When Peter was anticipating this trip, he was talking to
some friends who had crossed the Atlantic before. Their
most enduring memories were the clarity of the skies and the dazzling starlit
nights. So he, and all of us, have been surprised and disappointed that since we
crossed the equator there has been pretty comprehensive cloud cover. During the
day this has served to keep the temperature down, but at night there has been
little to marvel at.
But not last night. During the afternoon the clouds
cleared and all of us spent most of the night just gazing upwards in
astonishment. In all the years I have been sailing, I have never seen a display
like it. Adding to the spectacle were a succession through the night of shooting
stars and, to cap it all, we were visited by dolphins at 0300 who were covered
in phosphorescence as they cavorted round the boat. Nice, too, to clearly see the Southern Cross for the
first time. A night to remember.
Meanwhile, after the stonking good 190-mile run
yesterday, we were quite relieved when the wind abated and the boat straightened
up a bit. Life at a permanent 40 degree angle can get a bit wearing after a
while. At dawn this morning the wind had backed more to the east so up went the
cruising chute and we have been reaching along at 7.5 knots over the azure sea
under a cerulean sky studded with just a few cotton wool trade wind clouds. For
the icing on this almost perfect cake, Peter has just plugged in his iPod and
turned the music on: Andy Williams Christmas Special. Creaming along in 35
degree heat listening to “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” is about as surreal
an experience as you can get!
We are currently just 180 miles east of
Recife and only 520 miles to
Salvador, our destination. This
would normally be considered to be a pretty long passage but after 10 days oat
sea it seems like we are almost there, and we are nearly at the point of tidying
up in readiness for our arrival.
I have dealt with the crew issues. All alcohol on board
has now been transferred into the skipper’s locked cabinet. Cold turkey can be
difficult, but Venetia is doing commendably well as she
dries out. No more ratty than usual really.
We have swept the boat for cardboard (there was
remarkably little left as it happened – Peter had done a thorough job), and
chucked it all overboard. Peter’s anguished screams tore at my heart strings,
but tough problems need tough solutions. And it’s a bit of a tough solution for
Neil as well. Without the cardboard supplement, he’s all but wasting away.
We had a formal walking of the plank ceremony for Peter’s
imaginary friend, John Barrowman, so that problem has been solved as well. Or I
think so: last night when Peter was alone on deck I overheard him chatting away
to someone. “So, Andy” he was saying “tell me a bit more about this unreachable
star”. We may not be completely out of the woods yet.