Well, we are now almost three quarters of the way to St Lucia. Our rate of progress has been slowed quite significantly by two days of light winds and one night of almost no wind. We have had a couple of impressive catches, both of which were consumed with relish. Unfortunately, Andrew and James continue to suffer from frequent bouts of seasickness, no doubt induced by the continual rolling motion that we have been experiencing since Sunday, as we sail dead down wind.
I have to start off by apologising to Brian and Ali for not thanking them last time for their kind “half way” gift (a miniature of Johnnie Walker Red Label). Their first gift (chocolate golf balls) was for my birthday, which fell when we in Lanzarote, on our way to Las Palmas. I look forward to seeing what their third, “arrival”, gift is. After our half way celebrations on Thursday afternoon, we skipped the planned pancakes and went straight to the steak stew, which was excellent, and turned out to be so filling that we left the cake for another day too, and just had some tinned peaches to follow. The wind continued to hold into the evening, but we dropped the cruising chute and resorted back to the poled out jib and goose winged mainsail overnight, just in case the wind got up, which it did, and it also changed direction enough to require us to take in the pole and just sail on a normal port tack.
Friday started as a grey morning, with a number of passing squalls and very heavy rain at times. We saw gusts of up to 52 knots at one point, while we had full sail up, but we experienced nothing unusual, suggesting that the gust that had hit the wind sensor at the top of the mast had not hit the sails or the boat itself. A little later, Alan decided to put the cruising chute up, but an approaching squall resulted in having to come back down again almost immediately! He and James got soaked to the skin in the process when the first of the rain hit us. The day brightened a little and we dined on the postponed pancakes, which were large and surprisingly filling, with a variety of toppings on offer, depending on taste, followed by a very large Italian style cake. The wind fell away in the late afternoon and we had a very frustrating night, with little or no wind. We sailed in a circle at least twice and were also going backwards on two separate occasions, due to an adverse current. I took photos of some very strangely shaped tracks on the plotter, which looked as though the helmsman had been drunk! I lost count of how often we switched the jib from side to side, as the wind moved all around us almost continually. Passing squalls were another feature of the night that we had to keep a close eye on, picking them up quite well on radar. Although we had some very heavy rain, none of them actually hit us. We only managed 21 miles in the thirteen hours from 2030 to 0930 the following morning.
Another ARC boat, Canapesia, a Bavaria 44, caught up with us on Saturday morning, but only because they had motorsailed overnight. They had been 70 miles behind us at noon the day before. Four white heron homed in on the boat and landed on the backstay and fishing rod, where they jostled for position for a while. They looked quite tired, so we tried feeding them bread, but they showed no interest and flew off after a brief rest. It was bright and still very calm, so we removed and stowed the smaller jib, replaced it with the larger genoa, furled it away and raised the cruising chute. James had been trailing a fishing line again, having lost a lure yesterday, and discovered that he had caught a beautiful dorado, which will form the basis of fishcakes for tonight’s evening meal. However, in terms of progress, we had only managed 65 miles from noon yesterday to noon today, less than half of our previous worst day! With cruising chute and mainsail up, we set off to chase after Canapesia, who were by now flying their Parasailor and had passed us while we made our sail changes. In a light breeze, we quickly caught and passed them and then closed with them so that we could take photos of each other’s boats to exchange in St Lucia. Later in the afternoon, the cruising chute sheet got caught on the new dan buoy bracket, breaking it and launching the dan buoy into the water. It is a new, inflatable, dan buoy and it inflated exactly as it should, but turned out to have a poor seal at one point, allowing the gas to escape (slowly)! Alan and I took some Sun sights, which turned out to be almost spot on! James thought that he had caught another fish, but it got away and took one of his hooks with it! We dined on fresh dorado fishcakes, with tuna, peas and potatoes, followed by chilled melon with ginger. The wind continued to fall into the evening and Canapesia motored off again, disappearing into the distance ahead of us. We dropped the cruising chute and got out the genoa, followed by the mainsail a little later, so as to have a more flexible sail plan overnight. The wind didn’t fall as far as it did the previous night and we managed to keep sailing, albeit quite slowly. It was also a bit cooler and we felt the need to wear tee shirts overnight again.
Sunday started out fairly grey and cloudy and continued like that all day. We had an early visit from another white heron, which again didn’t seem interested in bread or water and took off again after a brief rest. The wind picked up quite nicely in the morning, so we poled out the genoa to run goose winged, more or less dead down wind. We were actually heading directly towards St Lucia, for only the second time on the whole trip so far! This increase in wind helped us push our noon to noon log mileage up to 95, which is still a pretty poor average of only four knots, but significantly better than yesterday. Andrew had set the fishing line out again and then gone to bed, so, when James spotted that we had caught another fish, it was left to him and Alan to reel it in. This turned out to be quite hard work, compared to the yesterday’s dorado, as it was a significantly larger tuna, which put up much more of a fight. However, they eventually got it on board and we will be dining on tuna steaks tomorrow evening (because chicken was already defrosting for tonight’s curry). The wind held fairly steady all day and we maintained a speed of around 6 knots through the water plus benefitting from a favourable current, although we started rolling a lot more as the swells continued to increase in size again. The wind held and we ran like this all night.
Monday started almost as grey as Sunday and continued the same all day. We carried on sailing goose winged, in fairly steady wind, generally doing just over six knots plus continuing favourable current. Our noon to noon log mileage was 141, an average speed of just under six knots. This is a lot better than the last two days but still the third worst of the trip so far (but only just). The afternoon was completely uneventful, other than the fact that we passed our two thirds distance milestone, so I watched Pirates of the Caribbean on James’s laptop. I also copied the first eight series of House MD from Fred’s hard drive and series four of Southland from James’s laptop over onto my new phone. Unfortunately the standard Android player that I have will not play them properly, so I will have to wait until I can download an alternative one to start watching them. Alan finally finished his book, “The Atlantic”. He thanks Ian Sandison for the loan of it and hopes that Hector is finding plenty of golf balls. We dined on excellent tuna steaks with mashed potato and leeks in cheese sauce, followed by fruit salad and custard. We passed the 2,000 mile mark (through the water per the log) just before 2000. The wind held steady and we carried on goose winged overnight.
Tuesday started out grey, just like the last two mornings, but with the single, significant, exception that a widespread cluster of squalls caught up with us at about 1030 and took more than an hour to pass over the top of us. There was no way for us to avoid them and they lashed us with torrential rain, which filled the scuppers to overflowing for most of that time and must have washed all of the salt out of everything that was exposed. They also brought a welcome increase in wind and we managed between eight and nine knots for a while, before it fell back again. This helped our noon to noon log mileage to 152, an average of just over six knots. This is slightly better than yesterday, but by no means spectacular. Some brighter intervals appeared in the afternoon but the wind remained stubbornly below the level forecast so we are still making relatively slow progress. However, we still hope to reach the three quarters distance milestone in the small hours of tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.