Friday, December 3, 2010

Lighting out across the Pond

Surfing down the tumbling two meter seas with a fresh wind from the ENE, DK is loving the ride for we are making miles south. It's day 3 on our passage across the Atlantic and already we are over 300 miles south in only 50 hours since leaving the busy Las Palmas Marina in Gran Canaria.

Of course, we had some drama leaving, it is a big passage after all and nothing seems to ever go smoothly when we leave the comforts of the barn. Thankfully all 3 issues were because of me and were fairly easily dealt with, but not without some stress and a couple more gray hairs before leaving.

After the usual getting the boat ready to go in the morning, we tried to slip away smoothly from the marina dock we were med-moored to. We've only done this a hundred times now, and usually it is pretty painless. Usually we have only 1 stern line on, DK liking to be nose-in to the dock for our privacy and so we can actually "get off" the boat when we want to. we had 2 stern lines tied up and I forgot all about one. Hello?!! We backed up out of the slip but I couldn't go any further as the line had tightened and then started to slingshot us back in directly towards our neighbors boat. Nic, thankfully, could fend us off enough and I could eventually slip off the line and let it sink before backing up again. We were pretty lucky we didn't get it caught in our prop or hit our neighbors home-built Dutch steel boat. Disaster averted and we motored out of the marina.

We raised the sail right outside the marina and turned towards the open Sea but then the engine overheating alarm started sounding. I did a quick frantic search of the engine, but couldn't see anything so we quickly dropped the sail and motored slowly to the adjoining anchorage next to the marina while we kept monitoring the engine room. Thankfully it wasn't nearly as packed anymore and we dropped our hook right on the periphery in 40 feet. I had just done a major service on the Yanmar, including flushing out the coolant, so figured maybe the thermostat was sticking. I popped it out and put a new one in. We turned her back on, but after a few minutes, no luck.

We have 3 ways to add coolant to our engine and additional heater that runs with coolant loops. I had already checked the heater box and it was full. Also, the clear reserve tank was full. So I assumed the main engine block was full too. Wrong. I opened it up and it was almost dry. For some reason the coolant from the reserve wasn't siphoning into it. I added a few liters of water and we were in business again.

Up went the anchor and we headed for the barn door again. But then I noticed part of our instruments weren't working. Nice. We turn around again and headed back to the exact spot and dropped the hook once more. Half hour later I figure out the issue, an issue I created when I was back there tinkering a couple of days prior with some NMEA wiring trying to link our instruments to our computer. Oops. So with that all settled, we crossed our fingers that we were finally free of the Gran Canaria gremlins and were allowed to leave. We were.

For the last 2 1/2 days it's been all about utilizing the wind to make as many miles south as possible. We have had some pretty consistent winds from the ENE and NE from between 15-30 knots and our broad reach has been pretty sweet sliding along at boat speeds from 6-9 knots even with some decent size seas plowing into our port beam and splashing the cockpit from time to time. The weather is still cold and gray and we are bundled up outside in our foulies and even socks and shoes/boots at night, but with no complaints as we are extremely happy we escaped the Canaries and the continuous assault of nasty low pressure systems that keep coming from the west, not a usual occurrence this time of year.

Nic and I are both just getting into passage mode and our 3 hour on/3 hour off all night watch schedule that takes some days to get used to. Plus, because we are sailing so fast our boat is definitely not a stable platform for doing much of anything right now except for laying in the sea birth or wedged into the cockpit with a hot cup of tea and book in hand. Book being optional depending on seasick potential. Strangely I've been doing ok but Nic is in the "I can't read or I'll puke stage right now", which means more time staring at the waves and sky or slipping some earphones on for a good podcast story.

We had a bit of magic last night. It's now a new moon and very dark outside in the wee hours, especially with the clouds. But what's so cool is that even though we haven't seen much of the stars, the milky way has been transformed in the Sea. For many hours we traveled through the solar system slicing DK's hull amidst flashing phosphoresence brilliant glowing massess, and incredible blasts of light. It was truly amazing and Nic swore that on her watch it was the most gorgeous night of phosphoresence she has EVER seen! I had an even better gift. The dolphins came and torpedoed right along with us. All you could see was a glowing comet slicing so fast through the water with little bright glowing explosions around it. Sometimes 3 or 4 of them would shoot by surfing the waves like liquid shooting stars. Another little gift from the sea.

So we continue south only 60 miles from the western African coast for another day and then our course will change and we'll start heading more SW towards the Cape Verde Islands as the big low-pressure storm systems passes north of us. We'll let ya know when the shoes come off and the mighty sun glows in the sky for us again.

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