Balaenoptera Acutorstrata

Fri 12 Dec 2008 13:20

Position: 14:35.361N 055:45.434W



We have just come through a forty knot squall and reached stopped of 9.4 knots. We had slowed down to about 7.5 knots when a wave stopped us dead in the water. It was like a removal van jamming on the brakes to avoid a kid everything flew out of presses and shelves and the noise although not hugely loud was unbearable, you imagine all the damage that is being done as loose crockery, equipment and food take the opportunity to test their gravitational pull. Tom was pelted by lemons again in his stock of a bunk.


Things back in their place, I am on watch and the swell is heavy. It is rhythmic enough to be just about bearable apart from when we get a wave just under the quarter. This attempts to spin Cerys around 180 degrees and she shudders and vibrates as she battles these dragons, always conquering; she is our knight in white armour, our slayer of beasts. The main sheet has gone slack, a sudden wind shift of 90 degrees to the south catches me off guard at 4am, and I rip my iPod off, as it can get tangled in the wheel and I need to be able to hear what’s happening with the sails in the dark. Putting her on a northerly course asap to prevent the gybe, the Debbie Harry is still belting it out and as the compass comes round to 350 I can see what I have done. In the rush I had undone my harness instead of the iPod and I feel kind of naked up here on my own without it. At night and in this sea if I go overboard I’m finished and nobody would know for another two hours.


I think what it must have been like for the early explorers out here. We had seen a replica of the Pinta in Bayona, its first port of call after the discovery of the new world in 1492. She is very high off the water and looks like she could easily be capsized; I can imagine what the roll would have been like aboard her.


Beastly encounters were common today. In the morning we were approached to starboard by another, this time mammalian rather than reptilian, Balaenoptera Acutorstrata, a Minke Whale. All ten metres of her coasted up alongside  and she flipped first on her side and then on her back remaining abeam of us and studying Cerys’ hull and possibly us. Then, with one flick of the tail she disappeared beneath us forward of our keel and out on our port side. She remained there for photos showing her breast again. It reminded me of Jordan who appears for photos in one of Ursula’s Spanish “Hello” or “Ola” magazines on board. She then moved on and after blowing about 150m to port we lost track of her until a large school of flying fish shot from the sea, wings flapping like humming birds. We could see her surfing the swell, like a hologram in the front of the wave. Her speed stunning, these whales were never traditionally hunted as their speed would easily pull the harpoon boat under. They are, therefore, not afraid of humans. The whale returned to us again and again, the same tricks, curious as a dolphin, with white underbelly and fins displayed below like an oversized angel. She stayed with us for a few miles, approximately 45 mins before disappearing to the depths.


Our kitchen knives have rusted, we have torn our mainsail cover, and I am being very wary of our port, and last, water tank. The gauge is showing full for the last week and I know this cannot be correct. Other than that everything is good as it seems to be on the other vessels we hear over VHF. “What are you having for dinner?” is a question that is always asked, it’s a little odd, like asking a passer-by on a quiet country road what’s on his menu for the evening.


Of crew we are numbered four

We chatter with stories and lore

We talk of gales

And Minke whales

Life on Cerys is never a bore