Day 17 – Wednesday, 20 December 2006
I feel like the Count of Monte Cristo scratching the days on the wall in his prison to keep track, except I have a computer and I am not actually in prison, but as I can t get out it feels very similar.
I had renewed my enthusiasm to deal with the water maker. Despite the 18-20 knot winds and the big swell I managed to recirculate the cleaning solution for 45 minutes, then I had to reconnect hoses and flush the system with warm water. You have to have a water supply to have a water maker because it needs lots of fresh not salt water for the cleaning process. I was very pleased and not too much more bruised when the job was finished. The water maker was representative of something more that dated back to the beginning of the year and it was a psychological barrier that hopefully has been dealt with for now.
I now have to run the water maker at least every 3 days to keep the membrane from drying out. The manufacturers have agreed that if I do that then I do not need to biocide it now, which is good, because I couldn t understand that point. I will still have to answer the rest of the e-mail later, when I can measure things and give sensible answers. I think it a little unfair that with me trying to use my poor remaining brain cells to their best effect I get an e-mail with words like cavitate in it – I think this is relating to air locks, but I will deal with that later.
I will run the watermaker later today. It is a good job I have one because someone, (who will remain nameless, but we know who you are,) has used up most of the tanked water supply on cleaning something or other.
It was quite a nice day after having dealt with the water maker. It was reasonably good wind, it was reasonably sunny and I was able to finish my book without being thrown too many times onto the cockpit floor. If I remember to hang one arm over my tether line I can hang on at most angles. I did not cry as much today, I am either feeling better, or just getting hard-hearted.
I was still concerned about the batteries, they are just not holding up to the job, but was I expecting too much of them. Perhaps the water maker was taking out more than the engine was putting in and I also tried to do everything else that needed power at the same time, although I did throttle back on that one.
I will have to find out are the batteries topped up more if you (a) just idle the engine or (b) actually run the boat while using the autopilot. Answers on a postcard to ….
By 6pm the wind had dropped to 15 knots and continued to slide down to over the course of the next 12 hours. The weather was supposed to be 12-15 overnight and be 15 or 15 to 20 knots until Sunday. The other boats too were appreciating the wind strength, but not the uncomfortable swell and Herb said basically well tough. The swell is not that bad most of the time if you are not actually trying to do something.
9pm, just before dark I sighted a yacht, usually these sightings are just a wave crest in the distance, but this was definitely a yacht. I was a few miles behind me, I did try to hail them once on the radio, but no reply. I never usually have my radio on out here, but I thought it might be nice to speak to someone after 17 days. They may have switched on as they got nearer, but due to the battery problem I had switched off. I just wondered if I might have known them. They were taking a wider angle than me and overtook.
I am sticking to my track, maybe next time I will wander off further and go at 120 angle, which may be quicker; but for now I want it known that if anyone wants me then they know where to look. My bearing is 261 True from my noon position and I will be right there. I note that despite that information being available throughout the trip the helicopter with the relief crew did not come to airlift me off. I would have thought about 3 days out would have been fine and then drop me back on about where I am now. Film stars don t really do their own stunts, they have stand ins - Remember that for next time.
I was so excited about sighting my first yacht, I totally missed the freighter coming the other way. I did not notice until it was dark and all I saw were the two lights going away. So now I have seen 1 yacht and 1 freighter in daylight and 1 set of lights for each. Other than a couple of seabirds and lots of flying fish I haven t seen anything else, no dolphins or turtles or whales.
I am getting ready for changing to the proper time zone; it is still dark here at 9:30 in the morning. The wind had dropped to 11 knots, that is usually a reasonable speed, but the boat seems to have lost its momentum. I decided it would be a good time to bring DG out of the water and put the rope back on. I tied a big noose round the stem and slipped it down to the head and wrapped it round the end of the boathook and pulled it up. Everything looked ok, there was nothing caught round the propeller. Perhaps it was the batteries, they are only a year old, but I am quite happy to replace a battery or two if that will solve my problem. I was tying the rope through the hole, without a shackle, and noticed the pole connecting the head to the shaft was missing; now that would explain the fact that no electricity was being generated. Where was the pole, surely I would have noticed days ago. The attachment for the head to the pole was still there and the pole was inside the shaft. When the head was in the water the pole must have been down by gravity, but not attached and when I pulled the shaft up then the pole slid back in. I would like to fix it, but I have to stand on the top of the rail just to reach the head and only do that when changing from wind to water head on a pontoon or at anchor, I really don t think this is the time or place to try it.
So, I am happy that I have hopefully sorted the problem with the batteries, but not happy that DG is damaged. He has done remarkably well in the unremitting swell against him for the last 2500 nm from the Canaries, I will put it down to wear and tear and hope it will be easy to fix when I arrive. For now it will have to be the engine, which is all I used to have. The wind is continuing to drop down to 7-9 knots so it is not a bad idea just to motor for a bit.
115 miles yesterday, with about 340 to go. Arrival now seems a possibility, whereas for the days after the half way point it just seemed to be out of reach.
Hopefully I will find it easier to send this today than yesterday, because it is not raining and also it is very hard to send an e-mail when trying to use a VHF radio. This is explained by the fact that the radio and the sat phone are very similar objects, both are black bricks with an aerial, and I was tired and not in the best of moods as I recall.