Heading North

Chiscos - Atlantic Cruise
John Simpson
Sat 19 May 2012 14:45
36:02.51n 057:25.965w
Well this is our 4th day at sea and it seems like just yesterday we left Bermuda! We started in a nice breeze with the 18 or so boats in our class making their way through the 150m town cut out of Bermuda. After a few hours our hearts sank as the wind died - we didn't want a repeat performance of the last trip from BVI to Bermuda where we had to motor for far too long, especially as we ideally need to save fuel for the calms expected later on in the passage.  Luckily in the middle of the night the wind picked up...and up, and up!  We were quickly far too overpowered so everyone was up to help reef.  By this time the sea was well and truly on the beam which made sleep utterly impossible.  Not only the motion of getting knocked side to side but with the sound of the huge waves slapping the side of the boat it feels like we're sailing into a brick wall most of the time!  We were all totally knackered the next day and luckily by the evening the wind and sea had abated slightly so we were able to sleep a little.  Since then we've had a steady force 5-6 so although we're still getting knocked around, we're making good progress. I think by now we have all caught up with ourselves and feeling chirpy again.  We've had lots of music and the skipper has just given us a little trumpet recital.  Yesterday we very nearly caught our first fish (well we had a nibble anyway).  We were getting rather frustrated with our pink squid that had served us so well on the way across and as we were sailing so fast we decided to bring out the biggest lure we have (yes, the one that looks like it belongs to Ann Summers).  Just as dinner was being prepared (when else was it going to happen?) the familiar FISHHH!!! cry went out and we sprang into action.  Unfortunately we lost it but at least we know they're out there now!  We have been somewhat put off though as one of the boats on the radio net told us yesterday they spent a couple of hours fighting a fish they hooked.  Only when it was tired enough to be reeled in alongside did they realise it was a shark! They made a wise decision to cut him free.  
So all in all we are having a decent passage so far.  There are however 3 things dampening our spirits slightly:
1) We are currently last in the fleet.  We are not competitive at all so obviously that's rather insignificant.  Radio net chat has been dominated by weather & routing and the fleet is firmly split down the middle as to the best direction to head to get the best winds.  We are sticking to our decision to head north as we fear other boats taking a more direct route will encounter much longer periods of calm.  There's plenty of time for us to make up the miles, surely?!
2) We are continually on starboard tack.  Not normally so much of an issue I know, but our dear Chiscos has a terrible 'creak' when heeled over on this tack and unfortunately for us we can't change direction to give her (and our heads) a rest.  The skipper spent the first few days with the boat in bits trying to find a solution.  When the strategically placed credit card didn't work, a hammer appeared and then finally a drill.  All this effort hasn't stopped the noise but it has made it a much more friendly sound that enables us to at least sleep through it!
3) On a far more serious note we were shocked and saddened to hear this morning that one boat in the fleet had to abandon ship last night.  Yesterday evening 'Outer Limits' hit a whale and were taking on water.  Our friends on 'Halo' 15 miles away heard a mayday call and liaised with Bermuda radio to sail to their assistance.   Luckily a German container ship was also in the vicinity and so managed to get there before 'Halo'.  All the crew were safely transferred to the ship and are now on route to Italy having had to abandon 'Outer Limits'.  From talking to 'Halo' this morning it was obviously a traumatic experience for all those involved and serves as a reminder to us all of the hazards constantly surrounding us.  We discussed how we would cope in a similar situation and we are incredibly relieved that all the crew are now safe if understandably shaken.