13 December ..it happens!

Yes, I have already sanitised this blog! Thursday 12th was an interesting day with a number of highs and lows; I’ll start with the highs. One of the reasons Tuesday’s blog was late was that the conditions called for 100% watchfulness. The swell is about 3 metres and it can pick the boat up and hurl you forward (good), down into a trough (not so good) or just allow you to surf. The GPS had occasionally been reading 10 knots when suddenly it peaked at 12.4. Should I scream as on a fairground ride? I don’t like fairground rides. Should I shout an exultant ‘wahoooo’ as I am sure racers would? What I did was mutter a short prayer that our speed would moderate, and soon! We had a fantastic day’s run of 182 miles in the right direction. During the afternoon the wind moderated, our speed dropped and the swell increased. Now for the bad bit. I mentioned that the swell can hurl you down into a trough, the autopilot loses the plot momentarily and the headsail backs. On the majority of occasions normal order is quickly restored. At 2250 local time John came below to make me a drink and wake me up for my watch. Fortunately I was already half awake, the boat lurched violently then there was an unusual noise. I leapt out of bed saying ‘something’s wrong.’ John rushed up on deck, muttering an expletive and announced we had gybed (mainsail goes from one side of the boat to the other with wind behind the boat, deliberately and under control is good, accidently can be dangerous and a really serious one can damage the mast and rigging.). Involuntary gybes are bad news, they can put an enormous shock load on the rig. Our gybe happened in three stages, so relatively gently= no significant damage. First the block which the preventer line goes through right at the bow exploded, or at least its shackle did. The boom started swinging over but was checked by one of the fixing tapes of the bimini, the screw fixing a plastic saddle pulled out. Finally the force on the mainsheet traveller, a clever, expensive bit of kit even second hand, caused a rope seizing to fail and the traveller rushed across to the other side of the cockpit. We stabilised the boom, effected a quick repair to the traveller, installed the other preventer and altered course to ensure the wind stayed over the port quarter. An hour late john finally got off watch. There were two three downsides to this event. The genoa was blanketed by the mainsail and contributed nothing to our speed, the confused seas were now partially on the beam so sleeping was exceedingly difficult and we were steering a safe course, not quite on track. Things happen, you have to deal with them as best you can. In the dark, with only two crew, we opt for safety over speed. We usually wait for daylight to effect any rig changes once we have made the boat safe. Yesterday I mentioned the SSB radio net. We collect the positions of the other boats which I do a ‘Blue Peter’ job with. Basically I am constructing a map of the Atlantic showing the courses of the 25 boats who usually call in. The LIDL squared pads make suitable latitude and longitude grids. You, the reader, have the benefit of the fleet viewer, we cannot get that but we do get a daily list of positions. I am not going to plot all of them, there isn’t enough time in the day or space on my grids, but it is interesting to see our position within the radio group. We are in class 1I, the slowest cruising group, but we are certainly outperforming expectations! Dinner was pork tenderloin steaks with potatoes and ratatouille. Joyce ………… Sometime during my 0200 to 0500 watch I got a wet slap on the back of my neck! No ghosts, just a 10” (250mm) flying fish escaping from a predator gave me a (Gibb) slap and bounced into the cockpit! They really can fly a long way and are fascinating to watch above the surface of the sea. They are really gliding after a high speed underwater dash and often curve back to make a U, fully under control. John

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