2nd September 2009
02.10 a.m. This is our second night en
route to the Madeiran Archipelago from Cascais. We are aiming for Porto
My watch started at 02.00 a.m. after a good 4 hour off
watch slumber. Immediately above the sky is not black but no-colour dark with
the plough and Orion's belt crystal clear. Lower down, where the heavens touch
the earth, cloud is fixed to the horizon and we seem to be sailing on a vast
dark plate pricked out with white foaming waves. The moon is ahead, brilliant
and spectral, it makes the sea glossy with light. We are forever sailing in its
broadening path but never reaching further than its narrowest point.
We are 228 miles out into the Atlantic making 5 knots of
speed. The only noises are the quiet song of the towed water generator, the
constant swish of parting waves as the boat surges forward, the creaks and
groans of rope, metal and wood working with the sway. Navigation lights
send a red gleam over the genoa and the steel spokes of the steering wheel,
and a green glow over the starboard stanchions and the whirling rope of the
water generator. The view is unchanging, the clouds
do not move, the moon's path is constant, stars are fixed. Only the sea and the
boat move; the waves are long and slow, the ensign maintains its constant
fluttering wearing away its stitches and rawing its edges, the sails rise and
fall like breathing and the boat dips to port every 10 seconds or so.
This is the night watch, time for a cup of tea to drink
in the cockpit in the mild night air.
Speed has increased to 6 knots. We want a course of 220º but are
tracking at 235º going more west than we want so that
the boat sails well and the sails stay set in the wind we have available. We
have another 242 miles to go. Lights ahead
on the starboard quarter, far off. The binoculars show fore and aft lights far
apart, a bulk carrier of some sort. The lights hang on the horizon not seeming
to move, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, then they are gone, steamed off ahead to
somewhere south far from here.
There is a big swell now, the sea
heaves up around us like great hills of black oil, we are carried up with them
then sink into the troughs. The moon looks watery as clouds settle over its
face, the flag continues to batter itself against the air.
Chris snores gently in the aft cabin. The moon cloud has blackened and stretched
itself down to meet the water, the silver path has gone and the wind is fluking
about making the sails bouncy. It is crow black ahead, behind is lighter and the
clouds there are thin and wispy. Temperature has dropped, socks and jacket
Four hour watches suit us very
well, they seem to give a sensible rest and sleep period, three is never enough,
and by the end of four hours on watch we are so keen to climb into our sleeping
berth that the creaks and groans of the boat go unnoticed unless the mainsail
and boom give a thwack, that usually wakes us up.
a.m. Our speed has dropped to 4.7 knots, if we continued at this
speed it would take another 53 hours to get to Porto Santo so I hope
the wind picks up. The cloud ahead is so dense now that we are sailing into what
looks like a black wall. Behind has darkened too, there seems to be a masthead
light following us but it is just a bright star rather low on the horizon.
Where the boat churns up the sea the foam is
fluorescent, it looks as though we are sailing through a sack of emeralds, quite
beautiful in all this blackness.
a.m. Speed increased to 5½ Knots now but still sailing into a
black hole. However, high above is clear and a riot of stars and shooting
stars streaking their way across the sky. Other than the one ship earlier
this watch has seen no traffic, no sail changes have been required, it has been
calm and peaceful if a little slow at times. Just going on 05.55 am., time to
make tea for the skipper ready for his watch, I hope he slept