Mon 2 Jul 2012 09:25
44:50.51N 05:27.08W

They call deep water sailing 'Blue water sailing' and it is. Not the blue of the sea on a sandy tropical beach, but a deep blue, of course, a rich blue. Looking over the side at the swirling water we've just past through, it's the blue of red cabbage, when you've just added the vinegar.

We've got much better at using Sadie-the-wind-self-steerer over the last 24 hrs, figuring out how to fine tune her, finding out how close she can keep us to the wind (and how close she can't! Those with AIS, study our track - see the little circles showing when she brought us to a standstill head to wind and we had to come about to get back on track!) We have found her brilliant, especially for night watches, as she'll keep you at the same angle to the wind, hence the sails are all set just right, rather than an electronic self steerer like our Otto, who just keeps you following a line, whatever the wind does. And what the wind did was back round to the South West - the direction we wanted to go in, which meant we could go just about South, or just about West, but not both at the same time. So that's what we've been doing, South, then West, then South again and we're now dropping down to the North Spanish coast, probably Gijon.

The other great thing about Sadie is, unlike Otto, she uses no electricity. However, there's navigation lights on all night, the AIS, GPS, radio and so on all eating up electricity, so we launched the Toad yesterday - the towed generator. We've been using him with blades attached and hoisted in the rigging as a wind turbine (Windy Toad) whilst we've been moored but we hadn't yet used him in his 'on passage' mode. He hangs on the pushpit, the railings at the stern of the boat, and, instead of blades, a rope is attached to the generator spindle. On the other end of the rope is a turbine, a propeller on a shaft, which is towed behind the boat, spinning as it goes, hence turning the rope which turns the generator, Toad.

The tricky thing, though, is as soon as you launch it, the turbine starts spinning, twisting the rope, so you are having to pay out about 30ft of rope that is twisting, without getting kinks in it. Not easy! On the second attempt we got it out beautifully and Toad has been putting out a steady 4 amps or so ever since. I'll let you know how it goes getting the turbine back in...

At about 5 in the afternoon we were sitting in the chartroom drinking tea when I looked up to see - dolphin! Admiral John will tell you my reaction when I see these creatures - I love them, my face lights up, and I'm so excited I often can't find the word to shout out, just pointing and stuttering "Look! It's.. there's..." (when one slid under our bow in Weymouth Bay one evening, he thought perhaps that I was trying to tell him we were about to hit an uncharted reef...)

I wasn't disappointed, a pod of at least a dozen short beaked common dolphin came streaming in from all directions, leaping over each other and crowding alongside each other to be the closest to the bow wave. They stayed for an hour. We sat on the fore deck and watched them, so beautiful as they flashed their creamy yellow sides curving up out of the water. Listening to them chirrup their whistling squeaks to each other was lovely, but when I went below it was wonderfully loud, coming straight through the hull from the water.

The night watches were peaceful, apart from one rather unusual event. We were right in the middle of the Bay of Biscay, generally we'd see maybe three other boats on the AIS during a watch, and perhaps only one of them by sight. However, on Phil's watch he called me up from my bed to help - we'd just crossed over into Spanish water and loads of boats had suddenly appeared. I looked out to see lights everywhere, and on the AIS I could count 18 vessels in a 10nm radius. Worse than the traffic separation zone crossing the channel! It turns out it was a single handed sailing race that we were suddenly in the middle of (Solitaire du Figaro?). We had a tricky hour or so working out who was going where and threading our way through them.

It's a grey overcast day so far, but we've only a day's sail left to get to Spain and the dolphins popped back to say hello again this morning.

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