11 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 5)
We had a nice run during the night, but it was overcast for most of the night, with a few spots of rain occasionally. I listened to the Radio Net on 4483 KHz and the boats to the West are starting to run out of wind. It would appear to be better down at 18°N so we are heading south-west again towards my original waypoint of 18°N 30°W.
Before we started this passage, I wondered if it was going to be boring because of a lack of things to do. My day is actually rather busy - listen to the weather and other people’s positions, sextant sun shot and calculate, chafe check, midday position plot, off watch sleep, afternoon sun shot, plot sextant fix, sort out fishing lures, recorder lesson, dinner, bed at half past seven and up at 11 o’clock for the first night watch. I only get the chance to sit and read a book at night. I’ve now been banished to the foredeck when doing recorder practise.
We hooked another 3 ft Dorado in the afternoon on the black squid lure, but the damn thing got off. I’m going to try yanking the line to set the hook. We put the jelly belly lure out as well as the squid but no bites. We think that the jelly belly is too big. Everyone is well and relaxing into the way of life and we all have cast iron stomachs now. Brett and I had a shower this evening - first on the trip (luxury!)
Before we left Gomera, we filled up the water tanks and I closed off two gate valves which I thought would isolate the three tanks. I checked the two tanks under the saloon seats and the water has gone out of both - I’ll have to pull up the floor and investigate tomorrow.
Glenys’ Diary. This has been a day for just plodding away doing mundane jobs like washing up, cooking, making cakes with the kids (which increased my stress level about 100%!)
I gave Brett a Ladybird book of Gulliver’s travels which took him precisely one hour to finish. I shall run out of books very soon at this rate. I’ve started giving Brett and Craig some U.S. coins to save up, they don’t know what for yet – I may open a tuck shop tomorrow with comics and sweets.
We have made good progress over the last four days – Neville says we are a 1/5 of the way there; I like to think of it as nearly ¼! The motion of the boat is quite easy during the day when the wind is less. The wind seems to pick up at dusk along with the swell and we start surfing at anything up to 10 knots during the night.
It is becoming harder to wake Neville for his night watches – he really wants a full night’s sleep. It’s rather like having tiny babies all over again – they wake you up every three hours.
12 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 6)
Uneventful night. I had the hard shift and both Glenys and John are having trouble waking me up at the end of their watches! I did a star shot at half past seven which gave me a large cocked hat. The sea was large and the boat was rolling a lot. I don’t seem to be able to focus on the stars properly and there is so little time (10 minutes) to get the shots before the stars go in - it’s difficult balancing the sextant, torch, the watch, pad and pencil on a rolling boat in the dark. To do it properly needs another person to be watch keeper.
We are still making good progress, but it looks like light winds ahead - we are still aiming for 18°N, 30°W, but the wind is East and we can only just hold 250° with poled out jibs. During the afternoon the wind veered further to East South East, so we changed sails to main and poled out jib and headed South West to try and dodge the light winds caused by a shallow Low at 30°N 38°W.
At dusk we caught an evil-looking, long, black fish very similar to the Espadas in Madeira. It is only 2ft long but it has a couple of one quarter inch long teeth. Needless to say I beat it to death before I brought it on board! John managed to get two small cuts on his finger while examining the dead fish’s mouth! I put the mizzen out at dusk and we sailed on a reach with full sails all night.
Glenys’ Diary. What a bloody awful night! The boat was doing some awful lurching from side to side, and there’s a bad squeak in the block that the port jib sheet runs through. I woke up with a really sore/stiff neck and a niggly temper. The boys were awake before me and had already eaten their advent calendar chocolates and been given breakfast by John before I stumbled upstairs.
I did a lesson with Brett, and then cleared out one of the food cupboards which had got a vinegary liquid spilt on the floor. I suspect the bread starter had overflowed previously without my knowledge and has made the cartons of milk and wine rather soggy. Have put them upside down in the box under the table until needed, and thrown out the odd vegetables which have gone off. I am very disappointed in the lemons which I thought would have lasted the entire journey, but already half have disintegrated into green mould. The bananas have also finished – I’ve had to throw the last two overboard.
We started a wall collage of the nativity scene – seemed to keep the boys entertained for an hour. Then Craig and I had a shower after dousing his head in olive oil to try to get rid of his cradle cap. The temptation to just let the water run over me was enormous – I felt great afterwards and at peace with the world again. (At lunchtime, I was getting annoyed at the rest of the crew, because Neville and John seemed to be sitting on their backsides waiting for me to conjure up some delicacy in the galley.)
We had a glass of wine with dinner – now I know we must all be feeling better. We may even be fatter by the end of the trip than we were at the beginning.
13 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 7)
We had a good night sail averaging 5 knots on a reach. Very comfortable motion. I was entertained for 15 minutes by a small group of Dolphin (probably common dolphin) at about three o’clock in the morning. The flash of phosphorescent trails at the bow of the boat was very impressive. It was difficult to identify them because they went away if I shone the torch on them, but they had white undersides and were about 2 to 3 metres long.
It was a good decision to head further south because we are still doing 5 to 6 knots and all the others past 30°W have no wind. Our midday run shows that we have averaged 143 miles per day since we left Gomera which is really pleasing.
John went to the back of the boat to grab a bit of “personal space” and do bit of fishing with a rod. Brett and Craig heard him on the rear deck, instantly appeared, donned harnesses and joined him! I spent a couple of hours doing my music lessons which I really enjoyed. The wind died down late afternoon and picked back up again at dusk.
Glenys produced a wonderful meal of pizza with apple and cabbage coleslaw, tomatoes and garlic bread. This was washed down with a glass of Chateau cardboard rose and then followed by apple sponge. They’ll never wake me up for the eleven o’clock night shift!
Glenys’ Diary. A good steady breeze on a beam reach meant a good night’s sleep for me. As usual, I didn’t need to wake John for the 11 pm watch – he’s always up at least 10 minutes before. I had a crash course in using the sextant and apparently got it spot on with no errors – must be beginners luck! I’ll have another go tomorrow and see how I get on then.
I made an apple cake with four apples that have started to go bad. I’m disappointed how quickly the fruit and vegetables are deteriorating, especially things that I would have expected to last for quite a long time. We had a pizza for dinner which was fairly cosmic even though I say so myself – this will be repeated in approximately one week’s time.
14 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 8)
As predicted Glenys had trouble waking me up even though she gave me an extra hour in bed (I do love her!) Humid night and nearly warm. The wind backed to the East by five o’clock so I gybed the jib and main and mizzen and went on a broad reach on starboard tack. At 8 o’clock, John and I poled out the two jibs and dropped the main.
I did a star shot this morning and got the longitude right, but a latitude error of three miles too far North. I can’t pin it down to any consistent error, but I suppose three miles isn’t bad considering the difficulty of making star shot. Sounds like the others are getting some wind, but the forecast is only for 10 to 15 knot winds for the next week.
We finally caught a Dorado this morning. What a beautiful fish - all yellows, greens, blues and silver. It took about six whacks to kill it with the “Priest” (the bottom 15 inches of a pool cue.) Glenys has been giving Brett and Craig American cents as pocket money for the past few days and today she opened a tuck-shop with sweets and comics. It was a great success! I really do have busy mornings (eight o’clock off watch, sail change, breakfast, nine o’clock radio schedule, ten o’clock plot positions and astro calculations, eleven o’clock sail change, half past eleven kill and gut Dorado, noon fix, quarter past twelve on watch, half past twelve cup of tea!) Recorder lessons after lunch.
We hooked another Dorado, but it escaped just as John was pulling it over the transom. I’ll stop ribbing him about it in a couple of days. Glenys and the boys were busy making a nativity scene mural today. Glenys prepared the Dorado in a white sauce with creamed potatoes and petit pois and it was wonderful. All washed down, of course, with a glass of chilled rose. We passed the 1,000 mile mark today.
Glenys’ Diary. We caught a fish at last! Neville proudly pulled in a 3-4 lb Dorado this morning - needless to say I had to take a photo of him with it. We had another bite in the afternoon which John tried to reel in, but just as he got it close to the stern it slipped off the hook – poor old John, his face was a picture of disappointment.
Anyway, I filleted and skinned the Dorado and cooked it in a mushroom and cream sauce – delicious! I have threatened the men with faggots and mushy peas tomorrow night if they don’t catch something else during the day!
I gave Brett and Craig a nice surprise after schoolwork today – set up a tuck shop with comics and sweets and let them buy what they could afford with the U.S. cents I’ve been giving them each day. The first thing Brett bought was a kinder egg (surprise, surprise), then a comic and a few sweets. Craig did likewise and I then had a peaceful hour to myself.
15 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 9)
Another humid night. We had 15 to 20 knots of wind all night with quite a big 3-4 metre swell, so we were doing six plus knots and surfing at 8 knots. We’re running under the twin head sails with the wind about 40° on our starboard quarter. Listening to the radio this morning, it sounds like we’ve done the right thing by going so far south. The others at 19°N have got about 10 knots and some are flying spinnakers. We put the clocks back one hour this morning because the sun doesn’t rise until after eight o’clock and it’s depressing for the 5 to 8 watch (sod the time zones!)
It’s fascinating to watch the flying fish skimming the surface of the sea to get away from us. Every so often there will be a squadron of 10 or more which will fly for about 100 metres over the swell and down the troughs. One landed on the deck this morning giving John a chance to inspect it. Glenys had a disaster this morning, she was just refreshing her sour dough bread starter when a bigger roll than normal hit us and dumped one litre of the yeasty gunk on the floor and walls of the gallery. Needless to say she resorted to the vernacular. Unfortunately it will take another seven days to restart another one, so that she can bake bread!
While swilling the deck, I dumped some water through the hatch on to my bed and Glenys lost a bucket over aboard - I hope that’s our three disasters! Only 10 shopping days to Christmas. We caught a Dorado just before lunch, which saved us from the threatened faggots and peas.
Glenys’ Diary. This has not been a good morning for me. Perhaps it had something to do with putting the clocks back one hour – upset my biorhythms or something? Anyway, my first job after breakfast was to feed the bread starter as it had been nearly 10 days since it went in the fridge ready to make bread with. I had just poured it into a bowl and mixed the flour and water, turned to the sink for an instant and a huge roll caused the bowl to catapult off the work surface and splatter all over the engine room doors and then onto the floor – aargh!
I was not in a good mood, having thumped my hand against the work surface and hurled obscenities to the four winds and the sea. I rolled up the carpet and took it upstairs where Neville very kindly washed it down, while I mopped up the mess in the galley. Unfortunately, Neville in his enthusiasm to sluice down the decks was unaware that the centre hatch was wide open and a bucket of sea water sloshed down and onto his bunk! To cap it all, as I was finishing the last bit of washing up, the boat rolled heavily, filling my bucket completely and the ocean ripped it out of my hand. As I say, this was not a good morning for me.
However, we all cheered up when Neville landed another Dorado, thereby staving off the threatened dinner of faggots and mushy peas. It’s amazing how blue the Dorado is while still in the water. The one today was a real fighter, nearly slipping back over the side despite John’s attempts to kill it by bashing it over the head with the broken snooker cue that Brett has acquired along the way.
Brett and Craig have mostly done their own thing today, apart from ½ a lesson with Brett this morning, and a session of reading to them while Neville was trying to sleep this afternoon. It’s amazing the things they can make with Lego, and Craig can now follow some of the simpler plans in making a model. They both seem to have settled down to the routine onboard very well, although I try to keep one step ahead of them in thinking of the next thing to do to keep them amused.
Neville continues to practise on the recorder and is coming along quite well. I’ve noticed he turns on the engine for an hour, and does most of his playing during that time to muffle the sound a bit – how considerate. John has started playing a few Christmas Carols in the book with the keyboard, so I think everyone will be able to do a turn at the concert on Christmas Eve – “concert, what concert?” I think Neville enjoys having another man on board to talk to – they seem to share interesting snippets about the night watches, difficulties in doing sun/star shots, and relative prowess in landing fish.
I am writing this diary by torchlight on my night watch 9-11 pm as it is the only chance I get to do it. It is usually the only time I manage to read a book. If anybody asks what did you do all day for 20-something days, I shall reply that I never stopped, that there was always something else that needed to be done. P.S. During my bad morning, I also had to clean up after Craig who had done a poo in his pants – oi vé!