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Time Bandit
What day is it?
27/11/2014

After a 24-36 hours of grey and squalls delighted to say we are back to sunny Trade Wind sailing.

We saw off the last of the squalls about 10am this morning after Eric got totally soaked. In the 60 minutes of flat calm following the front we dropped the main and repaired yet another broken slider.

I also spent some time on the pole track getting that operational so we're now back to full strength, bombing along in 20 knots at 7-8 knots.

We've also hit something of a "wall" with tiredness setting in for the first time. Its been hard to get quality sleep with the rolling and crashing so I thought I'd be smart and looked up the relaxation tracks on my iPod, took to my bed and..... lying six inches from the ocean rushing past my ears it was a bit of a blow to hear the "relaxing" sounds were......rushing water. Aaaarrrgghhh.

The narrator, "Imagine yourself as a drop of rainwater"....how about "Imagine yourself in a washing machine with a frightened cat" is more accurate.

Our sports psychologist daughter gave us some unpaid, professional advice regarding our fairly pathetic 33rd position so far...."Get the finger out" she wrote. Perhaps if we'd paid we'd have got a more subtle form of encouragement but we got the message have and will hopefully make up some ground.

One aspect of this ocean passaging is how fitness impacts on your enjoyment. During the summer, after finding myself in a lather, lying in the cockpit completely knackered after winching in the genoa for the umpteenth time as we tacked up the coast of Majorca I decided to start doing some pre-ARC training. Consequently, since July, much to the amusement of many, I've been doing a daily routine and I can tell you I'm glad I did.

Just standing and moving around the boat is an effort and how some folks manage hauling sails up and down, taking reefs in and out, trimming sails, gybing and all the other physical efforts of running the boat is beyond me.

For example, Eric just pulled himself vertical from his bunk saying "Great this ocean racing....I can't even stand up". Poor boy has been a bit poorly but on the mend and the old jokes are surfacing again.

Not entirely sure that's a good thing.

Rock and Roll
25/11/2014

Its been a few years since we delivered Time Bandit from USA to Scotland but suddenly the memories of day after day of incessant rolling come rushing back.

We're having a good thrash in fresh easterlies making a good, consistent 7-8 knots. The breeze is bringing a long swell with the winds causing a cross wave pattern. The end result is a good fast sail but a rock and roll pattern we could do without, at least at night so we coild get some sleep.

However, 01:00 just now and Eric is snoring his head off so he's doing OK.

Yesterday we through a wobbly. After gybing (first in 700 miles), when re-setting the pole the topping lift slipped in its jammer. The pole collapsed into the water and in so doing pulled half a dozen bolts out the mast track. This of course happened right at the start of a 30 knot squall with driving rain and took an hour on the foredeck to sort out. It then took 5 hours of drilling and tapping to re-bolt and in the end its as good as new and we're back under way.

Still a complete absence of fishing success, mostly because we're going to fast. There's also very little wildlife arou d although some boats are reporting whale sightings. We keep scanning the waves but nothing so far.

The only point of real interest is in the southern night sky where an as yet unidentified star or planet shines all colours like a disco. Quite amazing. Unlike this blog. Time to go on watch to thank you and good night.

Starlight Express
24/11/2014

Starry nights are, or were the order of the day. Jupiter is flashing all colours; red, blue, white green. Looks like a plane's lights but definately coming from the planet.

Squalls gave a few of us a needed wash and cleaned the decks of flying fish debris.

Yesterday one flew straight through the galley window narrowly missing the frying pan!

Its big pal, right in the middle of taking down the gennaker, took our lure for a run. Eric started hauling it in but as is becoming the norm, we lost it. Most boats seem to slow down when they get a catch. Too much effort to do that so we will have to let them go. Only three lures left so we will need to try and new tactic to get them onboard.

We flew the gennaker all day yesterday trying to make ground to the south as the forecast shows slightly stronger winds. Across the fleet winds seem fairly steady with quite a lot a squall activity. We had a good one last night that gave us an hour and a half of 8-9 knots. Probabkky not really a squal but a good breeze under a dirty black cloud.

Its borderline gennaker this morning so we're erring on the side of prudence right now but not sure how much lonmger we can hold out. The genaker reallly steadies the boat. Without it we rock and roll and it gets a bit noisy. With 5 of us, while its a bit crowded at times, there's plenty sleep and rest to be had.

According to the daily radio reports we seem to be hanging in towards the front of the fleet......hence the enthusiasm to get the gennaker up. Its the getting it down that's the problem!

One down....
22/11/2014

One night down and thirteen to go.

The ARC+ rally fleet made a quick exit from Mindelo in a good 15 knot northerly. The cats headed out first with Purrrfect making the best start. We followed fifteen minutes later and had a good run down to the wind shadow under the lee of St Antau island.

We resisted for a while but eventually succumbed and fired up the engine to motor out the calm. A good strategy as just 1 hour later we picked up 15-20 from the north and had a good nights broad reach in a modest following sea. Ditto for all day today in blazing sun and one downpour to wash the nights salt from the decks.

The cats have been in good form and have done a horizon job. We still have 4 or five others in sight but mostly the fleet is spread out, waiting to converge again nearer St Lucia.

Daily routine is getting established. Quite simple really. As the T shirts say, "Eat, Sleep, Sail, Repeat"

Been there, Seen it, Still Needs Done
19/11/2014, Mindelo Cape Verde

All too soon we are off again. A very rushed few days here in Mindelo getting the boat sorted out and squeezing in a few trips, barbecues, local dancing, shopping and, of course the prize giving where we picked up 2nd place in our class.

Consequently the pressure is on, even though "it's not a race" and we are here in the wifi cafe feverishly download wear charts and seeing what route options we have. Given its a straight line between here and St Lucia there's not that much choice.

Biggest issue is there's not much wind for next few days. Across from our island is a bigger, taller one with its wind shadow to leeward. To avoid this we can either keep going south, 90 degrees to where we want to go, deeper into the hole or maybe we will just fire up the engine and motor through the wind shadow and hopefully get the fresher wind on the other side and get our way.

Which is what I need to do right now so...... More coming later.




Smelling Land
14/11/2014


We can either smell land or just the effects of limited showers for a week. The water pump was sounding a bit wonky before the start and sure enough its now kaput. While we have a spare its burried and with just 114 miles to go as of 16:00 im leaving it until we're in. Hand pumping will need to do until then.

That's been our only malfunction, other than the carrots and sweet potatoes which all turned to mush.

The fleet is converging on Mindelo and we had one boat, a Lagoon 45 in sight this morning and there's an Amel and a Beneteau on the AIS just now. 15 knots from NNE is bowling us along under gennaker, poled out genny and full main. Half tempted to leave it all up tonight but having pushed our luck in the nfirst 24 hours I think we'll maybe a shade more conservative and put it away for the darkness.

Last night, pulling in our lure for the night as it was jumping in the water 20 feet from the transom a black finned, pointy nosed giant fish grabbed the lure and took off for 100 metres before it got off. And thats the story of our fishing success. Lots of bites but no landings.

By this time tomorrow we will be docked in Mindelo. A good passage and a good warm up for the rest of the trip. 2000 miles or something.

We caught a fish
13/11/2014

Four fish actually. Although not exactly caught. More head butted by 13 tonnes of Island Packet as the poor wee flying fish panicked and flew straight on deck rather than safety.

We have lost a lure. Whatever it was would have made a decent catch as it chewed right through our wire trace. We are trying a bright pink plastic squid today but nothing so far.

Typical trade wind night and days. Billions of stars and phosphoresence at night and blue skies and blazing sun all day. Its noticeably warmer today so the 500 miles farther south are having an impact; mostly from an excess of sun tan cream......steering wheel slipping though your hands and winch handles you can hardly get a grip of and odd tasting cookies.

Genaker is flying just now with full main and genoa goose-winged so we're making good speed in 16-18 knots of wind...just above our self imposed take it down threshold. With a few more hands on deck I'm sure we can get it down if it blows up anymore. The Monitor is doing the steering so I'm quite pleased with the set up.

The fleet is spread out over about 120 miles. Having not seen another ARC+ boat since nightfall on the first day it will be good to see some lights at night as the fleet converges on Cape Verde. We should have jus another two or maybe three nights at sea. As its dark from 6pm to 7am there's a good chance we will arrive in the dark, tempting us to break our rule of not entering a new, unknown harbour in the dark. We may just cross the finish line the go offshore and heave to until daylight. That's an issue for later. Meanwhile, its coffee and biscuits time so that's yer lot for today!

Oh what a night....
12/11/2014

15 - 20 knots from behind, smooth rolling sea, stars and milky way above and thrashing along at 7-8+ knots. Just brilliant sailing and when we wake up in the morning its simply hit the "Repeat" button.

(A bit like the after effects of our super healthy, veg rich diet). We are currently about 100 miles west of Mauritania and will either have to gybe or keep hoping the wind will back and allow us to make direct for Mindelo. Other than knocking the reefs in and out we've been goosewinged on post pretty much since the start.

We finally had a bite on the line last night but it was quickly gone.

The crew is fit and well, other than the pole end the boat is in one piece and the Monitor and Duogen are brilliant. Self steering and endless amps for free. However, when I say "fit and well" thats largely chemically driven as this mornings count says we consume on average 30 pills per day!

We are on Net duty this morning so we've dug out the old quiz questions and see if the grey matter around the fleet can be fired up at the early hour of 11:00.

Our private wind which has got us this far is now blowing directly at Mindelo. We need to work out the shifts over the next coiple of days to optimise our track and, more importantly, let us know whether we need to gybe or not.

Decisions, decisions.

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