Blue Becalmedness


I've been meaning to update on here every couple of days but time at sea, it transpires, is a bit elastic so we have both lost track a little. In real terms this hasn't been helped by crossing the International Date Line and losing a day in a single second, so what was already smudgy has now turned to soup. Let's all agree that it's Thursday and move on.

Since I last posted we have completely lost the wind. It would be romantic to call what we are in a becalment - I had imaginings about being becalmed that held promise of lying around reading books and cooking delicious things to eat, fishing, doing boat jobs (or at least watching Elliot do them). But this kind of becalmed is not quite that. While there is no wind the ocean swell is still steadily gliding underneath us and it isn't small. If we sit and bob, engine off, waiting for the wind to pick up and carry us on our way, we get tossed around like a cork in a bath. It isn't romantic at all. So we are motoring. We've been motoring for 30 hours. Bertie (our engine) and Steve (our auto-pilot) are in charge.

Before it became windless, but as the wind was dropping, we decided to experiment with using a pole with our headsail. In light winds without a pole the genoa loses air with every sway of the boat and smacks about, whipsnapping the rigging and lifting and dropping the metal cars along the deck. The noise makes life quite tortuous and we both find that we tense in anticipation with every roll, knowing it will be followed by a thunderous wham-clatter. The solution, of course, is a spinnaker or some other light downwind sail, but we don't have one of those. Our poles though are designed to hold the headsail out so that it can't collapse. We've had the poles since we bought Forty but had never actually used them. The middle of an ocean seemed as good a place as any to test them out.

In the middle of this absurdly empty 360 degree horizoned watery place we both donned our lifevests and tethereed ourselves to the deck and went forwards. Elliot does this all the time. Whenever we need to raise or lower the mainsail, or put a reef in, or deal with something that has come loose, often in much much rougher conditions than these. I always stay in the cockpit manically running over the man overboard steps on repeat in my head until he is safely back in. But this time we were both needed at the bow.  Stepping out of the boat, tied on but definitely out there, surrendering, awed, surrounded by a blue infinity - I felt like an astronaut.

After a bit of fiddling the genoa was flying high, poled out, silent. Success. And in 15 knots we managed to sail almost perfectly down wind, gull winged with the mainsail out the opposite side, doing 6 knots towards Minerva. 

One of our bucket list tick boxes is to swim while becalmed in the middle of an ocean passage. The thought of it is freaky. The idea of being suspended kilometres above the ocean floor in the middle of nowhere does strange, uncomfortable things to my brain. And here we are, becalmed if we choose to be, able, if we choose, to tick the box. I would love to say that we have taken the opportunity, enthusiastically hurling ourselves overboard with whoops of joy, but the fact is that literally as we were talking about doing it yesterday Elliot spotted a fin about 5m behind us, ever so slowly tracking our ever so slow wake, and that was that dream put on hold! Annoying - we are pretty sure we have been as clear as we can be about our only two rules - NO sharks, no pirates. This guy was in clear breach of one of them.

Crossing the International Date Line was fun. We each had a slug of our Fortaleza tequila to celebrate and had a brief existential conversation about time and how nothing makes sense and then we lay in the sun watching the blueness as Fortaleza carried us onward.

We seem to have found ourselves in an unusual but workable routine in regards to keeping watch. The nights are long up here. Easily 12 hours. So we eat at about 5 and then Elliot goes to bed while I do the first 6 hours of inky darkness, til 1, when Elliot gets up and takes over and I sleep til 7 (or 8 this morning!!). Most couples we talk to do 3 hour turn about shifts, but for us, an owl and a lark, this seems to be working better, mostly. There was the slightly embarrassing incident where I panicked and woke Elliot from his very deepest sleep, convinced we were about to drive into a boat which was very close and, strangely, not showing up on the radar - its looming mast light, Elliot calmly assured me, was actually a setting planet.


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