Sunday, April 01, 2007

St Helena to Grenada

When we left St Helena in early March, we had several options for our destination:

- Ascension Island about 700nm

- Forteleza, Brazil about 2000nm

- Fernando de Noronha, Brazil, about 1700nm

- Tobago about 3,500nm.

Ascension was ruled-out after a few days’ sailing as we were only getting into the passage at this stage and it seemed easier to keep going. We began to have some problems with the SSB around this time, which meant poor contact with Petrel and La Familia who were doing the same passage. Winds were light, but consistent, and we were making fairly good progress towards the equator. We hit the doldrums around 2S, 34W. Light winds, one large thunderstorm during the day followed by electrical storms at night. Listening to Herb on Southbound 2, we heard that the ITCZ (aka the doldrums) extended to about 4 N. Not having enough diesel to get to 4 N, we spent a few days sailing due North in light winds changing from twin sails to cruising chute to genoa as the wind stayed light and variable. Just north of the equator, we began to get some NE winds and as we motor-sailed though the night, they got stronger. Around 1N we were getting 15kts from the NE and switched back to our course for Tobago. The wind stayed with us until we got to around 6N when it faded again, giving us some unexpectedly slow days as we got closer to our destination. Our landfall in Tobago would have required slowing down to make it in daylight, so we sailed on during the night to get to Prickly Bay, Grenada where we had some friends from our previous visits. Making our arrival after 30 days at sea, our longest duration passage.

Having done the passage up from St Helena, I would recommend a course south of Fernando de Noronha along the Brazilian coast passing close to Forteleza. This has the advantage of having favourable current. We were too far off the coast to benefit from this current, especially with our northerly course through the doldrums. Boats which came-up from Forteleza had very fast passages, often with 2kts of current close to the 200m line.