Finally. We are leaving Lagos. We have been here 18 days. The longest we have been anywhere. We are heading South. Destination; Canaries. Distance; about 500 miles plus due South. If for whatever reason we need to pit stop, we will do so in Morocco. Casablanca, Agadir, Essouira – whichever is closest.
Feelings? Excited to be leaving. To be on the sea again. To be adventuring with my family once more, in this amazing boathome. But I am also a bit nervous. Biscay took us four days and four nights. This passage if done non stop will take 5-6 days. The longest passage to date, for me at least. It is remarkable to think back to my first overnight passage, on the English channel, 80 something days ago. Since then we have travelled 1090 miles. We have tied up in 13 ports. We have visited 4 different countries. And all with the purpose of arriving here so that we can depart this, the most southern and western part of mainland Europe. We are at a junction. Here, you are either head East to the med or South to Africa or South-West across the Atlantic. This is the point where decisions are made. Commitments confirmed. Where boats press on or they stay still. We will look back and say that leaving this port was the first true step of commitment to cross the Atlantic. Sure, we are only heading to the Canaries and who knows what might happen there. But once we are in the Canaries, our options become more limited. The prevailing winds are northerlies. To head back northwards against the wind, would be hard work. No, from the Canaries are options are either South to the Cape Verdes Islands or West to the Caribbean. This voyage just got serious.
So what is in my head right now? Questions? Many. The predominant one is to what extent will we have self steering? Self steering is the key to happy cruising on this boat of man, woman and two kids under 3. It is the key to my sanity! In truth it is the sanity to most ocean going boats.
So on self steering; (careful this is geeky techy stuff which may not be everyone’s cuppa – but it has been important for me to get my head around it, so here I go).
We now know what the problem has been with the wind vane self steering built by Ben. Ben finally had a lightbulb moment which explained all our problems to date. Last time he built the system for this boat, Dhanu had no engine. This time, she has an engine. The propeller is the difference. The propeller sits forward of the rudder in a semi circular space cut out of the rudder. The propeller, just by being there, creates turbulent water behind it which affects the ability of the trim tab to do its job. What is the trim tab you may well ask? The trim tab is a small rudder attached to the big rudder. (It is part of the wind vane self steering system). It lies within the turbulent water created by the prop. It requires a smooth flow of water to do its job effectively. If the water is disturbed, it can’t perform in an optimal way. The problems we have had, all make sense now. Ben has extended the trim tab without us hauling the boat out. This has involved him again diving under the boat, mask and snorkel on with screwdriver between his teeth. Much to the confused bewilderment of Olive. Has this adjustment been enough to put the trim tab out of the path of the turbulence? Today will tell. However at least now we have a back up system. At great expense (to us hard-up cruisers), we have bought an electric self steering system. This is an arm that you attach either to the tiller or, to the trim tab. We know this will perform, the question is to what extent in the conditions we may encounter. How will it cope with lots of wind and/or swell? The coming days will tell. Good grief listen to me! I’m sounding like I know what I am talking about…haha. I suppose that is what you get for being married to Ben and having sailed 1090 miles with no self steering!
The next question; will we have wind? The forecast says yes we will have nice wind. North Easterlies – 10 knots. Broad reach…great!
After that the burning question is will we have swell? Swell has been on everyone’s lips after the past few weeks lot of incredible lows. Swell is always the problem. Unless it is lined up with the wind, it is the pits. No one wants swell. A little bit is ok. More than that is rubbish. Swell makes us roll. Swell makes us bounce. Swell makes me mad. Swell makes me sad. Swell gives me bruises. Swell makes me regret it all. Swell sucks. Where you have swell direction against the wind, pointy waves are made that cause the boat to crash and lurch. Where you have swell with the wind, the ride is more comfortable. The forecast for us is swell coming from the North West 1-2 metres in height. So in theory it should be a bit uncomfortable. However having spoken to two boats who have just come in, they said it was ok. So. We go and we will see. If it is horrid, we will simply turn back.
The next question is however it is, how will the kids be? They are a little bit older. More used to sailing than most. But they have had nearly 3 weeks in port. During which Alfi has started crawling, in a manner of speaking. But this has been on a boat tied up in port. How will she fare being strapped back in the car seat (which seems tiny now compared to her enormous frame!) As for Olive, we know she will retire to her bed like a pensive teenager. But for 6 days? Hmm…I pray the watery universe gives us dolphins…that will keep her going. If not there is the Ipad…but the battery wont last 6 days that is for sure…what happens then? Perhaps that will be the time to shave Daddy’e beard off? It has reached animal proportions. It has to go. Even he agrees…or so he says. A few days ago he asked (rather jokingly) for a beard trimmer for Christmas. I said he would not need it as there would be no beard to trim. He replied ‘go on please, we could share it.’ Ha bloody ha…truth aint so far away sadly…oh how I curse my Mediterranean blood…yes, I have seen a lot of my Aunties walking around these streets.
After these questions, comes more mundane domestically minded ones. Will the veg last. Will the new storage baskets do their job. Will we use water well. Will we be able to wash the nappies ok…carting around a load of dirty disposable is not ideal.
So this is me. This is us. This is where we are at. Wish us well. Think of us. Next time you see us…? Canaries? Morocco? To be continued…