27 November 2013

Just after dark last night I saw a starboard light up to windward of us a few miles away. There was nothing on the AIS and I wondered if it was a yacht. It didn’t have the extra navigation lights for a bigger ship. The just after 2100 the collision alarm on the AIS went off and I looked to see the boat nearer and showing a port light. As I was looking out I heard a call on the VHF. It was the yacht “Hot Stuff” with nine girls aboard from a company they called “Girls for Sail”. They were in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) and had left the Canaries and were headed for St. Lucia. The two girls I spoke to were Clair and Sue and they were hugely enthusiastic were really looking forward to the challenge of the sail across and the party at the other side. I asked if they were all for sale and Clair said, “Young man, you simply couldn’t afford us!” They have a blog and asked if they could put me on it. I said of course and asked if they minded going on our website as well. They were sailing faster than me and we wished each other Bon Voyage and they sailed off into the night. I hope St. Lucia is ready for them. If I achieve nothing else on this trip at least I will have made it onto the Hot Stuff blog!

We sailed along fine for the rest of the night but the wind slowly veered so that by 0730 we were sailing to windward in a SSE F4 and could barely hold our course. The sky was a March grey and apart from the warm spray coming over the rail we could have been in the North Sea. Alyson said there was a low to the NW of the Canaries so we must be getting the bottom end of it.

At 1400 there was a heavy but short lasting rain shower and the wind veered through more than 90 degrees so that it was coming out of the SW, almost the direction we want to be going in. I really wasn’t expecting to have to tack down through the NE Trades but that’s what we’re having to do here. The sudden shift in the wind of course made for a very jumbly sea (there is a SW going current here as well) and it was heavy going as we pitched and heaved our way into the SE. By 1500 it had freshened to a F6.

The Hydrographic Office publish what are called Routeing Charts. They show the predicted winds and currents for each month of the year for each ocean of the world. The wind in each part of the ocean is shown as a circle with arrows pointing into the center. The longer the arrow the more predominant the wind is from that direction. The shaft has different thickness’ to show the different wind strengths. All the arrow lengths together make up 100% of the wind to be expected in the area. For where we are now, SW of the Canaries, it shows the wind should blow from NNE to ENE almost all the time. A sw’ly can’t be ruled out entirely but it is so unlikely it doesn’t even figure as an arrow or even an arrowhead; only a dot inside the circle. You would need to be very unlucky to hit that dot. We’ve hit it or rather it has hit us.

This was to have been one of the most relaxing legs of the trip, rushing southwards with a warm NE Trade at our backs under blue skies with orderly lines of white cloud. I had a list of jobs to do, a spot of painting on deck, mend a couple of the masks on the pulpit netting that had worked loose. But not today. The headsails have been up and down, up and down reefs have been pulled in and shaken out till I’ve lost count.

The one bonus is that this email setup seems to be working again after a blip of a few days, which is really good. Thanks again for all your comments and good wishes. I was able to pick some up tonight from Alyson.

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