Flying fish and flying frying pan.

Bob Beggs/Ian Rivers
Wed 17 Nov 2010 05:56
37*32n 030*55w
Whilst it remains to be decided (one day to go) whether Ian or I take the title of Serica’s Top Chef, the David Attenbourough Award for sea-life naturalist, undoubtedly goes to Ian.
It was Ian who spotted the pilot whales, although hard to miss as they swam along-side playing in the bow wave.  It was Ian who had the pleasure of an estimated 50 to 80 dolphins (the first of the voyage) during his watch this morning.  He also managed to get a rare shot of them leaping through the air captured on camera.  During the same watch he spent some time ducking to avoid low flying, flying fish darting across the cockpit, on bizarre kamikaze missions.  To top it all whilst I was just completing the daily engine checks he shouts pass to camera, as Serica narrowly missed running down a four foot long leather back turtle.
This increase in sea-life is no doubt due to our closing proximity to the Azores.  We are now on soundings, which means the sea bed is now less than two hundred meters below the keel, not thousands of meters as it has been since we left the North American continental shelf three weeks ago.  This also means fish will be in abundance, so renewed vigilance on watch is required, as we should now start meeting local fishing boats on our final run in to Horta.
Ian and I have now mastered the techniques and balancing acts required to cook our meals on our non gimballed cooker.  Only one pasta dish partly ending up in the bilge, this was due to an attempt to multi task, trying to keep two pans on the stove whilst talking to my wife Carole on the sat phone is way beyond my ability.  Sailing on starboard tack is easiest, with the cooker situated on the port side and the boat leaning 40 degrees over to port, the pans can rest up against the cupboards behind.  They still require constant supervision as they move off the flame, also as a gust of wind hit the sails the heel angle exceeds 45 degrees the contents try to slop out of the pan.
On port tack however with Serica leaning over to starboard this is where the game is stepped up a notch.  You see the only thing between the pans and the chart table situated on the starboard side is the chef.  We have devised a short piece of doweling which we wedge in place behind the pans to try to keep them over the gas ring  and to stop them flying over the chef du jour.  This improvised keep is only one inch high so struggles with a full pan, it also has the habit of jumping out each time Serica shoulders a wave aside.   To successfully produce a meal requires team work.  Whilst the chef tends to the pans, the chefs assistant opens tins, chop onions, but more importantly warns of big waves, and trims or eases the sails to try to keep Serica at the same angle of heel.
As the food supply dwindles we try to be imaginative with the ingredients remaining to produce the highlight of the day.  Tonight's meal was a two pan affair, egg fried rice with peas and sweet corn.  Although on a port tack, the seas were flat and our wooden doweling was doing a sterling job.  Due to hardly any wave action and Ian easing the sails, my coiled spring stance between the cooker and the chart table relaxed a little.  I had just served the contents of the frying pan into awaiting bowls in Ian'= hands and placed the empty frying pan carefully back on the stove.  When all of a sudden without warning, Serica leaped up and over a large wave, finding there was no back to the wave she free-falled her six tons coming to an abrupt stop in the bottom of the trough.  The frying pan went air-bourn flying past me, bouncing of the chart table and landing at my feet on the cabin sole.  Had this happened just 30 seconds earlier I would have been wearing dinner.
The wind is on the nose and we are headed again, making towards the southeast approximately 60 degrees off-course.  We expect the wind to veer to the southeast and then southwest, in the next few hours we will then tack on to the home run, 125 miles to go.
  With a landfall hopefully within 30 hours we are both looking forward to hot showers fresh coffee and to stretch our legs.  Horta is a great sea-faring destination, its a handy refuelling and provisioning stopover and the natives are very friendly.   Although no time for sightseeing on this trip, on a previous stopover whilst waiting on spare parts, I was taken on a grand tour.  The harbour is on the east of the island whilst the west side still volcanically active, if you climb to the summit you are rewarded with a vast extinct volcanic caldera full of lush green vegetation.
On long voyages such as this you have much time to reflect on life, think of home, family and friends.  We both enjoy your emails and messages of support please keep them coming.