Time Bandit

It’s back to the Caribbean leaving a chilly USA east coast for the winter months in the sun.

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Maizie the Mouse

12 May 2023
Seventy five thousand miles later and I still find sleeping on passage difficult. It's as if my brain is hard wired to the instruments, at least, the bits of my brain that still work. While lying in my bunk or outside in the patio, trying to get some kip, I can sense every change in wind speed, boat speed, direction or if there's a cup of tea coming up for grabs.

Reefing for the night and certainly not carrying big sails in the dark is de-rigeur for many cruisers and to an extent we are often as prudent. It's a balance between getting there and getting some sleep or just peace from the “shouldn't we reef for the night?” (which is more often than not followed a few hours later by, “I told you we should have reefed”). However, if you're trying to beat a change in the weather like we are now, pushing on all day and through the night makes sense.

If you ever watched my highly informative yet amusingly amateurish Blue Peter style demonstration of wind against current in the Mozambique Channel video, you may recall that wind against current doesn’t make for a good night's sleep or indeed, ongoing flotation. Well, the Gulf Stream off the east coast of the USA has a similar reputation. Short, steep, breaking waves in these wind against current situations have caused untold amounts of discomfiture not to mention sinkings and free trips on a US Coastguard helicopter and, on the whole, are best avoided.

We therefore timed our run from the northern Bahamas to Norfolk, Virginia, to leave Thursday morning when, according to the weather files, we’d enjoy a leisurely passage north.

So, on Wednesday I'd been once again fiddling with the SSB radio (refer Tony Hancock, The Radio / Ham Operator sketch) to see if I could pick up the words of wisdom from Chris Parker, the weather guru around these parts. We've used Chris in the past and found his forecasts to be right on the button, keeping us out of all kinds of bother.

If I may digress, but it does help make the point, some years ago, we were making our way from Bermuda to the Azores with the ARC Europe fleet. As part of the rally package, in addition to many nights of revelry, (Alice! Who the £&@/ is Alice?) participants had access to weather and routing advice. As the fleet of about twenty five boats left the Town Cut in Bermuda, twenty two turned left and three of us went straight on. “Hmmmm” we thought, but bashed on regardless. Tuning into the rally Net each of the following nights we were further befuddled when the twenty two kept soldiering northwards while we kept heading due east away from the flock. A bit confused by this and suffering from the herd mentality I wrote to Chris and said, “Look, twenty five boats left Bermuda. Twenty two turned north and just us and one another boat are out here on our ownsomes, (the third boat having sunk when they hit a whale, but that's another story for the “ Forthcoming Book”.) “Are you sure we should be going east?”

“Absolutely. Go to lat / long (whatever it was) and about noon on (whatever date it was) the wind will shift from this to that” whatever that was. And so, a few hundred miles further on, we were sat in the cockpit on the appointed day, and, at the appointed hour, the boom gybed itself, lazily flopping over to the other tack, a tack that took us direct to the Azores getting in about six hours before it blew like absolute stink which the boats on the northern route got to enjoy.

All of this is to say that I'm not too proud to spend a a few quid on getting some expert input when I can. If the SSB would work.

As it turned out, despite having tried a few times before, somehow, on Wednesday evening, we managed to pick up Chris and his weather prognostications…….which basically said, “while you were having your afternoon snooze, you really should have been making tracks as, come Saturday night, what you haven't seen in your GRIBs is that there's a trough and associated northerlies heading into the Gulf Stream and unless you get there, it might get a bit “salty”. Thirty to thirty fives knots against the Stream, salty.

So, we dropped our sundowners, packed up the garden chairs and blew that town (Marsh Harbour) heading out for a quick five hundred mile dash to the land of the Big Mac.

Which, somewhat long windedly takes me back to my yachting insomnia. Tuned in to every beat of the boat especially on short two to four day passages like this one, I get a bit cream crackered. Over the years I've tried all kinds of things, the latest wheeze being “Sleep Meditation” podcasts.

Armed with my noise cancelling headphones, a light fleece blanket and a comfy pillow I headed down below, set myself up and started up “The Sleep Story About Maizie, The Little Brown Mouse.” What a load of drivel. I don't know who this works for but for me, instead of nodding off peacefully while little Maizie sits by the river in the warm afternoon sunshine watching sunlit ripples on the water, listening to the sounds of the leaves rustling, my over active imagination is screaming, “Look out. Look out. Look out. It's a mongoose coming to eat you that’s making the leaves rustle.”

So, all prospect of sleep abandoned, I thought I'd write this.

Now I'm tired. I'll bet you are!


Stuart & Anne

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Comments
Vessel Name: Time Bandit
Vessel Make/Model: Outremer 51
Hailing Port: Largs, Scotland
Crew: Anne and Stuart Letton
About: ex dinghy and keelboat racers now tooled up with a super sleek cat and still cruising around aimlessly, destination Nirvana...
Extra: Next up....the Caribbean. We've left South Africa in our wake and now off to Namibia, St Helena, Brazil, Suriname and into the Caribbean. Well, that' the vague plan. We'll see what happens.
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