Yacht into tropics as epic voyage continues

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Elsi Arrub and her intrepid skipper Andrew Halcrow have crossed the tropic of Cancer and were about 20 degrees north, mid-way between the Canaries and Cape Verde, today.

Writing in his blog, Andrew says that he has been following the trail of the brilliant planet Venus to the south-west. Unfortunately going had been slow in light winds, with the steel yacht only making 54 nautical miles in 24-hours to mid-day on Tuesday.

Nonetheless, many will feel envious of the balmy breezes, sunny days and starlit nights the vessel is experiencing in this stretch of the trip south of the doldrums.

As well as trying to coax as much from the light conditions as possible, Andrew has been busying himself cleaning the galley seawater pump and salvaging what he could from a couple of rotten cabbage.

Elsi Arrub has also encountered a couple of other yachts in that piece of the Atlantic, one a “millionaire’s yacht” called Highland Breeze, coming close enough for a shouted conversation.

The downside of all that mid-Atlantic sun is the sunburn which Andrew was beginning to feel across his shoulders. The heat has also meant steady use of the water maker, which handily turns salt water into potable water, but only after an awful lot of exertion.

On Monday Andrew spotted a school of 20 Atlantic spotted dolphins which took turns leaping clear of the sea and other antics, before disappearing. He also experienced a three-way global radio conversation thanks to Skype and modern technology, speaking to both his partner Alyson in Burra and her son Finlay in Vietnam.

Elsi Arrub was visited by a moth – an unexpected find 240 nautical miles from land, and Andrew concluded it must have come off a ship. The previous afternoon, he saw a “very strange creature.”

He writes: “It was about two feet long and about six inches in diameter with blunt rounded ends. It was almost translucent and had various colours running through but the dominant colour was a lilac purplish tinge. It looked so fragile and flimsy that if I had tried to pick it up it would have fallen apart between my fingers. It reminded me of the type of plankton you see under a microscope but of a giant size.”

The rest of the day was filled with running up and down the sails in unreliable winds. More agreeably, a Canadian country station was picked up on the radio and bottlenose dolphins put in a welcome visit.

Last Thursday Andrew celebrated a nostalgic anniversary: “It was 25 years ago yesterday when Terry [Andrew's brother] and I set off from the Canaries to sail across to Antigua. I remember it as if it were yesterday,” he wrote on Friday.

Before that, Andrew had brushes with a squeaky rudder, dolphins, a whale and (imaginary) sharks before heading over the stern to check out the rudder.

Last week Andrew had a radio encounter with the yacht Hot Stuff crewed by nine girls from a company called “Girls for Sail”. They were in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and had left the Canaries and were headed for St Lucia.

He writes: “The two girls I spoke to were Clair and Sue and they were hugely enthusiastic and were really looking forward to the challenge of the sail across and the party at the other side. I asked if they were all for sale and Clair said, ‘Young man, you simply couldn’t afford us!’”

Since The Shetland Times last reported from the Elsi Arrub blog, she has completed her transit of the Bay of Biscay, and bypassed Spain, Portugal, Madeira and the Canaries. Elsi Arrub should shortly be level with the Cape Verde isles and after that heading for the equator, which was still some 700 nautical miles south of his mid-week position.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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