Sunday 22nd May.
The time was fast approaching for our departure to Bemruda. As we sat having a couple of ‘Pain Killers’ (cocktails) you could see the worry and fear in Carlottas face. I always experience a sickening feeling before doing a crossing of any length and maybe it was just the tiredness or the stress of preparing for the voyage over the past few weeks that the sickening feeling was back. My mind was playing over all the scenarios that could potentially destroy our trip if not our lives. I always thinking of the what if’s and the whys so much so that I get very little sleep before setting off.
We were joined by somne very good friends in our anchorage and these were the lovely people we were now having dinner with in Saba Rock. It was hard to talk and although enjoy every bit of their company it was time to leave. They kindly offered us showers aboard the luxury catamarans they worked and one of the crew were kindly housing Carlotta before she caught her flight on Monday.
So this was it. At 02:00 AM on Sunday 22nd Troskala pulled out of Eustatia Sound and headed East to clear Anegada’s Horse Shoe reef, the third largest reef in the world. All was good but the mood was sombre . Olly was positioned at the bow to look out for lobster pots, which were everywhere. After a short period the anchors lights of our friends yachts faded and we now truly on our own.
All was going well until the engine cut out. This was not good news. I hurried below and tried to turn over the engine again but to no avail. We sensed that it was a fuel issue and I noticed that the bleed screw for the secondary fuel filter was loose s maybe this was causing air to get into the system.
We set our genoa in the mean time and sailed south whilst eye removed the plug, cleaned it, bled the system and tried to prime the fuel. The engine started but soon cut out. I repeated the process but to no avail. I was not dog sick and completely worn out. My only option was to turn back as we were now only ten miles away. This is what we did.
I phoned Carlotta and had her on stand by. We would have to sail through the reefs and anchor under sail in the lee of Eustatia Island. This was going to be a challenge but I know the waters well and we had a full moon which assisted us. The mood on board was very bad. To have to turn back after mentally preparing yourself for a long voyage is something no-one should have to go through. I felt bad for the crew and could only think the worst that maybe our left-pump had failed and that it would days before a new one could be sent to the BVI’s.
We made our anchorage around six AM and tacked up to our friends yacht before dropping anchor and furing our genoa, We had anchored under sail like professionals and could now access our situation.
Carlotta was on hand to call the contractors who has cleaned our fuel tank and installed the new filters. A gentleman by the name of Shadow was to bring his riob from Spanish Town to North Sound and assist us. We had managed to diagnose the problem somewhat and could see that there was no fuel coming from our fuel tank. I knew we had enough in the tank but something was stopping it.
We took the opportunity waiting for Shadow to have some sleep. He arrived a few hours later and agreed that the issue was related to the tank. Upon stripping the valve we found a certain amount of silicon plastic blocking the value. This was the culprit. How it got there we can only imagine but upon repairing the fuel sender unit the other day I think it we would not be far wrong in saying that was where the problem came from.
All was good and we decided that we would leave in the afternoon, twelve hours after our initial departure. We took the opportunity to rest, swim and thank our friends. Mentally we felt better to leave than we had the night before.
Troskala left again at 15:00. We motored East for three hours to clear the reef and had no issues with our engine. We set sail around 18:00 and set off on our course of 2*.
The sea was lumpy and we were already all feeling sea sick. I prepared bangers and mash for super but my beloved sausages took a swim as we just could not keep them down. We were making good speed with the wind around fifteen knots on a broad reach. The Moon was stunning as were the phosphorescence but our moods did not lift as we were so tired.
Monday 23rd May
The morning brought with it strong winds. We were storming along at seven knots and recorded nine knots the evening before, We had some cereal as we were all still feeling a little sick. I think was suffering the most. It was wired being out here on Troskala again. We felt so small and with such a long journey ahead I could not help to feel apprehensive and doubt as to why I was putting myself through this again.
Jovita made some lovely wraps for lunch, which managed to stay down fully. For dinner we had a stir-fry. The moon was yet again beautiful. We recorded a daily mileage of 165 miles, which is fast for Troskala. At this rate we will be there in six days.
It was nice to be able to use our sat-phone to receive emails and an updated weather forecast, something we could not easily do on our voyage across the Atlantic in 2012.
Tuesday 24th May
It does not feel like the second day. It feels like the fifth day. My stomach has settled but I am so tired. It is hard to do anything. Ollie is suffering from an ear infection, which is not helping him.
We had cereal for breakfast. We managed to catch three flying fish on deck but only small omes. We had wraps for lunch again.
We all slept in the afternoon and felt much better for it. The seas have calmed but with that our speed has reduced. Just received an updated forecast and the winf is set to fill in ahain for the evening.
As I felt mush better and my spirits were up I cooked pork tenderloin with roasted vegetables and mashed potato. This went down very well and the crew spirits lifted. We had a lovely evening and felt that we were finally in the swing of things. It is so beautiful out here.
We are set to complete another day of achiving over 160 miles. Fantastic!
Wednesday 25th May
We continue to make very good progress. For two days we have made over 160 miles, which is pleasing.
We have started getting into a routine now. We adopted a fixed watch schedule. My shift starts at 00:00 to 04:00 and 12:00 to 16:00, Jovita starts from 04:00 to 08:00 and then 16:00 to 20:00 and Ollie completes the day starting at 20:00 to 00:00 and then 08:00 to 12:00. I have not received any complaints and we all seem happy with the plan.
We normally have breakfast when we are all awake at 10:00 AM and will lunch together also. We then spend the afternoon sleeping and then cook dinner around 19:00.
Today we managed to complete our first noon site to find out our latitude. I was first and managed to get a fair result. We will try each day until we are very happy with our noon accuracy before then obtaining our afternoon sun sights.
The sea became more lumpy towards the end of the day. We can see some squalls on the horizon so expect a disturbed evening but everyone is currently in high spirits.
Ollie cooked chicken wrapped in bacon with a lovely vegetable ratatouille and then started his shift. Another day has past another 162 miles achieved. Troskala is performing well and taking each wave in her stride. She seems happy to be back out at sea.
We had quite a lumpy night and some discomfort. Jovita experienced an amazing sunrise. We ate avocado on toast for breakfast and then ran the engine for an hour to charge our batteries.
I cooked a tortilla con patatat for lunch with crispy bacon, which went down very well with the crew. We had enough for breakfast the next day. We feel like we are eating like kings and queens and I personally love the distraction of cooking rather than looking at our miles.
Jovita took her turn in taking our noon sight with some success. It is certainly one thing to do the theory in a classroom but a completely different experience doing the sights on a rocking boat. A lot more practise is required.
The day came and went as they do although the evening sky caused concern. Clouds were rolling in with a line of squalls apparent on the horizon. We had a couple of showers but it was not until the start of Ollies watch that things started to get difficult. Carlotta sent a text on the Yellow Brick tracked highlighting a very deep area of low pressure close to us but heading west. We found ourselves right on the edge of the high and forming low. This brought gusts up to twenty knots at the start of the evening.
By the time my watch started the weather-deteriorated somewhat. At midnight the Yellow Brick sent out a position recorded a height above see level of six meters. Yes, our waves felt that high. The wind then increased to 28 knots. All crew were summoned on deck where we put two reefs in the genoa and one reef in the main. This settled Troskala but the howling of the wind and the motion were not nice and we spent a very uncomfortable night at sea.
We cannot complain to much and although the above was a challenge we have been blessed with fair winds for much of our journey and like all sailing journeys we have to take the rough with the smooth. Looking back our experience last night was useful to the crew and me. We performed well together and carried out a very calm and well conveyed reefing. We discussed prior to doing anything what was to be done, how it was to be done and by whom. All in all a successful evening.
This was a day of catching up on sleep. We were all so tired from the previous night. We finished the Tortilla I had made for breakfast skipped lunch and finished off the lasagne I had made the previous day for dinner.
We managed to get another noon sight but not as accurately before. The sun was not in its best state to be viewed.
A fairly uneventful day today. The wind eased slightly but we were still achieving over five knots, which was pleasing. We found out that the weather from last night turned out to be a very deep low heading to the US coast. Fortunately for us we were East of it but were only a few miles from it, which explained the strong headwinds we were experiencing.
Ollie cooked a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, avocado, bacon, smoked salmon and toast. It was a good start to the day. The sun was beating hard and although the sea temperature has gone down to 23.9 degrees from 28.5 in the BVI’s it still gets hot during the day. At night we have to now either wrap up in blankets of sleeping bags on watch as the air temperature drops to around 18 degrees.
We had a bit of a tidy up on deck as we know we will be entering Bermuda tomorrow we want to look like a yacht that has not spent six days at sea. I cleaned the top decks removing any rust stains and gave Troskala a fresh water wash-down and chamois to get her looking very clean. Ollie washed down the cockpit and Jovita made a lovely lunch of ham, cheese and tomatoe wraps.
We celebrated our evening with some wine as this would be our last night at sea. We were given a superb sunset and just at the end of nautical twilight we saw Dolphins, which excited Jovita no end.
As I wright this we are sitting 17 miles off Bermuda. We have made contact with the very official but very professional Bermuda Radio to let them know when we are arriving. We have slowed Troskala to a crawl so to make the entrance in daylight. We have been gifted to see over ten shooting stars in one hour over Bermuda and with the moon to rise at any moment the sight should be fantastic. On one hand it is nice to arrive safely to land but it is a shame to miss the beauty for three nights and unfortunately it is the last night for Jovita. William Bates will be arriving in Bermuda tomorrow ready to take her place.
I hope to send as many photos as possible of Bermuda.