Wednesday 28 November 2012

ARC Day One

This is our first full day at sea since the start of the ARC and in the last 24 hours we have covered exactly 198 miles. A 200 mile day is considered a very good pace for a yacht so we are really pleased with our progress. Andrew is helming and he has a great feel for the boat, I wonder if it is because he has soft hands developed from riding horses. 

Despite a big following sea we are sailing a nice smooth track southwest towards our initial waypoint of 20 degrees north, 30 degrees west.  For transatlantic sailors this imaginary position in the middle of nowhere has long been the first waypoint to aim for before turning west and heading towards the Caribbean.  The old adage of ‘go south until the butter melts and then turn west’ is based on the fact that when the temperature increases you are likely to be far enough south to pick up the trade winds which have carried seamen from East to West over the centuries. We are simply following in their footsteps.
The start yesterday in Las Palmas was in blustery conditions and despite the delayed start most of the fleet crossed the line together with only a few yachts from the racing division having taken the original start on Sunday.  As predicted a moderate north easterly had developed overnight and with it some big rain squalls went through the fleet bringing gusts of 30 knots as we headed south down the east coast of Gran Canaria.  At dusk we had Fatty and Consuelo’s home cooking which Andrew had made into shepherd’s pie, perfect comfort food for a stormy first night at sea.  All night the wind stayed up at around 30 knots and we surfed along at 10 knots with our downwind rig reefed heavily to try and reduce our speed in the darkness.  The northerly swell left over from Sunday’s storm fought against the younger energetic waves being created by the new weather system creating a cross sea that threw us around in our bunks all night, allowing us very little sleep.

Today the wind has moderated a little and the sea state has veered in line with the wind, making our motion a little easier. Andrew has done a great job as ‘mother watch’ feeding us and tinkering with his provisions and occasionally a piece of battered fruit flies through the cockpit into the sea as it is culled from the stores. One of the bags of lemons hanging from the companionway has been battering away at the steps all night splattering lemon zest all around the saloon but no damage is done and we have no tidied up and relocated the lemons to the cool box in the cockpit table.

We joined the radio net this afternoon, reporting our position on our SSB radio to the net controller.  It was sad to see that our division, which consists of the bigger yachts in the fleet, had very few yachts participating in the net, whereas the smaller boats were full of chatter and laughter as they reported their positions after their first night at sea. A member of the ARC team had said to me in Las Palmas that they don’t really like the bigger boats participating in the ARC because they are largely crewed by professionals and don’t join in the activities in the same way that the family crewed boats do – I see what they mean.

It is now 5pm and Andrew has started preparing supper so that we can eat before it gets dark. The generator is running, charging our batteries, making fresh water and heating the water for hot showers. The sea is calmer now and the wind has dropped a little so I hope that we will have a quieter night allowing everyone to catch up on sleep. Paul is on the 9pm to midnight watch, Steven midnight to 3am and then me from 3am to 6am.Although we are all a little tired after our first night, there is a great atmosphere on board Juno. Everyone is looking out for each other, whether topping us up with sea sickness pills or making cups of tea, and I feel that we will make a great team for the next two weeks.

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