Great excitement today – we passed within 100 yards of another yacht. She was called Viva la Vida and had on board a couple and their two children. They had left St Martin on the same day as us and were heading for Horta. We exchanged routing and weather infomation over the VHF radio, after which they kindly invited us on board to share their coq au vin (showing off?), but sadly we had to decline! We will be seeing them in Horta before long – it will be interesting to see how our respective routing strategies pay off. However they are expecting to motor for two days and we definitely do not have enough fuel to do that.
Apart from this it was a fairly uneventful day. The wind continues to blow from the SE at force 4, forcing us North Eastwards for the moment. The winds are due to die down later today as we get nearer to the centre of the high pressure, which is still rising. We will then be able to measure more accurately how much diesel we have left and decide how long we will be able to motor for.
I was getting a bit restless. I had finished my book and didn’t want to start another one, didn’t want to try another Times crossword, kidding myself that I can do them, didn’t want to do a sudoku, as they eventually leave my brain like cotton wool, I wasn’t on galley duty, so what to do? My eye alighted on the SSB radio, and suddenly I had an idea. The radio sits silent and reproachful in the corner of the navigation station. We have never got on top of it, and now we have a satellite phone, don’t really have a day-to-day need to use the thing. We have received pitying looks from live aboard yachties who declare how easy they are to use and how that is how they keep in touch with friends and family all over the world. They offer to show us how easy it all is, but somehow this never happens, and anyway, we don’t have the kind of friends who sit all day by the SSB radio waiting for a call from us. I have tried twiddling the knobs in a desultory fashion once or twice on this trip, and all I have got is hisses, buzzes, whistles, and once something that sounded like Mongolian throat singing, but nothing resembling the English Language, not even Voice of America. So here was my challenge; to find a frequency broadcasting the BBC World Service and find out what was going on in the big wide world out there.
In the event this turned out to be quite easy. I pulled out all the instruction and training manuals that we have ever had, and there on page two of our course notes was a list of the frequencies that the BBC World Service broadcasts on. Just a matter of trying out each of the frequencies in turn and, Bingo, there were crisp English tones telling us about the effect of the Icelandic eruption on the aeronautical industry and how hail stones form around bacteria – fascinating. We waited for the news, and were treated to an hour about the arrest of Mladic. There was the odd other news item, strife in Yemen, local trouble in East Congo, but nothing else at all. After about half an hour of this and a fourth repeat of the Mladic story, I consulted the crew and we all agreed that we heard enough. So what did we do? We just turned the radio off and slipped back into our usual routine. I think we have become institutionalised.