Thursday 5 December 2019

Half Way

Black squalls, blown by the trade winds, chase up from behind us like marauding thugs; they wander the skies, becoming more crazed and unstable, intoxicated by the limitless supply of warm tropical water. Eventually, they overdose, unable to hold the moisture as water vapour any longer; it falls as rain, the cooler air descending rapidly and as it hits the ocean it fans out in all directions.

Some of these squalls are travelling at high speed so this falling air is propelled forward at the front of the squall, producing powerful gusts that can overpower and disorientate a yacht. The water vapour in these squalls shows up on our radar as red amoeba, and we track them; if possible we avoid them, changing our course to let them charge by, venting their fury on the empty ocean. Tonight I feel light drops of rain on my face and I look up to see a black cloud, silhouetted against the bright starry sky. This one is only a baby, its gentle rain a welcome rinse of fresh water over our salty decks.

Our decision last night to drop the mainsail and sail just under twin
headsails has worked well. We have our big genoa sheeted to leeward and
our staysail set to windward with a sheet and a guy on the windward bow to
hold it in position. This sail plan has lots of advantages: it's very easy
on the boat with little stress on the rig, the motion is less erratic on
the crew because we are sailing dead downwind and we just surf down the
waves. It's also fast in these wind conditions and we have covered over
200 miles in the past twenty-four hours, and that's quite a lot.

The day starts well, with Hera powering along, the sun shining and
scrambled egg and toast on the breakfast table. As is my daily routine,
each morning I start the generator, recharge the batteries and top up the
fresh water tanks – and all that requires the generator. As usual it
starts at first kick but just as I am pressurising the water maker, it
stops, the yellow warning light on the control panel blinking defiantly.
The downside of travelling at these speeds is that air can get sucked into
the sea water intake under the hull, disturbing the supply of cooling
water, causing the generator to shut down to protect itself from
overheating. The usual remedy is to bleed the air out of the sea water
system, prime the strainer and restart. Only this time it immediately
shuts down again. Without the generator we can't make fresh water or use
the oven and we would need to use our main engines to charge our batteries
and heat our water. Not a disaster, but not perfect.

I know that we have a good supply of seawater, but as the generator is
still overheating the problem is likely to be the water pump that draws
the water from the sea and transfers it to the heat exchanger. I climb
into the engine room with my tools and remove the water pump. I change the
neoprene impellor on the cockpit table, lubricate everything with silicone
grease and reassemble. Then I re-open the sea water supply and press the
starter button. Immediately I can see that the water pump is now drawing
seawater through the strainer, cooling the engine, and it rumbles along
happily, delivering the electrical current to power all our mod cons.

Today we pass the half way mark of our crossing. The distance to St Lucia
is around 1200 miles and we have sailed around 1700 miles since we left
Las Palmas. However in elapsed time we are much further ahead, as we are
now sailing due west, on a course direct to our destination and in case I
haven't mentioned it, we are also going quite fast. In preparing for this
trip, Oults volunteered to organise the costumes for the fancy dress party
in Las Palmas; however on the day of the party we decided not to go and
instead to save our costumes for our half way party. So at lunchtime
today, we all change into Greek togas complete with gold leaf headdress
and have a party in the cockpit. Oults makes penne pasta with sardines,
pine nuts and sultanas and we break our rule on alcohol and open a bottle
of red wine. As after-lunch entertainment, Oults recounts the Greek myth
of Theseus and the Minotaur, with some lapses of poetic licence for
comedic effect, which rather completes the strange Greekness of the

Supper is a joint effort by Mervyn and Nick: beefburgers with mini oven
roasted potatoes followed by chocolate brownies and accompanied by
Christmas songs on the audio system. "Driving home for Christmas" somehow
seems very apt as darkness falls and another day on the ocean draws to a


  1. That sardine pasta is Saz's favourite dish. Speaking of dishes you all look dishy in your togas......I looked at the leaderboard and you guys are in 56th place... You must be speeding along......Jx

  2. Love the costumes and relaxed postures!