OSTAR competitor Lia Ditton reports from mid-Atlantic on board Shockwave on her return trip to the UK
At 02:42 UTC on the 5 September I parked at north 40 degrees 16 minutes, west 037 degrees 04 minutes. I passed within half a mile within “YA2”. The red painted steel structure with solar side panels was a navigational marker come adrift. Where had it come from? Where would it end up? And how many seafarers will it, in the meantime, perplex with its single (flashing?) red light?
The technical help line employee at B&Q, Paul, unfortunately had the right idea when he suggested hauling the 850 watt ‘performance’ (ha-ha) generator over the side. I dismantled the carburettor to investigate a fuel leak, that was trickling out of the choke and the blasted thing has never worked since. The leak, of course, was a simple debris pile up at the tank to fuel line linkage. But no amount of jet blasting with carb and choke cleaner, fuel/air jet screw tweaking, or the replacement of washers out of Lindt chocolate backing card has yielded a positive vibration yet. If it wasn’t for the challenge posed by this 50Lb Chinese contraption. It would have long ago succumbed to burial at sea…let it rip at 1,200 fathoms! (Unlike my Mothers runny marmalade, which when she took the same attitude sat beautifully on the compost heap, that really would be the end to the saga of this generator.)
Persecuted by the Azores high the last five days have taken the same shape..the breeze barely a tickle and of it never over ten knots apparent. For long periods the wind generator has been motionless, the shadow of its blades cast by the baking midday sun on the cockpit coaming. A ripple of water sluices in and out of the stern scoop and wavelets kiss the floats with a playful kiss. Apart from that, there is a 25 mile circumference. Sometimes the silence is awe inspiring, other times it aches and I peer at the GPS, egging on another mile. A merchant ship might emerge from he horizon, traverse it, then exit out of view. A series of little white fluffy clouds turn muddy pink, then shades of lilac around sunset I can only hope, maybe tomorrow, there will be wind.
A fish (called Wanda!?!) pecks hopefully at the hull for signs of growth and a bite to eat. With Rationing at one meal a day, I too wonder, he might too make a tasty bite to eat! Certainly, he would have been an easy catch as he jumped clean out of the water, with mouth pursed, at the sudden flash of my silver camera.
“Wo!” I said before clutching a winch and sitting down. It felt like Shockwave had just run aground. “You can’t run aground in the middle of the Atlantic.” My rationale pointed out. The whale having circled the boat twice, blowing water more aggressively with each spray was now nudging the main hull. “This whale wants to mate with Shockwave,” I realised. How funny would that read..to shore crew – There is a whale trying to mate with the main hull. Please advise!
Snorkelling off a reef in the Dominican Republic I encountered a fish about the same size as me. “If I flee,” I thought, “it might chase me!”
“If I chase it (take a predatory role) well, that might backfire.”
“If I stand up (it was relatively shallow) it might bite me in the leg and I won’t see to avoid it!”
“What makes a fish scarper?” I thought rapidly….NOISE. With the snorkel acting as a kazoo (a plastic harmonica of sorts given to the musically untalented) Lia did her best impression of a whirling engine propeller into the water. The fish paused, it’s milky top side eye flicked as if to say “what the…!” and then the fish was gone.
It need not be said that under a full audience of star, the combination of jumping up and down on the cockpit floor combined with Lia’s finest imitation of and outboard motor at full tilt worked a treat! The horny whale bumped Shockwave’s bottom one more time and then with a surge of water, was gone.