A little closer everyday
Conrad Colman (Spirit of Hungary):
Position 10 Degrees 34 N 32 Degrees 28 W
The Cape Verde islands are the gateway to the Doldrums on the outbound leg so now that we approach their latitude heading north we can finally let our thoughts turn to the finish. We’ll be beside them tomorrow and then it’s a matter of linking up the Canary Islands with Madeira, Madeira with the approach to Gibraltar and then the final wriggle to the finish.
After our protracted escape from the Med last time, I’m certainly not confusing Gibraltar with the finish line but after the tens of thousands of miles already sailed it feels like we’ll be able to smell the finish line when we pass the famous rock. Maybe it’s just that our families will be able to smell us from there, so we’d better not forget to have a good salt water scrub before the final approach to the finish!
Now that we have found solid trade winds, our days are ruled by a simple mechanical repetitiveness. Small changes to the sail’s trim in response to variations in the wind’s strength and direction. Backing down the boat to clear the rudders and keel from continued attacks from the Sargasso weed. Bailing out the small leaks from the ballast system that’s so crucial in reducing the teeth shattering bangs and crashes when sailing against the wind. These are the rhythms that shape our life.
While a week of sailing upwind on starboard tack risks to become boring, I love being out here with the thrust of the boat beneath my feet and the birds and bright blue sky over my head. The birds are providing particular amusement lately, as we seem to be providing a valuable service to our escort of gannets. These streamlined speedsters hover in our updraft just in front of the spray from the bow until we disturb a flock of flying fish, at which point they put on a spurt of speed and the chase is on. Like watching a cheetah take down a gazelle on the African plains, its fascinating watching the bob and weave of the hunter and the hunted. After a swooping attack and the splash of the flying fish’s safe return to the watery depths the hunter breaks off the chase with a rapid arching climb back to altitude, ready to take us its post at our bow until we launch the next spray of flying fish into the air.
I wish them happy hunting as I got pegged in the back by one of these foul smelling winged missiles last night when I was checking the sail trim. Most of the fish flee before us but there appear to be several kamakazi’s among the bunch that, attracted by our lights, make directly for us. Several times a minute we’ll hear the repetitive thud of their impact, the flutter flutter as they fight on the deck, followed by a splosh as they make it home. We generally try to help them back into the water but several don’t make it back as we either don’t find them fast enough or they are knocked stone cold by their initial impact that there’s little to do for them. I for one am not going to risk smelling like the Tokyo fish market by attempting mouth to mouth with a dizzy fish with a death wish!