Bermuda to St. Martin,  North Atlantic Ocean

Bermuda to St.Martin Day 5:

Well, it’s day 5 and I have discovered that I have power over the wind. In order to make it go away I can:

  • go below to go to sleep
  • set the main sail
  • write an optimistic entry in the log

In order to make it change direction constantly so that it requires my undivided attention I can:

  • go below to go to sleep (results vary)
  • have a beer
  • commit myself to working on something other than actively sailing the boat
  • be in contact with a ship that has requested me to ‘maintain course and speed’
  • develop an urgent need to visit the head

I feel that these are a good start, and that by developing these newfound abilities I may one day be able to do things that will bring about positive changes in the weather.

On the plus side I have not yet had to find out whether my design for the solar panel mounting on the lifelines can survive wave strikes, since I haven’t actually seen a wave in quite some time and have not at any time during this passage shipped any water whatsoever. In fact, I discovered this morning two things. First, that the cowl vent for the starboard side of the cabin top had come adrift (probably knocked off its mount by me pulling in vain on a genoa sheet while trying to make the sail….. well…… be a sail) and second that a piece of canvas that I had lashed (poorly it would seem) to the boom preventer line to prevent it chafing on the shrouds had also come adrift. Fortunately both items were simply lying on the deck exactly where they had fallen, and were both hence recoverable with no harm done.

Also on the plus side is that I have not felt the need today to take any codeine and my back is feeling much better. I have high hopes that by tomorrow it will feel fine and that by the time I reach St. Martin (some time next month if the current weather remains) I may even be able to retrieve the anchor from the locker in which it was stored (for fear of it being banged about by waves coming over the bow! As if!) and be able to use it as it was intended. In fact the whole experience has been quite beneficial in many ways as it has forced me to find ways of doing things with the minimum of effort. Since I am always a fan of doing things with a minimum of effort, I rather think that I have been neglecting a veritable plethora of ways in which I could have been more lazy in the past had I only devoted more time to thinking of ways to be lazy. I think that one can go through life being either mentally lazy or physically lazy and still be successful, but one can’t be both, and I was perhaps in danger of becoming so.

The sea is glassy and shows no signs of improving (see what I’m doing here? Reverse psychology on the weather. Here we enter the second phase of my explorations into commanding the elements). I wouldn’t normally pay much attention to weather charts that are 5 days old (usually they’re good for 3 days at best) but they do appear to have been remarkably accurate so far. Unfortunately they also show that the centre of this high pressure I’m in is due to move South at about the same rate as I’m moving, which means I might be stuck for a bit as I’ll run out of diesel before I reach any breeze if that’s the case. According to Messrs Jimmy and Ivan Cornell, who published a very pleasant-looking set of pilot charts in a beautiful book that I am fortunate to have a copy of (thanks mum and dad!) the incidence of calms in this part of the ocean in December is between 0 and 1 percent. Interestingly the incidence of gales is also 1 percent. Last time I sailed through these waters in Bob I experienced the worst weather I have ever been in, with 50-knot winds and steep waves 30 feet high from trough to peak. That was also in December. Ah well, I’ll take calms over gales any day.

There are cumulus clouds on the horizon and they look as though they have some vertical development……… dare I hope? No, they’ll undoubtedly herald headwinds I expect.

Update at 6:30pm:

Yup, they are indeed headwinds, though mercifully only a couple of knots and not impeding progress much. The amazing thing is if I look at the 5-day-old weather chart it predicted exactly this just in the tiny bit of sea that I’m in. Basically I have been too slow getting South so I’ve missed out on the decent winds that were here yesterday (although the swells still remain from them). Unfortunately it also looks like I won’t get any wind for another two days. I have altered my fuel consumption estimate to make it less conservative, and based on my new estimate I have enough fuel to motor another 150 miles, or 37.5 hours, which is pretty good I think and still fairly conservative because it leaves me with 6 gallons left in the tank. I’ve got about 450 miles to go (I’m still not quite half way) so that leaves at least 300 miles to do under sail. At the moment I’m planning on motoring until I have 12 hours of motoring time left and then whether I have any wind or not I’ll stop and wait. By that time I’ll be at about 24 degrees north latitude, which is just inside the northern limit of the trade wind belt (traditionally about 25 degrees north) and far enough South that I should be able to wait for a favourable wind while any storms that pass by should do so well to the North and not affect me at all.

That’s the plan at least. It assumes that the very old weather forecast will continue to be accurate, that my less-conservative estimate of fuel consumption isn’t too far off, that I won’t encounter any strong or even moderate headwinds and, most importantly, that the engine doesn’t blow up. Hopefully a beautiful breeze will spring up forthwith and make all of these musings so much spume on the wind! Yea right…… who am I kidding?

Even more calm seas…

Even more calm seas

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