Dolphins, a whale and a UFO

Mon 13 Jan 2014 00:56
15:11.6N 51:04.3W

Let's start with the latter. I was sitting outside yesterday evening - the first beautiful trade wind sunset for a few days - and I spotted an aeroplane! Quite obvious. It was showing one white light and a green and red flashing either side. Quite obviously the navigation lights of an aeroplane heading our way. I wonder where it could be coming from. It was the first sign of life in almost two weeks. That's why it was mildly exciting!

Strange, though, it doesn't seem to be moving. So, grab the binoculars for a closer look. Yep, definitely navigation lights, but why isn't it moving? I call two of the others. Look, an aeroplane. But it's not moving. Well, it can't be an aeroplane then. But, you're right, it's displaying navigation lights... Let's get another pair of binoculars. Yep, definitely flashing green and red lights. But it's not moving. Perhaps it's a tanker aircraft, flying very slowly waiting for a rendezvous. Perhaps it's a satellite. But satellites don't have navigation lights. Prompt: cloud cover and it disappeared. Our very own Unidentified Flashing Object.

Until this evening. Same time, same place. Same blinking lights. Consensus is that we are either being stalked by aliens, or it is indeed a star and a trick of the light, perhaps through the earth's atmosphere is causing the light to look like it's flashing. Or Pink Flloyd's prism is out in space somewhere.

Fast forward to this morning. My perfect watch, which started at 7AM 'local time' as the sun had just risen. Everyone else was still asleep and I decided I needed some 'exercise' and switched to autopilot off and took to steering the boat. It seemed that the trade wind weather was with us again in text book fashion: gently rolling waves from astern, a consistent force 5 from just starboard off our stern, a few fluffy clouds. This is what blue water sailing is meant to be like! I was joined by Papi and Christian around eight. And we were then joined, very, very briefly by a whale. I heard him (it?) before I saw him. Probably 15 or 20 meters off our starboard quarter. We saw about 6 meters of the grey back as it was submerging itself in the sea. Not the longest of glimpses, but the sighting nevertheless put a tick in another box of what we were hoping to experience and put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

And the rest of the day was perfect. Breakfast in the cockpit, gentle sailing, plenty of sunshine. As most days, we are all up until about 11AM when some of us on an early shift retire for an hour or so to snooze, before congregating again for lunch. The afternoon saw a continuation of the benign conditions, apart from a couple of squalls (less worrisome than many had us believe). There was still not enough of a downpour, however, to strip off and shower in the rain! And believe me, we are all now in a state where a shower would be welcome. We estimate that we have about 80l of water left which has to last until our first port of call. So anything other than a conservative application of a wet flannel is out of the question!

Unusually, the skipper appeared in the early evening with a sun downer - some left over Limoncella (yes, an acquired taste and one which I can't say I have acquired yet). In order to ensure that things didn't get completely out of hand, I quickly prepared some Tuc biscuits with an unidentifiable Canary Island Salsa type spread. The sun set in its now usual fiery red manner and just before the light faded we heard the sounds: plop. Splash. Snort. Less than five meters from the boat, a school of dolphins (or is it a pod?) had come to enjoy the sunset with us. About six dolphins were literally playing chase, dancing and generally frolicking beside, underneath and ahead of Carpe Diem. They stayed with us for a good quarter of an hour or so and we just stood and watched their shadows. It was too dark to photograph and like several of the other special moments of this trip, this experience will simply have to remain as fond memories. No bad thing.

It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Less than 600 miles to go to Martinique. Seems like a doddle, yet still a fair old distance under normal circumstances. We downloaded an updated weather forecast (and also received an update on the Atlantic Rowers and their weather forecast - btw I am pleased to report that we seem to have overtaken the rowers without running them over - we were never quite sure how easy they would be to spot!). The weather forecast brought more good news. A low pressure area is developing behind us and its strong winds on the southern edge are due to run headlong into the trade winds, thereby creating a complete calm across several hundred square miles. If we were a couple of days behind where we are, we would be spending significantly longer at sea.

As it stands, we anticipate making landfall around Thursday. Our conversations have started to include the things we are most looking forward to. They quickly turned to the things we will miss when we leave our small temporary home. More of both of those soon.