This is rather an extensive blow by blow account of the 14 days, 18 hours at sea. It could be seen as overwhelming… but hopefully between the Chicken Spice and Chocomilk you will find some Golden Nugget’s.
Day 16: Race Day 1
16th November 2016
Up early. Eggs and bacon – the Belgium way. A kind of scrambled omelet. Trip to the bakery, had a custard tart for the trouble.
Ready to go…. Slight problem with the Vang. The Vang is basically a hydraulic kicker. The kicker keeps the Boom down. The Boom is the horizontal element at the bottom of the Main Sail. The Sail is the piece of material that catches the wind. The wind makes you go go!
So the Vang broke during Leg 1. How, I hear you ask. It was decided to set the autopilot to adjust with the bearing (direction we want to go) as opposed to the wind direction. This meant that when the wind shifted we kept on the same course. Therefore causing the sail to gybe with no warning – the boom swung dangerously from one side of the boat to the other very fast. Thankfully no one was standing. Anyway this manoeuvre caused the steel shaft in the Vang to shear straight through. Not ideal. So when we arrived on São Vicente, the Vang went to get fixed… “It’ll be with you tomorrow” they cried. Tomorrow never came. We waited… And waited… And waited. You get the picture. Race Day came and the Vang turned up at 1245 (starting gun at 1300).
So inevitably no start for us. I stood and cheered all the absolute legends we met on the other boats as they disappeared into the distance. Vang wasn’t fixed properly. It was taken back off the boat at 1320 and now we wait. The tension mounting.
We set off at 1800, bring it on! Wind dropped. Engine on.
Dinner – Engine with bbq and fried potato in chicken spice… A Belgian’s favourite.
1100-0200 Night shift with Jean – the Moon’s Halo present. In our atmosphere, frozen crystals of water that are… Refracting? Defusing? Defracting? Need to research, any thoughts? On another note, we overtook 9 boats with Chocomilk and salted peanuts in hand. Hard to get back into the swing of things, droopy eyes all round.
Day 17: Race Day 2:
17th November 2016
1 min plank. 30 sec left plank. 30 sec right plank. 1 min plank. 100 bicycles. Rest. 100 bicycles. Rest. 100 bicycles. Rest. 15 Straight leg hip raises. Rest. 20 straight leg hip raises. Rest. 30 commandos. Rest. 1 min plank. 30 sec left plank. 30 sec right plank. 80 mountain climbers. Rest. 80 mountain climbers. Rest. 80 mountain climbers. Completed.
Dinner – chorizo and butter bean stew, usually a hit… Max, Bianca and Zoe (MBZ) can’t eat it as garlic makes them ill… Not sure how they ate lasagne at the Italian the other week…
0200-0500 Night shift with Michel. Cereal. Chocomilk – you gotta love it! Engine.
Day 18: Race Day 3:
18th November 2016
Already days are merging into one and there have only been three!
1055 SSB (Single Side Band) radio time! All vessels fitted with the SSB radio in the Arc tune into the specified channel. Each day there is a Duty Net Controller who conducts a roll call (by calling the yachts in numerical order) taking their position, followed by wind speed and direction. This daily radio-net is for extra safety purposes. (In case the Yellow Brick Tracker fails).
Today Lady Biz was the Duty Net Controller and I was in charge! Oh oh! Not sure it was the best idea… There were a few minor hiccups. Reading under pressure is not my strong point – little did they know! But by gumdrops Jess and I were in stitches. My mistake.
“Nothing heard… Oh sorry couldn’t hear you then…Oh yes there you are… Go ahead… No lost you again… Could you repeat that.” What a shambles. I blame the signal…
Mariela came to my rescue! They had said previously that they would not partake in the SSB but clearly they were bobbing along enjoying the show, as were many others unfortunately. “Riel, thanks for helping a brother out!” Is what I wanted to say, but as a true sailor I kept my professionalism intact. A few minutes later a very sexy voice from Sea Flute came to the forefront. Strong and clear. “Yes please carry on Sea Flute” whatever you say Sea Flute…
Interesting Fact of the Day:
A block of wood was dropped over the stern of a ship, attached to a long length of line, marked by knots at regular intervals. Speed was measured by counting the number of knots which were dragged overboard in a given time as the ship sailed away from the block of wood. This is why speed is measured in knots and is probably why the instrument which does the measuring is called a ‘log’. Used by Columbus and Magellan. Interesting, yes!?
Dinner – beef and mash
Storm hit 2030. Fast asleep. Big bang. Huge wave. Sea in cabin. Flipping side to side. Shut window. Life jacket on. Get upstairs. Dark. Shouting. Flash light darting. Jean at helm. Max and Michel at bow. Shouting. Wind howling. Can’t understand. Sail banging. Spinnaker flying high like wet rag. Noise. Dutch. Loud flapping. Noise. Rain. 30 knot wind. Rope snapped. Spinnaker fly from top. Shouting. Spinnaker in sea. Flash light. Dutch. Spinnaker no longer attached. Drifting into distance. Rain spitting. Spinnaker gone. Main sail gybed. Jib out. All in cock pit. Moment. Michel smoke. 2115 back in bed. It went as quick as it came.
2140 Smell smoke. Light on. “There is a fire onboard!” J. “There’s no smoke without fire” G. Out of bed. Strong smell. Michel, head in the engine room. Max, revving the engine like billyo.
And that is how you lose a £20,000 230m² spinnaker in a snapshot. Followed by getting the spinnaker rope caught in the propeller. Classic. Well not in a storm, a squall to be precise, gusting ‘near gale’.
“The mind boggles.” Jess 2200
0500-0800 shift with Max. V.sleepy. Rain. Radar. Chocomilk.
Day 19: Race Day 4
19th November 2016
Dad. Two years ago I lost my rock. You soon realise that there is no option but to carry on, even if it is not you anymore. You are empty. At the thought, the emotion is indescribable. I worry that my lack of words will cause his memory to be lost.
Rain all day. Fry up with baked beans.
Night shift Jean. Over a chocomilk we discussed his boating incidents….
As well losing two masts… One night aboard my boat a renowned sailor miscounted the number of bouys. He turned at the 4th instead of the 5th… We hit a sand bank. It was bad weather. I rang the emergency services. They came but couldn’t help due to bad weather – said they’d come back, they forgot. Eventually we had to get towed by a fellow yacht. Many passed by, only one offered to help. I was very thankful. What comes around, goes around. J F Stocks.
Day 20: Race Day 5
20th November 2016
Cooked a fry up for Jean.
SSB Sea Flute as Duty Net Controller. That voice again. Jess and I dribbled by the radio. Oh don’t stop Sea Flute. You could get lost in his voice. Here’s to hoping he’s not a 70 year old bauldy with no teeth.
Plotted position on chart.
Made bread and flapjack! Rachael, Jess, Michel, Jean and I tucked in. It went down a storm! Exercise routine complete. About to hop in shower, very much looking forward to it.
Dinner – meat balls with chicken spice (“I’m sure that was kangaroo or something, it wasn’t normal” Rachael) very sweet tomato sauce with eggs in and good old mash potato. The Belgian’s really do love their potato!
Michel night shift – growing concern of the Chocomilk consumption. It has been noticed.
Day 21: Race Day 6
21st November 2016
Max 1140 “The most boring 14 days of my life” hmmmm.
Jean: Where does port and starboard come from? 1000 years ago, all the steering equipment was kept on the right. Therefore when they got to the port they had to come along side on the left, the port side. Starboard – Steerboard in Dutch.
I’m slowly working through the navigation book. On board, we have 2 charts, Mercator’s and Gnomonic. Mercator’s being first port of call. Easiest to find a picture but a quick description if you’re interested:
Mercator’s projection = imagine peeling the globe like an orange. The meridians appear as parallel vertical lines, with parallels of latitude as horizontal parallel lines, all intersecting at exactly ninety degrees. Therefore distances are distorted at the poles.
Gnomonic projection = sit a globe on a sheet of paper, where it touches is the tangent. The meridians appear as straight lines, while parallels of latitude appear as curves. The overall pattern can vary depending where the tangent point is located.
A few things about spending days at sea. You can lose the will, Rachael for example became vacant. It is so important to have certain tasks to complete every day. Usually I try to play the guitar, read the navigation book, do exercise routine, make bread or yummy things.
“Some of the oceans are deeper than the highest mountain on earth” Jean, 1605 21.11.16
Stretching at the back. One day I will touch my toes…
Dinner – chicken, pineapple and of course chicken spice. Michel’s choice.
Max 0500 – 0800. 2 words. “Too slow” As he turns the engine on.
Day 22: Race Day 7
22nd November 2016
Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun.
The half-daily pattern – high and low water…. All thanks to the Moon.
The Earth and Moon are held together by each other’s gravity, and that this unevenly- matched pair spin around their centre of mass – a spot called the barycentre.
The water nearest the Moon is attracted more strongly than the earth itself and the water on the other side, less strongly. Therefore causing two bulges of water on each side (high water). As the Earth is spinning on its axis every 24h you see budge approximately every 12h. In practice, the pattern of bulges move around the earth in step with the Moon. (Moon orbit = 27.5 days)
High water = 12h25m apart
The half-monthly pattern – springs and neaps…. Well done Sun.
The Sun is 400 times further away than the moon, although much bigger, it’s tide-raising powers are only about 45% of those of the moon. The Sun’s effect is less and just distorts the Moon’s tides. Once a fortnight, at full and new moon, the sun and moon’s tide coincide = spring tide.
In between, the sun and moon work against each other. The moon tide is reduced to half the size of spring tide = neap tides.
Had snickers. Made Focaccia bread. Yoga stretching on the back of the boat. Ate bread.
Dinner – beef, couscous, scrambled egg
Jean 1100 – 0200
Chocomilk. It’s becoming an addiction. Incredible star lit sky with sea mist. Stars so bright! Milky Way clear as day. Tonight’s topic: “Fluffy bits” of your character. Jean believes that you can’t really determine someone’s character… Just the fluffy bits. Perhaps it’s the fluffy bits I attempt to describe in my written charicatures.
Day 23: Race Day 8
23rd November 2016
Flying fish, a revelation. Must research. I’ve seen them fly above the water for over 15m, crazy fishbird! They are officially the coolest animal spotted.
“Waiting for Pampous” Michel, 1000 23.11.16. Meaning: Waiting but don’t want to. When sailors used to fight against the wind around the island of Pampous.
Why do you look in the eye whilst cheersing? In the olden days, if you looked in the eyes then you trusted the person not to poison you. If you look at the glass then you’re checking! In the higher classes, look in the eye. In the lower classes, clash glasses and spill the beer between you, then you all get poisoned! Jean 1457 23.11.16
Hit jackpot, EVERYBODY loves the lemon drizzle cake! Ironically Jess and I made up the recipe like George’s Marvelous Medicine. The scales didn’t work and there was no baking powder on board so we went a little off piste… I suggested the use of yeast as the raising agent. But who’d have guessed it, we had ourselves a winner!!
Dinner – spaghetti bolognaise
Night shift with Michel – stars out and a great chat over lemon drizzle cake. He is a family man through and through. He loves and is so proud of his wife and children. It makes my heart warm. “Until I have your goodness I can never have your happiness.” Lizzy to Jane, the sheep, Pride and Prejudice.
Michel talked of life events. There was no option but to carry on. It changes how you approach life, but after a while the change in mentality feeling fades. I need to focus on not losing it.
“Sea lightning!” Michel. It’s the plankton again.
Day 24: Race Day 9
24th November 2016
Cooked a fry up but I ate yogurt… Something must be wrong – I don’t seem to have a temperature though. Rachael has cabin fever, not exactly sure what that is – to research.
Crossing the Atlantic book. Items degrade in the sea.
Dolphins!!! I opened my lungs and bellowed a homemade tune… I hear dolphins love music… It was not appreciated by humans unfortunately.
Sometimes it’s the little things…
Dinner – chicken Thai green curry
Day 25: Race Day 10
The Book Thief. What a story.
Prediction for arrival: Tuesday 29th at 2pm. Ooooo I love the chart work!
Can’t hear a thing out of left ear.
The Barometer, “BaryMetre” to Jess, shows changes in air pressure… a sign of weather to come. I personally think every household should own one!
Dinner – bbq burger and fried potatoes in chicken spice. I will be glad to see the back of it!
Night shift Jean. 9-12 knots wind. Motor sailing. No boats.
Day 26: Race Day 11
Saturday 26th November 2016
As I take up the sizzling pancakes… “That’s the way uh uh I like it uh uh” Jean, 0915 26.11.16
Radar tells all, a squall is on route. Close all the hatches! Although it never came, Jess and I did accomplish 2 loaves of bread and falafels!
The Book Thief complete – tears shed as necessary.
Rachael is at her lowest and has not moved from the chair below deck. Getting quite concerned for her mental state.
A monumental moment, 1905 26.11.16. The engine has been turned off. I forgot how silence felt. Unfortunately the ear is deaf and ringing so I can’t fully appreciate it like the others. Typical. Useful advice from Michel on the ear situation though, “Take a vacuum cleaner to it. Vooom!”
Wind speed 9.3 kn. SOG 6.2 kn. A beam reach working wonders.
Dinner: beef, pineapple rice
Night shift with Michel. Best stars yet. I saw the most incredible shooting star!!!! It streaked through the sky for a long time. Then it BOOOOMED! I could actually see the explosion at the end. Wowsers.
Topic: How Michel met his wife and what is eaten for Christmas dinner. Both very important.
Day 27: Race Day 12
Sunday 27th November 2016
Prediction for arrival: Wednesday 30th evening. 432nm to go with assumed boat speed of 5kn = 3.6 days
Focus of the day: My left ear. The little shit.
Dinner: pesto pasta for us. Chicken spice tomato sauce for them. I cannot take any more chicken spice! I’ve had it!
“I would stand on anyone to get my Chocomilk.” Jess. She has not yet tasted the delicious milky chocolatey goodness and they are running low. She only wants one on her last night, madness I tell you!
Standard chat in our bedroom of Rachael’s condition:
“I thought we lost you.” G
“There was a moment I thought you had.” R
“That was yesterday.” J
Night shift with Max. Silence.
Day 28: Race Day 13
28th November 2016
We have wind!!! 18.4 knots of it! SOG = 7.5 knots. We also have sea sickness on board. Rachael, Jess, Bianca and Zoe.
We’ve lost Rachael again.
Talk of a pit stop via Barbados. As you do. I wonder if the rest of the Arc will be taking a break for fuel. Not sure it’s the done thing in a sailing race…
“It’s a don’t worry be happy island.” Michel, 1313 28.11.16
Dinner = chicken curry
Night shift with Jean. Good wind! 19.2 knots. Sailing at 8-9 knots. Darkest of dark sky with no moon and few stars. Then we saw lightning! Talked dreams. Mainly nightmares on my part. Starring sleep walking, sleep talking and scary moments in life.
0500 squall hit. Hard rain. Like being in a tent. Pitter patter.
Day 29: Race Day 14
Tuesday 29th November 2016
Porridge for breakfast with peaches from a tin. Oh the good old days of school dinners. Remember the semolina and peaches?
Cloudy day. Wind dropped. Concern mounting on fuel consumption. The old poke a stick in and measure the left overs trick being used – like the oil check in a car. The tank holds 805 litres of fuel… Not sure how we’ve managed to use it all… Actually….
2 sea birds swirl around the boat. Black and a little white with large wing span. Beautiful – wildlife has been sparse the last 14 days.
1900: 118nm to go!
“I think this is the most disgusting I’ve felt in my entire life” Rachael. Is it wrong that I’ve been much worse!? Multiple times…
The Last Night
I was on shift 0200-0500 with Michel. We were motoring along, minding our own business when 2 white birds sprung out of the water! They swirled around over head sqwarking!! It was a wonderful moment. A noise other than water, people or engine. A loud high pitched sqwark! Oh we were overjoyed. It was a sign. A few minutes later the wind slowly increased from 3kn to 22kn! We quickly got the sails out and before we knew it we were speeding along at 8.9 knots with ease with the wind in our hair… Pigeon at one.
0800 LAND GLORIOUS LAND!!!!!
If you made it this far congratulations and thank you… Sometimes I bore myself.
P.s. To view lots of stunning sunsets and more, visit my Instagram Pigeonpictures. In case you have issues finding it like my mother… All you need to do is press the camera icon at the bottom of this page and it will link you through.