Saturday, December 13, 2008

Seamounts, Swordfish, and Spinnakers

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Today July 12, is day 9 of our voyage from Bermuda to Ireland. This afternoon we crossed the halfway mark, currently 1364 nautical miles from when we left St. George's Harbor. So far, we couldn't have asked for better weather, with mostly sun and a few scattered showers. We've had 2 or 3 cloudy days so far which have given us a chance to cool down and stop madly lathering on sunscreen to avoid getting burned. The wind hasn't always been in our favor and we have done a little bit of motoring but nothing to get upset about, we have yet to use up the first half of our fuel. The water maker is running swimmingly, and today brought the second round of showering (now if only we could figure out how to moderate the temperature down from scalding, we'd running a regular Holiday Inn out here in the Atlantic). We have left the tropical land of warm evenings and have entered a world of long johns and foul weather gear on night watch.

Yesterday we sailed over the Newfoundland Seamounts, which brought a whole variety of sea life our way, as well as some fishing boats which appeared out of the grey misty morning. At the 0800 watch change a call came through on the VHF from the fishing boat off our port beam, "Buenas Dias" the voice said. We got on the horn and said hello (El and Patrick piecing together the necessary Spanish to chat with the ship). They were from Spain and were catching Tiburon (shark), and swordfish. They gave us an update on a high pressure system to look out for, and before saying goodbye offered us some fish “para comer, para comer,” to eat. We debated and voted. Eventually (at Sam's urging) we decided to err on the side of safety and politely decline, lest they turn out to be pirates instead of the friendly fishermen they sounded like. (Note, we didn't really think they were pirates, and don't consider pirates to be a high risk on this passage.) Other excitements of the day included sperm whales (spotted by Pat) and a huge pod of dolphins. While Patrick was calibrated the compass he inadvertently awoke a sleeping sperm whale. He woke up Stuart thinking it was a worthwhile sight, but after looking out the “living room” windows Stu decided to crawl back into his cave and sleep. It was decided over dinner (turkey, peas, and rice) that the next interior-decorating move could include the addition of a chandelier to the living room, per Sam's request. We have tentatively switched to a one-man watch schedule which is essentially the same as our previous two-man system except that if you are on watch and feel comfortable in your control of the boat and the safety of the situation, you can choose to let your watch mate sleep for 2 more hours. This is great because it allows for 8 hours of sleep between watches and has stepped up the personal responsibility and caution of all crewmembers.

Watch last night was the type of glorious you read about in sappy sailing novels. The sky was grey and it was misting but the seas were calm, the breeze was steady at 12 to 15 knots, and there were intermittent patches of incredible stars. We sailed with a never-ending pod of dolphins jumping and playing around the boat, visible only by the phosphorescence around their bodies and in their trails. They looked like underwater torpedoes of green light crisscrossing off our bow.

A becalmed drizzle this morning led to our first use of the DVD player, one episode of the BBC's Planet Earth over your choice of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate and fresh banana bread baked by Stu. This afternoon the wind has been up and down, and in an attempt to harness the breeze available we spent a full two hours rolling up the jib, dropping the main, setting the chute, setting the main, reefing the main, rolling out the jib, setting the spinnaker staysail, rolling up the jib, dropping the chute, dropping the spinnaker staysail, rolling out the jib, and finally breaking for lunch before poling out the jib on a wing. We have not fully succeeded in stabilizing the boat in our current seas but a little George Winston calmed everyone down and we're going to try out this setup for a few hours and see how it goes. The good news is the sail changes provided some excitement and exercise, which was much needed given the amount of delicious food we have been eating. Linda's perfectly planned menu has treated us incredibly well. The only food given to the fish so far has been the unfrozen bread and lettuce.

Hello to everyone at home and thank you for reading!
Fair winds and following seas,

The Barra Crew
(This update has been brought to you by El)

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