Leaving Las Palmas Sunday morning, our next stop was planned to be Port St. Charles on the island of Barbados in the eastern Caribbean, 2636 nautical miles west.
The plan was to go north, around the top of Gran Canaria, then southwest between the islands as to afford some protection from the wind.
Leaving the protected harbor of Las Palmas, we encountered strong, NW winds that had produced, large seas since the current was running from south to north on the east side of Grand Canary island. As the seas built to 10 to 15 feet, it was clear that “this dog doesn’t hunt”.
So, 48 minutes into our Atlantic crossing, we turned tail and headed south.
An interesting start. Does make one a bit nervous when the plan changes in the first hour of a 400-hour trip.
We rounded the south end of the island and set the autopilot for 260° and settled in to an anticipated 16 or 17-day passage.
As the day progressed, the winds came around to the south-southeast at 12 to 16 knots and stayed that way for the next 26 hours.
The problem was with these SE winds producing 3 to 6-foot wind driven waves from the southeast, we also had a west to northwest Atlantic swell with waves 6 to 10 feet on a 10 second period. The combination produced a corkscrew pitching, though most of the roll was being eliminated by the paravanes stabilizers. It also slowed us significantly, doing only 4 to 5 knots through most of the period.
A close encounter of the annoying kind
A little after 04:00, it’s pitch dark outside, Dauntless is rolling along at 4.3 knots.
I see a radar return of a boat about a mile north of our course and pretty much on the same course. It’s a small boat, as the radar return is relatively weak and of course no AIS, the automated ship information that would have been on my navigation chart anytime an AIS equipped boat gets within 5+ miles. It also provides course and peed so it takes a lot of the guess work out. Since I’ve had it on Dauntless, big ships don’t get as close anymore.
I get the binoculars and can see his red running light as well as his stern light.
So, he is ahead and to the right of my course. OK, I turn left about 10° to put some distance between us. Over the next half hour, I realize, instead of getting further apart, he now seems to be on a direct heading towards Dauntless.
As I am looking at him again, it all becomes clear. He shines a spotlight on to his mainsail. And in this vast ocean, not having seen another boat for the last 12 hours, this guy decides to wait until we show up to tack and basically cut right in front of me. At night, with seas bouncing the boat around, he puts our two boats on a collision course.
What a fucking moron. Remember, it’s dark out. In day light, it’s much easier to understand the situation and what needs to be done. At night, with only the radar for guidance, nobody would want to purposely get so close to another boat.
I turn more to the left, south, but to my horror, within minutes I realize he is now only a quarter mile away. He shines his light on his stupid sail again. He’s telling me he has the rig
ht of way, yes, he has the right to be dead too.
I’ve turned left twice, I am actually a bit afraid since my attempts to get further away, he is now closer. What don’t I understand?? Clearly, I understand neither his course nor intentions.
Again, this kind of situation is much easier to deal with in daylight, but now, only seeing two points of light, with no perspective, he could be 100 feet away, or it could be Mars and Venus.
I have to do something and do it quickly.
I no longer trust him, his course seems to be crossing ahead of Dauntless, therefore, I do the only thing I can to make sure he does not hit me. I turn sharply right, 90° right. This way, I can watch him and keep him to my left. He is going south, crossing my western track, so I will go north and once I get north of him, I will turn west.
I’m going north, he is going south and he passes me about a quarter mile to the west, on my left. In other words, if not for my right turn, he would have crossed just in front of Dauntless.
One of my rules is I never want to pass directly in front of another boat, big or small. I aim for their stern to pass behind.
After he passes, I turn again west and he turns again west now about a mile south of my course, but again on a parallel course. He’s probably going to Barbados also.
As the sun rises I can see him off to the south.
A Course Change
Finally, a few hours after day break on the second day, the winds died down (as forecast by the way) to less than 5 knots. The NW swell was still present, but without the wind driven waves, we could pull in the paravanes birds and our speed increased to 6 knots at 1500 rpms.
Now at this point we were still about 45nm ESE of the furthest west Canary Island, El Hierro, the island that Columbus set off from 500 years ago from the port of La Restinga.
Our current course was 260°, the port of La Restinga was at 289°, therefore not a big detour and when I looked more closely, it only added 6 nm to our entire trip. Thus, even though I was sure we had enough fuel for Barbados, if I would run out of fuel within sight of Barbados, I don’t think I would ever hear the end of it.
And I felt it was best to get away from my errant buddy. I’m in credulous that anyone, at night, would purposely pass in front of another boat.
Thinking of the encounter a couple of hours later, I think that even though I saw his boat for quite a while, he must not have seen Dauntless, until he tacked in front of me. But still, why make the safety of your boat depend on someone else’s action? Sometimes Right of Way really means Right to Be Dead.
Seven hours later, we pull into the little harbor of La Restinga. It’s really a cute little harbor.
Docked along the wall, behind the rescue boat, the security guard came by, to help with our lines and take our information. Very nice. As I have said previously, all of a sudden, being in the Canaries, is like being in northern Spain again.
These are sea-going folk, unlike the olive and cattle people of Spain’s southeast.
Well, after we got all tied up, it turned out we cannot get fuel until Wednesday, as Tuesday was a big holiday, so just like that, we are having a two-day vacation.
For a few seconds, I briefing debated just leaving, but again, I don’t like being ridiculed and more seriously, I was meticulous in fueling at Las Palmas, so this gives me an opportunity to measure my exact fuel consumption at 1500 rpms over a 30-hour period.
My guess is that it will be 1.4 gallons per hour, ±0.1 gallon.
I’ll tell you tomorrow.
And now Wednesday night, it is tomorrow. But still no fuel. They ran out. Maybe the truck comes tomorrow. Maybe.
In any case, once having made the decision to stop for fuel, I will wait for fuel. I only need about 50 gallons, 200 liters, but it’s a cute harbor, with nice people, excellent food and wine and it’s a volcano.
What more can one ask for!!!