Tacking is Boring

Tue 18 May 2021 09:32

38:31.84N 28:37.37W

Tacking is Boring

Ever since my Grammar School days at Worthing Girls High School I have thought, from the sewing classes in Domestic Science, tacking to be a boring waste of time. Just pin the fabric and carefully machine sew always worked for me. The same with modern fabric, as with mending the Diva, we used this amazing double sided glue tape, so that once the tape is removed all that is left is flexible, durable glue holding a seam ready for sewing.

The same again for tacking in the sailing context. When we were racing our heron sailing dinghy, Little Zoonie, off Worthing tacking was to be dealt with as quickly as possible, of course, after all we were racing; so, when we found ourselves sailing directly towards Gibraltar or Madeira, while we wanted to head north to Horta you can imagine our frustration. We were moving north slowly in a lateral sort of way and it was better than using the motor so we persisted, like the squalls.

What this slow sailing did give me was time to reflect, with nothing else to think about. So, what if tacking delayed us, were we in a hurry. Not really, it was still early in the season to be looking at a sail back to England with the Lows still powering big and fast across the northern part of the North Atlantic. My sense of boredom at the slow progress was anxiety over the fuel situation. It was still too early too be able to accurately assess if we would have enough fuel, and that was a worry.

Sue from Mailasail told us how we could send an SMS message to an email for free using the Satphone, but I’m glad of my chat with Vince on the ship, his kindness eased the stress for a short while.

During the night of the 10th May we tacked again onto a port tack and Zoonie headed much closer to Horta, what is more we had done more than 100 miles of the 200 miles that was our comfort zone for the remaining fuel.

We learned that one of Jori’s jib seams had opened so they were using their storm sail instead which was slowing down their progress. Furthermore, the next day we learned that Henk was in trouble, unable to pee he was, as you will all understand, in agony.

I suggested aspirin to reduce pain and inflammation as it had worked for Rob once before. They managed to improvise a catheter from a length of tubing which gave some relief but their arrival in Horta could not happen soon enough. I said we would call up a ship going in their direction if one came by and ask it to check on them; but in fact, Marjolein did the same and a cargo vessel floated some catheters across to them.

Not a single ship appeared on our screen that night, in fact we had only seen about five since leaving St Helena.

The weather was beautiful and still warm as we sat in the cockpit watching the long swells, thirty metres or so between them, pass southward and Zoonie would rise high on one, maybe three metres up in the air, and we’d look down into the smooth watery valleys from our lofty viewpoint until we sank gracefully downwards. Looking out over the vast miles of water our minds wandered like the lonely Cory’s shearwaters that had become our new companions.

Never before had we studied the engine hours slowly rising in relation to the increasing Latitude, 36 degrees North, before 3442 hours please?

We assessed we would be able to fly the Diva again the next morning the 13th but the wind would increase by early afternoon so it would be back to the white sails; but in the direction of Horta, yippee. With the Diva’s help again, we should be able to achieve that 200 miles.

In the meantime, I occupy myself chopping vegetables and allowing my mind to become absorbed in one of my writing projects; blogs both types, mailasail and Wordpress ready for uploading, book which is now ready to go back to my Editor, Rachel and emails. My mom always loved reading and keeping a diary. In her later years the cruelty of dementia forbade her from remembering what she read, following the storyline of a book, but right up to her last days she loved reading words in her native language, even though she would read the same one’s time and again or turn randomly to any part of the tattered book she was reading and set off on her next verbal adventure. Sometimes I would change the book just to give her a different front cover to look at.

A sight for tired eyes was the Diva flying high and full with confidence and true to the weather prediction her morning performance ended at 15.55 and the poled out genoa and reefed main set to work and got us our 200 miles just a few miles out from Horta, so we were happy.

In the last few hours of this marathon I started to feel the same emotions that I remember were common amongst the 68 of us back in 2004 as we approached Barbados aboard the Stavvy. Our harmonious marriage with the elements, away from all of the influences of humankind, was coming to an end, and we were emotionally digging our heels in. We liked the ocean master and were its humble servants and were not at all sure we wanted the trials and trivialities of land life back again quite yet. There is no artifice at sea, no hierarchies, no laws to prevent man’s bad behaviour and excesses, no commercial greed and no wanton destruction of nature.

5 + knots speed and 87 miles to go and it was our last sundowners at sea for a while, we were nearly there!

15th May my watch started at 5.00am and I wasn’t surprised to not be able to see Pico, the beautiful clean peak on the island next to Faial as it snuggled beneath its grey quilt. Flocks of Cory’s shearwaters were with us now and a big pod of fishing dolphins, nearly as big as the one we came across off the Scillies on our return from Ireland in 2013, sped across us paying scant attention to the copper-painted whale in their path.

Just five miles off and a tiny slither of the slope either side of Pico peeped out to say ‘Hi’ and the faint green hillsides of Faial showed through the dismal grey. We followed another yacht in and, unable to raise anyone on the VHF decided to anchor well in and await instructions.

As we turned into the harbour an orange rib came along and waved us to an anchoring spot. After 4107 miles and 36 days we arrived. The wind and sails had worked their alchemy to get us in with 12” left in the tank, around 120 litres, enough for another two and a half days motoring. It was good to be back in this pretty harbour once more with its pastel buildings with their terracotta roofs but we were soon to find out that all was not good holding in the sand beneath the water.