More about surfing

Ed Dolman
Wed 2 Dec 2009 15:08
Hello Readers,
It occurs to your correspondent that you may have been given a slightly misleading impression about the joys of mid-Atlantic surfing. We know that our readership is becoming adept at picturing things without pictures, so try this one. The wind is coming from more or less behind the boat at an average of, let's say, 20 knots (although for most of yesterday it was more like 25). Now, you add a swell of up to 3 metres following the boat and off we go surfing down the swell at 8 knots, racing towards St Lucia. This would be perfect and the off-watch crew would be sleeping soundly in their bunks, whilst the helmsman would be imagining himself on a giant surfboard skimming across the ocean. Unfortunately, the reality is more like this. Although the wind is, generally, coming from behind the boat, we have been experiencing some quite quick 10 - 15 degree windshifts, which require corresponding changes of course to keep the sails filled, constantly changing the angle of the boat to the swell. Every once in a while the swell is, indeed, in line with boat and we do go racing down it at over 8 knots. However, most of the time the swell is coming from a variety of different angles without any apparent pattern, making it difficult to steer in a straight line and throwing the boat from side to side. Sometimes, the sideways force is so strong that it's impossible to resist the swell picking the boat up and slewing it round; you just have to let the swell do its work and then try to straighten the boat up. As you can imagine this all makes for a less than comfortable time below, although we're all getting good at bracing ourselves for unexpected lurches and crashes into solid objects! Pete is sleeping (or attempting to) in the forward cabin which has been renamed the washing machine (although tumble dryer might be more appropriate, for at least it is dry in there). And there we were expecting a nice gentle sail across the ocean!
We have, in fact, altered course slightly again this morning to go a little further south, back on a reach (with both sails on the same side of the boat) which is more comfortable.Highlights of last night were a ship ( 6 miles to the north of us and travelling north east, presumably from South America), some more squalls (OK again as we could see them coming and furled most of the genoa away in preparation) and some dolphins at about 4am. Unfortunately, it was dark so we couldn't see them very well but they stayed with us for about 30 minutes. The 24 hour run to noon GMT today by the boat's log was 174 miles so that sail change made all the difference(!) Let's see what the ARC control give us based on our position report. We now have 1078 miles to go. We're all desperately sorry about the bad weather back in England. It's 34C and sunny again here! Bye for now. 02/12/09.