9/12/11 – Life and Death – 14:13.0N 58:25.2W
here often?” were the first words exchanged with the crew of the 20 metre NZ
yacht ‘Haereroa’ which drew alongside us during our evening pre-prandial
tonight. We had seen them astern for a couple of hours, and they were doing a
good knot and a half better than us (more of which later), so they closed the
gap and hailed us as we sat snacking and imbibing.
are also ARC participants, and we exchanged pleasantries (and promises of a beer
in Rodney Bay), before they swept past us and disappeared into the distance. It
left us contemplating the bizarre nature of the passage – hardly anyone within
sight for 3 weeks, and then a boat onto which our pistachio shells
had a more complicated and absorbing night watch than usual, despite the fact we
were motoring (more later!). We heard a bit of VHF chatter around 0300, of which
we could only hear one end of the conversation, including a waypoint to reach.
It coincided with Ali spotting a bright white flash in the distance, and coming
on watch, I saw another and then what appeared to be an orange flash. We thought
it could have been distress flares some distance off, but there had been no
distress call on the radio. We altered course towards the activity, and Martin
emerged from his bunk wondering what was going on.
put out an All Ships call to see if anyone else had noticed the lights, but
nobody replied (though there were at least 2 other yachts within 5 miles). Eyes
fixed to the horizon in the general direction of the lights, we motored about 10
miles without seeing anything untoward. There were some squall clouds around,
and it may have been lightning, but we could not afford to risk the possibility
that someone was in trouble….
else was, as we found out later, though it was unconnected with our own alert.
The VHF call we had picked up related to a yacht one of whose crew had died of a
suspected heart attack earlier in the evening. The yacht we could hear was
arranging to rendezvous with them to transfer diesel for a quick motor passage
to St Lucia. Beyond the trauma and grief that the crew and the relatives at home
would be suffering due to the bereavement, dealing with another 3 or 4 day
passage to get to Rodney Bay does not bear thinking about.
much is all we can record here! The trough that is stalking us has stolen our
wind. We knew we would have to motor last night, but the forecast was for a
modest improvement today that would allow us to sail. No such luck, as we have not seen more
than 5 knots of wind from any direction (and we have seen them all!) since dawn.
Worse, the prospects tomorrow are no better, and Sunday is iffy as well.
was therefore a day for desperate diesel deductions… do we have enough to motor
all the way (probably, but do the math again!). How do we improve our chances?
(Transfer it all into one tank). Is that enough? (No, we won’t do any more
laundry, or anything else that takes energy from the battery bank and means
charging). Can we conserve fuel? (Yes, motor more slowly – and therefore the NZ
yacht passed us at a clip!)…. And then there is praying (for more wind, sooner
and from the right direction).
is really a pity, since we had managed to sail almost all the way with the
exception of the trawl back to Las Palmas on Day 1, and then an overnight when
we were in the wind shadow of Tenerife. It does make you feel for the old square
riggers, for whom there was no option but to sit and roll in the
miles left to run, but not celebrating yet, just counting them