Hello from 14 degrees 52 N, 54 degrees 55 W, 350 miles from Saint Lucia. Bright blue sky, deep blue water, absolutely no wind so there's a smooth sea with just a gentle rolling swell.
Yesterday was pretty much a perfect sailing day for us – the Parasailor was drawing well – and Maunie was surging along as though she knew that she had to make the most of the wind whilst it lasted. To give you an idea of what it's like running under a spinnaker, there's a video we posted on YouTube a couple of years ago as we were sailing back from Ireland – search 'Maunie of Ardwall and Perfect Day' on YouTube to have a look.
As the sun set we sat in the cockpit for supper, marvelling at the night sky. It was probably the best star scape we've had all trip, with no pesky rain clouds to spoil it. Unfortunately the same absence of clouds signalled our imminent arrival in the Dead Zone – huge wind hole that now stretches between us and Saint Lucia. At about 1.00am ship's time Graham joined Di on deck, having sensed the change in motion, and the Parasailor was swinging from side to side, with not enough wind to fill it. We decided to drop it before it became entangled so Fergus got up and we packed it safely into its bag, possibly for the last time in this voyage. The wind had dropped to less that 5 knots so we started the engine and have been motoring at our most economical speed (just over 5 knots) since.
The forecast suggests that we'll be in this kind of no-wind situation for the next 60 hours or so (ie pretty much all the way to Saint Lucia) so our worry is whether we have sufficient fuel to motor all the way. The main fuel tank is pretty empty (we've been burning about 8-10 litres every day to run the generator and also motored through the last calm) but we have 20 litre plastic cans stowed in various lockers and in the bilges, plus an emergency reserve tank of 60 litres which we aim to leave untouched for emergencies. This morning Rich and Graham did some in-flight refuelling on the side-deck, emptying 55 litres into the main tank, and we'll repeat the process with the remaining cans (another 65 litres) this evening. We estimate that the engine is using 2.5 – 3 litres per hour so those cans should give us around 45 hours or 230 miles, on top of the 40 litres that were left in the tank before the refuel. So without touching the reserve tank, we should have a range of around 300 miles (and have 350 miles to go). It's all a bit of an inexact science as the fuel consumption is very much affected by the sea state (waves slow the boat and consume more power) but we just hope we'll find some breeze, even if it's only enough to motor-sail to increase our speed.
The radio net this morning reveals that the boats just arriving at Saint Lucia still have wind, leaving the tail end of the fleet – perhaps 30 boats - wallowing in windless conditions, some with fuel stocks that will only take them half-way to the finish. Terribly unfair, but there we are; we'll just make the most of it.
One final discovery on board. You may know that Maunie was originally dark blue but we repainted her cream with a blue stripe last winter, partly because the hull was very scratched and faded and partly because dark hulls get very hot in direct sunlight. The wisdom of this change is very evident today – you just can't put your hand on the blue stripe, it's so hot, whilst the white hull is cool to the touch. Rich, in the aft cabin (where the blue stripe is widest near the stern), says it's like a radiator!
We'll keep you informed of our (slow) progress. If we have to (and manage to!) motor all the way, the GPS predicts an arrival on Monday afternoon. Fingers crossed we'll improve on this.
Stop Press! A LOVELY squall has just arrived ! We now have full white sails up with wind from the north so the engine is off. Hurrah!