.eastern side of Jost van Dyke together. This is a delightful anchorage with only 10 moorings, and with just a few houses nestled into the hillside.

Mooring at Jost van Dyke

The Bubbly Pool is ideal for a late afternoon swim. It is a natural pool formed by sea water rushing in over the surrounding rocks. We also enjoy the peaceful walk across to this lovely spot, again with many pelicans in the calmer waters nearby.

Fox´s taboo restaurant

Ashore there is just the one open-air restaurant serving wonderful freshly seafood caught locally. We enjoy this with the 2 American couples. We plan to have a book exchange tomorrow morning. This is a great idea between yachties. We have collected so many books now and can´t possibly take them all home. We are given James Michener´s "Caribbean", which will be a wonderful read here.

Monday, 28th. March
A turtle swims close by the boat this morning and there are many pelicans to watch.
From Little Jost van Dyke to Great Harbour on Jost van Dyke is. is only a 3 n.mile motor-sail with the headsail up. We go ashore here to check out of the British Virgin Islands. The young woman serving us is particularly officious which is disappointing after all the other friendly people we have come across here.
We enjoy a quick walk around this attractive small town with is horse-shoe shaped white sandy beach, lined with palm trees. We pass the school where it is play time. The population of this island is only about 250 and the island is still unspoiled.

The church with the school in the background

We are heading to Foxy´s famous beach bar to have a fruit drink when we come across our American friends. They have been waiting for 2 hours to have Mark´s dinghy motor fixed. The problem is electronic so can´t be fixed here. We tow them back to their yacht.

Towing Mark and Karen´s dinghy back to their yacht

They now plan to cut short their cruising plans by a day and go straight to St. Thomas where their friends are due to fly out tomorrow. Instead we sail in tandem across to St. Johns Island and they can share our dinghy.

The U.S.A. Virgin Islands.

The 3 U.S.A. Virgin Islands were bought from the Danish in 1917.
Most of St. Johns is still in its natural state with a large percentage of it as National Park and Marine Parks.
We decide not to visit St. Thomas as it is now very touristy as we can see from St. Johns. Mark and Karen keep their boat there and suggest we don´t bother going there. They suggest it is only worthwhile if you need to provision.
St. Croix . We are sorry we are not able to visit here as we have been given another Swedish contact there, but we must continue straight through to Curacao.

Cruz Bay

We drop anchor at Cruz bay so we can go into customs to enter the U.S.A. where we have some trouble with our visa. This all takes some time and a few ferrying trips with the dinghy.
Apparently Cruz Bay is an attractive town to visit but we can see it is starting to look built up so we leave to track past some beautiful beaches along the coast to the northern shore of St. John to Francis Bay. This is all National Park area. There is a trail ashore that takes you up to the ruins of the Annaberg Sugar mill. Slaves worked here for 150 years, which seems incredible, and very chilling. From the view at the top here you can see many of the steep hills of this island.

Walking ashore with Susan

Annaberg mill ruins

Ruins of slave quarters

Views from Annaberg mill

Tonight we have another delicious dinner on Mark and Karen´s boat. It is a special time with lots of fun and topped off with some dancing. Mark and Karen are salsa experts.

Sunset at Francis Bay

Tuesday, 29th. March
We wave "good-bye" to the American yacht but will hopefully see each other again. Susan and Marty´s son has married a Sydney girl, and Mark and karen have already planned to come to Sydney for his class of racing boat next January. Let´s hope so.
We venture ashore again where we see a couple of iguanas. Some girls on the beach say they saw one of them coming up from the water´s edge where we can now see the tail marks, and can see them motionless, well disguised up in the trees.
Snorkeling here is lovely with a variety of fish, and the highlight is swimming with an endangered hawksbill turtle as it feeds on the grass below.

Hawksbill turtle

We let go the mooring to track a short distance back across to Soper´s Hole on Tortola Island for a short provisioning stop and to check our emails on the internet.
Returning to St. Johns Island we have our last mooring on the southern shore at Great Lameshur bay, again part of the National Park and the Coral Reef National Monument. A late afternoon walk along the Yawzi Point trail out along the headland is beautiful and shaded from the hot sun. We see a few deer which are very tame and so wonder if someone feeds them.
This bay is very peaceful with only 3 other boats here and it is a clear night with thousands of stars brightly twinkling in the sky. Being close in to shore we can hear the crickets chirping, and at daylight the birds singing.

Great Lameshur Bay

Swim and snorkel at Little Lameshur Bay

Wednesday, 29th. March to Saturday, 2nd. April
After a swim and a snorkel we set sail across the Caribbean Ocean 438 n.miles south to Curacao, planning to arrive there in daylight in 3 days time. The water off the stern of the boat is azure blue as you would see in Venetian glass. The forecast is good with winds from the east coming round to e. of south the whole way, building up to 15 kts. and as we get further from the coast up to 20 kts. We set off sailing tracking up to 7.2 kts. and with a heavy shower of rain which washes down the boat. It remains overcast for the remainder of the day.
As we pass by St. Croix Island we call the Swedish contacts we are given there. We are so sorry we are unable to venture in here but time and visa problems are against us.
The winds come round to south of s.east and we average 6.5 kts.only using the motor when necessary on low revs. to keep up our average speed. We are able to sail most of he night, with both sails up. The winds build up to 18-22kts. by 5am. Thursday, from the east and 110 T, i.e. a broad reach and so excellent sailing averaging 7 kts. The seas have a 2 m swell from the east.
At one stage during my watch I think the wind has suddenly changed direction. The sails start flapping and I am about to change them when I realize the auto pilot has "popped out". A vessel not far from us probably has quite a surprise with our sudden change of direction! Ross realizes he needs to reset the AIS detector which alerts us to other vessels in the area and gives information about them e.g. their size, SOG and direction they are tracking.
Later on during this watch a vessel is clearly getting very close to us and looks as though it is on a collision course. As Ross only has 10 minutes until we change night watch I wake him early. We think it is a large fishing boat just tracking very slowly with no intentions of changing course, so we do. Maybe they are down below working.
Today is a warm, sunny day. There is a strong wind from the east varying up to 28kts. with a 2-3 m swell, so we are rocking and rolling quite a bit and averaging 6.5 kts. We reduce the mainsail and headsail quite a bit for a more relaxed sail overnight.
Tonight is uneventful. Ross is very surprised when a flying fish comes in through the hatch above the helm seat. We have seen many of them and have had several on the deck. There is phosphorescence as the boat cuts through the waves.
We are rollicking along today with the sun out and a little less swell which is much more comfortable. Since 8am. we are averaging 7kts.
Late afternoon with 90 n.miles to go the sails are still set the same. It is marvelous to sail so far without needing the engine. We have seen several birds and the barometer is steady so we are hoping for much the same tonight. A few large waves have broken over the deck so we need to keep all the hatches and port holes tightly closed which makes it quite hot and humid inside Impulsive. We have times out in the cockpit to cool off and enjoy some fresh air.
We have a simple dinner tonight to make life easier.
Before Ross goes below to sleep he furls the headsail a little more as the wind is stronger again.
It is a lovely clear night filled with stars in the dark sky above. During night watch we only see 2 more vessels as we come closer to our destination very early this morning. One is a fishing boat again on a collision course. The odds of this happening must be rare, and it has happened twice to me in this one crossing.

Favourite recipe this leg:
Prawns with wild rice (an easy but delicious dinner when it is rough)

Bring 1 3/4 cups of water to the boil and add 1 tblsn. oil
Add 1 pkt. of "Near East" wild rice and stir in with the contents of the spice sack.
Cover and simmer on a low heat until the rice is cooked (about 25 mins.)
Fluff up the rice with a fork and then gently stir through the precooked prawns (5-6 per person)

Serve with green salad , sprouts, avacado and dressing

We arrive in Curacao early morning.

Tracking along the coastline off Curacao

Coming into Willemstad, the capitol here and of the Netherlands Antilles is a lovely experience as we pass by the Dutch colonial architecture all painted in different pastel colours. The pontoon Queen Emma bridge opens so we can pass through, and it divides the city in half. We are looking forward to exploring here.

The bridge opening

The bridge closing again

The marina is further on in an industrial part of this city but the important thing is that it will be a very safe place to have Impulsive hauled out of the water to be put on the hard stand for the hurricane season. We also need to be within certain latitudes out of the major hurricane paths to qualify for insurance.
She needs a thorough wash down to get rid of all the salt that washed over her this trip and then we need to start to prepare to leave her here for 10 months. It seems like an overwhelming list to work through but we have left ourselves a few days to do this.
It is very hot and humid here. It is the first time this season we have turned the air-conditioning on. It would be very difficult to stay on the boat otherwise, especially as swimming is not an option here.
We have to work hard every day here to get Impulsive organized in time, getting up before 6am each morning to have extra daylight hours and also to do the jobs that are easier in the cool of the day. There is a power issue at times and so no air-conditioning.
One of the difficult issues is how to combat the problem of mildew. The whole interior has to be wiped over or sprayed with a mixture of vinegar and water, and the fridges wiped out with a mixture of bleach and water. Similarly everything must be stored dry eg the washed down sails and dinghy.
Ross has a huge list to deal with: eg. Running fresh water through the dinghy and yacht motors, taking down the headsail and having some work done on it. We have stainless steel to clean, and anti-rust to apply both inside and outside the boat.

Running fresh water through the dinghy motor

We enjoy some light relief to all this with an Australian couple we saw in Thailand and Hurghada, and a couple we meet from Canada. It is wonderful to discuss packing up the boat with them. The Canadians have put their boat on the hard stand here for the previous 3 seasons and are particularly helpful. They have a 60ft. racing yacht with large kevlar racing sails. They enjoy tracking at 11 knots!
We were planning to have the boat "wrapped" but they strongly advise against it because of the mildew problem, so we leave her unwrapped. There are many hints to help prevent the mildeweg. taking off the depth transducer and covering it with very fine mesh to keep the bugs out but let some air in to circulate through the boat.
There is nothing at the marina except a chandlery, with no food supplies. You need a car to get to the shops etc. We are thrilled when John and Judy suggest we go with them one night to a nearby restaurant which serves local cuisine and has mainly local people there.

Impulsive being taken out of the water

We stay in a hotel the last 2 nights here because the yacht is now out of the water and up on the hard stand, so we have no running water. This hotel, the Kura Hulanda, is very interesting. It is set around the original city square and where the slave auctions took place, which is rather chilling. The original cottages have been renovated and painted in pastel colours. The complex also houses an interesting museum about the earlier times here. We haven´t the time to visit this now so plan to on our return.

The reception area of the Kula Hulanda Hotel - with typical colonial architecture

We have to go to Customs and immigration so can see something of Willamstad. It has had a mixture of Caribbean and Dutch rule, with centuries of Dutch rule with its slave trade and commerce. Punda is the oldest part and has its floating market with the boats from Venezuela and beyond this Plaza Bieu with the old market where you can buy local dishes to eat there or take away. Punda is joined to the other side, Otrobanda by Emmaburg the "swinging old lady" bridge which opens to let the water traffic through.The oldest synagoge in the western hemisphere is on this side.

Floating market

Large, plentiful and very flavoursome avacados here

Our final night we have a fun and relaxed dinner with our Australian friends, David and Sheryle, and John and Judy. Maybe we will see each other next season here.

Entertainment in the courtyard at Kulu Hulanda Hotel

Sheryle and David

Judy and John

We have really enjoyed this season on Impulsive. We have enjoyed the variety of sailing from the Atlantic crossing to the small trackings from island to island and being able to use moorings which is so relaxed. Every island is different with the Lesser Antilles being more involved with everyday living and the Greater Antilles more oriented to tourism. We enjoyed the cuisine very much, especially all the locally caught fresh seafood and freshly grown local fruit and vegetables.
We found it interesting culturally and historically. Apart from a particular U.S. customs officer we found the people generally to be very friendly, helpful and welcoming.