The first 36 hours

Tue 31 Dec 2013 11:42
26:33.7N 17:12.9W
The first 36 hours at sea are always, I imagine, the most eventful. After a hearty meal in Marina Rubicon and just one glass of wine each, we set sail at 21:21GMT (or UTC as we are now calling it at sea). Leaving a marina, let alone an little-known one at night and in a force 5 gusting 6 certainly ensured that our senses were as alert as they could be. Throw in the emotion that we have just left dry land for probably three weeks and soon out of easy contact with our loved ones and I think it is fair to say that we all felt our own mix of melancholy, excitement and, yes, dread!

Why dread? I'm not sure, but Stefan and I tried to verbalise the feeling. It is something to do with being unable to visualise, no matter how hard you try, a task/challenge/adventure - call it what you want - such as this. I had the same feelings when my Caroline (wife who is sitting this one out!) and I prepared for our 100km walk in September. I had already done one previously, and Caroline had done a 50km walk the year before, but imagining the walk itself or how we will physically and emotionally deal with it was nonetheless impossible until you're at the start line.

And now I was standing in the cockpit of Carpe Diem on the first watch of the voyage finally with an inkling of what on earth we were doing!

The other dread people expressed and we were certainly aware of are the dangers that such a voyage entails. Hundreds if not a few thousand people 'do the circuit' each year. And very, very few of them run into trouble. The dangers you face are not, I believe, so much what mother nature can throw at us, but the threat people and vessels etc pose. When I was growing up, we spent many months in the Inner and Outer Hebrides as well as around the west coast of Ireland and we experienced our fair share of very strong winds, both at sea and at anchor. This has given me the confidence that a seaworthy boat and knowledgeable skipper can handle most of what the weather can throw at you. The keel of a sailing yacht should ensure that whatever happens, you will eventually return to an upright and floating (!) position. Far more dangerous, in my opinion, is running into something. This could be another boat for which we keep a constant lookout (and pray that everyone else also has their navigation lights switched on at night!) or could be a whale or a half-submerged container - thousands of which are lost overboard every year and not all of which sink. Both of these hazards can put a whole in your hull. Both are mercifully rare, although many sailing magazine stories are written about literally coming upon a dozing whale!

Since that first night, the winds have eased a bit and backed to a more easterly direction. As tradition (and meteorological logic) dictates, we are not heading directly towards the Caribbean, but more south at first in order to pick up the trade winds and are therefore aiming at an imaginary spot just to the north of the Cape Verde Islands.

Excitements have involved some dolphin spotting, a shark following us (unverified and I'm not sure the skipper is to be trusted!), a door flying of its hinges (literally and now reattached) and passing just 0.1nm behind a Chinese registered cargo ship (we had been watching him for about 25 minutes and took some evasive action quite early in order to avoid a bump). Apart from that we are simply trying to settle into our routines and watches (2 hour watches at night, 3 during the day), sleeping when we can and remembering to eat and keep hydrated.

The first 24 hours saw us cover 153 miles (averaging about 6.4kn)- great progress but one we are unlikely to match today given the wind, but let's see!

It's all good.