Under 1000 nm to go!

Rich's 2019 ARC Blog
Richard Hurd
Sat 7 Dec 2019 13:30
18:59.805N 046:18.015W

1200 UTC Saturday 7th December 2019

Exciting day yesterday as we crossed the ‘only 1000 nm to go’ line at about 1730 local time until we get to the finish line in Rodney Bay, St Lucia. We broke open a couple of warm beers and a bottle of warm rose wine to celebrate this mark. We tried to cool them in a bucket of sea water, but sadly that is pretty warm here in the Atlantic. Oh for a fridge!

The sailing has been tough, as the waves are still really confused and difficult to predict. One minute there are big surfing Atlantic rollers picking up the stearn of Fireball and launching you seriously downhill into the trough. You feel the yacht surge forward and we actually peaked at 16.1 knots at one point. The slightest touch on the helm could swing her in any direction which is a little unnerving at times. After a few minutes of that exhilaration, you then get loads of smaller really choppy waves coming at you from all angles and arse-slapping you. These just knock the yacht off course and while trying to correct the course and wind angle, another comes along to trip you up again and you end up over-compensating. On top of all this, you are trying to steer as close to downwind as you possibly can, as that is the direction that the finish line lies! For the sailors amongst you, the risk of a nasty jibe is never far away! Luckily we have a preventer rigged to stop the boom from flying across the cockpit, but even so, it puts an immense amount of strain on the gooseneck and kicking strap if it were to happen. There was an incident on the 1st day when the preventer broke when one of the crew jibed and that nearly ripped out the kicking strap mount at the base of the mast. It is now tightly lashed with sail ties around the base of the mast.

The winds are East North-East in direction and varying from about 15 to 25 knots in strength - the classic West Indies trade winds, which took the old sailing ships to the Caribbean and the America’s. We’ve had these for the past 5 or 6 days, so we’ve been running downwind for a long time. St Lucia lies 255 deg True from our current location and we are on a heading of about 240 deg T, which is towards the Grenadines. If the wind direction doesn’t change, we’ll probably stay on this port tack for the next 48 hours and then put a final planned jibe in to take us to the northern tip of St Lucia and the finish line.

Last night I was on watch from 2200 to 0200 and then from 0600 to 1000, so technically I’m still on watch, as it is currently 0930 local time, which is -3 hours behind GMT. Last night was fairly uneventful for both watch crews. The moon is now about half, so the first half of the night is brightly lit and it is even quite hard to make out the brightest of stars and planets, although our old friend Orion has seemingly been with us every night. This constellation is pretty unique as one of Orion’s stars rises exactly in the East and sets exactly in the West. We’re at the stage that we can almost time our watch changes by his position relative to the mast. When the moon sets, which is about 0300 local time, and the sky is clear of clouds, the stars are just incredible. The Milky Way is bright and quite often you can see satellites wizzing overhead, as they orbit Earth.

The temperature is now really picking up and I was on watch in just shorts and T shirt all last night (and of course a life jacket which is always clipped on during hours from early dusk to late dawn). Fireball doesn’t have a Bimini (sun shade canopy over the cockpit), so it gets seriously hot and ‘burny’ during the day. Factor 50+ suncream is being liberally applied, but with no shade, especially on our current port tack, it is relentless. Down below, it is just hot, hot, hot and very sweaty. We try to keep hatches open, but when we surf, sometimes our bow digs in and we get a load of water over the decks, so we do have to keep the top hatches closed. The side portholes do allow some ventilation through the cabin, but in 15 knots of wind and doing 7 knots boat speed, the apparent wind speed over the decks is only 8 knots, so not a lot to waft through the cabin. Sleeping is a sweaty job too!

Not much wildlife out here. We’ve not had the company of dolphins for a few days, except for a quick silhouette last night in the moon light of a couple jumping just off our port quarter. There was a whale yesterday, but only Antii saw it, as we were in a crisis with a chaffed through guy rope breaking on the poled out genny- the 3rd time this has happened. There are loads of flying fish, but clearly those living on the west side of the Atlantic are influenced by the laid back Caribbean style when compared to the ISIS trained kamikaze flying fish off the African coast! It’s quite amazing to see the odd bird this far out at sea. They glide around the yacht for a while just looking us sweating away trying to push Fireball as hard as we can - probably thinking “daft humans”! These birds are not large Albatross type birds, but quite small and very agile, as they glide about 30cms above the wild waves. Wonderful sight.

So breakfast is being prepared by Nigel this morning and I think my proposal of eggy bread and baked beans got the green light, so I’ll close now. We have about 870 nm left to do, as the crow flies, so by the time we account for the tacks we must make, it will be more like 900’ish. Still looking good for a finish around Paula’s birthday, which would be amazing.

Love and light to all. Rich.