As you may or may not know my Dad, Miki, and a couple of his friends, Grant and Martin are currently sailing across the Atlantic From The Canary Islands to St Lucia, a distance of approximately 4,828 km (3,000 Miles) as the crow flies. I thought I would give a brief outline of the voyage and hopefully answer some questions.
Dad has had the boat, named Minderbinder after a character in Catch 22, and been sailing for as long as I can remember, he knows everything there is to know about sailing and obviously knows the boat extremely well. He has sailed all round the Mediterranean and various other areas for many years and has in the past sailed across the English channel a few times. He has sailed with Grant on several occasions. Grant is always very cool and unflappable and is also very familiar with the boat, he is always up for some fun and adventure. I unfortunately don’t know Martin. Dad advertised for a third person and Martin answered the call. I understand he is ex navy and is extremely knowledgeable and has also owned a couple of boats himself. Perhaps someone could post a reply to this blog and give us some more information on him. Between the three of them they have a huge amount of knowledge and experience.
The boat is a 32 foot Fountaine-Pajot Maldives catamaran or cat for short. This, for the uninitiated, has two hulls. Traditional yachts have a single hull and need a huge & massively heavy keel to keep the boat upright. Even then, when the wind blows it will lean over. The catamaran design is much more stable and does not lean, it also only needs very small keels, nowhere near as large and certainly nowhere near as heavy as a mono-hull. Consequently cats are much lighter and therefore generally faster. I have had many a holiday on the boat and have lots of good memories.
They have picked January to do the trip because the weather is good this time of year, the trade winds are reliable and blowing in the right direction, generally. This makes it a perfect time to set sail. A recent tweet reported 30′c weather, pretty warm. Should be like that all the way across. Much nicer than freezing England. It’s still going to take them about three weeks, all depends on the wind. I hope they have lots to talk about as eye spy gets pretty boring pretty quick.
As you know they have been able to keep in contact with us all via Twitter. This was Grant’s idea and is working very well. They are sending tweets via a sat phone which has global coverage thanks to three Inmarsats in orbit.
Power is a finite commodity on the boat so the phone is only turned on from time to time, therefore please don’t worry if you don’t hear anything back for long periods. The boat does have a solar cell to generate power but I think most of this will go to powering the auto helm so that you don’t have to steer manually all the time. They can generate electricity from running the engine, but again, fuel is a finite commodity.
A few notes on using Twitter. If you are being followed by @minderbinder1 then anything you tweet, they should see. Some people have reported that their messages seem not to have got through. If this is the case you may want to start all your tweets destined for Minderbinder with @minderbinder1 in the message. The sat phone they are using may have some simple twitter client that requires the @minderbinder1 in it for them to receive a message from you. If you want to send them a message that will not be visible to everyone then you can Direct Message (DM) them. This is only possible if you are following them and they are following you. A fairly good guide to Twitter for the beginner here.
That’s it for now, I may add some more to this in the future. Meanwhile I will continue to try and keep their progress updated on the map below. This is also accessible on the Minderbinder Twitter Page.
Update on Tuesday 15th January 2013
On Monday evening I got a call from Grant saying he had not received any messages since the evening before. We were seeing tweets from him. Long story short Grant found out that the phones memory had been filled. After deleting the old messages all was good again. Rather bad that the phone did not flash up any ‘memory full’ warnings. Minor glitch in comms. All good again now.
Voice call from satphone was nasty. I could barely make out what he was saying. Also had very high latency, but this is to be expected as signal is travelling 22,236 miles up to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit then back down again, not to mention the local routing from earth station to a cellular phone. Amazing it works at all
Found out how they were manning the boat 24 hours a day. The system is; Grant 20:00-23:00 Martin 23:00-02:00 & Miki 02:00-05:00 then Grant again from 05:00-08:00. During the day all three are up together.
They should pass the halfway mark at some point tonight. Quite impressive. Looks like the trade winds are going to come back late on the 18th. These nice Easterly winds at 15kts is just what they need. Recently the winds have been all over the place and too low to sail, they have had to motor.
I took a guess on their arrival time at Barbados by averaging out speed and projecting that over distance left and came out with midday (GMT) on the 27th Jan. Will see how accurate that is in a couple of weeks Anyone else care to hazard a guess?
Update on Monday 21st January 2013
The trade winds have now come back and looks like they will be here for the rest of the week. They estimate reaching Carlisle Bay, Barbados by Saturday 26th. If they have no further problems and the wind does indeed keep blowing as planned then I recon they could get there as early as 04:30 on Saturday. My conservative estimate is about Sunday 27th at 08:00.
Thanks to @G1Grindell & @TrevorBarnard2 for keeping the weather reports going whilst I was unable to do so. If anyone is interested on how to obtain weather reports then please see my earlier blog here.
They seem to have had to repair the sails a few times as it has been torn by the winds. Luckily Martin seems to have this under control.
They have also had a large electrical storm on the 18th which must have been somewhat scary as you are in the middle of the Atlantic with nothing else in sight and a huge aluminium mast waving about at the sky. Add to that 40kt winds and I bet very little sleep was had that day.
On the 20th the spinnaker Halyard snapped and the spinnaker got washed under the port bow, but was recovered and stowed. Rest of night spent on jib. They still made very good time.
Hoping the rest of the voyage is easier and sure they are looking forward to seeing land which is now just 760 miles to go.
Update on Thursday 24th January 2013
No Tweets received from about 19:17 on Tuesday the 22nd Jan. From day one we were never sure how long the electricity would last on the voyage. It appears the auto helm eats up a large quanta of power and little is left for other things. Running the motor will generate lots of power, but I think the fuel has been used up on a couple of days when there was no wind. Therefore assume sat phone battery is flat and not enough power to recharge, either that of fault with phone. I have tried calling the phone and just hear my own voice echoed back a second later. Looking into Inmarsat to see if there is a know issue with the network.
I have taken an average speed for last 3 known days and came out with 6.8kts. Looking at weather it’s pretty much the same as last 3 days so assume this speed is a good guess for last 2 days. Therefore in the 51 hours since last recorded position; at 6.8kts they should have travelled a further 393 Miles. This puts them at approx 13 56N 56 35W @ 15:30 on Thursday 24th. This is approx 215 miles to Barbados. In case they are able to receive messages I have sent out a weather report. However strongly suspect the power has run out and we will next hear from them when they get to Barbados.
Update on Thursday 24th January 2013 @ 16:15
After calling various people at Inmarsat to check for faults on system etc, which there were none, I found the company Grant bought phone from and they were able to tell me there was no credit on the phone!!! So I have now put some money on it and hope this will fix the issue. I do remember Grant telling me they will be able to top it up at sea even if they run out of credit and Satcom Global agree this is the case. However perhaps he’s lost his credit cards or something? Anyhow, payment should take no more than an hour to go through and then hope normal service will be restored.
Update on Thursday 24th January 2013 @ 16:50
Comms back. Minderbinder & crew all well. Good to hear from them again.
Update on Saturday 26th January 2013 @ 12:00
Land sighted by crew at 04:30 GMT (12:30 Atlantic Standard Time) and they are sailing round the north of Barbados to the Port of St Charles (13 15 37N 59 38 40W) to pass customs. A truly amazing achievement arriving a full 24 hours earlier than my original estimate. Sure land will be most welcome after 5,084 km (3,159 miles) & 20 days, 19 hours at sea. Well done to the crew of Minderbinder on this momentous adventure.
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” ? John Steinbeck
Feel free to ask me any questions and I will do my best to answer them. Please post on comments here or tweet me @entropy1024.