ONE TACK, LONG TIME; SURFING; FISH; MATTRESS PORT

Current Time: 3:17AM

Current Position: North 12 degrees 58 minutes, West 46 degrees 44 minutes

Hi, Everyone.

Some days are pretty uneventful. When you’re at sea in a boat, that’s good.

We are on the starboard tack, which means that the wind is coming from the starboard (right when facing the bow) side of the boat. We’ve been on this tack since we hit the northeast tradewinds, and we’re probably going to be on this tack all the way home – or at least, most of the way home.

My bay sailing experiences always involved a fair amount of tacking and gybing, where you turn the boat through the eye of the wind (tacking) or stern to the wind (gybing) in order to get to your destination. Not so in this situation. The autopilot is set for 325 degrees on the compass, and has been for weeks. We’re not sailing as close to the wind (beating) as we had been; now we’re reaching – the apparent wind is about 90 degrees from the front of the boat.

I’m still adjusting the jib to keep the boat from going too fast for comfort. You really can fine-tune the speed using that method.

We were really smoking earlier today – I don’t mind going fast as much, when the sun is up and no one is sleeping. We were right in tune with the waves, so the boat was surfing individual waves for minutes at a time, speeding up to as high as 12 knots with the help of the wave(s). When you speed up because you’re surfing, it’s different than speeding up from wind alone. It’s easier on the boat. It’s smoother and quieter. When we were riding a wave, the boat was not being tossed about by the waves, it was just gliding along, no rocking or rolling. Smooth as glass, and yet we were doing 8 – 12 knots. It was heavenly, a zen kind of thing. Peaceful and thrilling at the same time.

When I went out to the cockpit just now to adjust the jib, a flying fish was on the cockpit seat. Most of the ones we’ve had land on board lately were much smaller – about 3 – 4 inches. This one was about 8 inches long, and for a brief moment I considered turning him into a meal (he was already dead). But the idea just didn’t have much appeal, so I sent the sad little carcass back into the deep.

After I flung him overboard, I cleaned up the mess he had made while flopping around. Scales, and fishy liquid. Smelly. OK, so maybe I just have to admit I’m not made for fishing. I may change my mind in different circumstances, but with the amount of food we have on board this boat at the moment, I can tell it just isn’t going to happen on this trip.

Matthew tells us that when we get into the Caribbean area, the winds will be more like 15 knots – which is perfect for sailing, and one of the reasons that people love sailing there, as he noted. Right now I think the winds are in the 20’s, judging by the speed we’re going (averaging 7 knots, as high as 8 or 9) with the jib rolled up to about half its normal size.

Still no rain, sadly. The boat still has brown sand on it, although the wind and the spray are starting to clear it from the harder surfaces. The lines are still brown on one side. Gail G confirmed it was from the Sahara:

“Having lived for 20 years in the Caribbean, I can vouch for ‘Sahara Dust’ as we called it. ‘Tis not an unusual phenomenon; just wind picking up fine particles of sand from the Sahara, then spiraling them up into the higher atmosphere only to drop out on everything below as the winds circle from the western coast of Africa across to the Caribbean and then north with the trades. The more the Sahara desert expands, the more dust in the tropics! Fortunately, it’s not a regular occurrence, rather more like pollen dusting in the spring.”

So now you know.

I’ve been meaning to mention the mattress port. On this catamaran, the “wing deck” – the solid area between the two hulls – contains (starting from the front, just aft of the trampoline) some deck lockers (storage areas built into the deck, which you access by lifting up the lid that is flush with the deck); the mast; the cockpit; the pilothouse; and then the afterdeck. On either side of the cockpit, inside the boat, are the sleeping areas in each hull. On each side is a double berth. The mattress is about at my shoulder level when standing on the stateroom (bedroom) floor. You have to step up to get into it, putting your foot on a narrow shelf made for the purpose.

There’s a little port (window) on the “inboard” side of the double berth, the side that looks into the cockpit. This little port – we call it the “mattress port” – can be opened to let air in. It is actually underneath the cockpit seat. The coolest air comes through there, no matter how hot it is otherwise. If you sleep “athwartships” – which means not fore-and-aft, but across the boat – the cool air washes over you from head to toe. It’s incredibly refreshing.

There’s something magical about this little port. When I’m sleeping and Philip goes out into the cockpit to make an adjustment, I can open my eyes and see his ankles, and know what he is doing. But even when there’s no one there, it’s an interesting perspective, like being a cat under a table – safe, but still observing, a little haven in the middle of the sea.

The Big Dipper was clearly visible tonight. The crescent moon has set already. Now it has clouded over, but that’s been common – clouds but no rain.

Another beautiful night sailing on the Horizon. We send our best wishes to you all.

Much love.
Philip and Kristin

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