Update from the High Seas.
Mike and Liz Downing
Wed 3 Dec 2008 03:50
Can't complain as it's sunny, hot and the seas are slight - so much so that Liz has cooked all meals so far in the microwave. We never expected to be able to use it at sea as it's not gimbaled, but it's not been a problem. The gas went on for the first time yesterday to make our first 2 loaves of bread. We have been at sea 10 days now, so getting into a routine and the days are going very quickly. We have a night watch system of 4 hours on, 4 hours off, followed by 3 hours on and 3 off, so we both get approximately 7 hours sleep in a 14 hour period. During the day we have a more flexible system and it depends what jobs need to be done and what we want to do (e.g. reading, making bread, trying to get good weather pictures out of the weather fax, putting the cruising chute up, taking it down again, etc.). There's an SSB (short wave) radio net at 13.00 UTC when we hear how others are getting on (and how they are coping with the light winds).
We have used the cruising chute much more than we expected - it's quite a big sail at over 1000 sq ft and needs constant tending to get the best out of it. We're back to our 2 poled out genoas today which tend to look after themselves and we can get on with other things.
We caught up with a sail training ship, the Astrid, and despite all its sail area we are slowly leaving it behind. We called them up and there are 28 trainees plus crew aboard and they're on their way to Bequia (south of St Lucia). We have contacted a number of ships - a cruise ship going the other way came close, as did a cargo ship which would have passed less that half a mile away had we not called him up and both agreed to change course. All this ocean and we had to change course. We spotted it late and I was in the shower at the time (it's nice to have a watermaker!).
We have had a number of encounters with wildlife. We had small bird (a petrel) join us for 24 hours. It flew into my lap in the pitch black of the middle of the night. We tried to give it food and water, but it just wanted to hide in the bottom of the cockpit and we had to be careful not to tread on it. After a days rest it went on its way (it initially misjudged the sprayhood and flew into the cabin to start with). We had 2 special encounters with dolphins earlier in the passage - a school of Atlantic Spotted dolphins stayed with us for 90 minutes, bow-riding, but also queuing up at the stern to nudge the hydrovane rudder - quite strange to see. They also jumped out of the water in pairs, swivelling round one another in mid air before falling back into the water (looked like it was straight out of a Sea World display). When they were with us we had to take the Cruising chute down and the boat almost came to a standstill and the dolphins also just stopped in the water waiting for us to get genoas out and get some speed on. Normally they disappear as soon as the boat goes slow. Again it was quite strange. Over the last 3 days we have started to see more and more flying fish. We seem to get at least one on the deck or in the cockpit during the night. The bigger ones make quite a noise when they land and we have been able to get them back into the water. The smaller ones we just find dead on the deck the next day. Not seen many birds so far - a few Shearwaters and the odd petrel.
That's all for now, with still 1700 miles or so to go.
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