Blog entry 17. 3rd April 2022. Sparring with the weather gods, and Microsoft.

Ian Redwood & Laura Brown
Sun 3 Apr 2022 18:08

Sparring with the weather gods, and Microsoft.

08:21.6S, 134:04.6W.  3rd April 2022.

Don’t count yer chickens before they’ve hatched.  After celebrating our arrival in the trade wind belt someone inadvertently lent on the switch and turned them off.  We’ve had some s-l-o-w days.  Over the 32 days we’ve been sailing we’ve averaged only about 4.5 knots when we would normally plan on 5.5 knots.  That’s a difference of 108 miles per day as opposed to 132 miles per day.  Ahh well - we’d best keep sailing then.  A few dolphins turned up yesterday to play in our bow wave.  But they didn’t stay as we weren’t going fast enough, it was a case of ‘so long, we’re off to find some fish’.  Luckily, today the winds have turned on again and we’re looking at arriving (In sh’allah) in French Polynesia in 2-3 days time.  We are currently bowling along at 7 knots - about 168 miles a day.

Today has seen the passage of storm cells creeping up behind us.  Ominous black clouds heavy with moisture and sporting some spectacular winds in different and unexpected directions.  They bring a foreboding feeling not unlike the arrival of dementors (ack JK Rowling).  We’re constantly looking over the shoulder, much harder at night when the inky black sky obscures the cloud colour.  If we think our vectors will coincide with these devils then the drill is to speedily reduce the sails by reefing them.  This effective reduction in sail size minimises our exposure to the gusts and strain on the sails and rigging, that is ...providing you notice that the squall is coming.  So a dozy moment reduces situational awareness - the all important ‘weather eye’ is effectively shut behind a piratical eye patch.  Such a moment happened to me when a 40 knot gust woke me from a daydream, suddenly we heeled at an alarming angle and wind was ripping out my beard hairs.  Damn, way too much sail was up.

There now follows an ecstasy of fumbling with multiple lines and winches.  The drama goes something like this: ease the preventer line a little (stops the main from an unexpected gybe), then ease the main sheet, centre main sheet traveller, head forward to the mast, (comedy moment for the Gods as Neptune throws buckets of oggin at me and Thor releases stair-rods of rain from above).  Get to mast and rest on granny bars, release vang rope from cleat (this holds the boom down), raise the topping lift to lift the boom up and partly scandalise (de-power) the mainsail, release all reefing pennants.  Move to leeward side of mast, (Neptune is on a roll and giggling now that he has replaced buckets and is lobbing bathtubs of brine) release main halyard to lower the sail, heave sail down using all the strength I possess to do so, hook reefing cringle on to bull horn (i.e. put retaining ring on hook at bottom of mast), now take first reefing pennant and winch down to pull in back of sail to the boom and secure.  Place main halyard on winch to raise main tight to the reefing cringle (my arms are reaching upwards and Thor titters as torrents of water run off the mainsail straight down both sleeves).  Tidy all lines.  Move to windward side of mast - Neptune you are cracking me up with more comedy as my deck shoes are now sloshing.  Ease topping lift to lower boom and give main power, harden up the vang to hold the boom down, scurry back to cockpit.  Rain is sneaking in underneath the Bimini as the wind is from behind - the cockpit is awash.  Ease mainsheet traveller to put boom to leeward, ease main sheet to set sail and tighten preventer.  The above takes about 15 minutes of adrenalin action and about a swimming pool’s worth of water.  Guess what - one minute later, and the squall has passed - time to reverse all actions.  And so the game goes on, sparring with the weather gods.   

Don’t go tempting fate - another salty superstition.  After all, I smugly eulogised in my last Blog post about ‘a failure to plan is a plan to fail’.  Ha, my words echo to the sound of hollow laughter from the Corporate Boardroom of Microsoft.  Fat executives roll around in their pin stripes suits, howling and holding their sides.  All because I was using the spreadsheet last night, which you will remember is one of our key planning tools on RaLa.  Late in the demi light of a red filtered head torch I get a gob-smacking pop-up notice from Microsoft that brightly says ‘Your Office 365 subscription has expired - you will be unable to edit or save any of your work’.  Well **** me, thanks for telling me you greedy, money grabbing, richest company in the world-bastards.  And thanks for giving me no warning whatsoever - not a heads up nor a reminder - just the guillotine notice.  I mean, quite astoundingly, this little pooh-trap has to have been built into the actual programme itself, because I haven’t had any wifi connection for weeks.  Just think about that.  Somewhere in the computer code, conspiratorially linked to my GPS, is a line that says ‘ha, ha watch this number catch Redwood out just when he needs us most’.  What makes this the bitterest of pills so hard to swallow is that I originally bought the Office programme and was, some years later, obliged to switch over to the annual Office 365 subscription fee after they announced in similar highway robbery fashion ‘your version of Office is no longer supported’.  I mean how would you feel if, say, you bought a car and 5 years later the dealer, with his trilby pulled down low and his sheepskin collar pulled up high, popped by to tell you ‘o by the way guv, if you would just be so kind, I now need an annual fee from you in order for you to continue to use the car you bought - yeah luvverly, just sign here, yeah credit card will do’.  Against my every principle I did exactly that about x years ago.  (Can’t remember when but I do know my credit card never forgets to bill me annually and has done so for probably eight years).  Except this year my credit card was renewed - with a different number.  Echos of ‘a failure to plan….’. Ring through my brain.  Yeah, well Microsoft, a plague on your houses, I truly hope you get your cum-uppance.  Hooray for the EU’s retrospective tax demands, and anti-monopoly legislation, hooray for burgeoning corporate regulation etc, etc (contd on page 94).

Hours later and I’ve had to reproduce a spreadsheet on paper with coloured pens and a calculator by my side.  Lines ruled in a roll-y sea are a bit squiggly and columns lean in on each other, my writing is not nearly as neat or as small as it needs to be.  But we have a new planning tool.  Adapt and overcome, the situation is more inconvenience than disaster.  Laura says: ‘the disaster is you’re starting to sound like Victor Meldrew’.

Ah well… on, on.