Monday 1 December 2014

ARC 2014 Day Seven

It is 10pm Juno time and I am on watch until midnight. We are on a broad reach and I have rigged a new sheet on our big genoa that reeves around a block on the port quarter, allowing the clew of the sail to rise, opening up the slot between the mainsail and the genoa, improving our downwind speed by a precious fraction of a knot.  I have realised that ocean sailing is a long game, not won by short sprints, but by sustaining above average boat speeds over the length of a passage.

 There is a big swell running from the north east tonight and I estimate the waves to be around four metres from trough to crest.  The period between these waves is about twenty seconds; at 15 knots that’s around 100 metres from crest to crest. Even in the moonlight I can make out the rolling sweep of these lumbering giants as they rear up silently behind us, lift our stern high, then roll under our hull and continue their silent passage south until eventually their energy is spent and they melt into the vast ocean.

Every day we have two radio calls with our friends on El Mundo, one at 1100 and one at 1700. We have agreed a channel on the high frequency band of 4,025 kHz and its always thrilling to hear Amanda or Mervyn’s familiar voice over the background static.   El Mundo has taken a more southerly route than us and only six days into the passage they are a long way to the south east, well out of range of VHF radio but easily within the capability of our SSB. Although we are limited to around 400 miles on the medium wave band due to the curvature of the earth, the range of SSB technically runs to thousands of miles because at higher frequencies the signal can be bounced off the ionosphere and down to a receiver on the other side of the world.  However today El Mundo is about 100 miles south east of us and we have no problems receiving her signal as we exchange news and routing ideas.  While my fishing rod and lures remain firmly in the locker, waiting for the trade winds, El Mundo has already caught three dorados: one got away with most of Mervyns line, one was released and the other went in the pan for dinner.

Today the wind softened and veered to the east as we moved into the influence of the Azores high and its benevolent trade winds.  Our decision was whether to gybe and head south or to maintain our westerly course, even sailing a little north of west if we had to. We decided on the latter.  With a gentle breeze and sunny settled conditions we decided to set our big red spinnaker and after the usual tangle of lines and blocks we hoisted the kite and unfurled it as the big nylon sail billowed briefly and then opened with a loud crack. The conditions were perfect and we made over a hundred miles during the day with the spinnaker drawing perfectly, washing hanging out to dry, making nine knots and steady as a rock.

I am reluctant to keep the spinnaker up in the dark so just before dusk we furled it away and set up our downwind goose wing rig. Mainsail out to port and genoa poled out to starboard. This has enabled us to stay on starboard gybe, running down the greater circle route towards the sun, making good speed. The moon is waxing and now lights up the night sky accompanied by the gentle susurrus of our wake as it washes past in gleaming pools of luminescence. Tomorrow we will reach the half way mark, one week into our trip; but with lighter winds forecast ahead we are unlikely to match our 14-day crossing in 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Pinch Punch first of the month. Lots of love and keep safe

    Ottilie xx