Sunday, February 11, 2018

Night Shift on night 7 of Passage to Tobago

When we write about our days at sea on passage, it probably sounds idyllic... sleeping, reading, eating pancakes... should I throw in a couple of children with halos balancing on their heads, willingly doing their school work...? Just a reminder though, that we do this day and night and day and night and day and night. There's no stopping at the end of the day and turning in for the night, so speaking of which, let me tell you about our night last night...

Dave took the first shift and I went to lie down from around 8:00pm. When I took over from Dave just after 10:00pm, all looked good. I did notice a ship that was heading towards us, and decided to keep an eye on it. By midnight, the ship was within about 7 miles of us, and, judging from the AIS info, our angle and the ship's angle, it should pass us within 2-3 miles in about 35 minutes. I decided to wake Dave, just so he was aware, because it was close, but no danger. I have no problem calling the ship on the radio, but ever since a bad experience in Indonesia, where I answered a call from a ship, and when the response was rude and we had to deal with cat calls on the radio for the following couple of hours, we decided to let that be Dave's job, after all, he is the Captain.

So he radioed the ship, asking if they had seen us. He responded that he could not see our AIS (Automatic Identification System), but would check radar. He came back and said he could see us on radar, and would pass behind us. Dave checked our AIS settings and realized we were traveling in "silent mode", which means we can see other AIS signals, but we can't be seen. He had put it in silent mode a few days ago when a suspicious, rusty looking Chinese fishing trawler snuck up on us, and since they didn't have AIS, Dave didn't want them, or if there were others in the fleet ("they travel in packs, you know"), to be able to see us!

So AIS back on normal mode, Dave checked with the ship to see if he could now see us, and he could. He was a very nice Indian gentleman who was intrigued with this little sailing vessel bobbing around the ocean, and he and Dave proceeded to have a long conversation, Dave answering all sorts of questions from how do we get fresh water (water maker), to how many countries have we visited (we didn't actually know, we thought around 20). He had come from Spain and was heading to Brazil. Our midnight rendezvous and conversation with the ship now complete, Dave said I should get some sleep and he would take over the watch. So I snoozed from around 12:30am to around 3:00am, when it was time to take over from Dave.

At around 4:00am, the wind suddenly died. The sails started flapping and I switched on one of the engines. This woke Dave, who had had about 1 hour of sleep. He came up in time to feel the wind suddenly go cold. We looked at each other and simultaneously said "squall! ". Dave turned on the radar, to see what we were dealing with, but it takes about a minute to warm up. During that time, we lowered our canvas enclosures to stay dry and the rain had started bucketing down! When the radar finally booted up, it showed us in the middle of a big, ugly red and yellow blob, a big storm. It was pitch black, and all we could see was the rain coming down in sheets where it reflected in the navigation lights. The wind had switched 180 degrees, now coming out of the South, when previously it had come out of the north! And it started building...15, 18, 20, 22, 24 knots... not the 30+ knots we've experienced before, but we had a full main sail up, and with the n
angle of the wind, we had to be careful. The worst was the sea... it had been whipped up into a frenzy, with waves coming at us from every angle and poor Cool Runnings was like a bucking bronco trying to ride them!! With Dave trying to manage the wind angle and me lending support where I could, we rode out the storm for about and hour and a half.

In the grey, dull light of dawn, we decided to drop the main sail. The sea was so confused that the main was starting to flog, swinging violently from side to side. We did what we could from the cockpit, but eventually Dave went out in the pouring rain to get the final part of the sail down, only to notice that a pulley or shackle, some fitting that holds the sail up, had broken. We will have to have a closer look once daylight arrives.

We sailed for a while on the jib only, but eventually the storm died, and along with it, the wind. Exhausted, I went to sleep for a few hours, while Dave kept and eye on things outside. It's now his turn, he's catching a few hours of sleep before we face another day, our 8th of this passage, and do it all again... day and night and day and night and day and night...!!!

The good news is that we broke the 2,000 mile barrier, and have 1,884 miles to go! Even better is that the sea has calmed down somewhat and we are no longer a bucking bronco. We should also cross the equator today, and are hoping that we will get out of this unstable zone soon thereafter. I wonder what tonight will bring...??!!

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.


  1. Hi team, I woke up this morning wondering how you are all doing, hopped on the blog and had a read of your Sunday 11 Feb adventures. While you are traveling this passage we are experiencing unseasonable high rainfall, and out "neighbors" in Tonga Tropical cyclones. We will be hoping that the next 8 days are the idyllic... sleeping, reading, eating pancakes..that you would have preferred.Love Les Lauren and Tansy in NZ

  2. It's like reading an edge-of-your-seat adventure novel!! Take care, out there - tonight & tomorrow & tomorrow & tomorrow........