The Shy Child

Sun 9 May 2021 08:35

29:01.76N 31:18.11W

The Shy Child

The moon, like us is a little tired as he rises later every morning leaving the stars to fill the night sky with their silver light.

Rob did have a good birthday, starting with a special delivery card, followed by lots of emails from family and friends. Excused from his washing up duties was a special treat and, in the afternoon, as we tucked in to our modest cream tea, we marvelled at the cloud formations, stacks of lenticular clouds like human rib cages, puffy summer day clouds and more threatening towering grey white cumulus clouds all around the horizon.

The weather was on the change again. We were moving towards the other side of the lovely constant NE Trades where squalls warned of a change and then dreaded calms and hours of diesel sapping engine time; four hours at first, interspersed with some more sailing, concern over whether the fuel would last, balanced by the knowledge we were covering the miles in the right direction.

Then when we had to use the auto pilot because the engine was on it played up once more by taking us many degrees off course. We discovered that under the fixed bearing mode it is fine, only the go to waypoint mode is affected.

At 11.00am on the 5th May we left the tropics at 23’ North and a red-billed tropic bird came and flew around us as if to say ‘Come back soon’. We started to need more clothing and a blanket at night. Horta is on latitude 38’ so quite a ways to go.

Our fruit now has morphed into the dried, tinned and crystallised modes, which makes a change, but we need to be a little careful with the apricots and prunes!

One afternoon the wind was around 6 knots and still coming from behind us so we tentatively hoisted the Diva, our caches of confidence needed a boosting and she delivered in style. The only obvious sign of repair being the uneven line across the pale blue fabric just below the head. I can’t tell you how elating it was to know she would yet give us many relaxed and efficient miles of travel.

As evening drew in and the Diva was back in her bag, safe and sound, we determined to put her back up first thing the next day. But of course the wind dropped right away, thwarting that idea, and the engine was back on.

The weather is beautiful; blue skies and that wonderful mid-Atlantic blue ocean with the sun penetrating just the top few metres, but there is little life. Just the occasional bird and not any fish of bigger creatures, just lots and lots of Sargasso weed. Rob has given up on picking it off the Watt&Sea prop because as soon as he stands to return to the cockpit the next pom pom grabs hold.

We sit under the bimini, meerkats watching all around for signs of animal life and doing the calculations on when, in engine hours we should reach the SW Trades (the same winds as the NE Trades but on the other side of the circle.) The grib weather files, for a number of days, suggest 30’ north latitude should give us a straight run across them to Horta, but the weather changes of course and it has and the dreaded windless centre is moving slowly eastwards. Days caught up in there would be a problem, we might just have to stop and wait until it passes over and allows in some wind. But the centre is sausage shaped and we could be in there for days!

At 3442 engine hours we must turn it off to retain just a little fuel for entry into Horta. Our estimates have been conservative and we have had to factor in the current that has been against us at a rate of .05 to 1.0 knot since the outset reducing her speed to 4.6 miles for every one and a half litres at 1500 revs instead of 5.00 miles. So as you can imagine this last quarter of the voyage does not have the same lack of stress as the first three quarters.

Ironically Anna Caroline has been experiencing strong winds up to 30 knots where we had perfect trade winds and Jori has sailed for most of the time a little further east than us.

A couple of days ago I was trying to download the weather gribs and the third of three just would not come. When Rob checked our data supply he found we had used all our valuable minutes. The length of the passage and downloading three weather files daily had taken its toll. We could neither receive nor send mail. This was a matter that needed to be resolved quickly before our family would be worried and we could not watch the weather.

The hours were mounting on the engine gauge and now no internet. By way of distraction, I went and put the kettle on and set a load of towels washing in one of the big white buckets, after all we had plenty of hot water and our motion through the water would soon dry them hanging beneath the bimini.

Poking the towels around in the bubbly water I realised we would need to call up a ship and ask if they would be kind enough to forward three emails. So, Rob and I sat down and I wrote out three email addresses and two different messages, one to our providers, Mailasail and the other to Emily and Henk and Marjolein on Jori. Next, we waited, watching the chart plotter screen to see who would be our ‘victim’.

Aha! The Federal Crimson; a cargo ship bound for Takorado and measuring 623 feet by 105 feet and 32 feet draft, she’d do. Any shorter and I might have second thoughts!! She would pass closest to us in 10 minutes, this being a half hour after I first spotted her, and our VHF would easily reach that far out here with no obstructions.

Vince Conde was on watch and firstly took our position and asked if we were in need of anything. I confirmed we didn’t need to be rescued but could he do us a favour. I explained what we needed and he confirmed with the master that he could do this. Then a few minutes of fun ensued with me dragging the phonetic alphabet from my memory to help him write the emails his end. He read them all back, said he would send them straight away and would call us back when he was done.

Message to Mailasail:- Run out of airtime on satphone. Please top up with usual amount and reinstate urgently.

Message to Emily and Jori:- We are fine on Zoonie. No internet, so may not be in touch until arrive in Horta 14th/15th May. This being sent through a ship’s internet.

We had turned the engine off for this procedure so I could hear and think so when we were through it went back on again. A few minutes later Vince came back to confirm the messages had gone and when I thanked him profusely, he just said, “Any time. Safe Journey.” The kindness of strangers eh!

That lifted our spirits and distracted us from the fuel issue for a while.

The next morning Rob checked the internet and Sue at Mailasail had done her stuff and we had another 600 minutes to use; so I emailed Vince and let him know.

That was yesterday morning, and at around 8.00am a breeze came along like a shy child brought before a maiden aunt, that we could use if only it would persist. It faded again, back through the doorway, maybe to build its confidence and then a few minutes later it returned and stayed and so after 69 hours of motoring we were sailing again, not quite sure if we were finally in the SW Trades but with the wind from the NW as it should be, we now hope it will back SW so we can A. sail and B. head for Horta. Hang in there shy child.

Rob thinks we have enough fuel anyway but I will not be happy until we have done 200 more miles under sail. As I type was have done 54 so fingers crossed this wind continues. 587 miles to go.