21 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 15)
I started off sleeping in the back cabin, but I was rolled around all over the place because the two lee-cloths are not close enough to wedge me in. At midnight, a big roll sent me into the outer lee-cloth and the retaining bracket pulled out again. When Glenys went off watch, I swapped beds with her and slept on the saloon starboard berth - I slept like a log. The day’s run to midday wasn’t too bad at 141 miles and we passed the 2,000 mile mark. We have to run the engine for about one hour a day to put in 25 to 30 amp-hours. I think that we’re using the following power: overhead 5 amp-hours, instruments 4 amp-hours, compass light 4 amp-hours, domestic lights 3 amp-hours, GPS 1 amp-hour, fridge 10 amp-hours, total 27 amp-hours.
After lunch I was doing the washing up (yes, Glenys finally got me to do it!) and I noticed a shoal of tuna swimming in our bow wave. After watching for a few minutes, I got my spear gun and, to the amazement of the others, I managed to spear one! After a few more misses they seemed to get wise and kept away from the bow of the boat. They seemed to be catching small flying fish the size of dragonflies and entertained us for about half an hour - sometimes they would jump 2 to 3 ft clear of the water. Glenys produced tuna with pasta for dinner.
Glenys’ Diary. Neville had the night off last night as I was doing his 2-5 am slot. He tried sleeping in the back cabin but couldn’t wedge himself in firmly enough during the rolls, of which there were quite a few and rather nasty, as there was little wind at one point. He rolled against the lee cloth and pulled the fitting out of the wall! Next thing I know, I’m up on watch and he’s pinched my berth in the saloon. He slept soundly enough after that – I hope it’s helped to restore some of his reserves of energy.
I felt rather lethargic this morning – only did ½ a lesson with Brett and then left him and Craig to their own devices.
I would have had a quiet afternoon also, but Neville spotted a school of small tuna at the side of the boat, probably chasing the tiny flying fish which kept leaping out of the water and looking remarkably like dragonflies. Neville got out his spear gun and by a great stroke of luck/skill!? managed to spear a 3-4 lb tuna! Brett and Craig were very interested in its beautiful colours, and could feel its nerves still twitching even after the head and guts had been removed. I must say I found it a bit disconcerting to feel it still twitching while I was skinning and filleting it.
So, tuna was on the evening menu, with enough left to make another meal tomorrow night. Seems like the men have been spared faggots and mushy peas yet again!
Only 768 miles to go as of this afternoon – we may get there on the 27th. For the first time, Brett asked when we were going to get there. I think he’s beginning to be weary of travelling, of always being told to hold onto his plate, to be quiet because somebody’s trying to have a sleep and “I’ll play with you when I’ve finished …” Both the boys have been wonderful up to now – I just have to keep them occupied for another few days and then it will be Christmas.
22 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 16)
I had a really nice night, but John had trouble with a load of squalls. At one point he had about 5 knots of wind closely followed by 30 plus knots and heavy rain. We had a fair run until eight o’clock this morning, when the wind dropped to less than 10 knots and then we plodded along at 4 knots. John and I swapped the jibs around before lunch because the wind was coming from the North East. We have found that we get an extra half knot boat speed if we have the roller jib poled to windward. We think that this is caused by air being scooped down the back face of the inner jib, generating more lift. Also if the inner jib is to windward it causes a wind shadow on the luff of the roller jib.
Only three sleeps to Christmas. Glenys spent two hours cooking cakes on one of the hottest days that we have had - her temper was not good at the end. I had a quiet day today - reading and recorder practice. We’ve only got another 5 (or 6) days to go and I just want to get there now. I feel like I’m in limbo and I can’t be bothered to do anything. Glenys produced sweet and sour tuna for dinner.
Glenys’ Diary. The night seemed fairly quiet with not much wind, apart from John’s watch when the rain suddenly bucketed down, waking me up. I hurriedly closed the hatch and listened to the wind howling – just a squall going through. It’s surprising how changeable the weather is these last few days – lots of clouds, sudden showers, then blistering sun again. You would think that it would get windier, but steadier as we neared the Caribbean, but not so.
Lots of jobs to do again this morning. I made some little Christmas cakes with the boys so that they can decorate them and give them out as presents, followed by a huge batch of fairy cakes for us all to eat. This overran into lunchtime, so I got in a right mess trying to get lunch and continue to put another load of cakes in the oven. The logistics of it space-wise was a nightmare and I was cursing and sweating profusely by the end of it. The temperature has gone up a lot and it is now quite stuffy downstairs during the day if I am doing any cooking.
In the afternoon, I put on my swimming cozzie and poured several buckets of seawater over my head – it felt great. I rinsed out some undies in fresh water and hung them up to dry – this will be the only washing of clothes during the trip, and we should arrive with quite a bundle of dirty washing, even though everyone has been good about wearing the same clothes for a few days.
I baked some bread using dried yeast that can be added straight to the flour, and it turned out really well. Dinner was sweet and sour tuna with rice and very tasty too.
Neville and John reckon we have another five nights at sea – we must be getting close as they are both reading the pilot books for Grenada!
23 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 17)
Very quiet tonight. We averaged 5.5 knots boat speed. At seven o’clock this morning, John spotted a ship heading straight for us. He woke me up to tell me, but I’m afraid I just said OK and turned over. Ten minutes later the ship passed about quarter of a mile behind us at which point I got up and talked to him on the radio. The ship was “America” registered in Cyprus, on passage from Brazil to Norfolk, USA with a cargo of containers. They wished us happy Christmas and we did likewise. They were interested that we had children onboard and our destination.
Poor old John had a cloudless sky, but still didn’t get a star shot because of the excitement of the ship - I’ve offered to sell him one of mine for £20! It’s funny how paranoid I have to be about power - the VHF radio draws 0.8 amps on monitor, that’s 20 amp-hours per day. The radio operator on the ship was trying to call us for half an hour - we will have to make sure that we turn the radio on as soon as we spot another vessel.
It sounds like the boats at 17°N had a bit more wind than us last night - “Chintoo” is about 50 miles behind us (but 240 miles North). If we can maintain daily runs of 140 miles per day then we will arrive on the morning of the 27th. At midday the wind veered to South 8. We put up the main, mizzen and mizzen staysail and bashed and clunked along at 3 to 4 knots. During the afternoon, the wind backed to the East North East 12 and I gybed the main and mizzen, dropped the staysail and put up both jibs. We couldn’t put the awning up and it was blisteringly hot. At seven o’clock, the wind was North East 15, so we went on a broad reach with main, mizzen and jib poled out to port.
Glenys’ Diary. No school work today. Neville and Brett made a paper Christmas tree to stick on the door into the front cabin, then we all stuck on bits of shiny paper and ribbons to decorate it. Brett and Craig have also hung up various decorations in the back cabin, with more to follow tomorrow.Neville has been playing Christmas CD’s most of the day at a volume guaranteed to drive one to the foredeck with hands clasped over ears. John mentioned something about “humbug” at one point. One good thing about the day is that Neville has not been practising on the recorder.
I managed to get the washing dry despite threats of showers – I found it somewhat disconcerting to note that whereas Brett, Craig and I have gone through at least 8 pairs of pants each since 7 December, there were only 3 pairs of Neville’s underpants hanging out to dry.
I had a final closing down sale of the tuck shop this afternoon – everything cost 1 cent each, so the boys came away well pleased with their comics and pile of sweets. I don’t envisage the need to open shop again before reaching Grenada, since Christmas is only the day after tomorrow.
We are now bowling along again at 6-7 knots which should help to eat up the miles. The boats that we have been listening to along the way are beginning to arrive at their destinations now – “Vintage Port” should be in tonight. “Timana” and “Amatwana 2” in a couple of days, and “Chintoo” maybe a day behind them. We heard “Honey Hush” who have reached Barbados – Carol sounded so bubbly on the radio, completely different from the deadpan, weary voices of those still at sea.
24 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 18)
What a tiring night! By nine o’clock, the wind was over 20 knots and we reefed the main. An hour later, a massive squall hit us and we dropped the main in 30 knots and lashing rain. I put the main back up, but by three in the morning, it was back down under the onslaught of squall, after squall. It sounds like the others at 17°N 57°W have had the same, but the boats at 53°W and 60°W haven’t had any big squalls. I guess that we’ve got another 24 hours of this.
It’s Christmas Eve, the tree is made and the nativity scene is up on the wall - I just hope the squalls blow themselves out today. The squalls continued until about late afternoon then we settled down in East 15 with twin head sails. It was too cloudy and rolly to bother doing a sextant fix today. John and I were tired and slept during the day when we were off watch. The Hydrovane struggled a bit during the last 24 hours because of the high swell and the large variation in wind speed.
Glenys’ Diary. God, what a horrible night! It began on my watch about 11 pm, a couple of big black clouds rolled by causing gusty wind and some big swell. Behind them was a squall, a grey misty mass that when it arrived, caused a deluge of warm rain. I shouted for Neville, who came up and quickly lowered the main before the squall actually hit. Further lesser squalls occurred during the night, and some terrible rolling was going on, so nobody but the children slept well.
Neville spotted another ship and tried to talk to it on the VHF, but the operator wasn’t too communicative – he actually said “what do you want?”! As though it’s a common occurrence to meet lots of yachts on this barren stretch of water!
Spent the morning doing quiet things with the boys as Neville and John took it in turns to catch up on some sleep. The rolling and rain showers continued for most of the day – I could only manage to provide cuppa soups and bread for lunch. I hope tomorrow the sea is calmer otherwise Christmas lunch is going to be a disaster.
Neville has spent most of his waking moments keeping up the level of excitement over Christmas in Brett and Craig – Brett particularly is like a cat on hot bricks. Craig seems more blasé about it, but I suspect he’ll get upset about something he’ll be given tomorrow.
Neville checked the water tanks and reckons we’re pretty low, so showers were cancelled to be replaced by a quick wet flannel which we enjoyed almost as much. The temperature below deck is stifling and not helped by having to close all the hatches when a squall goes through.
Neville has done no recorder practise for two days now – I hope our snide remarks have not wounded him too deeply.
25 December 1993 Atlantic Crossing (Day 19)
Christmas Day. Brett came running in at about half past seven and told me to come quick. They had a good time opening their presents. Amazingly, Santa brought exactly what they had asked for - a Game Boy for Brett and Ice Planet Lego for Craig (plus loads of other stuff too.) John was feeling pretty homesick first thing this morning, especially because he was on watch, in the rain, listening to Brett and Craig squealing with delight as they opened their sacks in the back cabin with Glenys and me. He soon cheered up when we started to dish out the real presents after breakfast. He did quite well with quite a lot of presents from us and Ceris, as well as one from his wife, Diana.
Glenys produced a great Christmas dinner - turkey, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, bread sauce, yam, two veg followed by Christmas pudding. After an hour of lounging around in the heat, Glenys and I had a salt water (bucket) shower. The weather was fairly kind to us during the day; we were able to leave the Hydrovane to its own devices with goose-winged jibs. The clouds started to build up as the sun went down. A good Christmas was had by all!
Glenys’ Diary. A fairly uneventful night apart from getting the presents ready – a sack each for the boys to have at the end of their beds, and the main presents ‘under the tree’ at the front of the saloon.Craig was restless, went to the toilet in the night, woke up early asking if it was morning yet. Finally gave in and let then open their sacks about 7.30 am – just as the sun was rising.
We opened the rest of the presents after breakfast – John seemed a bit overwhelmed at the number he received, he even got two from my Mum whom he’s never met! Everybody seemed happy with what they got; even Craig didn’t whinge that he didn’t receive something he expected.
We had a leisurely bucks fizz while the children consolidated their gains, then I got lunch on the go, which was made a success by the tin of turkey breast which John brought out from England.
Generally slobbed around in the afternoon, reminiscing about watching films on TV, and playing games with Brett and Craig. Neville and I both took a sea-water shower on deck to cool down as the air was stifling despite the 15 knot breeze. The swell predictably built up around tea-time and we did some great surfing. A Dorado jumped onto our line but promptly jumped off again as Neville was pulling it in – darn! We could have done with some nice fresh fish for dinner tomorrow.
Only two more nights to go before we reach Grenada – I think tomorrow will be a long day for me, must try to keep busy, maybe start putting the boat back in order, especially as our stores have diminished giving back locker space that had been taken up with bottles of water, packets of Frosties, instant mash, etc. We have no fresh fruit or veg. left, no Frosties, no jam, no Mars bars or sweets, no crisps, cheese or mayonnaise – it’s time to get there!