Friday, January 06, 2012

Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 6

Noon, 1st June forecast

Bill was keeping an eye on the track of the barograph. Air pressure continued to fall. By 0130 on Monday, 1st June the wind was a good Force 7, and ‘Ishani’ was hove to on the port tack with the storm jib aback and the trysail set. She was surprisingly steady, which was just as well because we had porridge and tea for breakfast. The porridge was made with water and tinned milk, which was a devil to remove from the bowls and saucepan when it came to cleaning them in cold seawater.

After breakfast there was little we could do, except occasionally scan the horizon for shipping or other hazards. The chance of colliding with a waterlogged container or similar object was negligible; likewise becoming snarled in a discarded net was most unlikely, but I have seen abandoned crab pots and their lines that far offshore. Fishing vessels were the most likely hazards. Drifters or tunny boats fish in all weathers.

Our daily average of nautical miles sailed since leaving the Scillies worked out at 69.2. We had hoped to average at least 90 miles a day all the way to the Azores. We had another 450 miles to go, and at that rate we would take ten more days.

The near gale force wind from the southwest continued throughout the day, accompanied by fine drizzle in the morning and heavy rain in the afternoon. Mostly we lay on our bunks, ensconced in our sleeping bags. I passed the hours away by reading when I was not snoozing. Down below it was surprisingly quiet. It wasn’t until you poked your head above the hatch that you fully became aware of the shrieking wind and crashing waves. There you felt the full force of the wind on your cheeks and if you were foolish enough to wear your glasses, they would soon be caked with salt from sea spray.

Morning brought a warm front, followed in the afternoon by a cold one. Heavy rain reduced visibility to less than a mile. All of this was consistent with a fall in barometric pressure to 1,012 millibars, as recorded at midday. The wind gradually decreased in strength, and by midnight we were able to make sail again. We set the storm jib and a reefed mainsail, but the wind was from ahead, making for a lively ride. A redeeming factor was that ‘Ishani’ sailed herself with the helm lashed. We could remain below, except for the man on watch who occasionally poked his head out of the hatch to scan the horizon and check that all was well with the boat.

Tuesday, 2nd June brought hope, because we had nearly reached the halfway point between the Bishop Rock and Horta. That was confirmed by a fortuitous noon sight grabbed through an opening between the clouds. That placed us at 45 degrees, 8 minutes north and 14 degrees 49.7 degrees west, with only another 116 miles to go for a celebratory tittle - orange juice would suffice.

We pressed on, and at times the boat heeled to the extent that the trailing log mounted at the taffrail was completely submerged, but despite frequent immersions it faithfully registered miles travelled. We were pleased, because we had regained the ground we had lost while hove to. Our spirits were lifted when more breaks appeared in the cloud to the northwest and they spread in our direction. The white crests of the Atlantic rollers dramatically contrasted with a backdrop of heavy dark clouds. Wind strength fluctuated which made the steering tricky. The yacht had to be steered up and over the crests, so as not to have them smashing across the decks. A breaking wave has a lot of power that can cause serious damage. One day I was running up the English Channel during a gale aboard my Hillyard 2.5 ton yacht. A curler hit the pushpit with such force that the galvanised iron frame was bent as if it had been made of liquorice. I escaped injury because the wave threw me into the cockpit where I sat in water up to my waist.

If you experience the majesty of gale-tossed waves rolling upon the ocean’s swell, you cannot be unmoved by the grandeur of it all. The sailing was magnificent. In Bill’s words, “’Ishani’ bludgeoned her way to windward; plumes of white spray were thrown over her as she thrashed through the waves at a good speed of 3.5 knots.”

It was 1310 when we sighted a yacht on the horizon. We gave her a call on the VHF, and for ten minutes we exchanged details. She was an Australian yacht by the name of ‘Swaggie’. She was on passage from the Azores to Falmouth. We learned later that when she arrived at Falmouth her owner kindly contacted Bill’s wife to giver her news of our chance meeting.

Text for the Day

Hebrews 13:2 ‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.’

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