What A Difference A Day Makes

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sat 1 Dec 2012 17:55

Position 09:44S 035:17W  

Date: 1 December 2012


What A Difference A Day Makes


As if in compensation for the misery of our week in Salvador, we have so far been rewarded with a fantastic sail north to Fernando de Noronha and there’s nothing in the forecast to suggest it will change. We are heading northeast up the coast and with the prevailing winds this time of year being northeast to east, we were expecting to have to tack up the coast adding time to the passage. In the event the wind has been from the east or southeast enabling us to lay our course, albeit sailing close to the wind which means that life is spent at a permanent 20 degree angle of heel. But the wind has been a steady 15 knots, the deep indigo coloured sea slight to moderate and we have been making good speed in the right direction slipping through the water on our now barnacle-free hull. Small flying fish zip around disturbed by our bow wave, flittering over the waves before plopping back into the water. The weather has been brilliant – almost constant sunshine but interspersed with puffy white clouds, it is almost like trade wind sailing.


The night sailing (it is dark for 12 hours a day) has been equally brilliant, with clear star-studded skies before the full moon rises, shining so brightly you can read a book by it. With the water temperature now over 28 degrees, even at night the breeze is balmy warm – no need for anything more than shorts and T-shirts. What a contrast to last year. But down below it is like a Turkish bath and the many fans we have to circulate the air are working overtime.


Unlike down in the south, there has been very little bird life except that the night before last I noticed some fluttering around the boat and a flock of about six Brown Noddy’s, a type of tern, landed on the dinghy, the mast and the lifelines. They are quite large and quite aggressive birds with long sharp beaks. I was surrounded. As they communicated with each other with crow-like screeches, I was suddenly and chillingly reminded of Hitchcock’s film “The Birds”. It wasn’t a relaxing watch as I waited for their attack. But in the event, all they did was to deposit great lumps of shit everywhere. The following morning after the Brown Noddy’s had left, I detailed Lawrence to clean up the mess. He searched high and low for the numerous scrubbing brushes we have on board, all of which had mysteriously disappeared, so he had to clear up the mess with his own toothbrush. That’s the last time he calls me a cripple.


Sealife is also conspicuous by its absence. Apart from the three or four Humpback whales that we saw well south of the Abrolhos Islands, we have seen nothing except for the fin and tail of a large sailfish swimming past a couple of days ago. Talking of fishing, Lawrence replenished our dwindling stock of strong fishing line and lures in Salvador and, as I type, he is standing on the aft deck with his tackle out, hoping for some action.


Yesterday, Sally noticed a smell of diesel in the saloon. We picked up one of the sole boards and found a pool of diesel swilling around. Not only does diesel smell nauseating in the confines of a pitching boat, but if you get it on anywhere you step, it is dangerously slippery. So we heaved the boat to to stabilise us whilst we carried out the clear up. Lawrence took a bucket full of diesel up on to deck to throw it overboard. He had obviously got some diesel onto the sole of his shoes, slipped, and the bucketful of diesel was spilt all over the aft deck. Meanwhile Lawrence was lying upside down in the cockpit with blood pouring from his mouth. Pretending I was more concerned about Lawrence than the state of my aft deck, I had a look at him and told him that his split lip was only superficial. His major concern was that he hadn’t knocked out any of his multi-million dollar Gucchi-branded teeth implants. But he was OK. His dazzling smile will remain perfect the moment his plastic surgeon tidies up his lip. Seriously, we were very lucky that he had nothing more serious than a cut lip – it could have easily have been more serious. With the deck swabbed down with volumes of hot soapy water, and having identified and fixed the crack in the diesel tank inspection port that was the source of the leakage, we continued on our way.


All the repairs we had carried out in Salvador seem to be holding up. One of the frustrations of things going wrong on boats is that you spend a lot of time and money simply getting everything back to where it should have been in the first place. However in this case we have had one excellent result. Those who have sailed with me over the last couple of years will recall that our propeller has been suffering from cavitation. This is where the propeller occasionally loses its “grip” on the water and it manifests itself with a periodic screeching sound. I could never work out why it had suddenly developed this problem and nor could any of the experts who had confirmed that cavitation was the problem. When we set sail two days ago, all of a sudden the cavitation completely disappeared. All the experts had been wrong. We never did have any cavitation. All along it had been the sound of the slipping clutches of the gearbox. It makes my blood run cold to think that we have spent the best part of two years cruising the most treacherous waters of the world with a gear box that could have packed up at any time.