A final snag and Land Ho at last 14:24:68N 60:31:03W
Saturday 22nd January
10:00hrs (UTC -4 hrs)
25nm to destination
Last night we enjoyed our "Friday night works drinks" and continued to barrel along making good speeds in a F6 breeze. A shift in wind put Warrior on to a broad reach and she was absolutely loving this point of sail; racing along in the surging swell.
This angle to the wind yielded an unexpected surprise as the flying fish that he been wantonly hurling themselves on our deck seemed to now be landing in the cockpit. The first of the night nearly slapped me on the side of the fact as it hit the sidedeck right next to where I was sitting. I felt a splatter on my cheek and heard the frantic sound of wet flapping. It took me just a moment to realise what it was and then several moments to actually get my hands properly on the slippery little sucker and hurl him back overboard. The next one; a tiny little fella, arrived about 20 minutes later and landed right at the back of the cockpit where Jamie managed to rescue him and shortly after that followed a 3rd one. It was quite a fun party game for half hour or so but I was quite expecting to get slapped around the face by one at any moment. When we went below Meep was noticeably agitated and clearly felt we shouldn't have been throwing live fish back when he could have "dealt" with them! We have grown rather fond of these little creatures though - it's fascinating watching them in their "squadrons" jetting along with their clever little wings; vibrant blue colour and massive eyes that do look for all the world like flying goggles.
The moon didn't rise until nearly half past 10 so the darkness made it feel like we were going even faster than we actually were at this point. When the moon did rise it was large and bright and nearly intact which meant it flooded the sea around us with light. We would be grateful for this tonight.
Jamie attempted to have a bit of a snooze but conditions were too lively and I think his brain was too awake to properly sleep.
It was approaching 11 o'clock when Jamie started to notice something wasn't right. Warrior was sluggish and we weren't staying on course. He adjusted the Wind Pilot and when that didn't improve things he took over and hand-steered for a bit. Something was definately wrong. He took the big powerful torch we keep on-board and had a look in the water around the boat and it was soon obvious what the problem was. He could clearly see two thick warps in the water. Some industrial fishing gear would be our best guess; presumeably a net that had been discarded. The lines went along the length of the boat and disappeared off our stern. We were effectively "streaming a drogue" (a well documented storm tactic to slow a boat down in heavy weather is to stream heavy lines from the back of the boat). We furled the headsail to slow us down and Jamie attempted to hook the lines with our boat hook. There was no chance; we were still going too fast. We dropped the mainsail and without the propulsion of either sail we flopped around sickeningly in the swell pitching up and down, side to side. Jamie tried again to fish the line with our boathook and this time succeeded. He told me to get clear and hauled the line with all his strength and hooked it over our stern winch. He heaved again and managed to get enough slack to put a wrap around the stern cleat. Now we had some line on board he could see where it was feeding off to and when he was certain it would clear the boat he cut the line which disappeared off back into the inky depths in our wake and Warrior was free once more! Jamie sat and got his breath back - he'd been so cool and calm. My heart had been racing but I'd said nothing the whole time; just followed instructions. I can't remember what we said to each other at that moment but I remember throwing my head back and laughing so loudly it felt like my chest would explode.
We can't be certain exactly what happened but a good guess would be that this was a redundant fishing net and the lines had wrapped their way around our keel. It's possible it might have snagged the rudder but seems likely we'd cut it free before it reached that point.
It seems like we had been destined to have one more story to tell before our arrival into Martinique.
We pulled out the headsail and strapped the main down onto the boom for the night. We might loose a little speed without the main but it felt like a lot of effort to lift it again at this stage so we decided to wait until morning. I made us coffee and hot chocolate and we sat and calmed down. Eventually I went to bed for a few hours and when I replaced Jamie early in the morning he'd had a quiet night and managed to have plenty of rest on watch. There was a sailing boat a couple of miles abeam of us also heading towards Martinique and although we couldn't see it they were transmitting an AIS signal and we could watch for it on our chart plotter.
Jamie went to bed and I squinted into the darkness straining to see the sailing boat "Zulu" but I couldn't make it out. I watched for it for the next couple of hours and eventually it was past us and on its way. It got within 2 miles but I never spotted it in the darkness. Once the sun came up I could see it on the horizon already 5 or 6 miles away but I can only think it was showing no navigation lights at all during the night as I was unable to spot it even as it slid past us.
This morning followed a similar pattern to the last few days. I was doused by a light rain squall before Jamie woke up and then we had a heavy rain squall and high winds gusting around 32-33kts for a short spell which had us reducing sail and putting on our bloody clown outfits once more.
Once this heavy squall passed the sun came out and we have put most of our sail back up and are watching the miles count down and squinting at the horizon to be the first to sight land.
There are now less than 25 miles to go. It is time to get the beers in the fridge (the PROPER beers this time) and prepare for our arrival a little.
Despite my efforts making courtesy flags of the Caribbean on my sewing machine before we left the first of the flags we will need is the good old French "tricolore". We will fly this for the duration of our stay in the French islands and, temporarily; a plain yellow "Q" flag until we have completed our arrival paperwork and cleared in officially.
Annoyingly it looks like Zulu will be on their second rum punch by the time we arrive but there's no catching them now. They are well ahead of us. On the other hand they probably didn't have to drop all their sail to hack themselves free of a fishing net last night lucky buggers!
As I finish checking this post ready to upload it the cloud on the horizon has cleared a little and there off in the distance is unmistakably the outline of an island and the volcanic peak of Martinique... LAND HO!!