Chinese Lug Sails
~ Clay's RABBIT
Voyage of a Lifetime
Clay Everington and RABBIT cicumnavigating the North Atlantic Ocean in 2001/2
Since my last visit to Dominica in 1970,it was just a matter of when and how I was to visit my friends and relatives in the West Indies.
Some people would jump on a plane or take a cruise on an ocean liner, but I had my trusty junk rigged Kingfisher 26 RABBIT, so why not sail across the pond in my own time and enjoy some cruising at the same time.
I started planning years before, as many of my friends will agree and often said,"well, when are you going?"
Then my plans all seemed to come together, as I had the boat, the time and the urge.
So stocked up with gear and provision, I set sail for the JRA rally in Falmouth in August 2001 and at least I was going west, a good start.
The passage to Falmouth took 5 days and turned out to be a real shake down cruise, with headwinds and squally weather all week. So I motor-sailed all the way and RABBIT became a rather wet boat inside. Meanwhile my new Atlantic Windvane was being put to the test for the first time.
So, having got to Falmouth it was a good opportunity, with sealant gun in hand, to sort things out and make adjustments before setting forth into the Western Approaches.
On August 20th at 0600 hours RABBIT and I were ready for what turned out to be our passage across the Bay of Biscay to La Coruna arriving 450 miles and 7 days later. The bay was very calm with light winds all the way, so we motor-sailed for a good 3 days with good sailing for 2 days and did a lot of bobbin up and down for the rest while I spent hours relacing the battens to the sail, a job that was completed in La Coruna. Lesson learnt, use individual ties at each point when long distance sailing, as if one long line fails, they all come loose.
My stay in La Coruna for 7 days was memorable for a ferocious thunderstorm that went through the moorings for 20 minutes and had us all at anchor with our motors running, just in case.
Our next passage was the best days run of the entire voyage and ended in Bayona, where the self steering was given its final adjustment and worked perfectly from then on. From Bayona I went on to Figueri Da Fox in Portugal, but had fog from dusk to dawn, which was so stressful, that from then on I limited my passage hops to day journeys when coasting.
From there I made my way to Cascais and then the 7 day passage to Porto Santo, Madeira, that involved a day sailing into headwinds, a motoring day in light winds, a day becalmed, two days with favourable winds on the nose in big seas, and a final day motor sailing in moderate seas, how's that for variation.
The next passage was the big hop to Rodney Bay, St Lucia that took 37 days and I logged 3,072 miles. My log reads:
Atlantic Crossing, 2001/2002
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria to Rodney Bay, St Lucia.
It took 37 days to complete, and I logged 3072 miles (83 miles/day).
Las Palmas Depart 1040 hrs
Saturday 1st December 2001
St Lucia Arrive 1400 hrs
Monday 7th Jan. 2002
Day 1: Depart Las Palmas, Light head winds, motor sailed for some 18 hours, before stopping engine.
Day 4: Log 312 miles. Severe gale, mainsheet wrapped around wind vane mechanism and ripped it off, nearly lost self steering gear. Simple mod took care of that.
Day 8: Event: Sighted fishing vessel.
Day 12: Event: 1000 miles covered
Day 22: Becalmed
Day 23: Becalmed
Day 24: Christmas day, 2000 miles covered, but no wind. Had a very enjoyable dinner with pudding.
Day 25: Boxing Day. Becalmed
Day 28: Event: Sighted first ship for 20 days, and the trade winds are here at last, good sailing to St Lucia.
Day 32: 2nd Jan 2002, Gale force winds, lasted 12 hours, sailed 30 degrees off course to be comfortable. No problems.
Day 34: 4th Jan 2002, High winds, F6/F7, gusting to F8, moderating to F5/F6 by dawn, no problems.
Day 36: Event: 3000 miles covered.
Day 37: Event: Rodney Bay marina, St Lucia. Arrive pontoon berth, 16.15 rs., Monday 7th Jan. 2002. My first Piton (large) with Column and Katrina on "Mary Kate" (seized up engine/broken shroud, and the sinking of the French boat).
From St Lucia I headed north to Antigua via Martinique and on to Dominica, where I stayed for a month, visiting friends and relations in the land of my birth and getting involved in the carnival activities that happen in April.
Then it was on to Antigua to make preparations for the next big hop to Bermuda that gave me 7 glorious days sailing.
Depart 1000 hrs Tuesday 14th May 2002.
Day 1 to Day 7: Glorious sailing days. Wind strength F4/5, on Starboard Quarter, carried full sail day and night, and was making 120 miles a day.
It just could not last, 100 miles from Bermuda the wind dropped to F1, and veered to the NE. I started the engine and was making good progress, the glass was dropping, the sky was getting darker, the wind stronger and the seas bigger, 20 miles SE of Bermuda I was into a full NE gale.
I was down to two panels of sail, in a strong gust, the seam of the top panel opened from yard to the batten, with junks to just carry one. I needed to turn 90 degrees to port to enter the St Georges cut, I dropped sail to avoid further damage. The spray hood also suffered ripped seams.
The spray hood I took to the sail loft. The sail I repaired myself.
Arrive St Georges harbour, 2245 hrs, 23rd May 2002Again it was great to meet many old friends where I have worked for over 2 years and spend some time relaxing in these lovely islands, but all good things come to an end and I was off again on June 7th to the Azores.
The return passage involved initially some good sailing, during which I hooked a large fish (honest!), but it got away with 10m of my line and left me with a broken rod.
We then had a NE severe storm that dropped us down to 2 panels of sail and involved a major lazy jack foul up, that taught me it was best to drop the sail totally first and then raise the required panels, otherwise loose lines, when reefing, are hard to keep under control.
After this the wind vane looked after us for 22 hours until good sailing returned in a Force 4/5.
The next excitement was meeting SS KATANGASHA, who gave me a one day weather forecast, although a 5 day would have been more useful.
Finally the wind went light and I ended up motoring into Flores for 58 miles.
Our next passage was to Horta and I logged 141 miles in 1½ days, but I had to motor sail all the way with a dysfunctional autohelm - not much fun!
My passage to Plymouth took 18 days and I logged 1200 miles. For the first 13 days the winds were fickle and progress as slow.
Then the seas and wind increased and I was sailing in a Force 6 gusting 7 and soon the westerly gale set in and I dropped all sail and began to motor to Falmouth.
All was well until a faulty lift pump brought the engine to a halt and I had to lie a-hull all night.
A passing ship then informed me that this weather was going to be with us for 3 days, not a pleasant experience.
After this we had a great sail on a course to Cawsand Bay Plymouth for a good night's sleep at anchor.
On the Sunday morning after a good breakfast I was able to hail a passing launch, the SEA VENTURE, who kindly towed us to Queen Anne's Battery marina, where I was able to effect repaires to the engine.
After a week's rest and recuperation I made passage to Dartmouth, Studland Bay and the Warsash SC for a welcome dinner and then on to my mooring in Gosport to complete my 8000 miles (approx.) 116days voyage of a lifetime.
Rabbit at the JRA meeting in Dieppe
This articel is copyright © Clay Everington.
First published JRA Newsletter Nr.44 January 2005