Atlantic Crossing – Day 5

Blogger: Mariel
Time: Various, 15-Feb-2020
Location: Further south in the sea between the Canaries and Cape Verdes Total to Date: 534 nm
24 Hour Run: 140 nm (best so far!)

Friday 14th, 23.44, night watch
We are steaming along at 6.3-6.8 knots, with an average of 10 knots of wind on the port beam, bearing 190 degrees – just west of south. The moon is yet to rise, and way up above are Orion and his friends. Along the horizon I can see no stars, hidden in a dusty haze. Whereas previous nights have felt damp with dew, tonight the wind is dry and dusty, carrying with it the Sahara and a fine orange coating of dust which will only be visible come morning. You can smell it in the air – my nose has blocked up as if on an airplane with recycled air. We are heading due south as fast as we can, to avoid an area of high pressure coming in from the north which would leave us only 0-10 knots of wind according to Jack, who is sending us daily forecasts. We need to be south of 15 degrees by the 22nd Feb – around 100 miles south per day, if we can.
The wind has moved around 20 degrees or so since I’ve been on watch (45 minutes) – we were heading south (or just west of south – 180ish degrees), and now above 200 degrees.
There is some phosphorescence, but nothing like last night’s blooms which showed the breaking waves in the distance.

Saturday 15th, 07.15 (first watch of the day)
The start of my next watch. This is supposedly the first of the 3 hour day watches (7-10am), but it feels very much like the start of another night watch. It is still dark. The half moon is glowing almost directly above. Right now, I can barely discern a difference in the colour of the sky on the east and west horizons.
We have travelled to nearly 23 degrees W, but are still on GMT – time to change the clock. Perhaps today will be the day?
Conditions still much the same as my midnight watch – average 10-12 knots of wind on the port beam, moving 6 knots, heading SSW – average 200-220 degrees.
JnG put a reef in the mainsail at 4am when the wind reached 17+ knots and we were speeding along at 8 knots. I woke up as Gill called John to help her put in the reef, and came up on deck to sit in the cockpit in case they needed anything or something went wrong when they were both at the mast. I woke up again around 5.30am, when JD thought that Irish John had called, but had actually been woken up the sound of dolphins playing and calling just off the port beam. I could hear their squeaks and clicks from my berth, but thought by the time I had put on any clothes they’d likely be gone. JD said he thought there might have been a whale nearby during his nightwatch, as there was a strong smell of fish. I’m keeping my nose open for this tell-tale sign, as I am yet to see one (despite spending 10 days cycling around Shetland in search of orcas with two friends a few years ago. They were there, but each time we had pedalled as fast as we could to where they had been sighted, we had missed them).
By now it is 7.25am, and there is a definite lightness to the sky in the east. Almost time to switch from night rations (a row of dairy milk chocolate smuggled on board this otherwise sugar free boat by Irish John – THANK YOU!), to breakfast (an orange, and a very ripe avocado from the ‘eat today net’ above my bed, on crackers.
We have done 50 nm since my last watch, and our lat and long are converging. I estimate that we will have passed equal lat and long by night fall (maybe 22 40′?)
Almost in the tropics! Gill says that when we reach the Tropic of Cancer (23N), she will make us a tropical punch to celebrate – the last two sweet and fragrant passion fruit from La Palma are out of bounds until then.

The sea has gradually gained definition, from murky black, to greys, and now crisp with a hint of blue. The horizon is once more a sharp line, this morning unobscured by large waves, or by the dusty haze of last night that blurred sea and sky and made spotting potentially oncoming ships feel almost impossible.
The pale sun has just appeared above the haze, one finger above the horizon. The air smells once more of the sea, rather than the dust of the Sahara. I’ve been sat behind the helm, looking out over the ocean, feeling utterly content.

A giant pod of dolphins! Maybe 60 or more! I saw them leaping towards us from the south and called Gill up to look at them with me. A couple of them leapt right up into the air before they all splashed simultaneously and turned around away from us – perhaps they were fishing? What a treat.

09.53 – 489nm
Almost the end of my watch. The wind and sea have risen – we now have 15 knots of wind on the port beam and are averaging 7 knots through the water, with growing waves pushing us sideways and occasionally throwing spray into the cockpit. JD is about to relieve me and I’ll head below for another hour of sleep before our tropics party – now only 3.5 nm away.

13.07 (the first one)
I was woken from my nap only 10 minutes in with a countdown to the Tropic of Cancer – hurrah! We celebrated with fruit punch squeezed, chopped and pulped by Gill, and then I retreated back to bed. I must have been more tired than I thought, because I wasn’t woken again ’til 12.30, by a crash as the book shelf collapsed onto what is usually Gill’s bunk, and a call to put in a reef in the yankee as the wind reached 20 knots.

13.13 (the second one)
Yes, that’s right folks, we have turned the clocks back and had an extended lunch party to celebrate entering the tropics, changing timezone, and our imminent arrival at equal lat and long. We all put on our best tropical gear (the John’s in Hawaiian shirts, Gill in her dress from Martinique, and me in the tshirt I made from material I bought in Mozambique 10 years ago). Gill prepared canapes (bitesize wraps filled with all sorts of goodies), and after we had eaten, JD got out his bluetooth speaker and now we are riding 3m waves to Dire Straits, feeling as though we are in anything but. Now he has selected one of his sailing-to-a-desert-island discs – Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which makes Gill want to throw herself overboard, but John loves because he actually knows the words…!
The waves are starting to shrink again. We have had a very atmospheric ride with music blaring out over this epic seascape otherwise devoid of human life, with bright blue waves rising up behind us and carrying us ever further southwest. As the peaks rise up, the sun shines through like stained glass.

We have passed equal lat and long! 22 38.016N/W. Quite enough excitement for one day.

Wildlife notes – lots of sea birds today, and of different kinds. Jenny, can you let us know how to distinguish between shearwaters and petrels please? I saw one as dawn broke that looked like bat fluttering and dipping over the water – think this might mean petrel. There was also one later than appeared white, definitely on the underside.

Spirits very high and mild madness starting to set in – plenty of laughter.

Use with SHOW JOURNEY to track our progress.

One thought on “Atlantic Crossing – Day 5

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