Squally McSquall face and the wizard bird 15:13:26N 50:37:13W
It has been, probably, the bumpiest 24 hours of our run so far. The wind has been a consistent F5 mostly 18-21kts from the East, occasionally a little south of East and stronger during squalls. The sea state is what has caused most discomfort as we seem to have a combination of wave patterns all coming at us from different angles making conditions aboard anything from "quite rolly" to "thrown around like a pea in a can" but we are managing perfectly ok and Hamble Warrior's galley is still turning out some amazing dishes despite the rather violent motion (more of that shortly!)
We had a pretty settled night and, despite Jamie getting a little rain during his watch, we had no squalls and didn't need to touch the sails as we had them both reefed down before bed.
I wedged myself into my bunk using as much bedding and clothing as I could find easily to hand and once "packed in place" had a peaceful night's rest. Jamie didn't call me until nearly 5am as he had been getting plenty of rest in the cockpit and after we swapped places he reported a very comfortable few hours sleep. Meep spent most of the night in his hammock as that seemed to be the most comfortable spot for him with the lively conditions - he occasionally disappeared up through the deck hatches that lead out onto the coachroof where he is completely enclosed by our upturned dinghy. Here he would make some strange high-pitched grumbling and then return to his hammock. I'm sure he was put-out by the pitching sea state but I'm also pretty convinced he was howling at the full moon!
As Jamie went off watch he announced we were approaching less than 650nm from Martinique! This is a significant number for me - I always said that the countdown would be on for me once we were within 650nm. I think it's because that is the furthest distance we have sailed in one hit before (Gibraltar to Graciosa in the Canary Islands) and therefore once we are within that range we are truly within striking distance!
Jamie went to bed and I sat up watching the rolling swell and the frothy-peaked waves around me; the bright moon overhead and the orange glow on the skyline to the east as the day prepared to break. I feel like I need to savour every single second of this trip now. Every sight and sound. We built up to this trip for so many years and now it's going to be over before we know it and I just want to bottle every single moment.
At about 8am Jamie got up and shook out the second reefs in our sails and we sat drinking tea and toasting the final 650nm! To mark the occasion we finally cut the melon we have been carefully stowing and have very much been looking forward to. We knew that once we cut it we would be eating melon until it was all gone and didn't want our other fruit going bad during that time. We have now reached the point where we are confident we have enough fruit to get us to shore and we have thrown so little of our fresh produce away that we need not worry it will go bad. The quality of the produce we bought at the farmers market on boxing day has been exceptional and we have eaten so well these last weeks. The select pieces of meat that we brought in our fridge have also lasted well - we chose these according to what the longest dates we could find were and the type of packaging - vacuum sealed had the longest dates and although the plastic wrapper is unavoidable at least most of the items we chose didn't come with those awful large plastic trays. (As an aside we have been sorting; compressing and stowing our rubbish and recycling in a large olive barrel and in bags in our anchor locker but we will be looking for rubbish and recycling facilities as a priority when we arrive).
One of the last pieces of pre-packed meat we brought along is a rack of ribs and Jamie has had them marinading and then slow roasting in the oven for much of today and they smell amazing!!
The rest of the morning we spent watching ominous rain clouds and distant rainbows and trying to predict when and where the rain would strike. At about 11am the wind veered north and began rising steeply again. We were soon engulfed in the most impressive squall we have experienced yet. The rain hammered down so hard that it actually flattened the sea around us so that steep blue peaks were smoothed to soft grey ridges that looked nearly unreal like they had been painted with an artist's brush. The effect was similar to that created when a photographer captures fast moving water such as a waterfall and uses a long exposure to produce that ethereal dream-like candyfloss effect. It was visually absolutely stunning and I grabbed the little camera I keep in the cockpit and took a short video but when everything calmed down and I went to play it back all I have is one rather unremarkable still image. I don't know if it was low battery or operator error but all I can do is try and describe it for you as the still image is grossly inadequate!
Whilst I was failing to secure "squall photographer of the year" Jamie was tending the mainsail tucking it back down and then scrambled back to the cockpit. We both had our big sailing jackets on over swimwear. As I felt my jacket reach saturation point I decided it wasn't doing anything anyway and stripped right off to stand in the downpour for a refreshing wash. That seemed to scare the squall away and shortly after the wind eased and the rain passed over. As the sun dried our jackets and deck everything looked fresh and clean and there was a distinctive smell of teak which I always associate as a "freshly washed boat" smell.
As I write this that has been our only squall today although we have had a couple of light showers. We continue to bounce along; or bound along really, making a healthy speed rarely less than 6kts and frequently over 7.
At 2pm we calculated our day's run at a personal best for Hamble Warrior on this trip; a whopping 157nm! At this rate we will be there before we know it!
There hasn't been much else to report today. Another day with no other vessels in sight. We wonder if surely as we approach the Windward Islands we will see other sailing boats but perhaps not. Jamie cleared a couple more flying fish from the deck this morning but they had been there a little too long to offer to Meep, we gave him a crabstick as compensation. We have watched a few flying fish since the sea state increased and it's incredible how far above the water they fly in these conditions. The other wildlife I have been enjoying are the sea birds out here. I am looking forward to researching what they are sometime. They have short cigar-shaped bodies and the boomerang-shaped wings that many seabirds have. But it's their tail feathers that are so fascinating; they have just one or two very long very (very) narrow tail feathers that stick directly out behind them like a wizards wand. They are most unusual looking. I have seen one or two a day for the last 2 or three days; apparantly solitary creatures, they don't seem to be as interested in us as we are in them but I suppose they are more used to seeing nothing but sea for weeks or months on end.. and they probably aren't writing a blog about us!