Bermuda to St. Martin,  North Atlantic Ocean

Bermuda to St. Martin Day 6:

Well, its day 6 at sea and all is much as it was yesterday. The engine is still doing a wonderful job of putting us along at just under 5 knots. The breeze built a little this morning to a force 2 from just South of East, so I set the genoa and decided to wait an hour to see if it was worth going to the trouble of setting the main. After that hour it appeared to have built a little more (I even saw two whitecaps!) so I set the main, at which point it immediately died out again to nothing so I took it all in again.

I broke all the rules today and went up to the foredeck without my harness on to lie on top of the inverted dinghy (it is kept inverted on the foredeck when at sea), smoke a cigar and stare out at the water. Perhaps it’s just that it has been so calm, so I’ve been able to see the ripples, but I have seen an unusually large number of fish for this part of the ocean, which in my experience has always been a bit bare. Two days ago I witnessed a mahi mahi (also known as a dolphin fish, or a dorado depending on where you are in the world) chasing after some flying fish which was quite spectacular, and today there was something fairly large hanging around and occasionally breaking the surface, but every time I caught a glimpse of it it disappeared again before I could make a reasonable identification. Not a shark though, or a cetacean. It has been most pleasant. I’ve finished reading ‘Eleven Minutes’ by Paulo Coelho and am now re-reading Bernard Moitessier’s ‘Cape Horn: The Logical Route’.

The cumulus clouds are more numerous and are loosely organised in bands such as those that one tends to see in the Western North Atlantic in the trade wind belt, and which are often associated with rain and wind squalls. However, these are arranged East to West rather than North to South, they are less vertically-developed and there’s no rain or wind to be seen.

It’s 1450 in the afternoon and my latitude is 23 degrees and 59 minutes North, so according to the (now very very old) weather charts I should see some wind shortly. At any rate I will stick to my plan of shutting down the engine at midnight or maybe a little sooner and wait for wind to appear as surely it must! I could continue to motor for a little longer but I’d like to keep something in reserve, the engine needs a rest and my ears (and sanity, or what’s left of it!) too. If I have a quiet night of no wind and make no progress it won’t be a bad thing provided I can get some sleep with the boat rolling back and forth in the swells that are still around.

I finished the milk yesterday (so no more tea or coffee) as well as the last of the stew, which I was glad to see finished as it was made nearly two weeks ago and although it was frozen for about 5 days I was starting to become wary of it. My last tomato went with breakfast this morning and I’m down to my last two rashers of bacon. I’m in no danger of running out of food (I could go for about another month before things got sparse, but I’d be eating almost entirely Campbell’s chunky soup and noodles, and those I’d like to ration for later!) but these ‘fresh’ things are things that I’m rather fond of. Fortunately the staples are still in good supply; I’ve still got about 12 cans of beer left and at least 30 bottles of rum and other spirits. On that note, I think I’ll have a beer ?

Update at 7pm:

It’s very, very lonely out here. I’m about 350 miles from St. Maarten and I have turned off the engine, in part because I couldn’t stand to listen to it any longer but also because I thought the usual knocking sound had become a touch louder. I checked the oil as I do every time I stop the engine and was dismayed to find that it didn’t even register on the dipstick. It took nearly a gallon of oil to bring it back up to the full line which means it was basically running on no oil…….. for who knows how many hours. I only hope it’s not permanently destroyed. At any rate it looks like there’s a serious leak (there’s oil in the bilge under the engine) so that will have to be seen to at the very least in St. Martin.

So, I’m drifting at about 0.5 knots in a Southerly direction, which is somewhat comforting. That means there must be a current since the wind, when detectable, is from the East. It’s a dark night and the boat is rocking back and forth very uncomfortably in a swell that has built over the last couple of hours coming from the South East. There’s wind somewhere over there! I could do something about the rocking by setting my mainsail and sheeting it hard on the centreline, but doing that is really terrible for the sail and I think I’d rather endure the rocking than cringe at the sound of my good mainsail banging itself to pieces.

There has been one good point to all this. About 20 minutes ago I was on deck keeping an eye out for ships and heard whales blowing off the port side. There were perhaps 2 of them (hard to tell in the dark) travelling together and they came within 20 feet or so of the boat before carrying on in a Northerly direction. There may have been others further afield because I could hear a very eerie sound permeating the water and even into the air above it. At first I thought it was the wind as it kind of sounded like a low whistling like the sound of a fog horn, but I suspect that it was indeed the whales. Humpbacks perhaps on their migration route?

Ok I’m going to try to get some sleep now despite this incessant rolling. I’m exhausted. I doubt sleep will find me though.

Sun riseStill quite calm seas but a beautiful sunrise. The saying about shepherds, ‘red sky at night, shepherds delight. Red sky in morning, shepherds take warning’ is just as true for sailors. Shortly after the breeze set in and started to build and build.

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