Weather and WHALES!!

Update. Yesterday was pretty rotten. Grey, dreary, chilly and rained in patches. Little squalls would catch up to us, sometimes with higher winds, sometimes just rain. Wind was 15-20 knots, gusting 30 occasionally. We have two headsails out now, wing and wing. This pulls the boat along by the nose so the autopilot has an easier time and doesn’t kick off. Too rolly for much cooking so it was fried eggs and toast with rhubarb jam for breakfast and canned tomato soup for dinner.

Today was a different story though. Cloudy but still plenty of blue sky, warmer and a little Lighter winds and smaller waves. It was warm enough to take baths in rainwater Layla caught yesterday. Then the highlight that threw out the schedule:

Whales! Lots of whales. At first I thought they were killer whales because they were black with bright white undersides. Then I realized they had small dorsal fins more like a dolphin. They rarely surfaced and then it was quick. Eventually I got a look at a face and they are baleen whales. Possibly smaller than Orcas, or similar size. I expected 15 or 20, but they kept coming over about 3 hours. There must have been about 50. We were moving at about 4-5 kts and they about 6kts so they slowly passed us by. Very spread out. They often paused by my water turbine which is towed about 30 m behind the boat and then pass close to, then under. Like they were checking out what kind of an animal we are. It was very cool and especially for Layla who has never seen a whale in the wild. Lots of pics and video taken, most of it probably worthless. Thank goodness for digital.

From Mikki: So I searched small baleen whales and found the most likely (because of size and color) to be the Pygmy Right Whale. Which is found in those waters. Sightings are rare. So it was a pretty cool event.

Pygmy Right Whale

They grow to be about 15-20 feet long and not much data is available for them.
A beached pygmy right whale

Notice also the small dorsal fin that Captain Hoy mentioned.

Aside

Spinnaker Issues: An Update from Captain Hoy

A few days ago a couple hours before dawn the spinnaker fell in the water! Now the spinnaker halyard is skyed, or at the top of the mast. As it was as calm as its likely to get, I considered climbing the mast, but finally decided it wasn’t worth the risk since I expected the winds to pick up in a day or two and wouldn’t be needing the spinnaker after that.

The exact same thing happened in 2012 from Virginia to BVI. I finally figured out someone replaced the swivel with a cheap one with sharp edges. I replaced it with a better halyard but it still skyed. As winds stayed light I did set the spinnaker again using the second jib halyard and that gave us some speed and a better ride in very light winds. We spent a lot of time running downwind with 2.5 kts of speed and 5 kts of apparent wind. Pitiful speed, but clear, sunny and a decent ride.

Yesterday we had 3 fat flying fish on deck. They were a little old and stiff to fry up, so I froze them for bait later. We also had dolphins! Layla was very excited as when she’s aboard we rarely see dolphins. I have seen many but when she’s with me the sea empties. They were smaller than I usually see with medium grey top, light grey bottom. Also, they don’t spend much time above water so they are harder to see.

The winds picked up a lot yesterday and we sometimes make better speed, but have had several rain showers and gusty winds and the waves have built up so its much more rolly. Now it’s very hard to cook or do dishes. Everything is trying to take flight This morning had a pretty heavy shower and the wind keeps veering.

Running Behind?

Update from Goldilocks: Slow going. Very little wind last several days. Really needed the spinnaker so i patched it with some spinnaker repair tape and used the sewing machine to stitch it down. I’m not used to such light fabric so it’s ugly but 2 days later and it’s still working. Mostly only 3 to 5 kts of apparent wind so I’m really glad to have the spinnaker.
Completely dark. No moon. Sometimes brilliant stars, but a little cloudy at the moment. Those last thunderstorms that harried us came barely close enough to hear, but not close enough to pose much danger. Knock wood. Apparently, my estimate of 3 weeks was extremely optimistic. 11 days into it and we are still 3 weeks to go. It’s hard to believe these light winds have lasted so long, but we are both feeling very comfortable on the boat. Good food, beautiful skies.

Last night I cooked spaghetti with shrimp and garlic sauteed in butter with tarragon. Yumm. Tonight we had the leftovers with a great view.
Not so sure about Layla’s choice in music. Today she played a song called “This Sinking Ship”. Hmmm, lucky I’m not really superstitious.

Things could be worse…

I don’t think they are that far behind. It is now day 12 and they have travelled half their distance. In fact, they are averaging 100 nautical miles per day. Unless they are spending lots of time tacking, they are doing pretty well. (Mikki)

January 4, 2019

Con’d update:

The wind has dropped even more and we are making about 1 knot.

I could use some charging to the batts so we’ll motor for a little while. These days of light winds haven’t gotten much power from the water turbine.

This morning it’s hazy, cloudy and there is some lightning. I will put all the portable electronics in my faraday cage, aka “oven” if it gets closer.

On that note don’t worry if you lose the sat signal. If we get more lightning I’ll put the Inreach in the oven too. No idea how long this will last, but there is supposed to be stronger winds later today, so probably not long.

Motoring now. We were way down on batt power.

Update from Captain Hoy 1/3/19 4:09 a.m. PST

Update. Winds very light last several days. New years eve and day were nice but slow. Still no dolphins. Only one more flying fish and couple small black birds I haven’t identified.

Winds even lighter yesterday. I finally set the MPS, Multi Purpose Sail. Gee, it looks a lot like an asymmetric spinnaker.

It gave us an extra knot of speed, up to about 5 kts. It also smoothed out the motion and was quieter as it stayed filled better and the elasticity of the nylon helps absorb the shock. Unfortunately, I could not keep it from rubbing and catching on the pulpit and rolled up genoa. This morning there was a small tear so I had to take it down. Up goes the genoa and back to goosewing.

Happy New Year from Captain and Crew!

This was received earlier today: “Happy new year from somewhere in the Atlantic, off western sahara and between canaries and cape verde islands.”

As of tonight, New Year’s Eve they have travelled 561 nautical miles of a 2400 mile leg. 

And received this yesterday: “Wind veered E so we were heading too much west to keep running Cape Verde islands because of very light winds to the west, but soon that will be past and we’ll get the usual 15-20 from the east. Actually that’s what we have right now! Making about 6 kts SW. Easy sailing. …touch wood”

Smooth Sailing

2018 Dec 27, Leaving Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Today Layla and I finally depart for the Caribbean! We have been putting it off, trying to enjoy the island and our time here, but it is time to go. We met some very nice people and I’d like to spend more time here, though more on other islands. Las Palmas is pretty industrial. A good place to get things done, but not as beautiful as it could be. 

Winds are a little light to start, but from the NE, so perfect for sailing SE to get offshore, then turning SW toward Cape Verdes. We don’t plan to stop, but there is a high pressure area NW of them, so going closer to Cape Verdes should get us a little better wind. Looks like light downwind sailing most of the way. We might have to bob around a couple days while the high pressure zone fills in, but I think it will be a nice passage. Knock wood.

December 24, 2018

2018 Dec 24, Rough Time at Anchor in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

It’s been rough here at anchor yesterday and today. We had planned to leave Sunday, but it was so nice and we finally got a chance to hang out on the beach, so we decided to wait. Mon and Tue had bad winds (from the south) to depart so we thought Wed. That means we’d be here for Christmas, rather than Christmas on the high seas. Instead of nice time on the beach Mon and Tue blew up 20-30 kts from SE, the worst possible direction: just where there is no protection from the open Ocean. The waves were coming in and I moved Goldilocks, so we weren’t in the worst of it, but still pretty rolly, and a boat a little too near to put out a lot of rode. Still, she held fine through it all. Not so for all. Layla spotted an ugly yellow catamaran a couple boats to our port side, hailing port Hilo, HI, up on the rocks, the jetty that protects the big yacht club, Real Club Nautico Las Palmas. I tried to call the marina, but didn’t get through. There was some chatter in Spanish and a few minutes later several RIBS started checking it out. Nobody boarded it though. Within 10 minutes of us seeing her on the rocks the starboard hull (on the rocks) was sinking at the stern, and it just got worse from there.  

About then a large orange rescue boat “Salvamento Maritimo” came out to give it a go. They got close and looked at it for another five or ten minutes, obviously not sure what they could do with it, when yells from a nearby boat drew them to a second boat dragging anchor. This one, a monohull, was not yet on the rocks so they had a better chance of saving it. They dashed over, spent several minutes sizing up the situation, put a man on the stricken boat, and passed him a line. It must have banged about for ten more minutes before they got it away from the rocks. Another 20 or 30 minutes and they had it into the marina. 

As it later turned out, I’m pretty glad we weren’t in the marina. Our location and others we knew got pretty battered and several boats broke mooring lines and some were damaged. We got off lucky. No damage, just a lost day, spent on the boat ready to react if anything went wrong. When two boats drag in your anchorage, and one sinks battered by rocks, You don’t leave the boat. 

I feel so sorry for the cat owners. I never saw anyone aboard that boat, but what a horrible thing to come back to. There is debris everywhere in the water and washed up on the beach. Two days later the boat is completely sunk and still shedding garbage. They are cleaning up the beach, they are cleaning up the water, but the shattered remnants still sit on the rocks shedding more debris. A sad Christmas Eve, and it hits us close to home. 

2018 Dec 13, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Got a call last night there was a spot available in the marina. They are packed even though the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) has left and dozens of boat with them. It’s their high season and there is  a 2-3 week wait if you want to stay 10 days or more. They give preference to larger boats, and even though they say they are full, there are many slips that have been vacant for many days. 

The harbourmasters are very officious and care much more for their rules than on getting the job done. I have never heard so much verbiage at such a high rate of speed, yet seen so little get accomplished. 

I got to the reception dock at just past 0900 and finally made it to my slip about noon. Most of that was waiting for harbour masters. 

Layla is flying in this afternoon. 

I get a kick out of this place. There are so many young people roaming around looking to be crew. Most have none or very little experience, but several solos and couples come around in dinghies in the anchorage, or mostly walking the pontoons and waiting for someone to let them in the locked gates, either with signs, or handing out pages or cards describing themselves and how they want to sail across to the Caribbean or South or Central America. Some of they seem really great and hard workers. If I had need of more crew this is the place to be. My hardest parts of this passage are already behind me,so no go. It’s a fun place. We have a guy from Latvia who is a yoga instructor, a Polish teacher on a year off, A Polish young woman and older Englishman with no experience, but he plays guitar a little and she plays violin. Very vivacious. More French and Spanish and American and German. It’s quite the crew available here. A smorgasbord of labor. 

Oh yes, and there is siesta. Shops are mostly open from 0900 to 1300, then closed for siesta until 1600 then open 1600 to 1900. Takes a little planning to buy something.