Gran Canaria, Spain to Bridgetown, Barbados
August 25 – September 12, 2018
Day 1 – Saturday, August 25, 2018
I spent yesterday afternoon picking up last-minute supplies for my trans-Atlantic crossing. I considered staying here at Las Palmas for a few days. By the time I was ready to turn in last night, I knew I was eager to get under way to the Caribbean and that there was no reason to hang around Gran Canaria any longer. The weather is looking good for the week ahead with the exception of a calm area forecast to pass through the center of my route. I doubt I will reach that far when the calm air happens.
I went to sleep at around 8:00 PM last night. I was back up at 3:00 AM this morning. At 3:50 AM, I brought in my dock lines and headed south out of the harbor. It’s almost a full moon, so it almost looks like daylight. I figured, once I am clear of Gran Canaria, I can set the helm on autopilot and take a nap. I have about 3 weeks of sailing ahead of me.
By about 4:30 AM, I was clear of the harbor and was sailing south along the east coast of Gran Canaria. I decided to get a little sleep since there is no other boat traffic and the wind is only blowing about 10 knots.
I made my way around Gran Canaria and then set my heading for about 250º. I did a great circle calculation, which gave my direct heading as 259º. However, I think my winds will be better if I stay farther south. At about 6:30 PM, I had traveled about 100 nm from Las Palmas. Only ~2,500 nm to go.
At around 7:30 PM, I noted that the wind had dropped to about 8 knots. I checked the forecast and it showed a wind shadow south of the Canary Islands. I decided to turn north a bit so that I was closer to sailing on a beam reach, which would give me more speed. Once I am away from the influence of the Canary Islands, the wind should pick up and I can turn back toward Barbados.
Before heading below at about 10:30 PM, the wind shifted more to the north, so I was able to go back on course. The wind speed is down to about 6 knots now and my boat speed isn’t much over 5 knots. It has not been a very fast first day at sea, but I’ve got a couple of weeks to go still and I’m hoping tomorrow will be better.
Day 2 – Sunday, August 26, 2018
08/26/2018 0508 UTC – 26º 57.56′ N 18º 3.9′ W
The sun isn’t up yet, but it looks like it’s going to be another beautiful day. It feels like I’m not making much progress, but since I am now 173 nm from Las Palmas, that isn’t a bad distance for one day. The wind has picked up a bit. I think I should be out of the influence of the Canary Islands by this afternoon.
At a little before 3:00 PM, I checked the wind forecast and it looks good through the next week. Right now, there isn’t any advantage to staying south of a direct course. My GPS puts my great circle course at 258º, so that’s where I’ve set the helm.
I am seeing a lot more other boats on the navigation display here in the Atlantic. It’s interesting how everyone seems to congregate here. The Atlantic is ok, but the Pacific Ocean will always be my favorite.
At sunset, the wind was up to 12-18 knots and a couple of times my boat speed reached 8 knots. I also looked at my ship’s time and decided I’d have to resort to using a map to tell which time zone I’m currently in, which is what I did when I was crossing the Pacific Ocean. The GPS clock on the navigation system is accurate only when looking at UTC. What is shows as local time frequently isn’t local time. My current longitude is UTC -1, so sunset tonight is at about 6:45 PM.
I’ve had to make a couple of slight heading adjustments this afternoon as the current changes so that I keep my COG at 258º. After the sun sets, I’ll have some dinner, check the autopilot again and then call it a day.
Day 3 – Monday, August 27, 2018
08/27/2018 0509 UTC – 26º 11.5′ N 21º 15.19′ W
I awoke today to winds that were much stronger than yesterday. The winds are consistently at 15-20 knots and my SOG is 7-8 knots. I’ve traveled just about 180 nm in the past 24 hours. The weather is good again today. Not much to do but watch the helm and the ocean.
At about 1:30 PM, I checked my position and noted that I had crossed into another time zone. I am now UTC -2. One thing nice about travel by sea is there is no jet lag. The time changes are gradual. The wind continues to be brisk and my speed is still above 7 knots. The GPS is estimating Barbados in about 12 days.
Day 4 – Tuesday, August 28, 2018
08/28/2018 0521 UTC – 25º 28.99′ N 24º 34.66′ W
The wind continued strong in the morning and then started to decrease a bit in the afternoon. In the late afternoon, the sky was partly cloudy and the wind was 12-15 knots. My boat speed has been right around 7 knots, but as the wind direction moves more to the east, I anticipate that I will lose some of my speed.
I checked the weather forecast for the next 5 days and there is a tropical depression that is forecast to form this weekend near the Cape Verde islands some 600 nm to the south. The low pressure system is expected to head northwest and cross the mid-point of my voyage. The crossing is probably about the same point that I will. The storm isn’t strong enough to cause me concern, but the aftermath shows the trade winds will be disturbed and I might have to get creative when I loose the easterly wind that is the norm in this part of the Atlantic.
Sometimes weather forecasts are very accurate and sometimes they’re not accurate at all. The problem when sailing vast distances is that I have to make navigation decisions based on what might be happening next week. The best I can do now is navigate with the belief that the forecast will be accurate. With that said, I turned 10º to starboard and will head for a point that appears will be on the west leading edge of the storm and should allow me some decent winds for my last leg to Barbados. If the storm doesn’t materialize, I can always turn back direct to Barbados. With the current wind direction, my turn has given me a bit more speed, which is always a good thing.
Day 5 – Wednesday, August 29, 2018
08/29/2018 0510 UTC – 24º 59.13′ N 27º 34.09′ W
Today is pretty much a carbon copy of yesterday. The winds are at around 15 knots and are more directly from the east now. By mid-afternoon, I am sailing almost directly downwind.
At around 3:00 PM, I checked the weather ahead and the storm I identified yesterday is still on the same predicted track. I should start feeling the effects of that system in about 800 nm, which will be around next Monday. For now, I’m making pretty good progress at about 160 nm per day.
Day 6 – Thursday, August 30, 2018
08/30/2018 0521 UTC – 24º 41.72′ N 30º 37.48′ W
I continue to make good progress. I am nearly 1,000 nm from the Canary Islands and a little over 1,700 nm to Barbados, so I’m not halfway quite yet. In the morning, the wind was blowing 12-15 knots. By early afternoon, the wind speed was up to 18-20 knots, which meant my boat speed was 8-9 knots. I wouldn’t mind having this stronger wind for a while. The seas are still comfortable as I’m sailing mostly down wind and the swells are coming up from behind.
After lunch, I made another check of the weather forecast. The storm that is forming near Cape Verde Islands has not been named yet. The forecast has changed a little, but it still looks like I will end up on the west side of it. I adjusted my next waypoint a little farther west and south at 20º N 50º W. I should be there in 5 days, at which time the storm should be kicking up behind me. The forecast shows good winds from that point down to Barbados.
Day 7 – Friday, August 31, 2018
08/31/2018 0537 UTC – 24º 12.51′ N 33º 55.29′ W
I was up at around 3:30 AM because the wind was quite strong and I needed to put a reef in the mainsail. The wind is 18-20 knots, gusting to 22 knots. My boat speed is averaging 8.5 knots. What really surprised me was when I checked the distance I had traveled since yesterday afternoon and I found I had traveled 110 nm. That’s a 24-hour distance of about 200 nm. At this speed, I should certainly outrun the tropical storm to the south. After making sure the sails and the helm were good, I headed back below for a few more hours of sleep.
The only change in the afternoon is increased cloud cover. It is now mostly cloudy and the temperature is a very comfortable 78ºF. The tropical storm forecast has remained unchanged, so I am on track to reach my next waypoint ahead of the storm. My distance total for the past 24 hours is 196 nm. The swells are at about 7ft, but it is still a relatively smooth ride since I’m sailing almost directly downwind.
Day 8 – Saturday, September 1, 2018
09/01/2018 0515 UTC – 23º 31′ N 37º 12′ W
I was up again at a little after 3:00 AM to check the weather. The wind speed has dropped a bit during the past 24 hours. Now it’s blowing 15-20 knots, closer to 15 and my boat speed is a little over 7 knots. The storm down near the Cape Verde Islands is being called Tropical Depression 6. It is strengthening and is expected to become Tropical Storm Florence later today. By the time the storm reaches my general vicinity, it should be Hurricane Florence.
Even though the storm is still about 850 nm southeast of my current position, it will quickly catch up to me around the middle of next week. I have superimposed several course options on the weather map. My concern is not getting caught by the storm, but I am concerned about losing wind for sailing once the storm passes behind me. The forecast, which has continued to be consistent for the past several days, shows that there will be calm air to the south and southwest of the storm when it is north of my expected position. I had hoped that by sailing to 20º N 50º W, I would have good winds blowing down toward Barbados. It now appears that won’t be the situation.
The option where I turn direct to Barbados looks like it will get me to a position where soon-to-be Hurricane Florence will pass behind me. After the storm passes, I may have calm wind for a day or so before the east trade winds return. The sailing should be good once the trade winds return.
At about 3:30 AM, I turned to a course of 248º and continued direct to Barbados with 1,424 nm to go. I have traveled 1,252 nm. Later today, I should be at the half-way point in my voyage. Once the helm was set, it was back to bed for a few hours.
The afternoon finds me in a new time zone, now UTC -3. It’s mostly overcast and the wind is blowing 17-18 knots. As predicted, the tropical depression was upgraded to Tropical Storm Florence earlier today. I plotted out my course and the expected track of the storm and found that our courses crossed about Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. The storm is expected to strengthen as it moves west. With the current predictions, it is clear that I will not be in a position for the storm to pass behind me.
I evaluated my course options, again, and decided to turn south, aiming for a position ahead, but south, of the storm. The waypoint I’m choosing is 16º N 42º W. Once I made the turn to 209º, my boat speed increased to about 8.5 knots, since I’m now sailing a broad reach port side. This course change has added about 100 nm to my trip, but it is better to not be pointed at the storm center.
Day 9 – Sunday, September 2, 2018
09/02/2018 0332 UTC – 21º 39.68′ N 39º 14.5′ W
I was up at a little after midnight to check the weather again. When there is a potential hurricane involved, it’s advisable to make frequent weather checks. During the past 12 hours, Tropical Storm Florence seems to be moving more west to west-northwest. I plotted my current course and it showed me intersecting the storm in 2 days. Perhaps this storm is following me?
I re-evaluated my course options and decided I would be in a better position concerning the storm if I turned more west. I plotted a course to a new waypoint at 20º 30′ N 47º 30′ W. I should reach that point in 2-1/2 days, at which time I should be just north of Florence. If this works, I can use the winds on the trailing edge of the storm. Once the storm passes, wind predictions are not very clear, so I will have to take what I get.
With my course change, I’m now on a course of 263º and sailing a broad reach starboard side. My speed is still about 8 knots. With the helm set, I headed below for some sleep.
In the afternoon, the skies cleared a bit. It was nice to see the sun again after the past couple of cloudy days. I checked the situation with Tropical Storm Florence. The storm seems to have slowed its western progression a bit and it hasn’t gotten any stronger from yesterday’s report. I plotted my course for the next couple of days and the storm’s projected progress. Now, it looks like, if I sail directly toward Barbados, I will cross the storm’s path ahead of its progression. In any event, which course to choose is a gamble, so I’m heading direct again.
The winds continue to be good at 18-20 knots and my boat speed is continuing at 8 knots. I have 1,166 nm to go to Bridgetown. I’ll make another check of the weather before I turn in this evening.
Day 10 – Monday, September 3, 2018
09/03/2018 0305 UTC – 20º 59.7′ N 42º 24.43′ W
It was nice weather this morning. The wind continues at 18-20 knots and my boat speed is still around 8 knots. So far, it looks like my direct course to Barbados is working out. Tropical Storm Florence has not increased strength and it is still southeast of me by a little under 500 nm.
At about noon, the sustained winds for Florence had gone from 45 to 50 knots. The storm forecast is suggesting, if the storm becomes a hurricane, that it will probably not happen until later in the week. I’m hoping that I will be far enough to the southwest that it will no longer be a factor.
Wind and boat speed are the same as this morning. I’ve traveled 95 nm since midnight and I have 1,006 nm to go. It looks like I should make Barbados on Friday or Saturday if the winds hold.
At around 6:15 PM, there was a beautiful sunset. Although the forecast for TS Florence is for a weakening of the storm, the storm’s winds have increased during the day to about 60 knots. The storm’s western progression has slowed by about 3 MPH and looks now as though the storm will pass behind me and turn more northwest. I will stay on my course of 246º, which is direct to Bridgetown.
09/04/2018 0244 UTC – 19º 45′ N 45º 25.36′ W
Day 11 – Tuesday, September 4, 2018
It’s another beautiful day in the Atlantic. TS Florence is still to the southeast of my position. This morning was the first time I could really relax with regard to how this storm will affect me. It is now almost certain that the storm will be no factor in my voyage. It looks like my navigation decisions worked just right.
At about noon, I checked the weather forecast again and found that TS Florence is now Hurricane Florence. Sometime during the morning, the sustained winds increased to about 65 knots and the storm was upgraded to a category 1 hurricane. I am sailing a course of 245º and the storm is moving west-northwest at 290º. I am about 250 nm west of the storm center and my distance should continue to increase. I expect my winds to be disrupted some once the storm gets farther north of me. For now, the wind speed is 13-15 knots and my speed is 7-8 knots. I have 822 nm to go for Bridgetown.
Since I expect the wind to decrease some through tomorrow, I am expecting that I will reach Bridgetown on Sunday. That’s only 5 days to go and will have been a 2-1/2 week Atlantic crossing, which is quicker than I expected.
09/05/2018 0248 UTC – 18º 31.26′ N 48º 7.77′ W
Day 12 – Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Another beautiful day in the Atlantic Ocean. I can’t believe how fortunate I was to depart for Barbados when I did. I sailed right past Hurricane Florence and did not get any of the bad weather.
At about 12:30 PM, my GPS reported that I am 691 nm from Bridgetown. During the morning, Hurricane Florence strengthened to a category 3 hurricane with winds at 105 knots. The storm is about 305 nm northeast of my position and it continues to move northwest. What is almost as hard to believe as my luck at missing the storm is the calm that the storm has left in its wake. Right now, the wind is barely 5 knots and my boat speed is about 3 knots. The forecast says that I will have another 24 hours or so of calm before the trade winds return. For now, I will just enjoy the peaceful sea and look forward to my arrival in Barbados sometime this weekend.
At a little before 3:30 PM, the wind went calm. I wasn’t making any progress and the sails were just flapping in the little puffs of air, so I dropped the sails. I have no choice, but to sit where I am until the wind starts up again. If I was on a real sailboat, I would be motoring right now. Since this is a sailing simulator, no motor.
This was an extremely long day. I was becalmed for about 6 hours. As the wind started to come back up, it was still light. By almost midnight, the wind was still only about 4 knots. In 12 hours, I’ve traveled a little over 15 nm. Hopefully the wind will be better tomorrow.
Day 13 – Thursday, September 6, 2018
09/06/2016 0328 UTC – 18º 1.7′ N 49º 17.27′ W
So far, today has been slow-going, although not a slow-going as yesterday. The wind is still around 5 knots, so I’m not going very fast. In the past 12 hours, I’ve traveled less than 50 nm. The forecast shows the wind should pick up some this evening. However, the long-range forecast is not good for any strong winds the rest of the way to Barbados. I had thought that I would arrive this weekend, but now it is looking like I will not arrive until possibly the first part of next week. Another storm is forming around the Cape Verde Islands. If I linger too long out here, I may have another hurricane run up on me.
Day 14 – Friday, September 7, 2018
09/07/2018 0303 UTC – 17º 16.6′ N 50º 36.37′ W
Light winds continue today. At a little before noon, they increased a bit to about 8 knots. Unfortunately, since the wind direction is directly astern, my speed is not very fast. In 24 hours, I’ve traveled less than 100 nm. I still have over 500 nm to go. At this pace, I won’t reach Bridgetown until Wednesday. There’s not much to do except enjoy the calm conditions.
In the late evening, the wind picked up a bit and the wind direction moved more directly from the east. The wind was 7-10 knots and my boat speed was up around 6 knots. I’m not sure how long this stronger wind will last, but I hope that I can make some better distance over night. I left the helm headed directly toward Bridgetown and turned in for the night.
09/08/2018 0243 UTC – 16º 32.61′ N 52º 11.06′ W
Day 15 – Saturday, September 8, 2018
Today is another crystal-clear day. The wind is slightly less than it was last night. The wind direction change to the southeast, so I’m getting better than 5 knots SOG with only 6-7 knots of wind. I passed another milestone this morning by crossing into another time zone. I am now UTC -4, which is often referred to as the Atlantic Time Zone. This will be my time zone for my travels in the Caribbean until I head for Jamaica.
There is a tropical depression to the east of me that is forecast to become a category 1 hurricane by the middle of this coming week. Luckily, I hope to be in Bridgetown by then. It is also good that Bridgetown is on the leeward side of the island, so that should provide some shelter.
As of 11:20 AM this morning, I am 404 nm east of Barbados. The GPS says 3 more days. It’s been a fairly easy passage across the Atlantic, but I am ready to see land now.
It wasn’t too far into the afternoon before the wind died off again. The wind speed was down to around 5 knots and the wind direction moved back directly astern. My speed into the evening was never over 4 knots. As long as the winds continue to be so light, I doubt I will arrive in Bridgetown before Wednesday. I went to bed around midnight feeling a bit frustrated. I’m less than 400 nm and it feels like it is taking forever to do this last segment. I shouldn’t have trouble sleeping with the sea being so calm.
Day 16 – Sunday, September 9, 2018
09/09/2018 0410 UTC – 15º 43.81′ N 53º 49.35′ W
Today, the wind has been mostly 5-7 knots. The wind direction moved back more to the east, which improved my sailing angle. It’s still slow-going with an average of around 100 nm per day. At around 12:30 PM, the GPS reported 314 nm to go and a little less than 3 days left. I think I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I try to look at the positive when I’m at sea. Even though the light winds have really slowed my progress for the past several days, it could be a lot worse. I could be facing headwinds or I could be facing hurricane winds. There is a storm about 900 nm behind me that is moving this way. I’m hoping that I can reach Bridgetown before it overtakes me. So, light winds, clear skies and calm seas are not all bad.
After sunset, the wind had not changed from what it was during the day. My boat speed is still right around 4 knots. I now have less than 300 nm to go. I’m hoping that, when I wake in the morning, I’ll be closer to 200 nm.
Day 17 – Monday, September 10, 2018
09/10/2018 0551 UTC – 14º 33.98′ N 55º 25.91′ W
Today was mostly a carbon copy of yesterday. The wind has picked up a little and it’s starting to look like I will arrive in Bridgetown sometime tomorrow.
Day 18 – Tuesday, September 11, 2018
09/11/2018 0514 UTC – 13º 46.85′ N 57º 34.25′ W
As of 11:00 AM, I have 72 nm to reach the southern tip of Barbados. With a boat speed of only about 5 knots, it will take me the rest of the day to get there. Unfortunately, it looks like I will arrive at Bridgetown well after dark. At least I will finally be there.
Tropical Storm Isaac is about 600 nm east-northeast of me. It looks like it will pass to the north of Barbados, which is very good news. For now, it is mostly sunny, about 82ºF, and I’m on the lookout for my first sighting of land in over 2 weeks.
It was an average day for distance. At about 10:30 PM, I reached the south coast of Barbados. I’m sailing around the south side of the island and will sail north to Bridgetown. It looks like I will get to the port a little after midnight. I wish I could have seen Barbados as I arrived.
Day 19 – Wednesday, September 12, 2018
At a little after 1:00 AM, I was secured at the dock in a marina at Bridgetown, Barbados. It has been a long passage, but I made it. Once I had my boat secured, I decided to sleep a few hours before checking in with Customs and Immigration and then exploring this new island for me. My plan is to stay here a couple of weeks and then explore some islands to the north.
09/12/2018 0510 UTC – 13º 5.77′ N 59º 37.23′ W