The 0200 – 0600 watch was a bit of treat really, flat calm and we are quietly motoring through the glassy ocean. The lightning had stayed away and the view out here is like nothing I have ever seen before. There is no Moon and the Atlantic Ocean is so still that the brightest of the stars are leaving their reflections on the sea like fairy lights. With the naked eye I can see the haze of a galaxy in the constellation of Cancer. I have never even seen this through a telescope before. It is just incredible.
At 0600 I am waiting for the horizon to come into view with the dawn. I’m ready with sextant, notebook and chronometer to take this morning’s star sights. Between the clouds and the quickly brightening day it was a bit of a race, I got Arcturus, Spica, Sirius, Alphard (which I’d managed to identify in the night in the constellation of Hydra), Betegeuse and Deneb both disappeared into the clouds before I could get them to the horizon and I wasn’t quick enough to catch Jupiter before she also vanished in the cloud. Back in my cabin by 0700 and a good fix plotted by 0730.
As it happened that would be the only fix I could get all day. When I woke up at around 1100 it was thick cloud and we were shifting under sail!! Yep, the breeze had finally materialised and for the first time on the whole trip I saw 20+ knots true wind. 2500 miles of ocean crossed and all of it in a force 3 or less – unbelievable.
The day looked like the Irish Sea (except the ocean was maybe a little bluer), it was cloudy, windy, rainy and looking kind of stormy, a huge contrast to yesterday. We have nice rolling swell, two reefs in the main and I feel very much at home, finally the sailing is good! Ok, so we’re not quite pointing at Antigua, our best (lowest) heading was around 225 – 230 true, but we are averaging around 7 knots, touching 8 or 9 on the occasional waves. A bit of south in our course is doing no harm, since we are at 19 degrees 30N and we need to get down to 16N for Antigua. To everyone’s relief we are finally over coming our likely fuel deficit and if we keep this up for another 15 hours (which seems unlikely) we will have some reserve in the tanks.
The other massive bonus of this cloudy rainy day is that it just isn’t the weather for Speedos. My shipmates are wearing clothes, aaah.
It wasn’t much of day to be out on deck with there being no sun around to keep me occupied in the routine I’ve become used to. It became a bit of a duvet day with a couple of good books.
The extent of today’s navigation effort has been to tot up the log and heading and plot a couple of DRs on the chart. I hope for a star fix in the morning. We are now probably 2 days off arriving in Antigua, so not the ideal time to be relying on dead reckoning alone. (Of course the rest of the crew are using GPS so they don’t share my tension). We are a boat of extremes really, The Mathematician has set the chartplotter and autopilot so that it could drive us to Antigua without any human input, while I am sitting with sextant and a whole library worth of books.
Tuna, pasta, pesto for tea and we have on the third attempt nailed cooking pasta a la microwave.
Midnight, we are looking at 225 miles to run and still trucking along at 6 – 8 knots. Over the course of my evening watch I have managed to get the track down to 240 true and now the miles are dropping more quickly.
“Something is wrong with the radar” someone said. I had a quick look at the all green screen and turned the gain down. A few more tweaks and now we’re tracking the low squally rain clouds moving around us too. If the clouds are low enough and holding enough moisture (look really dark) I can pick them up at a range of about 2 miles, so tonight we’ve been watching an episode of The Blob.
I’m hoping for a decent view of the sky at dawn as I will have been 24 hours on dead reckoning by then and we are getting closer to danger (land) all the time. I have the sunrise shift in the morning, there will only be hopefully two more sunrises left, but this depends on our average speed. Keep up 6 – 8 knots and that is a Thursday lunch time / afternoon arrival, go any slower and we’ll have to slow down even more and spend one more night at sea so that we arrive in the daylight.