Day 9, Ascension Island to Grenada

1300Z 31MAY22, Day 9, Ascension Island to Grenada. 1/3rd of the way there! The days are blending together and we have all settled into passage making.

Current Position: 01 23S / 030 37W
24 hour progress: 112nm, 4.7kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 1085nm, approximately 2023nm to Grenada. We have been sailing a reach since yesterday.

We honored Memorial Day yesterday being grateful for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. We also had a Zephyros underway version of a BBQ / picnic with some BBQ beef sandwiches and potato chips. Summer has definitely arrived, even if our equator crossing is still a day or two away.

We really wanted to have some fish and we had 2 good sized dorado swimming next to us for awhile. We just couldn't coax them to our lures. We tried 3 different types of lures, but they just stayed up next to us, in the shade of Zephyros and ignored them. Apparently they were not hungry and didn't want to feed us; fair enough.

As we were sailing and trimming further into the wind, Zephyros didn't really want to sail as efficiently on the asymmetric. Additionally, the winds had started to build a little which makes the asymmetric a bit squirrelly unless going deep downwind. So we decided to switch back to the genoa as it is really the more appropriate sail in these conditions. We also shook out another reef in the main bringing us to 1 reef. The sailing was comfortable, but still seemed a bit slow for the winds. We were likely still being set by some current.

Overnight the winds were up and down and more shifty, swinging 10-20 degrees at a time. We finessed the course and the trim throughout the night. Our boat speeds remained lower than we would have expected without an adverse current, but we were moving in the right direction.

The clouds and rain returned early this morning. They saw us through sunrise and into daybreak. This meant the winds continued to gust and shift. Then there was a serious squall that charged over us, drenching everything, including Jon, who got a morning shower when he ran outside to loosen sheets and reef the genoa. The winds gusted and the rain poured for a couple of minutes, then we were back to sunshine and steady winds. We quickly rolled the genoa back out, and the sun has remained with us since.

We have and will continue to alter our course a bit to the north. The weather forecasts show the ITCZ opening up again to a wide swath of dead air. So we will try to make a run across the doldrums before they get too big and hope to catch the NE trades on the other side. We expect we will not make it across entirely under sail, but we will give it a go and see how little we can motor.

The sargassum weed continued to build yesterday until we began to see thin lines of the stuff, but there are just bits of it again today.

Yesterday when we were watching the fish and changing lures, a red footed booby became very interested in us. He looked like he really wanted to land on the boat, and also seemed to contemplate a swipe at the lure. He didn't do either. We kind of expected him to come for a nap on Zephyros last night, but we remained bird free again.

Day 8, Ascension Island to Grenada

1300Z 30MAY22, Day 8, Ascension Island to Grenada. Whew! Have we mentioned it's hot??? Outside air temp is 91°F (32.7°C) and sea temp is 80°F (27°F). It's even hotter inside the boat. Our water tanks sit in the bilge and therefore all water that comes from the sink or the shower is never cooler than 80°F (27°C) which is hardly refreshing or cooling. It has remained sunny with steady trade winds. We continue to move along in the correct direction.

Current Position: 02 28S / 029 08W
24 hour progress: 121nm, 5kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 973nm, approximately 2131nm to Grenada. We continued sailing downwind on a starboard tack on the asymmetric. To maintain course our point of sail has moved from deep down wind to a broad reach. Since we are no longer blocking as much of the asymmetric at this point of sail, we shook out two reefs in the main this morning and are now sailing with the main at the 2nd reef.

The last 24 hours have been sunny and star filled. There are only small puffy clouds in the sky and no rain clouds whatsoever. The sunset and sunrise were beautiful. The winds have remained steady around 15-17kts. It should be enough wind and a good point of sail for us to put up some decent speeds. However, overnight our speeds dropped to around 4kts over ground. It feels like we are going faster and our in water speedometer suggests we are going faster (but we don't have a lot of faith in its accuracy). So our best guess is that we are getting set by around a 1.5-2kt current. To be honest, it is quite frustrating. Everything is frustrating in this heat.

On the asymmetric our ride has settled out. We still seem to have waves from 2 directions and they are sometimes of significant size, but there is a lot less rolling on board which is greatly appreciated for sleeping and meal preparations.

It is not just the crew that is over heating. We are watching our electronics closely. Our Iridium Go! is quite annoyed at us at the moment. It keeps shutting down due to the heat. We drape white cloths over iPads and the Go! during the heat of the day, but it isn't enough anymore. Seems we will need to keep the Go! off the dashboard of the pilot house when the sun is coming through the pilot house windows turning it into a very warm greenhouse / sauna.

We have begun to see small bits of seaweed floating past. There is also a bit of green algae that is now growing on the lower part of our sugar scoop where the following waves wash onto our little beach. The bottom of the hull is surely turning green too.

Still no hitchhikers last night. Unfortunately also still no fish. The pink squid lure doesn't seem to be any more productive than the cedar plug thus far.

Day 7, Ascension Island to Grenada

1300Z 29MAY22, Day 7, Ascension Island to Grenada. A week at sea! Yesterday continued to include rain clouds and gusty winds. Overnight the sky cleared, the stars shown and the winds became consistent. This morning has been sunny and the winds and seas are calming. We continued to move steadily along in the correct direction.

Current Position: 03 18S / 027 19W
24 hour progress: 125nm, 5.2kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 852nm, approximately 2251nm to Grenada. We continued sailing deep downwind on a starboard tack. We sailed on the poled out genoa all day yesterday and through last night. We switched back over to the asymmetric around an hour ago. The main remained up at the 4th reef.

Yesterday featured mixed weather. There would be some sun and then a dark cloud would approach. These clouds brought gusty winds and rain showers sending us scurrying inside, closing up all the hatches, sweating in the sauna of a closed up boat, and desperately waiting for the rain to stop (when you sail downwind the wind blows all the rain in the door! Not a big deal if it is a drizzle, but when it pours everything becomes dangerously slippy and electronics are at risk.). Then after each shower passed, we opened up the door and the hatches only to repeat the process when the next clouds and rain came.

Jon proclaimed he was over the heat and took an outside shower during one of the rains. Megan passed on the shower until she got so hot and sweaty cooking a semi-complicated meal in the galley that when the meal was done she asked Jon to plate it for himself and the kids, and she ran to the outside shower head. The cold showers help for a short while, but we are back to hot and sweaty soon thereafter. What else should we expect as we are approaching the equator?

The seas remained rolly with the waves coming from two directions. Overnight, the skies cleared and the rain and gusty weather disappeared, but the boat kept rolling. Our winds settled into a constant 20-25kts and we were sailing decently on the poled out genoa. By morning the wind and seas were calming further with the weather forecasts all agreeing that winds should be back in the 15-20kt range. This all suggested it was time to switch back to the asymmetric and pick up a little boat speed again, hopefully.

We started the process around noon UTC. We had a bit of a bubble in the chute and it took a bit of work to get the sail properly unfurled. In the end the whole crew worked together and we sorted out the twists and pinches. We were then back to sailing under the red, white and blue chute in 15-20kts of wind.

In other news - no more hitchhikers! There were no noddys on board last night. We will see if our luck holds out. Perhaps they were going to Fernando de Noronha (about 300nm away now). There are some small gliding birds around - maybe boobies or a type of petrel. We aren't sure.

Fishing line is back in today. Still no luck. Maybe it is time to try a different lure. A Dorado / MahiMahi sounds delicious. Too bad the sea doesn't take requests.

Day 6, Ascension Island to Grenada

1300Z 28MAY22, Day 6, Ascension Island to Grenada. The winds and seas continued to build. The rain clouds continued to roll over occasionally, sometimes dramatically. We continued to move steadily along in the correct direction.

Current Position: 04 08S / 025 27W
24 hour progress: 136nm, 5.7kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 727nm, approximately 2374nm to Grenada. We continued sailing deep downwind on a starboard tack. Before dinner we rolled in and doused the asymmetric, switching to the poled out genoa. The main remained up at the 4th reef.

Yesterday the wind and seas continued to build. The asymmetric got more unwieldy with the stronger gusts. It was manageable, but took a lot of attention and concentration as Zephyros needed to be turned deeper downwind when the gusts arrived. At one point our attention slipped and Zephyros rounded up pretty decisively, heeling us well over on the way. It was sorted back out and we were quickly back to controlled sailing again. However, we decided it was time to switch over to the genoa before cooking dinner and for overnight.

Ironically, we were discussing the switching of the sails over just prior to the round up. The sailing was manageable and fast during the day (especially in the normal conditions) so we weren't in a hurry to switch, but figured the lower stress sailing for food prep and overnight watches made sense. We commented that there was a big dark cloud approaching and who knew what it held, right before all of the excitement happened. Apparently it held gusts of 30+kts! So yeah, the adage to reef early and reef often, continues to hold true.

We had a couple more hours of nice sailing on the chute after the cell passed. Then around 5pm we got the asymmetric down, set up the pole and put out the genoa. We then took a rest in the cockpit - it's quite hot and after physical activity the place to cool off is in the shade of the cockpit. A light drizzle was falling and it felt quite refreshing. Then we all looked back to see a huge dark cloud rapidly approaching. The water was almost flat with torrential rains bouncing off the surface in an advancing wall. We all rushed inside and pulled the door shut behind us. The rain caught up to us very shortly thereafter and the winds howled. Inside it was absolutely no big deal. We were happy to be on the genoa and marveled that going 7-8kts now felt the same as going 4. Much less stressful and Zephyros kept chugging safely along without being over powered.

With the numerous squalls passing, the seas had built with 2-3m waves / swell coming from two different directions. This made the ride quite rolly and made doing anything in the galley a game of what item is currently the most important to hold on to. We often fail to get it right and some item goes flying that then needs to be cleaned up. Yesterday we lost a bunch of eggs that were on the table (to be checked as to whether or not they were still good - most were decidedly not) during the rounding up. Then in the evening, yogurt making resulted in a bowl of milk splashing everywhere and dribbling into the refrigerator and the bilge. Boat life!

We rolled our clocks back to UTC -1 hour this morning. We will have 3 more adjustments to make on our way to UTC -4 hours.

The noddy situation has gotten worse again. 8 hitchhikers last night. Lots of squawking as they vied for preferred territory. 2 were on the boom in the sailbag. 3 on the bimini and 3 on the solar panels. Morning cleanup was handled, yet again. We won't be sorry to see them go, and wonder how long we are stuck with them. Where are they going?

Day 5, Ascension Island to Grenada

1300Z 27MAY22, Day 5, Ascension Island to Grenada. The weather has still included occasional clouds and rain, but there were also good stars in the early morning hours and a lot of sun this morning. The trade winds have decisively filled back in!

Current Position: 05 11S / 023 28W
24 hour progress: 156nm, 6.5kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 591nm, approximately 2508nm to Grenada. We continued sailing deep downwind on a starboard tack with the asymmetric flying and the main at the 4th reef, making good speed and course to Grenada.

The wind has continued to be gusty. We have continued sailing on the asymmetric and are occasionally going a bit faster than we like. However, Zephyros and Nike (autopilot) continue to handle it just fine. We, the crew, are occasionally holding on, but they keep on chugging along safely. The seas have built a bit along with the winds, but are no problem either.

Daxton and Megan continued their wellness challenge and had their lists completed early yesterday in the cloudier weather and calmer conditions. They will have to get motivated to knock it out in today's heat and rolly conditions.

Last night we were down to 2 noddy stowaways. They weren't actually with us the whole night. One was atop the pilot house for a little while and surprised Ronan when he stuck his head outside and nearly put his hand on an equally surprised bird. They flew off when our first round of significant gusts came and things got a little hectic for a short while with some noise and people on deck to check things over. Perhaps we will scare them off, eventually. Though they did return for a bit after the noise.

We fished again yesterday with no luck, but the conditions are a bit much for landing a fish today, so the line isn't wet.

Day 4, Ascension Island to Grenada

1300Z 26MAY22, Day 4, Ascension Island to Grenada. Weather for the past 24 hours has been gray! We haven't had this long of gray skies and rain in quite awhile. But there is blue sky out there now, so we are hopeful that we will get some solar power today and a bit less rain. Of course, the plus side (there is almost always a plus side) of the gray and the rain was that things were a bit cooler.

Current Position: 06 21S / 021 12W
24 hour progress: 118nm, 4.9kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 435nm, approximately 2660nm to Grenada. We gybed from port tack back to starboard tack just before noon. We continued sailing deep downwind with the asymmetric and main at the 4th reef, making a good course to Grenada.

The wind continued to be up and down. Typically we would lose the wind right before the rains came and then the winds picked back up (so the opposite of what had been happening with the small cloud systems). Nothing major, just we would go slow and then pick up speed. All was fine to stay on the asymmetric and occasionally we were making some really nice speeds. The wind seems to be a bit less shifty and perhaps a bit more consistent so hopefully we are starting to see the trades re-stabilize. We have gybed this morning as our course on the other tack had worsened. We could be on this starboard tack for most of the rest of the trip, if the weather forecasts are correct. We shall see.

Yesterday, we mentioned seeing a line of AIS hits that we thought were fishing boats just before our gybe at the end of the day's log. As we continued paralleling the AIS beacons for 10 hours and continued thinking more about the very consistent line and odd AIS data, we decided they were probably not boats at all, and likely were nets. How depressing. 50nm (maybe more?) where there is a beacon every 3 or so nm. So no telling if they are individual smallish nets or more probably a very long drift net with intermediary beacons on some floats. We never got closer than 10nm and felt thankful that they were at least marked so that we could avoid them and so that the mothership could find them to recover them. But wow, it seems such a waste and a ravagingly devastating way to fish. We are all a bit sad about it.

We are settling into routines and working well together as a crew. The days are passing with schoolwork, meals and general chores along with audiobooks, reading and podcasts.

Last night we were down to 2 noddy stowaways. They were better behaved with just the 2, but we are hoping we can be free of them soon. Our fishing line has been in, but still no bites. Maybe any fish still free in this area need to remain that way.

Day 3, Ascension Island to Grenada

1300Z 25MAY22, Day 3, Ascension Island to Grenada. It's been a bit cloudy and rainy. We have had ok winds, but it is not exactly consistent yet. The storm clouds certainly don't help.

Current Position: 06 40S / 019 19W
24 hour progress: 115nm, 4.7kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 317nm, approximately 2771nm to Grenada. We have gybed from port to starboard and back to the port tack, sailing deep downwind with the asymmetric and main at the 4th reef.

We seem to have mostly made decent speeds over the last 24 hours. We often get some extra wind before a rain cell passes and then some lighter air after it passes. Additionally the wind tends to shift directions a lot and we find our course to be changing quite a bit around the cells. It tends to settle back out as the cells pass and the wind returns. None of these rain cells have been significant or dangerous, just an extra 5kts of wind, a rain shower and inconsistent wind direction and speed.

The excitement of extra wind, a need to gybe or a fleet of fishing boats always seems to arrive at somewhat inconvenient times. Then the rain comes and windows have to be closed up making everything even hotter. Last night we had some decent wind while making dinner, as often seems to be the case. Once the wind died back a bit, our course was not especially good and we decided to gybe just before sunset (and at log entry time).

We have been doing very controlled gybes and they take some time and work to complete. We roll in the asymmetric, remove the preventer on the main, crank the main sheet in, gybe the boat, put the main back out, secure the main with the preventer for the other tack, walk the asymmetric sheet across to the other side, relaunch the chute. We have settled on this process because it keeps things controlled and keeps us from having a long lazy sheet that could get pulled loose and go under the boat. The flip side is that it takes awhile and having the asymmetric furled and up on the bow can be problematic if it doesn't roll well. If there is a bubble the wind can start to pull it loose from the middle which makes a bit of a mess of the sail and takes a bit of time to work back to furled or sailing. Thankfully we have 4 crew and we have enough hands to get it all figured out pretty quickly.

This morning there have been dark clouds and the AIS showed a vessel right on our course. As we got closer it broke out into more and more vessels, eventually showing at least 8 of them in an E-W line. All class B AISs and moving at around 2kts, clearly a fleet of fishing boats all spaced about 2-3nm apart. Amazing that they all seem to be class B with limited data (no boat size or call signs) and no class A "mothership" present. (Class A is for commercial use and large vessels, class B is for smaller boats and private use.) It isn't clear whether some of the vessels only turn their AIS broadcasts on when we get close or if the signals from many of the units are just very weak, but we seem to most often see a vessel at normal range somewhere in the middle first, and we only see the whole fleet on one of our receivers unless we get really close.

Of course, we were sailing directly toward the middle of this fishing fleet, and there was a large gray cloud between them and us. Usually the rain clouds move pretty quickly, generally with the direction of the wind. This cloud seemed to be stationary and it seemed unlikely that we wanted to sail right into the middle of the cloud or the fishing fleet. So we decided to gybe. This would allow us to keep them to the north and give us wind to maneuver. And all this just before the daily 24 hour log entry. We gybed, but it wasn't an especially clean one and the rain started coming down in sheets while we were still out on deck. On the plus side, we have all had nice showers. Once everything was sorted, we stripped off the soaked clothes, soaped up and rinsed off with the outside shower head. Easy, refreshing and not much water used!

We are adjusting to passage making and it's random bursts of activity. We continue to feel a bit tired with the heat. Megan and Daxton are in a health challenge with Skylark so that will hopefully set up a bit of a routine and burn some Daxton energy.

Last night we had 4 noddy (pronounced naughty we believe and if not, that's what we are going with as they definitely are) stowaways again. This time there seemed to be less than the previous night. They noisily fought for their resting spots, and then once that was sorted slept 2 on the solar panels and 2 on the bimini. All the while pooping and making a general mess. The good news is that we had lots of rain showers to clean up the mess in the morning when they headed out for the day. Hopefully they'll go hang out with this fishing fleet now that we've brought them this close.

Our fishing line has been in, but no bites. We are really on a fishing dry spell here! Hoping our luck will change. Maybe we just need some better boat speeds for our trolling line.

Day 2, Ascension Island to Grenada

1300Z 24MAY22, Day 2, Ascension Island to Grenada. It's sunny and not much wind which translates to hot, hot, hot. We continue to seek shade and ways to stay cool.

Current Position: 07 21S / 017 39W (yesterday should have been 015W and not 005W!)
24 hour progress: 110nm, 4.6kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 202nm, approximately 2878nm to Grenada. 13 hours on the engine after 6 hours of sailing at 3kts or below. Now back to sailing downwind, port tack, with the full asymmetric and main at the 4th reef.

The winds continued to lighten through yesterday staying below 10kts. The afternoon found us playing the game of what is that smell and where is it coming from. We (finally) tracked it down to some cauliflower that didn't make it and our box of eggs that had gotten infested. This gave us a job for awhile cleaning a vegetable bin, checking the other fruits and vegetables, getting rid of the cardboard box and checking on the eggs to salvage what we could. That was followed up with changing out a pre-filter for the watermaker as production had been notably slow when we departed Ascension. A fairly easy task at the pier, that's always a bit slower and messier when the boat is moving around.

By sunset we saw boat speeds under 2kts and wind below 5kts so we furled and doused the asymmetric and turned on the engine. Winds stayed low throughout the night. We recharged our batteries, made lots of water (better production thanks to that filter change!) and did some laundry. At least we were moving in the right direction, at a good speed and working through chores, even if the noise and extra heat were not especially nice.

After sunrise we decided we'd had enough of the noise and at least were back to around 10kts of wind. We put out the chute and secured the engine. Moving along again, on a good course, at 3-4kts. We continue to head west (with a touch of north) as we await the trade winds filling back in and the ITCZ moving back to a more normal position. We expect the winds to improve in the next 24 hours.

The crew is well, but hot. Lots of lying around and moving around trying to find cool places to sleep. Outside is a favorite, especially at night. Humans and cats behave the same in these conditions.

Last night we were invaded by a flock of noddys. They were rude and messy house guests. They fought with each other and left feathers, fish bits and poop everywhere. We had at least 10 aboard at one time - on a spreader, on the lifelines, on the solar panels, on the boom, on the bimini and somehow a pair balanced on the wind generator (which wasn't moving as there was no wind and we were motoring). Apparently we made a good island. We expect they will return after dark, but we shall see. When we exit the Ascension Island MPA in another hour or so, the fishing line will return to the water.

Day 1, Ascension Island to Grenada

1300Z 23MAY22, Day 1, Ascension Island to Grenada. After a nice stop in Ascension, we planned to leave midday on Sunday. The weather forecast suggested there would not be much wind for the first couple of days, but even so, moving along at 3-4kts still gets you across the ocean sooner than sitting at anchor - at least hopefully.

Current Position: 07 30S / 005 49W
24 hour progress: 92nm, 3.8kts avg SOG, approximately 2982nm to Grenada. Less than 1 hour on the engine before we were sailing, however we ran the engine in idle to help recharge and make water for another 3 hours before securing it.

The forecast called for light winds but we had a nice strong breeze through the anchorage and felt like it was as good a time as any to get going. We weighed anchor and made a drive-thru of the anchorage to say our "see you laters" to Skylark, Atraxia & Dallandra. Then we unsuccessfully trolled a fishing line past the cargo ship hoping to coax a large tuna out for dinner.

By 1300 we were heading out and shortly thereafter raised the main to the 4th reef. We expect to be largely sailing deep downwind again which we don't need the main for, but without the main at least to the 4th reef it is hard for us to raise the main without turning on the engine and turning into the wind. Having a small bit of main up gives us more options later should we need to sail on a reach.

We got organized and dragged out the asymmetric sail. By 1340 the chute was flying in 15+kts of wind and we were moving along nicely. We relaxed and watched Ascension shrink away in the distance. We reflected on our visit and were very glad to have stopped. But we were also excited to be moving again with pleasant downwind sailing. The weather was partly cloudy and the breeze was well received. It felt far cooler than we had been that morning at anchor; it has been quite hot.

The winds gradually lightened and fell to less than 10kts by early this morning, driving our average speeds way down. Additionally there was cloud cover and a few good rain shower rinses before clearing up to a sunny day. We are moving in the right direction and have gybed to a port tack. We plan to head west for now as we await the winds filling back in and the ITCZ moving back to a more normal position.

The crew is well. We are all happy to be back on passage, though the last ice cubes have already been consumed. The last of our delicious wahoo filet will be eaten by the end of today. We are a bit sad that we don't have our citizen science project to keep us busy, but there is other school work to tackle. The seas have been calm and nobody - not even Poseidon - has been sea sick. Everything felt like a normal day and the boys were straight back to their watch standing shifts.

Ascension Island Wrap-up

We spent just under 5 days at Ascension. It is a very interesting place. We arrived Tuesday night in time to have a quiet birthday celebration aboard. Then on Wednesday the swell was significant and we were advised that we should not attempt to come ashore. We took advantage of the down day to do chores, inflate the dinghy, do an impromptu sewing project and work on the halyard. Jon spliced in a long dyneema anti-chaffe sleeve over the end of the asymmetric halyard. It is a long process, but he got well over half way done with the job on Wednesday.

Thursday morning we went ashore early. We checked in, walked around town and turned in our science samples. We went to the Conservation Center, met Tiffany the lead for the plankton drag / eDNA citizen science project, and learned more about the program. We toured the labs and went by the office to pick up some brochures about the local wildlife and geology, and to get recommendations for what to see during our visit. That was followed up by a look through the grocery store and some lunch.

Our friends on Skylark had secured the one rental car on the island. When they returned from a nice hike and drive around, we borrowed the car and drove around. We went to the US base and met the base commander - Matt. We had a nice chat with him and invited him to stop by the boats later as he usually goes out spear fishing on Thursday evenings. We continued our drive around stopping in the couple of other grocery stores scattered around the island.

That evening Skylark threw a cocktail competition party for the boats in the anchorage. We had a pleasant evening together. The Skylark espresso martinis were judged the clear winner, but Daxton's mocktail entry received an honorable mention.

Friday saw us with the car for the full day. There was a supply ship in port with goods to deliver to Ascension which meant that they didn't allow dinghies on the pier during working hours. Instead, we were shuttled in by the port control work boat. This is a complimentary service and we were told to return by around 5 to ensure we didn't miss the last shuttle back to the boats.

We had a great time exploring the island and managed to pack in 3 different hikes. On the first hike we saw the last of the nesting sooty terns. We even managed to see a couple of chicks. That hike continued on over a jagged lava flow under a blazing sun. We didn't manage to find the special tide pools that were out there, but we did find crabs, fish and even a small octopus in the waters along the beach. The second two hikes were on Green Mountain where the British Marines once maintained a farm to support the garrison and visiting ships. The first hike was to the highest point on Ascension. It goes through a bamboo forest and ends a few steps above a very green dew pond in a cloud forest. The second hike was relatively flat and went around the peak a little lower but still well into the cool, lush, green zone. It provided good views of the island, and included 6 short tunnels dug to complete the watchstander route. After we finished all of that, we drove around some more. We managed to view most all of the island and see the key sights with a day and a half of driving and hiking.

We returned to Georgetown around 4:30 and headed back to the boat. The plan was for the parents to take the dinghy back into town and head to the US Base for a burger. Jennifer from Skylark also agreed to come out with us. There was a bus service from town to the base so we could make it out and back without driving and could have beers at the bar while we were there. The challenge was the bus went at 6:30 and the next one wasn't until 9 and the food stopped at 8:30. It all would have been fine, except they didn't finish off loading the supply ship for the day until sunset and we couldn't get our dinghy in until almost 7pm! This was a bit sad as all the hiking for the day had us really looking forward to a good burger and fries. However, we were in luck as Matt and Dan (Tiffany's husband) were finishing up on the pier. They had just returned from spear fishing and were putting things away and filleting their catch. They offered us a ride to the Volcano Club and it was all sorted again.

They dropped us off, promising to return later, and the three of us enjoyed delicious burgers and beer. After awhile we were joined by Tiffany, Matt and Dan. We also met some other folks including José who works to organize recreational activities on the island for the base personnel. We had a nice evening and returned back to the pier with Jennifer giving out invitations all around for a Skylark party Saturday night.

Saturday we headed into town and toured the museum. The display plaques were simple but very informative. There were old photographs and lots of old equipment and items for the various sections. Ascension has a strange history and has basically been a base and work camp throughout its populated time. If you live on the island and are over 18 you are required to have a job. If you get into any trouble (drunk driving or fighting or whatever) you are kicked off the island. If you graduate high school and aren't employed, you get kicked off the island. If you are under 16, you can't be out alone. There are no local inhabitants though there are a number of Saint Helenans who have had work contracts on the island for many, many years. NASA had a long presence on the island, but is no longer there. There is a US Space Force unit maintaining a plethora of antennas and expanding and updating the runway. There is a British Ministry of Defense detachment on the island. There are BBC relays and any number of other antennas on the island. There is a population of around 1000, largely contractors for the US and Saints for the British. It seems appropriate that the British originally commissioned the island as a Royal Navy ship when they first occupied the island to prevent it from being used to stage any possible mission to free Napoleon from Saint Helena.

After the museum, we did a little shopping as some onions and squash had made it to the shelves from the supply ship. We also enjoyed a little live music for the local celebration of Saint Helena Day. We returned to Zephyros in the early afternoon to work on projects so that we would be prepared to depart as planned on Sunday. Jon finished the anti-chaffe sleeve on the halyard and we swapped the line around through the mast.

In the evening we headed over to Skylark for a party. They had invited Matt, Tiffany, Dan, & José. The party from shore added another friend and arrived via the work boat shuttle service. They had been out fishing during the day and caught a wahoo. So they brought a huge bowl of delicious ceviche and huge filets as gifts for Skylark and Zephyros.

The Zephyros crew all excused ourselves for awhile around 8pm to go into the beach to look for green turtles. The green turtles are laying eggs and the turtles are hatching on Long Beach. Long Beach was just in front of where we were anchored, but it is a very steep beach so it is advised that you land at the pier head. We took the dinghy to the pier and stopped to watch the Galápagos sharks that hang out there waiting for fishing scraps. Then we walked over to Long Beach. As soon as we were on the beach we saw a few baby turtles headed to the water! Then we walked the beach with our red lights seeing what we could find. We did find a couple of mama tracks, but didn't find any mamas laying eggs. We walked for awhile, but weren't seeing anything. Then we spotted a nest that was erupting. The baby turtles were swimming up through the sand. Once they were free we followed them down the beach. They move quite quickly and were down in the water before long. It was a very cool experience, and baby turtles are super cute. We felt so lucky to have been able to see it! After we had successfully found a hatching, we turned around. We walked slowly back down the beach towards the pier. We didn't see any more eruptions, but we did see a few more baby turtles. From there we went back to the pier. A fisherman had caught an eel on a line and he held it up for us to see. Then the eel tied himself in a knot. It was quite interesting. We watched the sharks some more and even saw a baby turtle swimming around. We then headed back to the party. We had a wonderful evening together learning more about the island and the people who work there. Quick farewells were said as we dropped everyone back off at the pier and the swell bounced everything around.

Sunday morning we got up and moving. We broke down the dinghy and made the boat ready for off shore passage making. We were all a bit tired after the busy few days and were looking forward to getting back to some (hopefully) relaxed passage making.

The stop at Ascension was really neat. You can see an amazing amount in a few days, or you could spend every off hour of a year tour/contract hiking and biking every trail through the National Park and conservation areas. There isn't really any way to visit the island except in an official work capacity or stopping in with your own vessel, and then you still must be individually screened and approved to go ashore. We are glad we made the effort to stop in and visit this unique volcanic mount, on the mid-Atlantic ridge, in the middle of the Southern Atlantic.

Arrival in Ascension!

1910Z 17MAY22, anchored in Georgetown, Ascension Island! The weather was a bit cloud covered but we enjoyed nice views of an interesting volcanic island along our approach.

Position: 07 55S / 014 25W
10.5 hour progress: 53nm, 5kts avg SOG. Last 4.5 hours motor sailing to arrive by sunset.

731 nautical miles sailed
6 days, 10.5 hours
4.7 knots average speed over ground
7.4 hours of engine time
1 birthday
8 plankton samples taken
8 water samples taken for eDNA
0 fish caught by us, but tuna that was gifted to us in St Helena made 3 delicious meals
Major Casualties: None! But a crisis was narrowly averted. The halyard for the asymmetric had significant chaffing. A longer anti-chaffe sleeve will be installed here and it's a good reminder to check lines when sails remain up for extended periods. Other minor repairs and chores will be attended to, but the passage was pretty easy on Zephyros overall.

For Tuesday, it was a bit less wind than expected and the sailing slowed down. As we were so close and it was Ronan's birthday, we decided to turn on the engine and motor sail the final 25nm. Ascension is a bit tricky to enter at night due to the anchorage being between an unlit mooring field and a large floating hose that moves quite a bit. So rather than arrive a couple of hours after sunset and enter in the dark or have to mill around offshore waiting for daylight, we turned on the iron topsail and pushed forward. We waited just a little too long or timed it perfectly, depending on your perspective.

We rounded the corner of the island, coming into view of the anchorage as the sun was just about to set, chute flying and us motor sailing, making 7+kts. Our friends on Skylark called us to welcome us and give some pointers on the anchorage.

Shortly afterwards, we called the Harbour Master. We probably should have waited as the sun was now setting, the sails were still up, and the radio communication was quite broken. In the end Skylark relayed for us and we got the instructions from the Harbour Master and were cleared into the anchorage. There is no swimming due to sharks and there is a swell warning through the 18th so we need to stay on the boat until we can safely come ashore to check in, likely on the morning of the 19th.

We then doused the sails and proceeded in to drop our anchor. The daylight was fading and we quickly settled on a spot. We were relieved to have arrived and sorted things out before dark.

The rest of the evening was spent cleaning up, enjoying a birthday meal - lamb & potatoes - and enjoying some relaxed together time for Ronan's birthday.

This was a very easy passage, though a bit slow. We will spend a few days here and then carry on to Grenada, approximately 3100nm away. We are happy to have the short break and to explore a new spot. We hope that the next part of this passage will be just as smooth and easy with steady trade winds.

Thank you for following along with us! We'll be back posting again as soon as we are back underway in a few day.

Day 6, St Helena to Ascension Island

0830Z 17MAY22, Day 6, St Helena to Ascension Island. Almost there! About 50nm until anchor down. We expect to arrive at the anchorage in the late afternoon, likely too late to check in today. We will see what the authorities say when we get closer and make radio contact. The weather has been good (hot!) with steady trade winds and good average speeds.

Current Position: 08 26S / 013 49W
24 hour progress: 129nm, 5.4kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 678nm, approximately 44nm to Ascension (and then about 5nm around to the anchorage). We continued sailing downwind with the asymmetric and 2 reefs in the main (reduces blocking of the asymmetric). We gybed to a port tack before sunset and expect to gybe back to a starboard tack, straight to Ascension, around midday today.

We have been diligent "planktonauts" and citizen scientists. We took two samples yesterday inside the MPA and hope to take 2 again today. Yesterday we had a morning sample and then a sample when we went to gybe. For both samples we had the asymmetric rolled in and turned further downwind to slow speeds. Yesterday we had to start a new bottle of bleach and this one is very soapy, making cleaning more challenging as we needed to ensure all the soap and bleach were gone and equipment didn't slip out of soapy hands. Too bad we couldn't find a bottle of Chlorox in Saint Helena, as that was simpler. We have 4 more pieces of the collection paper so we will try to get them filled with useful samples today. It's been a fun and interesting project. We are looking forward to turning in our samples in Ascension, and hope to get a chance to talk to some of the scientists and researchers.

There have been more birds as we approach Ascension and we had a hitchhiker - a noddy - again last night. Wonder if he was the same one or a new visitor. He sat in the same place on the solar panels and made a poopy mess again. Seems like the same bird, but really all birds might choose that spot and all birds seem to be messy guests. There is also evidence of some flying fish casualties and crashes into Zephyros in the dark. Poor guys.

Besides science today, we will be searching out for land so that the lucky person to spot land first can yell "Land Ho" as loudly as possible. It's likely still a few hours away.

Today will be another celebration day as it's Ronan's birthday and we are arriving to a new place. So we will be chilling some drinks and planning a nice dinner aboard. Looking forward to being anchored off of a new island, exploring a new place, meeting new people, and hanging out with Skylark some more.

Day 5, St Helena to Ascension Island

0830Z 16MAY22, Day 5, St Helena to Ascension Island. Morale is soaring on Zephyros. The winds filled in late yesterday, boat speeds are up and we have been gliding smoothly along with under 170nm left to go. Today's is a lengthy post. Read-on to hear how Megan scored the "best midwatch ever" with a lunar eclipse party.

Current Position: 09 17S / 011 55W
24 hour progress: 113nm, 4.7kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 549nm, approximately 167nm to Ascension. We did not touch the sails / sail configuration in the past 24 hours. We continued sailing downwind with the asymmetric and 2 reefs in the main (reduces blocking of the asymmetric).

As we were waiting for the winds to fill in, we decided to do science in the morning when boat speeds were already low. That meant we could simply turn deeper downwind and block the chute a bit more with the main again. It worked fine, even as a slightly faster tow at around 3.5kts. Of course, this meant that we were pretty much waiting all day for the winds to fill back in and had a slow average speed for the first half of the day. We asked the boys if they wanted to do a second round of science sampling in the afternoon but they opted not to as we were not yet in the Ascension MPA which seems to be the focus of this project.

It continues to be hot! We relaxed outside in the breeze and got quite a bit of sun, even in the shade. We stared at the clear blue sea and actually saw at least one fish swimming along with us in the water! We think he was kind of hanging out in the shadow of our boat and we saw the same fish multiple times, but it could have been a couple of different fish. We put in the fishing line, but no bites. However, when Jon pulled in the line, changed from the squid to the cedar plug, and put the line back in, there was a dart out from under the boat for the cedar lure before the fish seemingly darted back under Zephyros. No problem, as he was too small anyway. Later, close to sunset, Megan thought she saw a fish jump next to the boat. Then a few minutes later, she definitely saw it. Either she is beginning to hallucinate or that fish believed he was a dolphin in training or had been a dolphin in a previous life (or maybe a porpoising penguin?).

We had heard there would be a full lunar eclipse visible in North America last night. Without the ability to search (and with our limited understanding of how eclipses work without said internet), we weren't sure how visible the eclipse would be for us here in the south eastern Atlantic. We were given a heads up on when it should start in North America - which translated to 0230am local for us. This timing more or less coincided with the start of Megan's midwatch. Jon was just closing out his watch and had been dutifully checking the moon to ensure it was still there after Daxton and Ronan had finished their watches. He told Megan that the eclipse was due to start in the next 5-10min in North America. He said good night and left a night order to wake him if it got interesting.

Soon after Jon's head hit the pillow, and right around 0230 the light got a bit different and the moon started to get blocked by the earth. Megan gave Jon a warning that it was looking good for us to see the eclipse and she would wake him up when it got closer to total. By 3 the moon was just over half gone and Megan started dreaming of songs to play loudly to announce the lunar eclipse party - Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was the front runner (it is also a song with history of being used to harass Ronan when sung loudly and off key), but The Eagle's "Seven Bridges Road" was another contender as the moon faded and the "stars in the southern sky" became more and more vivid. At 0315 Megan began the wake up rounds. She opted to only discuss the musical playlist - and sing portions, loudly and off key, of course - rather than actually blare music. The wake-ups took a few tries as both boys were unaware there would be an eclipse or a middle of the night mandatory fun session.

By 0320, everyone was outside and Megan had the whole crew for company by the time she was about an hour into her watch. As the moon became more and more shrouded and the stars became more and more vivid we had nice conversations about what it must have been like before eclipses were well understood and predicted. By 0330 the last bit of bright moon was disappearing (deemed the moon's "toupee") and Ronan declared this type of moon was called a Blood Moon. Jon told him that he thought a Blood Moon was something different. Soon thereafter Ronan disappeared to his room, as he does - a teenager bored of the proceedings and tired from being unexpectedly woken up in the middle of the night. Moments later he returned with his phone to triumphantly read from his dictionary that the red moon seen during a full lunar eclipse is indeed called a Blood Moon and Dad was wrong!!!

By now, we had entered totality. We reflected on our lunar eclipse party back on the beach in Greece nearly 4 years ago and how all the animals acted weird. (The cats acted the normal weird that they do in the dark hours of the night. Nothing especially unusual.) We also added R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It" to the party playlist. Then a bird came by and made a crazy noise at us - just when we thought we would miss animals acting strange during an eclipse. We decided he was screaming at us that we were witches or that we were all going to die, unclear which exactly. But we all had a good laugh at the absurdity of the happening and crazy noise.

We passed around pieces of a chocolate bar with almond pieces as a party treat. Ronan stayed at the party for a few more minutes and quietly disappeared to bed again when nobody was looking. It's pretty much his MO, he'll be around helping or discussing something then quietly sneak off when people are distracted leaving us to later realize he's gone (usually when we really need him to do something) and all marvel that he has snuck off, yet again.

The rest of the crew continued chatting, staring at the moon, enjoying the cool night breeze and generally keeping Megan company. There was a discussion about how both Ronan and Daxton were sleeping the same - on their stomachs - when Mom went to wake them. Daxton then had a stellar entry into the "tell me your kid lives on a boat, without telling me your kid lives on a boat" competition with the emphatic declaration that this was, in fact, wrong - "No, I sleep on my chine!" This led to much laughter and then on to discussions of how this was the best and easiest midwatch ever - for Megan - as it soon would be Jon's turn to take over the watch! It was also pointed out that there was not much "watch" happening as we were all staring at the moon and the stars and not looking at where we were actually going or around to see if there were other boats. There was also a discussion of how much longer Jon should stay up. He wanted to see if the light came back to the moon from the opposite edge or back from where it disappeared. We thought the shadow should complete a transit, but couldn't remember for sure how it presented when observed. "Should I Stay or Should I go" was then sung a bit and promptly added to the mental lunar eclipse party playlist.

Soon Jon retired for a nap before he would return to watch. Megan and Daxton continued to hang out and enjoy the night sky and blood moon. The moon was sometimes covered by light clouds, but then the clouds would move past. It was incredible how the stars and Milky Way became so vivid with the dimming of the very bright full moon. Around 5am the "toupee" of bright moonlight returned - to the opposite side of the moon from where it had last been. The Milky Way and stars slowly dimmed again as the full moon gradually returned. Jon came back on watch just after 0530 and Daxton and Megan went to bed. Jon was left with the moon hidden behind a small ribbon of cloud, not quite back to full and in peace, gliding along. What amazing sailing and a unique and memorable experience! The moon was back to full by 6am, followed by its setting as the sunrise oranges and reds warmed the sky, before the sun actually peaked above the horizon. Amazing.

We are all still blissful, and slightly tired, after last night's party. But we are also energized as we are on the last leg and now and have goals to accomplish. Now that we are inside the Marine Protection Area for Ascension, we have the self-imposed goal of twice a day plankton and DNA sampling to accomplish. We are also looking good on reaching our goal of dropping anchor before sunset Tuesday!

Day 4, St Helena to Ascension Island

0830Z 15MAY22, Day 4, St Helena to Ascension Island. We started off well for day 4 but the wind lightened and speeds slowed overnight. This was always expected as the forecasts before departing and along the way called for light winds on Friday and Saturday. If all we had was light winds for one night we have done ok. Time will tell if the winds will fill in for day 5 as forecast or not.

Current Position: 10 39S / 010 37W
24 hour progress: 105nm, 4.4kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 436nm, approximately 275nm to Ascension. We changed sailing configurations a bit over the day but ended up back to deep downwind with the asymmetric and 2 reefs in the main (reduces blocking of the asymmetric) just after sunset. For part of yesterday the winds were more easterly which allowed us to shake out the reefs and sail a broad reach rather than deep downwind.

Yesterday, was hot! The good news was that we had good morning sun for the solar panels, the bad news was that we felt like we were being cooked in the sun. We all figured out cooler places to sit or lay (including the cats) and continued to enjoy the relaxed sailing.

When it came time for science sampling yesterday afternoon our speeds were slowing and we had been on a broad reach with the full main. We were able to turn deep downwind and our speed went down to about 3kts due to the blocking of the chute by the main. We were able to leave up the chute, do our science and turn back up wind. Another straightforward sampling and a slow down of around 20min again.

Overnight we enjoyed another moonlit sail. The moon is nearly full now and is up almost the whole of the night. It is a bit of a surreal experience silently gliding across a flat and glistening sea under the cool light. The warm air and exacting color of the light remind you that it isn't a midsummer's night in Antarctica or skiing across moonlit snow, but it is a bit similar. Ghostly, magical, soothing and reassuring.

Today has started off with rain clouds, drizzle and light and variable winds. Hopefully we will be out of the cell line soon, the winds will fill back in and maybe a bit of sun for the panels will arrive.

We are all starting to look forward to landfall at Ascension. Our friends on Skylark should arrive this afternoon or evening so they will get to scope out the checkin process and dinghy landing. Hopefully all will go smoothly and hopefully we are about 2 days behind. We are looking forward to being there and exploring a new place.

Day 3, St Helena to Ascension Island

0830Z 14MAY22, Day 3, St Helena to Ascension Island. We had a (relatively) faster day for day 3. The sailing is easy and comfortable, the weather warm and sunny, life is pretty good.

Current Position: 11 53S / 009 25W
24 hour progress: 115nm, 4.8kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 331nm, approximately 376nm to Ascension. We continued sailing downwind with the asymmetric and 2 reefs in the main (reduces blocking of the asymmetric) with 10-15kts winds and 1-2 meter seas.

Yesterday, we had a good day overall. The speeds were up a little and the wind remained stronger than forecast which was well received. The forecast suggested we would lose our steady wind. However, so far it has stayed - it occasionally seemed to be lightening, but kept returning after a bit.

We seem to keep having a bit of cloud cover in the morning and then really sunny afternoons. This is less than ideal for our solar panels on this heading, as we have the best positioning of panels in the morning and by mid to late afternoon the panels are blocked by the sails. Today is off to a better start though as we are already being beaten down with sunshine - it's already hot! W&S is working but our speeds have been a bit low for it to be the lone workhorse with a hungry refrigerator. The apparent wind is also a bit light for the wind generator. Still, it all helps.

When it came time for science sampling yesterday the wind and our speeds were still up. We turned deeper downwind again to see if that would slow things. Funny enough our speeds pretty much stayed the same. Wait, didn't we think we were trading speed for course? Maybe we need to rethink that strategy?

We decided to roll up the chute (so as not to do the plankton tow at 4-5kts) which slowed us to 2-3kts for a more appropriate and manageable towing speed. We completed the towing and water sampling and promptly got back to sailing again. The slow down was only for about 20 min or so. Progress! That's a time penalty we are quite happy to accept in order to assist with the science.

Both samples were pretty straightforward this time. The suctioning of the water through the paper worked much better. We dampened the paper with sea water and started the vacuum hand pump before pouring in the water sample (and plankton sample separately). This created an actual vacuum and far less hand pumping was required. Again our plankton was plentiful, with plankton from the sample spilling out of the paper, when folded in half. It also appeared like there was some jelly like substance. Perhaps part of a jellyfish?

The jelly substance all made the sample but we did have a little plankton left on the equipment for us to look at after the sample was stowed. We pulled out our digital usb microscope and took a closer look. They look like little shrimp and have different colored bodies. Mostly purple but some red and orange and clear. We hope the data will be useful and we wonder how many different types of things we are scooping up. The plankton were moving around under our microscope so we also wonder if they will stay alive for the scientist as we are storing them cold next to our cold plate.

We are all still well. We hit a milestone yesterday passing 30,000nm sailed aboard Zephyros! That called for a small celebration. And we expect to hit the half way point to Ascension today so that will also call for a party. Parties are typically some loud music and some kind of treat. Nothing extravagant but something a bit fun to keep things interesting and keep morale up.

No sign of our black noddy hitchhiker last night. Perhaps he has joined the crew of SV Dallandra? No AIS sign of them and they only seem to turn on their iridium for one hit a day. So we will have to wait to find out how we are doing against them. Not much else around; occasionally we see flying fish and a random bird. It's beautiful, peaceful and hot out here—at least for us well chilled penguins escaping the austral winter. Lots of sunscreen is required.

Day 2, St Helena to Ascension Island

0830Z 13MAY22, Day 2, St Helena to Ascension Island. Well, we aren't breaking any speed records on this passage and we are further proving we are not a boat that can put up big numbers in light air—at least with our heavy loading of the boat. However, the weather has been good overall and we are continuing to make steady progress while enjoying a comfortable sail.

Current Position: 13 17S / 008 07W
24 hour progress: 103nm, 4.3kts avg SOG, approximately 487nm to Ascension. Sailing with the asymmetric and 2 reefs in the main (reduces blocking of the asymmetric) since 2pm yesterday in about 10-15kts of wind and 1 meter seas.

Yesterday morning we began watching a line of rain clouds approaching and opted not to change back over to the asymmetric until after they passed over. The seas built a bit and we saw gusts up over 25kts which would have been a bit much for the asymmetric. We were definitely glad that we were still sailing on the poled out genoa.

The cell line passed over us around midday and then we found dead air. As is often the case, the storm cells had gathered up all the wind and we were left with less than 5kts of shifting breeze. As the sun was shining and things were calm we decided not to turn on the engine and waited to see when the air would fill back in. The breeze and our heading were all over the place. Megan claimed we were going to Africa; Jon that we were going back to Saint Helena; and then Ronan corrected us and stated that we actually weren't going anywhere at all. Another win for the literal child.

After about an hour the winds returned to the SE at around 10-15kts. We gave it a little time to make sure they weren't building further or about to die again, then put the asymmetric back up. With the chute up we added a 2nd reef back to the main to keep it from blocking the sail as we continue deep down wind. We poked along, a bit disappointed with our speed amidst the circling currents, but there isn't much to be done. Maybe we can get creative with the sail configuration?

As we were still within the EEZ of Saint Helena which we think defines the limits of the MPA, we decided not to take any science samples. However, this morning we are out of the 200nm ring around St Helena so we will be sure to get both sample types today.

Yesterday evening we gained an AIS hit for SV Dallandra. They are a sailboat also heading to Ascension. They had checked out when we did and had also planned to leave Wednesday morning. They were still on their mooring when we left, but presumably set off a few hours after us. Throughout the night we more or less maintained the same 10-14nm separation. Sometimes they gained on us, sometimes we gained separation. We tried hailing them on the radio, but they never seemed to hear us. We wonder if they even know we are here.

We have now decided to trade course for speed and are sailing less deep downwind. That has pulled us ahead and we've dropped them off the AIS. It's not a race, but as JC (a racer and our sailing instructor) says "if there are two boats, it's always a race!" It will be interesting to see if we get AIS contact again and who arrives first. (Most of our separation is lateral and not indicative of being significantly closer to Ascension.)

We are all well. We're settling into passage making, taking naps and adjusting to the watch schedule. Both boys stood their watches yesterday so everyone is decently well slept, but the dark morning hours are still difficult. We will adjust and then pretty much be there. Everyone seems to have their sea legs this round, so that's good.

We had a hitchhiker again through most of the night. The black noddy sits on our solar panels, flies off occasionally and then comes back. Are we his ticket to Ascension? He does make a poopy mess which has been cleaned up to ensure we get full solar power. Not much else around; occasionally we see flying fish.

We haven't been fishing. What's better than freshly caught fish off of your own boat? Free freshly caught fish off of someone else's boat that was gifted to you as a nice, cleaned, large chunk of yellowfin tuna - thanks Colin & Andrez! We first enjoyed poke bowls from it, then last night was tuna steaks and tonight will be a curry or maybe some fish cakes. That will be the last of that tuna, but we do have some more that we bought in town plus our fresh meat; so perhaps no fishing until after Ascension. We will see.

Day 1, St Helena to Ascension Island

0830Z 12MAY22, Day 1, St Helena to Ascension Island. Wow, this is cruising sailing! Warm weather, sailing downwind, following seas - sweet. We had nice speeds during the day and dropped our average speed down due to a sail change resulting in slower speeds overnight.

Current Position: 14 29S / 006 56W
24 hour progress: 113nm, 4.7kts avg SOG, approximately 585nm to Ascension. 2.5 hours on the engine before securing to sail.

We slipped our mooring lines with a bit of help from our neighbor and friend Eric on Sangoma just before 0830 Wednesday morning. As we never inflated our dinghy (and had help tying up the stern line from our friends on Skylark), the plan was that Megan would swim off to release the stern line. But it was raining and a bit cold, so when the drizzle stopped we called Eric on the radio and asked if he would help and he quickly agreed. Of course, it was back to drizzling hard again minutes later when he came over to free us. But sailors don't mind too much and do this type of thing to help others out. You never know when you might need help, so many of us try to make sure we pay it forward / keep good karma on our sides. We tried to pass him a beer but he refused. We hope to repay him with a beer in a Caribbean port one day or just by lending a helping hand to someone else at some point along the way.

We motored out of the mooring field in light and variable winds and drizzle that provided a lovely rainbow. We used the engine time to top up batteries, make some water, test out Watt&Sea, do a bit of laundry. It felt like we kept finding some excuses to keep motoring. But after about 2 hours the winds had filled in and it was time to sail. We dragged out the asymmetric - our beautiful, big spinnaker that we haven't seen up for years. We took our time getting it all set up as we were a bit out of practice. Daxton was even out on deck helping.

We raised the main to the 4th reef, so just a bit of sail, as that would give us options and not block a headsail if we were going deep downwind. We unfurled the asymmetric and settled into the sail. The weather was warm, sunny and beautiful, with no more clouds or heavy drizzle. We lounged around and watched Saint Helena get smaller and smaller off the stern. The sailing was comfortable and felt like quite an amazing start to what should be just under a week long passage to Ascension. Soooo much better than our trip to Saint Helena where we were beating and bashing, clawing our way upwind!

We were happy for a relaxing day as we were all quite tired from Tuesday's busy day. Tuesday was filled with jobs and errands. We stowed for sea. Jon took a trip up the mast to check rigging and down the forestay to check our furler - good thing, as, unbeknownst to us the foil had come apart again and ripped our Falkland genoa leech tape repair! Ugh! (That sail is going to a sail loft for some much needed attention and these furler set screws are going to get sealed into place with something stronger than locktite!) Jon reset our two problem furler joints with set screws and more locktite. He then stowed the accumulation of gear in the cockpit and began taking the old generator piece off of the Watt&Sea in preparation for the new part's hopeful arrival as we still didn't know for sure that the part had made the flight. By 11 Megan and the boys headed into town to pick up our orders and last minute shopping. Along the way into town, they stopped by customs to see if our part had arrived. After some asking around and then digging in their truck it was located - yay! Daxton ran it back to the ferry so that it got sent back to Jon at the boat. Megan and the boys were then back on task with picking up a meat order from the butcher, doing last minute shopping, a bank run and veggies from the veggie bus. We ended up very well provisioned with fresh food from St Helena. We were lucky that the monthly cargo ship delivery came on the weekend between the flights. So we were able to stock up on apples, pears, cheeses, lemons and even some limes! Plus all the local meat and vegetables. It took a bit of work learning the whole stocking process for Jamestown, but it was well worth it for how well stocked up we are for this next part of our passage. Overall it will be another month or so at sea, but this section gets a small break at Ascension before carrying on. Meanwhile with Megan in town, Jon continued boat preps and the W&S part swap while he waited for the vet to come visit the cats for health checks and to update their rabies vaccines. After that was complete we all met in town and got to work with the checkout process - visiting immigration, customs and paying fees to the Harbour Master. It was a very busy day that ended with some beers at Ann's Place before returning to Zephyros for final stowing for sea and last minute preparations. So a relaxed, pleasant sailing day was much appreciated by all!

As Saint Helena disappeared in the distance and the day continued on we started thinking about our citizen science work. Daxton was quite excited about the project and kept making hopeful statements like we could start as soon as we were 20nm from Saint Helena or 50nm. These statements had no basis in reality, just his desire for them to be true so that we could take samples. Now, having taken a round of training samples and re-reading the directions we don't think any samples within 200nm of St Helena are allowed on the research permit. So we were just doing practice preparations and not sampling. In truth, there is a bit of a learning curve so practice runs are necessary to ensure we get good samples when they count. It seems they are focused on the 200nm around Ascension (a Marine Protection Area or MPA) but hopefully they will also find the 300nm between the 2 exclusion zones useful. We plan to try to sample daily in that in between zone and perhaps twice a day if we can in the Ascension Island EEZ / MPA.

Around 5pm we started our sanitation routine. Do they really want a 10% bleach solution? That is serious stuff. 1L of bleach for 10L of water. Wow. We settled on 300ml of bleach for 6L of water to do the sanitization, but even so, perhaps didn't do it long enough either as the longer, more detailed directions say for 15min or more. Around 5:30 we rolled in the asymmetric, slowed to around 3kts and put out the tow net to drag for plankton. We also rinsed all the bleached equipment with sea water from the area to get rid of residual bleach. Then we ran through the process for DNA sampling. That liter of water gets suctioned through a piece of paper, with a hand held vacuum pump, the paper gets folded in half and stored in a small plastic bag. The scientists will take the paper and look for environmental DNA to try to figure out what has recently been through that small sample of ocean water. Fascinating. We hope that we can get them some good quality samples! After that was done, more than 20 min had passed and the tow only needs to go for 15 min. It was time to pull in the towing net and pick up some speed as everything was quite rolly. They had asked for boats to do the tow around 2kts, Jon asked some questions via email and we felt confident that we should be able to try ours with whatever speed we slowed down to with the asymmetric down which was around 3kts. It seemed to work fine. Of course, pulling in the net meant Daxton wanted to process it (same process as the water sample for DNA), but we also still hadn't brought down the furled up asymmetric and we needed to get that down before it unfurled. We got the asymmetric on deck, put out the genoa, did all the work to stow the asymmetric and sheets (lines). Then we decided we should probably pole out the genoa so we could continue deep down wind on a mostly straight course to Ascension. We haven't used the pole in a long time either so we carefully went through that maneuver finally getting everything set up after sunset but before it was too dark. Then Jon practiced processing the plankton samples with the kids while Megan started working on dinner. Whew it got busy and people were hungry and cranky in the rolly conditions! There was a lot of plankton and after processing (sucking the sample onto the paper with the vacuum pump, folding the paper in half and placing it in the baggie) plankton was coming out the sides of the paper. Really interesting. The samples would ideally get stored in a freezer, since we don't have one they are in double plastic bags right next to our cold plate in the refrigerator. All in all we learned a lot and we have ideas on how to improve our process and routine next time. When the collections count we should be ready!

Night time saw us continuing on a good course. Speeds were down a bit compared to the asymmetric but as the weather showed we would likely have true wind speeds above 20kts and it was our first night out we felt we should sail conservatively with the genoa. (The asymmetric is good in winds up to about 20kts apparent. So it should have been fine, but it might have been a bit sporty with around 18 or more kts apparent at times.) By early morning the winds had shifted east and we were able to come up into the wind to keep a good course and increase our speeds as we moved to a deep broad reach rather than deep down wind.

Jon and Daxton shook out reefs in the main, leaving one in place. By that point the winds had shifted back and we were back to deep downwind sailing. We closed out day 1 with squalls around, variable winds and around 1 meter following seas. We will be figuring out how to tweak sails and heading for this passage as it's been awhile since we've sailed in similar conditions.

The crew is well. Excited for this passage and the citizen science project. Feeling well in these seas even though they are a bit rolly at times. Of course, Poseidon has been sick - poor kitty. Everyone else has been fine though both boys felt a bit queasy for a short while. The plus side of a rolly mooring field is that sea legs arrive quickly.

For sealife, we found a black noddy hitchhiking and hanging out on our canvas this morning. He was around 100nm away from land. Hopefully he can make it back without issue as he is no longer with us. He also left a mess which we have now cleaned up.

Saint Helena Wrap-up

We were in Saint Helena for nearly 4 weeks! It started with 6 days in quarantine which was a drag at times, but did allow us to do a number of needed chores and make some minor repairs on the boat, as well as to spend some focused time together and decompress from the passage. Then we were finally freed to come ashore after 37 days alone together on the boat. Other than having to regain our land legs and aclimate to the warm temperatures, we were all quite happy.

We had ordered a replacement generator for our Watt&Sea hydrogenerator while on transit to Saint Helena. The plane that comes to the island every 2 weeks from Johannesburg brings DHL airfreight and our package was already in Jo-burg before we even arrived to Jamestown, St Helena. So things were looking good for about a 10 day - 2 week shore visit with the plane due in on 23 April. Well, not so fast! Isolated islands don't always work the way other places can. The DHL cargo got bumped from the plane. We were slightly disappointed but it wasn't a huge problem for us. We felt even less frustration when we learned that critical medications were also bumped. While power generation is very important on sailboats, our issues were certainly not life or death.

We knew we should be on our way before too long, but we also didn't want to risk never seeing our expensive part. So we decided we should wait to see if it would make the 7 May plane. We are happy to report that it did indeed. Of course, cargo needs a couple of days to get moved to town from the airport and to clear through customs. This was completed Tuesday and we followed that up by clearing out for a Wednesday morning departure.

The extra time turned into a blessing in so many ways. The time gave us a chance to sort out evisas to obtain permission for a short stop at Ascension Island on part 2 of our Atlantic transit to the Caribbean. It also allowed us to tackle a number of admin issues and figure out where it made the most sense to clear in to the Caribbean. We plan to do boat work in Trinidad for hurricane season. However, for a number of reasons, we decided we would plan to go to Grenada first. So after that decision, there was more admin to complete - health checks for the cats and electronic paperwork for the boat and crew.

Additionally, the extra time and those quarantine days to make repairs, meant that we got a chance to slow down and enjoy Saint Helena. We had an amazing island tour from Derek Richards. Not only was it an extremely solid tour, we became friends. He took us back to Napoleon's house a different day so that we didn't lose our tour time with a longer visit inside the house and afterwards he treated us to a wonderful BBQ afternoon at his gorgeous home with his wife Linda. The gardens and grounds of his house are amazing with a lovely view out to the sea to top it off. We tried to get them out to Zephyros, but Linda was not having it - no boats for her. (And while we pushed and teased, we can hardly blame her! The mooring field is indeed quite rolly most days and you have to take a small ferry boat out and back. It is a tough ask for anyone who is not a fan of boats.) So after trying to get them out to the boat, a run in on Friday night in town saw us making plans together for Sunday. We had another BBQ at the cricket pitch as Derek tried to explain cricket to us. It was another fun day and felt like a true Saint Helena experience watching cricket and mingling with the locals at the makeshift field bar.

We also took some excellent hikes. Saint Helena has 21 "post box" walks. These are trail walks with a small box at the end with a guestbook and stamp. Many people try to do all of them. We managed to complete 3 and had planned to do an additional one, but got rained out (and then ran out of time). Besides the post box walks we did a few other hikes. We climbed Jacob's Ladder - 699 (steep) steps built between what was an old incline (40% grade!) in the 1800s - first built in 1829 and then again in 1871. We walked around old fortifications - there are lots of them. We saw the house where Napoleon served out the last years of his imprisonment and died as well as his old tomb. We visited the world's oldest living land creature - Jonathan, a Seychelle Tortoise that is thought to be over 190 years old. He was actually quite active and seemingly interested in us, or at least getting the best leaves to eat near us.

It was an informative and educational visit, as well. Besides the Napoleon house there is a well done museum that we spent an afternoon in. We also took a hike to Diana's Peak (one of the post box walks) and searched out bugs in the cloud forest. We were later able to sit and have a debrief of the pictures with an entomologist at the conservation trust. We bought the bug book for the island (and have met 2 of the 3 authors) and Daxton is enjoying reading about all of the endemic and invasive invertebrate species. (Unschooled Science win!) While we were on the hike we were also able to stop by the endemic nursery and talk with the plant specialists. They are trying to keep invasive species at bay and replant endemic plants. We also saw field workers and had friendly chats with them about their conservation projects.

We of course spent time eating ashore and relaxing as well as visiting with fellow cruisers. We met so many interesting people from different boats. Many people were just starting out from Cape Town and others were continuing on or wrapping up circumnavigations. We made lots of new friends that we hope to see in other ports along the way. Skylark, one of our new friends, held a massive Cinco de Mayo party on their 54ft Amel with 17 people aboard - somehow it didn't even feel very crowded. We are looking forward to hanging out with them again in Ascension. They are about 2 days ahead of us so we hope to share more good times and sundowners with them. We also hung out with our Falkland friends on Kelper. They left the Falklands at the same time as us, but had a heck of a trip and arrived almost 2 weeks behind us. Thankfully they only had to wait 2 days to go ashore in the new testing scheme after 44 days at sea. We enjoyed catching up with them and swapping passage stories. We will see them again in Trinidad.

All in all, it was a fascinating stop. There were so many wonderful, welcoming and helpful locals. We enjoyed meeting them all and there are too many to even start to name - every one made our visit special. We really enjoyed the extra time that allowed us to get to settle in just that little bit more. Sometimes cruising is fast stops where you only brush the surface of a place and the people that you meet. Sometimes cruising is staying put, making friends and really getting to know a place like we did in Puerto Williams. This was something in between and it felt just like what we needed - warmer weather, a beautiful spot with lots to explore, friendly locals, interesting cruisers and a comfortable re-entry to tropical cruising.

Many thanks Saint Helena!

Note: As was the case in the Falklands, internet was very expensive, so it's been quite awhile since we did anything on social media other than quick Instagram posts shared to Facebook with a few pictures. We will try to find time to get the blog updated with pictures someday! Thank you for following along, posting comments (we do read them eventually!) and sticking with us even without picture heavy posts. Xx