Tenerife to Brazil – Day 12

Reading: An Unsung Hero (Michael Smith)
Weather: Very variable with some SE occasionally, but sometimes very light. Sun was out a lot so temperature was again about 35oC.
Thought for the day: Doldrums, schmoldrums – I was tempting fate!
Evening meal: Pumpkin pasta with salad
Course: 195oC most of the time
Distance covered: At 1200 we had done 1,621 miles
Wildlife headcount: Pretty much a wildlife-free zone today, just a few flying fish skimming around (and missing occasionally) …..

Rock and roll was a great era. On a boat in the doldrums though, it is not such a good look. The rock and roll comes from the fact that the wind keeps dying, but the sea and the swell doesn’t. This makes it impossible to keep at all stable and so when the wind dies, the sails just rattle around. The engine then goes on, not to keep speed up (we have plenty of time to drift along!), but to try and keep the boat more stable and stop the sails slatting around so much. That was pretty much the pattern of today. After some torrential showers during the night, the sun came out in the morning but the doldrums are clearly not letting us go easily though with this bad rock and roll impression.

Lunchtime then saw the boat being a hive of activity. After several days of sanding the hatchway, Erik varnished it. This was enough to anger the god of the doldrums who repaid us with another torrential shower. Luckily in this heat, two pack varnish goes off very quickly so it was OK. The next job though was much more major. One of the greatest potential areas of chafe on this boat is where the gaff meets the mast – an area called the throat. On the end of the gaff is a huge u-shaped metal section which is meant to gently caress the mast as it rotates around. To try and prevent any wear on the mast from this not so gentle caress, there is a series of vertical pieces of wood fitted around the mast. These should be sacrificial pieces and take any wear instead of the mast. However, in the refit, the new sacrificial pieces seem to have had harsh edges and instead of gently wearing have been catching the throat as it moves resulting in them splintering and raining pieces of wood on deck.

So down came the mainsail and instead up went Erik. He spent around an hour pulling off loose pieces of wood and generally tidying up the area. The biggest issue though was that the rock and roll hadn’t stopped, so ascending the mast, even in a bosun’s chair, was like a version of human pinball. Even though he was hanging on, the waves would bounce him from mast to shrouds and back again. I was on the helm desperately trying to keep things stable, but powerless to change the odd wave pattern we find ourselves in. Eventually he succeeded and came down in company with his bruises. The throat was then lined with an additional piece of rubber and coated with lashings of lanolin grease – all to try and minimise the impact of chafing, something which is a fact of ocean sailing. We have already sailed further in a fortnight than I sail even in a good season, with probably greater loads on much of the gear …..