Atlantic crossing 17

Fri 15 Dec 2006 12:30
Since posting of diary 16 the wind has piped up again, as I write,
Thursday pm we are thrashing along, sometimes over 7kn, how things can
change so quickly. The conversation these last two days has all been about
eta based on the amount of fuel left etc. Is it better to use it up, just
leaving enough for final manoeuvres, and hope for wind nearer the island to
get us home, or eke it out plodding along and just arrive that much later ?
All that forgotten, now its, should we reef or shall we wait to see how
things develop ? I am in the mood to just let her have her head as long as
nothing carries away, having written that I am going on deck to check out
the situation. Very squally, for the last hour and a half we have been
blown along like a moth across a pond and feeling centre stage in a great
circle of squalls all around the horizon. Huge towering columns of cumulo
nimbus rising thousands of feet into the air, seeming to boil and seethe.
Beneath some were great mushroom stems of rain so thick the sun couldn't
shine through. Above us and very high were cirrus clouds scudding along, and
below that, black rainclouds skimming across the ocean. Racing downwind
that can be very exhilarating, but a bit dangerous too, if the steering
should suddenly fail, allowing the boat to turn suddenly side on to the huge
waves whipped up by the wind, who knows what would carry away, and one
breakage can often turn quickly into a series of failures as everything
comes under more strain. Sit on deck beside the tiller, keep a close eye on
the windvane and just let her run, wow, what a ride, max wind speed
recorded, 25kn. Just as quickly the whole scene changed, the big clouds
cleared away, giving way to clear skies and pleasant evening sun, four and a
half knots now and hardly a rock as I lay writing this on my bunk. Amazing
Atlantic weather, volatile and exciting. Still can't catch a rotten fish !
Made a very sexy lure from a ropes end and bits and pieces found around the
boat, didn't work. Going over the side now with knife between teeth, I'll
show 'em. Mileage now in the upper three hundreds, maybe we can still make a
landfall on Sunday but the safe money is on Monday. Plan to settle her down
for the night now, Alex is on till 10pm, then Vic.
Wind piped up into the 15kn range during the night so we flew. About 2 am,
a ship, first warning came from the bleeping of the AIS, electronic ship
recognition system I was bludgeoned into buying by my mate Chris, very
useful it has been too. Looked like a very big fishing boat but couldn't say
for sure, about 4 miles away steaming across our bow from right to left,
closest approach about 1 to 2 miles, course 090. Bit of a shock for the
watchman as he had just had a look around, seeing nothing as usual for the
last three weeks. 'We must sharpen up now that we are approaching land'
cries the captain for the umpteenth time, having slept the last half hour of
his own watch. The night watches have changed, no moonlight means more stars
but nowhere near as spectacular a show. Ominous black squall clouds roll
over the ship as she plunges gamely on, occasional deluges of rain to
further lower the watchman's spirits. Down below, in our smelly festering
pits, we try to shut out the incessant rattling and banging, try to sleep
while limbs are braced against anything not moving so as not to get shot out
of the bunk onto the cabin sole. Poor sailor boys are dreaming of standing
on solid ground, sleeping in a clean dry bed, trying to remember having
armpits that didn't smell like a road kill, we need to be there soon before
the rumbles of mutiny turn into action. In lesser conditions than this,
captains have been cast adrift, alone on the great sea, frightened and
regretful, 'if only I hadn't sat on Vic's glasses, or laughed when Alex got
a wet bumme'. I will try to be kinder, I'll make porridge in the morning,
and a nice cuppatea. Manny