Day 17 What we came for

Wed 10 Dec 2008 11:13
We took the Puma down at sunset on Monday night , it was slightly overpowering the boat and sailed all night in 6 knots with poled out genoa. At first light the big blue asymmetric went up and we reached nicely all day. Covering over 160 miles in the 24 hour period. The wind then settled back to 112 and moved slightly aft so out came Big Red for the next night. Our first extended period with no significant lull.
The night sailing has been getting nicer, we set off with a waning moon, and had the new moon about four days in. This meant that while the stars were fantastic we had very dark nights. Since then the moon has gradually filled until we are now about three days off full. This is now so bright that foredeck work can be done at night with no lights. This is also a big boost psychologically given that the nights are nearly 13 hours long. Where we are now we have sundown at about 8.45 pm gmt and sunup at 9.20 am. We are operating a system of four day watches and six night watches.
If you are interested our watch system, is somewhat complicated but offers fantastic flexibility. Our system is we have four hour day watches with someone coming on every three hours, and three hour day watches with someone coming on every two hours! Best explained by example.
I come on at 8 am ( first day watch) and join Alex who is in the last hour of her watch.
At 9 am Alex goes off watch, I spend the next two hours alone,
At 11 am Fiona comes on watch and joins me
At 12 noon I go off watch and she spends the next two hours alone.
At 2 pm she is joined by Andrew.
This rolls on into the night when you spend the first and last hour with someone and the middle hour alone, alternate nights you have one watch and the system rotates so the next you have two. What happens is that if someone is particularly tired they can be let off watch when the next person starts, or not woken for the first hour of their watch, or if there is a lot going on, the person on watch does an extra hour so that there are always two on. So far so good. To deal with the time change we put an extra night watch in a week ago, and moved ships official night from 6 to 6 to 8 to 8.
Two days ago we saw a tanker the first other boat we had seen for four days. We have heard nothing on the radio for five days, in fact Alex thought we had switched it off to conserve power it was so quiet. We have checked our ARC positions and see that we have been over 60 miles from the next closest yacht, and yesterday, as we converge towards St Lucia that was down to 45. So we hope to have company before too long.
Dinner last night was steak which is the last of our fresh food.  Tomorrow we will raid the M & S tins!  Also tomorrow, the 10th is Alex's birthday, and once again we have decided to defer the proper celebration until our arrival.
We saw a whale in the distance today making one leap, and then spent the rest of the day whale watching and seeing nothing, so little photographically to report I shall just sign off with a shot off yesterday's sunrise.