Today's matinee performance is.. 18:41.99N 55:52.81W

The Return of Irene III - 2018
Louis Goor
Sun 17 Dec 2017 01:25
Saturday 16 December 2017 - Day 14 at Sea

We had just finished a late lunch (of which more later) and everyone was
ready to snooze, read, chill - when the cry went up: DOLPHINS!

We'd had these visitations before, but nothing quite as spectacular as this
afternoon's matinee performance.

At first, we counted six bottlenoses in the pod. Then their numbers grew to
ten and finally there were around 15, come to entertain themselves by
ducking and diving in front of our ship.

Like the horses in that classic Ben Hur chariot race, the dolphins looked
like they were invisibly tethered to Irene III's bow and were pulling her
forward through the getting-ever-bluer ocean.

This was no fleeting visit - the pod with us for a good 20 minutes. So we
seated ourselves around the pulpit - balcony seats for the dolphins'
mesmerizingly graceful balletic performance.

Both funny and serious things can happen when you're not paying attention on
this boat.

The funny: Our fishing rod had been set up since early morning. A luminous
coloured hairy lure (think of Johnny Rotten's coiffure) had been dispatched
into the water and promptly forgotten about. Somehow the reel brake had not
been applied - so the first time someone looked at the rod, they realised
that all 1,000 metres of line had been let out to sea.

To be honest, there wasn't a queue to start the reeling-in process as it's
quite hard and tiresome work. However Sabine and John HH rose to the
challenge. And as the lure came close to the boat, they realised there was
a fish on the line.

An 8lb tuna, straight from central casting, was duly landed and immediately
our onboard fishmonger set to work. Louis's fish knives were sharpened and
once he'd referred to a series of photos on his phone, taken during his
annual visit to Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market - surgery was ready to start.
The tuna was expertly filleted and a platter of dark red boneless tuna flesh
was relayed to the galley team for them to work their magic on.

Do you know any other sailor who brings a stock of rice paper with him on a
voyage? Our very own Johnny Frey does. By lunchtime, albeit a little later
than planned - as his original menu of homemade coronation chicken had been
gazumped - plates of sashimi tuna, served with a choice of either wasabi,
soy and chili sauce or mango and passion fruit compote, appeared on deck.
Johnny presented the tuna with steamed spring rolls filled with sticky rice,
juliennes of sweet peppers and spinach. How we will ever return to toasted
cheese and ham sandwiches at lunchtime - I just do not know.

The serious: After several hectic days of sailing and yesterday's
chilled-out recovery day - it was time to return to the daily list of
equipment and rigging checks. Our eagle-eyed skipper noticed that five of
the 14 bolts on the goose-neck fitting which keeps the boom firmly attached
to the main mast had worked themselves loose. Luckily he spotted this in
good time and they were quickly re-tightened. Sailors interviewed after last
year's Atlantic Relay Challenge (ARC) reported that broken goose-necks were
the most common issue encountered.

With just a few days to go to our arrival in Antigua, that kind of issue
would have had us limping over the finishing line. That's not a prospect
that any of us would have relished.