Heading down wind

Fri 18 Jan 2013 15:57
20:51.5N 19:44.2W

[Pretty soon we'll be 20 degrees something North and 20 degrees the-same-something West, the mathematician in me likes that! Crossing the diagonal from Greenwich.]

Sadie the wind self steerer kept us coming down the African coast beautifully yesterday, cutting our electricity consumption dramatically. Using Otto (electronic self steerer), having the radios and navigation chart plotter on continually and keeping the fridges running (we're using the freezer as a back up fridge) makes big inroads into our batteries, so we've been having to run the generator or engine for a couple of hours each morning to top them back up, despite the efforts of Toad and the solar panels.

When night fell, contrary to the grib forecast, the wind picked up, gusting around 30 knots, and stayed North East rather than turning East. This meant we had to come more South rather than West as we wanted, unless we gybed, and we were flying through the waves at 10 knots or so. So we swapped to Otto to take us closer to downwind than Sadie can manage and had all hands on deck for a night time dropping of the main sail. All went smoothly - we're practiced as a crew now, and those off watch returned to their bunks. Night watch went slowly, no boats to be seem and the stars hazy. I sat up at the top of the companionway to get my head out in the cool air to try to keep awake, whilst listening to Radio 4 podcasts on my iPad (thanks for the idea Jemma and Hannah).

With the morning light we decided to go even more down wind and try out the twin headsails, which is how we expect to cross to Barbados from the Verdes. Sorry Ellie, but lots of people will find this interesting... skip to the next paragraph! To do this we drop the main and staysail and set up two poles, one each side, mounted on the mast about 10 feet up. The go out level, to the sides and a little forward. Through the end of these poles we run the sheets of twin headsails, one each side, one fitted in the foil of the furler, the other attached at the tack but otherwise free. This provides a gap between the sails to vent any gusts and also help cut down on rolling. They look beautiful (pictures when we land and find internet!) and it's working perfectly. Even though the winds have dropped to 7 or 8 knots we are still making 6 knots being pulled along by them.

The movement is quite different to being heeled over on one tack though, a steady rolling from side to side, taking a little getting used to. All the things that had been tipped or shaken loose on the port tack are now finding their way free again and rattling in the cupboards or leaping from a shelf. I am settling them as I move around the boat. Phil says it's like spending weeks inside a washing machine.

The other joy today was we allowed ourselves a shower! Flannel washes and wet wipes can only take you so far... Really nice to wash the salt out of my hair and untangle the mass of wind blown curls. It's been beautiful sunshine, a bikini and book on the foredeck day, especially as the twin headsails lift the bow and so stop the water splashing on deck. Unfortunately, Steve didn't realise his hatch wasn't properly closed last night and came off watch to find the water had been splashing onto his bed. Washing the salt out the bedding and having showers used up the remains of the water in the port tank, so we've swapped to the starboard one. We're over half way to the Verdes so we're on track, but we have a water maker, should we need it, anyway.

Food: I made some slightly over cooked (caramelised not burnt!) granola and more yoghurt and Ben chopped up more fruit to have with it. Lunch was a starter of dried meats and queso fresco with more ballast bread, heating made them less chewy, and Ainsley Harriott cup soups. Supper will be a peppered steak salad (steak bought frozen, put in ice in the fridge, but has now defrosted) with sautéed potatoes.

As we eat the fruit from the net hanging in the galley I top it up from the back up store under Ben's bunk, as it ripens quicker there. At the same time I check for anything spoiling (so far just two lemons).

We are tired today, happy to pootle along with our lovely twin sails pulling us, reading, sitting in the sun, doing just the necessary chores. It's such a pleasure looking up and seeing them against the sky, all the planning for months: what configuration, which lines to use for guys, where to run them, what blocks we needed, trying out the poles and now finally putting it all together.

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