What a difference a day makes

Fri 10 Jan 2014 20:20
16:22.0N 45:10.4W

...or what a difference a couple of days make. 388nm of difference, in fact. That phenomenal run over the past 48 hours had something to do with the increasing strength in wind we were experiencing when I last wrote.

We awoke yesterday morning to the full force of what had been predicted. An easterly force 7, for a while gusting 8 (officially the first storm designation). With its direction continuing to push us along, though, the strong winds didn't concern us unduly. Carpe Diem is a very seaworthy Beneteau First 42 designed by a chap called Farr - someone held in high regard in the sailing community. The increase in wind meant that the waves had also grown significantly by the time of first light yesterday. An underlying northerly swell was still apparent, but it had now been joined with short, tall waves from the east. It is impossible to determine accurately the wave height whilst you're sailing, but we are certain that they reached halfway up our mast - which would be 8-10 meters above sea level. Every crest was breaking and occasionally you could spot the tell tale signs of a force 8 as the crest wouldn't fall onto themselves, but be swept away by the wind. We counted our blessings that the wind was behind us as the experience would have been much more challenging and, frankly, horrible were we heading in the other direction.

Two of us spent some time yesterday morning trying to photograph the beautiful aquamarine colours synonymous with breaking waves, but getting the timing right as well as the light, with the sun now spending most of its time behind clouds, proved for me elusive. Christian got it nailed on his first shot!

We were making excellent speed in the wind, but the boat was not particularly steady - the waves would build from behind, sometimes break just aft of us, but always carry on smoothly below the boat whilst we gently slid down the other side. We were obviously still carrying too much canvas, so we reefed further (now three in the main and two in the genoa) and this helped make life a little more comfortable again.

That said, I think we all felt that the last 48 hours were probably the longest of the trip! We spent much time below deck, cooking was virtually impossible and there was little to do. The day seemed to drag on forever. We were, however, kept entertained by some messages from home, including my daughters' primary school asking us about our trip, an update on UK energy policy (Shower together? Just a shower would be nice!) and spoof videos made by one of the Crew's partners in which she firstly sold his beloved sports car and then held a meeting with his marketing team in which they canned every initiative he'd worked on this year.We also heard that it's still rather wet at home in the UK. We had our first rain here, too, so we know how you feel ;)

Fast forward to my watch this morning - 5AM (8AM GMT) start and the sun was soon to rise and show a much calmer sea. Of course the large swell generated by the stronger winds was still evident, but gone were the smaller, steeper waves. Muesli and coffee for breakfast which all four of us enjoyed around the table in the cockpit... and I'm tempted to say that normal service (appears to) has resumed. Normal service also includes still not having seen another vessel (11 days and counting, I think), nor have we found a sufficiently fresh flying fish on deck which would warrant cooking it. Instead, we put some anchovies on our freshly prepared pizzas for lunch.