Full-on conditions continue to make life tough for Steamy Windows crew Caylie Jeffery reports from the ARC 7/12/06

Log date 7 December 2006
Position N 13 48, W 37 57

This is not what the brochure said would happen! We were sold 15 knot NE trade winds, sunny days, loads of fish and time to read all the books we’ve been sent. We had this sort of weather on days 3 and 4, but ever since then… what a nightmare.

When David and I sailed from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands in October, we had two days of 40 knot winds, and absolutely no sleep for three days because of double-handed helming. At the time we thought we were perhaps going to come a cropper, but now we know that this actually gave us all the training and experience we needed to handle the ARC.

We have now had six days of 25 knot winds and 10-14ft waves. Our autohelm hasn’t coped so we have hand steered the whole time. Of the two people on each watch, one person does the wave spotting to help the hard-working helmsman with white knuckles, and then they swap every half hour. Fortunately there are four of us now, so we have all managed some sleep between watches, but the general morale of the boat has dropped significantly.

We talk of being still, in a calm harbour and able to get a full night’s sleep. We talk of the rum cocktails upon arrival in St Lucia. We talk of seeing land and then walking on it, for hours and hours and hours.

Food being the all-important feature of each day has also let us down over the last few days – just when we needed it most. David served squid-in-ink pasta one night, in the dark so the crew wouldn’t be shocked by it, but then proceded to tell them what it was. The hungry wolves suddenly weren’t so ravenous any more! Then last night, I made a posh pasta sauce but cooked the pasta in too much salt water, and it as nearly inedible! But our marvellous crew soldiered through the meal and even had seconds, just to make me feel better.

We have run out of meat and fresh vegetables, but plenty of good things still aboard, and no shortages. Care packages from Australia and South Africa have provided the midnight snacks we have desperately needed to stay upright – Tims Tams being particularly good.

Today looked to be exactly the same but we have continued on a southerly heading to avoid the winds predicted on the forecast. Soon we will be gybing, so we don’t miss the Caribbean altogether and hit Brazil, so I must go and take my position on deck.

Please wish calmer seas upon us all – especially the poor double handers out there – our thoughts are with them.

Other boats in the ARC have been taking part in Yacht Idle – a competition to see who can relay the most entertaining poem, story, song etc on the SSB. Rules are ‘no mime and no dance’ so pretty much everything else is OK – looking forward to hearing the outcomes!

Whales have been playing with several ARC boats – following in their wakes for up to six hours, then returning the next day. One catamaran had a pair of Killer whales swimming alongside, with one of them venturing under the centre of the boat!