Whether it's the bilges or flying fish, Dee Caffari reports on her reluctant clean up over the weekend

Friday 2 December

I felt I should spend some time looking after Aviva yesterday as she has done so well with sailing herself along whilst I throw my tools around in frustration. We spent some time on deck together last night and the conditions were very shifty. The wind kept swinging by about 50 degrees, so I was trimming the sails in then easing them out trying to keep the boat speed as high as possible all the time. We passed another vessel too far away to strike up conversation but that was the first one for a couple of days so it was exciting all the same.

I grabbed some rest in the early hours feeling calm after my time on deck enjoying the sailing again. I woke to call the UK for some interviews. It is kind of cool phoning up from the middle of the Atlantic to catch up with news. Satellite technology is fantastic and, makes voyages such as this easier knowing you can always pick up the phone. The pioneers of offshore sailing, such as Blyth, Chichester and Knox-Johnson had no such luxuries and spent painful amounts of time trying to get a clear signal patched through on the HF Radio.

I then tackled a job that has been bugging me for a couple of days and that was the dreaded ‘bilges’. As the temperature has been warming up Aviva had been developing a boat smell, no, not my feet, however my boots are on deck airing! More of a bilge smell. I set about pumping them dry. Well over the course of about 2 hours a fair amount of water came from the bilges, which must have been a fair weight I was carrying, so now she is clean and dry, Aviva will be able to sail faster again. I get all the glamorous jobs!

Yesterday was a textbook trade wind sailing day. There was warm sunshine, consistent breeze from the East, calm seas, and dolphins playing around the bow of Aviva for hours. They were having great fun, as was I, sat on the deck watching them.

I made every effort to enjoy the sailing today and eat well. I shall try and gain some extra rest tonight as well, as the closer we get to the doldrums the more unpredictable the weather we will get. I also still have that dreaded sail to repair that I have been avoiding at all costs.

Saturday 3 December

I knew it was going to happen, it was only a matter of time. The flying fish have arrived. I now have a new duty each morning and that is to rid the deck of the unlucky souls that didn’t see us coming on their night time flight across the water. Now I am pretty squeamish when it comes to stuff like this and it has been a massive hurdle I have had to overcome. Dead flying fish smell really bad. My biggest fear is that with the days and nights being much warmer now and having hatches open is that a fish finds it way through an open hatch. I am almost tempted to close them all at night.

Anyway, I have developed a fish scoop so that I can toss them back into the water. There is no way I could touch one, scooping them is difficult enough. I had a total of four on deck yesterday – we shall see how the score develops.

Scoreboard: Flying fish 4 – Aviva 0

Other than sailing Aviva in these wonderful reaching conditions with the sun and the surf all working with us for a rare occasion, I have also made a start on fixing the Code 0 sail. I am however, on the first hoist with the sail going to need very light winds so I can make the necessary adjustments without the risk of losing it all again. My nerves will be tested on that day when it arrives. Thankfully the weather so far has been on my side and we haven’t needed the sail to make good progress. Long may that continue?

Well I am passing the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa and looking for an entry to cross the doldrums that are just north of the equator. With all the unsettled weather we have had in the North Atlantic the trade winds were very unpredictable. I have been fortunate after my brush with the tropical storm that the weather has established itself once more. Now the band of the doldrums is never a static structure and timing and position is everything when trying to pass through. Mike Broughton has been doing a spectacular job of weather routing me along my path and I have absolute faith that the South Atlantic will be as rapid as the North has been. We have just over 1000 miles to the equator and after a brief chat with Neptune we shall pass from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere. That will mark the first real milestone for Aviva and I on this remarkable journey.

Sunday 4 December

Scoreboard: Flying Fish 2 – Aviva 0

I am making progress on the code 0. I have put a new webbing strop on the tack of the sail and then will put a spectra lashing through the thimble on the furling drum. In order for it to be the right length I need to hoist it really and then be able to adjust it as necessary, so I shall wait a no wind day that fortunately Mike Broughton has yet to find. I have cheated slightly as I did not think my needles and my hands would take stitching through such thick layers so I made some holes with a hot knife and put some nuts washers and bolts through. It was much quicker than sewing, now I just need some padding to cover the ends.

The temperatures are beginning to heat up somewhat, especially below decks. It makes the simple things in life like making a cup of tea, more draining when it is so hot. That together with a sea temperature of 27 degrees makes the water in the tanks and nice warm temperature to drink and is enough to put you off anything with cold milk, as I have to make it by mixing powder with water.

Still the weekend is here, and I had an average morning, had a lie in, and ate some tea and toast in front of the box. Checked out the newspapers and shall pop into town for some shopping during the afternoon. Out with the girls for a few bottles of wine and a giggle tonight, now what shall I wear? I can catch up with the X-Factor later.

In reality, I woke from a half hour catnap and carried out some generator checks for oil and water. Put the generator on and ran the water maker. Had a quick shower, trimmed some sails, and removed the flying fish from the deck. Had something to eat and drink, completed the next stage of mending my Code 0, trimmed some sails again, wrote a daily report to the Technical Support Team, had a short nap, trimmed some sails, studied a game of Su Doku on deck whilst checking the trim of the sails. Had a chat with Aviva about how well she is doing. Tackled the steering area with a grease gun, which was a very messy job. Wrote the Daily Log to send, completed a deck check before it got dark, made some more food and drink, read some pages of a book, checked my bilges for water, grabbed some shut eye and so the story goes on. As you can see there is always something to do and even if you chose to put it off, you will still have to do it at some stage.

There will be more of the same tomorrow.

But I must just add congratulations to John Q and Jo and the birth of their little boy. That is great news.

Dee & Aviva