Sam of Hamble
Sam Alexander
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From Antigua to Hamble

Sent 19 May 2015

I left Antigua a week ago yesterday, Thurs 7 May. Having called in for fuel I left English Harbour entrance at around 2.00pm. A few tacks to clear the E side of Antigua and we were on our way heading North. The distance direct (Great Circle) is around 3500 nm, but we'll have to sail a fair bit further than that. Antigua, 17deg00'N61deg45'W is in the Trade Wind belt where the wind blows form the E or NE pretty much all the time. The direction of the UK from there is NE. The normal plan is to sail North out of the Trades, try to get round the mid-Atlantic high pressure and in to the Westerlies of the North Atlantic. Sometimes it's easier said than done. So, for the first week I have sailed mainly North; yesterday at noon our position was 31deg44'N; 56deg07'W - having travelled nearly 15deg N but less than 6deg E. Now heading more Easterly before going N again.

For now there is a Low to the NW and a High to the NE; my plan/hope is to sail between the 2 of them to get in to the Westerlies. We'll see how we get on. So far I have been navigating without the GPS, just using traditional methods, i.e. my sextant. Clearly using the sextant is not as accurate as GPS, but do you really need to be accurate to 10 metres when the nearest land is over 400 miles away? With practice position derived from the sextant is usually with 2-3 miles which is perfectly good enough. Don't forget that ships navigated this way until quite recently. As of yesterday, after a week at sea we were approx. 940 M from Antigua, with about 2550 to the Lizard (just W of Falmouth."

Sent 19 May

Since my report last Friday, we (when I say we I mean me and the boat) have covered about 550M and are now approx. 37deg25'N;44deg46'W. The nearest land is no longer Newfoundland, which is approx. 670M away whereas the Azores are at 650; we are over 1500 from Antigua and around 1860 from the Lizard. The strategy is so far going according to plan - there is a Low to the West and the Azores High to the East, and I am hoping to get round the Northern side of the High... After a fairly busy night with a few squalls, putting reefs in, then out again, we now have a steady wind from the SW, so we are making around 080T, sailing with a poled-out jib. Not surprisingly, it is getting cooler, but by the sound of things it's still a lot better here than in London. Interestingly (for some) Magnetic Variation here is nearly 20deg W - a little different to the 2deg in the Channel.

As I write this, the boat is being steered by the wind vane self-steerer. We have 3 steering systems on board: me, but I can't steer all the time as I need to eat, sleep, navigate etc.; we have the electric autopilot, but unfortunately it broke its mounting the other day so is out of action; and we have the wind vane. This is a 'Monitor' brand, manufactured in the USA; it is controlled by a wind vane which senses when you are off course, this turns a paddle which then turns the steering wheel; very clever and it doesn't use any electricity. We've had a few dolphins playing round the boat from time to time, which is always nice to see. We have been accompanied by sea birds quite a lot of the time, but apart from that there hasn't been much wildlife around."

Sent 24 May

I have now been at sea for 17 days. When I left Antigua the sun was virtually overhead, it was hot and sunny, we had a cooling trade wind, rum punches - it all seems a distant memory. It is in fact 2177 away from today's noon position which was 44deg52'N;33deg58'W, having had not a great day's run of 103M, and it wasn't even in a brilliant direction. That puts us about 1200M from the Lizard. For the first 5 days or so we headed North, then sailed ENE until yesterday when we again sailed North for a while. We're on the edge of the Azores High, so I'm trying to make ENE but at the same time trying to stay in some decent breeze. Although the wind is not as much as I would like, the weather is marvellous; well it is now, we had some fog earlier today but it didn't last long.

On the whole we've had pretty good conditions - 1 night with gusts up to around 35knots, but that's about the most we've had, so far... We've had good day's runs up till yesterday when we did 113M, before that we've generally been 140-150 mile per day. Yesterday was a better day for viewing wild life; I saw a shark in the morning; not sure what type it was as we didn't get that close; seeing a shark always seems to make one a bit more conscientious about wearing a harness! In the afternoon I saw a school of pilot whales; they crossed a few hundred yards from the stern of the boat and were clearly heading off somewhere very important as they totally ignored us! It's too early to guess at an ETA; once we're passed this high pressure system we should get some Northerlies and once we're in that weather system I should have some idea about when I might arrive.

Sent: Friday, May 29, 2015 11:22 AM

Yesterday was 3 week since I left Antigua, and as we get closer to the UK, thoughts are starting to turn towards home: a bed, London Pride, a bath, a steak, etc. But it's still quite a long way to go; about 725 to Lizard, then another 165 to Hamble. Since my last report, we've had a couple of slow days, covering 105M 1 day, then just 95 the next but after that the wind filled in and we did 135, then 152. Current position approx. 48d40'N;30d55'W.

The wind now is mainly in the West and has been for a few days. We are running before it with a poled out jib and at the moment 1 reef in the main. I tend to reef quite early as the Sigma 38 has a very large mainsail anyway, and reefing it makes steering easier for the wind-vane. Gybing takes about 20 minutes. The pole has an up-haul, a down-haul and an after-guy to hold it back - I generally use the spinnaker sheet. The windward spinnaker guy goes through the end of the pole and is used to sheet the sail; this is better than using the jib sheet as it doesn't foul the guardrails, and the guy is designed to go through the pole end anyway. So to gybe, we have to first ease off the guy and sheet the jib on the normal side, then let the pole go forward and drop it to the deck, remove the sheet and guy. Next we need to ease the preventer and sheet the main to the centre of the boat, then re-lead the preventer to the other side before actually gybing the boat. Then we gybe. Once gybed, the preventer needs to be taken up on the new side; at this stage the jib is backed, so needs sheeting in in the normal way. Next I attach the spi sheet to the pole and guy on to the jib, raise the pole, pull it aft, then with the guy pull the jib out to the end of the pole. Then we have to tidy up all the lines in the cockpit.

Yesterday I put the clocks forward another hour so we are now 1 hour behind UT (GMT to some!), 2 hours behind BST. Hoping to be back middle of next week.

Sent: Tuesday, June 02, 2015 5:26 PM

Passed Lizard earlier this afternoon. Had a bit if a gale for the last day or so, which eased off this morning. Now bright sunshine, running with poled out jib... Hope to be back in Hamble tomorrow pm.

We arrived the next day, tying up at Hamble Yacht Services at around 1800; passage time was about 1 hour short of 27 days.

Had a very welcome beer and a steak for dinner at the Royal Southern YC with Serena and Giles.

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