Lia Ditton hears the sound of heavy breathing but there's no one there… 21/11/06

I am rolling up the jib and about to unfurl the larger Code 0, when there is a breathing sound off the starboard beam. I turn on the full beam on my head torch, but there is no visible jet of water or ripple to note. It is pitch-black. Back into darkness, the creature exhales again, now much closer, near the stern. I pause. He is eerily close. As I walk up the deck on the port side to check that the sheets are clear and free to run, what I think is a whale, is now on the port side. When the Code unfurls we begin to slip away, and it is my turn to breathe out.

In the early hours of the morning before light time, I gave up snoozing on the deck with my knees curled round a winch, for the relative comfort of the nav station. It was cooler down below now. When I woke it was light and the radar transponder was flashing red – a ship was near by. I climbed on deck and saw the lights of a freighter astern. I wondered how close he had passed me by. Around mid morning I spotted a pleasure cruiser on the horizon heading for the islands. I concluded it was time to be more vigilant on that front; sleeping in shorter bursts or with the radar on and the proximity alarm engaged.

‘Roaring forty’ may have left me well in his tracks having reached the trade winds first, but today has otherwise been an idyllic day onboard. With ten knots of breeze and a clear blue sky, the Code O has been flying us towards Guadeloupe. I spent most of the day hand steering, heating it up into the wind and then bearing away. When the sun got too much and I feared that it was me being grilled rather than the lobsters in Guadeloupe, I had a rather pleasant nap on the cockpit floor! It is just about long enough.

The acoustics of water rushing past the cockpit drains, combined with the milk-bottle top hum of air bridging the gap, lulled me into a most relaxing slumber. As a period to reflect on 4,486 solo miles logged so far, since we bought the boat on Tuesday 19 September this year, it doesn’t get any better. Only the white linen shirt fluttering in the breeze over the Italian-designer bikini; the handsome man with the colourful cocktail and the voiceover advertising an ‘Eau de Parfume’ is missing from this scenario.