Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Canaries to Cape Verde - or, what we do at sea

The passage from the Canaries – to be precise, an anchorage in North Fuertaventura – was, as well as the longest (991 miles), the easiest to date. Maybe this is the trade wind sailing people talk about? The spinnaker went up as soon as we turned South for the Cape Verde archepelago and stayed up for 8 days straight, until we reached the breakwater off marina Mindelo, on Ilha San Vicente. Regarding sailing, I'll just mention again the 156 miles covered in one 24 hour run. An average of 6.5 kts. How long till we beat this? Certainly it sets a precedent we will now be forever racing. If you ask Igor he'll give you a lesson in maximising vmg downwind.

When the wind wasn't as constant (and maybe also owing a little bordom?) Igor, in searching for an extra half a knot, set about hoisting everything he could find. In the end the number of halyards proved the limiting factor. Not sure how efficient this sail plan is, but the shade was nice...
5 sails flying on a 30 ft boat.
I would like to have heard the conversations
on board any other yachts passing us!

But anyway, Sailing aside, I have in mind a different topic for this post. After 8 days at sea in a boat that was, after the upwind sailing so far, mercifully flat and dry, it seems interesting to tell of what we do, when we are not actively sailing. This is, after all, a question most friends asked before we left – what will you do all day!? Aside from tweaking the sheets now and then, and bothering the passing cargo traffic there is admittedly a lot of time to kill. Here then, are a selection of things I did to occupy my time...


It is well known I do like cooking on boats. I enjoy the challenge of making something tasty from limited ingredients in a moving kitchen. I admit I have not been very adventurous on Auriga thus far (no Christmas dinner yet...) and most of the food still comes from cans.
Beans, peas, chorizo and egg. Actually quite good.

This time though, I got into baking. Lacking butter or a recipe book put most variety of cakes and biscuits out of reach (I have canned butter now for the Atlantic crossing!). Nonetheless I did find that flour, sugar, olive oil and an egg make a reasonable pastry. Condensing down a can of preserved fruit in syrup into a sauce, or, as in the photos apples and raisins, covering the pastry with the sauce and folding it up made for a tasty snack.

Astro Navigation

I spent quite a lot of my time having fun with this one. It was this passage I started to take an interest in the sextant. After getting the hang of taking sights and crunching the numbers to come up with a position it becomes surprisingly addictive. Clearly not necessary, in a world of GPS (although my borrowed 1970's astro nav textbook is at pains to point out satellite navigation equipment will never be within reach of the cruising yachtsman – how the world has changed...), but it is oddly satisfying to gaze at the sun with a telescope and mirror, and draw a line on the map that passes through your electronically derived position.
Ignore the tan lines. I'm working on that...

I took sights from Jupiter, the Moon, and spent several night shifts with the star chart learning the constellations and navigational stars, and then waiting up way past the end of my shift for the dawn and the outline of a horizon it brings. There is not time to go into the details of the mechanics of the process for those readers unfamiliar, but my greatest personal success was a “moon – run – star” sight (not exactly typical?) which gave a position 4 miles from the truth.

Watching sunsets and sunrises.

There is not much other scenery when you are out at sea. Somehow a good sunset or sunrise never gets old. I also have a million other photos, but am well aware sunset photos are no fun if you weren't there so, ahem, just these couple to highlight my point...

Flying fish, and other wildlife

Famously flying fish landing on yachts is a feature of sailing in the tropics, so I had heard the name but, and this will sound silly, had no idea they actually fly... I thought they just jumped quite high. In fact they look unnatural, like someone crossed a fish with an insect. They don't fly like birds, but they glide and skim around just a few feet above the water in huge shoals buzzing their tiny wings like dragon flies covering quite some distance. To say we caught them is an exageration, but one unfortunate specimine managed to find his way into our cockpit in the night. He went back into the sea this time. From what I read opinion varies on whether they are good to eat, but if we catch a meals worth one day I will find out, and report back.
No fish were harmed in the making of this photo...
(He was dead when we found him)

Other wildlife was limited sadly. I still yearn for a whale or sea turtle to swim our way. While becalmed one night a pod of dolphins swam round slowly looking at us, and flapping their tails on the surface in a way I haven't seen before, and a tiny yellow bird took a breather on the life raft for a few minutes. Not sure where one so tiny was going, 200 miles from land...?

Also, not really very nautical, but here is a photo of the spider that has been hitching a ride since we left England. I'm not actually sure how a wave hasn't washed him away yet, especially as he is not very cautious about when he comes out to weave a web, sometimes trying it some strong breeze. I'm not actually sure what he is hoping to catch at sea?
I would name him, but I think he may finally
have dissembarked

Reading, Sun tanning, Sleeping

No surprises here, I imagine you'd guess these past times. My Kindly is my current favourite possession, and almost any time there is nothing else to do I am working my way through the set of books. Sleeping and suntanning go together really, mainly because during the day it got so hot sleeping became a challenge, often reaching 40 below decks, so going outside became the only option. Sun tanning is an exageration for me though. No matter how much I cover up, or use suncream, some bits are still white as winter, which other bits (my darned nose) just go red, and peel, and red again. Sigh. On the other hand my hair is becoming increasingly bleached, and I shall be fully blonde by the time I reach Brazil.


  1. nose is inherited - sorry! Glad you are enjoying the kindle x

  2. hey matt! it's good to finally hear your side of the story! thought u'd have gotten brown by now :) happy tanning/blonde-ing! i'll send a tiny box of cookies or something and a card via Simon when he joins u guys on Auriga end of this month. let me know what u prefer to have. big big hugs! stay safe and have fun! (psst.. ur ex-hsemate Cindy here)