Thu 9 Dec 2010 18:33
15:25N 55:50W
A bit later than usual, but here's our update :)

Hn finished the salt, but H restocked, and again there is plenty (and there will be plenty used as has been the case, thirsty wake ups). Hn also created a special manoeuvre, the Hn Gybe. At a completely surprising moment, when Hn was on duty and steering, he invented a move whereby he could 'park' the boat in about one second, while sailing 8 knots! Not only were the other crew members surprised, they were also tossed around in the cockpit and on deck, and we are lucky we are all still alive. But it is not only Hn making the boat rock a bit, there is swell of 4 meters, which in combination with our west-ish course creates sudden moves. Specifically when a wave brakes against the stern under an angle, This simply pushes the boat sideways while at speed. Yesterday and today we have all been brused by this, and many toes, heads and elbows, and Hn's hip, have repeatedly been squashed against doors and cabinets. In summary, the boat is very shaky.

After putting in a reef, as H was clocking 35 knots wind and we could feel already tiny drops of rain, we checked out the rigging once the squall had passed. Turned out be broke a 'leuver', not sure of the english word, but there are about 10 pieces of these holding the sail IN the mast, they can move up and down in the mast, to guide the sail when hoisting it, and to hold it to the mast while sailing. The one broken has a double function, it it also holding the second batten (zeillat) and we are not sure if this will hold until we arrive in St Lucia. We have no spare, and all we could do is tape it so that it does not scratch the mast. Because it has a double function we could not swap it with a normal 'leuver' unfortunately.

The rain experience above was the only one, as we have been masters in rain dodging. This is not always that easy, as the squalls seem to form in minutes or disappear as such, the radar does not necessarily show them, but you feel them coming, as the cold wind starts to increase and dark matter shows up 'from behind' as we are sailing downwind.

E and A missed a celebration event, the last 500M mark. We are not sure, but it looks like the AA members H and Hn consumed the remaining champagne, our beer budget has since been increased with 50%, probably to make it up with us.

We then almost caught a blue, plastic container. While fishing, it passed meters from theboat, and we were just waiting to hear the line start spinning, indicating there was something on the hook. And indeed, 100 meters or so further, something happened as the reel started spinning and humming. E jumped up and started reeling the line back in, and only until the last 25 meters or so did we think it was the container. But 'it' got loose, so it could also have been a fish.

The watertanks haven been put in 'balans' position, so that 50% of the port tank has flown into the starboard tank. The moody is since day one, heeling a bit to port it seems, and we therefore usually consume the water (and diesel) from port first.

Up for a crucial discussion. The shortest way to St Lucia is a straight line. Most of us believe we should go a bit south as almost al competitors are south of us, but maxsea software suggests, based on detailed weather information, that we should go a bit north... It thinks that tomorrow and onwards, the wind will die down, south first. So we agreed to try and sail a bit north. Initially E was very sceptical, but as he sees the boat speed increase significantly, he cannot suppress a big smile.

But now, a day later, it looks like this course cannot be held, although maxsea insists we should even aim higher for another day. The waves are so high that they really dictate what course we can take, as the autopilot cannot hold any course anymore, and we are back to ful time handsteering. This also means there is opportunity to surf, and how! These waves look like skiing slopes, and every so now and a then, the boat is picked up by a wave, lifted, and with some luck sticks with the wave for a few seconds. The hullspeed of the boat is officially around 10.0 knots, but A clocked this morning 13.7 knots, which was then later improved by H to 14.7 knots!!

So, the course to take is the current biggest discussion on board, mind you that the weather forecast predict that we will be getting less and less wind in our approach to St Lucia.

E then went into the bakskist, to find out what the squeeking noise is from. Last week he fixed the autopilot, but there seems to be another problem. He dicovers a lot of wear and tear on the 'cones' of the steering installation. Too difficult to explain properly but I will try, but the 2 rudders are connected to eachother and each is connected to a steering wheel, and this interconnectivity is by means of 'cones', bridging angles. Anyway, they are nylon/plastic cones, and they should not wear and tear. E decided to anyway apply some grease on one of them, to see if this makes a difference.

At least we were 2nd again yesterday, after a disappointing setback from number 1 to number 8. Unfortunately, last night we lost another place. We still have not put up the PARASAILOR as the wind is between 20 and 27 knots on average, but it is a bit frustrating that with the 100m2 sail we cannot go faster than 7.5knots average. It looks like we will loose more places if this continues, but there is also opportunity that we can get the PARASAILOR to work with lesser wind, and maybe if we follow maxsea advise, we can move up? We have doubled the weather forecasting on board, so early morning and late afternoon we are getting routing updates...

H has started counting down. This is ofcourse real, as we will make landfall within 48 hours, but it also means the end of this journey.

Thanks again for the PARASAILING info, we feel re-assured we can tweak it to our benefit, once the wind is a bit more foregiving!