Reading: The Riddle of the Sands (Erskine Childers)
Weather: NE 3-4, sun came out mid-morning and fairly clear
Thought for the day: What is a sell-by date anyway?
Evening meal: Spicy mango chicken with pilau rice, mango salad and homemade spicy mango chutney (there aren’t any mangos left now!)
Course: 195oC all day
Distance covered: At 1200 we had done 924 miles and by 4pm there were just 1,029 miles to the equator
Flying fish headcount: Losing count fast, but around 25 ….
Waste not, want not would appear to be a good maxim for this boat, particularly when it comes to food. One of the problems with stocking up on everything at the same time for a passage is that when things start to turn, they often all go at once. At the moment we have a banana and pear crisis. So, we had banana bread this morning at watch changeover, banana pancakes for breakfast and lunch saw a very nice banana, orange and pear smoothie to drink. None of those bananas are going to go to waste.
The same is true for tea and coffee. Every watch change there is always a new thermos of black tea, either rooibos or green tea and coffee. If any is left at the end of the watch, then it is stored and turned into iced tea or coffee later in the day!
Anything left from supper becomes lunch another day, so lunch today had some pasta bake, salad, roast pork along with roast potatoes and cauliflower cheese. All this along with freshly-baked sourdough. Jet apparently keeps a fruit culture going in the fridge to bake sourdough every so often – she reckons this is easier to keep than a yeast culture. Whatever the truth of this, the bread is excellent …. Any notions I might have had about losing weight on this trip are vanishing fast as I realise how well we are eating!
Otherwise today has been a quiet day. The wind has dropped slightly and much of the morning watch has been taken with chores – washing and cleaning. The crew have also been doing some boat maintenance – adding rubber chafing panels to blocks and checking around the boat for chafe elsewhere. They did give us some amusement this morning though when they tried to recover a preventer which has fallen in the water from the bowsprit, just out of reach. So they decided to try and hook it with a monkey’s fist to pull it out. The monkey though clearly had other thoughts and kept grabbing the bobstay rather than the rope they wanted. It then clung on for dear life, so most of the time was spent recovering the monkey’s fist rather than the preventer.
The main action came at the watch changeover before supper. Jet announced that the topsail was going up. Once again, the simplicity of the statement belies the complexity of the task itself. The topsail is triangular and attached in three places – the halyard attaches to the middle of the boom/gaff (which is on deck at this stage), the downhaul to the bottom end of the boom/gaff and the sheet to the aft corner. The topsail sheet runs through the aft end of the mainsail gaff and then back to the bottom of the mast. Now all this means it is really well attached once it is up there. On its way up though the gaff and sail are flying free doing their best to wreak havoc and they flail around in the sky. To try and minimise this it is hoisted to leeward of the main, but even so, the potential for damage is significant, so we closely follow Jet’s shouted orders. The main thing is to ensure that as the halyard is pulled up, the topsail sheet and downhaul are kept really tight to minimise the flailing around of the gaff. So slowly does it – a bit of halyard, a bit of sheet, downhaul gently eased and round again ….. until it is right the way up. Once it is, it looks fantastic and certainly helped our speed in the lighter winds.
After supper we had some company for the first time – a bird flying close around. Marit and I were convinced it was an immature gannet and it behaved just like one, locking its wings to dive whenever it saw a flying fish break the surface. For quite a while it was more optimistic than successful, but suddenly it seemed to get the hang of it and caught three flying fish in quick succession, landing each time to digest it for a couple of minutes. Then each time, back to hovering, waiting and suddenly diving. This was great to watch and so he (or she?) was christened Gert the gannet (sounds much better in a Dutch accent). The only slight issue was when Jet came on watch and said that it couldn’t be a gannet as we were too far south. Out came the bird book and she established that is was a brown booby (though it was an immature one so we were 50% right!) – a member of the gannet family, but with a more appropriate habitat. So, he/she/it had to be re-christened and became Bob the Booby ……