Odyssey Log

Atlantic Odyssey 2: Penny Lane in the Atlantic (Day 6)

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It is now day 6 of Penny Lane’s Atlantic crossing, and we’re only just now beginning to turn her head to the west and the Caribbean. In the early days we were heading south / and south-west on a route determined mainly by wind and swell. You could go further west but the swell would catch the boat more on the beam making things rolly for the occupants. So the easy option was to head south, towards the warm, and wait for the weather to swing naturally westwards in the trades once we cleared the tropic of Cancer.

That landmark is now well past, and today’s noon fix put as 21°01’ North, 28°28’ West. The winds have freshened a little today and we’ve seen 30 knots in gusts, but as the wind is behind us and we are moving forward at 6 or 7 knots, there is obviously a little more than that.

Anna having got over her initial flu bug has got back into normal boat mode, which means that she made savoury muffins for lunch today which were well received. From day to day our diet is controlled mainly by which of the fresh produce is going off next. For example today is banana day, tomorrow Avocado day by the looks of it. To Anna’s Chagrin the expected life-span of our fresh produce is much short of what the lady at the market promised “That will be good for three weeks!”, and our precious green stuff started going off rapidly from day 1.
Also welcomed was the crew deciding to have a good wash and clean up, and clean the heads. My job was to tidy up some ropes that had started to fray, including a halyard splice which was opening up a little and needed to be seized up a bit tighter. The reason we had the halyard eye at deck level is because we took the twin-headsail rig down. This is an ideal rig for trade-wind sailing, with both genoas hoisted up the forestay at the front of the boat, and held firmly out with a spinnaker pole on each side. This puts all the pull at the front of the boat which is inherently stable, and removes the one-sided and heavy boom completely from the equation, so you have great flexibility of downwind course, without the need of regular “gybes” that the mainsail imposes. The trouble was that with the wind growing they gave too much power and had to come in. The additional load of two large genoas on the furling gear was making it jam, so I had to make a couple of trips up the mast to get everything cleared and the sails down.

So now that the wind has strengthened I’m happy with both headsails on the deck, and the boat being propelled by the less balanced, but more manageable rig with a reefed mainsail and the staysail (a smaller version of the large genoa up at the bow).

Additional news is that the young bloods Adam and Oscar have taken control of the tunes, so instead of my diet of Dylan and the Stones, or Anna’s Bowie, Bowie or Bowie, we are now being treated the “The Darkness”, and every “Now!” album ever made. Sam is still immersed in his book, Anna in a trashy novel (having completed muffin duties for the day), but the big news was that we nearly caught a fish. I say nearly because it was on the line at the back of the boat, having liked the look of our little yellow squid. Adam and Oscar were hauling it in hand over hand, I was ready with the gaff on the sugar scoop, and Sam was downstairs muttering incantations for the life of the fish would be spared. It was a dorado most likely, you could see the bright silver blue colours and the spectacular blue Mohican. Only 20 meters to go. And then it was off, and the boys were pulling a small yellow rubber squid along behind the boat again, with Sam cheering down below. The lure is out again and hope springs eternal.

We haven’t seen another vessel since the first night of the trip, though we’ve had enough communications to know that they are all around us. Calypso is somewhere near to the south, Sattwa is a way up ahead, but most of the fleet seems to be strung roughly along the 21sat parallel at the moment, each some 60 to 100 miles apart. Neptune II with whom we departed La Palma on the 10th took a slight diversion towards the Cape Verdes with a relief stop in mind, but then resumed a more westerly course so we’re no longer in close company with them.
As we get further south and away from Africa, the skies are clearing and the sun coming out, which means that today we made enough solar to both charge the batteries and make water without running the engine, which was always the intention in sunnier climes.

And finally I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the poem which goes something like:
“Give me the lonely sea and the sky,
and a tall ship to sail them by”

(Or similar, could someone please send me the correct words please?)

Anyway that is all out of date now. We may not have seen another vessel since Sunday night, but there’s nothing lonely out here anymore. Thanks to our Iridium Phone, Facebook, the Cornell Sailing web site, everyone can see where we are and apparently they have an opinion on it. When for some reason the web site (unfortunately erroneously) reports our average speed being 10.1 knots we are greeted with a flood of messages from family members urging to cease our reckless pursuit of the rest of the fleet, slow down, reduce risk, save our precious lives. In between we hear from my brother, informing us about the particular 1000-meter-deep sea mount over which we are soon to be sailing, and we’ve managed Facebook updates, although to tell the truth we think we have, because we can’t actually see them. Then when our speed is reported (similarly erroneously) as being 4.8 knots we receive a flood of congratulations on our careful and considered approach to sailing. The truth is more prosaic, in fact we’ve been sailing along at 6-7 knots most of the time, apart from when it briefly went light on the first night and after an hour of splashing along at 2 knots we motored for a bit, and also apart from a period of good tail winds where we were making about 8 knots. That’s about it for Penny Lane, a family cruising displacement yacht, full of food, toys and other gear and sailed carefully, that’s about how fast we go.
10 knots would be nice though.

It looks like if we want to find the lonely sea and the sky we’ll have to go a little further afield than the North Atlantic. Or throw the sat phone overboard.

Penny Lane clear,
happy sailing.

NOTE from Pascal Guiraudou, Cornell Sailing:

Positions sent by the satellite phone of Penny Lane are erroneous, and we are trying to solve this problem. In the meantime, they will use the tracker that we have provided to report their position. Their emails confirm that everything is OK on board and the last position displayed is correct.

French Les positions envoyées par le téléphone satellite de Penny Lane sont erronées et nous cherchons à résoudre ce problème. En attendant, ils vont utiliser la balise de localisation que nous leur avons fournie pour reporter leur position. Leurs messages confirment que tout va bien à bord et la dernière position affichée est correcte.

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