White Ocean Racing

Reports 11 February

11 February - Blog 26 - The fishmonger's boat.

The boat regularly looks like a fishmongers at the moment - no matter how many times I get up in the night to throw flying fish back as they flail around on deck making a noise like small pnuematic drills and waking me up, in the morning there are always some that I haven't heard land who have not fared so well, which is quite sad. I took fifteen out of the boom bag yesterday, which is above head hight, so they must be reaching quite an altitude to get up there! I found them as I was putting a reef in yesterday - the first reef one since the Falklands, which is incredible I think; that would be like driving across America without changing gear! I was beginning to think I was getting weak for a second, then I realised that the mast winch had seized solid! It is really exposed to the salt up forward where it is, and when I eventually levered the drum off all of the grease had mixed with the salt and become like green concrete, baked dry in the heat and solid through lack of use. I had to do a quick bear away to level the boat off so I didn't loose any bits, then stripped and cleaned the bits in the sink with the washing up scrubby sponge and some fresh water (I can't spare the diesel, I am really low!), dried them off, gave them a quick squirt of WD 40 and grease and slapped it back together, good as new! By the time I had finished mucking about I didn't need the reef after all it turned out, but at least it was easier taking it out with a winch that actually now goes round freely.

The mysterious birds that had previously left calling cards on the deck came back and made a mess all over the sails this time, which I hope will wash off before I get in, but I did catch them in the act, and got some video too whilst dodging their missiles! They were boobys I think - like slim-line gannets but with bright blue beaks and blue around their eyes. They were hunting flying fish with some real zest, but not a great deal of luck; I didn't see them catch one, despite them going into some serious dives and watching for hours. They obviously do get lucky, the results are all over my nice white sails!

Now, as I am seriously into my Michele Thomas learn French course, spending a few hours a day on it sometimes. I am aware of actually how much time I spend trimming and watching the numbers - boat speed, wind speed, course and so on. There are constant small changes in the sea state and wind that require a trip up on deck to adjust sails and the pilot which make it difficult to concentrate properly on my schoolwork, but I am getting there slowly......

I can tell the race is nearly over, I have come to the end of the pre-bagged porridge and this morning I have started on the sacks! If Kim has an obsession it is only with plastic bags - any plastic bag anwhere with anything at all in it must be knotted, but not just an ordinairy knot, it must be so tight that it reaches the density of the centre of the sun, and consequently they take quite a time to get undone - my average boatspeed should go up now, because I don't have to undo them every morning and I have all that extra time to spend on keeping the boat going!

I have been trying to work out when I'll get in, and it seems to be dependant on the Azores High - I think I will be following Marc around the outside of it, and it looks at the moment, touch wood, that we should get around it without stopping, but the high and the waypoint I have imaginatively named "Where everyone else went" are still just under three days away, which is a long time in weather terms, particularly when things are as fickle as they have been, plus we will arrive there on Friday the thirteenth which could throw the whole thing into chaos, but I am hoping I will be in late on the 21st, or the 22nd which is more likely, but I am pulling out all the stops at the moment and we'll see.

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