It's the wee small hours and I've just been dragged
kicking and screaming out of the murky depths of a fast sleep, as sound a sleep
as only a yachtsman on dog-watches knows. We seem to be sailing along a shipping
route, so every now and then the peace is shattered by the long range alarms,
signifying a vessel of some description bearing down on us. This is why we have
to stay alert, all through the night.
My most recent was the Chiquita Bremen, a 150m
merchant ship who's projected course would cause us in 10 minutes to swap paint
at the very least, so I called him up, and he immediately replied -
professionally, immediately and graciously changing course. I then saw his
lights as he passed, just tipping the radar alarm at 2nm. Amazingly, he then
sent us a text message saying thanks for the call, good watch sir safe onward
journey et cetera. I'm waxing about this as the tanker skippers most yachtsmen
encounter hardly ever behave in this way, out of beligerence or arrogance or
apathy, they barge on relentlessley as if it is their sea, and I suppose, in a
"might over right" way, it is.
So, back to my watch. The weather is changing as we
speak, a front is passing over us, raining down at precisely the time that one
must go on deck regularly to chance course. It's not just a case of adjusting
the autohelm, every course correction of over 10 degrees or so must be met with
a corresponding change in sail trim, both main and fore. Our running days are
over now, the wind is backing round to the NW, hopefully not too far north or we
will be beating, and from the looks of it, into a fairly unpleasant sea.
I've been told off for using too many nautical
terms, sorry about this. Alex and I use them all the time, because, well, that's
called behaving in a seamanlike fashion. It would never do to say, "pull that
rope on the right", one must say "haul that sheet to
starboard" and so on. But, for the nautically-challenged, beating
probably needs some explaining. As the wind goes round, a boat has to adjust her
sails and trim so that she sails on course, or as close to her track as she can.
The only stipulation being that she can not go to windward, or into the
wind. Calypso can go fairly close
(close-hauled) but 40-50 degrees either side of the wind is about it for her.
So, if North is our desired heading, then 320 degrees or 040 degrees is our only
two options, that and turning round and going back the way we came. So, because
we are not going direct, our speed is much less in terms of reaching our
destination. That is downside No.1. Downside No.2 is that when beating, or
fetching as it is known, the boat is meeting the wind and the waves nearly
head-on, causing a further reduction in speed and an awful ride for the sailors
aboard. The poor boat slams into waves, leaps off steep swells and slams, gets
pushed downwind by the sea who she is trying to point into. Water inevitably
finds its way in, (Capt Tolley's creeping crack cure can only do it's best) and
makes life more miserable. So to conclude, beating = an inability to
go in the right direction and getting terribly punished for
trying to do so.
This is what we face in the days to come, as we get
closer to home, the UK seems to want to push us away. So think of us as the wind
and the swells build!
Well, that's killed 30 minutes, I can detect a
slight glow to the pitch black sky, dawn fast approaching. 90 minutes to go
before my bunk and another 2 hours of blissful sleep!