Day 8, Guernsey to Lanzarote

Stravaig'n the Blue
Fri 16 Oct 2020 21:04
Position: 33.55.24 N 010.51.93 W (200 NM west of Rabat)
Position timestamp: Thursday 16th October 2020 11:00 BST (UTC+1)
Distance travelled last 24 hours: 155 NM
Distance travelled total: 11783 NM
Average speed: 6.47 knots
Distance to destination (Arrecife): 340 NM
ETA based on average speed so far: 15:30 Sunday 18th October 2020

Another good day: 155 NM sailed and distance to destination reduced by 139.  When we turned on the engine at 13:00 yesterday I was sceptical that the wind would fill in again later. But it did and so we switched off the engine at 18:30, set the Blue Water Runner and enjoyed a peaceful and fast sail through the night in F4 - F5 winds.

Those of you know me well will be unsurprised that I have a spreadsheet that does the number crunching for the calculations at the start of each blog entry. What will surprise you however is that there was a bug in the spreadsheet :)  The ETA figures have been consistently 11 hours short. So it looks as though we are going to get into Arrecife mid afternoon on Sunday. The upside to this revelation is that it will be daylight when we arrive and we won’t have to berth in the dark or anchor out until day break.

The other good news is that the southerlies that were forecast to arrive in the Canaries on Sunday have been delayed a day. However we do have to maintain an average speed of 6.5 knots to arrive on Sunday afternoon and the wind has been dropping steadily throughout the day. With no forecast that it will increase again, we doused the BWR after lunch and switched on the engine. We have enough diesel to motor for five days so more than enough to get to Arrecife. But the infernal background noise of the engine will become tiresome.

Until Wednesday we hadn’t seen much in the way of bird life or sea life. This was because we were below decks most of the time, staying warm and letting the autopilot do the steering.  On deck on Wednesday, doing the sail changes, we saw dolphins on several occasions, four generations of gannets, each in their distinctive plumage, fulmars, shearwaters doing their amazing low fast gliding following the contours of the waves, and a lone skua.  

Had we been doing this passage on our previous boat (Hanse 415 Touch of Grey 2013-2019) we’d have seen a lot more wild life because we rarely used the autopilot and spent most of our time at the wheel, night and day and in all weathers. Early on I’d read an article on gear failure on trans Atlantic rallies and by far the most common piece of gear to fail was the autopilot drive, the motor and reduction gearing that takes the signal from the autopilot computer and turns the rudder(s).  The autopilot is like having an extra crew member and, at times, is all but indispensable. So we used it only when necessary or when the conditions were such that it wouldn’t be under great strain.

On Stravaig, we've gone to the dark side and use the autopilot almost all of the time. I have no idea what brought about the change. It is certainly true that in most conditions, the autopilot will do a better job than a human of maintaining the required course for hours or days on end. The main exception to this is where there’s a following sea that is knocking the boat off course when a big wave rolls under the boat. The autopilot will compensate but only after the deviation has happened whereas an experienced helm will sense what is about to happen and compensate early so that the boat stays on course. As autopilot drives are not user serviceable I suspect we ought to think about fitting a second one so that we have a backup.

We are extremely well provisioned just in case we are required to self-isolate on arrival. There was no indication that this would be the case when we left but things can change quickly these days. On passage we tend to eat less (apart from the night watch snacking) and we have found that we prefer simpler dishes. However, last night, it being our wedding anniversary, Linda went out of her way to dish up something very special: brill fillets pan fried in Guernsey butter with a fennel, courgette and red onion salad with a lime orange dressing. Only one word for it. Brill. For dessert we each had a Gü Free From. I have no idea what it was free from (but it wasn’t sugar) and more importantly what it wasn’t free from, the Free From branding being so dominant all else was consigned to type too small to read. Not so brill.

All is well.