N28.22,84 W15.18,26

Nigel North
Fri 27 Jan 2012 17:23

BLOG: DAY 3 27 Jan 2012

If you’re like me you probably thought that the much vaunted ‘phosphorescence’ of seawater was just how the foamy bits stand out at night, being white. Well its isn’t. Its nothing to do with breaking waves, and all to do with millions of tiny light emitting creatures who, excited by some stimulus - Pinball’s passing hull - show off by glowing underwater. So that’s why you would have found me standing on PW’s aft locker at 5am staring intently at the wake (and not where we were going).

And last night was spectacular: apart from the endless trails of single dots of light that streamed out in our wake, every now and again an area the size of a football would explode into light for a few seconds, before slowly dying away, like flashbulbs going off underwater. The whole scene was, in a lesser way, almost a reflection of and not dissimilar to the spectacular Walt Disney night sky that stretched from horizon to horizon above us. I have never seen so many stars with such ease.

But what are these creatures? To find out, I lifted a bucketful of em onto the deck and peered in. Nothing. But wiggle a finger and a few would whizz across the bucket before going out.

There’s not a great deal to do on watch at 5am 150nm south of the Canaries, so this provided some amusement for quite some time. Thinking about it, these creatures were firing photons - electrons with no mass - at the speed of light, right into my eye! Impressive, I thought. (By Alfie...I knew that)!

Pouring them back must have wet the rope that runs from the windpilot self steering vane to the wheel, because the pulley (block) it runs through started creaking and groaning with every movement in a manner not unlike Alfie’s snoring below, and has not stopped since. it’s a sort of ‘Oh……Oh…… sound, and really does sound like someone moaning.

Progress has been a bit slow, with several lengthy lulls in the the gentle NE wind that have left us rolling about with slatting sails, but even if there is no wind, the boat will still make 24 miles a day in the Canaries Current that runs all the way down to Cape Verde. Which is just as well. We have in fact made twice that figure a day - half the planned rate of progress. Last night was fairly typical, with a good breeze slowly dying away to nothing by 2am, then picking up a little. PW was in ‘Twizzle rig’ - mainsail held out to port, headsail poled out to starboard, sailing dead downwind. But today in the gentle 10 knot breeze it was time to rig for the first time the twin headsails arrangement - big genoa poled out one side, and new heavy weather jib poled out the other and no mainsail at all, or mizzen. This is a very easy to control and effective rig for downwind sailing. Rigging it isn't. ( but amusing to watch) Standing on the bow with the boat rolling continuously, trying to attach a heavy pole to the clew is probably going to hurt at some point. But since it was set, the boat has self steered beautifully towards the distant Cape Verde Islands - some 600 miles away.

Strangely, since leaving the Canaries, there has been no sign of life at all, no birds, no fish, no giant sea monsters, no mermaids even. Nothing. This is unusual - I was always accompanied by birds and dolphins down the Iberian peninsular.

Two things have happened today: the heads blocked, and the seawater pump for the sink stopped working. Unblocking heads is always a memorable experience, but successful today. Alfie has been steadily removing items of clothing throughout the day but has now thankfully stopped just in time, and I have found a great new game. Its called dangling, and you sit at the bow with legs over the side and wait for a wave to wash over them whilst thinking about Blighty. Bored with undressing, Alfie is now standing in the cockpit shouting out in a loud voice ‘WHERE IS EVERYBODY? and then coughing. Oh! He’s seen a bird! So I’ve given him my bird book kindly gifted by Colin and Jak, to identify it. ‘There’s ****** millions’ he said after looking inside.

Tonight we’ll be back to 3 hour watches, starting at 11pm Pinball time. (1hour ahead). I cant explain why the time difference except that for some reason I like to be an hour ahead. It has caused some…ripples, but Alfie has kindly capitulated and reset his watch which was a very gracious thing to do. As we progress westwards, the clock will be wound back at hour every 15 degrees of longitude, which means that whoever’s on watch at the time will dip out and have to do an extra hour. I know who that will be.. (me too)