January 1st 2023
Sunday 1st January
We are making good progress westward with, at 1500 today, about 843 miles to go; our noon position was 15:34.70N 47:30.10W. the weather and sea conditions have lightened slightly with a steady 15-20 knots of wind from dead astern. Our daily runs have been about 140 miles consistently. It is still overcast most of the time but dry for now. Temperature in the cabin is 28oC but I have been baking bread.
The sargassum weed has been very dense on the water surface today; some orientated in long rows aligned with the wind, some in large mats. It doesn’t affect the boat, I think, floating on the surface, it is above the level of the propeller. Anyway, each time we have used the engine to round up to reduce or increase sail area, the propulsion seemed to work.
We did have to slow down this morning by heading into wind to retrieve the fishing line (I still have not caught anything edible) but we did have a great bundle of Sargassum weed on the hook and the drag was more than I could pull in at 6 knots.
Having to steer continuously in three-hour shifts means we only see each other at intervals. The helm is usually solitary and a three-hour stint standing, and concentrating on the course and wind direction, especially in the dark, is quite tiring. Again, with only one watch keeper who is helming, we are operating a conservative sail plan so that the boat is still comfortable if the wind gets up, within reason, overnight. Our watch system, with three crew, means that after three hours on, you have six off in which to sleep, eat, and deal with everything else. The three on, six off pattern rotates over three days so at least everyone gets to see some sunrises and some sunsets and on one of the three days you get an almost normal night’s sleep (from 1am to 6:45am – you have to allow a bit of time to get dressed for the deck) but, on other days, you can ‘cop’ two night stints with a 4pm to 7pm watch followed, six hours later, by the 1am to 4am - and back on again at 10am. But, speaking personally, I am sleeping well in the off watches and have adjusted to the routine and am not tired.
With a high workload and small crew, we are operating a dry ship but did have a small social gathering in the cockpit after dinner yesterday evening to toast in the new year with a small tot and the ‘last knockings’ of the Monkey Shoulder whiskey, kindly donated by Chris Liddington. We also broke into a bar of very rich Chocoloney at the same time and reminisced about previous New Year parties we had enjoyed. Ours may have been the most sparsely populated party I could think of. Even arranging meals is complex and we have arrived at a scheme where the person off watch from 4pm to 10pm cooks dinner for the watch change at 7pm but the person going on watch has to eat before 7pm to relieve the person coming off watch for dinner. Breakfast and lunches are often a self-service affair although we did all have scrambled eggs on eggy toast for Sunday lunch today -and very good too.
There was some excitement during the night when a ship crossed our path a few miles ahead;, I was asleep but this was such a rare event that Brian recorded the event in the log. This is probably only the second sighting since leaving Cabo Verde.
I emailed Hydrovane who supplied our self-steering gear (that broke) to start the process of getting a new rudder to Grenada and got the email below. In some ways it was good to know that we were not asking too much of the system but, on the other hand, if we had had the older, stronger unit, to start with, we wouldn’t have to be hand steering now.
All best for the New year, Tony
We are sorry
to read this. Hydrovane's reputation is built on a product that
prioritize the shipment of a nylon Rudder to you in Grenada. I will