6:34am. 26 degree, 36.1 North; 16 degrees 29.3 West.
The light is just starting to come up. The sea lollops us around and waves bubble along either of the hull.
The sounds of sleep are all around as the night watch delivers a calm and peaceful boat.
The dawning light signals the start of Day 2 of our Atlantic Adventure.
Its true what they say. I’ve read enough sailing books to know that once you slip your lines and head out there is little else you can do and you settle into a routine on the boat. All you have to do now is enjoy the sailing and change your land routines for sea routines. And so it has been with us as well.
Scheduled departure day was 23rd November. High winds and squalls on the day meant for only the 3rd time in ARC history that the start was delayed. With hindsight it was the right call. The breeze in the marina touched 43 knots and was a steady 30 plus. Not much fun for the start of a rally.
The extra day meant we found and completed some new jobs on the boat. Fixing the small hole in the tender, cleaning the hanks on the staysail and spending more time with the Oyster support team going through and planning different downwind sail combinations. All good valuable stuff.
Start day. You can feel the buzz. We all just want to get going. Final trip to the minimarket to get bread, new lures for Columbus, watering up and getting the latest weather.
Things on a boat always seem to take longer than planned. Especially with 3 small children. Our planned departure time of 10am turned into 1030am. The upside was a half empty marina making it easier to navigate. Race / rally starts are always an amazing sight. Some 200 boats in a small space settling crews down and getting sails ready.
We slowly motor North to get away from the pack and find some quiet water. We have been listening to the start calls for the Racing Division – the 10 minute warning, 5 minute warning and then the off.
We hoist full main and gybe round heading towards the start line. We have some 3,000 miles to go and want to stay out of trouble with other boats so we hang back and are probably one of the last boats to cross the line at 11:20am.
The good news is that as we hoist full canvas we are making satisfying and fast progress through the fleet picking other boats off one by one.
We know there is a wind acceleration zone by the airport and plan to reef early. In good time we go to 2 reefs, half genoa and it’s a good call. We soon have 30 knots of breeze and are surfing down waves at 13 knots. It surprises us to see other boats still carrying full main and headsail. They are continually rounded up on the gusts and we effortlessly glide past. Right sails for the right conditions is what it confirms to us.
Columbus has been itching since the early hours to get a fishing line out so we set up one of his new lures – a pink marlin shaker. Its out for an hour and we hear the ratchet scream into action. It’s the biggest take we’ve had so far. I grab the rod as lines streams out of the reel. In my haste I forget I’m fishing for bit Atlantic fish, not bass off the South Devon coast. My efforts to slow down the reel with my thumb on the spool are rewarded with a burnt finger. The lines sizzles out while I try to adjust the clutch. Before I know it, the line is at the end and with a snap the line has gone and we are fishless. Lessons learnt for sure as I put burn gel on my thumb.
As dusk falls there are boats and lights all around us and we make good progress alternating between heading South and West depending on the shifting wind conditions. Off the South of the Island of Gran Canaria we see other boats sail into a wind hole and quickly gybe out making good miles on many of the boats. We’re not racing but its hard not to start competing when so many other boats are around.
The crew are taking time to settle in and Jani’s pre-planned meals go down well. I expect it to take a few days for us to all settle in and get used to life at sea – both as a family and with our crew of Paul and Jani for this part of our adventure round the world (more at www.familysailing.co.uk).
The night is busy as we continue to work the wind angles and have many gybes. The wind and swell has definitely softened and it’s calmer onboard.
It’s time for breakfast. The crew are just starting to stir.
Over and out from Team Aretha.