Lynn Grano reports on the 18th day at sea aboard the ARC yacht Eleutheria

Date 8 December 2005
Position North Atlantic / 14.00.07 N; 54.13.23 W

Kawabunga? the surf is up, and we have hit our stride in earnest. Yesterday’s 24-hour run distance was a blistering 197 nm. Today’s was even better at 198 nm. We’ve been seeing winds mostly in the 25-32 knot range with squall line gusts considerably higher, sometimes followed by a deluge of badly needed boat rinsing rain and a subsequent short period of the winds dying down to as little as 10 knots. Then, the winds start up again. The seas continue to build, with yesterday’s mostly 2-4metre wave heights by this morning becoming consistent 4s and 5s, with some occasional 6 metre waves pasting or pushing the boat, depending on where they strike the boat.

The autopilot has been working overtime and doing a credible job, but for the big time fun, we steer and try to catch some surf. Yesterday, the boat hit an astonishing 15.1 knots on the speedo down a wave on a sustained ride that seemed to last as long as the Maui to Oahu pineapple shuttle. Our SOG (speed over ground) has been no less interesting? hitting as high as 12.7. Not bad for a reasonably heavy displacement Swedish built cruiser without using a kite.

The only price to be paid for all this speed in the big waves is that we’ve taken a few rather large greenies over the boat and into the centre cockpit, thus causing us to use both companionway washboards and keeping all the hatches completely sealed.

With the now tropical air and water temps, the poorly circulating air down below is making the cabin ambience feel like something between a junior high locker room, Finnish sauna, and Chinese coal mine moments before disaster.

We seem to be doing reasonably well with our fellow ARC sailors. Last evening we even passed an Oyster 53. On the other hand, there’s another Hallberg-Rassy 43 that remains a day ahead of us and we’ve run out of time to run it down. Given today’s weather projection, this fun might continue for at least another day. In fact, during the first six hours of tomorrow’s 24-hour period, we cranked off a staggering 54.7 nm. If that pace could be continued, by tomorrow at noon, we’d have ourselves a 218 nm day. Unlikely, but if it happened, we’d give thanks to Neptune by pouring a shot of rum off the bow.