Monday 2 December 2019

A Trio of Tuna

We have been sailing all day, making a modest 6 knots, but in the right direction and with the prospect of more wind to come. Oults is back on Mother watch, however these days he is rarely parted from his sextant, his map of the stars, his note book; sometimes he can be persuaded to take the helm for a few moments, before the autopilot is re-engaged and he can return to his life as a midshipman on a square rigger. However he makes time to run up a lunch of pasta with sweet corn and tuna for which we are grateful.

With the boat sailing, the motion easy and the weather fine, there is
little to do in the way of chores so we turn on the TV in the saloon and
watch a documentary film called Fire in Babylon, an account of how the
West Indies cricket team rose from obscurity to become the greatest team
in the world, unbeaten for fifteen years, a feat not achieved by any other
team, in any sport. It is rather surreal to be watching a film about the
Caribbean, mid Atlantic, but it's great fun and I can recommend it to any
cricket fans of any nationality; well, maybe not the Aussies.

The film over, Nick returns to the galley and Mervyn is on watch, when the
ratchet on the fishing rod screams in alarm and the line races out. Mervyn
is in charge of fishing and he grabs the rod and starts to wind. A lot of
line has paid out and we both share the job of reeling in the catch. As
the hooks near the boat we discover why it is such a struggle; at the end
of our line are three double hooks on a wire trace and there is a tuna
fish attached to each hook. The fish are a perfect size, not too large to
handle but with plenty of flesh and Mervyn skilfully removes the fillets
which go in the freezer. The fight has been bloody and we wash down the
decks with copious amounts of water and tidy up the cockpit. By this time
it is late afternoon and I head for the shower before my watch which
starts at 6. However when I glance at the water gauges I see that we are
very low on the port water tank so first I decide to run the water maker.

I switch on the generator which starts easily with a reassuring rumble
from the port engine room and I climb down into the starboard engine where
the water maker squats on a shelf, full of self importance; it knows its
worth to me and the crew. As usual I cross my fingers and press the start
button. The high pressure pump whirrs into life but rather than reaching a
constant speed it slows, then speeds up, then slows again, refusing to get
up to pressure, and my heart sinks. While not life-threatening I have
always worried that the failure of the water maker would make life much
less pleasant on board. No more hot showers, buckets of seawater to flush
the loos and strict rationing for the rest of the journey, so I try to
diagnose the problem. The high-pressure pump on the water maker draws
significant current at start-up and when I look at the electrical panel I
see that the oven is on, baking bread, the immersion heaters are both
switched on, the charger is pushing 70 amps into the batteries; all
loading up our 7kw generator. I switch off everything but the water maker
and to my relief the pump resumes its normal pitch and water starts to
flow into our tanks. On our last boat the generator was twice as big and
able to cope with all the demands simultaneously. In many ways a smaller
generator is better; being lighter, more economical, they like to be run
at maximum load, but I need to ensure that in future I bring on the loads
more gradually so as not to overload it. I am not the only person who is
relieved by this happy outcome. Everyone was waiting with baited breath so
see if the revered device would recover and we celebrate its return with
beer at happy hour.

Oults has made a fish dish using some of the tuna which is still warm from
the sea. Cooked Otto Lenghi style, with chick peas and rose Harissa don't
you know, it is delicious, eaten in the cockpit as the sun sets. Normally
at this time of day I am on watch until 9pm and then again from 3am to
6am. However, today Rosie has sweetly offered to swap watches, so instead
of waking at 3am, I can sleep through until 9, the perfect Sunday lie-in,
and the prospect of this decadence stays with me until I hand over to
Andrew and climb into my bunk for my first unbroken night's sleep since we
set off from St Lucia.

I wake at 6am, refreshed after nine hours' sleep, and join Oults for the
dawn watch, everyone's favourite because it starts in darkness, then very
gradually the night sky begins to lighten in the east, snuffing out the
stars, beginning with a dull orange glow low on the horizon which spreads,
slowly at first and then the sun bursts through and day has dawned. We
have been sailing at 6 or 7 knots all night with the wind behind us,
travelling on a south-westerly course. With Mervyn's breakfast of bacon
sandwiches and coffee devoured, the washing up done, I decide that it's
time to raise the mainsail and change to a more westerly course where I am
hoping that the apparent wind will increase and it will position us well
for the stronger wind band that is forecast to fill from the north,
tomorrow. We raise the mainsail, all 100 sq metres of it, unfurl the
genoa, another 100 sq metres and at first nothing much happens; then
slowly the sails catch the wind, Hera starts to build her speed, the
apparent wind moves forward and soon we are up at 10 knots on a beam
reach, occasionally 11 knots, on a direct course to St Lucia. Happy Days.

1 comment:

  1. I bet Andrew enjoyed the cricket ........not !!!!