Friends - Again
The Last Leg

The North Atlantic

For the past two days, we have been sailing the North Atlantic that we came to know, love, and respect when we sailed in Maine. The seas have been slate blue, with 6-8 foot waves (and some larger), often contrary, slapping the hull, the stern, and the rudder with no rhythm, rhyme, nor reason, and depositing spray, water, and one rather large flying fish onto the deck. Winds were 15-10, then 20-25, with 30 knot gusts. The boat rolled and banged, we and unsecured items tumbled about, and our sleep was fitful. Through it all the sky was clear, with a new moon and uncountable stars, or blue skies and wispy clouds. It wasn't a storm, it was just the North Atlantic. There's a reason this ocean is not called the Pacific.

Casey, our faithful Auto Pilot, has been working better than ever during this crossing, but yesterday he behaved liked a tired two-year old, pulled through a mall during the Christmas rush, and would simply stop moving without warning, but not without cause. The first few times it happened we had too much sail up for the conditions, a reduced main and full jib with whisker pole attached. Casey would battle the winds, the rudder would get knocked by a wave, and Casey would effectively say, "I'm done," and stop, just like that two-year old going limp on the floor. Without someone at the helm, the boat wants to turn into the wind, but cannot because the jib is full and held out by the pole. We must turn the auto pilot off, and steer the boat back on course before any damage is done to the sails. Once on course, Casey was re-engaged, and we were off again, blustering our way toward the Azores (or the mall exit).

Casey stopped during one of my watches yesterday, we couldn't get control right away and backed the jib and main, putting a lot of strain on a lot of parts and something snapped. EW was below and I yelled, "Something just broke!" He asked what, but I had no idea, I was concentrating on getting back on course. The doohickey holds the mainsheet to the boom broke at the welds, thankfully the main was prevented from jibing, so it wasn't banging back and forth across the cockpit, but it wasn't safe. EW was able to furl the main fully into the mast, and tie the boom off tight to the side using the preventer. (Non-sailors - that's a line with a bunch of pulleys that attaches to the boom on one end and the toe rail on the other and holds the main in position when we are going off the wind. We don't need to use it when we are going upwind.) The next morning, when conditions were a bit better, EW lassoed the boom and used that line to "sheet" it in so it was held at two points -- always the better option.

We continued along with a partial jib, still attached to the whisker pole, sailing a broad reach. Casey would have the occasional tantrum due to big nasty waves, but we'd deal with it and have things back to normal within minutes. Both of us had relatively unexciting watches and both got some sleep.

We are now at 38 00 632 North and 42 59 457 West at 1200 UTC -- That is currently 10:00 AM La Luna time, but we still need to move forward two hours to equal the Azores. So as EW now will say, "It's 10 O'clock somewhere." We are north of the Azores and need to go south east for just over 600 miles to reach our goal. EW is suiting up for deck work. We'll start the engine, let Casey drive the boat, remove the whisker pole and start beating to the Azores. EW will then work on a jury-rig for the mainsail. It's that kind of morning on a beautiful day at sea.

By the way, I actually said "Rabbit Rabbit" this first morning of July. That's easy to do when you are the only one up for miles around.

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Pam Grimes

I thought I was the only one that did "rabbit, rabbit" on the first day of the month!

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