Squalls and clams but horror of all horrors, the loo is blocked

We’ve been sailing through highly variable, squally conditions for most of the day, and I’m currently looking at two more squalls on the radar. We’re passing through the band of them that the ARC office warned us about yesterday. Fortunately, for my watch anyway, we seem to change watches minutes before we sail into each squall. Early this morning, the other watch got completely soaked minutes after we’d collapsed into our pipe cots, holding our breath that the clouds wouldn’t burst before we ducked below. We haven’t had anything near the possible 80 knots that was predicted, but we’ve had our share of difficult conditions, peeling kites and changing headsails continuously throughout the day. A few hours ago, the towering clouds formed a dramatic orange sunset, framed by nasty black clouds to the north and south. Running as fast as we could to make it through the bright gap that beckoned in between, it felt like we were passing through some kind of ethereal portal.

It seems rare to manage an ocean crossing without a calm spell, and we’re currently serving time in ours. It’s not entirely unexpected, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. After having adjusted to watches with one, or even two crew continuously hunched over the coffee grinders, bursting into action at the command ‘GRIND!’ we’re now trimming from the leeward rail witth a few fingers around the sheet. A little earlier today Manfred, our retired USB banker, started a ‘sweepstakes’ to guess when we would arrive in St Lucia. I think he missed his calling as an East End bookie. Anyway, at the time we were steaming along at 13 knots. Not being a gambling man, and not wanting to jinx our arrival, I didn’t get involved. Now everyone is recalculating their ambitious estimates. It’s amazing how relative speed is. When you’ve been sitting at 12 to 14 knots most of the day, 10 knots seems pathetically slow. Then a few hours later, after wallowing along through a calm patch at 3 knots, 5 knots seems like a reason to celebrate.

So we’ve slowed down a bit. Some of the competition has crept a little closer to us over the last 24 hours, but they have yet to go through the lighter stuff that we’re now leaving behind. On the plus side, it is a beautiful night: peaceful, warm and starry. With little other disturbance on the water, the phosphorescence in our bow wave seems to be making a special effort, picking out the tiny crests in brilliant silvery green.

On a less pleasant note, our heads is blocked. Not a particularly inviting installation to begin with (a tiny gimballed bowl by the mast, separated from the ‘galley’ by a curtain of sailcloth) it’s now completely useless and will need some attention tomorrow to restore it to it’s former functional glory. Oh joy.