Ascension Island to Mindelo

We finally are at the Marina in Mindelo, it is Sunday 2pm and we need to wait for tomorrow to clear in Cape Verde, as we have not gone through immigration yet, we stay in the marina for today.

(Mindelo Marina from our mast before the arrive of the ARC rally)

For this passage I decide to keep daily notes as I used to do when we were cruising in 2002-2004. This is a way for me to remember details of the passage that may become useful for future planning and it gives others an idea of my routine during passages.

In summary we sailed 1,720 miles in about 11 days, including the time we were anchored last night in Ilha Santa Luzia.

The crossing was essentially made of four parts:

  • About 650 miles sailing downwind with very light winds (12-15 knots most of the time) for a little more then four days. We sailed all days with the spinnaker and all nights with just the main and the Genoa. Sometime with just 8 knots of wind to save diesel for the next part.
  • About 700 miles motoring or motor-sailing in almost no wind for other four days. Hot and long days.
  • About 350 miles sailing upwind for about two days, this was certainly the less comfortable part of the passage but not too bad.
  • 20 miles the last day to cross a channel to arrive to Ilha de Sao Vicente. See notes below if interested.

We left Ascension Island at 2pm of the 31st of October after quite stressful 36 hours considering to go to Brazil instead of Cape Verde.

On board we still have Laura and Adam that will unfortunately leave us in Mindelo to fly back to Boston. We really enjoyed sailing and traveling with them since they joined us in Namibia. It was the first sailing experience for Laura, she really coped with it brilliantly and she is now an experienced crew. Adam has now more than 15,000 miles sailing experience on many more boats than mean and it was great to debate with him solutions to improve Eidos. I really hope to see them again somewhere soon.

We are not very lucky with fishing in this passage having only caught a small tuna and a large dorado, the tuna was just enough for a sushi appetiser, the dorado was a good size and made Adam very happy.

We see dolphins and whales, every morning we find on the deck squids and flying fishes, and we receive the visit of a locust, a butterfly and few birds – we found one in the guest cabin.
The passage overall has been very comfortable and Eidos sailed well in all conditions. It has been our third longest passage ever, after our Pacific Ocean crossing in 2003 (17 days) and the North Atlantic Ocean crossing in 2002 (15 days), and by far the most comfortable one.
I never liked passages longer than few days because I get bored, this time it was not much different. However as soon as I arrive to the new destination the passage becomes immediately worth it. I am happy that after Cape Verde we should be going slower and spend more time discovering new places than churning thousands miles every month.

Cape Town to Cape Verde was more like a delivery trip of Eidos to a warm region before deciding the future of our trip. We also needed to learn and test our new boat. Nevertheless we saw so many amazing places: Namibia with an incredible desert, sands dunes, wild animals, etc., St. Elena and Ascension Island, probably two of the most isolated islands with incredible history and unforgettable people.

We have sailed more than 4700 miles in the last three months and it involved a lot of learning. We did not do anything new compared to our previous cruising experience, however it is a completely different type of sailing compared to our old Amel and clearly more demanding.

It is not possible to avoid comparisons with our previous boat. As expected Eidos is not a fast catamaran but it sailed faster than our old Amel in all conditions with the addition of an unbelievable comfort and much less sea sickness. When sailing downwind we often feel not much more movement than being at the anchor, at the anchor we have almost no rolling even in presence of swells. The best sailing is around 50-70 degrees where we often enjoy 10 knots sustained speed. Adam could do his yoga routine every day, even while sailing at 10 knots with three meters waves from the side.
Motoring is a different matter, when we use one engine (most of the time) we go slower than with our old Amel while burning more fuel, but we are moving a much bigger boat.
We had few issues that need some work in Cape Verde but nothing major, more than we used to have in passages with the Amel, however Eidos is 17 years old while our previous boat was new.

Before next passage I have few things to Fix:

  • Repair a small cut in the main sail, due to our fault and a bad setting of the reefing lines (I asked to check them to the two different riggers in Cape Town and both said they were ok – we really had mostly bad work done in Cape Town)
  • Replace a batten in the main sail
  • Fix the the Genoa furler. Only few screws that need tightening
  • Fix the electric winch. It looks like there is no power going to the winch
  • Improve the lazy bag. What they did in Cape Town is far from being good
  • Change diesel filters
    It is enough to keep me busy for a week or two

Marcella is going to the Netherlands to visit our son and Laura & Adam flying back home on Thursday, I will stay alone preparing the boat and search the new friends for the next passage for about 10 days.
Differently from what we were told by Kai (the owner of the marina) via email the marina will not have any space available from the 15th to the 20th because of the Arc+ rally and I will have to stay at the anchor. We asked everywhere about the security at the anchorage and it sounds like it is fine. For safety I will have a local guy on board while I am not there all the time.

Daily notes (mostly for my memory, very repetitive and detailed)

We leave at 2pm. The boat has been ready to go since yesterday and it takes less than an hour to prepare the spinnaker on the deck, turn on instruments and engines, pull the anchor and lock it for the crossing, hoist the main sail, call Ascension Island radio to communicate we are leaving and stay out of the influence of the 850 meters high Green Mountain. We are finally sailing again.
We initially have more wind than in the forecast and for short time we sail at about 8kn with Main and Genoa, then the wind goes down to the expected 13kn from SE (true wind) and our speed drops to less than 7 in 10kn apparent wind. The waves are only about a meter but from the side and it is less comfortable than in our previous passage. However we all comment that it is much better than the rolling of any monohull.
We follow the same watches’ schedule of our last passage and the night pass without problems and without seeing any other boat. For short time we finally have a completely clear sky full of stars.

Our strategy for this passage is to go more east of the direct route to Cape Verde for the first four days to have a better wind angle while the wind is from behind (SE).
Then we expect to motor or motor-sail for other four days to go through the ITCZ (the area in proximity of the equator with very light winds or no wind).
We will still stay east of the direct route while motoring to also have a better angle in the last three days when the wind is expected from NE, but at the same time we will stay more than 150 miles west of the coast of Africa as we have not researched possible security risks in that area.
We expect to sail about 1700 miles before arriving to Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente sometime on the 11th of November. It will be our longest passage on Eidos and our third longest passage ever after our Pacific Ocean crossing (3000 miles) in 2003 and the Atlantic Ocean crossing (2700 miles) in 2002 with our previous boat.

The last 36 hours in Ascension have been very stressful. I discovered that because of the Arc stopping in Mindelo we did not have a guaranteed berth in the marina and in consideration of the security issues in Cape Verde I did not feel comfortable to continue our trip as planned.
For 24 hours we are all excited to go to Fernando de Noronha in Brazil as next stop, known for fantastic beaches and diving sites, and only 1200 miles away with better sailing than going north. We even asked a change of itinerary to our insurance and changed our exit documents.

However it would have added 4,600 miles of sailing and two Atlantic crossings to our first year of cruising, from the current plan of about 12,000 to 16,600. Too many!
Thanks to Adam’s recommendation yesterday I joined the Ocean Cruising Club. The application took only few minutes and in less than an hour the club secretary emailed me offering an introduction to their “port officer” in Cape Verde that is connected with the Marina. I email him and he provides us a lot more confidence about the security in Mindelo, he also said that it is very likely that we will have a spot in the marina during the Arc.
I should have investigated the Cape Verde stop better much earlier and not rely only on cruising guides avoiding this stress to my crew! A good lesson for future planning.
Laura and Adam as well as Marcella have been great dealing with the uncertainty of the last two days.

At 7am I download the new forecast using Iridium Go and Predict Wind. No material differences from what expected yesterday, just lighter winds for the next few days, this is not good because we may have to motor-sail earlier, especially during the night, if we want to arrive in 11 days.
Adam and Marcella are also awake and we hoist the asymmetric spinnaker, our average speed immediately goes up to about 7.5kn in 9kn apparent wind from the 6kn or less we had during the night with Main and Genoa.
It takes always few days to get used to the routine of the passage and in the morning we are all very quite resting, thinking, reading, writing or none of the above.
At 2pm we did 154 miles in the first 24hour, however we are only 144 miles closer to Mindelo because we are not taking the direct route to have a better wind angle especially for when the wind will turn from NE. The first day is what planned to arrive in 11 days.
In the afternoon we have more wind then expected and we average 8kn from 2pm to 7pm when we take the spinnaker down for the night.
The second night pass quietly, our average speed is just under 6kn and we do not see any boat around. A small white bird comes to visit us and flies around the boat for most of the night, during my watch it even tries to land on my head while I was seating at the helm in complete darkness.

At 7am I download the forecast, all the same. We continue going more east as planned, hoist the spinnaker and move our average speed to 7kn in about 9kn apparent wind from 120 degrees. The true wind is about 12kn and there are no white caps around us. The waves may be smaller or I am getting more used to the movement. The day starts cloudy, by 2pm it is very sunny and warm.
After 48 hours we did 318 miles, 164 in the last 24 hours. Slightly ahead of what planned considering the forecast before leaving.
Around 5pm the AIS reports a vessel about 7 miles from us but we cannot see it. Then another just on our route, we change direction and for about an hour we sail at 9-10 knots with 13kn of wind from 90 degrees (main and Genoa), it is very nice but soon we had to go back to our 130-140 degrees and 6.5 knots speed.
Few other vessels follow, the closest at about 4 miles. We are concerned about small fishing boats without AIS and not visible on the radar, we keep more attention looking around but we do not see anything.
The night is beautiful with a lot of stars and few shooting stars.

At 7am I download the forecast, no major changes. We now expect:

  • One more day sailing downwind
  • Four days of motoring
  • 470 miles going upwind
  • Two hours to enter in the marina
    I still hope to arrive on the 10th of November before sunset and I start calculating how we can achieve it.
    Based on today’s forecast we should be able to start the 470 miles upwind leg before 9am of the 8th. At that time we should have from 15 to 20 knots of true wind from 90 degrees (that will later become about 20-25 from 60 degrees), this should allow us to sail at the 8.5 knots average speed needed to arrive before night. We did not sail much upwind with Eidos yet and I look forward to see how she performs in speed and comfort with about 2mt waves from the front.
    At about 1:30pm we pass the equator, it is our second equator crossing, the first was in the Pacific Ocean in 2003. Laura, Marcella and Adam celebrate it, unfortunately I am dealing with a family issue over satellite phone.
    At 2pm, after three days, we have sailed 485 miles, 167 miles in the last 24 hours. Still more than planned but it may not be enough to arrive on the 10th.
    Today the wind is lighter and more from the south than expected forcing us more east than we want and sail slower. We cannot motor as we need to save diesel for the next four days and use all the wind we can in the next 20 hours, we also do not like motoring.
    We catch the first fish of this passage, a very small kind of tuna, not as good as the yellow fins.
    We keep sailing slower and slower until 3am when our speed is down to 3 knots, we decide to take the sails down and turn on the engine.

    When I wake up we have about 11 knots true wind just behind us and we are motoring at an average speed of 6.8 knots, it leaves just enough apparent wind to push the smell of the engine in the cockpit. I hate motoring with light wind from behind.
    It is already very hot and we are all in the cockpit looking for spots with some shadow or breeze.
    I download the forecast, it looks like we will have 11-12 knots from behind until sunset and we decide to hoist the symmetric spinnaker without the main and stay on our course. This should allow us to stay on our route and sail at about 6 knots for 10 more hours. We will lose about 2 hours compared to motoring at 6.8 but we are all happy to stop
    the noise and the smell of the engine.
    The symmetric spinnaker with wind from behind on a catamaran is great because it does not need any attention, it just stays fixed on the two bows by itself.
    At 2pm (at the end of day four) we have sailed 634 miles, only 149 miles in the last 24 hours. We only used the engine for 5 hours so far since we left.
    I spend the morning creating and excel model to understand the time of arrival based on the most current forecast and our most likely expected speeds. We have three legs to do:
  • Motoring for about 90 hours from late today
  • Sail upwind for the rest of the trip. Based on last forecast and our strategy this second leg should be 413 miles
  • Five hours to go around Sao Vicente island, drop the sails and enter the marina
    My current estimate says that we may arrive between 12pm and 6pm of the 10th. I am not happy to arrive at 6pm so I will push the engines more for the coming 3 and half days and monitor the forecast for the upwind part. If the estimates in the next three days will move towards the 6pm or later we will need to slow down and aim for the 11th morning as originally planned.
    The wind slows down progressively during the afternoon but we keep the spinnaker until 7pm. Then we turn on the motor.
    I am testing the engines at 2,700 rpm instead of the 2,500 used so far, we have a good increase in speed, but we may have current helping. I will see the average tomorrow morning and we will monitor the consumption.
    We cruise always with one engine per time as it is more efficient in terms of diesel/mile.

    I could not sleep in the cabin last night because of the noise of the engine and the high temperature and I decided to spend night in the cockpit. At 7:30am I wake up under the rain. We all have a shower with buckets of water collected from the bimini. It only last less than one hour, then it is sunny and hot again.
    Today the Iridium network has problems connecting to the forecast and I can only download it around midday, we may have wind a little earlier then expected, I hope it will happen so we turn off the engine.
    The forecast has not changed much since we left and we are still following the original plan, just going a little faster. The reason I am very keen to have daily updates is the possibility of tropical depressions forming west of Africa. Apparently they can form very quickly bringing strong wind.
    Over night we motored at an average of 7.5 kn, but in the morning speed went down, I am not sure if it is because we now have no wind from behind or because of the current helping us earlier. I will check again the average late today. If we proceed at more than 7kn for the next two days we should arrive easily on the 10th early afternoon.
    At 2pm we have sailed 804 miles since we left five days ago, 170 miles in the last 24 hours.
    Today we have a very unusual sea, long swell
    s from both the north and the south Atlantic mixing together. Still very comfortable apart from the engine.
    In the afternoon we take the two spinnakers out of their bags to let them dry as much as possible  before we store them for some time. The rest of this passage and the following to Canary Islands will be all upwind.

At 7pm we turn off the starboard engine and turn on the port engine that will be running for the next 24 hours.
Today it has been a long and somehow boring day for me, we have been cruising for more than five days and I really miss a walk, a swim or a run. I do not really like long passages, but they are a necessary part of this life.

We cruise at about 6.5kn the all night without problems. In the morning we see two fishing boats, both without AIS and one very close forcing us to change route. There is always the risk of nets behind fishing vessels and it is safer to stay well away from them.
I download a new forecast and it is confirmed some wind from late on then 7th, this means the possibility of less motoring. The CAPE index (an index related to the probability of lightning) is a little higher for the next 48 hours and we will have to pay more attention to possible squalls.
For most of the day we have zero wind with the typical oily sea associated to it while the swell is now all from north.
I estimate again the arrival time and at the current speed we risk to arrive late on the 10th. I identify an anchorage on an uninhabited island about four hours before Mindelo, if we are late to arrive day time we will stop there for a night and continue early on the 11th.
I also recalculate our consumption, I am sure we have enough diesel but I am trying to refine my knowledge of diesel consumption at different rpm for future planning.
I read for most of the morning and watch a movie in the afternoon.
At 2pm, end of day 6, we have sailed a total of 964 miles, 160 miles in the last 24 hours.
Around 4pm we have a breeze of 6kn from east and we motor-sail with the Genoa all open winning about half knot, but it only last for one hour.

We sail all night through squalls, often we need to change route to avoid possible lightning. There were clouds glowing because of electrical activity all around us. Not much sleep.

(radar view of rain around us)
In the morning we hoist the main sail and the self-tacking jib slightly improving our speed. Motor sailing for the rest of the day.
We finally catch a large dorado, it is 5 or 6 kg. Adam is finally happy.

At 2pm, end of day 7, we have sailed a total of 1121 miles, 157 miles in the last 24 hours.
Today we see three cargo ships on the AIS, one is very close and we need to slow down to let it pass few miles in front of us. For the night we have two forecasts regarding possible squalls, one suggests we are completely clear, the other that we should have more than yesterday night. We reef the main for safety and continue to motor-sail. We need to keep going on this route for about 70 miles before we can change more towards west having the wind with a better angle. By then the wind should also become stronger and we should turn off the engine.

Last night we did not see any squall. The swell from north is a little higher. It is very hot in the cabin because the waves from starboard do not allow to open our window. I sleep in the cockpit. During the night the wind becomes much lighter, even down to just one knot, and when there is more wind it is more from north then what expected.
I download a new forecast and it now predicts winds more from north, it means more hours motoring to reach the point we can turn west and start sailing.
We take out the reef and for safety we transfer 100 litres of diesel from jerry cans to the main tanks. We expect now to motor the all day. I am almost sure we cannot arrive to Mindelo on the 10th, but we should be still able to arrive to the anchorage before Mindelo for a good sleep before going to the marina. I hope the wind stays more east than the current forecast otherwise it will be slower and less comfortable.
As every day, I check the engine that has been running (sea water strainer, coolant level, oil level, diesel pre-filters, belts, bilge, anything unusual on the engine) and Marcella takes the reading of the diesel tanks’ levels so that I can estimate consumptions and remaining autonomy.
Weather forecast, routing, logging, monitoring and analysing data takes me few hours every day, I know it is much more than other cruisers do, but I still like to play with data. Excel remains my favourite tool even while sailing.
At 2pm, end of day 8, we have sailed a total of 1272 miles, 151 miles in the last 24 hours.
Later in the afternoon we reach the waypoint identified 6 days ago to turn west, I initially think to delay the turn in consideration of the changed forecast but then, after a discussion with the crew, we decide to turn. The risk is that the wind angle does not allow us to go directly to Mindelo and we have to do a tack. We agree it’s the best to do.
We sail with main sail with one reef and full genoa at 8+ knots for some time, then I notice that the fuller of the Genoa is broken half way, I think that the cylinder in aluminium is made of two pieces and they have separated, it should be easy to fix if we do not use it. This creates a stress on the sail that may break. I decide to roll the Genoa to the second reef to protect the sail and continue using it, the speed drops to about 7.5 knots.
We continue with the autopilot on wind hold all night. A locust is somewhere on board stridulating all night.

During the night the AIS registers the presence of many vessels, it indicated up to 155, however all very far away. It is hard to believe that there are 155 vessels at a distance covered by our VHF, I need to investigate if large cargo boats may relay the presence of vessels they know of.
I download as always a new forecast and fortunately the wind should move more east. Adam and Laura hunt the locust and make sure it does not stay on board longer.
In the morning we decide to furl in the Genoa to avoid damages from the broken fuller and we continue with main and jib. We lose at least one knot. Also our main electrical winch stops working today, this is essential to hoist the main sail. It looks like there is no power going to the motor that is a good thing, hopefully it is nothing wrong with the motor.
At 2pm, end of day 9, we have sailed a total of 1432 miles, 160 miles in the last 24 hours. Much less than we expected for this day and mostly due to the problem we have with the Genoa.
In the afternoon we have moved north enough to change the autopilot from wind hold (at 45 degrees) to “route to” pointing directly north of Ilha de Maio where we should arrive around midday tomorrow. From there we will have less then 150 miles to Mindelo.
The swell from north is much bigger now and we often have water flowing on the deck, sometimes even in the cockpit.
I email the marina confirming our current ETA to make sure we will have some assistance on Sunday. They apparently have a crew available 24/.

Early in the morning the wind increases to more than 28 knots apparent and we sail at a speed of over 10 knots. I decide to take a second reef to slow down. We still go over 8 knots until the wind goes down.
After downloading a new forecast we go back to one reef with speed around 8 knots.
Around midday we see Ilha de Maio on our left and we start seeing small local fishing boats invisible to the radar and without AIS. For the next day we must watch much more carefully for boats on our route.
We occasionally have waves of over three meters from the side that makes difficult to move around the boat, but staying seated or laying down is ok. Only Adam remains very active regardless from the sea state.
At 1pm local time (we changed to Cape Verde time), end of day 10, we have sailed a total of 1605 miles, 173 miles in the last 24 hours.
At the current speed we would arrive to Mindelo in the night, we decide to anchor in Ponta da Cruz on Ilha de Santa Luzia, according to the guide a nice beach of an uninhabited island.
For the last few hours before the Ilha Santa Luzia we have constantly more than 30 knots, up to 37 from 40-45 degrees. We have two reefs in the main and we try with the jib or only small part of the Genoa, in both cases the front sail was not very happy. We can sail better with the main (2 reefs) and a small part of the genoa at about 6.5 knots. We arrive in the bay around 1am when we take down the main and motor the last mile against 35+ knots of wind. We drop the anchor and our 55 kg Rocna drags on the “sand with good holding” reported by the guide. We move a little north and drop it again and it finally works.
It is 2am when we are at the anchor with 70 meters of chain in 10 meters of depth and 35+ knots of wind. We eat some cheese and prosciutto and we go to bed for a short but quite night, it is incredible how the 35+ knots are not impacting the comfort. We only see it on the instruments.
We sailed for 1,696 miles and 10 days 13 hours. Tomorrow morning we leave to Mindelo, about 20 more miles sailing through an acceleration zone that according to the guide could have winds twice stronger than today and up to two knots of current.

We have the wind constantly over 30 knots during the night, we see up to 38.8 on our instruments. The anchor holds very well. I call the marina to ask if it was windy there too, they say it was not too windy and that two boats just arrived without problems. I download a new forecast and it says 20knots wind and 2.5 meters wave, we still have always 30 knots and often more than 35.
We turn on the engines and one does not go over 2200 rpm, it must be the diesel filter but I decide to change it in the marina. I decide to go with the main with three reefs, so we are ready to sail away if the engines failed. We have to go through the acceleration zone and the wind and the waves push us towards the island.
When we hoist the main we discover that the third reef lines do not look right (at least this is our view, I did not have reef lines on the old Amel), we try to fix it but we damage the main, just a small cut that makes it unusable and add another job to the list. It will be a big job to take all the battens off and move the 120 sqm sail down to be repaired.
We finally leave with engines and Genoa around 10am and we are soon out of the protection of the island in the channel between Ilha Santa Luzia and Ilha de Sao Vicente with over 30 knots of wind. The channel faces north and the depth goes from few thousands meters to just 20 in few miles. The swells from the North Atlantic Ocean crash on this massive submersed mountain and become bigger and more confused. The plan is to stay on the right of the channel where it is a little deeper going north to a depth of about 500 meters hoping to have normal swells before turning west, at that point the waves would be from the side.
Sailing north in the channel we have about 30 knots of wind directly from the front, we close the Genoa and proceed with only the engines. The waves are not more than 3 meters on average however we often have much higher waves, probably some up to 5 meters. Many break on our deck and few on me sitting at the helm, it feels like large buckets of water thrown to me. One of these buckets must have been few hundred litres, I felt like I was in the wave. We proceed very slowly and even slower when we bounce down after a big wave crashes on us from the nose.

The bad part only lasts two or three hours, then the waves become smoother and after we turn they come from the back.

We arrive to the marina around 3pm and we still have almost 30 knots of wind, going in a marina with more than 20 knots always requires focus, doing it with a new boat makes is even more interesting, but having one of the engines potentially failing is really stressing. We ask for a berth facing the outside of the marina to simplify the landing. I keep the boat as close as possible to the fuel pontoon while we wait to know where we have to go just in case we have a problem with our port engine, it does not take long but it felt like forever. They give us a spot next to an Amel Super Maramu 2000, exactly the same as our last boat, we like it. I turn Eidos around and reverse against the strong wind without problems, Marcella and Adam give two stern lines to the marina crew and we are finally ok. The Amel is so familiar, I really know every inch of that boat (I cannot say the same about Eidos), I notice how the winches, the sails and the lines on the Amel look so small now.
Only an hour later I go with Adam to see the Amel and chat with Nick from Sweden, they are going to Martinique where he wants to sell the boat and relocate to Cambodia. The boat is identical to our Timetama but it really looks small now, from the Amel cockpit I look at Eidos, it reminds me when I first saw a Catana 58 in 2002 at the start of the Arc, it passed us very close before the start of the race, the guy sitting at the helm was 2 meters higher than us. It looked enormous but compact at the same time (as our friend Giorgio described the Catana 582 when he went to see her before us in Cape Town). I immediately liked her.