It's a Feast 33:32.29N 014:09.37W

"Iain the wind has picked up I think we need to get the cruising chute down" these were the words that Gaynor greeted me with at 0230 this morning and were in stark contrast to her tone the night before when she had used "I've made you a cup of tea, it's lovely out there the breeze is warm and the sky is  full of stars"  I'd been on watch at 2300 and handed over to Tristan a boat that was ghosting along at a steady 5 knots under a cruising chute and mizzen that had been set for three days and which,during that time had called for the minimum of attention. We weren't expecting a major change in the weather until tonight.  We had a spectacular end to the day when the pod of dolphins that went straight past us the other day returned. I think they felt guilty for ignoring us and had taken a note of our position and had gathered all their family,friends and relations and come back for the show of the century.   The water teemed with them showing off their acrobatic prowess as they criss-crossed under the bowsprit (big pole that sticks out at the front of the boat, fortunately not the one I forgot) and surfed in the waves all around the boat ,two of them swam directly under the front of the boat, belly to belly mirroring each others moves in the most blissful display of talented choreography.
  I dragged myself from my warm bunk where, if it wasn't for the change in the weather, I should have been able to remain for the next half an hour before my second watch started at 0300.   You are never off watch on a small shorthanded passage and remain on call, as Tristan too was about to find out.   Concerned about damage to the sail I hurriedly dressed and went into the cockpit where I could tell immediately that she was absolutely right and we needed to act fast.  We discussed the plan and decided at this point to leave Tristan asleep (he always looks so peaceful,even if he does have his eyes open) I leant out of the cockpit and clipped the spare end of my 3 point harness that was attached to the lifejacket I was wearing to the jackstays (two lengths of strong webbing that run the full length of the boat, on the side decks, so you can be clipped to it for safety as you move about the deck) and left the cockpit,feeling glad that we had fitted a deck light to the mast to illuminate the  foredeck which would mean I wouldn't have to do the job in total darkness. The pitching foredeck of a small boat heading into a storm at night is a strange place to find yourself straight after waking up and one could be forgiven for wishing you were somewhere, anywhere else.   I started getting the chute down, it goes into a very long thin tubular cover which is about 40 feet long and has a device which I can only describe as the sort of collar you would put on a dog or a cat's neck after it has had an operation to stop it biting its stitches.When it's up all the tube and the collar, or snuffer is at the very top of the mast and you haul on a rope that is attached to it  that draws the plastic collar down with the tube behind it and puts the sail neatly away. Simples? Well it should be but everything last night conspired against us and even with Tristans help once we got him up (he was very good natured and just loves it when it's rough - he's a real adrenalin junkie) the sail change which should have taken 15 mins took 1 hour 30 mins.  We put up triple reefed main and mizzen as the wind was now gusting 24 knots and had a lumpy night.   Hence no blog 'till now as today has been a bit of a white knuckle ride with big following seas and wave heights around 15 feet.  The Buena Vista Social Club are calming me at the moment as I sit in the saloon to write this.
We ran downwind in heavy conditions most of the day and the roll was horrendous with the waves passing under us and it made sleep impossible as the bunks heaved and rolled in every direction.   The sun has come out again but the sea is still big and the wind is fresh.  We have just tacked the main over to the port side put on a gybe preventer and let out a bit of the genoa.  Set like this we are making our way down wind with the breeze coming over the stb beam and plan to sail downwind in a series of big zig-zags to give us a more tolerable movement below.  We are pretty sure that we will be arriving in Gran Canaria on Sunday morning but Saturday night is still a possibility depending on how much more strong weather  we encounter - hopefully not too much as I know we all (except Tristan who seems to be able to sleep in any conditions) could do with a comfortable night.We will get the weather when this goes off and hopefully some more messages - don't stop doing it they're great. From all the hard pressed crew aboard Lady C xx

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