It's finally happening. We're going home to New England, an 8,000-mile journey, on Horizon, our new Atlantic 48 catamaran. We are leaving tomorrow, Monday, April 20, 2009.
We've been in Cape Town since October 27, 2008, getting Horizon ready for sea. Here we are on one of the sea trials, just outside the Cape Town Harbor, several weeks before we left on our journey.
When you sail from one harbor to another, the first harbor is really important - because all of the subsequent officials base their decisions on the first place you left. In preparation for our departure, we went to customs last Friday, where we waited in line for 55 minutes, only to be told we had to go to Immigration first.
So, we went to Immigration, only to be told by a woman who is legendary for her rudeness that we had to check out within 24 hours of the time we were actually leaving. Sigh. We went back to the boat, filled out the forms she gave us, and waited until Sunday.
It's Sunday evening. We went back to customs and immigration this afternoon. The was plenty of parking, there was no waiting in line, and no one in the offices except us and each officer. One nice man in Immigration, stamp-stamp-stamp. Another nice man in Customs, stamp-stamp-stamp.
Both the Immigration and the Customs man rolled their eyes when we mentioned that we had to return because of the 24-hour rule. Apparently no one else holds sailors to it; anyone else would have just stamped our forms. Oh, well. All's well that ends well. Our papers are all in order now.
The boat is filled with food, and we have storage room left over. That's good. Philip filled the diesel tanks today, and I'll fill the starboard water tank tomorrow so we leave with full water tanks.
But let's go back a bit to the beginning of the story.
When we first came to South Africa to "pick her up and sail her home," we stayed in Gordon's Bay, high on the windy hill in a rented house. It was so lovely there.
The house was situated just to the right of the "GB" on the hillside.
The view was outstanding. We often ate dinner on the deck, as the sun went down over the Bay. Here are some shots Philip took from the house's deck:
The Dutch-inspired architecture on the houses just below us.
The wind-swept surf at Gordon's Bay beach.
Gordon's Bay - and a bit further north, Strand - where the boat was built. If you keep driving north, and go west around False Bay, you can either go north into Cape Town, or south again to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Here's a map, to help orient you:
As you can see, Cape Town is actually on the top of a peninsula. Cape Point is at the southern end of the peninsula, and Gordon's Bay is across False Bay. They call it False Bay because sailors coming around the bottom of Africa went into it, thinking they were going north up the coastline of Africa. False. It's a very shallow bay, and very windy. So there are a lot of wrecks in False Bay.
Here's a bird's-eye view of that same peninsula, this time looking south from Cape Town. When there is a "tablecloth" on top of Table Mountain, the wind HOWLS down into Cape Town and the Cape Town Harbor. In this shot you can see Elliot Basin, the larger rectangular harbor in the lower left, and the V&A Waterfront area, which is the smaller rectangle in the lower left. We stayed in both marinas while we were in South Africa. Moving right, at the bottom of the shot, you can see the new stadium they're building for the 2010 Olympics. And moving around Table Mountain, a beautiful seafront area called Green Point. In the top right corner, you are actually looking south to the Cape of Good Hope.
We were in South Africa for months, but we were so busy we only went sight-seeing a couple of times. Once to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, and once to the top of Table Mountain.
Here's Philip at the start of the walk up to Cape Point.
Philip having a little chat with one of the many baboons in the Cape Point parking area along the road.
Here's the Cape of Good Hope, which is just a bit further north up the peninsula from Cape Point.
This is a picture we took of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain.
And another, showing some of the local fauna. Many of the plants in Southern California came from South Africa, so much of the plant life was familiar. Southern California is about as far north from the equator as South Africa is south of it; growing conditions are similar.
The last few months we stayed in the V&A Waterfront, a beautiful marina/tourist area:
We were often entertained by the "dragon boat races" they had there, almost every weekend.
There's a lot of shouting associated with this sport, to keep the rowers in rhythm, and the competition is fierce.
While we were there, there were a number of fires during the hot summer season. This one was particularly dramatic, burning the dry grass along the side of Table Mountain. For weeks afterwards, there were ashes on the boat every morning, as the strong winds blew them down from the mountain side.
Here's an early morning shot, taken from Horizon's cockpit in her berth at the V&A Waterfront. We're facing the part of the mountain that was burning in the fire picture. The Cape Grace hotel is on the left.
Now that I've set the scene, let's go back to our story...
We launched the boat in November, 2008, in Elliot Basin. Here are some shots from that happy day.
Here she is, being lifted over the sea wall and into the water at Elliot Basin.
And here we are, just after she was floating for the first time - when a boat truly becomes "alive." Obviously, we are thrilled. This moment was a long time in the making.
We met some great people in South Africa - some new friends. Here are a few...
Matthew Thomas, on the right, stands in the cockpit of Horizon as Philip steers the boat back into the V&A Waterfront marina after a sea trial. Matthew's help was invaluable as we readied Horizon for our 8,000-mile voyage. He's a systems engineer with more than 100,000 of sea voyage experience, a wonderful person and a great cook.
Matthew's better half, Ally, takes in the view on a beautiful day just outside Cape Town Harbor.
Allison was the office manager at the boat builder's and we became very close friends. This picture was taken at the post-launch breakfast, at the Royal Cape Yacht Club.
Same breakfast, this time it's Lutz, who drove us around and was tremendously helpful the first few months we were in South Africa, and Jean, who did so much of the work on Horizon.
And here's Dr. Phil, hard at work, at the boat builder's shop. He did almost all of the carpentry on Horizon, and kept us in stitches with his tales.
Now on to the boat itself, and our preparations...
Here's Horizon, at the V&A Waterfront, almost ready to go.
The micro greens garden that Matthew created for us, containing herbs and lettuces. We had salads nightly from this garden, almost all the way home on the two-month trip.
Cooking on Horizon is a dream, partly because catamarans sail "on the level" and partly because the galley is so spacious and well-laid-out. Dr. Phil gave us a classic tea kettle before we left, which I used often to make Rooibos tea.
Here are the food nets Philip made, hanging from the special "ring" nuts that we had made for the purpose. There was more than enough storage room on Horizon, even for a 2-month trip, but this was a good way to store produce so it was ventilated and protected. The row of nuts are what hold the trampoline track in place.
Matthew and Ally have been so kind. This is a "halfway box" that we will open when we are "half way." The four little faces are their three cats and one dog (a goofy, wonderful cocker spaniel who thinks he's a cat), and includes "Mac," who is a tiny black cat who is absolutely fearless.
When we leave tomorrow, we will have strong winds taking us out to sea, as this forecast shows (click to enlarge).
Down in the Cape Town area, we will have winds in the 24 - 28 knot range indicated by the orange area. The direction is perfect; the wind will basically be blowing us right where we want to go. Once we leave the coast of Africa, about 3 days out, the seas will settle and the wind will be more in the 14 - 20 range, which is great. St Helena is the tiny black dot just below the "N" on the word "Ocean" - we may stop there - depends on the wind. You can just see the eastern tip of South America on the left side; that's where the doldrums will probably be.
And so, finally, the journey begins. The boat is truly ready, all systems are "go." We have learned many things, and have met some wonderful people. But we are really glad to be going home.
Philip and Kristin
Philip Zhivago - Captain - with Table Mountain in the background, leaving South Africa.
Kristin Zhivago - "Admiral" (according to the Captain) - that's still Table Mountain in the background, but also the "Lion's Head" - the pointy hill - and the "Lion's Rump," the smooth hill to the left of the "head."
We left Monday at noon, Cape Town time. Winds were strong; 35 to 40, for a couple of days after we left Cape Town. Seas were very bumpy. It's better now, three days later. The winds are more in the 18 - 20 range.
When a wave comes from the side of the boat, sometimes it makes a big crashing sound - but I'm told that's common for catamarans. Sounds and feels like a canon underneath the wing deck (the deck between the two hulls, which holds the cockpit, the pilothouse, and the afterdeck).
We're sorting out our sleep and watch patterns. I'm still seasick, but haven't lost any meals yet. Only one snafu so far; the freezer temp started to rise and it wasn't running. Philip traced it to wires near the fridge compressor which needed some attention. Now it's all fixed and the freezer is happy again.
Only a few large ships, and sea birds. And waves as far as the eye can see.
We are going to try to stop in St Helena. It takes about 10 days to get there. The boat is so fast it is amazing. 8 knots on average, could easily be doing more, but this is fast enough, given the waves and wind we are seeing (I am finishing this Thursday morning; it's blowing 30 right now). Sorry I didn't send an update sooner, we've been settling in.
Here's a shot of the stern wave off the port stern. She's going about 8 knots in this picture. Remember...this is sail power only!
Much love, will write again soon.
Philip and Kristin
Hi. We are currently at S 26 degrees, 32 minutes and E 6 degrees, 36 minutes, still on our way to St Helena. We figure it will end up taking us 11 days to get there, from Cape Town. We are about halfway there.
The wind is now holding steady at about 10-15 knots, which is very nice for sailing. The water is jewel blue, a deep blue color I have never seen before. It's beautiful.
Today we put up the "Code Zero" sail, which is a very big sail that attaches to the end of the bowsprit, with the other end - the "clew" - going almost halfway back on the boat.
The Code Zero has the added advantage of shading the pilothouse from the afternoon sun - something we will appreciate when we get to warmer areas. As it is, it is a very pleasant 70ish degrees here. Without the Code Zero, in this amount of wind, the boat was sailing along at about 4 knots. Now it's sailing along at 7 knots. So there is a definite speed advantage to putting up the Code Zero.
Too bad it isn't so easy! I'm sure we'll get used to it, but this was our first time.
In this picture, you can see the "sock" at the very top of the sail. When it's time to put the sail away, we pull the sock down using lines attached to the plastic hoop at the bottom of the sock. The sail goes into the sock, and the whole thing goes into the port forepeak, through a big hatch on the deck.
Here's a shot of the mainsail and the Code Zero, which is attached to the end of the bowsprit.
Getting it up was a struggle. One lesson: Don't let the sail wrap around the jib, which is rolled up close by (attached to a fitting further aft on the bowsprit). Easy to do, not good when it happens. It also turns out the line we had attached to the clew of the sail - the end that goes along side and to the rear of the boat - was attached improperly. It took a while to get everything "sorted," as they say in South Africa, but it's up now and the boat is happy.
The autopilot has been amazing. We have not steered the boat at all since Tuesday. You set your course, and the autopilot steers the boat, using data it gets from the wind meter at the top of the mast, and the compass setting. It's the right way to do long ocean crossings.
The stars at night would blow your mind. You can see the entire Milky Way, and zillions of stars. Venus (I think it's Venus) is so bright in the wee hours that it creates a reflective pathway on the water, just like the moon.
We have only seen one other ship since the other day. Mostly we are completely alone. The song "Just the Two of Us" keeps playing in my head. :-) Everything is getting pretty salty; I'm hoping for some rain so I can do some washing up. I seem to be past the seasickness phase, and with the boat gliding along so smoothly, cooking is a joy again.
So far, so good. Even Matthew's garden is doing well, although during our wild ride the first three days, I'm sure those little plants were wondering when the earthquake was going to end!
We hope this finds you all well and we send our love. Pleasant memories of our loved ones are definitely with us on this journey, every minute of each day.
Philip and Kristin
We are now at S 21 degrees 24 minutes, E 4 degrees 32 minutes.
The wind died this afternoon - almost - on the way to St Helena. It's "blowing" 2 knots. What is amazing is that this boat, with one sail up only, in these light conditions, sails at wind speed! It's blowing 2.1 knots right now and the boat is going 2.1 knots. It's midnight, very quiet, just one sail up.
We are eating things as they ripen - tomorrow I start using up the bananas, which all went ripe at once. That will be a culinary challenge! The plants are now outside, on the afterdeck; I think they wanted more air circulation. We'll see.
We had lots of sail practice today, putting up the big sail, taking it down, putting it up on the other side, taking it down. Plus the main, which is now down, and the jib, which is now up.
2 knots isn't 11 knots - which is how fast we were going last night - but we are still moving, and in the right direction.
Our best wishes to all,
Philip and Kristin
We are about 800 miles from St Helena (S 23 degrees 23 minutes, E 4 degrees 11 minutes). The wind came up today and we were zooming along for a while, but now it's easing again on a bumpy sea.
It's also pretty squeaky at the moment. The steering system uses stainless cables that connect the two steering wheels - one in the cockpit and one in the pilothouse - to a large disk (a "quadrant") in each engine room, attached to each rudder. As the cables go from the steering wheels to the engine room, they pass over two small rollers, which are underneath the pilothouse. The rollers need lubrication - they are not supposed to squeak (the material they are made of us supposed to be "self lubricating"), but they are. It sounds like someone protesting with every tiny turn of the wheel, and the wheel turns every second.
Of course, Murphy's Law - these rollers are unreachable unless you get into the dinghy and go underneath the wing deck (the part of the boat between the hulls). Going
Another day at sea, another day learning what the boat wants in order for her to zoom along. The wind can get light out here - 5 knots or less - but most of the time it's 7 to 10 knots. Right now the wind is 9 knots and we're sailing between 7 and 8, which is amazing all by itself. The power of this boat under sail is breathtaking.
We are about 500 miles from St Helena. (S 20 degrees 39 minutes, E 0 degrees, 19 minutes). We're not even sure we're going to stop there, although we'd like to, just because we left so late in the season. The sooner we get across the equator the better. The winds can get very light this time of year, and sitting around with no wind, or only a knot of wind, is not much fun. It's nowhere near as satisfying as what's going on this minute - surfing the swells coming in behind us, mainsail up and working, big Code Zero sail filled and casting a soft shadow on most of the boat, and the sound of rushing water everywhere.
The garden is showing new signs of life since I tossed those freeloading caterpillars overboard. Just in time, too, because our fresh green supplies are dwindling by the day. Also out of bread now. I may have to start baking some, or come up with other things to eat for lunch. I had brought sliced bread on board. It went bad quickly.
Next time I will follow the advice of the authors of a cruising book, who said to buy it unsliced, and paint it with vinegar. Apparently you won't taste the vinegar, and the bread will last a long time. The remaining bananas are in the freezer, I hope that works. There's plenty of food - much of it in cans, stored by the dozens under the pilothouse sitting areas, so there's no danger of us running out of things to eat. It's just that fresh is just so much better.
We've got our watch schedule down, and it seems to be working. After dinner I go to bed, sometime between 7 and 8 PM - and sleep until 1AM. Then I get up and start watch, and Philip sleeps until 8 or so. We both eat breakfast, do what has to be done with the sails, then I take a nap. Then lunch, more sail work, and then PZ takes a nap until dinner. The extra naps are necessary because we're both not getting a full night of sleep during the long watches.
Still haven't seen a single ship out here. Just the very blue ocean, the long, big swells, and the smaller waves on the surface of the water.
Lots of clouds but no rain yet - it would be welcome, as I'm hoping to catch enough water to do a clothing wash, and the boat could use a wash - we got a lot of salt spray on the boat when we were on that wild ride out of Cape Town. Philip has been running the water maker each morning, which is keeping the water tanks full.
As I write this, I am struck by how pedestrian this all sounds. I mean, it's really just eating and sleeping and working (I'm starting to work on my second book, for example). It's just life going on, except we are out in the middle of the ocean, on a very lively waterborne platform that requires you to be careful how you move around.
I may post less frequently as we continue this part of the trip, just because it is so pedestrian. Don't assume that silence means trouble. So far this boat is incredibly friendly to humans and a very seaworthy vessel.
Below is a shot of the view from my "office." I tend to sit on the port settee while I'm typing, facing the center of the pilothouse. When I look up, in addition to the view of the sea from all the pilothouse windows, there's the view out the aft door to the afterdeck. You can see a bit of the garden peeking through, under the inflatable dinghy, and the deep blue sea beyond.
Here's a picture of the port settee, which I was sitting on when I took the picture above. I took this photo when we were still in our berth at the V&A Marina.
We send our love and best wishes for all your endeavors this week.
Philip and Kristin
Current position: S 17 degrees, 23 minutes; W 2 degrees, 17 minutes
Life gets pretty simple out here. There's the boat, the people, the food, the garden, and our work.
One thing you do is pay constant attention to what the boat needs, because if the boat get what she needs, you get to where you're going - as efficiently as possible. You also keep bad things from happening, by constantly checking for Enemy #1 - chafe - and anything else that might be improper.
You can tell what the boat needs just by the sounds. You quickly come to know what each sound means and what is making it. That creak over there is the block that holds the preventer, a line tied to the end of the boom. It prevents the boom from going too far in any direction (for any non-sailors, the boom is the horizontal tube at the bottom of the mainsail, perpendicular to the mast). When you're sailing in ocean swells, as we are, keeping the boom secure is a good thing. Otherwise the mainsail will start flapping around and fail to keep the wind flowing smoothly over its surface.
The water going past the boat also makes a distinctive noise. You can tell how fast the boat is going just by the sound of the water flow.
The GPS tells us how far we are from St Helena and where we are relative to the "rhumb line," the direct course from Cape Town to St Helena. The wind is basically behind us, and you can't really sail directly downwind in a cat, so we are sailing at an angle to the wind, first one side and then the other. Going from one side to the other, with the wind behind you, is called gybing. I did my first solo gybe today, early this morning while Philip was sleeping, and am proud to say it went fine - and I managed to do it so quietly that he never woke up.
With our current setup, you have to first bring the main to the center of the boat, then pull the thin, nylon sock down over the big sail (yes, all the way down from the top of the mast, pulling on a line attached to the large plastic hoop at the bottom of the sock), then pull the big sail to the other side of the boat, then set up all the lines on the new side, then pull the sock up and let that big sail loose.
If the wind is coming from one direction and the sails aren't set for it, Horizon starts to get "mushy." You can feel her slowing down, like she's walking through mud. The large jib starts to collapse, instead of being in its best state - all puffed up and ready to party.
If the sails are set right, and the wind increases just the tiniest bit, Horizon starts to surge. She accelerates in a way a monohull never does. This boat is much lighter and has very little surface in the water relative to the size of the boat - because everything is floating on two slim hulls. You can see just how thin the hulls are, in the shot of Horizon below, taken when we were in Elliot Basin. That's Semper Fi just to the right of us, a new catamaran owned by our friends Greg and Michelle.
Going back to Horizon's speed...if the wind increases from 4 to 8 knots, she goes from 3 knots to 6 knots, the speed steadily climbing about a third of a knot per second, until she is merrily surging forward. If the wind gets stronger, even up into the upper teens, she feels just like a car built for speed. She seems to be happiest running at 8 - 9 knots. The ride is smooth; you can barely tell you're moving. If she starts going faster than that, the noise alone makes you wonder how the boat is going to survive it. It is, of course; we're well within the design specifications. It's just the way it feels.
As she surges, she makes her own wind. "True" wind is what's blowing, and "apparent" wind is the combination of true wind and the wind made by the motion of the boat. The angle of the wind changes as the apparent wind speed rises. The wind direction swings around so it's coming more from the front of the boat.
Still no signs of other life, not a single ship, and only one small bird yesterday. "Land ho" - St Helena - is about 250 miles from here. This is the first 25% of our journey to New England, and it will have taken us two weeks to get to St Helena. So 6 weeks more is a safe assumption.
Just a nice shot of the cockpit and pilothouse...
Our friends on Semper Fi didn't leave South Africa after all; they had to get a few more things fixed before they could leave. They have hired a delivery captain and taken on some experienced crew - a couple - and plan to set off for America in the next few days. Both Greg and Shelly are management consultants; Greg actually met with the top brass at the catamaran company for something like 4 hours, when they were in the States recently, detailing how he went from "delighted" to "disgusted" - because of all the things that went wrong with their "new - as in, "there shouldn't have been any problems" catamaran. We wish them the best as they begin their journey.
Here's a shot of Semper Fi leaving "the first time," out of Elliot Basin.
Greg is at the helm, on the left, Michelle is holding the fender, and Larry is on the bow, looking back toward Table Mountain. It was a rare, calm morning in Elliot Basin.
Speaking of friends, I've been thinking on this trip how much our lives are defined by our friends and family. My very essence is tied to the people I love. I see faces and smiles and hear laughter, in my mind's eye, as we move along on the open ocean. These memories and images are as much a part of me as the pure, clean air I'm breathing. I also admit I am missing the special people we met and befriended in Cape Town. Some people just become lifelong friends, from the moment you meet them. There is a shared understanding about what matters and what doesn't, and what is good - and what is not. You rapidly get to the point where you can joke about your character flaws, in a way that teaches and enriches, and you quickly develop a set of shared observations that become fodder for ongoing jokes. So special, those we love.
Well, Horizon is surging, after slugging along in 5 knots of wind. The wind is now 8 knots and rising, and she's found her feet.
Must get to the book...thanks for letting me share this with you. Sorry it's so long. I'm a writer, after all. :-)
Philip and Kristin
Well, I guess the admiral has been promoted. I've been fussing with sail trim and wind angles and I can get the boat to do 8 knots in 9 knots of wind, which is a sweet spot for her. I took a few pictures to give you a taste of what that really means, in terms of the speed of the boat through the water.
When the designer calls this a "performance cruising catamaran," he's not kidding. Usually this kind of performance is associated with stripped-down racing boats, the kind where the head is a bucket, there's no galley to speak of, and it's filled with strong men with tan faces and the singular determination to win. In our case, we have all the luxuries of home - including a workshop and a full kitchen - and yes, two normal toilets and two double berths. And a very comfortable "living room." It's a very dignified, dry existence as the boat speeds on its way. There's none of that "spray in your face" experience one normally associates with this kind of speed.
Here's the wake she makes, just under sail:
Of course, everything comes with its own tradeoffs. We're currently aiming for a tiny island in the middle of a big ocean, and to get there fast - given the wind direction - we must go more northerly than we would like. So now we are even with the island from a north/south point of view, and the island is just to the west of us. Time to jibe the boat and get going in a westerly direction.
At the rate we're going, we could arrive there during the night, which we wanted to avoid. So it may be time to slow the boat down a little. Maybe pull down the big sail and just use the plain old jib. As soon as Philip is vertical (it's his afternoon rest time), we'll discuss all this and decide what to do.
[Update - turns out we want to come to the island from the north; we'll want to go into the bay near Jamestown. Looks like the conditions will be right to anchor - wind will be coming over the island from the south, protecting the boats in the harbor, which is on the northwest section of the island.]
At the rate we are going, we should get to St Helena tomorrow. It's about 100 miles away. We are going to stick with the Code Zero sail for now; we can always slow down when we get closer to the island.
Ethel asked if we are listening to the radio, or using an iPod, or surfing the Web. The answer is "no," in all cases. I do have an iPod, but right now hearing the boat is more important than music, so that's out. We have no TV on board, and the only thing we'd be watching would be Formula 1 races anyway. I should be able to surf the Web with the sat phone, but so far the only site that has come up consistently is my own. So much for finding out what the world is up to. I'll probably get a summary from someone who might be interested in providing it. I think God really does want me to get the book done, without the distraction of the latest disaster. So far it's been quite pleasant writing during my night watch.
The garden also had aphids; they're less easy to find than the big, fat caterpillars, but they can also be squished easily. The plants are making a valiant effort to be healthy in spite of these hardships, and I think we'll end up with most of the garden surviving once we get past this rough patch.
...It's now 4:40AM St Helena time, and I just spotted the lights on the island, to the west of us. Because of the wind and current, we will go north of the island and then south to get to the island. We will do that in daylight.
We've been marking our progress on the chart, all along, on this trip. As you can see, the slower you go, the closer together the marks are. The wind died to almost nothing as we got closer to the island. We finally had to resort to using the engines, just to make sure we got there before sunset.
Philip and Kristin
P.S. We did stop in St Helena after all, and took lots of pictures, which will appear in the next update. But here are a couple of shots of St Helena, taken as we approached the island.
To reach the tiny town of Jamestown, we will be going around to the right of the island (as you look at this shot).
Here's the "anchorage" - which is really just an unprotected harbor in the sea swell. Jamestown is just beyond the sea wall, nestled in between those high cliffs. We got there just as the sun was setting. Magical.
We are currently speeding away from St Helena, which was, as everyone said, "Not to be missed." What a pleasant place. We anchored - first time we've anchored the boat - in the small harbor, after arriving there in the late afternoon. We had to resort to engines the last few miles; the wind just died completely, and if we had ghosted our way along, we would have come to the harbor in darkness. We didn't want to do that. So we motored in.
Shortly after we arrived and settled, a man came by in a little wooden workboat, and said that "the doctor would be out to see us at 4PM." That's when we realized that we had passed through another time zone and we needed to reset our clocks and watches - since we thought 4PM had already passed. Sure enough, around 4PM the doctor showed up. He managed to get on board in the surging sea, and took our temperatures with an infrared device - because of the concern about swine flu. Since we had been at sea for 2 weeks, and I've had very little luck rousing websites, we were not as aware of the new pandemic as the good doctor. We were cleared, and he gave us some tips about getting about on the island, which we decided we would do the next day (today).
Spending the night at anchor was wonderful. Very peaceful. I'm looking forward to doing more of that after we get the boat home. Philip slept the whole night through, and needed the rest. I was on partial anchor watch, to make sure we didn't drag. It was very deep there, so we had to put out all the chain and most of the line. One of my landmarks when checking our position at anchor was the "700 steps" [aka "Jacob's Ladder"] to Napoleon's Castle. It's lit with a chain of lights running up the side of the steep cliff, and makes a very distinctive landmark for anyone coming to the harbor at night.
The next morning the captain was in an ambitious mood, having had a good night of sleep, so we attended to several items first thing. One was to lower the dinghy over the stern so he could go underneath the after part of the wing deck and lubricate the rollers where the steering cables pass through. I was up in the pilothouse, moving the wheel back and forth, so he could hear it make the squeaking noise. As soon as some of the lubrication got into the axle - the metal pin in the center of the rollers - the noise stopped. Good. It was nice to know we wouldn't have to listen to that for the remainder of the trip.
As soon as we had breakfast, we went into town. The man in the workboat (the "ferry") came out to get us, and let us off at the "steps" - a concrete area with ropes hanging down that you grab as you get out of the boat. You have to time it just right, as the boat surges up and down at least 6 feet with each wave. You leap, and then you're on land. Not dry land, but land.
We found ourselves in the "container port" for St Helena which consists of about 10 containers and two cranes. It's a narrow little area at the base of the left-hand cliff. Even the container port is quaint.
There's the sea wall, a small street along the wall, buildings built right into the cliff, and the cliffs, which rise straight up for hundreds of feet. The entire cliff above the "container port" is draped with a covering made of chain link fence, to keep the rocks from falling down on the people working there. The buildings were made of stone - including their arched roofs - for obvious reasons.
In this shot you can see the chain link fence behind one of the buildings, and the concrete roof.
The town is a one-street town nestled between the steep cliffs on either side. There's a lovely gate leading up into town, then a church and shops and gardens on either side of the one road, as you walk up the hill.
The gate leading to the town of Jamestown. The sea is right behind us.
The same gate, looking out to sea from the town. You can start to see why Jamestown is considered so picturesque.
Standing in the same position as for the photo above, only this time looking up the street to the church and the main street of the town.
Every building seems to have a story to tell. The colors are vibrant.
Some buildings look as rustic as the craggy cliffs on either side of the town.
There are some beautiful gardens, too. This one was is across the street from the large church.
But it isn't only the terrain, buildings, and gardens that make St. Helena distinctive. There are some very interesting cars. Brother John, we took these for you...
We had to take care of the paperwork first; we went to the police station for immigration, the top floor above the bank for customs, and a small office in a house for port control. We checked in and checked out in one transaction, because we knew that we would be leaving today.
Then on to the shops - we got bread, freshly baked and unsliced. We got the last head of lettuce for the day from the local grower's cooperative, and we got some lovely ham - the pigs are raised locally. The shopkeepers accepted South African Rand, American dollars, British pounds, and St Helena money. Some accepted credit cards. We bought a few other items,
Well, several people asked that I check in every day even if there's nothing new to report. So here I am.
We are currently at South 13 degrees 11 minutes, West 08 degrees 57 minutes, as of 11AM St Helena time.
The wind strength increased yesterday, to a nice 18 - 22 knots, and continues through today. This is probably going to be what we see until we are affected by a low pressure system or we reach the doldrums.
Last night, on Philip's awake time, the autopilot took a wrong turn - we think it was to adjust for a wave, which is a constant occurrence (you would not believe the swells out here - just normal for anyone who's been to sea, but it's really quite impressive).
Suddenly we were "backed," which means that all the wind was on the wrong side - of both the jib and the mainsail. The boat was moving at zero knots, basically just rising and falling on top of the swell. We had not reefed yet - or maybe we had done one reef (for non-sailors - reefing is "shortening sail" - in the case of the mainsail, lowering it a bit so that less of the sail is exposed to the wind; in the case of the jib, rolling it up on the forestay so, again, less of the sail is exposed to the wind).
In any case, we had to get the wind back on the correct side of the boat without doing anything too suddenly (causing the boat to "spin out") or breaking something. I took the wheel and held the course - and read off the numbers on the digital display as needed (boat speed, wind speed, wind direction) and the compass heading, while Philip untangled the mess. He did a good job, and finally we were able to safely turn the boat back to its proper heading, and refill the sails from the correct side. Then we put another reef in the main, so now we are at the "second reef" out of a possible three.
We've been going along in this way, at 7 - 8 knots, in about 21 knots of wind, since last night, surfing the swell as well as rising and sinking as the swells go beneath us. The wave slamming underneath the wing deck is back (it sounds like the thunder sound effect in the movies), but I'm getting used to it, and we did have a discussion last night about how these boats are actually "overbuilt." Philip remembered emails from Tom Burgess, who owns the second Atlantic 48, on his first journey to the Caribbean - he was jumping off waves at 25 knots. So I guess our current situation would be considered quite conservative in comparison.
This way of getting there is much nicer than no wind, however, so no one here is complaining! Here's a shot of the cockpit from inside the pilothouse, with the boat steering herself with the autopilot. We love the forward cockpit on the Atlantic 48 catamarans.
I'm still battling an iffy gut, but put on a new patch last night which should help. Philip has a small rash on his chin; hopefully we can email the skin doctor and see if we can get some advice. It's in a place where the radiation from cancer treatments removed most of his beard, and he wasn't putting sunscreen there, so it might just be a burn of some sort.
Otherwise we are fine, zooming along again.
Philip and Kristin