Arc Day 9 - Half Way

Dick and Irene Craig
Mon 30 Nov 2009 23:47
After lunching on the dorado that Austin had caught, one might have thought
that we wouldn't have needed much to eat for supper but that was not the
case, as we all tucked into carbonara, followed by the cold apple pie
remaining from yesterday.

About 9 o'clock last night, the wind had come up and it was decided that we
should drop the parasailor and raise the genoa. Unfortunately the sail
became tangled near the vent, so snuffing was abandoned and we just dropped
the halyard. The parasailor is now in the cockpit waiting to be checked for
damage. It was a wise decision to take down the parasailor last night. We
heard on the SSB this morning that one boat blew out a sail last night.

The wind this morning is stronger, gusting 27knots with a moderate sea. The
sea conditions are not appropriate for fishing. Yesterday after dark, the
lid over the bathing ladder on the port sugar scoop was lifted open by the
sea and remained like that for some while before it closed again. We were
loath to climb down and shut it during the hours of darkness so were glad
that it was sorted on its own.

It looked as if we were approaching the end of the world, to us that is. Our
chart was about to reach its limit in another 25 nautical miles. Time to
change the chart.

Danny, the macho basil plant, located next to the wet bar in the cockpit,
had a bit of a bad night. He had thrown himself into the sink where he was
discovered by Austin later. A little drink and a few kind words and he was
almost as good as new, except for a little damaged pride and a few bruised

Today is the day to change the bed linen in the port cabins. By the time
that the dirty linen is available to be washed, it is unlikely that it will
be daylight when it is ready to be hung out to dry. In fact, it will be
surprising if the bed linen is available for washing much before bedtime.

Lunch today was salad with Serrano ham followed of course by a mixed, fresh
fruit salad.

We had little time to eat the food before it was time for our Trivial
pursuits competition against Kittiwake. There were 4 of them in their team
but our team was a bit depleted as the captain was stuck in the engine room
sorting out a leak via the raw water filter and our medic was assisting him.
Nonetheless, we had five segments and they had four when we had to call it a
draw and do things that need to be done on a boat, on passage.

Twice while the leak was being sorted, a MOB personal alarm was set off and
once we had ascertained that it was a false alarm, we were free to reset the
instruments on the boat and continue making our way towards St Lucia.

We will reach the halfway point today, so will celebrate with Madras curry
and all the trimmings, including home-made naan, still without pappadoms but
followed by turron ice-cream and real maple syrup, washed down with a bottle
of champagne.

Even though we are a dry boat, one has to make exceptions for such an epic

Today we profile a typical day on this boat for our communications man.

The first thing he has to do is remember to track the current time zone, as
all communications run in UT (universal time), also known as GMT (Greenwich
mean time). What had been scheduled as an afternoon call from the boat, when
we managed the first network of this trip, is now a morning call.

About 8am local time, currently 10am UT, we get the first email of the day,
issued by ARC control in Cowes, which contains the weather forecast.
Yesterday was a particularly busy day as we had the responsibility of being
net controller for Group B boats, from rally number 101 to 185, a role which
falls on this boat every 6th day and which is handled admirably by our
communications man.

Once the computer has been suitably pampered, so that it might agree to make
a connection to the Irridium phone (satellite phone), the forecast has to be
issued to the fleet.

At 11.55 UT, there is a 5 minute listening watch on VHF channels 16 and 77
and on ARC 4Charlie (4C), on the SSB. As net controller for group B yachts,
there is an hours delay as the net controller for Group A speaks to the
boats in their group.

At 1300 UT, we announce the frequency that we will be using. This has been
great fun over the last week as there is interference on several boats using
the standard 4C frequency. This has caused us, as Group B, to have to
regularly change channel to 4A or 4B.

Then it is check-in time, as all the boats without satelitte communications
are called and their positions noted, ready to relay back to base in Cowes,
by email. This is followed by the weather forecast received earlier which is
read out at a speed that can be written down, unlike many forecasters that
just rattle it off too quickly.

This all takes about half an hour and then its "open chat" time for people
on other boats to call in with details of what they have been doing such as,
how the fishing is working out, how different sail plans are working and to
discuss plans and routes with other yachts.

Then there are two more listening watches on other frequencies with a
greater range, providing coverage for boats that are further afield.

That done, an email has to be sent to rally control, Cowes, covering the
positions received from the other boats. As this email is sent, the GRIB
weather file requested earlier is then downloaded.

Now it is tactics time, to plan where the best wind will be over the next 48

About 1900 UT, another email check accesses a document containing the
positions, distance covered in 24 hours and distances to the destination,
for all the boats in the fleet.

This information is fed into a spreadsheet, created earlier in the trip. As
this has been set up by our communications man, we are the only boat in the
fleet to have time corrected, estimated finish times and unofficial
positions for every boat in the ARC. As word has spread that we have this
information, we now email it to a selection of other boats tracking the

A further position watch is given on ARC 4C at 21.15 UT.

The final task of the day is to take the blog and the associated photographs
which are in megapixels and sizes of megabytes and shrink them, until they
can be transmitted over satellite communications.

The blog is sent to the ARC blog site and the Tucanon blog site in the same
session that the stats are sent to all of those other boats tracking.

There are two scheduled, daily watches of 1.5 hours and a third, every 4
days. At night there is also a 3 hours watch, which rotates between the
hours of 2100-2400, 0000-0300, 0300-0600 and 0600-0900.

Once in three days it is washing up day though if the person who should be
doing the washing up is on watch or doing another important task, someone
else will take over the washing up.

Todays photo shows Chris chatting away on the SSB with the parasailor laid
out infront mid way through its inspection.


JPEG image