My log for the next four days makes fascinating reading as I recall frustrating and contrasting, moments, some of them beautiful on account of there being very little wind. The 18th to the 22nd July were characterized by being calm, sunny days. That would have been fine if my yacht had been anchored at a desert island by a gorgeous, golden, sandy beach complete with coconut trees, but there in the middle of nowhere with no one to share my concerns, it was no joke. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, because I went into it knowing full well that I might be becalmed for days at a time. I had no inkling of what was to come.
Horta was 776 miles away; the Lizard was 443 miles astern, and La Corunna was 272 miles to the east. Over four days we had only sailed 146 miles, averaging 36.6 miles a day. At that rate we wouldn’t reach Horta until the passing of 21 days, assuming the ship’s progress was maintained. I believed we were entering ever deeper into the centre of the Azores high; therefore I anticipated there would be even less wind.
I examined the drinking water and calculated I had enough for 56 days, providing I didn’t consume more than I should. To keep cool and avoid being burnt to a frazzle I wore my pyjamas and kept in the shade whenever possible. At times I found myself drinking more than my allowance because I felt a ravenous need to replace perspiration that poured off me. Sometimes I took in all sail, because I couldn’t stand the incessant flipping and flopping of them resulting in wear and tear; at other times I would set the main and make it board tight to reduce rolling.
Portuguese Man of War
Early on the morning of Saturday, 19th July I had the most wonderful experience that words cannot adequately describe. The ocean was gently undulating. There was a peace so quiet that I could hear my heart beating. I could not discern where horizon met sky - the two where fused together. Overhead an azure heaven was dappled with fluffy white clouds that were reflected in a cobalt and indigo sea. Amazingly this aqueous prism sent rays of sunshine into dark chasms below where they were lost in the depths, but more astonishingly all around the yacht there were thousands of bright sparkling stars - tiny Portuguese men of war, each with an arched sail reflecting intermittent shafts of light reflected from the sun that dazzled my eyes.
Salvador Dali had nothing on this. His weird paintings were insignificant by comparison. I was in a world of wonders, a heaven of heavens. I had never seen such beauty. If I was close to God that day, I was indeed very close to the Creator of heaven and earth. Everything that I had seen before paled into insignificance. It was the ultimate earth experience, but so heavenly as to feel unreal.
On Sunday, 20th the yacht was sailing slowly when I climbed into the cockpit to scan the horizon and my heart lost more than a beat, because all around there were many large whales. One, the length of the yacht, lay beside her on the port side almost close enough to be touched. Another was swimming at right angles to pass forwards of the bow only yards away. I did not have time to unlock the self-steering gear before an inevitable collision, but to my astonishment and relief, the huge creature submerged so that ‘Aziz’ continued without contact. These enormous mammals are so knowing, and so gentle that they caused me no concern. I felt very privileged to have them as company for half-an-hour or so, but I was disappointed I could not photograph them because the camera’s battery was flat.
I tried yet again to make the engine work. There was a good ignition spark; fuel was in the carburettor, but it would not go. Early on the morning of Tuesday, 22nd July, I made the decision to head for the nearest port, which was La Corunna, northwest Spain.
Text for the Day
Psalm 147:1 ‘Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God: For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.’