Those dark and moonless nights

Mon 22 Mar 2021 08:50
22:19.47S 02:47.49E

Those Dark and Moonless Nights

When the stars were out, some floating in the Milky Way and Orion in his geometric glory was prominent in the sky above Zoonie’s port bow, the celestial sphere, his realm, turned and descended as we and the night moved on; an illusion of course because it is us, on our earth that move.

When I was a child I denied infinity and decided the sky ended at a brick wall; but today maybe it is a glass bottle wall, secured in place with cement and adobe, using up todays shameful waste in a literally constructive way, such as Kate Humble describes in her heart-warming and helpful latest book, ‘A Year of Living Simply.’ She spends time with interesting people who answer questions for her about how to de-clutter our lives and make them happier and live in harmony with our world and the people in it. The drinks bottle bricks are used in housing are near Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Building was underway when I was there in the 70’s and is a revolutionary way to live sustainably and recycle; one days rubbish another days home. You can buy one today for up to $1.5 million. Kate also talks with members of Men’s Sheds and provides the website for men and their wives to find the nearest one. She visits friendly Frome in Somerset where everyone says a genuine ‘hello’ and when at home she runs with her faithful companion, My Dog. What wonderful ideas and what a big heart does our Kate have.

Rob and I were thrilled to see luminescence in the water at night and bigger, brighter sparks of light presumably squid in Zoonie’s foaming bow wash. There are no ships now as we move gently north, just us, a gardenia petal being blown across a pond 4,570 metres deep.

The nights are long, no hint of dawn until after 7.00 am. The latitude of the sun must be near the Equator now as it slowly brings summer to the northern hemisphere ready for our return!

In the hours of awake solitude in the cabin at night I use the glow from my mobile phone to write in my note book. Anything brighter, like the phone torch or head lights would disturb Rob’s sleep and sleep is precious out here. We have just come through 48 hours, two days and nights of Zoonie leaping and bounding with the waves and neither of us slept for long, so there is some catching up to do.

We flew the Diva in 100% perfect conditions, the sea and clouds following us hand in hand, every blue you could imagine and just the right blow for her performance lasting for a day and almost through the night before the wind picked up. A front was on its way.

The next morning started off with a miserable monochromatic sunrise and Zoonie rolling, well-reefed in the wind of 16 – 25 knots. We were approaching the Valdivia Seamounts and just hoped no more had risen from Cape Basin Abyssal Plain since our paper chart was produced. The seamounts did not appear on the chart plotter so we kept the odd cursory lookout for breaking waves ahead.

Ladies, probably if you came out of your en suite loo and asked “Do you think we’ve got a foul bottom dear?” he’d think you meant something quite different to what it means on Zoonie and her sisters. Rob is looking forward (!) to giving her hull a scrub if it needs it when we are moored off St Helena because it feels as if something is holding her back.

Neither of us have had any hint of nausea her in the South Atlantic unlike in the messed-up sea of the Indian Ocean. This is as we expected but to be fair to our last ocean it is also possibly because we managed to get some Stugeron Travel pills in South Africa which are not sold in NZ or Australia.

My happy tummy has let me get on with a major chopping of my book; ‘The Tale of Two Yachts.’ Rachel, my very own consultant editor, has suggested I reduce the wordage by 50,000 to 60,000 and I have already done 36,000 over the last 8 days working for about five hours a day, from before light to early afternoon. I have just written to her to tell her so and I hope she’ll be pleased!

Last night 21/22 March the wind was a pickle and had us leaping about doing stuff with the genoa and its pole and then fretting as to whether we’d done the right thing. So when the morning light entered the eastern sky this morning, looking like a silver dagger slicing through the mantle of grey and welcomed us back on deck to move the pole to the other side, everything felt right in the world of our own out here, 650 miles from the coast of Namibia.

We worked like a well-greased coffee grinder, Rob on the fore deck attaching lines to the pole and me on the side deck threading said lines through blocks and onto cleats, my toes getting a nice cool wash in seawater as the side deck dipped into the ocean blue. Then out goes the pole to the horizontal, “Yeah, we got it right this time,” I yell to Neptune.

Then it was a rewarding breakfast of bacon butty and scrambled eggs for my winch grinder in chief and scrambled eggs and biscuits for me.

I don’t feel old at sea because I am comfortable in the surroundings both physically and psychologically. Zoonie’s confines are room enough for our voyaging and the constant moving around, up and down and balancing with the motion keeps us fit. I may not move as quickly as I did, in fact I have been likened to a camel getting up, but at least we are not limited by the aches and pains of cold and damp.

Zoonie gets greener all the time, or so we would like to think. With the Watt and Sea providing 5 amps of power, we can use the accurate electric auto pilot instead of Henry the Hydrovane. The AP works on the main rudder giving more muscle and speed to course corrections than Henry, who has his own little rudder and takes much longer to respond, which is problematic if there are big waves shoving Zoons off course in strong winds, where steering accuracy is important. But the W & S needs Zoonie to be moving at 5 knots through the water to produce enough electricity for our daily needs.

However, one day we had no wind for a few hours, so the W & S produced no power, Henry could not steer without wind and as we are reluctant to use the engine, we just drifted in blissful peace and it was WONDERFUL, because it didn’t last long.

We left the Diva on stage one night, giving her performance and went below to test how long we could make two squares each of plain chocolate Aero last. About as long as a mosquito sneeze.

Did you know that studies have shown being near a water body has a positive impact on our minds, boosting creativity and reducing stress. It’s called Blue Minds. Well I would never have guessed! That was from Megan McCubbin’s book written in collaboration with her step dad, Chris Packham, “Back to Nature, How to love Life and Save it”. It is a hard book to read simply because one learns about the sorry state of wildlife in our lovely country, but in it there is also hope.

Rob has spotted some Wilson’s Petrels, sweet little black birds with a snazzy wide white V across their tails. They are stable and prolific, at least they were 15 years ago, and let’s hope they are still please Neptune.