Day 35: ungentlemanly conduct

I suppose I could say this is my third month at sea since I left Florida in July and it’s now September, and at the rate I’ve progressed today it could well be another three months till I get to France.

We sailed well during the night and I got plenty of sleep, too much in fact as I slept through my alarm. I think – and hope – I would have heard the radar alarm as it’s very insistent and doesn’t stop till I acknowledge it, so hopefully we didn’t sail merrily through the shipping lanes causing havoc in our wake.

By the time I finally emerged this morning I discovered that we were getting too far to the south of my projected course to La Rochelle, and the beastly wind was now east-north-east, pretty much where we want to go. As you may remember me saying a while ago, gentlemen don’t go to windward so normally in situations where I can’t sail directly towards my destination I’ll simply start the engine and sit back with a nice drink while it does all the hard work.

Sadly this isn’t an option on this trip so I reluctantly put in a tack and tightened up the sheets. There was only a light breeze and quite a big swell which shook the sails each time we dipped into a trough thus spilling what precious little wind there was and we ended up barely making east of north, but that was the best I could do.

By midday the wind had faded almost to nothing and we were now heading just west of north, which of course is not the right direction at all. I tried tacking a few times but on the other tack could barely make south-east, which wasn’t much better. In the end I did what I always do – gave up, furled away the genoa, hove to and went to bed.

After a very pleasant siesta I arose at 6pm (hence the late blog entry today) and found the breeze had picked up and backed slightly to NNE, so we’re now just about managing to head due east at 5 knots or so which is better and only a few degrees off course. I must say I hate sailing close to the wind, as does Odyssey. It’s such hard work and I keep having to tweak the sails and watch that we’re not drifting off course or about to tack accidentally. Let’s hope the wind backs a bit more so we can come onto a reach and pick up speed.

Anyway, enough of my woes with the wind and onto happier affairs. This morning I made a start on patching up the torn mizzen sail and think I might just be able to save it. I discovered that it tore due to a rusty old shackle on the topping lift chafing away at the trailing edge of the sail until in the storm it gave way and ripped horizontally for about a metre before hitting a vertical seam. This then came apart for a metre or so as well, and there are a couple of other little rips. I’ve cut a strip out of a sail bag and have almost patched up the first tear with it so it’s looking encouraging. Although the storm jib has done well at replacing the mizzen so far it really doesn’t cut it close-hauled so it’ll be good to get the real thing up again.

Ooh, and I saw another whale this afternoon. It was about twenty feet long and looked black, so I wonder if it was a killer whale? It came close to the boat then dived underneath, rolling over to show a white belly. They’re beautiful creatures and so graceful but completely impossible to catch on camera so I’ve given up trying. I’m sure they know exactly when I’m ready to snap them as they always disappear just as I press the button.

Right, time to go and make some food now before retiring for the evening. Luckily yesterday’s wind topped up the batteries and there should be enough power to run the radar all night, so let’s hope I hear the alarm this time!

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