A life on the Ocean Wave…

Sweet Dreams
Roz Preston /Ed Phillips
Tue 22 Nov 2022 14:03
Sweet Dreams is now four days into the final crossing from Mindelo to Port Louis in Grenada. Apologies once again for the long silence but it has taken this long to get used to the idea! This is the real deal - Atlantic sailing.
I’d like to say it has all been plain sailing, but I would be misleading you. There was apprehension amongst quite a few of the crew, my Arc ladies friends amongst them, when we saw the forecast for the crossing. What we all hope for, and the reason for doing the crossing at this time of the year, is to take advantage of the east to west blowing trade winds which typically blow at a steady 15-20 knots , maybe occasionally rising to 25. Our forecast, dryly described by Paul, one of the ARC+ organisers, was for “the upper end of the trade winds range.” That is 20-25 knots, not quite the gentle downwind stroll we were hoping for. The difference is not just in the wind strength, it is also in the sea state. At 20-25 knots the sea is a crazy rollercoaster lumping up to 3 or 4 metres pushing us mostly forwards but often side to side. And occasionally trying to climb on board. The whole boat is wet, and thickly coated with sticky salt. As are we.
But most of all Ed. On the first night he was rudely awakened by a dousing through his portlight. Then, just as he had settled again, another huge wave crashed into the cockpit and found its way to the lowest point of the boat through the hatch into the aft cabin. 3 days later we are still trying to dry everything out. Poor Ed wasn’t feeling great for the first few days and being soaked didn’t help his morale.
However with our twin headsail set up we made fantastic time, and 24 hours in we were 5th place in our section, unheard of for Sweet Dreams. No doubt about it, she does like a bit of breeze! But 25 knots was just a bit too much for the spinnaker pole. On Saturday evening there was a tremendous snap and I looked up to see the pole hanging in two pieces, in danger of ripping right through the sail. We all sprang into action and amazingly it was all sorted within 25 minutes, with no damage to the sail, and no casualties except for the pole which sadly threw itself overboard in the melee. So now we are having to reconsider our configuration. Obviously our favourite, twin headsails poled out, is no longer an option. But we still have 2 sails on the foil, and it’s impossible in these conditions to take one down, so we have to sail with them either doubled together, or one poled out on the boom while the other flies gull winged. The other option is to get the mainsail up and fly the headsails together, sailing wing on wing. But turning into these winds is challenging, so unless the wind dies down, that’s not going to happen.
The other aspect worth mentioning is the rolling. It’s relentless, pitching from one side to the other constantly but without any discernible pattern. Poor Dick took a bit of a tumble one morning just trying to get out of his berth. Gave us all a bit of a fright but happily he sustained nothing worse than a few bruises. It’s one hand for the boat at all times, or you find yourself on the other side of the cabin or cockpit before you have time to know it’s happening. And trying to sleep on a surface that is never horizontal is challenging at best.
However it’s said a person can get used to anything, and it seems to be the case. Four days in, we are all sleeping better, still on our 3 hour watch routine, and eating well.
Am I enjoying it? Is it what I expected? Well, yes and no. I had anticipated some stronger winds, just not 2 weeks worth, but Sweet Dreams is looking after us all and while it’s not a comfortable ride, we are all learning ways to deal with it. Spirits are good and we are a strong team, thinking through and discussing each challenge so that we find the best and safest solution.
It’s my day in the galley today so when the boys up top have finished re-running the sheets (in the rain!) there will be freshly baked focaccia sandwiches with ham and cheese to cheer them up!
Until the next post,

Sweet Dreams out.

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