Firefly, 10 December 2001: But worst of all has to be be cooking. Nothing can be put down and left or inevitably it finishes up on the floor

Firefly, 10 December 2001
16° 56N 53° 43W
Distance to St Lucia 450nm

According to Jeremy Wyatt at World Cruising Club, organisers of the ARC, when I spoke to him via Iridium phone to report our noon position, this year has been a heavy weather crossing, with a lot of equipment damage reported. Our experience bears this out.

With the exception of one short period when we drifted along for 12 hours or so with little wind, it has been consistently between 20 and 30 knots, gusting occasionally to 35 knots. So far the damage to Firefly is restricted to a broken reef pennant and a damaged pulpit although the clunking noise coming from the steering gear indicates that it will be due for some R&R when we arrive.

The attrition on board is more to the software on board, the crew. Although we have, so far, suffered little more than bangs and scrapes, it is the wear and tear to thin-stretched patience, the continuous shortage of sleep and the huge effort it takes to undertake the simplest of tasks. Just moving forward to the forecabin or heads, for example, means swinging from handhold to handhold, crashing into the saloon table or the unfortunate sleeping Duncan, hanging on with one hand to open the door which swings open with a crash and, if you’re unlucky enough, back again onto your hand. Then into the always baking hot forecabin (we dare not open the hatch as there is a lot of water and spray flying around) or loo (by concensus, after a couple of messy loo cleaning sessions we all sit now) or shower (like being on an icerink during an earthquake).

But worst of all has to be be cooking. Nothing can be put down and left or inevitably it finishes up on the floor. Pots slide around on the stove and yesterday, inevitably, the first gas bottle ran out half way through cooking – more antics at the bottom of a cockpit locker to recover one of the spares. Last night, my turn to cook, was a piece de big sea sailing resistance, corned beef hash with fresh spuds and onions and baked beans. This cook was drenched when it was finished.

Along with the below and above deck antics (we all reckon our upper body strength has increased markedly) comes the noises, people noises. Uuuuurrrrgggghhhhs and Aaaaaarrrggghhhs and a funny keening ooooohhhhhhhheeeeerrrrrrr mark progress round the boat on a regular basis. Bastard! means a minor hiccup, AAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!! !!! a bit more serious whilst words for the most serious calamaties are not printable here. Suffice to say they are generally Anglo-Saxon in origin.

Well, 450 miles to go. As we’re currently averaging 170 miles a day that suggests latest arrival of around noon GMT on Thursday, the earliest during Wednesday night. Not the 16 days I was hoping for, but respectable nonetheless.