Day 3: big blue

It’s now mid-morning on Day 3 of my journey, and I can’t believe just how blue the Atlantic is. Not the light turquoise of your typical tropical beach postcard, but a deep rich blue with a beautiful clarity and feeling of depth. Hardly surprising really as my depth sounder has given up trying to reach the bottom now so it must be pretty deep!

Just after writing yesterday’s entry I experienced my first Atlantic squall. I came up on deck and saw a line of very menacing dark grey clouds coming towards me, with lightning flickering below them. “Hmm”, I thought, “that doesn’t look good”, and moments later it hit me. The wind instantly went from 12 knots to 45 and the world just went crazy. Spray was blown horizontally from the waves to mingle with the torrential rain, the sky went black, and thunder boomed all around over the howl of the wind.

Odyssey handled it superbly, heeling over and coming up into the wind. I struggled to wind in some of the genoa and eased the mizzen and main sheets and slowly got the boat balanced again, but was drenched to the skin in seconds. The squall lasted about 30 minutes then passed as quickly as it came, leaving me to survey the damage.

The Windex was gone from the top of the mast, and the electronic anenometer was barmy barking, showing about 80 knots of wind. Luckily it calmed down over the next hour or so. Somehow the upper port lifeline had been ripped away by the flailing genoa sheet, so I have to be careful not to fall overboard there, but most seriously the Monitor wind vane, which had been steering at the time, had exerted such tremendous pressure on the steering lines that the block leading into the cockpit had torn away from the coaming.

Once it all calmed down I got my tools out and fixed everything, and got the Monitor up and running again. It then continued to steer perfectly all day and night, and is still doing so, thank goodness. It’s a wonderful piece of kit and I can’t recommend it highly enough, though it takes a fair bit of tweaking until you get used to it. I’m still learning but it’s keeping me on course better than the autopilot could under sail.

In the evening I cooked a nice stew of tinned vegetables and soya mince substitute, which turned out to be delicous and I’ve got some leftovers for tonight. I was also a bit naughty and had a beer with my supper but I felt I deserved it, and it went down very nicely thank you.

During the entire day I had only seen three ships, two on the horizon and one which came within a couple of miles. Given that I still hadn’t slept I decided that I would risk sleeping through the night, getting up to check the radar and have a look around every two hours. This worked well and I managed to doze off a few times so feel fine today. Luckily nothing went bump in the night so I’ll probably do the same tonight.

I took the precaution of putting a reef in the main and furling in some of the genoa before nightfall in case the wind picked up as I didn’t fancy struggling up on deck to do it in another squall. It was worth it as the wind picked up around 3am, but only to around 25 knots so everything was fine.

We’re now nicely on course for Bermuda with about 700 miles to go, so I should be there by the end of the week if all goes well.

Right, time for a nap in sun in the cockpit now, then it’ll be lunchtime, after which of course all civilised people take a siesta. Tea at 4, after which I’ll retire to my study to fall asleep over the paper, rising in time for dinner. An early night will round off my hard day, after all I’ve got to do it all again tomorrow!

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