No whales

Sat 13 Sep 2014 23:16
18:19.2S 163:50.1W

No whales. In fact, apart from one bird as we passed 10 miles or so below Palmerston, and two very small flying fishlings on deck, no living things at all. Happily we've had something to focus on as we scan the horizon because we've been cruising in company with Et Voila, a couple we met at Maupihaa. We've been pretty well matched for speed as we are a little faster in stronger winds and they are a little faster in lighter winds. They have a catamaran and so are lightweight, where as we have to try to keep 30 tonnes moving in 9 knots of wind. When the winds are stronger, because we can heel we can keep more sail up, but they have to reef earlier so go a little slower. Horses for courses.

But the wind has been less than 10 knots for a day and a half now. Et Voila kindly slowed down to stay with us as we passed Palmerston because our radar has mysteriously stopped working and the charts are pretty unreliable here (no commercial reason for survey, there's no one here but the locals and us yachties), being 3 miles or more out at times, and without a radar there's no knowing exactly where an island is. We wouldn't see it in the dark; the only warning we'd get of being too close would be the sound of the surf on the reef. But we're safely past now so their sail has dwindled off into the distance. I rather liked cruising in company. It helps with a sense of direction, especially on night watch when the moon's not yet risen and it's overcast so no stars show. Without their little navigation light, coming and going with the swell, there's no point of reference as you look at the darkness that's the ocean all around.

We're feeling a little livelier, less tired now we've adjusted to the disturbed sleep, so we've been finding ways to entertain ourselves. Phil spent some time trying to work out the possible genetics of the inhabitants of Palmerston. They are all descended from one man: William Masters, a ship's carpenter originally from Gloucester. He took three Polynesian wives to the atoll, established each one on a separate motu and proceeded to establish his own paradise. There are still the three main families on Palmerston, all with the surname 'Marsters', and, presumably, still speaking English with a thick Gloucester accent!

I spent some time trying to do some algebraic proofs, with varying degrees of success (the urge takes me now and again), then set about learning new knots, mastering the monkey's fist, and we've used one to make a small heaving line for getting sail ties over the boom more easily (thanks for the idea Et Voila!).

Other jobs present themselves. For example, the oven door fell off, onto my foot I should add (only a little blood, but quite a lot of swearing). Two crucial bolts had worked loose with the continuous motion, then, when the door was open, the boat rolled and it simply slid off. Phil had it back on and fixed within the hour.

Oh, and the other thing that occupies our time is eating, of course!

Day 4: Freshly baked croissant (from those cardboard tubes you keep in the fridge with ready rolled croissant dough in); boat made pitta with pate and a salad of cucumber, tomato and heart of palm (yes, real, fresh heart of palm, from the heart of a real palm, cut for us on Maupihaa); Mahi mahi steak with dauphinois potatoes (made with dried sliced potatoes from Panama), aubergine and tomatoes.

Day 5: Yesterday's left over croissants reheated (which is when the oven door fell off); poached eggs on rye bread followed by (canned) pears with (canned) cream; pork chops with corn-on-the-cob (both frozen), (instant) mashed potatoes and (a tin of) peas and carrots.

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