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[ THE WIRE ] Skipper’s Report

18th January 2017
Time: 1820z
Position: 16°35.4N 030°25.3W
COG: 260°T
SOG: 7.5kts
Wind: ENE5
Swell: ENE 3-4ft
Sky: 6/8 cumulus
Weather: Good, occasional gusty patches as darker clouds go over.

What a 24 hours. The relatively slow start to our crossing in terms of daily excitement has been fast caught up. Joe was actually starting to think ocean sailing was boring.

Last night delivered some hard and fast spinnaker sailing, with us holding a fairly tight angle to the wind to try and keep as much west in our course as possible. This meant one very (very, very, very) powered up spinnaker, and an absolute sleigh ride of a helming experience. More than once did we consider taking it down, but the real drama is in the hoist or drop, so figured there was easily more risk in a powered up night drop as there was in just keeping it up and going along for the ride.

The result was a very fast night, very tired team, and speeds well into the teens, with both new boat and personal speed records set. A hard nights work, but well worth it for the distance covered and experience had. There’s nothing like roaring through a pitch-black ocean, the stars above you, at the wheel in control of 40 tonnes of boat doing over 13kts.

In addition to being a super exciting sailing day, it also turned into our most sociable one so far at sea. Just before dawn we spotted a light of another sailing yacht ahead. The on-watch duly powered the boat up to point high and investigate. My confusion as to why they were sailing so far north of the boat ahead was soon clarified by spinning up the radar – two sailing yachts! Double socialising for us.

Both were doing around 6.5kts, and with us doing twice that and a big spinnaker flying we must have made quite the sight. It was obviously enough that someone called on the VHF to ask if we’d seen them and would obviously take care not run them down. I replied to the affirmative, and a different voice replied to say thank you. The first voice immediately chimed back in again, obviously worried that while we would avoid one boat, we might run him over instead. Having an inadvertent three-way VHF conversation was getting very confusing, so I reassured all boats ahead of us that we would not be sinking them in our 13kt bulldozer of a boat.

Having ‘buzzed’ the first boat to have a curious peak at our first company for days, the second called back to say that our boat was amazing and he’d love it if we sailed over so he could take some pictures and say hello. We powered off to leeward and soon caught up with him, where a very excitable radio exchange was had while we sailed a couple of boat lengths away. He complemented how fast we were going, and we commended his choice of a vibrant red hull, on what looked like a very tidy and seriously sporty 40ft ocean yacht. He is also heading the Caribbean, before going to Tahiti. Sounds fun, and we said we hoped to catch up for a beer sometime before we both cleared out of the Panama Canal, and exchanged email addresses so we could exchange the reciprocal photos of each other.

On we ploughed, until the spinnaker fun came to a premature end, as these things normally do. On the lunchtime watch change it was noticed that the spinnaker pole guy had started to chafe badly, and was slowly wearing away to thin air. If we still had the spinnaker up when the thin air was reached things were going to get messy fast. The fun was over, and the spinnaker had to come down. After a slightly protracted session of Henry swinging off the end of the pole trying to release the shackle, it finally came down in a slick manoeuvre down the back of the main and into the depths of Disco. Yankee 1 up, and we were trucking (but not roaring) along under normal sail again.

Shortly after this we had our third social encounter, and did a little sail-by of a boat heading the same way. I spoke to them on the radio, and they were three French enroute to Martinique. Wanting to impress, we wheeled out Lea to the nav station, and she had a chat with them in the native tongue, which they weren’t expecting from a boat with an English skipper and a US ensign. More photos taken and email addresses exchanged, the progress continues.

The deck is finally clear of flying poles, sheets, guys, and the other clutter that comes with spinnakers, and the offending item itself has been tamed into its bag once again, ready for another adventure soon. Here’s hoping for a quiet night and some sleep.

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