Lanzarote to Grenada, day 5

Stravaig'n the Blue
Thu 14 Jan 2021 23:44
End of day 5 position: 22:18.8 N 023:50.7 W
Position timestamp: Thursday 14 Jan 2021 12:00 UTC-1
Distance travelled last 24 hours: 171 NM
Reduction in distance to destination last 24 hours: 143 NM
Distance travelled total: 759 NM
Average speed since departure: 6.3 knots
Shortest distance to destination: 2263 NM
ETA based on shortest distance and average speed so far: midday on 29 January (20 days in total)

Poor progress yesterday due to lighter winds than forecast and insufficient sail area. Good progress today due to higher winds than forecast and almost too much sail area.

Late yesterday morning we furled the regular headsail, deployed the Blue Water Runner and set a brisk pace for most of the afternoon in winds of 18-23 knots. We furled the BWR and deployed our tiny staysail on a couple of occasions while squalls went through. It didn’t seem sensible to leave the BWR up overnight but we didn’t want to make the same mistake as the night before and have too little sail up. So we dropped the BWR to the deck, retied both sheets to both clews (corners), hoisted it again and unfurled it as an asymmetrical headsail, about 50% larger than our regular headsail. (I said in the day 3 blog post that, with the BWR deployed, that would be the last sail change until 20 N 30 W. That clearly was wishful thinking.)

The wind increased throughout the night and by daylight it was 25-30 knots (28-33 is F7, near gale) in comparison with a forecast for wind in the high teens. That was almost too much for the amount of sail we had out but it did make for exhilarating sailing.

With big winds come big waves. I’m guessing the sea state this morning would be described in forecasts as having a 2-3 metre swell (non-breaking waves). But that doesn’t preclude the occasional 4 or 5 metre wave. The waves were coming from behind, travelling faster than the boat and so lifted the boat as they approached and lowered it as they passed. When a big wave went through, I ended up at the wheel of this fifteen tonne vessel, perched on the top of the wave, looking down 15 feet or so into the trough and wondering if the boat is going to be lowered gently into the following trough, as usually happens, or will it pick up speed from a gust of wind and be propelled forward and then down the face of the wave at an alarming angle and speed. Great fun if you are on deck, less so if you are below and have no visibility of what’s going on around the boat.

There have been no squalls this morning and, based on the cloud formations (fluffy cumulus), there won’t be any this afternoon.

We need to be south and west of the point 20 N 30 W on Saturday in order to minimise the impact of the light winds that are forecast for the areas to the north and east of 20 N 30 W from Sunday. That is still looking achievable.

We crossed the Tropic of Cancer last night at 21:55. I was fairly sure it is at 23.5 degrees north but wanted to double check so, with no access to Google or Wikipedia, I started looking through the indexes in our pilot books, our passage planning books, our seamanship and weather books. No mention of it anywhere. Strange. Ah, it is bound to be marked on charts.  So I checked them too, both the paper ones and the electronic ones. No mention there either. And then the penny dropped. The Tropic of Cancer is an astronomical feature and nothing to do with the maritime world. It marks the points farthest north from the equator at which the sun is directly overhead at noon, on 21st June, the summer solstice. And there it was in Collins Guide to the Stars and Planets, 23.5 degrees north.

I am looking forward to this evening’s DIY entertainment: cutting up all of the plastic, mainly bottles, that we’ve accumulated so far to reduce the space that the recycling is taking up.

All is well