Day 2: Peeping Tom Traumatises Crew
Position: 11:14N 024:52W
Noon to Noon Run: 178 miles
This is classic trade wind sailing with rock steady winds of moderate strength pushing us along at a good lick. Over the last 24 hours we have averaged 7.4 knots which is more than respectable. In terms of position within the fleet, those of you with access to the rally website will be in a better position to judge than I am, but the latest data suggests we are at or near the head of our group and catching up with the next group.
Although we are now getting a bit more of a long Atlantic
swell, the waves are moderate. So everything is at a comfortable angle and the
boat is quite steady. When crossing the
It’s surprising how many landlubber friends ask me “What do you do at night? Do you anchor and go to sleep?” The answer is no, not least because the sea bed is more than 2 ½ miles beneath us and if we had that much anchor chain on board we would sink. Commercial shipping continues to ply the seas 24/7 (have you been on a ferry or cruise ship that stopped at night, turned off the lights and started again in the morning?) so a watch has to be kept anyway.
So we plug on night and day. But night sailing is one of
the privileged joys of offshore passages. Words can’t describe the awe one feels
gazing up into a starlit sky so brilliantly lit that one can almost read by it;
to see the Milky Way so densely packed that it looks almost, well – milky. And
to gaze into it with binoculars is mind-blowing. You are literally seeing the
edge of the universe and it’s very humbling. You can’t see this anywhere in the
So how do we organise our lives when we are at sea for a long time and the boat has to be manned and a watch kept every minute of the day? It varies from boat to boat.. On Mina2 I normally do passages with three people including me. Each of the three crew do three hours on watch and the next six hours off watch. In practice what happens is that during the day most people are up and about (particularly for Happy Hour followed by dinner) and at night you are generally left on your own to keep a watch for shipping, adjust the sails or course but mainly to think and reflect. It’s a special time.
On this Transatlantic passage we, unusually, have four people – myself, Venetia Kenney-Herbert, Neil Thackray and Peter, my son. I have wanted to get to grips with astronavigation and this long passage was a perfect opportunity – but it takes time and I knew that if I was standing watches as well as doing all the skipperly things, then it would never get done. So for this passage we are maintaining the three man system, but I am not standing any watches myself. So far this system is working very well.
But it’s not just the routine of watch-keeping which keeps us busy. There is always something to do. Peter, for instance, is making a documentary of the passage (making documentaries is what he does, so it’s a bit of a busman’s holiday for him). I bought myself a fancy new combo HD video and stills camera for the adventure, and you can’t do anything without finding a lens peering at you with Peter behind it. Neil is contributing to the project as well as he has an excellent camera with a very wide angle lens, and a completely waterproof HD video camera.
Yesterday we were visited by a very large pod of dolphins that stayed with us for a long time, frolicking alongside and riding our bow wave as we swept along at eight knots. Neil tried to hang over the side of the boat with his waterproof video camera, and film the dolphins under water but his arms weren’t quite long enough. So he grabbed our (last) boathook and some gaffer tape, bound the camera to the end and lowered it into the water. We now have some spectacular underwater footage of the dolphins. David Attenborough, eat your heart out. Granted, we can’t use the boathook for its intended purpose but we will have a lovely video clip of the mooring buoy we want to pick up as we drift pass it.
Having invented this new gadget, Neil spent the rest of
the day experimenting with other uses for it like swooping it around the saloon
like the jib cameras at rock concerts. He found many other uses as well. Peter
was quietly sitting on the loo minding his own business when he heard a tap on
the porthole behind him. He turned and saw Neil’s camera swooping in for a