12/13/2009, 900 nautical miles to Barbados
Sweden today; Lucia celebrations takes place inspired by the Italian
Saint Lucia bringing light at the darkest part of the year. Saint Lucia
herself has candles in her hair. I think Queenie's beautiful head
(which Imelda got at a hairdressers and you can see above) in the cabin
would carry a Lucia candle crown just fine. The Lucia celebration is in
Sweden only; here close to the equator is just another day at sea. A
good moment to set out our daily routine onboard:
Queenie, the hairdresser's model as mascotte of QRIII (Hans)
From 9 o'clock there will both be a watch captain and an assistant watch on duty. This watch schedule is based on a crew of three onboard. They have their breakfasts; often yoghurt, cereals and sandwiches. The watch captain has the responsibility for steering (read: monitoring the autopilot), sails, navigating etc, while the assistant watch has cooking or other duties depending on the time of the day. There are certain events that require the watch captain to wake me up such as: weather changes, reefing of sails, vessels close by etc. They are all well defined in Queen's Ransom's manual.
Already at day break before 9am, we may have had all hands on deck to change sails for the light hours of the day. Queen's Ransom carries eight sails onboard for this passage. There is her standard sail suite of a full length vertical battened main sail and genoa. In addition there are two downwind sails; the spinnaker for running (with the wind behind) and the gennaker for broad reaching (the wind on the quarter); both these are large, beautiful and colourful sails of 170 square meters or more. However, especially the spinnaker is a handful and need a lot of care when handling. We can only run them up to approximately a wind strength of 20 knots. We got two orange storm sails; the storm jib and the trysail. The latter is a storm main sail that if necessary can be set without the boom. To complete the sail wardrobe, we got a stay sail that is hanked on to an inner fore stay and could be used for a number of situations. In strong winds it can be used as a smaller replacement to the genoa. It will keep the sail shape better than a reefed genoa that is furled many times around the forestay. When running in front of the wind, we would typically pole out the genoa to windward with the spinnaker pole while also setting the stay sail which will add some drive, but also stabilize the boat's motion. Finally, it could be used upwind in conjunction with the genoa; a so called cutter rig flying two head sails. However, on wind angles aft of the beam is more likely to upset the airflow to the genoa rather than doing anything good. Finally, there is a spare main sail onboard. This is a so called soft main without the battens. It is easier to furl into the mast than the standard main, but it would only be used for emergencies if the main sail is torn or the reefing doesn't work properly.
The assistant watch would run the generator. This is done twice daily for two to three hours in the morning and the evening to top up the batteries. Queen's Ransom has four battery banks; the main service bank, the navigation bank and batteries for starting the main engine and generator respectively. The 10 batteries of 115 Ah in her main service bank is the backbone, however given that the main system is 24 volt this will only give 575 Ah of capacity. Our consumption is between 15-20 Amps per hour, hence the need to run it twice a day. The main engine and the towing generator act as back ups should the generator fail. We would also every third day or so run the watermaker for say an hour. This would give us some 70-80 liters of fresh water. We could produce much more, but this seems to suffice for having the tanks pretty full and allow a shower every second day or so. We do dishwashing in salt water; for which there is a pump in the galley.
The other very important task of the assistant watch is to run through a check list in both the morning and evening. The one in the morning is the most comprehensive and includes checking the bilge, machinery, rigging and deck from bow to stern, plus the sad task of removing any flying fish that crashed on deck during the night. Every rope is checked for chafe and the screws of fittings that they are not loose. It is important to spot possible problems early before they cause damage. We have on this trip spotted a number of issues during the morning checks. Another duty would be to store the garbage. Queen's Ransom operates a waste sorting system where any organic waste is thrown overboard, but everything else (plastics, glass etc) are kept until it can be disposed of in port. The morning assistant watch also often includes going through the food supplies to spot anything that has gone off, as well as some cleaning duties. If I am not on watch or have completed my assistant watch duties, I would usually try to catch up on some sleep late morning. It is one of the best times of the whole day; returning to the comfy bunk for a little while.
The lunch watch goes on at noon. We mark the paper chart with the noon position and calculate our daily noon to noon run. Hans often spends time with his sextant; we can never be sure that the GPS position is accurate!?? I post our daily blog, position and chosen photo on Queen's Ransom's website. We eat two meals together the whole crew. The lunch is often a salad, or a soup; maybe smoked fish or Dutch pancakes. The assistant watch cooks and washes up afterwards. No dishwashing is left after a watch finishes. The lunch is also the "agony time"; a ships meeting when problems and irritations can be discussed (see blog December 11th).
The afternoon watch starting at three often involves more leisure time; reading, catching up on sleep, I have my to do list regarding things that need to be fixed or things I need to read up on to learn. Hans and I often have afternoon tea, as would be expected on a British registered vessel! Peter drinks neither coffee nor tea. We may make a call home on the satellite phone in the early evening. Queen's Ransom has two satellite phones; one fixed phone with the antenna in the mast on the Inmarsat satellite system and a portable one on Iridium. Being on two separate system should reduce the risk of not being able to contact the outside world or indeed not being contactable, Both are set up for data and email communication as well on the fixed PC and lap top respectively. The other long range communication mean supposedly global is the SSB radio; however I still need to get to grips with that one!
The evening watch starts at seven. The assistant watch goes through the evening check list, runs the generator again and checks that everything is fit for the hours of darkness. We may conservatively also alter sails for the night. We usually have a beer before dinner with some snack. The dinner is often two or maybe three courses. It is important that this is a highlight of the day. We share a bottle among three of Peter's carefully selected wines if conditions allow. So far, only our upwind stretch to the Cape Verdes prevented us from this. There are obviously different theories about alcohol onboard, but I see no reason why we can have some in moderation when conditions are good. After all, this is supposed to be a holiday! After dinner, we often listen to music and watch the stars together before the first night watch kicks in at ten.
The night is divided into 22-02 and 02-06 with only one person on watch. This is the time for solitude. I think we all three spend it differently. So I let my crew mates separately describe their nights. I perch myself at the navigation table and pop out in the cockpit every ten minutes or so. At the navigation station, I feel that I can monitor most things. I have got instruments telling me about the boat's progress, monitors and warning lights about any vital system onboard and the current weather conditions. I have got the computer constantly on so I can follow the boat's progress on the electronic chart and see any other shipping with AIS (Automatic Identification System; compulsory data feed sent from all vessels over 300 tonnes (as well as some others like Queen's Ransom III) about their identity, position, speed, heading, destination etc). I can monitor the radar. In coastal waters, bad weather or low visibility it would be constantly on; but here we don't see anything for days. I got all weather data and navigational warnings downloaded by email or, if closer to shore, sent by NAVTEX, to hand. The radios are on, but I haven't heard a soul on the VHF since Sunday; six days ago!
I spend the night keeping up with emails, writing the blog, download and considering weather data and sometimes reading or studying; meteorology, sail trimming, radio communication etc. Sometimes I leave my cosy spot by the navigation table and sit in the cockpit instead and looking our over the dark sea and skies; dreaming away from here to elsewhere in the universe and in time. However, I wish to be nowhere else than here and now; in the middle of the Atlantic.