Tuesday 2 December 2014

ARC Day Eight and Half Way

We have now covered almost 1,500 miles since we left Las Palmas a week ago, around half way to St Lucia. We celebrated this milestone last night with Dark and Stormies at happy hour, followed by chicken curry served with accompaniments created by Thermo, our high tech galley slave. This tropical mood has been brought on by a marked rise in temperature as we work our way south towards to the equator.

When dinghy sailing, one tacks or gybes every few minutes; on a yacht in the Solent maybe once an hour in the rain; on Juno in the Atlantic we do this once a week and today was the big day. We have been heading west, or just south of west for the past week with the wind coming from the north east, filling our sails from the starboard side of the boat, hence the term starboard gybe. As the wind has veered, in a clockwise direction towards the east, it has become difficult to maintain our southwesterly course so we decide to gybe, putting the easterly wind on our port quarter. However on a boat nothing is that easy and gybing Juno takes about an hour.

First we furl away our big genoa, then we have to stow the spinnaker pole that has been holding the genoa out to windward. When we are offshore we always wear life jackets whenever we execute manoeuvres outside the cockpit, so suitably trussed up,  Kerry and I go on the foredeck to manage the pole while Paul and Fatty remain the cockpit, handling the sheets and guys that control the sails and the spinnaker pole.  Once the pole is winched down and stowed back on the mast we then turn the boat away from the wind sheeting the mainsail in hard so that when we execute the gybe the sail doesn’t flip too fast and damage anything. Then back on the fore deck to set the pole on the opposite side so that we can once more unfurl our genoa, and off we go again, now heading southwest. Just as we complete the turn, the wind graciously veers a little more giving us a great wind angle to sail down to our next waypoint at 14 degrees north, 50 degrees west.

I am pleased to say that a crew of four works really well on Juno and we have now settled into our daily routine.  This starts at 0700 when I send a status report to our weather router so that he can study our position and weather conditions and advise us on the best route. At around 0800 mother starts making breakfast and we all gather in the cockpit: bacon and eggs for Paulus and me, yoghurt and other stuff for the girls, all washed down by strong cappuccinos from the Nespresso machine (the spare as yet unused but on hot standby).  After breakfast I run the generator to charge our batteries and run the water maker. Between the four of us we use around three hundred litres per day for showers, cooking and drinking and this takes about an hour and a half to replace with our water maker that desalinates seawater and puts pure fresh drinking water into our tanks.

At 1100 we have our morning radio call with El Mundo, followed by the ARC roll call at 1300.  Yesterday Kerry was at the radio for the roll call and was asked by the net controller to read the weather forecast, as our signal was stronger and more likely to reach the now dispersed fleet.  Despite never having used a radio before she rose to the challenge beautifully, sounding like an old fashioned BBC announcer with her St Trinian’s vowels floating over the airwaves.  Then it’s time for lunch in the cockpit, always followed by fruit and always rounded off with cold chocolate from the fridge ever since Fatty has made addicts of us all.

During the afternoon is when we catch up on sleep, write emails, read books; all the time sailing the boat as fast as we can but without taking undue risks. We are now over 1,000 miles from land in any direction and sailing conservatively. I can hear my friend Oults saying, “and if you believe that you will believe anything”. The new fishing rod went out yesterday but despite looking fantastic with its gold reel gleaming professionally in the sun, the imminent bite remained imminent, while on El Mundo they caught their seventh fish. The irony is that I am using a lure, custom built at great expense by the fishing shop in Lanzarote, while Mervyn has lashed together his own concoction which drew looks of disdain and disapproval from the same fisherman, but which now needs a licence to kill, such is its ruthless efficacy.

Happy hour is at 6pm in the cockpit when we have drinks and canap├ęs while mother is preparing supper. I run the generator again around this time to charge the batteries for the night and the water heater for evening showers.  We try and have supper while it is still light, then settle the boat down for the night and move into the night watch system.  Night watches run from 9pm to midnight, midnight to 3am and 3 am to 6am, and we each take it in turn to be on watch during these times . The best watch of the day is the 6am to 9am watch when dawn breaks, the sun rises on the eastern horizon bringing new shapes and colours every day and we all gather for breakfast once more.

Its amazing how fast the days pass considering how little we actually do.  Sailing the boat itself is quite time consuming: trimming sails, altering course, writing the log, taking turns at the helm and gybing – once a week.  I always seem to write on night watch and tonight is balmy and bright as the moon grows bigger and brighter every day. We hadn’t seen any other boats for a few days now until tonight when we had to take avoiding action as a huge tanker bore down on us from astern at 18 knots. I am guessing that we must be crossing a shipping lane because the probability of that encounter seems very remote out here in this huge wilderness.

As we progress further west the chance of squalls increases as clouds that have developed off the coast of Africa gather energy from the evaporating sea as they travel west, eventually unable to retain the moisture any longer when they reach their dew point, dumping rain and high velocity wind into the sea below.  A few squalls have threatened, first appearing as angry purple bursts on our radar, but so far they have passed us by with just a few drops of rain carried by the wind rather than the full frontal assault of gale force winds and torrential rain that comes with a direct hit.

Its breakfast time soon, Fatty is on mother watch today and all is well on Juno.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant update guys. Congrats on progress to date. All sounds to be going 'swimmingly'!" Following you on the Fleet Tracker, you appear to be well up there with the mix towards the head of the fleet with a few yachts only spread out ahead of you. Dark 'n Stormies sound like a good mix and I have to say I'd not heard of that one before. Have to include that in the 2nd Ed of The Marine Cookery Bible! Best wishes to all onboard. Malcy