The final push.
I believe it was Wellington who coined the phrase 'an army marches on its stomach', but my library of military quotes is limited to say the least, so forgive me if I have made a regimental faux pas. Whilst there is little or no marching going on on Milanto at present, least of all contortionist style on stomachs, we do need feeding. Like all boats of this size, the galley on Milanto is not the most spacious of areas in which to cook, and so feeding an army (or should it be navy?) of 8 can be an acrobatic affair at times.
We waited until almost 3pm (new boat time today) for the wind to turn to the north sufficiently for us to raise the spinnaker and really turn the screws for our final five day home straight. And then we were really flying. As night fell the wind first turned north east and then east to gave us full use of the massive sail. We had just enough time to acclimatise to the new set up, before sun turned to sunset and finally darkness as we were left with a moonless sky. Flying the spinnaker in this way is akin to flying an enormous kite, but one big enough and
powerful enough to pull 18 tons of boat through water at break neck speed. It is exhilarating and heady stuff, which demands intense concentration.
Being in control of the beast at night is another thing entirely.
My best take on it, is that it is like standing on a Swiss ball whilst juggling black holes (I fully appreciate here that I am now in danger of offending scientists as well as my pedantic youngest son, but I'm on a roll). You are constantly aware of the power you have in your hands as you attempt to contain and direct the raw energy through the air. It is difficult to hold back the inner 'master of the universe' as the future seems to sit in the twitch of your wrists. But at the back of your mind, you know that a slip up, or a momentary lapse of concentration,
could lead to the end of life as we know it and an eternal existence in a parallel universe. OK a little hammy perhaps, but the basic message is that it is fingertip stuff and you really cant see much, its sailing by braille. Last night we fell foul of a particularly powerful squall, which came upon us very quickly from behind. The sail was quickly spiked, but only just. The winds topped 35 knots, as the spinnaker was finally pushed into its bag at the bow by two of the crew, a wind speed which would have ripped the thing to shreds had we not already had it
Our selection of the Northern route is proving to be insightful. The boat continues to be blown along perfectly in winds of 15 - 20 knots. We have established that the Southern route has left many yachts in light or non existent winds, some reporting travelling at less than 2 knots, or 50 miles a day, to our 180 odd. We have already over taken the first of the boats which started before us and are bearing down on others. Our non competitive skipper is beginning to relax into the voyage.
We now forecast (Not officially - editor) a landing on St Lucia probably Tuesday lunchtime. Immaculate timing from my perspective, as it gives me a day to recover and celebrate (very modestly after my 2.5 weeks of
detox), with a sip or two of rum, before catching my scheduled flight home to London on Wednesday afternoon.
Thundering along the A roads now past Tiverton, on our imaginary trip to Cornwall, Valerio and Keith (with others chipping in from time to time) manage to rustle up some inspired and delicious food for us all twice a day. In a space, which to my eye at least, isn't much bigger than the back of our fantasy Morris Minor Traveller. We have feasted on fresh fish, wonderful salads, an abundance of eggs, pasta, and a host of other tasty dishes. To say that their culinary environment moves around to earthquake proportions, would be to belittle the contortions that
Valerio assumes to counter the sways, bounces and crashes that set out to upset their creations. But they both remain faultlessly upbeat (and enviously productive), in a 'kitchen' which would have driven most cooks to throw themselves on their filleting knife before we left the mariner. And the day ahead? More sea, more sun, more miles, and more fun.