Blog Entry 10 - Ships in the Night

Ian Redwood & Laura Brown
Sun 20 Mar 2022 16:43

04° 39.8S 093° 19.0'W Ships in the Night                                                            

We’re now 300 nautical miles SW of Gallapagos.  All’s well.  We’ve motor-sailed through a long line of squalls.  Where sudden winds and heavy downpours have kept us hunkered down with reduced sail and steely resolve.  In other times rain was a call to action for the ship’s crew to collect water to drink.  Our gunnels have been awash with torrents of water, and the occasional deceased flying fish.  It takes a helluva lot of rain to drown fish.  

In these conditions our radar has been invaluable.  Radar (an acronym for radio aided direction and range) works best when its transmission signal is reflected by surfaces at 90 degrees to its source.  There is almost no better reflected surface than a vertical wall of stair-rodding rain.  Our screen therefore can show us the shape of the dense rainclouds we face.  We get information up to about 16 miles out with any accuracy.  We can then plan a weaving course to miss the worst of the downpours.  Unfortunately, this means that one is drawn to looking at a screen all night, watching ghostly shapes manoeuvre their threatening way, ever closer with every radar sweep.  

Radar started as a war-winning technology developed in WW2.  My dad was involved in its post war development and testing.  How things have moved on.  What he dealt with as highly secretive cutting edge military hardware for spotting Jerry bombers in the skies, is now a fitting in lots of sailboats.  (I know Dad reads the blogs so this reference is a little shout out to him – Hi Dad).

There are very few events in a passage like this.  Observations are often personal and pointlessly raised.  E.g.  Observer: “Oh, wow!  I just saw two huge tuna leaping in an arc”, the non-observer replies: “Wow, where was that?”.  To which the observer replies “errm, kinda over on our starboard about 200 metres away, near that wave”…..”err, that wave?”,  “no next to it”, “what colour were they?”, “fish colour I think” etc etc, you get the picture.

There are exceptions to the personal and pointless nature of observations.  Like when someone says “I think I’ve seen a ship?”.  This happened only last night, a ship that may, or may not, have had lights on and was not yet visible on radar.  This can be serious.  There are fishing boats out here with long lines, operating semi-legally and therefore without identification and with no wish to be spotted.  There is always the danger of a collision or even fouling the propellor on steel cable with large hooks on.  Rumour has it that many of these ghost vessels are Chinese trawlers intent on stripping the ocean of any wildlife they can capture.  Shark fin soup being a notable lucrative delicacy.  

However, the lone craft turned out to be a sailing yacht ‘Wild Rye’.  A 33’ sloop bobbing around.  I called them up on radio.  It was lovely to chat and hear a North American accent, it was extraordinary to think that in this vast ocean we passed each other with less than a mile between us.  We will look forward to sharing a beer with Liam and Hilary when we eventually meet with them in Nuku Hiva around the start of April….in 2800 Nm time….We passed them like ships in the night.  

Gotta go – I can smell that gorgeous smell of baking bread – what a moral booster!  What a lucky skipper I am to have such a wonderful fellow-boat-owner who is also my lovely wife.