Blog Entry 7 - Expect the unexpected

Ian Redwood & Laura Brown
Tue 8 Mar 2022 13:02

02° 28.901 N 086° 45.882 W  

Our current situation reminds me of one of my novice moments as an officer cadet at Sandhurst.  In my first ever military briefing A Welsh Guards Sergeant Major regaled us in a parade square voice “Sirs, the most important thing in the Army is FLEXIBILITY” we all nodded sagely, he then continued, “NO, it’s not!!!’,………….and then even more intensely “SEE?”.  

Meanwhile, nearly 40 years later on RaLa, we had expected to be sailing West and relying upon our satellite phone to utilise the much lauded Predict Wind app for weather routing.  But that hasn’t worked out as planned.  The weather has changed and we found the satellite phone is waaay too temperamental to be relied on.  It’s as highly strung as a small dog drinking double strength espressos.  It’s also about as pricey as one of the designer handbags you’d want to fit that tiny hound.  Because we have no wind, I mean zero, not a breath, the computerised routing is taking us all over the place to find the odd gasp of air, or it gives us an option to use the engine and straight line it.  But neither are pragmatic, the former because we want to get to French Polynesia this century and the latter because we don’t have an endless supply of fuel.  Consequently, we have a change in plan, a change in direction and a change in destination.

So the new plan, as at today’s date anyway, is head South West to the Gallapagos Islands. We will touch base there, collect fuel and fresh fruit and veg and head out again - sharpish.  We had previously determined to avoid Galapagos in our departure plan. The islands are famed for legendary bureaucracy, disinterested officials, and a reputation for fleecing tourists, ever since Mr Darwin set foot there.  They are also known for their legendary wildlife but you have to use local guides who charge a king’s ransom.  So, under the regulation that will allow us to visit for less than 12 hours without paying for a cruising permit we will head there.  We’ve turned South South West for that reason, if there is a miraculous appearance of some wind we can change the plan again.

At the moment, there really is no wind, not a sausage.  The sea is glassy smooth as far as the eye can see, with a waxy finish reflecting the light of the sun.  There’s not a ripple.  It’s crazy hot here by the equator, in the area known as the doldrums.  The sun has been up for 30 minutes and its already too hot.  It’s steamy hot, like a brazier in a sauna.  How we wish we had a giant wind machine and an ice maker.  Quite how did those sailors in old square-rigged galleons cope becalmed and drifting?  New respect.  There’s not much going on in the ocean at the moment - a few turtles, the odd dolphin.  Unexpectedly, we had a ghostly appearance of a curious leviathan alongside at night. We never saw that giant, but we heard his breath, and ‘o my’ that whale halitosis has to be smelt to be believed.  Reminder to self: floss after fish. 

We’ve also had some damn red-footed boobys cadging a lift.  In fact there’s a pair at the top of the mast that have been there for 2 days without even flying off.  The boobys specialise in covering our boat in their sea bird shite and pulling at anything that they can with sharp beaks.  They have a cocky manner and a penchant for wilful vandalism.  The two on the mast have wrecked our wind indicator so I’ll have to go up the mast to both scare them off and then try to fix it.  I don’t relish that – they are aggressive when approached.  This leaves me with the problem how to get rid of them?  I wish I’d brought a catapult.  I might have to make one.  In the battle of man versus boobys I have managed to sneak up on a couple of these rascals cockily sitting on our bow pulpit.  I crept up behind the staysail, commando style, and pleased with myself that the sail provided great cover from their beady eyes.  I blindsided ‘em, and had at ‘em with the boathook (they’re quite big), lunging with a fearsome war cry.  I prodded them off a couple of times.  This series of attacks has both disturbed and shocked Laura, providing her with an unexpected view of her husband.  The boobys, only mildly disturbed, just cackle, lift off, crap and come back!  Ah well – the battle of wits will continue.  Expect the unexpected.