Day 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Sat 28 Nov 2009 12:11
Well, the plan was to write the this blog on a daily basis. I had heard that crossing oceans was a very boring affair (Carolines mother who is now in Australia having sailed there from the UK, compares it to being as much fun as being locked in a garden shed for 3 weeks!); I can report that life on board Trippwire is anything but dull.
The first couple of days were spent at a very leisurely pace. The wind was from the North East at between 20 and 25 knots, and so, with 2 reefs and a poled out Genoa, we really were not pushing the speed boundaries. A little sedate some may say, however we have a long way to go and we decided to go easy. This actually worked out pretty well, and whist we were giving positions away, we were at least having lots of fun, and importantly a bit of a gastronomic feast with all our food, wine and gin. Breakfast is generally cereal, or, if someone is feeling energetic, a full fry up or if we need some entertainment, charlie doing french toast is always cheering...either the egg or the bread ends up on the floor, followed by a series of educational profanaties!. In fact, the level of gastronomy on board is seriously impressive; I have genuinely never eaton so well..perhaps todays menu being an example: Cereal for breakfast, full on rabbit food lunch, which includes pepper, celery, cucumber, salami but more impressively, houmous, guacomole and pitta bread. Supper was a vegetarian lasagne cooked by Jennifer and Charlie, with pudding a very impressive banana bread cake. I have made a school boy error of leaving my cooking session till last; the level has increased several fold and I fear severe dissappointment when I get around to feeding people!
Life in the boat has settled down to a good routine of 3 hours on and 12 hours off. This means that every 3 or so nights you get a full night in bed! The spinnaker is now going up on a daily basis, and after a few post breakfast leisurely starts, we have for the first time today started a 'spinnaker at dawn' policy. The spinnaker then stays up till dusk, before being replaced for (generally) a main with a reef and a poled out Genoa, just in time for a full nights kip! All very cruisy, and you will have thought that with so much time off that we would be getting bored...but we have had a few 'upsets' in the last few days. Our initial upset was when the kicker (the strut that runs at a 45 degree angle from the boom to the mast) got torn from the mast. For those of you who have read the blog, you will remember that this has happened before in 40 knots going across biscay. Lots of lashing later, and I think that we have a workable fix....although will it last a further 2000 miles....lets keep fingers crossed. The next upset was to discover that our entire stock of bottled drinking water (consisting of around 220 litres), which was stored in the bilge has got a dieseley film over it. We naturally filled the fuel tank up till it was as tippy toppy as possible in Gran Canaria...this looks like a bad plan because some of it has leaked and mixed in with some other water in the bilge has coated all our water supply with diesel. So, a marathon 4 hour cleaning session and they have been cleared up, however when drinking out of the bottle, all taste of 'eau de diesel'.
Our next upset was to discover on day 2 that the entire contents of one of the two water tanks that we have on board had literally 'dissappered'....given that I discovered the heads (bathroom) tap running, I can have a pretty good guess where it went! This should not normally be an issue because we have a watermaker onboard....or do we?! On firing the watermaker up, which was working perfectly well in Gran Canaria, it seems to have stopped running. So, all those plans of daily hot showers etc have gone to pot. We are now washing up in sea water in a bucket in the cockpit and having showers in the same way. Actually this has proved to be somewhat of a blessing - washing up is now a communal affair that all of the crew take part in, and having a shower on deck from sea water is actually pretty refreshing!
I would have attemped a mend on the watermaker, but a series of other 'upsets' has befallen us. The next was a very large pinging noise in the middle of the night, which was enough to bring Jennifer rocketing on deck whist I was on watch....snapped steering gear? Broken shroud? After a big hunt around we could not find anything, but eventually traced it back to our check stays (wires that are attached to our running backstays), that are important but not essential...and actually the repair proved pretty painless.
Yesterday we decided to push the spinnaker a little longer and did not take it down till dusk...perhaps too late, because on pulling it down, it got stuck somwhere on the mast, and ripped itself..badly enough that the strong dacron tape on the edge of it got torn. Not a problem, because we carry a second spinnaker of slightly lighter cloth. This we put up today, and it was going well, until we got a wrap around the forestay, which resulted in a small tear to that. We took it down, did a quick pitstop repair and sent it back up again. Unfortunately on sending it back up again, something went wrong and it tore a huge rip in it that is at least a couple of sqaure meters in size. So, Jennifer, Charlie and myself set to work on the least worse of the ripped spinnakers (the one ripped the day before), and produced a very impressive repair (even if I say it myself!).
A final concern on board is that I have just come on deck (it is now the 12-3am watch), and trod in some goo. It turns out that this goo is our bottle of washing up liquid that has upended itself in the cockpit bag. Not an issue one would think, but the other bottle of washing up liquid was 'lost at sea' in an unfortunate accident....for all those of you who sail Knuckles, you will be throughly entertained to hear that this was precipitated by Dom, who is insistent that not even a banana skin goes over the side due to its long degredadation time......and now he has polluted the whole of the Atlantic ocean with a bottle of washing up liquid!
Aside from the above, all goes fantastically well. The exciting thing is that it has been getting progressively warmer and warmer, and for the first time I am doing a night watch in only my shorts and tee shirt. The sailing is absolutely amazing, with some really exciting downwind sailing, lots of surfing at speeds of up to 16 knots. Our crew work is improving on a daily basis, with our first gybe of the main occuring three days ago, and the ante being upped by doing a full gybe with spinnaker in 20 knots of wind yesterday. That may not sound like much, but if you think that the boat was designed to be sailed by a crew of 14, with gybing the spinnaker being the most labour intensive of all tasks (remember we have runners and checks), it requires each person to have at least 4 arms! Now we are beggining to get more familar with our sorroundings, and able to push the boat harder, our attention is being drawn to our competitors. In particular, there is a very nice Swede who was moored up next to us in Gran Canaria who is in a Swan 48. He is in the cruising class and has brought in a race crew and is living off freeze dried food (definately not in the spirit of the cruising class!), in addition to which, he has a bandit handicap rating that we cannot work out how he got...however, we have the Tripp on our side, and so whilst I am sure that he is pushing the boat  hard (he was one of the boats at the front of the fleet at the start, and when we pulled our spinnaker down, he continued with spinnaker), and so when the ratings come in, we are keeping an eye on how we are doing compared with him. I think that as our boat becomes lighter, with both boat and crew becoming a well oiled (albeit a little fat if this cooking keeps up) machine, that we may start to pull something back on him....but I suspect that it will depend on how well or not our spinnaker shredding goes!