ARC 2015:- Rock and Roll on Nina

Steve and Lynda Cooke
Thu 26 Nov 2015 20:15
Nina is driving her way southwestwards.

The morning watch is sailing under grey clouds and big swells. These implacable and imperious rollers keep coming, shouldering Nina aside as they march on in perfect parade order to the south west. They will roll onwards for thousands of miles before crashing onto the shores of some exotic destination. But things are looking up - the weather clears and by early afternoon we have blue skies which turn the water a sparkling royal blue cocktail. Helming under these conditions is elixir to sailors - Chris, Frank and Mike spend their time on the helm grinning like maniacs.

The idea is to go southwest until we pick up the trade winds which will blow us all the way to St Lucia. In the old navigation instructions: "go south until the butter melts and then turn right." We're in 30-40 knots of wind and just the reefed mainsail is up a lot of the time.

Under the influence of the strong swell, Nina is rolling up to 40 degrees. It's this rolling that makes life on board quite difficult. Just try brushing your teeth in a space the size of a telephone box if someone is tipping it enthusiastically and irregularly from one side to the other. Cooking is especially hazardous when you can't trust anything to stay in the same place for two seconds before making a determined dive to the floor.

We have 2 x 250 litre water tanks on board, also 80 litres in bottles in case the water maker packs up. No sign of this contingency happening though -- Steve fires up the watermaker for the first time, generating 60 litres an hour, perfectly drinkable. First showers since Sunday for several of the motley crew... most welcome, especially as the sun has come out at last.

Supplies are holding up well. We've repacked some of the oranges which we were losing occasionally from the stern out of Mark's hammock. 20 bananas have been chucked, not holding up well. We saw our first flying fish which landed flapping on the deck only to be returned to its element as being too small for the pan.

Despite the rocking and rolling below, we elect to do some proper cooking for dinner. Frank and Mark get busy with a beef bourginon. Did anyone see the mushrooms? We decide they just weren't delivered, so carrots go in instead. Pressure cooker cooking at its best, ready in ten minutes and served with rice. The reviews from the cockpit are in: "An epicurean delight" - Peter. "Best beef stew I've had all day" - Mark. "Beautifully chopped carrots" - The Skipper.

Night falls and the wind comes up. We are now in a Force 6, with huge rollers throwing us around from astern. Very tricky helming, but Nina's outstanding autopilot is coping well with occasional recourse to hand steering. At one point, Frank is below in the dark watching the storm scene from The Martian on his iPad. A wave lifts Nina, then a second follows rapidly and twirls her over, sending the contents of the coachroof under the hood crashing down the companionway onto his bunk, adding much reality to the movie. Further for'd, Chris narrowly misses being clocked by a flying water bottle.

Mike's concerns about keeping his crewmates awake with his snoring have proved to be unfounded. His rather pathetic contributions to the nightly cacophony have been instantly drowned out by a richly orchestrated baritone from the centre of the boat and a sound like the desperate last breaths of a mortally wounded sea-lion from somewhere near the stern.

It's been a long day. Tomorrow we need to investigate an apparant leak somewhere in the stern cabin which is needing baling and giving Steve pause for concern. Watch this space...