Hokey-cokey part deux 15:24:15N 48:20:30W
The squally weather and fitful winds brought by thick dark clouds has continued in the last 24 hours.
We enjoyed a pretty settled evening and night with winds consistently at the top end of F5; mostly 20kts and out of the east; with a lively sea-state to match. Barrelling along towards our destination and despite some low-lying cloud about there was nothing looking too threatening. We double reefed the sails for comfort and peace of mind and each managed to get a decent sleep between our watches.
This morning the day dawned to more of the thick black cloud and once again we were doing the hokey cokey.... "We put our second reef in, shook our second reef out, in out, in out it made the Captain shout, we do the hokey cokey and Warrior turns about and this all makes Magpie pout pout pout" .....We are both getting a little bit frustrated and irritable. Jamie is frustrated because these squalls seem to take all of our fair winds with them once they pass leaving us flopping around in sloppy seas neither pointing the right way nor with any decent propulsion. I am mardy because I can't put on foul weather gear on a pitching boat without falling over.
There are small consolations; the squalls leave behind beautiful rainbows which, of course, we can enjoy in their entirety with nothing to obscure our view. Also there is something about peaking out from inside a full set of oilskins with rain dripping off the peak of the flourescent hood that reminds me of childhood camping trips; and of course, as I already mentioned the wet weather gear itself takes us back to our sailing on the south coast of England and ending wet weekends in warm pubs and curry houses. There have been so few occasions these last 3 or 4 years where we have needed to break out a full set of oilskins - off the top of my head our first overnight passage across the Med from just north of Corfu to the bottom of Italy is probably the last and only time since we left British waters.
However; the novelty of wet weather gear is already wearing off and I am hoping that we don't have a week of this. Apparently this is the part of the Atlantic where squalls are more prevalent but they are less common in January than November and December according to what we have read. We could summarise our Atlantic crossing so far as broadly 3 different passages; the strong winds and large seas of the first week where we made good daily runs of 150+ mile days; the calm conditions of the second week where we established our daily routine and meandered along at a pretty pedestrian pace, and now the squally; fitful, final run where we are having to earn our miles handling canvas and gybing our way between deluges. The weather is now changing so rapidly that we have been able to take 2 photographs for our album; these pictures are taken within seconds of each other and show myself in full foul weather gear with a black squally sky full of rain behind me, and a second of Jamie in shorts, t-shirt and sun hat smiling into the camera with blue skies dotted with white fluffy clouds as his background! You wouldn't guess we were seated within 2 feet of each other!
By 10am the skies had cleared again and the wind filled in from the east and we were back under way pointing at Martinique once more. We did, however, spend the rest of the day back and forth to the mast putting reefs in and shaking them out of the mainsail as the winds increased and then eased once more; building to 27-29kts; easing to 17-18kts, occasionally accompanied by rain showers. If we hadn't been at sea over a fortnight already with the Caribbean in our sights now (figuratively if not literally) we may have left the mainsail deeply reefed and just furled and unfurled reefs in the headsail to suit the changing conditions but we have our hearts set on a Saturday night party in Le Marin and for that we need to put in the extra grunt work.
If we zoom out a little on our chart plotter now we can actually see ourselves on the same page as the Windward Islands which is a nice feeling. We zoomed right out for the first time in 2 weeks and saw how far we had come since we left the Canaries and how much further we are now from the African coast than the Caribbean.
It occurred to me this morning that today is probably "Blue Monday". That; usually wet and miserable, Monday in the middle of January that has been identified as officially "the most depressing day of the year". Christmas is over, the decorations have been put away, the initial enthusiasm for New Year dieting and novelty of dry January is wearing thin (excuse the pun) and First Great Western are running a service of excuses and apologies rather than trains in return for the eye-watering cost of a season ticket. I wouldn't have expected to feel the "Blue Monday" effect all the way out here but perhaps just a little tiny bit; and is it that suprising? After all we are travelling by one of the very few modes of transport that is actually less punctual and less efficient than the British railway!
Despite today's conditions we have accumulated a very respectable daily run of 148.5nm and, we hope, despatched with our last Monday underway.