Planet OceanUlric E5
12/18/2009, 130 nautical miles East of Barbados
Sunset in the Western Atlantic (Hans)
First ship within 2 miles of QRIII since she was at the Cape Verde Islands (Hans)
I have been sailing in this part of the world before; in my virtual sailing races on the internet. I enjoy them hugely. It is not so different from sailing your own IMOCA 60 foot racer on the computer screen at home than from sitting in the night by the navigation station at sea and look at the computer software and instruments that depict the real movement of Queen's Ransom; albeit the latter's progress is slower. It is actually quite educatutional to race on the internet, as it trains you in weather, routing tactics and the best wind angles and so of the boat. The true current weather and characteristics of a specific boat are applied. In cyberspace I race against my sailing racing heroines and heros (such as Sam Davies and Dee Caffari) as well as my children (with quite a bit of help from myself) and brothers. We have all been sufficiently engaged by this to set alarm clocks in the middle of the night in order to take important tactical decisions.
The French sailor Loick Peyron designed his own virtual race in the sailing play ground he enjoyed most, which quite interestingly were zick zacking the islands of the Eastern Atlantic; the Azore, Madeira, Canary and Cape Verde archipelagoes with a start in France (as always) and completion in Dakar. I was just thinking where my own choice of geographical arena would be. It is very difficult to compare and therefore choose between some of the really great cruising areas that we have enjoyed over the last few years; Scandinavia with the Norwegian glacier studded fjords and Swedish archipelagos are stunning, but so are the coasts of Brittany and Ireland as well; not to talk about the Galician Rias or the Atlantic Island groups we enjoyed on this trip. Scenary and onshore attractiveness is one part, but it has also to do with stable winds to provide downwind conditions, and agreeable climate.
We have now finally picked up some speed, doing 6-7 knots again (7.4 goucha!) in an Easterly Force 5, after some very slow days. We had to gybe quite a few times the last days, as the wind swings between ENE and ESE. It is quite an elaborate task to gybe with poled out genoa, as well as stay sail set with a running backstay and a preventer on the main sail. I was seriously wondering last night, while lying in my bunk and studying my bunk side instruments (usually set to: speed over ground, course over ground and true wind speed), if we caught a fishing net with our keel or rudder; so slow was our progress. It is stifling hot, even the water temperature is only one tenth of a degree below 27 degrees at 26.9. Nights are certainly more enjoyable than daytime. I made a bed with some cushions and a safety line on the aft deck earlier tonight to escape the heat of my cabin. It was very nice to lie there and look at the stars and listening to the water sloshing by. However, I think both the beauty was both a bit too distracting to make me fall asleep, as well as the noise from the slamming of the boom that kept me awake.
We have had some achievements recently. The main satellite phone is now working again, the generator has generated all the electricity we needed since the Cape Verdes (although not reliably, but we have not have to fall back on the main engine) and the autopilot has not played up for the last 48 hours or so. Touch wood! We have at least tried sailing with the spinnaker. However, it is not been beautifully filled by the wind and have had a tendency to roll between starboard and port. I therefore severly lack confidence and is very stressed out when it is hoisted; to the extent I didn't have appetite to touch Hans excellent (so I have heard) lunch yesterday. I was both worried about a fatal (for the sail) wrap around the forestay or that we would be forced to finish this for us epic sailing trip motor sailing to Barbados (to get there on time) because all the wrapped spinnaker made the use of the genoa impossible. Peter concluded that it is not my favourite sail. He is quite right; that is the gennaker, but nevertheless we concluded it has the attraction of a beautiful, fast and wild animal; or woman for that matter. I emailed my very capable sail maker Matt Atkins of Kemp Sails yesterday some questions about trimming and hoisting the spinnaker; having read up quite a few sail trimming and manuals without completely having found the answers.
I should now give up on the computer screen and go out in the cockpit and enjoy for another night (it is not virtual sailing after all): the sea, the sky, the refreshing wind, the new moon, the phosphoresence (or "seafire" as my mother tells me it can be called in English) of the bow wave (although this is stronger in the early Autumn on the Swedish West coast where I enjoyed it before). We will all too soon be ashore; or using Crispin's words: "leaving Planet Ocean for Planet Earth".