Oyster 56; Amanzi; Sailing from the Canaries to St. Lucia, November – December 2022

Monday, Nov. 21st; Position 26:28.373N 16:34.334W

Yesterday it finally was time, at 13:00 we started the trip to St. Lucia.. Everyone was up for it too. The past two weeks had been fun and intense but still in the marina. The sundowners in the 2nd week were a lot busier and therefore a lot more fun. There was much more vibe it seemed. Our pontoon also came alive.

During the trip to Las Palmas, Marc had in vain tried to download grib files a couple of times. Communication via satellite phone was just way too slow. That was not going to work and he had decided to order a Certus 100 system, a new kind of system that would work at least 50 times faster than the handheld satellite phone. Mailasail, the supplier, would bring the gear to Las Palmas and also help with the installation. The installation went relatively smoothly although it still took quite some time to get things working properly. In the end, everything worked very well AND FAST!

A few days before the start, we went out to sea to check everything again and also to make sure the SSB radio was working properly. Everything worked fine, including the SSB but then we discovered that the wind meter did not indicate any speed. It showed the direction but not the speed. That was pretty annoying!

The following days were taken by faultfinding. With the help of an electrician and later 2 people from Raymarine, we checked all the connections and components. All components appeared to be functioning properly. Although checking the cable in the mast gave no error message, according to the Raymarine guys it should still be the cable. The mast unit did work with a new cable down below. However, after Marc and I fed a new cable into the mast, we still had no wind speed, direction but no speed. That’s when we gave up. Wind direction is important, speed not really. In St Lucia, we will figure it out further.

The departure from the marina was accompanied by music and a big group of people who came to see us off on the pier. We set sail with the 3rd reef in the mainsail and a half genoa. As predicted in the last weather reports, the first day was ‘lively’. Up to 45kts even (as we learned later) and confusing 3-4m. waves.

Clare was not feeling so well so she did no watches the first night. Marc, Jan Carel and I swapped every 3 hours and stayed in the cockpit after our own watch to get some sleep. Twice a big wave flushed the cockpit. Marc had not seen the first one coming and pretty much washed away. Good thing he was clipped on but he was wet up to his boxers.

Later that night, the wind decreased a bit and with a new moon there was a beautiful starry sky. At sunrise, only a handful of other boats could be seen on the ais. On sight, we didn’t see any other boats.

Tuesday Nov. 22nd; Position 23:29.306N 18:37.744W

Last night was a great night. We now have both genoa’s out and a 3rd reef in the mainsail. The wind is an estimated 20 kts and the sea state is more moderate. The wind has veered a bit and we are now heading 220 COG.

We all cook in turns. Yesterday Jan Carel made dinner. It was very tasty even though you could no longer see what it was. He was a bit later than planned and when dinner was served it was really dark.

We are getting more and more into the groove of sailing and the atmosphere is also getting more relaxed. Clare is feeling much better, the weather is beautiful, all we need now are whales and dolphins.

We did have dolphins the first night. They surfed in the waves behind the boat and could see over the solar panel into the cockpit. Very special but we were too busy keeping the boat on course to watch them for long or take any pictures.

Tonight it’s my turn to cook. Fish seemed like a good plan. I just had to catch one. I almost succeeded. When the fish bit, I hardly could control the rod. What didn’t help was that we did over 9 kts boat speed and Marc had just gone down for the roll call. So I was alone with apparently a hefty fish that had no intention of ending up in my pan. The fight was short-lived. The line snapped and that was it. Plan B for dinner: curry with prawns.

Just before I was to start cooking, Marc saw a large tear in the 2nd genoa…. That didn’t look good, we had to drop it quickly before it ripped completely. Fortunately, we managed to do that very quickly, only the flaking was a bit less successful.

That this sail wouldn’t last very long wasn’t really a surprise, but on the second day already, that was a bit of a setback. Tomorrow we will see what we can do with the staysail. The boom is a bit long but we might be able to come up with something else.

Thursday Nov 24th; Position 19:35.166N 24:00.388W

We are now sailing 260° downwind over port. All reefs are shaken out and we’re doing over 8kts SOG, steering straight towards St Lucia.
Compared to the other boats we’re doing quite nice. We’re a bit more south than most of the fleet but with better winds. By the looks of it, we are somewhere in the front middle.

Yesterday and today were very nice sailing days. I had the rod out again and just before I was about to take a shower a fish took the bait. A big mahi-mahi it seemed. This time I wasn’t alone on deck and Jan Carel had quickly furled the genoa. It took about fifteen minutes and then the beast apparently had enough of it. It jumped out of the water and got itself unhooked. Gone was the fish. Fortunately, the lurer was still on, so I let the line out again. Less than five minutes later another fish. This time it did not last long. With tremendous speed the fish took a dive and it was gone. This time with lure and all….  The exact same thing happened to Marc later that afternoon. No fish and 3 lures down, we called it a day.

Today was Clare’s turn to cook. While she was busy cooking, the block of the barberhaul started squeaking irritatingly. A bit of Teflon spray works wonders only I had to get into the boom to do so. Fortunately, the boat was quite stable with how we had set the sails so it wasn’t too hard of a job.

The night was a bit rolling but I slept fine and long. I had the 1st watch from 7 to 10 pm and had to relieve Marc the next morning at 7am. What was very unfortunate is that during my watch Marc came on deck to find out what the weird noise was he was hearing. It turned out to be the bucket that was washed over the side, hanging on the line by which it was secured. Getting the bucket back was no big deal. But inside it was the box with all the fishing gear and that had disappeared, bummer! I guess fishing is not going to be an option anymore this trip.

Saturday, Nov 26th; Position 18:50.472N 28:16.920W, 1000Nm mark

My watch started at 01:00. Time as such plays no role on a crossing like this. Nor do the days of the week. It is a completely different rhythm. You eat when you get hungry, you sleep when you get tired and the days go by with the sun slowly disappearing behind the mainsail at some point. As long as you’re all on the same time, the watches run fine too.

Yesterday during the day, we discovered that our watches were set to a different time than the local time. Marc had managed to take a sight with the sextant of 2 stars and Jupiter the night before. When we wanted to work those out and calculate our position, something didn’t seem right. It was quite a puzzle anyway because it had been a long time since we had taken sights of stars.

The proformas are also very different from those for the sun. Marc still had his notes from the course we took…. 11 years ago. Those didn’t help much. What did help was that I had brought the sights we had taken on our trip 10 years ago and worked out as an example, including all the almanac pages we needed in the process. It still was a bit complicated than expected but in the end we got there. Only…. something wasn’t right.

After more puzzling, it turned out to be quite simple. Our watches were an hour off local time. Well, for that moment we were done with it. Marc’s sight of Capella wasn’t useful anyway as it was way too low when he too the sight and therefor didn’t show up in the tables.. We prepared a new pro forma. This time with the right time and also the right stars.

Unfortunately I forgot to reset the time on my phone as well. So when my alarm went off at 00:30 for my watch, I was an hour early… just in time to see that we had logged the first 1000Nm.

Sunday, Nov 27 position 18:59.429N 34:11.860W

Another hour back in time. This time though I reset my phone too. The past few days have been excellent sailing. Great winds, nice weather and beautiful nights. Clare is feeling better but the rolling is still bothering her. Marc and I can handle the boat perfectly with the occasional genoa jibe and mainsail (un)reefing. Jan Carel is an great extra pair of hands that makes things even easier.

Today I changed the linear drive of the autopilot on the port side. In Las Palmas Marc got a spare one which I installed but Marc now realized that we didn’t calibrate the autopilot afterwards. We should have. The only option now was to reinstall the original drive. Not very complicated, but quite a job. The lazarette had to be completely emptied. Getting everything out, stow it sommeer and putting it back in again, is a bit of a challenge at sea on a rolling boat.

During the day, we now handsteer most of the time. That saves a lot of power, and it keeps the boat much more stable. On handsteering, you steer by the wind and not on the course. The autopilot can only steer on course because we still don’t have any windspeed.

Every day at noon there is a roll call over the SSB and we noticed that the windmeter then sort of comes back to life again. It briefly shows a windspeed although incorrect but still, it’s doesn’t seems broken. Possibly the SSB is causing the malfunctioning after all. It stopped working when we went out for the trial sail in Las Palmas to test the autopilot. Marc then also tested the SSB for the first time transmitting. Well, that’s something on our list when we get to St. Lucia.

First on my list however is calling Marischka. It’s been over a week now since we last spoke. My Garmin in reach is great for tracking and texting but sometimes that just doesn’t work. Marischka is having a hard time, as a ‘single’ mother with 2 adolescent daughters for almost two months now. She really supports my journey but it comes with a cost sometimes and then it’s hard not being able to really communicate or just be there.

Tuesday, Nov 29 Position 18:07.934N 37:02.670W

It’s 1 am, start of my watch. The weather is calm and the swell is not too bad. The forecast indicated squalls were possible. To be safe, we set the 2nd reef before dark. It is easy to furl the genoa but setting a reef in the dark is a bit more difficult as you have to go to the foredeck.

That turned out to be a good decision. What never happened before was that 2 cars of the mainsail got stuck. We needed a hammer to loosen them. That’s not the kind of action you want at night. Especially when you have to reef because of an approaching squall.

At night, we usually sail on autopilot. Last night I hand steered for a while. Then there was still a bit of light from the waxing moon and I managed to roll the boat a bit less. This was especially nice for Marc and Clare as they had had very little sleep the night before. When the moon sets, it is really dark and you quickly get tired of staring at the instruments all the time. Then it’s time to turn on the autopilot again.

Yesterday we had a nice celebration of the half way mark. Champagne and toasts with pâté. That was very tasty. It was a bit rolly still and luckily Marc was quick enough to safe the pâté from falling of the cockpit table. Afterwards Marc made us a delicious dinner: Steak with backed potatoes and wok vegetables. We all ate together in the saloon. It was already getting dark outside and besides, the food gets cold very quickly in the cockpit. That would certainly be a shame for such a nice dinner.

Sailing for me is about the journey, not about arriving somewhere but hitting the half way mark always is a special moment, regardless how long you’re at sea. Being over halfway for some reason also sort of changes the atmosphere from a challenge to we’re totally fine, in control and really enjoying the sail.

On the ais, we still see other yachts from time to time. It is usually short-lived though. If you differ course by only a few degrees, you are 15+ Nm apart before you know it and then you don’t see each other anymore on the ais.

Yesterday afternoon, we saw a boat right in front of us. Blue Lotus, a catamaran sailing with a spinnaker. It had crossed in front of us from the south. The challenge, of course, was to try to overtake her. I was steering and we were indeed gaining on them somewhat. Until the moment I could no longer steer their course, which was just too deep for us. After that, they soon ran out of sight and then also off the ais. Anyway, it was fun while it lasted.

Wednesday Nov. 30th  position 16:56.167N 39:06.357W

Jan Carel just finished cooking when Marc downloaded the weather forecast for the coming days and synchronized his e-mail. One of the e-mails was from the ARC organization sent to all ships. Take off, one of the other ships had lost its mast and was now motorsailing with a jury rig.  Fortunately nobody was hurt and there was no other damage. Obviously they had insufficient diesel to motor for the rest of the trip. So all ships in the area were asked to help them with as much diesel as they could spare.

We were close, very close even at about 3.5 Nm. So we had a quick meal, took down the sails and motored to the last know position of Take off. That wasn’t really easy because it was now dark and they couldn’t be seen on the ais and VHF contact was also difficult.

Obviously if you lose your mast then you also lose your antennas and the emergency antennas they put on had a much smaller range. Their lighting was also limited, of course. Because of the waves we only saw a light now and then.

We had 2 jerrycans with diesel that we could give them, 40 l. While Marc was steering, I tied the jerry cans to a long floating line together with a big white fender. Marc also came up with the idea of ​​attaching one of the old lifejackets to it. That has a light which would make the pick up a lot easier in the dark. The plan was to sail in front of them at the same speed and then throw the jerries with the fender and the lifejacket overboard.  That all worked out fine.

Later in St. Lucia, when they returned all the stuff, they told us how happy they were when they realized that when they saw us on the horizon we were actually heading for them. We were the first to help them out with diesel. Also they way we had handed over the jerrycans turned out as the best way and they used the floating line with the fender and the lifejacket with all the boats that followed.

In the end they got around 800 l diesel that way including a pump, Enough to get them to St. Lucia, even a day before we got there.

Thursday, Dec 1st; Position 15:06.903N 41:53.674W

We’re steering a bit more south again. St Lucia is at 13°N but we want to go a bit deeper even to 11°N to avoid a big lull east of St Lucia.

We aren’t the only ones. Just about the whole ARC-fleet is steering south. One of them, Fist Lady, we see on the ais about 10 miles behind us. She’s in the racing division… well so much for racing. After 9 days, they finally catch up with us, ánd, they started half an hour before us.

All night they’ve been gaining on us very slowly. Well into the morning, they were roughly alongside, but then they seemed to have some trouble, something with the spinnaker sheets, they told us over the VHF when we asked if everything was going well.

That kept them busy for a while and slowly they’re falling behind.. Some time later, everything is okay. The spinnaker with a German flag in its top is back up and they’re gaining on us again. In the meantime, we have shaken all the reefs and set the staysail as well. The ARC may not be a race, but still… and certainly a German boat we want to make it as difficult as possible. In the end, they do run just a little faster than us and they also steer a few degrees more north. By the end of the morning, they have overtaken us and the race is over.

The day is otherwise quiet. We’re on a beam reach, doing 8+ kts SOG.
On this course, the boat also sails very steady and comfortably.

That evening it was my turn to make dinner, chili con carne it was.. After dinner we put in the 2nd reef in the mainsail but we’re still flying the full genoa as well as the full staysail. And so we head into the night.

My watch is from 10 pm to 1 am. Just before I got on deck, Marc and Clare are busy trimming the sails. The wind has picked up and Clare had decided to furl the genoa a bit. The staysail was already furled in.

Pretty soon after my watch started, the wind decreased and I could set the full genoa again and a bit later also the staysail. We’re back to a smooth 8 kts SOG.

Saturday December 3rd; Position 13:38.471N 46:48.957W

The weather has cleared up quite a bit. In the morning sun we’re flying all sails again.

During the night we got hit by some serious showers. At first the winds dropped, coming from all directions. That was the best time to drop the main, and we did. Shortly afterwards it really started blowing and raining very hard. On engine and without sail, however, it was fine. When my watch started at 1 am, we still had some squalls on the radar. Not a much and as big as before though and the rain had stopped but we decided to keep on motoring for the night.

We have now passed the 45th degree of longitude and the clocks can go back an hour. We are already at the latitude of St Lucia, but we are still steering a bit more to the south. The grib files indicate that if we were to steer directly to St Lucia now, we would end up in a large lull. We want to dip that. It is still almost 900Nm to St. Lucia and we want to motor as little as possible. We don’t have much wind now either, but we still manage to keep 5kts SOG.

This morning I found 2 flying fish on deck. Baitfriends as we now call them. I threaded the fishing line through our first baitfriend and with the carabiner hook I fabricated, it looked quite serious.

It didn’t take long before a fish actually went for it. This time I let the line go out a bit further and more often and then reel it in again. After half an hour or so I had the idea that this time it could actually work.

A few times I thought I had lost it when I had no tension on the line anymore but it was still there. Until the moment the beast fully jumped out of the water. It probably was the carabiner hook with no proper barb that let it unhook itself and it was gone. Second baitfriend hooked up. In no time another fish went for the bait. But alas, same story, same ending.

In the mean time, Clare found a third very tiny baitfriend on the deck. Maybe the hook would catch better with a small baitfish. While I was letting the line run out, I already had another fish hooked. That was very fast! 3 Times’ lucky? Apparently not, time to call it a day. Well, at least all the fish that went for it, got a real baitfish from their adventure.

Monday 5 Dec. Position 13:58.824N 51:15.827W

The wind has now almost died completely. The lull we’re trying to avoid has only gotten bigger. Since Saturday morning we’re motorsailing on and of, but now it’s just motoring. Not very exciting but it’s part of the deal on a trip like this.

We have about 550Nm to go and are doing about 7kts SOG. So another 3 days to St. Lucia and we should have enough diesel to motor the whole stretch if necessary. unfortunately according the gribfiles it looks like that’s what it’s gonna be. There’re no winds predicted until next Wednesday. Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. Hopefully it’s not too bad and hopefully we can finish at St. Lucia sailing.

We use the calm weather to do some jobs on board. Jan Carel stripped the chrome of a thick salt layer, Marc sanded and painted the corrosion spots of the starboard window, Clare has cleaned the inside and I completed the weekly and monthly checklists.

As far as the checklist is concerned, everything was fine, except that the bilge pump turned out to be switched off. That was both very strange and quite alarming. Why and how was it turned off?? Fortunately there was nothing wrong with it and the problem was also solved with the push of a button, but still, it was strange.

Furthermore, the fan of the battery box did not work. Normally it is always on. I checked the voltage and it was only 1 V. Fortunately, Oyster also supplies the diagrams for all systems

and we also have them on board 🙂

The diagram showed a fuse and also a relay. A relay means that it’s switched by probably a sensor. For some reason however, that sensor was just not in the diagram .

Anyway, the fuse was okay but the voltage over the fuse turned out to be only 1 V after a very short peak. Apparently the fan was now switched off by the relay. So I’ll have to check it again later.

The further we go west, the warmer it gets, even though we now stay at the same latitude. I can remember that from my first crossing. Even at night, just a T-shirt is fine.

In a few days it will be full moon. You can almost read a book just by moonlight!

Tuesday Dec 6 Position 14:15.057N 55:21.392W

When I got up yesterday morning it was a very nice surprise to find a (chocolate) letter in my slipper. Sinterklaas, SinterClare, in this case I thought I had been very good this year 🙂 Really nice and tasty too!

During the night the wind had dropped even more and we were still motoring. Now that the boat was so quiet, we were able to do a few more jobs. Marc started working on the other windows. It took him almost all day to remove and sand all the spots.

I spent all morning working on the battery box fan. It still didn’t work. Again I checked all the wires and in the end it turned out some other fuse was broken. After I’d replaced it, I had 24V on the wire to the relay but still nothing on the wire to the fan.

There were 2 heat sensors on the domestic batteries. Although the diagram didn’t show them, I guess these would be the sensors that trigger the relay.

The batteries themselves weren’t too hot so I the sensors a bit with a hair dryer. Nothing happened. To check the relay, I’d have to open the DC panel. That was more a job for when we’d be moored up and I could switch of the power. For now, I’d just make a bypass and connect the fan directly to the battery. Anyway, that worked.

In the afternoon the wind picked up a bit. At first it seemed just the apparent wind but when we set the genoa we were doing a knot faster. When the wind seemed to pick up a little more, we also set the mainsail and even the staysail. We killed the engine and by now we were doing a steady 7kts SOG, with a westerly wind with an almost flat sea and exactly over the rhumb line!! That doesn’t happen very often at this latitude. At least not this time of year. The wind remained very stable and all the time we’ve been sailing with full sails straight to St Lucia. Marc now calculated our ETA at Thursday, December 8th, 16:00 hr.

Thursday Dec. 8th; Position 14:11.223N 59:16.766W

It’s 1 am. Full moon. I’m on the the last dog watch.
It is another 100Nm to Rodney Bay. Marc’s ETA could be spot on. And,…. St. Lucia is just over 60 degrees W, that’d gives us an extra hour.

We’re doing pretty good compared to the other boats. Axonite has been trying to catch up with us for 2 days but we managed to stay 10Nm ahead of them.

We download the grib files with PredictWind. PredictWind also offers a weather routing option. It then indicates the best route based on the polar (the characteristics of your boat).
You can also put in the minimum SOG you want before you start motoring. The thing is however, that when you start motoring because there’s not enough wind for the minimum you put in, the suggested route doesn’t change.

Obviously when you decide to motor given the short distance we still have to go, it’s best to follow the rhumb line instead of doing all the extra miles following the suggested routing.

It’s a nice and very useful piece of software as long as you don’t just blindly follow the instructions. About the whole fleet uses PredictWind and half of them neatly sail the suggested route. Too neatly and that might also have contributed to the fact that we are now ahead of the majority of the boats.

Anyway, for now the wind is good and we are making a nice speed. It is also very nice to be able to sail so beautifully on the last day.

10am, land in sight. It’s a little hazy but we can see the countours of St. Lucia.
We’re doing a very nice 8kts SOG. The wind has increased slightly since the end of my watch at 4am and actually had to put in a reef in the main.

After 18 days and 3000Nm, we’re looking forward to make landfall.

St. Lucia, Thursday Dec. 8th.

At 16:06 we crossed the finish line, perfect timing! Actually it was only 15:06 since St. Lucia is just over 60 W and so the clock goes back another hour here.

The reception was great. We were welcomed by the ARC people and crew from boats that had already arrived. Also number of locals welcomed us offering all kinds of services like cleaning the boat, laundry services, taxi’s and what not. We moored next to Emily Morgan with Bones and Anna. Marc made his favorite visit to customs and immigration while we cleaned up the boat a bit and took a shower.

When Marc was back we were visited by Jorgen and Louise from Take Off. They came to thank us for our help with the diesel and stuff. Especially the floating line and the fender turned out very useful transferring many more jerry cans.

They also sail with the world arc and still want to. The repair of their boat however will take at least 3 months, so now they are looking for another boat. They actually might have a chance finding a new boat in time. It won’t be the first time that a boat ends up for sale after the crossing.

After a well-deserved meal at Spinnakers with a Long Island ice tea, we called it a day. For the first time in almost 3 weeks we could sleep without movement and without an alarm for the next watch.

The following days were mainly filled with maintenance and catching up with the crew of other boats. The day before I was leaving for a short stay home I climbed one of the Pitons. In the brochure it was described as a hike but it turned out to be a very steep and serious clime, 2.5 hours up and 2.5 hours down again.

It was an impressive climb and well worth it! On the way back, the taxi driver made a detour along the waterfall. Of course I had to stand under it for a while. The taxi driver would film he didn’t press ‘record’. He only fimed the last bit. Anyway, it was refreshing and I was ready for that.

On my last evening an ARC trip to Marigot bay was on the program. On a party catamaran we sailed into the sunset with lots of music.
It was a nice way to say goodbye to all the people we met. I’ll be back in January, but then almost everyone will have gone their own way.