A Slap in the Face With a Wet Fish
Position: 16:22.13N 018:15.41W
Date & Time: 2 November 2009 1300 UTC
Distance run in last 24 hours: 178 miles
Settling down to getting on with life without the turbo-charge of the cruising chute, yesterday we were experimenting with different sail combinations and eventually found a Magic Formula which seemed to add the best part of ¾ of a knot to our boat speed (a considerable margin in sailing terms). We spent the day flying along at between 8 and 9 knots. In the conditions prevailing we would only have done marginally better with the cruising chute. We joined in the rally VHF radio net at 1830 yesterday evening when we all, in turn, report our position, speed and direction. We were pleased to hear most boats, almost all further over to the east and the rhumb line, reporting speeds of about 6 knots. When it came to our turn I gave our speed as 8 knots. There was a pause from the net controller “Do you have your motor on?” he asked. “Sacré bleu!” I exclaimed (I am almost fluent now) “Moi? Moteur? Jamais!” A feeling of smug satisfaction enveloped me. We continued to shoot along under the full moon throughout the night, not only sailing very fast with our new sail plan, but also benefiting from about half a knot of current which I hoped was not so strong further east where the rest of the fleet was.
At about 0430 I was on watch alone in the cockpit, gazing misty-eyed over the lunescent horizon beyond when - BANG!!!! – I felt something hit me hard, full in the face, knocking my glasses off. I reeled in shock, found my glasses and a torch and there, flapping in the scuppers, was an equally stunned and very large flying fish. I was in such a state of shock that it was some minutes before I stopped shaking. I now spend my watches crouching in the cockpit, a quivering wreck awaiting the next assault. Mind you, that particular fish won’t do it again – I ate it for breakfast. Yummy.
It wasn’t the only surprise
attack. An enormous moth-like creature but with big teeth and an evil look in
its eye, suddenly swooped into the saloon determined to sink its deadly fangs
Only yesterday I was remarking on
how surprisingly cool the wind was this far south, particularly at night. The
water temperature dictates the air temperature at sea during the night and when
we left Dakhla it was a distinctly chilly 19°C. During the course of yesterday
as we worked our way south, the sea temperature steadily increased to about
27°C. So last night, rather than wearing jeans and fleeces, we were in shorts
and T-shirts with the balmy wind caressing our skin. Tonight should be even
warmer as I have just looked at the sea temperature and it has risen to an
incredible 29°C – warmer than anything we came across in the
But warmer temperatures can have
its drawbacks. Our watermaker has packed up again, and we didn’t know this until
we had left Dakhla with only half a tank. I hope I might be able to fix it in
Dakar but assuming we can’t and, as
we will not be able to fill up again until we get to the Cape Verde islands in 2
½ weeks we are nursing our stocks, using salt water for the washing up and
showers are banned. As the temperature rises,
We were discussing the water shortage problem yesterday, just after we had seen some dolphins.
“Dolphins are intelligent
“They live in water, you pillock” said Tom
“Oh yeah – I’d forgotten that”
We have seen dolphins about three
times in the last day, the first time we have seen them for a long time. These
ones are very small.
When I surfaced this morning after a couple of hours sleep, I checked the emails on the Iridium satellite phone and found one from Maria with the 0600 positions of some of the boats. She must have made a typo mistake. I had quietly hoped we might have gone from being about 10 to 15 miles behind our principal competitors to being only 4 or 5 miles behind them or, at best, alongside them. But if Maria’s figures were correct, we had made unbelievable progress overnight moving miles ahead of most of the fleet. Eventually I picked up an email from the organisers with the positions over a couple of hours of the whole fleet. Incredibly it was true. By my calculation we had gone from near the back of the fleet to 3rd or 4th position – and that without the benefit of our cruising chute. Whilst satisfying, it is all likely to be academic, the wind is forecast to all but disappear later today and all tomorrow, so most boats will turn their engines on and spoil the fun. We are still hoping to get in by tomorrow evening without the use of the engine. We’ll see.