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Atlantic Crossing

Updated: Jun 23

By Pete Hill

Linda decided to fly to Europe instead of sailing across the Atlantic as it was her perfect opportunity to spend some time with family and friends. Linda wasn't happy about me sailing single handed across the Atlantic in Kokachin on my own, but I was. The answer seemed to be to find out if my friend Simon from Tasmania would be interested in joining me. He seemed to be very happy to to do so. He flew to Florida a couple of days before we set off.

I've sailed with Simon before on a very long trip and found him to be an excellent crew and companion. We spent 72 days sailing from Brazil to Tasmania.

Simon and I left Palm Beach Inlet at 1700, on the 14th March, after Linda had gone to the train station. Motored out and sailed ENE in a nice SSE force 4. The wind slowly veered to the SW over the next couple of days, reaching F 6 for a time. The wind then backed to the S, just abaft the beam, about F 5 to 6. We had the best days run of 166 miles. On the 19th one of the shackles on the mainsheet broke and while taming the sail the sheet tore off the self steering (SS)  uprights. Simon steered for about 7 hours while I repaired the SS. The wind increased to F 8 and we ran off with just the top of the fore sail. The front then passed and we gybed and hoisted the top of the main. The wind then veered to the N and eased off to F 3 to 4. On the 21st the wind had backed to the W F 4 and we arrived in Bermuda at St George's just before midnight. Customs told us that we were the first yacht of the season to arrive.

Just over 7 days, 963 miles by GPS. 

We spent 10 days in Bermuda, having to shelter twice from strong winds and then set out on the 31st March with a WSW wind F 5 to 6.

The plan was to sail due East along the 32nd parallel until 30 W and then sail NE through the Azores to Falmouth.

The first week we had fair winds varying from F3 to F7 and we covered 1079 miles in the 7 days. The second week the wind remained fair but much lighter and by the end of that week the wind had gone into the ENE. Now close-hauled and not laying the course. The wind increased and on the night of the 14/15 th we were hove to for a few hours with quite big seas from the NE. The wind veered to the E and while tacking the sheet caught around the SS and broke one of the uprights. I got Kokachin steering herself to windward while repairing the SS. The wind stayed in the NE until the 16th and then backed to the NW  and then SW. We were now at 30 W and turned to the NE, laying the course for the first time in days. At midnight on 18/19 th we passed between Terceira and Sao Miguel in the Azores. We then had a few days of light SE winds. On the evening of the 22nd the wind went into the ENE F3 and we were sailing more N than NE until the 24th when the wind backed to the NNW and  slowly increased to F7 the next day.

About noon on the 25th the SS slipped around and put us beam on to the seas and were knocked down about 60 degrees.  The wind then eased off and stayed in the N until the 28th when it backed to the SW F6. At about dawn we sailed through the fleet of racers in a French single handed transatlantic race. We were doing 6 knots, they were doing 18.5 to 22 knots. There were about 15 of them quite close together on AIS and I actually saw 3 of them in the thick weather. Overnight on the 29/30th the wind backed to the SE F7 and we spent about 6 hours hove to 25 miles SW of the Lizard. The wind eased at dawn and at 1030 we were anchored in Falmouth on 30 April.

30 days and 3669 miles by GPS.

As expected Simon and I got on very well and he proved yet again an excellent crew, I always slept well when he was on watch (as I do with Linda!). I hope to sail with him again.

Anchor Troubles in Bermuda

Strong Southerly winds were forecasted so we moved anchor from St George's Town to the south side of the harbour behind a little island. We were well sheltered and spent a day there. When the wind eased we decided to move back to St George's Town. Getting the anchor in it appeared to be fouled. Using the electric windlass, a corner of a large piece of steel slowly came near the surface with the chain wrapped around a protrusion at one end. Holding the chain with a rope I could then unwrap it from around that corner. The metal then dropped down and we could take in a bit more chain, however after a few more feet it seemed firmly stuck. The windlass couldn't bring any more chain in, and was depressing the bow, the piece of metal was obviously too heavy to lift. Simon gallantly said he would go and try to swim down to see what the problem was and try to free it. The main problem was that we were in 8 metres of water, which is a long way to go down.  

Simon jumped in, swam to the bow and then pulled himself down the chain. He came back up again, went down a second time, came back up again, and went down a third time. When he came up he said, he only got about maybe half way down but he could not clear his ears and he wasn't prepared to burst his ear drums to clear the chain. Quite rightly so. He climbed up on board.

OK now it was my turn. I took my clothes off, put some goggles on and flippers, and swam to the bow and then pulled myself down. I almost got to the bottom, a bit murky, and then came back up again. Took some deep breaths, I climbed down the chain again, managed to get to the bottom.  I could see what the problem was. The chain was caught twice around the corner of the steel. Anyway, after two more trips down I managed to get a rope through the chain and Simon tightened the rope and then slacked off the chain. After a few move dives I was able to untangle the chain.

We then slipped the rope, weighed the anchor, and returned safely to St George's.   I can't say it was easy. I was surprised I could actually get down that far. It was fairly cold and took a bit of warming up once I got back on deck. Although I had a wet suit on board it probably would have created too much buoyancy to get down 8 metres.

​Knock Down

We were off the Bay of Biscay. The wind was about Force 7 (30 knots), but with quite big seas and breaking waves. We'd been hove to on the port tack overnight. This was achieved by reefing the sails to the top panels on both sails​, sheeting them hard in, and setting the self steering to sail close hauled.

We were faring well, a few waves coming over the port bow but no real problems. After breakfast I turned in for few hours of sleep. Simon was on watch keeping a regular lookout from below, popping his head out at regular intervals and it was fortunate he was not on deck at the time of knock down.

About 12 o'clock we got hit by a breaking wave on the beam and were knocked down about 60 degrees. I was flung against the midship partition of the bunk and there was a crashing loud sound from the saloon. Kokachin came back quickly, so there was no fear that she was to go over and stay there.

After quickly dressing I found that Simon was OK and he had started to clear up the mess by the chart table. Putting on oilskins I went on deck and saw that the problem had been caused by the wind-vane slipping sideways so that we were almost beam on to the seas. I sorted that out and then re-stowed some loose bits on the cabin roof. The man overboard light bracket was broken and I retrieved the light floating at the end of it's line.

I then opened the hatch to see how Simon was getting on and he handed up a bag of broken glass. Many of the loose items in the galley had been flung over to the chart table. As well as broken glass Simon was mopping up soy sauce and sesame oil (Linda’s Oriental Cuisine!). On coming below I started helping sort things out.  All the books on the port side were flung across to the starboard side and I slowly put them back. It took another half hour to clear up the mess. The only real damage was the broken door under the chart table which had been hit by the floorboard, next to the stove, flying across and a few small broken bottles. Simon had a small cut from the broken glass, but otherwise we were both undamaged. By the early evening the wind and seas had moderated and we were sailing again.

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