Half Way - 5 Dec 2008
Our calculations gave us a half way stage at 1350 miles, which we reached at 20.00h last evening. Yippee, big celebrations - the usual libation at beer o'clock, followed by a bottle of wine in the cockpit after dinner, and then a night cap of whisky (Port for Peter) before the watch system kicked in with Tony. The wind was fair, the sea kindly (slight to moderate) and all was well with the world. Peter and I turned in and left Tony to his star-gazing and contemplations at the helm.
Within an hour we had winds of 25 knots and increasing, a big black cloud chasing us and an angry sea. We quickly dropped the poled out genoa and put 2 reefs in the main, then as the winds reached 35 knots we rolled the twin headsails completely, and were faced with having to hand steer with 6 metre swells on the quarter and 30-35 knots up our chuff (or if you're Cornish - Chough). Which reminds me - we are reliably (?) informed by Peter (Bill Oddie) Sizer that the aforementioned bird is making a comeback in Cornwall. Could be the only thing that is.
I digress. So no point in 3 of us sitting in the cockpit listening to hissing waves; I went to bed (my watch at 4 am). A light sleep you might say as 30% of it was in mid air, whilst the others took half hour turns at the wheel. I turned to at 3 am to find Tony and Peter both still there helming, as George the autohelm couldn't cope - they were knackered. Tony retired (after 7h) and I wrestled the wheel from Peter (dramatic isn't it) - within an hour the winds started to decrease, at times below 20 knots - I wish I had the same calming effect on people. Peter turned in and I persuaded George that it was time he did his bit. It'll all look better when the sun comes up. And it did.
For those of you that have no idea what it's like in a sailing boat, in 35 knots of wind, at night, in the middle of the Atlantic - I'll summarise it in layman's terms: We (or should I say they) had a moderately uncomfortable night in a washing machine full of seawater set on the medium spin cycle. It was a bit more like how we imagined crossing the Atlantic might be. The boat behaved well, results: one lost hat, a few bumps and bruises, a bent dan-buoy holder, an exhausted wind generator and full batteries.
Now we can start ticking off the days. It has taken 10.5 days to cover 1350 NM, but much of that was in light winds, so we hope that the second half will be quicker. We had hoped to celebrate with a swim today, but it's still pretty lively out there so the Health and Safety committee have postponed the Ocean swim until a later date - watch out for the Pics.
Food, water and grog all holding out well. To avoid a mutiny, we've declared a National Shower Day - and it's only been 5 days since the last one!
The others might like to give their version (as I missed most of the fun).
I (Peter) was asleep, at the time the winds finally came, and very nearly missed all of the excitement... as I had my ear plugs in. When I popped my head above the companion way, I could see Tony at the helm and felt reassured that he looked so calm; then I saw the size of the sea running behind him. We must have been doing close on 9 knots, it seemed like we were in the fast lane of a motorway, and the noise Victor (I don't believe it, Meldrew) our wind generator was making, just added to the drama. I went below and put on the wet weather gear, this time for real, not just for the cameras. Tony and I, took the helm for 30 minute stints, it was all too intense to do it for any longer. Whilst one helmed, the other 'clipped on', and slept on the cockpit floor. Surprisingly, we both had to wake each other up, from these power naps, on occasions. It was quite an experience, everyone stepped 'up to the plate' last night. I have nothing but admiration for my two companions.
Tony. This is what comes of wishing for a tad more wind than we had enjoyed previously. It's always difficult to know whether to turn people out to help reef, or wait and see if it calms down, but we did exactly the right thing. The winds and sea just built and we reduced canvass accordingly. We certainly didn't slow down and knocked off one of our best 24hr runs to date. The entire team were calm and efficient throughout. Peter, at about 0230, calmly said, 'I think the steering is about fail, how do we go about rigging the sea-anchor/drogue ?'. Fortunately it turned out to be nothing more than a stray horseshoe buoy interfering with the spokes of the port wheel while Peter was steering, with great difficulty and resistance, using the starboard wheel. You find out what your shipmates are like when the going gets tough and these are good guys to sail with.
Pics before the winds came: