The cold front arrives

It was only 20 minutes after finishing my last post, towards the end of the first dog watch when the cold front arrived. A change of wind through 90 degrees in a matter of minutes, and it was ‘all hands on deck’ to put in reefs and drop the yankee. Just in tie too, as soon we were rollicking downwind with gusts in the 50 knot range. A big change like that causes a confused sea, and it was of course as dark as the inside of a black merino wool sock out there. Eric was on the helm to start with – and for a large portion of the next 8 hours, in fact. With the steaming light on you could see a fine mist of spray being whipped up from the water and rising half way up the rig like smoke.
Starboard watch were first on last night – Eric and Morgan shared the helming through the first onslaught of the new wind. Then it was port’s turn, and Nick and I were the helms. At first I was downstairs, sitting on top of the engine with my head in a rck of drying laundry, hand pumping fuel into the day tank. But that;s really another story, one best not lingered over. As I was getting ready to go up Eric appeared looking very wet but perfectly happy – he told me that it was ‘light’ now, and fun. I knew he didn’t mean daylight or moonlight, and since I could clearly hear the wind moaning and screamng through the rigging, I didn’t think he meant light wind, either. He clarified that the helm was not too heavy – and he thought we’d be fine.
It was in fact quite fun helming – the wind mostly in the mid thrites and sometimes forties. The waves had built up a lot – with the steaming light on you can’t see anything outside our little circle of light, so all you know of the waves is what you can feel, except for the roaring crests that get lit up as they pass by, or the ones that suddenly appear in your peripheral vision, towering above your shoulder. We had waves big enough to pick up the entire boat and bury the bowsprit briefly, before hurling as forward at surfing speeds near 20 knots. Others, coming more from the beam in the confusion, dumped swaths of spray over everything. One particularly large crest roard right over us – I was up to my chin in white water, thinking ‘what happens now?’. In the end what happenned is I just hung on to the wheel and kept trying to point the boat in the right direction. James, backup helm on the low side, was buried waist deep, and even Colin, usually a man of few words, yelled from his post on the vang that that was ‘a VERY big wave’.
But no harm was done, and by 3am I began to see some sky at last – silvery cracks in the enveloping darkness heralding the arrival of daylight, and even some somall patches of clear sky between the clouds. THere was no sunrise to speak of, the blackness just shifted imperceptibly to grey, and the day crept upon us. It revealed a huge expanse of roaring white and grey, with the usual two or three Laysan albatrosses still scouring the surface for food. Seeing one of those huge birds, tiny against the face of a wave, helped crystalizre the size of the waves. For port watch, it was bedtime, and a well deserved rest until breakfast time.
Today Heather and I mothered together. THere was sunshine, rain, hail, sunshine again. The crew on deck gradually increased sail, until the full main and yankee three were up again. Mid-afternoon I was sitting on the high side in the saloon checking email, when suddenly the boat was pinned down on her side for what seemed a very long time. It is unusual to look out of the companionway and see only water, no sky at all – I sat trying to capture it in pictures as Eric quickly grabbed a lifejacket and went up on deck. We must have been held down for 3 minutes altogether – the team finally released the yankee sheet and Henrietta stood up again. THen it was all hands on deck again to reduce sail. APparently the wind had suddenly gone from 30 to 60 knots – and we definitely din’t have the right sail plan for that.
It was beautiful up there though – the sun, already low in the western sky. highlighting the towering waves; the sailsand the bright reds and yellows of foul-weather gear lit up in sharp contrast to the dark grey sea. THe mighty Pacific is certainly putting on a show for us!

Happy Birthday Neil

Today is the birthday of my husband, Neil. who has been quietly supportive through this whole adventure, and (purportedly) has even learned to cook while I’ve been away. Happy Birthday Neil! And Thankyou! (We’re getting close to home now – it might be time to start clearing up those pizza boxes!)
As we plunge along under reefed sails and grey rainy sky, with the barometer still dropping and a big blow forecast when the cold front comes through, I think of a lazy Sunday morning with nothing to do but enjoy hot coffee, toast and marmalade, while listening to NPR. I hope that’s what you are doing at home.
It also happens to be ‘half way’ day here on Henri Lloyd, AND we expect to cross back into the Western Hemisphere later tonight, so technically tomorrow will also be Neil’s birthday, a groundhog day for us. It’s grey and wet now, grey as far as the eye can see, as advertised for this leg. But we still have handsome Laysan albatrosses to admire at regular intervals, and with my new Kokatat lightweight drysuit under my foulies, I’m keeping warm ond only very slightly damp round the edges. We’ve had relatively calm times under white sails since the scoring gate, time to rebuild our strength for the next push or storm or whatever. We DID have a bit of a struggle reefing the main last night, as the wind built up to gale force. A sail tie attached to one of the reef cringle pulldowns kept wrapping itself hopelessly round the rigging, preventing us from lowering the main halyard – and from raising it fully back up, too. But James freed it with some good climbing and tugging – cheers all around and problem solved.

A long dark night of sewing, and exciting times

WHen you sleep and wake u- 3 or 4 times a day, it gets hard to remember the true sequence of events. In the couple of days since I last wrote, we’v been pushing hard for the scoring gate, which ha meant much terrifying sailing and little sleep for everyone.
Just before the sheet broke on the A3, (last blog), I was downstairs sewing a couple of patches onto the A2, on some small tears we’d discovered while wooling it. It turned out we had another nice day with white sails, sunshne and albatrosses, and didn’t actually come to raise the kite until evening. During the day, Invst Africa, instealth, appeared on AIS, so we knew exactly where they were even if nobody else did.
It was twilight, almost dark, when we finally hoisted the A2. An exemplary hoist for once. Sadly, no sooner was it up when we saw the dim sky shining through another small hole, and down it had to come for repairs again. On closer inspection we found 9 small holes, fanning out about a metre above the clew. SInce it was really the sail we should have been flying, it was straight on with sewing, no time for sleep. First Meg and I, then Maaike and I, spent a long night under red lights in the saloon, the whirr of the sewing machine a strangely homely sound as Henrietta sped through the night under the A3 (heavyweight kite).
By morning the kite was fixed, and no longer needed. But not having it overnight was probably part of the reason IA got past us – not something we enjoy at all.
ANother night wtch, another kitemare. We’re flying the A2 again, and the wind pipes up, again. A series of knockdowns and roundups, the kite flogging wildly over the water, me perched on the high side easing the sheet as fast as I can – it’s obvious we have to douse, but the ‘letterbox’ is not set up. It is a pitch dark noght so we have the steamong light on, a first for us, to illuminate the kite and the foredeck. THe ring of light somehow makes the dark raging around us even more dramatic. We can all see James go forward with the lazy sheet, to set it up across the boom for the letterbox. We can also see a loop of the sheet hanging from the clew of the sail and dragging in the water. I’m about to yell ‘don’t let go of it!’ to James, not that he’d here me anyway, when he does momentarily put the end of the sheet down on deck to reclip his harness, and in no time the sea whips it away, and the entire sheet is in the water, streaming from the clew of the sail into the dark.
THe roundups and floggings continue – Eric is on the helm now and obviously thinking furiously. As the guys start getting a sheet to attach to the tack for retrieval, Eric comes up witth a better plan – a Prussic knot to slide a spare sheet up the active one towards the clew, giving us a new lazy sheet to pull on for the douse. It works. but it’s a huge effort, another all hands on deck and lost sleep for everyone. NO damage to the kite though! But the wind is too strong and gusty for even the A3, so it’s white sails again until dawn – we unhank the yankee one and drag it back to the cockpit, and raise the A3. All in rain and darkness. It’s becoming a familiar story.
Later, the same day. (Yesterday?) Invest Africa are only 6 or so miles ahead, and we are still pushing hard. The A2 is up, and I take over the helm from Maike. We are sailing at a tight angle to the wind for the sail, it’s fast and furious, exhilerating as we surge along in the mid and high teens. Grey sea, grey sky, distant birds soaring and dipping, otherwise nothing. Then there’s a bang, and the kite is suddenly a cartoon SPLAT in front of me instead of a graceful curve. THe halyard has broken. Fortunately we’ve seen this before and talked about what to do. I bear away hard to slow down and turn the back of the boat and the rudders away from the kite, now streaming dangerously close to us on the port side. Meg starts organizing setting up the lazy sheet through the A frame, and Eric and the watch below are streaming up onto deck. We get the kite back with no damage – the halyard has just melted through near the top from the forces – as though it’s been cut with a hot knife.
SO it’s back to the A3, and by nightfall we again have a series of roundups . Even with Eric at the helm, it’s very hard to control the kite. I’m trimming again, desperately easing and then pulling in yards of sheet to control the flogging as Henrietta lies down and staggers up again, or rolls wildly from one rail to the other in the waves. ANother all hands douse, and it’s white sails towards the gate, neck and neck with IA. (We’ve just confirmed they beat us by 21 minutes – well done them).
After days like this, I swear I’m giving up ocean racing and taking up knitting. No more ecxitement, please!

Kitemare and Yankee Doo-doo

‘All hands on deck!’ – 2 nights ago I had the dubious pleasure of twice making the call to wake everybody below – twice one night. It’s been a busy couple of nights and days since I last wrote, and it’s already difficult to remember things in the right sequence.
It was first night watch. We were having some fantastic sailing with white sails up, reaching along with frequent surfs in the mid to high teens. The helm was light as a feather; our new, new rudder bearings have given Henrietta back her Rolls-Royce feel. SO we were absolutely roaring along the sky star-splashed berween tall clouds, phosphorescence in the flashing wake behind us. Meg was down below (with the lurgy), James was enjoying his birthday/mother sleep, and tooards the end of the watch Nick too went down to get some early rest. That left me, Nico, and new legger Colin, who took over the helm for the last half our.’TIme to conquer the mighty Pacific’, he said, and after standing by for 10 minutes or so I could see he was happy and comfortable with the helm. It was going to be an easy 20 minutes and then we’d be tucked up in bed…
Then suddenly, the sound of a flogging sail. We were momentarily confused – our course had not changed, and the man was still full and driving. But it was soon obvious the yankee sheet had broken, and the sail was fogging free ont he foredeck. That was the first ‘all hands’. A flogging yankee, still pinned to the windward side by the lazy sheet, takes the shape of a large paper bag and can soon destroy itself in high winds. THe lazy sheet too can easily cause injuries as it whips around dangerously near the cockpit crew. So we turn downwind to ‘blanket’ the yankee behind the main, getting the wind out of it slowing down the boat, and let go the halyard so the sail just drops, partly on the foredeck, and usually partly in the sea. So all hands are then needed to get it under control, heaving it out of the water and back so that it is not jammed between the inner forestay and the stanchions. THen we can reattach the sheet and rehoist.
But this time on the rehoist, Morgan thought he saw sky through a hole in the sail. We had to drop it again. THis time it also wrapped itself round the forestay, making our job even more difficult. Then we had to unhank and pull back the sail so that we could properly flake and inspect it on the high side near the cockpit. As our 20 minutes before bed stretched to an hour and a half, there was some gallows humour – Heather, CHris, Kevin and I sat near the mast holding down acres of white cloth in the rain – lit by the gentle glow of our steaming light, it felt exaclty like some bizzare picnic, with the wind trying to steal the table cloth. Only nobody had brought the cheese and wine. THat was the moment we minted the term ‘yankee doo-doo’ for the white sails equivalent of a kitemare. ANd eventually, it turned out there was no hole, just some black marks from previous adventures, so we got about half our off watch to sleep in.
Our next watch was the 4 to 8am – almost light from the start now as we have not changed our clocks to match our western progress. By now we were flying the A3 in light and unpredictable winds, our angle to the wind to tight for the light or medium weight kite. Some dark clouds started to pile up behind us. We were sailing faster, then all of a sudden, we slowed, and the kite seemed to disappear. As I was just in the companionway to check radar, and do the 3.30am wake call for the other watch, I got to make the call again, ‘All hands on deck, all hands!’. THis time they were a little confused, not quite able to believe that there was a snapped sheet, as the boat was sailing quietly and the spinnaker was flying like a flag from halyard and tack, rustling and shivering gently ahead of the boat. THe problem was to get hold of something to pull the sail back in – the lazy sheet, set up in a ‘letterbox’ ready to drop, had been pulled free by the wind and was now trailing beside us in the water, unreachable. Eric went out onto the bowsprit and attached a sheet to the tack of the sail – getting clobbered a few times by the heavy tack as the sail streamed and flopped out of control – and we were able to free the tackline, lower and pull in the sail from the tack.
In the middle of it all, standing on deck in the light drizzle, I saw that we were heading straight towards a silvery sunrise – no sun, but dazzling light making interference patterns with the continuous crumpling of the dark grey waves ahead. THere were albatrosses soaring in the distance. Even when it’s crazy, it can be beautiful out here, and we got to bed only about an hour too late.

Kite flying

Since my last update I’ve had a day of mother watch – a good thing for me as has allowed my wrist, injured somehow on the helm during our kitemare wipeouts a few days ago, to recover a bit. It is amazing how many times a day I am reminded how very useful opposable thumbs really are, now that it hurts to use the one on my left hand!
As far as I could tell frm down in the galley, yesterday was a pleasant day, with sunshine, making good progress with white sails only. Old Poultrey (now generally referred to as ‘The Chicken’ onboard HL, much to the confusion of some new team members) appeared on our port hip, just after a beautiful red sunrise, and we looked forward to a day honing our speed against theirs. By afternoon we lost sight of them, so it must have worked OK for us. In the evening, we were finally able to raise the A3 (heavy weight spinnaker), and at last, we managed to do so without a hitch. God news for us mothers, as Ryan and I did not have to interrupt the baking of chocolate cake for James’s birthday (today) to help retrieve and repack the kite, as has happened too many times lately. Nobody has yet managed to guess that the cake was made without eggs or butter; mayonnaise, of all things, substituting for both. Sounds horrible but tastes delicious! We are extra short handed right now as a nasty stomach bug has joined the ‘man flu’ (cold) making its way around the crew. Back on deck this morning our watch was four people – one on the helm, one trimming, one grinding, one ready the release the vang if we get overpowered in a gust – no spare hands at all. The other watch was in the same situation through the night, so Eric is spending a lot more time on deck and on the helm than usual. We’re flying the A3 again with the wind gusting up above 30 knots – surfing the small waves at speeds often above 20, and hovering in the mid teens a lot of the time. It’s fun, but with the gusts we do sometimes get overpowered and held down on our side until we can manage to release the vang and the sheet. It’s definitely a bit nerve wracking. Leg oners will be pleased to hear that we have become MUCH better at not flogging the kite, and have not ripped out a single stanchion so far this race (I’m touching wood as I type this). it’s still sometimes a tough call as to whether there is TOO musch wind or not. The other night in similar conditions Nick. getting a bit stressed by the potential for disaster, sent me down to wake Eric and ask if we should drop the kite. TO my ‘we’re getting gusts up to 34 knots and Nick wants to know if we should drop or not’ the gist of Skip’s reply was. ‘It’s up to you, but the kite can take it, you know those wind instruments lie, and you haven’t wiped out yet have you.’ Loosely translated as ‘keep it up we’re finally making some progress’, I think. This morning we’ve had a couple of wipeouts, no doubt obvious to the watch below, so Morgan popped his head up just before watch change to ask if we’d be changing sails or not. Eric (on the helm) responded with ‘No way, this is too much fun’ – no need for translation there.
So we’re sill flying along, with gobs of now cold spray occasionally dousing the trimmer on the rail, but otherwise nice conditions and hazy sunshine. THere’s still plenty of bird life – I’m told that during the night a bird (or a DLL drone, who knows?) almost landed on Eric’s shoulder, it was so interested in watching what he was doing at the helm. So despite our various lurgies, we’re having some great sailing and plenty of laughter. THe Pacific has not been nearly as gloomy and grey as forecast, so far.

It just doesn’t stop

So we had a relatively warm and calm day for drying out yesterday. It was rather frustrating weather wise, as the wind kept teasing us – pretending to be a good breeze for the spinnaker and then disappearing before we could take advantage of it.
We were causing quite a lot of the frustration ourselves – it feels like every time we tried to raise a kite, there was a different error that stopped us or made us hastily drop it. Halyards wrapped around spreaders was a favorite, and blown tack lines the second. Of course when we hastily drop, we have to wool and bag again, making e everybody even tireder, shorter of sleep, and more error prone than ever. we finally got a kite (I believe it was the A3) up in the evening, in a promising breeze, only to have it completely die on us within seconds. We tried everything we could to sail with it for about an hour, before we had to give up and take it down to top it helplessly flopping itself into a wrap around the rigging. Of course no sooner was it down then the breeze reappeared. We debated raising another one – but in the end decided to wait ‘five minutes’ – Eric commenting that 5 minutes was the time he needed to go down and shoot himself in the head. Frustration for Skipper and crew alike! In the end the 5 minutes stretched to about 4 hours – we raised the A3 again towards midnight. Alarmingly it managed to scrape off all the wool on the way up, so that the whole foot dropped in the water and threatened to stick under the boat. For a moment it looked as though we were going to have to drop the whole thing into the sea, then come back to retrieve it. That would have been a Henri Lloyd first – and fortunately some heroic pulling, sweating and grinding by Nick and Eric and the rest of the mast and foredeck crew saved the situation. and we were able to fly the kite in exciting conditions through the night. Strong winds and lightening with big waves made it a wild ride. As a postscript when we finally dropped because the wind had shifted, the tackline was entangled with the trip line and we actually had to cut it to free the foot of the kite. Will our spinnaker problems ever end?
Today was largely a showery day, with blustery winds keeping us helms on our toes. We had a few seagulls keeping us company, soaring fearlessly at about head height. One of them in particular we think was a DLL spy – he seemed to have an unhealthy interest in watching the instrument panel over the helmsperson’s shoulder. THe bird watching has been pretty good – as well as the gulls we have had some large shearwaters, and a couple of Laysan albatrosses, as well as darker ones, most likely the black-legged kind.
Now we are speeding along in a nice reaching wind on a flat sea, with stars, great sailing for team Henri Lloyd 50YOPS in the North Eastern Pacific.

,,,and flying fish like dragons

Another highlight I forgot to mention – as Henrietta surged along in yesterday’s sunshine and strong winds, the huge flying fish, irridescent in the light, about 20 feet up in the air. Like some mythical creature, not the tiny things skimming the surface that we are so used to. THough I suppose when it’s blowing 40 knots with waves to match, they have a headstart on height.
SInce this morning the wind has dropped to almost noting. We are in the lee of Mount Fuji. The sea is shifty and uneasy with cross swells, rocking and rolling us all over the place. And it is still the color of absolute black granite, even when the sun bursts through the clouds. We are trying to point in the right direction, sails slatting back and forth – I had a brief moment where the wind picked up and we surged forward purposefully for about 10 minutes. THen it died again.
But we’ve all enjoyed the relative warmth, and drying out our foulies. There are rain clouds and even a little rainbow ahead – if we can ever get there.

The first day of Spring

It’s been amazing sailing, and we are working so hard there’s barely any time to reflect on it. Here are a few things I want to remember from the last day or so:

I wrote about our night time  (2:30am)  yankee drop yesterday, but I didn’t have time or space to say how spectacular it was. With the deck-light on, the huge clouds of spray splashing over the bow and along the full length of the boat looked like a firework display. Standing at the low side helm (as backup helm) earlier in the night, I felt as if I was diving into the sparkling masses of slightly phosphorescent water that regularly came sweeping back towards me.

5am – the wind has changed but we are still surfing down waves – surfing at 18 knots sailing close hauled. The sea foams and boils against the rail as Nick goes forward to secure things on the leeward side. .

6am – the sky is purple grey, and low clouds hide the sun, sending jagged orange rays down to the surface of the sea, which gleams like polished marble. Rags and tatters of wind scar the surface, sometimes gathering themselves together to send us hurtling down the face of the waves, which are still rolling up from behind us, although the wind is ahead.

8am – slivers of sunshine light up patches of the sea, which crawls uneasily as far as we can see under the cloudy sky. The sea is confused as the waves formed by the new wind from ahead compete with the big swell from the old, following wind.

2pm – grinding,  I was often knee deep in pools of fresh seawater before they drained away. Every time Nico lit up, it seems his cigarette was engulfed, and several life-jackets have inflated just from the incoming spray.

10:30pm – in the blackness, ragged patches of moonlight gild the crumpled surface of the waves, lighting up the foaming crests of the huge rollers we are surfing on. Shallower water has increased the size of the swell, and we are surging past the island of Hachijo (?) Shima in the grip of the Kuro Shio (Black Snake current). It is a struggle to keep Henrietta under control – she needs all Nick’s and my combined strength prevent a round-down and crash gybe. The island is a mini mount Fuji under the rising half moon, which lights up the roiling clouds it has just dragged itself out of. Sparkling rows of white streetlights near the water’s edge make the last land we’ll see before California look very inviting.

We are having an amazing time, even if you don’t hear much from us. And today is the first day of Spring. We are no longer crossing the Pacific in Winter, however cold it seems out there.

Racing, in the Pacific at last

First of all, a big thank you to everyone who sent me birthday wishes. I even picked up some from email as we passed the bottom of Kyushu – although I couldn’t reply. It was a lovely day, and I’m rather glad we weren’t surfing waves at 33.9 knots, as that would have made mothering very difficult!
If the rest of this race continues in the pattern of the last couple of days, there won’t be much time for blogging. While I had quite a restful day mothering, the rest of the crew were working hard with sail changes. I’m sure I helped untangle the windseeker at least 3 times, and there were spinnakers being wooled too, as well as the yankee 1 going up and down on deck. The pattern continued through the night, with extra hands from the off watches being woken regularly to help with changes. Yesterday morning we awoke to hazy sun, and the A3 went up. In no time there was a call for all hands on deck as the tack line tripped itself, meaning we needed a swift drop. THe A2 went up instead, and fortunately turned out to be the right sail for the morning watch.
In the afternoon, it was our watch’s turn (port). We went up expecting more sunny, warm conditions – but things began to change. The wind built, at first it was fun and exciting flying along over the small waves with speeds often reaching the low 20s. Henrietta seemed to be impersonating a dolphin, trying to leap from wave to wave – as she was going faster than them, she often ended up belly-flopping into the next wave, rather ungracefully. Eventually I found myself helming with gusts to around 30 knots – too much for the A2. SUre enough we had a couple of knockdowns – when the sails overpower the boat so much that she stops responding to the helm, and is pinned on her side until we can release sheets, the vang, the helm – everything! THe sky changed from hazy sun to angry grey, and the dark sea was slashed with white foam crests as far as we could see. Again it was all hands on deck to get the A2 down, not easy in so much wind, but accomplished safely. I was still helming as we ran along at up to 15 knots under main alone. Eric and the team were preparing the A3 for a hoist – I must admit, back at the helm on my own, I wondered if this was wise! A ship from the opposite direction was passing us to port, upwind, as we raised the A3. Sure enough a big gust took control, and we had a big round-up (like a knockdown except the boat spins its nose up towards the wind). I was not happy lurching towards the path of the ship, completely out of control. But as always, Henrietta came back to her senses, and we once again started flying over the increasingly disgruntled looking waves. In fact the wind very quickly dropped back donw to something reasonable, giving us great surfing conditions as the swell increased. And we saw a whale! We exhorted hoim to head west to California, where he’d be in no danger of being eaten, as he spouted a couple of times, flipped his tail at us, and dissappeared.

OUr difficulties continued through the night – we caught sight of Switzerland in the dog watch, and swiftly bore down on them, until just as we felt sure we would pass them, the wind became too great for the A3. Another all hands drop, and up went the Yankee 1 (saving it from being washed off the foredeck, as it had threatened to do when we dived through waves with the kite up). We flew the Yankee 1 into the night, adding reefs to the main as conditions got more difficult. In the end though, it was all hands on deck again, at about 2:30am, to drop it. Just as we strufggled to get up on deck, the Ynakee sheet broke, making us choose an even faster drop tan plnned. ANother half hour of sleep, and we were on watch again. This time it ws magical, hrtling along in bright moonlight, with the right sailplan, all under control. We passed from silver to shadow, huge waves obscuring everything around us as clouds scurried across the sky. And this morning, even mor splendid siling, bright sunshine and some handsome birds. If this is the Pacific, it feels good so far!

A racing birthday

Today is day 2 of racing, and it happens to be my birthday. THe first 30 hours of race 10 were exhausting. We are now only 13 crew for our Pacific crossing – so our watch (port this time) is only 6, which in practice means only 5 on deck most of the time. Yesterday#s race start saw us first with the yankee 1 up, which after the mandatory 10 minutes we dropped, sending the A2, midweight spinnaker, up instead. Alas, when we came to gybe it after 15 minutes or so, there was a bit of confusion in the cockpit that led to the kite wrapping around the forestay. There was nothing to do but abort the gybe and drop the kite, unwrapping it by hand. Fortunately, we damaged neither kite nor forestay in the process. But we hastily fetched and hoisted the lightweight kite, which we kept up for just long enough for half the crew to complete the mammoth untangling and re-packing of the A2. THen it was down with the 1, up again with the 2… in the end our watch stretched to 8 hours, as we had been up at 4am, long before the 8.30 start. In the end starboard watch stayed up an extra 4 hours too, allowing us to sleep, and evening things out. Exhausting for every one!
When we came back on watch at 4pm, it was to the sight of 4 CVs ahead, all matching with their A2s up, like a ghost fleet in the hazy evening. We settled down to reel them in, as we love to do, and it was going well, the distance between us and DLL, the leader of the pack, steadily decreasing. But the weather gods have not finished playing with us – the wind just dropped to nothing before we could pass, and it was time for sail changes in each boat. As the wind direction changed drastically, too, we decided to hoist our yankee 1 again. (It really felt as if we had only just put it away minutes ago!) We knew the other watch were in desperate need of their sleep, so we did the entire job with just 5 of us, plus Eric. To make matters worse, darkeness had fallen by the time we were ready to hoist, an the last few feet of sail seemed far too reluctant to go up. We suspected a problem with the halyard, although we could see nothing. In the spirit of caution, we dropped the monster again, and rehoisted on the other halyard. If all our sailing days this leg are as hard as that one, we will be hollow-eyed wraiths by the time we pass under the Golden Gate Bridge… Fortunately our night watch was more restful. With the water temperature now up above 10 degrees, and the wind light, it felt much warmer than it has lately. We sailed in parallel with Jamaica, and Henrietta felt almost like her old self again, with the new ‘Rolls Royce’ rudder bearings making the steering light again, and the rig and sail plan so much better balanced. THere was a moment of excitement as an extremely brightly lit fishing boat contraption decided to swing round and take a close look at us as we passed, instead of demurely allowing us to go by. One of those things pointed right at you at close range is not something you want to see – but they meant no harm and we were able to escape.
For my birthday, my watch let me go to bed 30 minutes early. What a treat! And then I awoke to find my bunk and the saloon adorned with brightly colored balloon flowers of many eccentric varieties. Maaike has already made cake, which we will enjoy at the 4pm watch change,and the weather gods have given me a pleasantly smooth and flat day for mothering in. It may not be what we most need for our swift passage around Japan and across to San Francisco, but it’s making my day an easy one.
From Team HL50YOPS, between the bottom of South Korea and the bottom of Japan, good afternoon.