Atlantic Crossing 1. New Year's Eve - Atlantic Day

Mon 18 Jan 2016 15:09
There was plenty of wind (30 knots) in the channel between Mindelo and San Antonio Island but as we moved to the south of the latter we entered the lee and it dropped for a while, so we motored out of it and were met by the NE Tradewind powering along at 24 – 28 knots and we were off.
At 23.55pm, five minutes before the New Year, our Distance to waypoint was 2015 miles, five minutes later the DTW was 2014 in the year 2016. Happy New Year.
A fine days run of 135 miles brought us into teenage trade winds, 13 to 19 knots and we were sailing along as if on tracks along our own track. At 07.23 our DTW was 1965, my first teenage year, when Rob was 7 years old!
For the first few watches we would sit on the high side of the cockpit so as not to see the mammoth waves approaching from the NE, but soon we watched them thundering towards us and marvelled at how Zoonie’s stern rose gently upwards as they passed beneath.
At 8.30am on day 2 the DTW was 1958, Rob’s birth year – ok I won’t do any more of those.
You’ve all read about how I managed to break the 12 volt charger for the computer. This wave shot Zoonie’s transom upwards rather quickly and I grabbed hold of the comp just before I flew across the aft cabin. Still at least the comp wasn’t damaged.
On the third day Rob tells me he has a burning feeling when he passes water and the urge to pee all the time. So he started taking my cystitis remedy, Trimethropim and it seems to alleviate the problem until, in the early hours, he woke me up with,
“We have a problem, I’m now passing blood.” I reassured him that all his symptoms, including the blood are typical of the uncomfortable complaint but when he started to complain about a lower backache I wondered if the infection had spread to his kidneys so I rummaged in one of our medical boxes for the anti-biotics and he went onto a weeks course.
The days took on a pattern of taking in and letting out reefs depending on whether the wind was above or below 25 knots, meals and snack times and then periods of escapist rest, reading, games on the tablets or sleep, blissful sleep.
The nights on watch sitting in the cockpit, losing oneself in thoughts while, off watch down below, the other one would be lifting and rolling on the saloon berth, securely held in by the leeboard, snatching minutes of dream-filled sleep.
We both suffered briefly from withdrawal headaches, Mindelo’s 5% Strela beer! While Zoonie sailed beautifully on a broad reach as comfortably as we could expect in the moderate sea. At the height of the swell I glanced around the distant horizon for other yachts, seven were due to leave after us, but not a sight. We picked up on the AIS an oil tanker crossing our stern bound for Philadelphia but we never saw her.
By day 4 Rob is a little better. The 100s of miles are being knocked off the counter quite quickly (not quickly enough for Rob at this point) which is just as well as there are rather a lot of them, 16 left to go.
Earlier Rob had commented that we probably had enough fuel to get back to Mindelo for him to see a doctor. “ In these seas babe, we’d be head to wind pounding into moderate seas for days and use a lot more fuel than normal. It would be horrendously uncomfortable for you me and Zoonie’s gear. Sorry Hun, but this is a one way street.”
I was rapidly forming a list of essentials for this kind of passage-making, 1. Find a position where one does not need to brace against the motion – then relax all muscles.
                                                                                                                       2. Drink lots of water and take plenty of deep breaths as lack of water and oxygen quickly lead to headaches.
                                                                                                                       3. Sleep whenever possible. I always used to tell my watch members this and they soon realised the need for sleep.
                                                                                                                       4. Incorporate social times into the day otherwise the essential routine becomes monotonous and we become automatons.
It was during one such quiet time that I remembered  reading Travels With Charly by John Steinbeck. He was touring North America in a camper van with his pet standard poodle called Charly. Well the poor dog suffered from prostatitis and John resorted to an aspirin tablet each day to relax Charly’s muscles and allow him to pee freely. Yep you guessed it, Rob went on to a triangle of drugs and the aspirin really did help matters. But I was getting a little concerned that it was taking so long to get better.
The Autopilot displays were also showing there was some play in the rudder when the wheel was fixed stationary and Henry was working. If wheel is fixed rudder should not move. I had visions of my trying to sail Zoonie rudderless as we had done with Wayfarers when I did my dinghy Instructors course at Calshot years ago. Don’t think my flinging my weight around Zoonie’s cockpit to influence the roll of the hull would have quite the same effect it had in a dinghy!
We were surrounded by slate grey oceanseas, wasteseas of undulating waves heaving southwestwards under the force of the motherwind. As far as the eye can see white cresting tips and troughs, bubbling surging ever onward. Flying fish fire like arrows to escape their killers ducking and diving before they crash with a tiny gossamer splash back into their sinister and frightening underwater world.
Rob and I have retreated inside, out of the searing sun, for most of the day to get a life. We spend time together, like we used to, sitting hand in hand on the windward settee chatting and planning. We pop our heads out into the day every now and then to check the horizon. Its different at night. With the windows closed and darkness all around it is very nice to sit in the cool of the cockpit, on lookout, stargazing.
The Tradewind is so constant in direction we set Henry the Hydrovane 4 days ago and have hardly touched him since. We have almost become passengers on this mini sailing cruise liner where the steering, navigation and electronic lookout is all done for us.
For the first time we put the engine on for a couple of hours to charge the batteries. The watermaker is sending fresh water into the tank now thanks to Rob activating the switch with the manual override and the tank fills quickly. We add a new switch to the list of things to do when we reach the other side.