Friday 6 December 2019


Leaning back languidly against the guard rail, hair ruffled by the wind, making no contribution to sailing the boat, never touching a winch handle or a sheet, but appearing in every photograph, is Molly. Not Mervyns new nickname, not a stowaway, but our floor mop, much admired by Oults, exercised by some more than others, Molly always retires to the cockpit when her work is done, drying her j-cloth locks in the sunshine. When I draw attention to this now permanent feature of the cockpit, Andrew announces that he doesn't like Molly any more, and would prefer a sponge. Maybe it was just a wave that caught the boat but I'm sure that I saw her flinch at this rejection.

Today has been an easy day, without incident or drama, but with less wind.
Our progress is steadily in the right direction but at a more modest pace;
20 miles in a three-hour watch rather than 25, our target, which equates
to 200 miles per day. But then we remind ourselves that we are in no
hurry, life on Hera is very comfortable and it is only a matter of a few
days before this great experience will be over. Mervyn is Mother today, so
expectations are high, and no one is disappointed by lunch; chicken
fajitas, followed by a fruit salad of fresh oranges and mango. Today we
had the last of our lettuce, the final mango and the last few stalks of
celery to accompany the concluding bowl of Humous. The quartermaster
reports that we still have tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes and two red
peppers, now promoted from their stowage under Rosie's bunk to the galley,
but not qualifying for a place in the precious fridge. Andrew and Mervyn
audit the freezer, and while Andrew sits on the floor with the door open,
peering over his glasses trying to identify anonymous frozen slabs, I can
only wince at the loss of precious cold air, falling into the bilges, and
the hum from the compressor, struggling to bring the temperature back down
in the open freezer when outside it is thirty degrees in the shade.

Yoga on the foredeck is no longer an easy option, as the boat's movement
is constant. Emails from other yachts bring reports of the very rolly sea
state, but we are smug, our two hulls rocking us in our bunks but without
the sickening roll of a mono hull sailing downwind. The motion on Hera is
quite different and harder to anticipate, coming from every direction,
more jerky but overall far easier on the body, and the sleep.

Rosie is on watch when we gybe the headsails. Rather than set a course for
the autopilot to steer, in these shifting wind conditions we set the wind
direction, expressed as an angle from the bow, which the autopilot
maintains, changing course as necessary. The wind has veered to the East,
and with the angle set to 170 degrees on starboard we are now heading too
far north. We rope Andrew in to help and begin by gybing our small
staysail; then we furl the genoa, gybe the boat through 30 degrees onto
the new course and reset the genoa on the starboard side. Manoeuvres that
would take a few minutes racing in the Solent, take much longer offshore
because safety is paramount and so is protecting our sails and deck gear
from damage, so I stand on the foredeck directing operations while Rosie
and Andrew and Nick operate the winches. A final check of the lines, a
quick scan of the rigging for any issues and I head back to the cockpit
and Hera settles into her new course for the night.

Just as we gather in the cockpit for drinks before dinner, another yacht
on the horizon is getting close, and rather amazingly our AIS is telling
us that our CPA (Closest Point of Approach) to Melina will be less than
half a mile if we maintain our current course and speed. We alter course a
few degrees and this allows us to duck behind them, and then overtake. I
call on the VHF and we have a companionable conversation, comparing notes;
two boats, nine crew members, thousands of miles from land, but separated
by only a few hundred metres of ocean.

For dinner Mervyn has made a platter of canap├ęs: smoked salmon with cream
cheese, small sausages on cocktail sticks with sun dried tomatoes, Iberico
ham, cheese and a bowl of Spanish olives. But this is just the starter and
is followed by Mediterranean pork casserole and leftover chocolate
brownies. As dusk settles the wind picks up again, blowing 20 to 25
knots, the perfect wind strength for us, and I just sit under the stars in
wonder at the performance of this boat watching the speed up at 11 knots
and the rush of water streaming from our stern, more like the wake of a
speedboat than a sailing yacht running under headsails.

Over dinner Andrew accuses Rosie of being an "arriveist", focussing too
much on our arrival and the end of our voyage. Undeterred, Rosie asks when
we can start a bet on our ETA and we agree that we will start the
sweepstake when we have 500 miles to run. Tonight we will reach a
significant milestone, leaving us less than 1,000 miles to St Lucia, only
five or six days if we can maintain our current rate of progress. We have
also passed the 40 degrees longitude meridian so we put the clocks back
another hour. Hera time is now GMT -2.


  1. Poor Molly - I am sure Andrew did not mean to upset her... What a meal. I can report Saz and I had pasta and broccoli - separately - no starters! The QUeen Mary has nothing on you guys.... J

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