Logbook: Atlantic crossing 2006

This logbook records the crossing from Spain to the Canary Islands and the subsequent crossing of the Atlantic to the St Lucia in the Caribbean, as a member of the 2006 ARC.

1) From Spain to the Canary Islands

2) Atlantic Crossing to St Lucia

1) From Spain to the Canary Islands

October 6th to November 25th

As noted in the last Log entry I was joined by three additional crew members at Belamedena. Martyn Tozer from the yacht “Imagine” that we had met in Cartegena, Cody Paddle from Sidney, BC who is planning to go sailing on a Trimaran that he is buying in St Croix and Michael Prudek who hails from Bournemouth. Once they were all aboard and everything stowed away we were all anxious to get away. So after a thorough safety briefing and tour of Ocean Harmony we left at first light on October 6th to sail the 40 miles to Sotogrande, just north of the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar. We had an excellent days sailing in fresh 10 to 15 knot easterly winds which allowed us to test out the new whisker pole as we sailed wing on wing with the wind directly astern. It proved to be excellent and very stable, requiring very little trim to keep the boat sailing well.

For the past several days, I had been studying the weather charts and long range forecasts for the Atlantic. A high pressure system had built over the central section of the Atlantic ocean, referred to as the Azores High, that promised favourable north or northeasterly winds. Therefore, with a last check at the weather on the 7th, we left Sotogranda at first light, 0800 hours local time. Also, importantly the currents through the straits would be in our favour from about 0900 to 1400hours and with spring tides we could expect currents of up to 2 knots in our favour. Initially we had light easterlies, but as motored west past the “Rock of Gibraltar” the wind began to build. With the wind on the stern it was once again a chance to use the poled out genoa. By 1000 we were roaring down the straits with 20knots of wind and a 2 knot current pushing us at 9knots as we surged down the waves. As we approached Tarifa Point, renown for its gusty winds, the wind was up to 30 knots and we took in 2 reefs. It had little effect on our speed as we continued to average well over 8 knots. This was the kind of blue water sailing we had dreamed about.

We stayed on the north side of the traffic separation zone until we reached its end. As expected there was a lot of traffic in the straits. We then headed on a course of 225 degrees, planning to stay well off the Moroccan coast during the night. It was exhilarating sailing with the wind on the stern and the Atlantic swells lifting the stern as they marched towards us from the north west. I guess they were 15 to 20 feet high, but the stern of the boat rose with the wave and then after the slightest of hesitations, surged down the wave. Before the moon rose we were treated to marvellous phosphorescence in the bow wave and the stern. It was mesmerising sitting on the lee side as we sailed fast watching the green sparkles dash out from the bow wave. Once the full moon rose it was like daylight. So bright that the stars seemed to dim. The wind gradually dropped but we continued to make good speed until around midnight when the wind died and we had to turn on the motor. None of us slept all that much being our first night at sea. And for 3 of us it was our first taste of the Atlantic. During the night we saw several ships passing and we used radar to track their course.

Next morning we motored on through calm seas although there was a swell running from the north west. At 0930 we were passed by a freighter doing 20knots at less than 0.3 miles. Six dolphins visited us in the afternoon and played in the bow wave for a while. By 1600 hours we were able to hoist the sails and sail in about 10 to 12 knots until 2200 when the wind died again. Our third day out was a repeat of the second: we motored until mid afternoon and then sailed until 0130 the next day. Although we were disappointed with the lack of wind, we were all enjoying the experience of the Atlantic. We fell into the rhythm of ocean sailing quite quickly. I had instigated a 3 hour watch sytem during the hours of darkness, from 1900 hours until 0700 hours and 4 hour watches during the day. A different person was cook each day and the cook did not do watches during that day and also got a full nights sleep until 0400 hours the next day. It seemed to work well. Meals were taken in the cockpit. We even managed to shower the second and third nights as it was relatively calm.

By the morning of day 4 we were 150 miles from Lanzarote. The wind had picked up to about 10 knots from the northwest and so we decided to try flying the gennaker ( asymmetrical spinnaker). With the wind aft of the beam we had a great day of sailing, averaging 6 knots. The sail was quite stable and the autohelm held us on course. We finally dropped the gennaker just before nightfall and replaced it with the poled out genoa, sailing wing on wing. Our speed dropped slightly but with the wind freshening we sailed all night at an average speed of 6 knots. This was sailing at its best. Everyone was thrilled. Sleeping aboard during the off watches was very pleasant with the easy motion of Ocean Harmony. By daylight we were in sight of land. We sailed between the islands of Alegranza and Graciousa before we took down the pole and broad reached into the channel that separates Graciousa Island from the larger island of Lanzarote. We dropped anchor in Playa de la Cocina (translation: Beach of the Kitchen meaning hot I presume) (Position: 29 08'.7N 13 31'.8W) in 10 metres of water. We had covered 610 nautical miles in exactly 4 days at an average speed of 6 knots. The anchorage was filled with at least 10 boats who had presumably crossed at roughly the same time.

After a restful morning, we took the dinghy ashore and walked along a sandy trail between the sand dunes to the local town of La Sociedad, about 3 miles away. The barren island is dominated by the sinister black/brown hill that is the remains of a volcano. The town itself is composed of white washed block houses with streets of white beach sand. The only vehicles were old Land Rovers of the type you see on old African Safari movies. But we found a small restaurant and enjoyed a surprisingly cold beer. We ended up chatting to the people at the table next to us who were also on their way across the Atlantic. We also met a Canadian from Belboa in Spain, who was on a fishing trip to the island. We were the first Canadians he had met for 7 years and he was so excited to meet fellow Canadians that we had a hard time leaving. When we did leave we walked back along the sand track towards the bay. Along the way, a Land Rover came bouncing along the track. Cody stuck out a thumb for a ride. The driver, stopped and picked us up . He was a taxi driver on the island and was heading to the bay where we were anchored to pick up a fare from the beach. He was originally from Germany, but he explained that he had arrived on a boat 10 years ago, met a young girl and never left. Now he lives on an almost deserted island driving a Land Rover taxi! He never asked us for a fare.

The next morning we sailed to the south end of Lanzarote island. A fresh north easterly was blowing so we set a single reef main with the poled out genoa. This set up was starting to feel very familiar. The boat sailed easily at about 7knots in the 15 to 20 knot wind. It gusted up as we reached the southern end of the island. The Pilot book refers to these areas between the islands as acceleration zones. We dropped the pole and broad reached across the bay to enter the Marina Rubicon. After checking in at the arrivals dock we were sent to our berth. The marina has excellent facilities and is surrounded by restaurants and many tourist developments. We really enjoyed our two week stay at Marina Rubicon. We did a fair amount of work checking out the boat and had her hauled out at the yard where they cleaned and painted the bottom and did some minor repairs to the gelcoat. Once back in the water, we polished the topsides and deck. But fortunately we had lots of spare time to explore. We enjoyed the spectacular walks along the rocky shore line. Every afternoon we were able to use the swimming pool. One day we rented a car and drove around the island, exploring the rugged coastline. At the north end of the island we were able to drive to a high lookout point that overlooked the anchorage that we had used on the island of Graciousa. But all the boats had vacated the anchorage which was exposed the strong westerly that was blowing. Much of Lanzarote is desolate with much evidence of lava from volcanic eruptions. In fact many of the buildings have walls made from rough hewn black lava rock.

After a very pleasant 2 weeks at Marina Rubicon it was time to move on. The weather forecast was for Force 4 northerly wind which was good for us. However, there was a big swell running, the result of a low pressure system some hundred miles north of the island. The crossing to Las Palmas, Gran Canary is almost exactly 100 miles and so we left the marina at 0300 hours on October 27th, hoping to reach Las Palmas in daylight. It was a pitch black night with no moon as we left the marina behind us. A long swell was making its way into the bay as we motored out. After about 10 minutes we picked up the wind and hoisted sails. We set a single reef in the main and full genoa as we broad reached on our south westerly course. We were roaring along at close to 8 knots under a starlit sky. At about 0500 we saw the lights of a ship dead ahead of us. We could see white lights and a red port light so we initially thought that she would pass us to starboard. I turned on the radar to check her position and was surprised that she was just 2 miles away and actually heading straight for us at about 15 knots! We had not been able to pick out her green starboard light. We altered course to port and she passed us to starboard less that ha;f a mile away. A bit nerve racking.

At 0730 hours while it was still dark we were hit by a squall with winds of over 25knots. We put in a second reef and furled half the genoa. We didn't slow down at all. Dawn came at about 0800 under a cloudy sky. The wind was steady at about 22 knots except when squalls arrived and then it would gust up to 27 knots or so, and Ocean Harmony would leap ahead racing down the sides of the 4 or 5 metre Atlantic rollers that marched down on us. It was awe inspiring to watch the waves coming toward us, thinking that they would engulf our little boat. But the stern would rise ever so gently seemingly giving the boat a gentle push forward before we would slide down the other side with the knot metre registering 9knots. Spray was flying and water coming over the decks. It was uncomfortable by exhilarating sailing. We contemplated a 3rd reef but we seemed to be sailing well and the autohelm was not overly stressed. So we kept on going. We reached Las Palmas at 1545, just 12 hours after leaving Lanzarote. We averaged just slightly over 8 knots, which is certainly the fastest 12 hours we have experienced on Ocean Harmony.

At Las Palmas Marina we went to the fuel dock and filled up our fuel tanks and arranged our berth. There were already about 25 yachts flying the 2006 ARC flag from their port spreader. By mid November most of the 225 ARC participants should be here.

Martyn and I both returned to the UK soon after we arrived at Las Palmas, while Cody stayed aboard. I returned to Las Palmas on November 12th and spent a busy 2 weeks doing the final preparations for the Atlantic crossing. The boat was inspected by the ARC safety people. I also had a rigger check over the rig from top to bottom. He tightened the shrouds, but otherwise gave us a clean bill of health. In addition to the work, there was a lot of social activity arranged by the ARC. I took the day tour of Gran Canary which was most interesting, visiting hillside villages and a volcano. It was exciting to see the so many boats all dressed up with their flags. Of course one gets to know quite a few other crews, particularly those boats that are on the same pontoon. I was thrilled to meet up with Mark Wade on a 49 foot Westerly, who retired from Shell soon after me.

With a week to go, Cody learned that his mother was seriously ill and returned to Ottawa at short notice. I decided to go with a crew of 3 rather than trying to locate a replacement crew for Cody. Martyn and Gerry, arrived with 5 days to spare and the countdown began. One of our big anxieties was the provisioning. Martyn and I attended a course on Provisioning, put on by the ARC. Then, between the two of us we worked up a meal schedule and put together a list of what we would need. Martyn was determined to cook a hot meal every evening. Breakfasts were to consist of cereal and yoghurt. Lunches were sandwiches with cheese, cold meats and tomato. Then we headed off to the major supermarket in town, called Cort Anglais, and loaded two huge carts with food. The supermarket vacuum packs and freezes meat and then delivers everything to the boat the next day. It is a really efficient service. Although many people had their deliveries done on the Friday before leaving, we had our final delivery made on the Thursday to avoid the rush. It also gave us a bit more time to stow things the way we wanted them.

Suddenly it was Sunday morning and we really were going to leave. It was a beautiful morning with 10 to 15 knot North Easterly forecast. We waited at our dock until about 11.45 before casting off our lines and joining the stream of yachts leaving the marina and heading for the start line. The log of our Atlantic crossing follows. Each day I wrote up a log and sent it to the family. Rob, kindly, added the daily logs to the website as we went ,so there was a more or less daily update of our progress. These logs follow below.

2) Atlantic Crossing: Las Palmas, Gran Canary, to Rodney Bay, St Lucia

November 26th to December 14th

ARC Day 1 report: Nov 27 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 26 30'N Long 17 08'W
Wind: North East: 15 to 25 knots
DMG (Distance made good) 150miles

The 2006 ARC left Las Palmas Grand Canary at 1300 hours on November 26th, 2006. There were 230 boats at the start. A spectacular sight with many colourful Spinnakers flying. We choose the cautious approach and set the main and Genoa. We crossed the line about a minute after the gun and sailed on port tack in about 8 to 10 knots of wind. We actually made good progress, passing several other boats that were attempting to fly genakers in the fickle winds outside the harbour. The boats do spread out surprising quickly and after about an hour we hoisted our genaker as the wind filled in at about 15 knots. We were sailing fast at about 7.5 knots. It was fantastic to be on our way. I think we were all quite excited and thrilled by the prospect of 2800 miles of ocean ahead of us.

At 1700 hours with the wind up to 20knots, we dropped the genaker and poled out the genoa. Dusk comes early at this time of year and it was dark by 1830 local time (also GMT ). We dined on spaghetti and meat sauce cooked by chef Martyn. Very nice too. As darkness came it was impressive to look out on a mass of lights as the fleet began to spread itself out. By midnight I counted about 35 boats in visual contact and by morning there were just 4 boats within sight. By noon we had the ocean to ourselves. It just shows how big the ocean really is. Overnight we had quite variable wind speed as we were in the so called "acceleration zone" in the lee of the islands. Winds were gusting up to 25 knots at times and the direction varied as well. We were forced to gibe onto starboard tack and then back again later in the night. By midnight it was reasonably settled but with a choppy sea that caused the mainsail to slam around quite a bit making sleep difficult. My watch was from 1300 to 0400 but I hadn't had a chance to sleep before the watch so needless to say I am quite tired today, as are the rest of the crew. So we are taking it easy, no genakers today, as we sail downwind at about 7knots.

ARC Day 2 report: Nov 28 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 24 43.00N Long 19 16.00W
Wind: North East: 12 to 25 knots
DMG 169 miles

We made good progress yesterday afternoon and early evening, sailing in 20 knots. Easy going, although the swells remained big and lumpy causing the mainsail to flog every once in a while. I was on the 10.00 to 0100hour watch. Sleeping was very difficult because of the boom creaking. Then at about 0400 this morning the wind dropped and changed direction, so we gibed the sails and headed off on starboard tack. Gibing is quite complicated especially in the dark, but we managed ok with our little LED lights attached to our foreheads! It was a long night for me as I had only about 2 hours sleep and have been on watch all morning. I plan to sleep this afternoon.

This morning saw a beautiful sunrise and the clouds that have been with us for the first two days burned off giving us bright sunshine and our first glimpse of tropical heat so we are all in shorts and T shirt today. We had breakfast of bacon and eggs cooked by Gerry. Much appreciated after a busy night. We are sailing in a more westerly direction now and should reach our waypoint off Cape Verde Islands in two more days.

I have just read your email giving our position and I must say we are very surprised how well we are doing, as we didn't use the genaker for more than a couple of hours. But we seemed to have picked the same course as the faster boats so that might explain it. We expect to have fallen back quite a bit today as we saw several boats pass us flying spinnakers. But we are not racing and are trying to be as comfortable as possible. It would be great if you could continue to give us a quick summary of where we are in the fleet.

Thanks again,

Love to all,

ARC Day 3 report: Nov 29 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 23 22.00N Long 21 45.45W
Wind: North East: 12
DMG 169 miles

Coincidentally we repeated the 169 nautical miles over the past 24 hours. We had 20 to 25 knots overnight and as per the forecast the wind dropped this morning so we have about 10knots. It was another busy night as we had to watch things carefully with the wind. Not much sleep was had by any of us. This morning we discovered what was causing the squeak in the gooseneck: we have pulled the rivets that hold the gooseneck to the mast out a bit (< 1/8 inch), so that there is a screeching sound as the rivets flex against the metal mast. We have reinforced the gooseneck with a wire strap and new bolts so it is safe for the time being. We are cruising in 12 knots of wind with Genaker and mainsail. Just overtook an Oyster 56! They don't go so good in this light stuff. This is going to be a short note as I am really tired and need to get some sleep as well. We are all fine. I will give you more info on our daily activities and meals tomorrow. Hope you are all well.
Love, John

ARC Day 4 report: Nov 30 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat .00N Long W
Wind: North East: 12
DMG 169 miles

I had a great sleep last night, thanks partly to light winds and the new twin headsail setup that I will tell you about. We have now reached latitude 22N and we have the first really warm day with gentle trade winds of about 12 to 15 knots. Yesterday as I mentioned to you, was very busy with sail changes as the wind changed from 25 knots over night to less than 10 knots by evening. We completed repairs to the gooseneck fitting thanks largely to Gerry and Martyn who are both mechanical geniuses as far as I can tell. Then we rigged up twin headsails, with the genoa poled out to port and the jib (the old self tacking jib) on starboard side held out by a block at the end of the boom. I had read about this before, but it was Martyn,who has had very good personal experience with this sail combination who encouraged us to try it. Although it takes quite a bit of work to get it all set, once it is, it works effortlessly with no real work required. Presently we are sailing directly downwind at about 6.5 knots in about 15 knots of wind. Just as evening came and we had finished our dinner of curry and rice (more about our meals later) we had another shock. The wind had died to about 5 knots and we decided to motor for a while and do our battery charging at the same time. I ran the engine at the normal speed of 2100RPM but after about 15 minutes the high temperature alarm went off and we had to shut it down. We reset the headsail and enjoyed thankfully a very good nights sleep.

Once it was light the two mechanical geniuses set to work to analyse the overheating problem. We started the engine and ran it at 1300 RPM which is what we had used previously for charging. It ran fine. We checked the exhaust water; no problem, we check the fresh water circulation; no problem and so we have run the engine at 1300RPM for almost 2 hours charging and making water with no further problems. The experts have concluded that we probably have some partial plugging of the heat exchanger. This can be fixed on the run but likely we will continue the way we are and if we do have to motor will only do so at low engine revs.

Today we plan a rest day, hence the longer email.

Since we left we have eaten very well thanks to Chef Martyn who has displayed rare culinary talent. So far we have dined on Spaghetti with meat sauce, home made fish cakes and chicken curry and rice. All first rate. For breakfast we sort of look after ourselves. I have had yoghurt and fruit most mornings except yesterday Gerry cooked up fried eggs and bacon. Lunches are usually sandwiches and the bread we bought is still fresh enough to eat. So as you can see, we are all eating well. The freezer is full of meat and we still have fresh fruit and veg, although Martyn's banana's are just about done. I helped him finish one of the last with my yoghurt today. We have managed a very quick shower about every second day so far. Today is first day of water making and we will run for about 2 hours. We are being pretty careful with the water, using mostly salt water for cleaning dishes followed by fresh water rinse. We intend to monitor water as we go, being careful never to leave ourselves less than one full tank for drinking, just in case we have problems with the water maker.

Gerry and Martyn are both enjoying the trip although we all admit the first few days getting south have been hard sailing with big seas and strong winds. Today Gerry remarked that if it is like it is now for the rest of the trip it will be paradise. Martyn, who has done it all before, seems quite content and is very keen on his cooking so Gerry and I are content to enjoy the fruits of his endeavours. So far we are all getting along fine.

That's all for now. Glad to hear you are back safely in London. Say hi to Rob, Jo and Ned.

Love, John

ARC Day 5 report: Dec 1 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 21 22.80N Long 25 09.50W
Wind: East North East: 10 to 15 knots and freshening.
DMG 120 miles

Well we have turned the corner at 22N and 25 W and heading for St Lucia. It is hot enough to melt the butter as they say! Winds were light over night and very “rolly polly” on board. We are expecting more wind tomorrow. Yesterday was a very quiet day. I tried the fishing rod and believe it or not, I caught a 3 foot long Mahi Mahi. He was such a beautiful turquoise blue colour that we all decided we could not bear to kill it so we let it go back to its habitat in the big blue ocean. I think we will have to be a lot hungrier before we can kill one of these beautiful fish. Also it needs to be a lot smaller so that we don't have so much waste. We have had dolphins visit almost every evening. Two days ago we had a pod of about 12 stay with us for 20 minutes. They were actually leaping out of the water and crashing back with a splash. Just having a great time. Yesterday, at dusk they just checked up on us and then headed off again. Today we saw our first Flying fish. Life aboard is ok but it really is bumpy particularly with this twin headsail arrangement which causes the boat to roll quite alarmingly at times. But it is an easy rig and saves the mainsail banging around.


ARC Day 6 report: Dec 2 at 1200GMT

Hi All,

Position: Lat 21 09.1N Long 28 04.1W
Wind: East North East: 20 knots and freshening.
DMG 165 miles

The wind picked up yesterday as predicted. We had a good sail downwind with the twin headsails in about 20 knots. I don't think it is as fast as the main and poled out genoa but it is a lot easier on the boat and no sudden surprises when it gusts. We have indeed turned the corner. As you will see from our log we are heading almost due west now. Our rhumb line course (shortest distance on great circle route) is 260T and we are doing about 270T. Can't quite sail 270T with the current wind direction. It is VERY rolly with the waves and twin sails!

I was on watch from 0400 to 0700 this morning and was treated to a setting moon, two flying fish arriving uninvited on board and a freighter passing by. I nearly jumped out of my skin when the first fish landed in the cockpit just under my feet. In the dark I couldn't see a thing and I initially thought the autopilot had gone mad. When I shone my flash light I saw the little fellow, about 5 inches long with surprisingly large "wings". A beautiful silver colour with a dark blue black line along its back. I rescued him and put him back in the sea. Likewise the second arrival.

We have been at sea almost a week now and I think it must be getting to me. The last several nights as I lay in the bunk trying to get to sleep, I have heard the sound of women talking outside the hull next to the bunk. It is a very pleasant tone but the words are unintelligible, like no language I have ever heard. I finally mentioned it to Gerry and Martyn and Gerry confesses to hearing them as well. Martyn does not. Maybe the mermaids have taken a fancy to us!

At 1130 our Auto Pilot failed. We are now manually steering. We will of course try to fix it but it does not look good. We will be doing 2 hour watches at the helm day and night so it is going to be very tough. Other wise we are all fine and happy to continue even if it is going to be a bit tougher. Do not expect daily reports for a while. I will try to phone for your birthday.

Love , john

ARC Day 7 report: Dec 3 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 20 36.20 N Long 30 49.00W
Wind: East North East: 20 knots.
DMG 161 miles

Happy birthday Hon! It was great to talk to you by satellite phone to day. As clear as a bell it was. Hope you have a great day and dinner with Rob, Jo and Ned.

Yesterday I mentioned the autopilot failure. This was very scary and follows our two other scares, namely the gooseneck and the engine overheating. Here is what happened yesterday. We were in the Trades sailing with twin headsails doing about 8.5 knots when the Raymarine ST 6000 autohelm failed completely. Fortunately the helmsman, Martyn, was close at hand and recovered from the potential broach. We had error messages indicating Pilot failure and Seatalk failure. We tried restart and we managed to get it to work for a short while before it failed again. OK big problem. We set up a 2 hour watch system immediately with one person of our 3 man crew now fully occupied steering a boat downwind through heavy seas. A daunting task. Meanwhile the other two immediately started reading manuals. It didn't take us long to realise that the only advise they had was check the seatalk connections. We spent two hours going through every seatalk connection on the boat. No loose connections. We began to believe that it was the control unit itself that had failed which meant nothing less than hand steering 2000 miles to St Lucia! But during the testing we had observed that the Seatalk wind, depth, compass heading data was available but the GPS position was not. Although GPS in theory should not affect the autopilot operation, we decided that the next task was to follow the GPS lines and check that circuit anyway seeing as it was clearly not working. Our GPS antenna is mounted on the radar mount at the stern of the boat and enters through the hull close to the water line on the transom. And there we found a small split in the antenna cable. On closer inspection, we found that the wires were partially exposed. We wiggled the wires and, hey presto! the Autohelm came to life. We cleaned and taped the split and made it water tight. We still don't understand why Raymarine autopilot should fail if the GPS signal fails but we were so happy not to have to hand steer to St Lucia we celebrated with a Rum and Coke. We are happy to report that the Autopilot has worked for 16 hours since the repair. I have written a short note to the arc website explaining all our problems.

Overnight we sailed with a single genoa. We are heading straight for St Lucia now. The wind is dead astern about 20 to 25 knots, with huge Atlantic waves bearing down on us. each wave lifts the stern and then tries to slew us around. The autohelm responds and turns us back down wind. we average about 7 knot with just the single sail. Below decks it is quite rough. Sleeping in the forward cabin is impossible, so I nap in the saloon, nicely wedged between the saloon table and the backrest. Quite comfortable. The nights are warm and very bright (it must be full moon today). The sea temperature is a tepid 27.5 C!!

More excitement, but not us this time!! We have just been contacted over VHF advising us that the Canadian yacht, Mustang, 25 M length, is dismasted, about 222 miles ahead of us. They are requesting fuel. We are at least 36 hours away at our current speed but are heading in their direction anyway and will be in contact with other yachts in the area. I expect there will be others closer that can help.

ARC Day 8 report: Dec 4 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 20 11.60 N Long 33 35.50W
Wind: East North East: 20-25 knots.
DMG 155 miles

Hi all,
We are now into our second week at sea. No problem for us thank goodness. We continue to take a very cautious approach, carrying only the genoa foresail. With the trade winds steady at 20 to 25 knots we are averaging close to 7knots. The sea is rough with big waves chasing us up the stern. Occasionally they poop some water over the stern. We could go a bit faster if we flew the jib as well, but we are comfortable for now. If the wind drops we will put it up. Meanwhile not everyone in the ARC is in such good shape. We had the dismasted 25 metre yacht reported yesterday, which we assume is now motoring to St Lucia having taken on fuel from a freighter. Today we have a mayday from another Canadian boat, called "Compromise", a 32 foot Nicholson. What is it with the Canadians eh? Apparently the Captain has had a nervous breakdown and the crew, one of whom is a Doctor sent out the Mayday. Falmouth Coast Guard are coordinating rescue but we wonder what they will do with the crew and boat.

Despite the rough conditions we are managing to eat and sleep. Chef Martyn prepared Spanish omelette's for dinner and we had scrambled eggs and bacon for brunch today. Excellent! We still have lots of meat left but we are getting to the end of the fruit and veg. Had to throw out a whole bunch of banana's, celery and a few other items. Yesterday I was trolling for fish and hooked something quite big. Fought it for about 30 minutes before it got away. I think we were going too fast really to be able to haul it in.

We are approaching the half way mark in our trip. Should reach it tomorrow night at this rate. A small celebration is planned.

Love to you all,

ARC Day 9 report: Dec 5 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 19 35.70 N Long 36 34.1W
Wind: East North East: 25 knots.
DMG 170 miles

Last night the wind picked up to 25 to 30 knots. The waves are horrendous, over 20 feet, making for a fast but very uncomfortable ride. It is almost impossible to sleep with the boat bouncing around all the time. On top of that we had our autopilot fail suddenly again at 0100. We knew where to look for the problem, the GPS cable. We have fixed it more thoroughly now and expect it to last to St Lucia.

We continue to keep good spirits and we will have a small celebration today as we are at the half way mark: 1450 miles gone and 1450 to go to St Lucia. The strong winds are forecast to last for another 5 days so we should be getting closer by next weekend. Too soon to predict an arrival date yet.

The weather quite warm but overcast. We expect the odd shower or two today. Sorry this is short but need to get some sleep soon.

Love, John

ARC Day 10 report: Dec 6 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 18 57.60 N Long 39 17.50W
Wind: East North East: 25 knots.
DMG 150 miles

Hi All,
Yesterday was our worst day so far. Big big seas and winds over 30 knots last night. On top of that we had another failure of the autohelm which took us an hour to fix. We still don't seem to have solved the basic problem. I spoke to Raymarine today and we will try depowering the GPS antenna next time it happens to avoid tripping the autohelm. We will use a hand held GPS for position. None of us had much sleep last night but we have all had naps this morning. It is really difficult to sleep with so much noise and motion.

Yesterday evening I had a nasty experience. I was sitting in the seat on the aft rail keeping watch and enjoying the sunset. In fact I was having a glass of wine for the first time in about a week. When suddenly a large wave picked up the stern and sent us sliding sideways down. I watched the knotmetre go to 11 knots and then watched in horror as the bow slid under the sea at the bottom of the wave, broached to starboard and sent the lee rail under water. I saw a sheet of green water coming straight for me and the next thing I new I was drenched from head to foot. The force of the water winded me and I have a nice bruise on my leg from where it hit the seat. I lost my sunglasses and the glass of wine overboard. The wave carried the Yellow life buoy and and the inflatable danbuoy overboard. The seat rest ended up in the cockpit. We immediately shortened sail after that!

Rob, thanks for the mermaid poem and Sue thanks for the position reports. Frankly we are all a bit down at the moment and are thinking really of just getting there with no more breakdowns so our position is no longer a priority. I think the whole fleet is having a tough time with such strong winds so we will see what happens. This is much tougher than I imagined but we are all ok and positive about getting there.

Love, John

Poem from Rob:

I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

ARC Day 11 report: Dec 7 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 18 24.90N Long 42 06.20W
Wind: East North East: 20 knots.
DMG 170 miles

Well we had a much better day and night than the one before. We sorted out the autopilot problem. After talking with Raymarine and getting confirmation from Sweden Yachts, we disconnected the GPS temporarily so we don't get the unwanted failures of the autopilot. We are using handheld GPS but will switch back to the other one once we are close to St Lucia. After a much better night's sleep last night and a good last 24 hour DMG we are all positive. The trades are still holding and if we are lucky we have about a week to go. We are following the great circle (quickest) route to St Lucia. We have seen very few other boats in the last few days but today we have one in sight on our port beam. Quite extraordinary in such a large sea.

The seas are still large but we haven't had any more of the rogue wave type that tried to take me overboard! We must be getting used to the constant motion because we slept better last night. I had the early morning watch (0700 to 1100) today and so got to watch the sunrise over the wave tossed Atlantic. As the sky began to brighten, there were amazing shaped dark grey clouds on the horizon backed by the dawn grey hue. One of the clouds looked like a very friendly Golden Retriever with a puppy looking up and at her. It was remarkable. As one watched , the shapes blurred into a blob before reappearing as a cat like animal of prey, with long upward curved tail out behind and the head thrust forward with fangs bared. Oh, well, when you have nothing else to do eh?

Having showers is extremely difficult in these conditions, but I did shower after my dunking. Martyn continues to cook excellent meals for us despite the pitching. We had Spaghetti Bolonaise a la Martyn. I will do curry tomorrow night. Our spirits are good and with about a 1000 miles to go we are just beginning to think about getting there, maybe a week to go!

Love, John

ARC Day 12 report: Dec 8 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 18 01.50N Long 44 57.40W
Wind: East : 20 knots.
DMG 160 miles

Winds steady overnight dropping slightly toward sunrise and then rising again to 25+ knots. We are still really rocking side to side so much that it is difficult to type. We are getting quite used to it! We are reading books and taking it easy. Just finished plotting our noon position which puts us about 6 days away if we can maintain this speed. Everything ok aboard. We are not pushing the boat too hard. Consequence is that we are further back in the field than initially but everyone feels we don't want any breakdowns.

Too bad about the weather in UK. It is warm here, of course, although the nights are cool enough to warrant jeans and a sweater. We have all decided to make a call home on Sunday. What time is good for a quick chat? Sue I could give you a quick call as well if you give me a time?

Love, John.

ARC Day 13 report: Dec 9 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 17 33.60N Long 47 49.3W
Wind: East : 20 knots.
DMG 160 miles

We continue to make good, if not spectacular progress. Winds dropped a little overnight but we kept on our course and logged another 160 miles towards St Lucia. The forecast shows that we will continue to enjoy trade winds through to December 12th. The area behind us is going to be very light winds but I think we will be well ahead of that by Tuesday. I didn't mention that I had another go at fishing day before yesterday and hooked another very large Mahi Mahi. We could see it in the water. We were going at about 8 knots and the fish was too big and strong. It took all the line and we could not get it in to the boat. Eventually cut the line after about 40 minutes.

The food aboard is holding up well. We still have grapefruit and oranges and a few potatoes and tomatoes left. I am cook for tonight, Madras curry and rice. We are all getting along fine and beginning to look ahead to our landfall at St Lucia. Sunday, tomorrow will be a milestone in that we would have been at sea for 2 weeks. We will celebrate somehow and will all be calling home for a quick chat.

Love, John

ARC Day 14 report: Dec 10 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 17 05.30N Long 50 25.00W
Wind: East : 15-20 knots.
DMG 152 miles

Two weeks done! We will celebrate with a Rum and Coke later today. The winds have diminished overnight so this morning we set the second jib sail so we have twin headsails for now. Interestingly we sailed 7 days continuously with just a Genoa set. When the wind went over 25 we furled some in and then when it dropped let it out again. A very easy sailing rig for downwind in the trades. The wind is predicted to go light variable on Wednesday 13th. We still have 700 miles to go so we will have to deal with light winds for the last few days. Very frustrating it might turn out to be.

We continue to enjoy fine warm weather and good food aboard. Last night I cooked up a beef madras curry which went down very well indeed. Gerry has a slight back pain from sitting or sleeping in an awkward position, but otherwise we are all fit and well.

Love to you all,

ARC Day 15 report: Dec 11 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 16 26.80N Long 53 09.00W
Wind: East : 15-20 knots.
DMG 162 miles

Another good night. The only excitement was at about 2000 when I was on watch, the Jib sheet came loose from the winch and we end up with a wrap around. (Sail twisted on itself) All hands on deck to lower the sail and stow on the foredeck. We sailed all night with the Genoa alone but the wind freshened to 20+ knots so all was well. We reset the jib at first light this morning. We are now approximately 420 miles from St Lucia and with the forecast winds NE 15 knots we should make it by Thursday midday. Of course a lot can change in 3 days but we are all starting to think about the finish now. A good night's sleep is very high on our list of priorities. Also, a banana milkshake for Martyn.

It was good to talk briefly on the phone but the reception was not the best. Will call once we reach St Lucia.

Love, John.

ARC Day 16 report: Dec 12 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 15 33.60N Long 55 39.90W
Wind: East : 15-20 knots.
DMG 159 miles

Another good 24 hour run sees us now with just 300 miles to go. If the wind holds we should arrive Thursday morning. It is strange how all of us have all become rather quiet and lackadaisical over past day or two. Gerry just can't wait to get there and has been counting down the days for the past week at least. Martyn, who has done this crossing many times before, is looking forward to arriving but is rather more relaxed about when we get there. I, of course look forward to arriving safely, but in a sense I am saddened by it ending so soon! I am also the most anxious about how we do relative to the other boats. I have been keen to put more sail up. My crew are more laid back. Gerry, I think is in a " catch 22 ". Every day he wants to get there faster, but he dislikes sailing when the boat is a little unstable; ie when we are at hull speed with lots of sail up. The good news is we are all getting along well together.

We are all reading books so the cockpit is quite quiet most of the time! We are all just fine.

Love to all,

ARC Day 17 report: Dec 13 at 1200GMT

Position: Lat 14 52.30N Long 57 59.8W
Wind: East : 15 knots.
DMG 141 miles

We are now 170 Nm from St Lucia. Yesterday the wind died and we motored for 9 hours until the wind filled in at about23.30hours last night. Today we have about 15 knots from the east and are making about 6.5 knots so expect to reach St Lucia midday tomorrow. Highlight of yesterday was a torrential rainstorm or squall that lasted about 30 minutes. We were absolutely drenched. Gerry even got the soap out and had a shower on the deck. He only just made it as it stopped rather suddenly. This morning a large container ship passed us. We called them on the VHF and thanked them for changing course for us. He was friendly enough and said they were on there way to the Bahamas. Still lots of Flying fish about but we haven't done any fishing for a while now. No dolphins for ages.

Will let you know when we arrive tomorrow.

Love, John

ARC Day 18 report: Arrived Rodney Bay, St Lucia: Dec 14 at 1625GMT

Position: Moored Rodney Bay Marina:
Lat 14 04.49N Long 60 56.94W

Ocean Harmony crossed the finish line at 1225 local time, to the sound of a single horn blast. We entered the marina and were helped into our berth amidst cheers and horn blowing from surrounding boats. The friendly ARC staff were on hand to welcome us with cold rum punch and a fruit basket. What an exciting finish. Within minutes of arriving, Harmony called with her congratulations. The timing was perfect! We spent some time in the afternoon sorting out and tidying up. A process that will continue for a few days yet. In the evening we went across to the St Lucia Yacht club where we were hosted by the St Lucia Tourist Board. Beers and Rum Punches for all. We had a nice fish dinner at the club overlooking the bay. But we were all very tired and didn't stay up with the revellers, preferring to return to our beds at about 9.30. I slept for 10 hours, only rising at 8.00 am the next morning!

A few statistics on our crossing. We logged 2891.7Nm in 18 days, 3 hours and 25 minutes. Our average speed was 6.6 knots. We motored for 9.5 hours, 9.25 hours on one day, 12 Dec, when we had winds less than 10 knots. Our route could be termed a central crossing as we did not go all the way south to 20 deg north, but rather turning westward at the 22nd parallel. We had decided that if the trades were established we were well served to "cut the corner". From 22N we more or less followed the Great circle route (shortest distance) to St Lucia. Winds were ENE the whole way and we stayed on starboard tack for 10 days straight. We took the mainsail down on day 3 and did not hoist it again until an hour before the finish line. We deployed the jib sail loose footed, with the sheet run through a block at the end of the boom, as the second headsail. When the wind was too strong we dropped the jib and then reefed the genoa as necessary. There were definitely times when we were under canvassed and this showed in our somewhat slower than expected time. However, it was an easy rig to manage and minimised the number of sail changes especially at night. If I was to do it again, I would want a larger genoa on its own separate forestay and the existing self tacker on the inner forestay, with two separate poles.

The sailing was in all respects excellent. I think we had more wind than "normal" and we did have some very large seas to contend with. This made it more challenging than what I had expected. Despite the rough conditions, Martyn continued to produce excellent hot meals every night. (I only contributed two meals the whole way across!). Sleeping any where and any time was difficult in the rough conditions and we all got rather tired. Sleeping in the foreward cabin was abandoned early in the crossing. We did manage occasional showers which were always welcome. We had no shortages of water or power. The solar panels gave us charging on most days so that we only ran the engine for 60 to 90 minutes each evening. We all managed to eak out our clothing to the end. The food held up as well. We still have a few frozen meat packs, and the apples and grapefruit made it to the end as well.

Our three man crew, worked well together and in many ways complimented each other well. Martyn, with the previous ocean experience, was the most knowledgeable, and it was his insistence that led to the twin headsail arrangement that was out main sail rig. I have already mentioned his cooking prowess which was seriously good and done under extreme conditions. Gerry was the master of fix up, and we had lots to fix as previous reports noted. Thanks again to my crew.

This will be the last report of the crossing. But the log will continue when Harmony and I resume our cruising in these islands in January 2007.

Love, John