Firefly, 4 December 2001
21° 29 N 39° 10 W
Distance to St Lucia 1,318 nm

Just when we’re looking for some inconsistency in the wind, like just a 10 degree nudge to the north or to the south to give us the slant we need to sail the rhumb line, it remains stubbornly consistent, ENE, dead down wind to St Lucia. To sail that line with any rig configuration in these seas, ignoring Duncan’s jibe about Hoyt hate, would be taking a risk of Damoclean proportions.

Which is why, right now, with a course to St Lucia of 270 Mag, we’re sailing on about 255 Mag. Maybe I should not complain too much because at least we have wind, and wind from behind us, blowing steadily at 15-23 knots. And also, today at any rate, we have sun for much of the time, though fleeces are still the order for night watches.

The fishing lines are out as our last fresh meat, a leg of lamb, is currently in the oven destined to become a curry a la Bray tonight. Stewart and Duncan are watching the extra hot Habanero chilli sauce with wary eyes as the last time I produced a ‘hot’ meal the plates and pans all self-cleaned themselves. I think I’ll be sticking to one of those wonderful Patak’s curry pastes.

Last night Duncan performed a miracle of roast lamb and potatoes with green cabbage. Considering the way Firefly was throwing herself off every third wave we forgave him the lack of gravy and onion sauce. Once tonight’s curry is out of the way, unless we hook a dorado or wahoo, it’ll be Mr Fray Bentos from here on. Mind you, an S&K pie with Canarian potatoes and tinned peas still slips down a treat and we also have, as yet unopened, a large chunk of Serrano ham. On the fruit front the bananas stay stubbornly green, the oranges and apples are still excellent, as are the hundreds of onions and garlic we mistakenly doubled up on.

We return our daily positions direct to World Cruising Club in Cowes by Iridium phone. I am also in frequent contact with the office and with family and although at £1 per minute it is not cheap, it is a far cry from the hours trying to break through to Portishead Radio for a link call that we were using just 6 years ago.

Iridium, though, has been less successful in sending e-mail. I had set up a system to send and receive several a day and despite my own efforts, those of IPC’s IT department, Duncan and a programmer in Las Palmas we just could not make it work. Eventually, by a very roundabout way, Duncan has managed to send e-mail, but it is painstakingly slow. This piece will probably take 5 minutes to send. Iridium itself is brilliant, just like a large mobile, but the way it communicates with other systems and vice versa less so.

Nevertheless, we do have SSB which is invaluable for listening in to the ARC nets. We receive daily forecasts, so far proving highly accurate, position reports and, should we so wish, could take part in the chat sessions exchanging recipes for banana this and that or telling fisherman’s tales. For the most part the net controllers, who do not have an enviable job, manage to keep the lid on what is often ill-disciplined radio procedure. But occasionally it descends into farce with several stations crowding in at the same time with the result, on one occasion, of one patient operator coming in loud and clear with ‘iss dere no discipline on dis net!’

One hazard, more to them than to us, which no-one had really considered before the start, are the rowers taking part in the Ward Evans transatlantic rowing race. Many of these are scattered in the paths of 225 yachts charging to St Lucia and if their nerves are not already stretched, the very real chances of being run down, especially as night, must be playing havoc. Several have been sighted at around 18N and although some of their positions are reported, we will be keeping a keen lookout once we get that far apart.

Meanwhile back to food and to the breadmaker which has been doing its thing all morning and is about to produce lunc