ARC Rally, Day 11

The trade winds remain fickle.  In the last 24 hours, wind speeds have ranged from less than one knot to a peak of 30 knots and have come from almost every direction.  The MooCrew have been working very hard trimming, tweaking and changing sails in order to keep the boat moving toward St. Lucia without using up precious diesel.

We were able to carry the big spinnaker all of yesterday afternoon and most of last evening in absolutely perfect downwind sailing conditions.
We finally hooked another fish yesterday, but whatever we had on the line had sharp teeth as it managed to cut through the steel trace, taking our brand new lure.
Graham continued his on the job training in B & G instrument repair by repairing the forward cockpit cruise repeater that had locked up on one setting.  This is an essential piece of gear that gives us important information such as true wind speed, true wind angle, boat speed, velocity made good, etc.  Graham spent three hours in a delicate surgery and was able to rebuild the keypad so the gauge works perfectly again.
As we were celebrating passing the half-way mark on the passage with a bottle of bubbles around sundown, we spotted a red spinnaker off our starboard quarter.  Hailing the yacht, we found out she was Lionessa, a beautiful new Swan 66 that is sailing in the Invitation Cruising division with us.  We also spotted the lights of two other yachts participating in the rally just after dark.  It is amazing that after ten days of sailing, we have other yachts in sight.  It is even more amazing that we have been able to lead the way for a 25 year younger, larger and supposedly faster yacht kitted out with all the latest and most expensive go-faster gear.  In any event, I guess we’re going the right way.
Merima, ably assisted by Charles, turned out a great dinner of pork schnitzel, fried zucchini and potato salad which was enjoyed with a bottle of Spanish rosé.
The wind clocked to the south last night and at about 2200 hours we changed down to the jib, carrying on a two-sail reach in the mid to high 8 knot range directly toward St. Lucia.
At about 0030 hours this morning we got absolutely pummeled by a squall.  This one was particularly nasty as it was packing winds of 30 knots from the west (the direction we we’re headed) and punishing rain.  The decks, sails and rigging received at least an hour of serious water blasting as we struggled to keep Moonshadow moving and under control.  We were all aware of at least three other yachts in close proximity and the heavy rain was painting the radar screen white.  Attempts to peek out around the dodger to keep a lookout were met with a painful blast of horizontal rain assaulting the eyes.  Charles, Kurt and George were on deck most of the morning monitoring the situation-in other words they did not get much sleep last night.
The squall hovered over us, moving in the same direction, for at least three hours. Conditions moderated to about a 15 knot westerly wind and gentle rain after an hour or so.  By 0600 the wind speed indicator was showing goose eggs and we were a soggy mess.
After motoring west for less than an hour the breeze picked up to the three to four knot range.  I was able to cut the engine, roll out the jib and get Moonshadow moving at a steady 1.5 to 2 knots on a WSW’ly course.  The breeze built as the sun rose and at 0900 all hands were called on deck to set the big spinnaker.
As the groggy crew assembled on deck, the fishing reel went off with a zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Kurt reeled in a small mahi-mahi.  After it was put to sleep with some cheap Thai whiskey and the kite was set, George gave Kurt a lesson on how to fillet a fish.
Fresh fish is always welcomed on board, especially when a passage is taking a bit longer than anticipated, and Merima was happy she wouldn’t have to dig into the freezer for dinner.
We’re banging the western the edge of the Mid-Atlantic time zone, so the ship’s clocks were retarded one hour today at noon.  Our position at that time was north 13° 41′ by west 38° 33′ and our 24 hour run was 153 miles.  We now have approximately 1300 miles to run to St. Lucia.  We’re hoping out dive to the south will pay off in the rally standings.  We’re now sitting at 8th in the Invitation Cruising division and 21st in the overall fleet of approximately 240 boats.  That said, we heard that 40 yachts had stopped in the Cape Verde Islands to wait for better sailing conditions.  It’s a shame they’ll miss all the great ARC parties.
Cheers, the MooCrew

 

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