Location: Underway to Tenerife
Crimson light pierced my dreams and pried my eyelids apart at quarter to 8. The sun had cracked through yesterday’s leaden, overcast sky, and its searching beams found their way through a chart house porthole to paint my bunk. Through the skylight hatch, I could see the mainsail, golden and fully stretched. The engine still roared away, white noise through the otherwise still night, but a glance at the wind instruments showed that the breeze was in. We would sail. The sun’s wakeup was fortuitously timed, and as I reached for my PFD to head above deck, Amanda bounded below to let me know about the wind. The breeze had been touchy through the night, filling and dying in strangely regular intervals since sunset. At one point, around midnight, we were dummied into trying to sail, only to be turning the key on the main engine again within an hour. As we head due south, we make for the northeasterly tradewinds, the steady breeze that blows from Northwest Africa across the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. These historically famous winds carried the early discoverers to the Western world and blew consistently once south of the 30th parallel. At present, we are chasing its tail, trying to grasp a sturdy carriage towards the Canary Islands at the northern limit of their reach. We are, after all, a sailboat, and Argo does love to stretch her wings. So, with the night of flukey winds behind us and the glowing sky of cirrus and cumulus promising a fair breeze, we set our Argo on her merry way.
Watch team 3 take the deck for the morning 8 12. Theirs was the task of setting the flying jib, a high-flying billowing canvas towards the top of the foremast. This would make extra use of the gentle force of four breezes to warrant the engine shutdown. It takes a lot of sail power to get 150 tons of steel, 28 people, and enough fuel, food, and water to sustain them moving across the ocean. The first task was to carefully make their way along the bowsprit, ever rising and plunging, to loose the sail-ties securing the flying jib in a neat canvas sausage. The sheet lines were run aft to the cockpit cleats, and the halyard and downhaul coiled down. Then, with the circular cries for readiness and a final “haul away!” the sail took to the sky. It was quickly set, the halyard made off, and the sheets trimmed for speed. The team then set about trimming the rest of the spread, tweaking sheets and preventers, sometimes only a few inches at a time, to achieve efficient airflow through the rig.
A schooner’s rig is a busy business. On a beam reach, the wind hits each sail and flows past on a redirected course to provide lift. But each sail, in turn, affects the airflow over the next, and with five of our six now drawing and driving, it takes a fine eye to balance the breeze along the full set and send Argo along at a rate of knots. And sail-handling alone can make a 4 hour watch disappear in a flash of canvas. I headed below to secure the engine and took a sigh of relief when the quiet overwhelmed the chart house. I felt Argo do the same and could sense the surge of her breath with each roll and rush of water passing alongside. This was what she was built to do, and she and I were in our element.
Liam’s bacon salad with Xavi’s fine bread rolls complemented the morning’s delight. During Marine Bio, Anna came to ask if I would help judge the coral creation competition. Six groups had been given a decidedly delicious array of tools to craft an anatomically correct coral organism. The salon was a mess by the time I was called upon, with cookies, candies, and Nutella strewn across the tables (and many faces). At the center of each group’s mess was their creation, delicately assembled to show the parts of a coral’s being. Oreos apparently make fantastic hard attachment layers, Twizzlers and rainbow ribbons (or their European equivalents) make for excellent radial symmetry limbs, and chocolate wafers for superb stratified reef structure. Del, Daisy, and Fifi took the cake with their impressive showpiece and learned descriptions of its representation.
Mac and Stich then took the floor with their continuing navmaster class, digging deep into the Chesapeake Bay practice charts to explain things like TVMDC and D=ST. Progress now shows in the accuracy of our GPS position fixes taken every four hours on the ship’s chartable.
Korean beef tacos were served as the sun made its final descent. The Savage Islands (Ilhas Salvagem in Portuguese) have been raised on the port bow, and the white foaming breakers about their vicinity warn of their hostility. Uninhabited by humans, they host an incredible array of birdlife that seem to swarm, swooping and diving around us on the light evening airs, curious no doubt about this great clumsy vertically winged creature; for squeeze, combine the names of your first pet and the street you grew up on to create a codename of sorts. Big thanks to Captain Moss, Kitty Lake, Savannah Henrietta Hartford, Pork D53, Snuggles Donnington, and April Bassi Dr, to name a few.