Superstitions at sea, and how they make ice cream disappear

17:50N 35:15W

For centuries, our common language has been populated with terms and phrases that have come from sailors and the sea. For example, "a square meal" is used today to define a decent meal that will sustain you for the day, whereas it came from the fact that sailors of old ate from square plates that were used to maximise the number of them who could eat at a small table. The phrase “show a leg” means "hurry up", but it came from the fact that sailors would hang a leg out of their hammock to show they were awake when thew Quartermaster came round in the morning to get everyone up. A knot, used today as a bit of measure, came from the fact that sailors would tie knots in a rope and regular intervals and measure their speed by the number of knots that went through their hands in a 10 minute period. 

Superstitions are rife at sea too. You should never whistle - it brings bad weather. Equally, you should never go for a nap in the afternoon leaving your ice cream in the freezer, because others will eat it. This surprise fact was discovered by Olivier yesterday, when he wandered off for his traditional post-lunch snooze. He came back a couple of hours later to find his crewmates all rolling about holding their tummies from having eaten way too much ice cream - the idea cream that Olivier specially chose from a recommended market in Las Palmas. So today, after lunch, we all suggested to Olivier that he looked a bit tired and maybe he should go take a nap, safe in the knowledge that as soon as his eyes were closed, we’d all be elbows-deep in the freezer once more!

No such luck. Olivier has been rather perky all day. We’ll try again tomorrow…

It was big day navigationally. As we are very almost in the middle of the Atlantic, we flipped the chart over to look at the other side. This side has St.Lucia on it!! Woo hoo! We are now far enough south to get the trades too, and they have been gradually filling in from behind us all day. However, given that we have only been sent 10-12 knots so far, so we thought we’d try a revolutionary new sail plan. It’s a bit unorthodox, but it involves the genoa, the spinnaker and about half the mainsail. The result is another knot on to the boat speed, and an increased chance that we’ll get to St.Lucia before Christmas. 

ARC organisers World Cruising Club today promulgated details of all the boats that have retired so far. It is evidence of the size of the huge depression we all had to navigate around last week, with damaged rigs, hull leaks, and other issues. However, we are pleased that everyone seems to be OK, even though this is proving to be the slowest ARC ever. Our thoughts go out to the crewman that was lost on the Clipper Race yesterday, approaching the end of their first leg in the Southern Ocean.

Meanwhile, we are doing our best to keep “Knotty Girl” in 1st place in our class, and the daily plots of other boats aligned with our weather data reveal that this may be a challenge, as lighter boats come along from behind with the traditional tradewinds. However, morale is high and there is still ice cream left in the freezer. Well, a little bit.

Alastair

(With a special “hello” to Tanyas mum!)