16:13.00N 61:32W Atlantic Crossing 2. Zoonie is surfing due west to Guadeloupe.
Tue 19 Jan 2016 12:49
The wind is now gusting up to 30 knots and the rising swell and Grampian waves have built somewhat and tell us this mini gale is set to continue. The brilliant blue sky and searing sun make it all look magnificent rather than fearful and we are quite happy getting on with our lives down below.
Smoked goats cheese and tomato sandwich with roquefort cream followed by cold oranges from the fridge are the day’s midday fare. Chilling the oranges like this not only makes them delicious in the hot weather but also brings out their sweetness.
16.30pm 1500 miles to go and 577 done! 23.8 knots of wind and Zoonie getting 6.1 knots from it. All systems are go. Then suddenly,
IBUDUM – a mighty wave hits Zoonie’s rear starboard quarter and in less than an instant she is shot from her heading of 271’ to 345’. She shudders, all things vibrate from top to toe, just like Adena, the Istanbul bellydancer at the close of her act. Henry works in his own steady way to gradually bring her back around in the, almost apologetic, lulls in the wind that follows the gust. 339, 327, 321, 305, 291, 289, 284, 289(!), 278, 275, 271 there, all is well again.
By seven in the evening we decide to put in a third reef and her speed drops from 7.3 knots to 5.8. Although Zoonie handled the situation we reefed to protect her gear. Frustrating because in the non-lull period she could cope with only two reefs, so we are reefing in the event of a gust.
As the night wore on the wind continued its rise to 32 knots. Occasionally waves come and play with her, lifting her stern high and then pushing hard and forward under her, she frequently surfs at over 8 knots. She loves it. ‘Should we take the main in, set the storm jib?’
Zoonie replied in her calm progress, ‘No thank you’.
We did 125 miles that day (our best 24 hour runs were 135 and 138 miles) and were now one third the way there.
A good sized flying fish joined the eggs and tomatoes in the pan for breakfast. Four or five would have been more worthwhile but beggars can’t be choosers. Besides we both had slightly odd tums, due I think to the Mindelo beetroot being past its best. The wind is dropping and the cockpit has become a more sociable place to be without the risk of being drenched by the odd, promiscuous wave slatting her hull and then leaping vertically before soaking everything and everyone around.
We think the disturbed water as it passes underneath us is carrying a lot of air with it, so the watermaker is not getting pure sea water, resulting in it losing pressure as it operates. Hope that’s it anyway.
On the 5th January we crossed the track of the Stavvy bound for Barbados on 27th January 2004 full with her crew of, by now, well settled and relaxed trainees enjoying a gentle crossing of light winds and starry nights.
We had taken off the central section of the bimini roof so we could get a good view of the night sky. With the Sky Walk app on the ipad we were finding new stars and the location of ones whose names we knew already. The very bright star we thought might have been the space station is more likely to be the combination of Saturn with Venus just behind it.
On day 7, I reported a very roly seastate which happens after a windy spell as the sea takes longer to settle and the new system is upon it. The wind was gradually veering to the east as expected since the North Atlantic system is a clockwise turning circular system. Soon we will be running with it dead behind us. To continue on our very broad reach the sails are slatting. Where they are attached at the top of the mast, every time Zoonie rolls and the mast head cuts an arc across the sky it shakes the wind out of the sails. The boom preventer is holding the boom securely out on the leeward side (opp to the wind side) but the genoa can slat and bang and make us jump to its hearts content.
Not any more. Two mere mortals can be seen on her deck. One, the taller is at the mast pulling on a length of rope attached to a pole. The other squats at the outer end of the pole attaching up hauls, down hauls and preventers to it so it cannot swing forwards and backwards, then threading the genoa sheet through the end like cotton through a giant needle, then out it goes. The pole is fixed in it’s horizontal position, the genoa pulled out and it fills in gratitude and our speed increases from 5 knots to 7.2 with the occasional surf thrown in as a bonus.
Fabulous weather, getting hotter by the day.
That night heavy rainshowers washed Zoonie’s decks and rigging clean from the last vestiges of red Cape Verde grit and dust and sea salt and she gleamed in the morning. By which time we needed to correct her heading and so went back onto a broad reach with plenty of wind.
In fact the squall watches started. So far the squalls had been mild, even giving us a nice extra force of wind in otherwise light airs. But now some were dark, their skirts sinking to the horizon and we have learned from experience that these can increase wind force dramatically and cause gear damage. So early reefing is a must. The good thing about using Henry is that because he works by keeping Zoonie at a set angle to the wind, if the latter changes Henry follows so the risk of an accidental gybe is reduced. Then when the squall passes and the wind returns to normal, back around comes Zoonie too.
It is proving to be a long slow climb to the half way point, with squalls pushing us off course and Henry slowly restoring our heading. We are back in washing machine mode, an Ariston I think, because this seems to go on and on and on, but we will come out smiling!
But then all of a sudden a mighty squall passes through and they are gone and as if Zoonie knows time has been wasted she picks up her skirts and we are off, downhill and speeding along at 7.00 to 7.5 knots all night long, she’s on the level with just a gentle rise and fall and very slight roll. Bliss.
We love the night watches when there is a clear sky. As we spend hours out there at different stages of the night we can study the circular movement of the celestial sphere around the North star, or Pole Star, Polaris as it appears to hang alone in its own space and is easy to find between Cassiopeia and Ursa Major, The big dipper. The Phoenicians of the eastern Mediterranean, used to steer by the North Star, keeping it over their right shoulder as they went westwards.
Off night watches the sleeping comes easy – after all what’s not to like about being gently rocked from side to side in a wooden cradle!
6.00am 1040 miles done and half way there.