Day 9 - plenty of wind!

Tue 5 Dec 2006 22:33
We have had quite an eventful day today.  It started quietly enough with bacon sandwiches and about 18 knots of wind but it was grey and cloudy overhead - not what we are used to.  I changed the watch system this morning for another heinously complex arrangement to rotate 5 people of varying abilities through 24hours whilst trying to allocate the domestic chores fairly as well.  We have switched to having a domestic duty officer dedicated to the meals and the chores each day and are trying to run solo watches with the other four people.  I took the first domestic day in order to show willing but spent a lot of time on deck as well....
It started as I was preparing scrambled eggs and smoked salmon to have with our "half-way" celebration champagne at lunchtime.  Colin had put out the fishing line and the reel went crazy just as I was about to start cooking.  We have learned that we have to slow the boat down to land big fish so we furled both the genoa and the jib - still doing 4-5 knots under bare poles.  Colin landed a whopping Mahi Mahi (which make great eating) and dealing with this coming aboard was occupying most of the attention.  Since we had furled both sails we decided to gybe the boom and spinnaker pole at the same time in order to come around 20 degrees and make a more southerly course for St Lucia.  At this stage the wind was up at about 25 knots and the genoa started to break free halfway up.  The flogging and ensuing tangle is not good for the sail so we spent the next 15 minutes fighting to get it untangled and flying again on the other side.  It was touch and go and I lost my favourite hat in the process which really hacked me off....
I then returned to the business of cooking lunch, came on deck to eat with the others and realised that we had over 30 knots behind us and were heading towards a pretty nasty set of clouds that were almost certainly going to herald squalls.  Lunch was interrupted in order to bring in the genoa again but Colin slipped in the galley on his way down below to stow his lunch safely and broke the front glass of the oven with his knee.  Fortunately, he was not hurt but it took us quite a time to clean up the glass and re-hang the stove on its gimbals.  Once sorted, we stayed under jib alone for a while to let the squall go past in front of us and then set the genoa again.  Since then, we have had a consistent 25-30 knots, gusting up to 38 knots at times. The seas are getting pretty big and we surfed down one of them at 18 knots just before sunset!!!  I have to say I did not think Free Spirit could hit 18 knots - we had solid white spray 5 feet above the decks on both sides and the hull was vibrating like an express train.  As I type this, we have just finished eating the Mahi Mahi which was excellent and are still averaging 9-10 knots.  The trades just seem to have gone up a notch and we are settling down yet again to a new level of noise, movement and speed.  It is really exciting sailing - perhaps a little bit more than we would ideally want, but we don't get to choose the weather out here. On the new watch system, the cook does not have a night watch so I am officially off-duty for the night but somehow, I don't think it will pan out that way!
The boat is behaving fabulously well and we made another 17 places in the previous 24 hours.  That makes 50 places in the last 3 days.  We are hoping to get into the top hundred tomorrow and then see what we can do after that.
The Mahi Mahi that caused all the trouble - and then got eaten!