Friday 30 November 2012

ARC Day Three

It is 7.30 pm and I am sitting at the cockpit table in the dark wearing my head torch and writing on my laptop.  The wind has dropped to 20 knots, the sea is calmer and Juno’s motion is rhythmic and soporific as we roll through the darkness at a gentle 8 knots. Pools of bright white phosphorescence glow in our wake and then fade as they are consumed by the dark water. 
We are six hundred miles from the nearest land and the sky above me is black and alive with stars, untarnished by the ambient light of modern civilisation. The moon is not yet up but distant planets hang in the near sky, while behind, a light dusting of white spreads across the heavens. Even as I write, the glow from the moon is lighting up the eastern horizon behind us, silhouetting a few strands of clouds against the brightening sky. Other than the sound of water rushing past our hull all is quiet on Juno. After three nights of being thrown around the boat in our bunks, everyone is keen to take advantage of the benign conditions and catch up on sleep without being awoken every few minutes when Juno rolls off a wave or rounds up in a gust.

Our daily routine so far is along the following lines: The dawn watch, which begins at 6am is a great way to start the day, seeing the sun rise and being offered fresh cups of tea by each crew member as they appear up the companionway, tired and groggy after a disturbed night. Today Kim was Mother watch and despite the bumpy conditions he made scrambled eggs and toast, served in a bowl with a spoon, like nursery food and just as comforting. Once breakfast is tidied away I start the generator to charge the batteries, heat the water and run the water maker to top up our fresh water tanks. While the generator rumbles away I write my morning report and email it to Chris Tibbs, our weather forecaster and router who i imagine sitting at his home in Devon surrounded by computer screens. After receiving my report, he sends us the weather forecast in our area for the day with his advice on routing to maximise our progress.

There is a shift change at 9am so the off-watch crew write up the log recording our position, course and wind conditions and the on-watch crew member takes the helm and drives the boat, relieving the autopilot which has been steering us during the night. Mother watch then has a planning meeting with Andrew to discuss the day’s menus and supper is removed from the freezer to defrost and lunch is prepared. Today we had avocado vinaigrette with lettuce and fresh peppers followed by pizza and yoghurt for pudding.  After lunch everyone drifts off for a sleep leaving the on-watch crew in charge to maximise our boat speed. Each day Kim and I walk along the decks inspecting each piece of rigging for chafe from the continuous friction of ropes rubbing in blocks, winches and clutches. Yesterday we discovered some loose bolts on the gooseneck which we secure with locktite and tighten.

Today the big decision was whether to gybe or to stay on our current course until tomorrow. It is a great contrast from sailing in coastal waters when one might tack several times in an hour. Over tea and biscuits we decide to stay on our current tack and gybe some time on Saturday so that we can head south to avoid the low pressure system 500 miles to the west. This afternoon was fabulous sailing, averaging around 9 knots in 25 knots of wind listening to Pink Floyd and sunbathing in the cockpit. At 1400 UTC is our daily radio net when we all report our position to the net controller; It is always interesting to hear the weather conditions other yachts are experiencing as they each plot their own route across the ocean.

Because night falls early we have happy hour at around 5pm when we are allowed our daily ration of one can of beer with some peanuts. It is a great time to get together and reflect on the day’s progress while Mother works in the galley preparing supper. I run the generator again around this time to charge the batteries and heat water for evening showers. Supper this evening was Haddock cooked in a white sauce with vegetables and sweet potatoes, followed by over ripe bananas that Kim had baked in the oven with honey and a dash of Amaretto.   The only fish we have caught so far is a tiny flying fish that we found on the deck yesterday evening. Mind you, the fishing rod is still in its case in the mid cabin and we fish for our supper once the conditions settle down and the prospect of gutting a fish becomes slightly more appealing.
It is only 8:30 pm  local Juno time, which is one hour ahead of the UK, and already most of the crew are asleep. I am on-watch until 9pm when I hand over to Andrew.

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