48:27.34N 11:12.33W Two days to Falmouth

Tue 22 Jul 2014 15:01
Day 6 starts with trying to gain speed from the passing squalls – sometimes it works. I had two aims for the day, one to bring the blog up to date and second to have a shower and hair wash. Until these were achieved no more reading of Zane Grey’s Lone Star Ranger was allowed.
Dolphins played around the bow and there were frequently whales blowing at a distance as I tapped away.
By the evening I was up to date and sitting in the cockpit while Zoonie bowled along in 10 knots of wind and warm sunshine, the best time of that day. The constant wind stayed aft of the beam giving a fine sail and level hull for easy living below. We supped a beer to celebrate turning onto 66’ for home.
Two pink balls drifted by, a mile or so apart and about a metre in diameter. They appeared to have some attachments floating at water level so we wonder if they are carrying out ocean surveys of current direction and strength, temperature, weather and maybe whale sounds.
In my night time watch the phosphorescence was delightful and three dolphins, swimming parallel to each other, sped from one side of Zoonie underneath to the other creating tunnels of sparkling lime green.
Day 7  Oh Mr Shearwater, we’ve just had such a scare! A pod of around 4 humpback whales was making its way about a mile away and in the opposite direction to us. They were nearly past when one of them turned and faced in the same direction as us. He (rather than it) held position for a few moments and then started coming towards us accompanied by another. They were clearly interested in us but what were their intentions? No other ones had ever shown such an interest. He moved across our stern and for a minute or so stayed 30 metres away facing our stern starboard quarter.
Rob was in awe, I was in fear. He then moved in towards us, 45 tonnes of glistening grey back coming on a collision course with us, full of as yet unknown intent. The other one started an arc around towards our stern and positioned herself (instead of itself) exactly in the middle of our wash no more than 20 metres away. Rob was still expressing awe and I was filming on Rob’s little waterproof camera. Words had been exchanged between us to the effect that we needed to deter them if they came any closer. Mr Shearwater you were our witness.
She started to move, and I do not exaggerate when I say she was perfectly positioned to nudge us right in the middle of the stern ladder. Such a nudge, with her immense weight to back her up, could rid us of our rudder quite easily. A sudden turn and her side fin could knock us over and if she used her tail, well it doesn’t bear thinking about. But there were the two of them, 90 tonnes of leviathan power, slowly closing in towards us.
I then had a choice. Continue filming and get possibly the most amazing film of my career or put down the camera to start the engine and put them off. I recalled the story of a fine wildlife photographer who was working on filming wild lions in Africa. The final shot he ever took before the lion attacked him was of the open mouthed head of the lion leaping towards him. Camera was put down and the engine started.
They both took a dive, so what were they going to do next? For all we knew they could have united underneath to rise together and tip us over. There were a few moments of extreme tension, awaiting our fate, when one of them showed some of its back a little further away as it turned, then the other did the same and they gradually moved towards re-joining their group. We will never know what would have happened if we had not fired up, but to get a better idea I will discuss it with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in Bath, and report the other sightings and ask about the pink balls as well.
The morning was perfect for taking sun sights so Rob and I took six between us, then I worked out the time of the sun’s noon passage all ready to confirm our latitude but sadly the sun was covered by cloud for the allotted half hour period and longer. However we did discover we have two knots of planetary current with us, along with the sea pushing us and the wind aft of our beam it was as if we were on rails, wonderful tradewind sailing. When resting below it was not a sudden lurch or roll that would disturb our slumbers but the sense that Zoonie had stopped and was suspended, like a loaded hammock from a ceiling, with no sounds from wind or water to give away the fact she was still moving. After a few seconds a little wiggle and she would be gently rocking again and our cradle motion was restored.
17.14 The sea was not building yet although a forecast of force 4/5 was in the offing. The sea like glistening pewter under the hazy sun felt the wind backing, moving south and Henry the Hydrovane kept us on course by preserving our angle to the wind. But it was grey on the horizon behind us so we planned to reef before nightfall. Reefing was easy now as we’d gybed onto a starboard tack and even though a strong wind behind instead of ahead means reefing can be delayed we exercised caution.
Day 8   Now dear reader, maybe you have thought that the long night hours alone on watch could be demanding, lonely even a little scary? Well this can all be alleviated in certain ways. One is to put together some little plastic pots of nibbles. In Old Town Poole, in the Dolphin Centre is a health food shop with a difference. The Grape Tree which has numerous branches (sic) (and other health food shops are available) stocks really good quality nuts, dried fruits, candies, beans, herbs, spices, honeys etc They even have a magazine called, yes you’ve got it, The Grape Vine. We stocked up with their products which I then mix into tasty combinations so that in the dark, when taking item by item from the pot you don’t know exactly what is coming until you taste it. Some of the raisins taste like wine, they are so moist.
I usually settle on watch for an hour before I go below to collect said pot and try my best not to sit on Skip’s head as I make my exit while Zoonie is in a roll, as once very nearly happened, shh don’t tell.
It can take forty minutes to nibble through the pot, one item at a time, well chewed.
On the midnight to three watch there is the lovely feeling of a long sleep coming up. Between two and three ones eyes start to function by themselves and to avoid dozing off the headphones go on and some lively music is played. On our separate watches Rob and I both move to the music, holding some smooth stainless tube for support, twisting, turning, bobbing up and down. With an album or two played through the watch is soon over.
The other morning a pod of bottlenosed dolphins watched with curiosity and aMusement as I did my perambulations to the fabulous rousing rhythms of Muse.
15.03 Thick mist is rolling in, menacing claws scudding along the troughs towards us, barely more than 100 metres can we see. Zoonie is speeding along, her motion like the passage of life through hard, blind times, she remains optimistic in her constant progress.
There have been no animals today. We must have moved out of the whales migratory route, the close encounter of a leviathan kind yesterday being their grand finale. In the conditions of poor visibility we put the AIS alarm on to a two mile range as our new companions are likely to be human fishers.
We have been making excellent progress with the help of the current which has now eased back a little. The sun has been doing its best to break through the cloud and fog but no sights today!
I had a sleep this morning to make up for a shortfall during the night and when I woke the blue sky through the window above told a lie as the fog was still closed in tight around us. I began to feel I wanted the journey to end, get out of this trap, another three days NO. Then I asked myself, I love this life why do I want it to end? Because this time it must and three more days just seemed to be dragging out the inevitable, prolonging the agony of being away from Zoonie in our land life. Fortunately I don’t often suffer such negative thoughts.
During last evening the wind and sea built gradually so we put in a reef as you know. Well this evening the wind is steady and the sea state calm to moderate with just the occasional couple of Atlantic rollers to remind one of where we are, so we didn’t reef and Zoonie sped on making solid, comfortable progress with Henry guiding her. He cannot cope with rapid changes in wind strength because as the wind shifts Zoonie around he doesn’t have time to correct her, but with a steady wind force he is perfect.
Day 9  Mindset is fine today, savouring the last two days now, accepting the inevitable as an opportunity to get lots of jobs done before we go next year.
The fauna so far today, a gannet, a fulmar (never cross a fulmar, foul gull as their Nordic name suggests, they will spit stinking stomach juices at you) and two storm petrels. We are back in temperate waters.