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Date: 29 Sep 2012 07:52:00
Title: Off the African coast

33:30.78N 10:31.62W

The closest land is Africa. That feels very different to it being Portugal or Spain...

We're South of Casablanca now, and further West than all of Ireland, we've made great progress, covering about 135 miles in the last 24 hours. The wind increased as the day went on, with the afternoon bringing squally showers, so we've been reducing sail all day. When we found we were making 10.5 kts with no main sail, the jib roller reefed 4 turns, stay sail and mizzen, we pulled the jib right in and spent the night with just mizzen and staysail, still making 6 or 7 knots.

Although we've seen three ships on the AIS we've only laid eyes on one of them and that was just lights on the horizon. It was a tanker 900 ft long, 160 ft wide according to the AIS. It was drifting. I guess they're between jobs and have to hang around somewhere, and where better than the middle of the sea where you're not likely to bump into anything.

I spent the day watching the waves. Oh, ok there was some cooking, some catch up snoozing and quite a lot of sailing related activity, but mostly I was wondering how come the sea is this amazing blue. It's so blue that when I bring up a bucket of it I'm surprised to find the water's not still blue when it's pulled aboard. I've been able to keep watching them on night watch as well, thanks to the now full moon. Don't imagine the swell comes in regular lines, like the waves in the wave box for physics experiments. Some peaks go rushing ahead, as if they are trying to catch up the one ahead, other's get diverted and dawdle behind a while, 'till the next one runs into the back of it with a smack. All this produces pools and plateaus, as well as peaks and troughs, and the wind decorates it all with little waves and bright white spots, like the frosting patterns on a Christmas log. And we're moving through it all, rolling as the peak passes under us, surfing with it as it passes under, swinging round as one smacks our bow, and all the time going ahead: traveling on.

The swell's about 3m (I think it's more but Phil says it just looks that way!), so sitting in the pilot house I look up at the next peak rolling towards us to starboard, and again up at it as it streams away to port. The horizon has shrunk right in, you'd have thought the swell would make no difference: there's peaks to climb as well as troughs to drop into, but for some reason the soup dish of ocean that we used to be in the middle of has shrunk to a saucer. My favorite place at night is the top of the companionway, legs in the warm, body shielded, head poked out. The only problem is that every now and again a wave top reaches up, as if it's trying to peep over the dodgers, and manages to splosh over my head.

So I'm a bit damp, quite tired, achy and a bit bruised from being caught off balance when we roll, but very happy.

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