Good morning my lovely sofa sailors, I am back at the keyboard as we rock and roll ourselves along to the finish line at the Lizard. The last 48 hours have been a mixed bag of sailing conditions and along with that emotions. Let me take you back to the morning of 8th July.
A sunny blue sky morning with a rock and roll in the waves. Everyone was well rested. The 8th is a memorial date for me as 4 years ago I said good bye to Mum at her funeral. This year I marked this date by scattering some of her ashes into the Atlantic. Mum loved adventures, travelling and doing something new. Whilst she wasn't a sailor herself she was a great supporter of my sailing and I knew she would appreciate being here with us. She has been our guardian angel of that I am sure.
As the day progressed as did the weather and the wind. It built up and we were barrelling along with the A3 up well into the night. This came down abruptly and up went the A7. This is a smaller kite which has the habit of slapping and snapping and she runs in a fine groove. Matt's chat to the kite is too expletive to write.
As the 9th dawned as did the sunshine, an air of calmness and sleep. Sleep is like gold dust to some who find it hard to nap in the continuous knocking and slamming of the sea on the boat. Others (Carlo and Ross) are out for the count in all conditions!!
Yesterday we saw whales, the tip of a shark fin - verified by Matt, Kirsty and Lisa, a little turtle and the newest night time addition of torpedo dolphins. The dolphins are lit up by the phosphorescent and you can follow their line through the water. They play with the bow of the boat and come storming in on either side, bounce of the bow, sharp U turn and start again. Its pretty spectacular to see. The bow wave looks like a white moustache with glowing lumps of green and when the drivers get a surf on the waves off the side of the boat is mesmerising, white, green and bright.
A couple of us now have new roles on the boat. Alex has become IT support as the computer insists on downloading additional files and eating precious data. Secondly the Inmarsat system didn't want to work yesterday. This system gives us our weather. Alex and Pedro worked out a fix using an array of Pedros gadgets and iridium phone.
My new role is masseuse. The drivers are getting achy and their bodies are sore. Deep heat and ibuprofen isn't cutting it anymore. The newest treatment is olive oil, lavender oil and my elbows. The massage table is the floor of living area. So far so good. Only three days left and we need these boys functioning and on fire.
Another moment of happiness was when Lisa discovered another four bags of muesli. Breakfastgate has been diverted. Food is still a favourite topic and we are now discussing what we want to eat when we get back to Cowes. The food varies from half a raw cow, to broccoli, to cold sparkling water and a double espresso. The fact remains we are looking forward to fresh food and cold drinks.
The beard growing competition is going well.
Steph - Simon has been voted, by Lisa and myself, as having the most distinguished beard. Its looks great.
Alex's beard is slowly filling in its gaps, Arians is bright red, Matt looks like a grizzly bear, Carlo's is salt and pepper and we are a little unsure what is happening with Pedros. Mr M shaves every other day which I am most impressed by.
A few shout outs: Jude - Lisa has seen a whale, a shark and a glow in the dark dolphin Polly - no mermaids, will a glow in the dark dolphin do? Nomes - Lisa actually declared she didn't like her starbucks cold coffee and has given the final one away!! Please bring cadburys dairy milk chocolate. Christian and Joshua Lopes - 'I am racing hard to Cowes and I am racing fast to get home to you both, Love Dad' Lara - when looking at holidays please choose one that has water up to Alex's knees, is somewhere warm and cold beer is available along with a bed that doesn't move.
ETA to the finish is early Monday morning, ETA to Cowes late Monday night, early Tuesday morning. We just have some rocky rolly waves and windy weather to ride out today - oh joy!!
Love and hugs to you all
Kirsty and Team SO
If the definition of wilderness is a place lacking the obvious touch of mankind then the North Atlantic surely qualifies. We have been out now for more than a week and other than the first few hours of the race, we have seen twoor three freighters in the distance and, this
morning, another competitor as they crossed in front. That’s it. Mercifully, we have seen almost not trash. So while we are alone, that doesn’t mean there is nothing to see. Far from it.
For commercial shipping this wilderness is a really just a highway. A few see it from the deck of a cruise ship. Most from an airplane window at 40,000 feet. Sailing across gives you an entirely different perspective. We get to see it up close and personal. And it’s beautiful. The skies during the day sometimes blue and sometimes boiling with rain squalls, all reflected in the heaving swell. The seas themselves form their own unique topography which is fascinating to watch as the crest and change shape around the boat. At night the stars (when we can see them) form the perfect dome across which we can easily see satellites as they blink their tracks across the sky.
While we haven’t seen too much of our two legged brethren, there has been plenty of wildlife. You don’t see it all the time like in the zoo. But it’s here and a nearly constant presence. We see a lot of two kinds of birds. The first are maybe Petrels(?) and they soar among the waves literally without a wing beat as they use the wind and the air currents flowing over the waves to create effortless flight. Very fun to watch. The second are small black birds who flit endlessly in pairs up and down the troughs of the waves. How many calories they must burn staying continuously aloft is mindboggling to consider.
Of course everyone’s favorites are the dolphins. We see the white sided variety multiple times a day. Sometimes they come charging up to the boat to pay a visit and show off jumping in and out of our wake. At night they look like torpedoes as the bio luminescence glows in their wake. Other times they simply pay us no mind as they cross us heading who knows where. When we were battling big seas the other day, we saw them leaping out of the sides of literally 40 foot waves. Amazing. We have seen multiple turtles including yesterday when we saw a huge leatherback. Indeed, sadly, I think we hit one yesterday with the rudder. He took a chunk out of the leading edge. Hopefully all he got was a nasty shock. Yesterday we also saw our first whale, a sperm whale that surfaced right next to the boat.
The wildlife isn’t only in the sea or in the air. We actually have some right here on the boat. Most is the microscopic variety which is inhabiting our clothes and our bunks. By anyone’s definition, too gross to describe here in this family friendly post. We do, however, have a larger species on board. The seldom seen Greater North Atlantic Raccoon. Entirely nocturnal, he is nearly impossible to spot but you know he is around. Occasionally you can catch him nosing through last night’s cold freeze dried dinner or worse yet the congealed remains of the “breakfast skillet”. He leaves candy wrappers in his wake and we have tracked them to the carbon cave at the back of the boat. If you shine a light back there all you see are the whites of his eyes and the gleam of his teeth.
Let me finish today on a different note. In the very trying circumstances of the day we tangled with Larry’s bear, I saw some outstanding seamanship on the part of this crew as they handled this hooligan of a race boat in very big winds and even bigger waves. Tery in particular stands out as being cool under pressure and steering us away from the center of the low during the first hour. The guys on the foredeck wrestling reefs in and hauling down insanely flapping sails. I know that I felt an absolute enormous responsibility for the safety of the crew and the boat when I was at the wheel as we thundered down huge waves. Tim Keyworth and Henry Little did an outstanding job in the dead of night in zero visibility driving through 40 knot winds and spray while navigating the mogul fields on the front of the waves. Often at 25 knots of boat speed in the pitch black. We didn’t wreck once. The experience only solidified my confidence in this boat, but more importantly, the whole crew.
We meant to blog about some our repairs early...unfortunately there have been some additional items needing repair. Our heroic skipper is convinced that making repairs keeps us out of trouble..... so if we complete everything, we will have to holly stone the deck - better to make repairs.
Boats are complex machines - the many moving parts that must flawlessly interact with each other in a harsh and stressed environment is either an engineers' dream (if drawing it) or nightmare (if depending on it). Parts are likely to fail and sometimes thise failures lead to a cascade of failures as interdependent systems collapse. Bad as that is for coastal cruising, offshore sailing does not accomodate a West Marine at the nearest exit. Offshore sailors must make due.
At the moment Scarlet is being helped along by an 0.5 knot per hour of the North Atlantic current. The currents in the North Atlantic move around in a large clockwise wheel. Starting at 12 o'clock is the North Atlantic current, at 3 o'clock the Portugal Current, next the Canaries current and at 6 o'clock the North Equatorial current.
Well since you ask, No, I have not read the book nor seen the film but one of the crew appears to have done and the first thing that came into his one track mind was ropes. Seeing we have rather a lot of the stuff on board of many varying colours, thickness's and uses the topic of our next (B)log (B-movie?)has begun to form in our minds.
It's not often you get to do something this special. The past few days have provided us with some challenging sailing, interesting debates and great laughs.
The winds have finally calmed down enough for us to open up the hatches, hoist all the sails and start the "downwind roll" (those that have sailed Dorade will know what I am talking about). Prior to departing, the previous masters in the Dorade program all said she would "roll" and how right they were! Dorade has a habit of rolling from pole end in the water to boom in the water. I guess we can't complain though, as our current conditions are ideal for this.
Shaun has just given us the latest weather briefing and downloaded all the relevant programs. He's been doing a superb job. Ben did a mast check this morning and all is good. He is someone that I have come to respect a great deal; his knowledge of the boat and his seamanship are things that can be matched by very few.
Zach is fast asleep. He had an epic driving stint last night. I went up on deck to take over for him and it was completely dark out with no moon, making the water and horizon blend into one. The phosphorescence was the only light, streaming off the stern of the boat.
Dolphins were diving around the bow and playing along side. They were like lighting flashes under the surface of the water, with the phosphorescence trail giving their position away. The occasional chirp would let us know that a bird was flying across the bow. It was truly a lovely evening sail, I had to pinch myself to believe that the setting was real. I took over for Zach and was happy to let Terry and Dave sleep in, as I was enjoying the tranquil setting.
As I type this note, the sun is out and the wind is blowing between 16 and 18 knots. Terry and Dave are on deck sharing sailing stories (Dave listening to the ever-positive wise old man, smiling).
Matt has given his thumbs of approval and words of encouragement. We have 900 or so miles to go with a few more weather challenges. We need to stay in our current placing, and make the most of these ideal conditions.
In a few days, we will be in the UK and this amazing trip will come to an end. We all feel privileged to be part of this project. Thanks to Matt and Pam Brooks for making this happen. May the legend of Dorade live on!!!!!
Now it's time for me to get some sleep.
On watch last night, we watched phosphorous stream astern agitated by our passing as dolphins laughed.
A general rigging inspection this morning revealed a critical failure - the cotter pins holding the boom pin at the gooseneck failed and the boom separated from the mast. Underway repairs included fashioning new washers from the top of a raison tin.
Just a quick note before heading to bed. We had a relatively uneventful day. That was exactly what we needed after Wednesday’s excitement. We spent most of the day sailing towards the Lizard at 12-15 knots boat speed in 20-25 knot winds at 235-250 true wind direction.
We had the Jib Top, Genoa Staysail and full Main up at a 140-150 true wind angle. At about 1800Z the wind dropped below 20 knots and we began to talk about how to add more horsepower. It would have been and ideal time for the A5 we blew up 2 days ago.
We decided to give our fractional code zero (FRO) a try. Scotty and Henry had repaired the sail which had parted from its furler on July 1. We thought it would be good to test the repair and see if the FRO would give the sail plan more grunt in these conditions. That plan worked beautifully. The repair held and we picked up a couple of knots of speed with greater stability through the water.
We decided to leave that combination up overnight. We could roll up the FRO easier than a spinnaker if we needed to in squalls, which we were still running into. We have grown to like being a bit more conservative at night given some of the craziness we have experienced when we tried to be too aggressive.
That plan changed quickly though as the wind continued to drop to the mid teens with the forecast calling for the wind to continue to fall in to a range of 9-12 knots. Concluding that we couldn’t get in to too much trouble in those conditions and needing more power we took down the FRO and put up the A2. The A2 is our biggest down wind sail and our routing solutions are calling for it a lot over the final stages of the race. Quinn calls the A2 the Super Model, as it is tall, beautiful and bound to crush you when things go wrong.
We have spent all day on starboard tack on the inside of most of our competition. For tactical and routing reasons, there is light wind straight ahead of us and stronger wind to the north, we have been looking for an opportunity to gybe on to port. We got our chance after dinner when Snow Lion crossed behind us and the wind shifted. We gybed and headed to the north, protecting ourselves against Snow Lion and Maximizer to our left and heading towards the stronger wind. We took the A2 down a short while ago while we dodged a squall. In retrospect we probably could have left it up but can’t afford blowing up another spinnaker with two others already done for this race.
After gaining ground steadily on Snow Lion and Maximizer for most of the day we have given a little back of late. We are currently in 3d place in our class, down from 7th and 7th in our fleet, having gotten as high as 5th. We are hard at work trying to turn things around.
A couple of critter sightings during the day. A leather back turtle and sperm whale crossed our path. Last night we struck some sea creature with our rudder. We inspected the rudder through the inspection port this morning. It is OK, but missing some paint. We hope the sea creature, Quinn thinks it was a shark sleeping near the surface in current to keep water flowing over its gills, Paul thinks it was a turtle, is OK too.
It is getting colder as we reach the North Atlantic, the air temperature is 58 degrees and the water temperature is 62 degrees. We have 989 miles to go to the Lizard. We should enjoy better weather and new adventures tomorrow
Its been pretty hard work the last few days, a high pressure system blocked our path to the ice gate. We've worked hard to keep the boat going, often ghosting along at 2 knots, searching for the extra 10th of a knot to keep ahead of the rest, its much harder driving a boat like this at low speeds rather than high, so we have been changing the helm more frequently and trying to keep each other going.
From The Deck Of Prospector 09 July 0000z
Just a quick note before heading to bed. We had a relatively uneventful
day. That was exactly what we needed after Wednesday’s excitement.
We spent most of the day sailing towards the Lizard at 12-15 knots boat
speed in 20-25 knot