Northward Ho!

10th August

22 16N 035 08W

Today is Thursday!  Tomorrow we will have been a full week at sea.  Woke
up at 630 and went on deck to be told that we had changed course 20
degrees – we have gone as far south as we will go and are finally heading
NORTH!  Our router has informed us that the anticyclone has moved East, so
we have the right wind conditions – albeit very light – to set a course
directly for St Pierre if we wish it.

We do wish it; much as I’d like to stop in the Caribbean or the Bahamas OR
Bermuda; having been to none of these places before, once you’re at sea
it’s hard to think about anything apart from the destination.  Of course
if we needed anything then we wouldn’t hesitate to think about stopping,
but apart from a few supplies that can be managed I don’t think that we
would need to stop on account of victualling anyway.  Yesterday I was
worried that we might run out of yeast; and opened the tin that I’d
brought from Oman (!!) Indeed the bread failed to rise; and in a panic I
opened a new Carrefour sachet and re kneaded it into the dough.  It rose
brilliantly; so I went from worrying that we would have to ration bread to
being confident that in fact we’d been using too much (two sachets each
time instead of one) and that thus I’ll have more than enough to bake
every day for more than a month.  I was a bit short on yeast as when I was
buying flour I saw a lot of package bread mixes and bought quite a few;
thinking that ALL of them had yeast included.  Trick for young players;
some do but a lot don’t and anyway as yeast has to be fresh you can’t
guarantee that the packs which have yeast in them will have fresh enough
yeast to rise.  All the stuff that matters not a whit when you have a
corner store; but when your corner store is a series of boxes under the
seats; not so much ….

I am rationing the eggs, though.  And keeping an eye on the butter.  We
left Las Palmas with 10 dozen eggs but it’s easy to rip through them.
I’ve calculated as of yesterday that I can use three eggs a day; if I
don’t use them all I can save them up and use them in a proper meal for
us; otherwise they are more useful in cakes!  I’m getting very critical of
recipes that use too many eggs or too much butter!  We splurged yesterday
on the butter; it was Betrave’s dad’s birthday so we celebrated with a
Mississipi Mud Cake.

Life on board has settled into a bit of a pattern; mostly delineated by
what watch we are on which determines when we nap!  Usually mornings a
bit slow with two of the three crew in bed asleep; the full workforce
really doesn’t get into swing until midday when we get in a couple hours
before lunch.  The GC keeps us busy; our new project is to construct a
canvas ceiling and more drop down canvas walls to further enclose the
galley; it’s lovely and warm at the moment but as we get closer to home it
sure won’t be and we will be grateful for more protection than we have.

The idea is to extend the wings of the shelter to behind the rear seats or
even to the helm; and roof it as well.  This will enclose the big gas
cooker completely making sure that it’s heat is kept well in; if it gets
really cold we can just light the oven and leave the door open as a big
heater.  Seems crazy to be thinking about staying warm; it was much colder
in the Med than it has been out here; even the nights are mild and you
barely need a spray jacket.  Apart from needing one to keep dry, that is!
Today is the first day since we left that I’ve been able to leave the
hatch of the cabin open; letting it dry out a bit is such a great
pleasure.  I know I’ve said before that this is a wet boat; unless you’ve
been on her at sea you don’t appreciate just how wet wet is.

As we’ve been on a port tack for all of this way and our cabin & loo is on
port side this has affected me more than the rest.  On starboard the
hatches are well dry; wheras on port especially getting in and out of the
loo becomes an extreme sport when you have to time it between Atlantic
swells crashing through the front nets and landing with the precision of a
drone strike right on the hatch you’re trying to enter.  Combine that with
the fact that you’re either dying to pee because you’ve put it off as long
as you can OR you are freshly bathed and de salted for the only time that
day because you’re going to bed and simply getting in and out without
being slapped by several gallons of lovely salt water takes on the
dimensions of an Olympian challenge.  I think I’ve mentioned the gumboots
before; without them we would literally be miserable.  Betrave and I have
perfected the look we call “On a Beach in Hawaii; DJAA mix” – sexy bikini
and khaki gumboots.  The Genie does it well too; ripped shorts; no shirt
and he manages to turn his boots down like a buccaneer.  I tell you, we
are stylin’

Nobody styles it quite as well as the GC, however. He mostly eschews the
comfort of our cabin; he won’t leave the deck at night in case of
emergency except on pretty rare occasions when he gets really cold or wet
or when things are truly calm up above and he is feeling really tired.  He
has a bedding roll that he puts out on one of the benches; covers himself
with a couple of waterproof jackets and a sleeping bag and seems to manage
very well.  Betrave asked him yesterday why he didn’t even take his boots
off to go to sleep; the answer was pretty obvious – if he’s needed in
action, he wastes no time being ready.  After we’ve left the Med it’s been
pretty quiet though – winds are constant if light and there are very very
few ships around.  Most of our time is spent scanning the radar and the
sea around for floating debris that could damage us; a job that’s been
made easy the last several nights with the full moon.  I truly can’t
describe how beautiful it is to sail on a flat sea under a full moon … a
pleasure we had last night.  The night before on the full moon it was
equally beautiful but as we had swell soaking the deck and making it
tricky to spend any time on deck it was a bit harder to appreciate.  On
the night of the 8th just as he was about to go to sleep he checked the
radar and suddenly there appeared another boat on the AIS!  We passed
within a mile of her; a research vessel called the James Cook.

As we passed they called us on the VHF asking if we were trying to signal them.
We were puzzled and the GC asked what signal they saw?  The officer said,
your mast light is flashing ….. the GC laughed.  “We’re flying a
gennaker”, he told the guy.  “It covers the mast light as we yaw … then
you see it again”.  A few more words and they were gone in our wake … the
only other human contact we’ve had in all these days apart from Michel,
our router.  I had expected to feel connected to them and sad to see them
go but was interested to observe that I wasn’t in the slightest bit
concerned.  We were going our way; they theirs …

I don’t know why but I’m surprised at how the sea changes from hour to
hour.  The calm of this morning has already gone and a stray wave slapping
the stern sent a good few drops raining down through the open hatch.  So
we are closed up tight again and not a moment too soon; the wind has
picked up; our speed has picked up and water is being dumped too close for
comfort once again!  We move through swell; cross swell; no swell … it’s
always changing; it’s certainly never boring.  With these light winds we
have also just raised a tariquet – a small sail that we can fly alongside
the gennaker.  It’s given us a few knots; we were doing 7 and now by the
sound on the hull I can tell we are doing closer to 10.

We’ve made good speed since we left; quite a few days and nights when we
haven’t had to run the engines at all and in the last couple of days in
very light winds just one engine at a time for a few hours.  We are doing
well on fuel consumption as well as moving pretty fast which is great; we
are likely to hit areas of no wind at all in this next phase and will need
all the help we can get managing fuel.

About the only resource we don’t need to worry about too much is water; I
brought 120 extra litres of non drinking water on board in 8 litre kegs –
Volvic very conveniently make them with a tap for pouring and I’ve been
saving them since we arrived at la Mede.  Due to these we’ve been able to
avoid the hideous spectre of doing the washing up in salt water – as we
(and particularly I!) battle daily against the encroachment of salt having
it saturate my galley was just too much to contemplate.  I knew I’d won
yesterday when I heard the GC commenting on the amount of water we had in
these bottles; he was musing that we may well arrive in St Pierre with
full water tanks!  The best thing about having and using these bottles is
that one can ration carefully; we get 2 litres each to wash in and 3
litres for each dishwashing which we do twice a day.  No one is allowed to
use the taps so the main tanks are pretty much untouched.  He’s set up a
salt water pump with a hose so we can fill for cooking (pasta and
baking!!) right on deck as well as being able to clean up if the waves
aren’t being helpful enough by sluicing the deck!

The flying fish have stopped their assault upon us over the last two
nights with just a few caught in the nets this morning.  They are still
basically the only fish we have seen so far as well apart from an
absolutely diminutive – but perfectly recognisable – baby blue marlin that
also washed on deck yesterday.  It couldn’t have been more than 2
centimetres long but brilliant blue and with a very recognisable beak.
The lack of fish is actually really worrying.  Apart from anything else;
our rations will be light as we will run out of the meat and chicken that
I brought on board in the next several days.  If our luck doesn’t change
everyone will be grateful for the extra beans I bought in Las Palmas!!!!
But it’s pretty scary in an environmental sense; the GC says he has never
ever made it so far or so many days at sea without a single bite.  We also
don’t see whales or dolphins – it’s really quite a featureless sea from
that perspective and it shouldn’t be.

More soon.  Terribly grateful to my cousin who has taken on the
duty of uploading these emails to the blog; we are still trying to work
out how to send photos (the attachments, even zipped, are rejected as
being too big by the satellite).  We shall overcome.  For the time being;
we are happy to have made the turn; we’ve done the South and the West;
it’s time to be going North.

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