Tricky trades 15:36:82N 43:21:10W
We are currently hustling along with a brisk 17kts of trade winds in a full set of working sails and have been making a consistent 6-7kts of speed.
The sun shade has been up for much of the day and had to be secured with extra chord and pegs as it billowed in the breeze. When the sun shifted to behind our sails and we no longer needed the shroud we took it down and Jamie joked that we lost half a knot at once!
Meep is just finished one end of a flying fish and is sniffing around the cockpit seeking out the rest of it which we have; infact, stowed in the fridge for him for later. It occurred to me that perhaps not everyone is familiar with these amazing little creatures so I have attempted to take a picture of one and when we are able to upload our photos from the trip I will be sure to include it. They have actual wings - really quite a thing to behold. When you see them moving it is incredible; especially if you see a whole "shoal" of them (are they still a "shoal" if they are airborne? We refer to them as a squadron!) They travel incredibly quickly over huge distances just a few centimetres from the surface of the water and in arrow-straight lines. I have yet to see how they end up on our deck but it is not an unusual phenomenon and just about every sailboat we have read about crossing the Atlantic has had these critters land in their decks at some point. As we are travelling far too quickly to troll a line now Jamie decided to keep this morning's fishy offering from Neptune as a treat for our fearless little midshipman.
We are all recharging today after a bit of an exhausting night. The winds filled in yesterday afternoon and by evening we were enjoying a lively sail with a single reef in our mainsail and romping towards our destination at about 6kts. However, as the sun began to head towards the horizon we were noticing more and more cloud gathering and by the time the sun set there was thick cloud ahead and a heavy bruised looking sky above us. We could see to the distance where the thickest of the cloud was disgorging it's load and we gybed our headsail to try and adjust our course between the downpours.
We were still making good way and we finished our Friday drinks and stowed away anything that we didn't want to get wet and ate a simple dinner of pasta and pesto. By the time we had cleared that away the first spots of rain were landing and we reluctantly gathered our foul weather gear and assembled it on deck. We had hoped that slipping our big sailing jackets on would be enough but as the rain poured down we were soon trussed up in full oilskins and huddled under the sprayhood. Jamie made hot drinks and as I sat sipping my coffee in so many layers of fleece and Goretex that I could hardly move I had a fond flashback a few years to our January sails in the Solent and an overwhelming nostalgia for the welcoming warmth of the Whyte Hart in Hamble with its open fire; friendly faces and little bottles of prosecco that I was so partial to. It was a cosy Sunday ritual after a weekend of bouncing around Southampton Waters trying desperately to remember all these silly sailing terms and laughing at Jamie's occasional fanciful references to the idea of crossing an ocean or sailing around the world.
I digress... it rained through to the early hours of the morning and eventually Jamie packed me off to my bunk. We were well set; I should get some rest he said; as he says most nights. I went below and slept deeply for a couple of hours until Jamie woke me around 3am calling that he was going up on deck to bring down the mainsail. I scrambled out of bed and up on deck as fast as my legs would carry me; not stopping to put on shoes or wet weather gear - we have a very strict rule; neither of us EVER leaves the cockpit at night without waking the other first. I arrived on deck to find Jamie already at the mast wrestling down the mainsail. The headsail had already been furled and without the propulsion of the sails we were flopping about in a big sloppy sea in which Hamble Warrior swung back and forth like a pendulum in a violent rocking motion. Jamie came back to the cockpit and looked exhausted. "What happened?" I asked. "Didn't you hear?" he replied, "couldn't you tell the sails were slatting and flogging; it sounded like they were tearing themselves to shreds!" I felt a bit guilty that I had slept so deeply whilst this was going on and felt a little agrieved that for the 13 previous consecutive nights I had climbed out of my bunk regularly every night to check that the horrendous racket from above was just the way sound travels through the boat and everything was, infact, alright above decks. Of course the first night that these sounds indicated an unreasonable level of stress on our rig I was below sleeping peacefully!
According to Jamie's account of the hours between me going to bed and him calling me on deck the winds had turned fitful and begun backing and veering for a couple of hours before swinging south (completely contrary to the prevailing conditions for the last 2 weeks and not at all conducive to our current sail plan). The wind stayed south for an hour and then died completely by which time Jamie was exhausted and decided to strike all sail. We had an uncomfortable 15 mins or so before miraculously the wind filled steadily back in from the East and we pulled out the headsail and I sent Captain to bed for a good rest.
It was an unusual and exhausting night all round. I stayed on watch for the next few hours and marvelled how quickly all the cloud had cleared leaving a starry sky overhead and; even more surprisingly the teak sole of the cockpit was already bone dry again after all the rain. It seems like the thick black cloud had somehow been either sucking or blocking the prevailing winds and now it had cleared we were; once again, trotting along in 16-19kts of wind blowing us, thankfully, in the right direction once more.
Those fair winds have now lasted all day and as the sun starts to head to the horizon again and the nearly full moon is already visible high above us; the scattering of clouds are the "opening sequence of The Simpsons" clouds (I know and I don't care that there is a proper term for them which I am not using because EVERYONE knows what "The Simpsons" clouds are) which Jamie has assured me are typical of the trade winds conditions we can expect about now. They certainly look nothing like the menacing beasts looming overhead last night so let's hope it is a more peaceful evening ahead.
The upshot of this rather exciting 24 hours is a daily run of 129 hard-earned nautical miles and despite everything it feels great to be racking up a decent days run again at last. It feels like we had a few days off but now we are; once again, sailing the Atlantic.
..and as it's now Saturday night it must be time for the indie disco!