Nick Moloney reflects on the first part of his trip from Brazil to France aboard the Open 60 Skandia

Date7 December

Well the first two days of this trip were not tough but pretty uncomfortable… rain, hot, upwind in very choppy seas, shifting winds and many tacks.

After Recife the trip became fast speeds into the 20s in effortless conditions. A very fast Doldrums crossing probably averaging 12 kts but felt like 15. Only slowed a few times to say around 8kts momentarily. No big squalls just general increase of around 5-7kts extra wind at sunrise and sunset. Lots of spray, lots of smiles. [Nick crossed the Equator back into the Northern Hemisphere on 29.11.05 at 1250 GMT sharing a little bit of Mumm champagne with Neptune].

The north-east trades were kind and I was able to almost always make a course close to north in moderate conditions. I had one afternoon of mad slamming when I couldn’t stop the boat from crashing over large chop. Nearly shaking my teeth out! Thought of what is instore for Dee on her round the world journey. [Dee Caffari sailing ‘Aviva’, the 72ft Global Challenge boat, is attempting to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world against the prevailing winds and current ie a westabout circumnavigation]. Tried to call Dee as our paths converged but no luck. I believe the boys onboard Ecover spoke to her [various Open 60s including Mike Golding’s Ecover and Roxy are also traversing the Atlantic north as they return from the finish of the Transat Jacques Vabre race]. I have been following her logs.

I have been e-mailing Roxy every second day and reporting in to Ecover by iridium once a day for a laugh. On Sunday mid-way between the latitude of Cape Verde and Canaries, the wind shut off. Well it was basically absorbed by hurricane Epsilon [now downgraded to a tropical storm] that has been hanging around the North Atlantic causing trouble. In my case, creating a large area of light winds on my path.
The following few days were a mixture of slow going – no going and some beautiful, peaceful gliding on a smooth sea. I have been crossing tracks with about two cruising boats per day. All bound for a winter in the Caribbean. I managed to chat to all in visual contact via VHF radio which was good. One evening the tall ship ‘Sun Bird 2’ was alongside just a few miles away looking incredible in the bright red sunset and the captain was relaying questions from their guests via vhf…funny!

Yesterday was a little frustrating as the swell from Epsilon arrived which made life difficult for a few hours. I thought I would break something with the violent slapping of sails across the boat in light winds and huge waves.

During the night the swell dies as Epsilon drifted past only 400 miles to my west and a light south-easterly wind arrived allowing gennaker sailing for most of the night at around 10kts of boat speed. I have just drawn a little more north-east into my course which is more direct towards Les Sables as I am more confident that the majority of light winds is now behind me.

Forecast for the next few days looks good but it’s November in the North Atlantic and is forever changing. Today is a good day, now blast reacher, full main sailing at 12kts boat speed in 11 kts TWS.

Listening to a bit of Xavier Rudd on the stereo. Had a fresh water wash yesterday and a shave so feel pretty civilised. Food has been good. I didn’t eat a lot in the beginning as I had a stomach bug. Boat is fantastic and life’s pretty good… I am pretty stress-free at the moment which is new to me and solo sailing. I have one time objective which is to be home in Australia for Christmas with my family.

But first I must visit a place where my greatest sailing adventure began to say hello again.