Wednesday, 27th May brought variable winds, both in direction and strength, which required much sail changing. We did not have the luxury of roller headsails, but we did have a furling mainsail. Unfortunately, to get the sail to set properly when reefed, we had to insert a wad of foam into the lower rolls. This was tedious and energy sapping, and the operation had an element of danger. Just one false move and the person doing the reefing could be over the side on account of the unpredictable movement of the boat. While doing deck work we always secured ourselves with safety harnesses that were attached to jackstays running along the side decks. Whenever we left the cabin we habitually wore safety harnesses. We made the wearing of harnesses a standing rule to be adhered to both day and night.
Me practising using the sextant two years before, when aboard 'Zeta'
Despite the rolling of the boat, I managed to obtain a good noon sight with the sextant. This enabled me to plot the ship’s position with some confidence. Slowly but surely the wind lessened and steadied from ahead, markedly reducing the boat’s speed. The weather forecast for Sole predicted static conditions with no indication of favourable winds to come. To boost our morale and charge the ship’s batteries we fired up the Yanmar, giving the yacht a tick-over speed of three knots. Neither of us liked the sound of the engine, but it was more important to make progress than to waste time getting nowhere. Altogether, the future for the next few days didn’t look promising, and for sure, we did not have enough fuel for motoring all the way to the Azores.
We had a simple routine of four hours on and four hours off combined with a dogwatch of two hours on and two hours off which gave us plenty of time for rest and for making meals. The man off watch made the main meal which was eaten in the evening after the shipping forecast. Other meals and snacks were taken individually, as and when we wanted them. I did the major part of the navigation, being responsible for plotting the ship’s position at noon and recording miles run over 24 hours.
A lot happened on the 28th May. We noticed that the clew of the mainsail required attention where the cringle was coming adrift from the sail. Bill had the appropriate thread, needles and sailmaker’s palm, and with them he repaired the sail. He washed a number of his socks by tying them to a line that he dangled over the stern. He also cleaned himself by taking a seawater shower in the cockpit. He seemed relaxed, and I think he was beginning to adjust to life at sea. Finally he washed a number of dirty dishes and disposed of a few empty cans by jettisoning them into the ocean. We watched them slowly sink until they were lost in the depths. Not surprisingly, all this activity attracted the interest of a shark that swam around the yacht. Not long before dusk an exhausted swallow landed on the cabin top, took off again and flew into the cabin where it stayed for the night.
Shortly after midnight the Autohelm packed up, but we were able to make the boat self-steer by attaching bungees to the tiller. At 0600 I plotted the yacht’s dead reckoning position on the chart and remarked to Bill that there were 4,500 metres of water under the boat. He pertinently replied that only half-an-inch of plywood was between us and the bottom! That didn’t worry me, for I had faith in ‘Ishani’, because I had seen how she had been built by my companion over a period of three years. She would hold together under the severest conditions, which was just as well, for shortly we were to experience a Bay of Biscay gale.
Text for the Day
1 Corinthians 13:13 'And now abide in faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.