It starts with an Atlantic Sunrise

All of the watches have a different quality and feel to them.  We have collectively decided that 2am-4am is the hardest, fatigue settles in like an uninvited guest and it’s hard to shake off.   A two hour watch feels like 3 hours and time stands still when you are alone at the helm or alone watching a line of squalls size your tiny little 45 foot boat up.

I especially enjoy the sunrise shift from 6am-8am. The day is full of promise as the sun rises, and the full beauty of the  Atlantic reveals itself.  As the sun slowly comes up there is a peaceful quality to the start of the day even when there are big seas and howling wind.  I have a moment of feeling that anything is possible. The boat is quiet and the others are sleeping downstairs, this is magical.  There are mental snapshots, like old Polaroids of moments I will remember from this journey,  this is one of  them. The daylight brings a relief and a feeling of accomplishment at having survived something.  

The promise of a new day

It’s always at night that shit goes  wrong. Yesterday was a lovely day quite relaxed sailing with the spinnaker up following a day of white knuckle helming with the spin in big seas and gusty winds the day before. 

We were all a bit tired from the intensity of the day before and yesterday felt really like a relaxed Sunday.  We had breakfast in the cockpit and then listened to music through the boats speakers. Fleetwood Mac Rumours which kept all music tastes happy.  Most of us spend the day together and in the evening our skipper surprised us with a Sunday roast which was wonderful.  For desert tinned fruit.  This meal has knocked the chilli lime chicken off the podium for first place meal of the crossing. 

As it grows dark in the evening we clean up and get the boat and ourselves ready for the quickly approaching darkness.  We look at our course and the weather and feel that we are too far south of the rhumb line and run the risk of sailing into a windless hole in the next 100 nm.    On this heading we will make landfall in Guyana or Surinam so a course change before nightfall is necessary. We make a decision to jibe before we are in complete darkness and talk through the strategy for this maneuver.  We only have one sheet on the big spinnaker so we will attach a rolling hitch to the sheet and tie this off to a cleat to take the load. We walk the sheet around the front of the bow and down to the port winch.  Slowly we bring the boat dead downwind then release the sheet from the starboard side.  The big kite momentarily flaps wildly and then unfurls like a leaf in spring on the starboard side of the boat. We adjust our heading to 320 degrees and we are now on our way northwest heading straight for Grenada.

Most of us head to bed at 8pm  when the sky is pitch black and there are a few stars overhead.  I am reading in my bunk when I hear the gusts and the bow of the boat start to lift out of the water. The power of a massive spinnaker on a 45 foot boat in 26 knots of wind is force to be reckoned with this evening. Quickly the boat starts to feel out of control as the squall blows  through. 

Within minutes we are all on deck and pull the spinnaker down and set the genoa.  This is a much more stable arrangement for a night of potential squalls. Our small drama seems no interruption to the long conversation between the sea and the sky.   Squalls come and go on this ocean whether we are there in the eye of them or not.

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