Just a small reminder that we're not quite there yet...

Tue 14 Jan 2014 13:11
14:46.1N 55.17.1W

With 'only' about 400nm left to go yesterday evening, it seemed like we were home and dry. Almost there. What are 2.5 days sailing to someone who has just sailed 2,400nm? Never mind being a distance that none of us had covered in one go before this cruise left Antibes in September. Surely the biggest issue would be landfall - the most dangerous part of any journey. Or shipping? Surely, there must be some other boats out there? We are on a direct line between the NE corner of Brazil and the US East Coast. Surely they trade...?

You may recall that I wrote some days ago that we had experienced our first squall. Yeah, well, forget that. Yesterday evening saw our first squall. We saw it coming. Bizarrely, having had a perfect day's sailing, at dusk we found ourselves in the middle of a clear blue part of the sky, surrounded by dark grey clouds. Rainbows were popping up all over the place. And directly upwind... a grey wall - sea, horizon and clouds indistinguishable from one another - was heading our way. As it drew closer, it changed the colour of the sea. The usually invitingly azure-blue ocean was replaced with another shade of grey I can only describe as 'dead'. If there were fifty shades of grey heading our way, these didn't look much fun.

We saw the approaching increase in wind as an opportunity. Our course that we were sticking to in order to maintain a reasonable speed and which suited our 'butterfly' sail plan was taking us to the southerly end of the Caribbean and we knew that with just two or three days left, the time was fast approaching where we should consider consider our accuracy more! The increasing wind would mean we could change course slightly, bring the genoa over to port and continue our journey on a broad reach. We also considered putting an additional reef in the mainsail.

Keeping an eye on the approaching wall, one of us went onto the foredeck, the genoa was furled, its boom removed and the sail re-set on the port side. Everyone back to the cockpit to appraise the situation. And then it hit. Our force 4 wind jumped to force 7, gusting storm force 8 at times. Rain was inevitable, but bizarrely pleasant as it was not heavy and very warm. I went below, soon to be joined by the others, and donned full oilskins. Back on deck, I relieved Papi from helming as he went and donned his wet weather gear. It seemed that we had left that reefing of the mainsail a tad too late...

Actually, as it all turned out, with the others back on deck, me at the helm, being able to steer a course that kept Carpe Diem steady, Papi going forward to reef the mainsail, whilst Christian and Stephan managed the sheets and halyards from the cockpit, order was restored in about 10 minutes. Coincidentally timed for a lull in the wind!

The rest of the night has been fine if not comfortable. The wind is veering a great deal and fluctuating between a force 3 and force 6. None of which we can't handle, but it causes the boat not to settle into a rhythm, it is noisy with a lot of flapping of sails and generally means that no one slept well. Oh well, perhaps a good reminder that we're not quite there yet.

In other news from Carpe Diem:

- Before the excitements with the wind yesterday early evening, we spent some time exchanging the new generator for the old one, believing that we had mis-diagnosed the original issue. I am pleased to report that we are still producing electricity. The generator was officially christened a couple of days ago. He is now known as 'Armin' after Professor Armin Horn, a wizard in the lab and sailing enthusiast who created him.

- Before any of the above, I witnessed possibly the most beautiful end to the night/start of the day. My watch started at 4AM and I spent most of the first hour below deck, writing in my diary. During the second hour, as I sat in the cockpit, I was at first joined by an almost full moon, which illuminated the entire sea up to the horizon all around us. Within 15 minutes this disappeared to be replaced by a pre-dawn darkness you read about in a du Maurier novel. So pitch black that you couldn't see the genoa from the cockpit. Add another 15 minutes and the first corner of the sky turned gently dark blue, oddly accompanied by a gathering of a million stars elsewhere. The stars so bright in places they reflected on the ocean surface! Cue three shooting stars, an increasing amount of blue in the increasingly light sky and so finished one of the most visually perfect hours of the trip for me.

We expect to make landfall on Thursday. At the time of writing that is 48 hours away. Wow...

Until then, cheerio.