Sunday 16 September 2012

3rd Leg Day 8: Decommissioning And A Magical Sail

Last night ended with a burst of excitement. The wind came up towards sunset and we raised the mainsail in anger for the first time on the voyage. The wind played along and we were merrily sailing along at around six to seven knots.

Until about 19h00 last night, after dark. Then the wind increased to 13 knots on the beam and we were flying along, the boat making all kinds of new noises. Sounds that we are unaccustomed to, as we have never used the mainsail extensively on this voyage. I had all kinds of emotional ups and downs, between being excited and being scared. But I hung on and decided that this is what sailing is all about and that I need to get used to it. Also, it is not a good thing to let your shipmates get the idea that you are not quite up to the job of watchkeeping, let alone first mate.

I had the time of my life. Sitting at the helm in the dark, bouncing over the small swell, punching through wavelets, all accompanied by the sound of water rushing past the hulls. Sailing at around nine and a half knots in pitch darkness. Magnificent, I tell you. I had chance to experiment with trimming the mainsail using both the traveler and the main sheet. The wind blew reasonably steady, so there was no danger of missing a gust and breaking something. The last time I did anything like this was on my Mosquito catamaran, a little dinghy size boat of sixteen feet. The Leopard 39 is a cruising boat, not meant to sail on the edge, but with an exciting performance nevertheless. Well, at least in these conditions.

I was on a high for half the night, nary a wink of sleep as a result.

The sea around here is littered with, well, litter. Empty shampoo bottles, broken slipslops, The odd plastic sandal, plastic bags and sundry pieces of plastic. All floating on the high seas.We think it comes from dumping activities on the surrounding islands, but cannot be sure. One can but wonder about the application of regulations in the third world coutries around here.

And wonder just how long before we see this as rife in South Africa as well. I suspect that a large part of our country already looks like this. It is just that we simply don't see it because we don't usually travel through those areas.

Today also marked the start of the decommissioning of the household on the boat. Which means clean up some parts of the boat, not to be used again on this voyage. And ditch all the wrappers, papers, magazines that have accumulated in your cabin and elsewhere during the voyage. The cabins will be cleaned as the last duty before vacating the boat, as we all still need a place to sleep. The fishing kit was packed away, as was most of the electronic gadgetry not required for the rest of the voyage.

We also decommissioned our sprout garden, harvesting the last of the sprouts. These happen to be fenugreek sprouts, which we came to like quite a lot. They give a slight bitter taste a salad in addition to the crispiness of the fresh sprouts.

The plastic protective covering we put on all working surfaces will be removed at the last minute. The refrigerator and freezer need to be cleaned,as the freezer is iced up and there is water slopping around in the bottom of the refrigerator. Luckily both are practically empty. We shall probably swwitch them off a day before arriving at Fort Lauderdale. That would give us time to get them back to shop floor condition.

But the oven have to be clean and looking new. I tackled the heat distribution plate in the oven and took the crust of rust and oxide off using water paper and buffing compound. And lots of elbow grease. Now I know where to find a mirror when I need to trim my beard. It's in the oven. I know, I polished it myself.

So, no more bread baking. I shall make bread once more on this voyage, but it will be bread fried in oil. We also cleared out the stowage below the saloon seats and consolidated the food stores in two cardboard boxes underneath the saloon table.

Now one realises just how little food remains on board. Basically we have some emergency stock left. And lots of fresh water. At least we shall not die of thirst.

On this leg of the voyage at least we are reasonably close to civilisation, so a radio call will be sufficient to not have to go on a huge rationing.

There is a wisp of wind today, making the environment aboard slightly more liveable after the heat and doldrums of the last few days.

At four in the afternoon the wind picked up and we could yet again hoist the mainsail. The wind varied between eight and twelve knots apparent wind just abaft the beam. We let the main sheet out and sailed on a broad reach, tying the boom down with a preventer to alleviate the bouncing of the boom. The boat performed magnificently, doing six knots in eight knots apparent wind. And with a beautiful, soothing motion through the flat water. At last we were able to sit back and enjoy the sailing experience. This lasted until two in the moning, when the wind dropped and veered to astern. We stowed the main until the next change in wind.

We are praying for a steady wind like this, that we may swiftly complete the last leg of our voyage.

Authored by Johan Zietsman
Last updated on 2012-12-12

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