description of the Atlantic crossing was originally written by Maureen Pope as a letter home...
28th November 1998: It is 5 pm and we
are just south of Gran Canaria, having left Las Palmas at 10 am.
Ernie and Julie from Sovereign II, who have been in Las Palmas for the
past week and are berthed in the marina, came out to see us off in their
dinghy, blowing foghorns. If they hadn't it would have been an
anti-climax as there we were, setting off on our longest single voyage
so far and no-one to wave us farewell!
Our other friends, who were anchored near us in the harbour, all left
over the last week. Some are making for the Cape Verde islands, off
Africa, and others for Barbados, like us, so we should meet up with some
of them in the Caribbean.
We don't feel alone out here as there are three daily radio skeds (Ed:
'skeds' are scheduled radio contacts on Single Side Band radio) at 0800,
1200 and 1700 hours, and we talk to our friends and exchange positions.
One friend, Bill, from 'Capers' is about 1700 miles away and has a fast
boat and we can still reach him!
The ARC rally started last Sunday, so there are 180 boats in front of
us, all bound for St. Lucia. We were there to see them off and it looked
quite spectacular, though nothing will compare to the start of the
Sydney - Hobart race and the beauty of Sydney Harbour.
Although it was warm/hot in Las Palmas, (25°
to 31°) it is chilly out here, although it
will become warmer as we go south. There is a saying for crossing the
Atlantic from the Canary islands: "Go south until the butter melts,
then turn west ".
It was lovely to talk to my daughters, Kim and Simone, and know that
all is well at home and that my granddaughter Natasha liked the card I
sent her. I'll send her more. I walked to the main Post Office, 3k's
away from the marina and the mail had not arrived so I asked the clerk
to return it to sender, that way the photographs should not be lost. I
was so looking forward to seeing them. The mail in Spain is very erratic
and we know several people who have not received mail. I'll say
'goodnight' now, as the sea is becoming roly.
2nd December 1998: Well! The sea certainly became
rough and we had a fast, uncomfortable trip for the next two days. it
took every ounce of strength to cook, do the dishes, stand watches and
sleep. We now do three hour watches as it seems to work well for us and
it took a few days for our bodies to get into the pattern.
Yesterday the wind decreased and we are only doing about 3 miles per
hour. Still, that's 72 miles per 24-hour day and it's in the right
direction so we shall eventually arrive on the other side.
It's approximately 2,700 miles and we have covered 440 so far. I
estimate that the trip should take about 27 days. We averaged 100 miles
per day crossing the Indian Ocean. We need to go about 700 miles south
of the Canaries to pick up the Trade Winds, so it should be good sailing
in about three days.
I must admit that I'm enjoying going slowly
Cooked banana pancakes for breakfast as all the bananas are
ripening at once. After hearing on the 0800hrs sked that we were having
banana pancakes, we learned on the 1200hrs sked that several other boats
had made them also (I was always a trendsetter!).
I cleaned the downstairs and we had bucket salt water baths on deck.
What luxury - we had only had APC (armpits and crutch) baths since
leaving Las Palmas. We have to conserve our fresh water.
Now that we are on our way, I am really enjoying the trip although I
don't like the rough seas. I'm extremely careful in the saloon and use
the safety belt when I do the dishes. We are camped in the saloon at
present, the sea berth, our port side couch, near the chart table, is so
comfortable in roly conditions. We put the lee cloth up and have a cosy
duvet and, as there is always one on watch and one sleeping, we only
need the one bed so the bedroom is immaculate. I do enjoy having a neat
and tidy boat.
I have so much time to think on the voyage and I talk to you as the
moon rises majestically on the horizon, wavers in the sky and drops into
the sea, at around 4 am at present. We are so close to nature out here
and I'm always awed by the mighty power of Jehovah. One moment the sun
can be shining, the sky blue then, suddenly, it can change; clouds form,
scud across the sky, the sun disappears and the sea increases and we are
in the thick of it. Still, as my Dad used to say "I wouldn't miss
it for quids" (Quid: Australian slang for a pound) (Editor's
note: also British slang for a pound Sterling).
15th December 1998: The weather has not been
conducive to writing and 'Mahe' is like a bucking bronco today as the
sea is very rough, so I don't know how I'll manage to write. Please
excuse the scrawl.
Thirteen days have elapsed since I last spoke with you (on paper) and we
now have only 860 miles to go to Barbados.
Peter conducts the 1200 hrs sked every second day so we have heard from
friends who have already arrived or are close to their landfalls.
Manfred and Glen are only 230 miles from Martinique, where they will be
joined by family. We hope to meet up with them in February.
It is now 18 days since we left Las Palmas, making it our longest
passage so far. Crossing the Indian Ocean we had 16 days Phuket/Maldives
another 16 days Maldives/Yemen.
Apart from the few days when we were becalmed, we have 'rocked and
rolled' all the way and it is so tiring. The sea is always confused and
the height of the waves depends on the wind velocity. It seems, in the
Atlantic that, if you have good winds, the sea increases, contrary to
what we have read about the long swell.
Still, it is great sailing weather and we sit on an average of 5 knots
with the twin headsails only.
We are still camped out in the saloon as the sea berth is the only
comfortable place to sleep and we don't have to worry about being thrown
out of bed. It is so cosy. Now I know how secure babies feel in their
We have been fishing when the seas are not too rough and have been
catching mahe mahe or dolphin fish.
The book on fishing my daughter
Kim gave us has been invaluable in the identification of fish type.
The first time that we caught a mahe mahe, in the Red Sea, we looked at
the blue spots, thought that it had a disease and threw it back! Now we
make sure that we identify them first. The one that we caught today was
about one metre in length , so Peter cut enough fillets off for two
We had some today, with potato salad, and shall have the rest
tomorrow. We don't run the fridge all day and night, to conserve
battery power so I don't like to keep fish more than 24 hours. If we had
a freezer we could have had enough to last the entire trip. We only
catch what we need as we do not believe in catching fish for
sport. I have been poaching the fish in the pan with a little oil,
lemon and lemon pepper and covering the pan with foil. the fish is
You should have seen the state of the boat when we caught our first big
fish. The back area of the boat is the 'killing field' and the fish was
jumping around and splattering blood on the boat and us. Afterwards we
had to clean the boat down and both have a bucket bath! We now have it
down to a fine art. When Peter calls out that we have a fish, I collect
my rubber gloves, plastic apron, knife, plastic dish for the fillets, a
large tray and a cutting board. Peter pulls the fish in and quickly puts
a bucket upside-down over the fish's head, then bends the tail back
towards the head and the fish dies immediately. Very humane and less
Peter is now very proficient at filleting and I just have to gut the
fish and hold it for Peter, hence the rubber gloves. What a team! We
thank Jehovah for every fish that we catch.
We have eaten better on this trip than on land. We still have garlic,
onions, potatoes, capsicum, vacuum packed beetroot, enough for a
daily cup. The food in Spain is very good and they have delicious
packaged cake, already cooked, so we have two of those on board and are
living like kings.
The sun is shining and the sea is blue. We are being blown along at 5.5
miles per hour. It would be perfect without the rock roll. I wonder if
we will walk with a sailor's gait when we reach land.
Today I earmarked for 'Beauty Day'. Had a bucket bath - with great
difficulty and Peter's help - gave myself a manicure - the rolling boat
upset my last bottle of nail polish and it all drained out.
Was preparing lunch with the side galley window open and a big wave
splashed me and my freshly washed hair. I do try to keep my standards up
but it ain't easy. Ha!
21st December 1998: We are sitting in the cockpit
gazing into the sunset and looking for LAND. Barbados is just 20
miles away and I'm dying to shout "Land ahoy!". I hope that
Peter's navigation is accurate, otherwise we shall end up in Panama... (
What a feeling, to contemplate putting the anchor down and sleeping in
our beautiful bed - we have slept in the sea berth all the way over -
and not rocking and rolling.
Apart from the three days where we were almost becalmed, the trade winds
have blown us across at a steady five knot average and we will complete
the voyage in 24 days - not bad for little 'Mahe'. There were many times
that we could have gone faster but we opted for a more comfortable trip
and slowed the boat down. the entire trip was run under twin headsails
or just the furler headsail, depending on wind velocity. We only used
the main to clear Las Palmas. The downside of the trip has been the
uncomfortable seas, ranging from rough to very rough, so we have rocked
and rolled all the way.
It is now dark - pitch black - and there, in the distance, are the
twinkling lights of Barbados.
Well done Peter, our G.P.S. navigation system and Mr. Pilote, our
automatic pilot and, of course, Maur, who keeps things running on an
even keel. Well done 'Mahe'! She is a grand lady but, most of all,
thank you God.
22nd December 1998 (Tuesday) 2 am: Have just
dropped anchor and it is a strange feeling not to be rocking. The night
is pitch black and we had difficulty finding Carlisle Bay, our
anchorage, and had to enlist the aid of our friends on Iron Bark to talk
So here we are in the land of Rum and Coca Cola, looking forward to our
first hot shower in 24 days and a wonderful sleep in our lovely double
Another ocean crossed!