16 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 10)
We had another fast night going at six plus knots most of the time. It’s still very humid, but it’s getting warmer. I did a 3 star shot at dawn, which was difficult because of the swell and clouds. I’ve started to shoot all the stars as soon as I can and then repeat as the horizon becomes clear - when the stars start to disappear. I can then choose which shots I think are best. Unfortunately “Alkaid” disappeared behind clouds on the second pass and my first shot was so bad that my fix was a hundred and twenty miles away - I ended up using 2 fixes.
We had an UNO competition today. Craig was given a 150 extra points and saw his total of 349 just beat Brett’s 318 - the rest of us trailed behind. We gave both Brett and Craig a packet of Smarties as a prize.
I’ve been running the engine for one hour per day, putting in about 20 amp-hours. The wind generator probably puts in 10 amp-hours per day. I will have to run the engine for two hours tomorrow because I think that we are using slightly more than we are putting in. I’m still practising the recorder and I think I’m doing OK - the others may dispute that but at least I’m not bothering anyone else here in the middle of the Atlantic!
We’re on day 10 now and the monotony of the view and the endless routine is starting to get to me. We all get excited when we see a bird - so far we’ve seen Storm Petrels, and a few Lesser Crested Terns have tried to dive for our fishing lure. We decided that the “jelly belly” lure is useless, so we made a new lure from a blue and silver muppet and put “jelly belly” in the box. Within four hours we caught a Dorado on the new lure. Unfortunately, Glenys had already started dinner, so we are having sausage! At dusk we caught another horrible “Espada” on the blue muppet.
Glenys’ Diary. Another rolly night and day. Brett nearly bounced over his lee cloth and into my bed at one point. I did ½ lesson with Brett, then we had a serious Uno Competition.
I made and iced some little fairy cakes yesterday and this afternoon Brett and Craig had fun decorating them with some little icing pens I bought back in England. After plastering one cake with black, Craig decided he didn’t like the taste of it, so I had to eat it instead.
I had already got dinner on the go and started painting the Grenada flag (John couldn’t get one in England), when another Dorado fell onto the hook – a big one this time (about 8 lb). I was not very happy having to stop what I was doing, to go and show Neville how I fillet the fish, get sharp knives, and take a photo (how blasé we have become about catching fish, in just three days!) It was too late to cook the Dorado tonight - we dined on sausage with fried potatoes, beans and cheese sauce – good stodge food! I’ll have to dig out a new recipe for the Dorado tomorrow.
17 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 11)
Another fast rolly night with quite a lot of clouds around. We have a new moon which stays up until about 11 o’clock. We will have a full moon on the 28th just as we are approaching Grenada which will be nice. There is a small deck leak around the port centre cleat (or stanchion or window) which is running down the wall lining and onto the chart table and bookshelf. It’s not getting into the chart table and is only a minor wetness that needs wiping each morning. It’s interesting that everyone now spends more time sitting below chatting and doing things. At first, no one, (except the boys), could spend any more than 10 minutes below before coming up to stare at the horizon.
At the midday fix, exactly 10 days sailing, we have done more than 1,445 miles with, 1,388 miles to go. So we are over half way!! We’ve averaged 144 miles per day which is 6.02 knots average. The rolling has been bad for the last few days and we are all getting sick of it. The wind up at 19°N has veered to South South East and they are reaching - lucky bastards! Pretty damned hot at midday, so we put the awning up.
We had Bucks Fizz to drink at lunch to celebrate reaching the halfway point. Glenys made “Dorado Masala” for dinner, which was excellent. She is producing wonderful meals under arduous conditions and the efforts are greatly appreciated by John and me (the boys just want mashed potatoes and beans!)
John has not been sleeping soundly - he insists on waking himself up before his watch and normally gets up earlier than he needs to. I sleep until I’m called. I’ve decided to give John a rest from the watches and Glenys is taking over his night watch tonight. Unfortunately, he couldn’t be persuaded to sleep in the back cabin and will probably keep being disturbed by Glenys and me when we change watches. At least he doesn’t have to get up.
Glenys’ Diary. The boys were awake before me this morning, chattering about their dreams of the night and which door to open next on their Advent calendars. Craig is going to find it difficult after Christmas, adjusting back to not having a piece of chocolate before breakfast. I seemed to have lots of chores to do this morning – two loads of washing up, skinning yesterday’s Dorado, writing up yesterday’s log. Brett even asked me at one point if we were going to do any school work. Well, I couldn’t refuse, so we did a brief review lesson ready for a test in lesson No. 60, and then played a mindless card game of monsters in my pocket – yawn!
Neville announced that we are just over halfway to Grenada now, which brought on a cheer and a small bottle of champagne and orange juice immediately went into the fridge for chilling ready for lunch. If we can keep the same speed up, we should arrive in Grenada on 28 December.
I gave Brett another new book to read which took him about three hours on and off – it’s great to see him totally absorbed in his reading. I finished painting one side of my Grenada flag and it looks pretty good – I’m sure it will look no different from anybody else’s flag once it’s up at the crosstrees.
Dinner was a nightmare to cook today because of the nasty rolling that seems to have been with us all day. It’s beginning to wear me down, hanging on all the time and tottering around like an 80-year old. Washing up becomes a major struggle, leaving me sweaty and tired as though I had just done a 20-minute work-out at the gym.
Nevertheless, dinner was still very tasty, a fish masala with rice and nan bread, and the crew are always most appreciative of my efforts, knowing the hell I have to go through in the galley to produce them. There is still half a Dorado in the fridge, so I must look through the cook books for another recipe.
Tonight, John is excused from night watch so that he can try to catch up on lost sleep. I shall take his slot at 2-5 am. I know Neville can’t wait for his turn in a few days time – he really misses having an unbroken night’s sleep.
18 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 12)
I switched the radar on at midnight and saw a contact 8 miles behind us. We switched on the tri-colour, but an hour later I couldn’t see the contact again. The wind dropped to about 15 knots over night, giving us about 5 knots boat speed. I spent an hour trying to identify the stars to the south of us and identified the Southern Cross constellation, which I thought was pretty exciting. I did a star shot on 4 stars including “Gagrux”, which is part of the Southern Cross. The fix came out really well. John slept soundly on his night off.
Some time yesterday afternoon, we lost the blue and silver muppet, so I’ll have to make another. It turned out to be a really hot day, so after the normal busy morning, we relaxed under the awning. I tried to get a photograph of one of the squadrons of flying fish - I took three or four and then gave up not knowing if I’d managed to get a clear shot of one. The wind was fairly light until midnight, so we were only doing four or five knots - I don’t expect a record run today.
Glenys produced “Dorado Catalan” for dinner which, typically, was very good. We have run out of Dorado, so we need to catch another fish tomorrow. Glenys is magically producing new books each day for Brett and he sits down and reads them from cover to cover. He loves reading now and it’s hard to distract him from the book!
Glenys’ Diary. Brett did a test for lesson 60 and quite enjoyed it – he only got a few things wrong. He and Craig played happily for most of the day, creating new things with Lego. I painted some more of the Grenada flag – I may just have enough yellow to finish both sides.
I found another recipe suitable for Dorado, and made a kind of fish Catalan with tomatoes, white wine and green peppers, topped with sliced potatoes. I also baked some lovely white crusty bread – instant mix by Homepride which rose without any trouble.
We had the awning up for most of the day, as it was a real scorcher. The clouds built up later in the afternoon and by dusk we had a ring of clouds all around us on the horizon, but blue sky directly above. When I came on watch at 9 pm there was a sudden shower. Neville immediately jumped downstairs, asked me to pass everything down, put in the washboard and said “goodnight” – charming!
19 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 13)
Warm night, but we had several rain showers. At four o’clock in the morning I spotted a light and checked on the radar to find that it was 8 miles to our port. I tried to call it on VHS 16 with no response. It gradually overtook and passed in front of us, so I don’t know what it was. The wind picked up just after midnight and we averaged over six knots for the rest of the night. It sounds like the boats at 18°N have run out of wind again and are getting South West 10 or less.
The forecast is for good winds from tomorrow for a few days which is nice to know. I checked the oil and water on the engine and tightened the fan belt. The Adverc has been oscillating a lot over the past few days and I think tightening the fan belt has helped.
I did a Sun - Run - Sun fix and then we saw the moon, so I got a good three line fix today. I did three hours of recorder practise today - Glenys had a little go at me today for not helping her with the children and the chores (washing up.) I must admit that I haven’t done much with the boys, I’m busy in the morning and I feel so lethargic and tired in the afternoon.
I’m looking forward to my night off tomorrow - 11 hours of (hopefully) uninterrupted sleep. I was in bed at quarter past seven after our dinner of “Pizza Glencora” - with Dorado of course! No fish today, we had a brief bite but it soon disappeared. John caught another “Espada-thing” at dusk.
Glenys’ Diary. Another morning full of chores. I didn’t get started on Brett’s school work until 11 am – honestly, I don’t know where the time goes. I found an extra packet of Frosties tucked away at the back of a cupboard, so we may just have enough breakfast cereal to last until we reach Grenada. Disappointingly, one of the long-life packs of German bread has gone mouldy. Neville cheered, as he doesn’t rate the stuff at all. I made some egg and cress sandwiches for lunch, using cress which Brett started only four days ago – the stuff grows remarkably quickly.
I opened the tuck shop for a second time. Brett and Craig enjoyed spending all their cents on another comic and some sweets. I did some more work on the nativity mural with them, and only stopped when we all ended up in a sticky mess trying to stick sequins onto the turbans of the three wise men. I then had some time to myself to wash up from lunch, make dinner, tidy up a bit...
Neville belatedly offered to wash up, and got an earful from me about all the chores I have to do. The trouble is, we have been rolling badly the last few days and it is very wearing trying to do anything other than just sitting still reading a book or listening to the radio. However, I can’t ask Neville or John to help me much as their interrupted sleep is gradually wearing them down. If somebody asked me what was the worst thing about the whole voyage, I would have to say it’s the goddam rolling!
I finished painting the Grenada flag today – it now only needs ironing and hanging up outside to soften it up and tone down the somewhat garish colours.
20 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 14)
A few showers passed through during the night and the wind was 10 to 20 knots depending on the position of the squalls. We’re still running with two goose-winged jibs. The other boats at 18°N are still only getting 5 to 10 knots and we have now got to the same longitude as Chintoo - we don’t have an SSB so we can’t talk to them, which is frustrating. We have less than 1,000 miles to go and, if we can keep up our daily average runs of 144 miles, we should be there on the 27th December. There are only five more sleeps to Christmas and we began to play our Christmas Carol CDs today. John doesn’t seem to be very keen on Doris Day - says he is a “Guns and Roses” man.
I spent about three hours making Brett and Craig two small boats, decorated with Christmas paper, so that they could send their letters to Santa. We’ve told the boys that the Elves will see the boats, pick up the letters and deliver them to Santa.
I did extensive trials to make sure that they would float upright when launched. I ended up with a design made from a Frosties packet with a keel weighted by two stainless steel bolts covered in shiny, elf-green paper. The launching method involved me hanging over the side holding the boat by the thwart and dropping it about 1 ft as the yacht rolled. Both launchings went according to plan and Brett and Craig were pleased and excited.
We’ve spent the last few days building up to writing their letters to Santa. We had to make sure that they asked for the things that we’ve bought them, so there’s been quite a lot of discussion about how great it would be for Brett to get a Game Boy and how fantastic Ice Planet Lego is!!
A group of striped dolphins visited us briefly during the afternoon. I had a shower tonight - luxury! It’s my night off, so I’ve got 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep - double luxury! I got another “Espada - thing” at dusk - that’s three Dorado and four “Espada-things.”
Glenys’ Diary. I decided to have a quiet day today without pushing myself to do loads of jobs. Had a day off from teaching Brett, but practised a few carols with him for the concert, which has now been moved to Christmas Day so that we can record it on Craig’s tape recorder that he’s going to get as one of his presents. I tried to write out a programme with everyone ‘doing a turn’, interspersed with a few carols, and found it very difficult to remember the words after the first verse of each carol.
Neville spent a lot of time making little boats for Brett and Craig to send their letters to Santa in – after a couple of prototype launchings, he found the right shape and weight and proceeded to make two neat paper boats complete with weighted keels. The boys stuck in their letters to Santa, and the boats were duly launched to hopefully be picked up by Santa or one of his helpers, who are all expert navigators, didn’t you know?