Stressful couple of days

It was a stressful couple of days for us on the Pearl. The boat was not going very fast and we tried everything to get her going but to no avail. We also did get hit by more than our fair share of “parking lots” partly our fault and partly bad luck. Our competitors kept gaining on us and Ericsson was threatening to pass us last night just before the scoring gate at Noronha. That would have added a lot more pain to the frustration but fortunately we decided that if they were going to pass us they would have to go through us to leeward. So we just sailed up in front of them and planted our boat between them and Noronha with about 20 miles to go, shutting down the passing lane. They closed in to within 2 miles of us but that was as close as it got.

Of course we are puzzled by our lack of performance. We never really had a speed problem against boats like Ericsson or Brasil1 which are the same design as the Pearl.

Later, after rounding Noronha, we got hit by a few squalls which were packing 25 knots of wind. In one squall, while hitting 30 knots of boat speed, we noticed a large vibration from under the hull. Then suddenly it was gone. We don’t know if it was something that we had been dragging for two days or something we caught then and there. Of course we had checked out foils during the past two days and saw nothing. (We do that with an endoscope through a fitting in the bottom of the hull).

Anyway, we seem to be going well now.

We are approaching the Equator and will cross in just a few hours. This is another one of those big “landmarks” on an around the world passage. Three of our crew will be making the crossing for the first time; Jules Salter, Ian Budgen and Justin Ferris. We are expecting a visit King Neptune in a few hours for the ceremonial induction of these three.

On the weather front, Jules and I are working on the Doldrums crossing. As luck would have it, we will be crossing under a large cloud mass. The whole fleet is so close together that we should all get more or less the same weather. Normally you would like to have the good fortune of crossing in a gap between the largest clouds masses. These cloud masses undulate and appear and disappear without much pattern. So it is hard to say; “Oh, there is the bad spot, I will just go over here and have plenty of wind.” We are using the satellite pictures and the “quick scat” to try to pick our best point of crossing. However, as nothing is for sure about forecasting the best place to cross, the default setting is to sail your fastest course for the wind speed you have making the most distance toward Baltimore. That is the only thing that is for sure. For me, I don’t like deviating from the wind angle that generates the most boat speed toward “the barn” unless I have some very reliable information that justifies that investment.

Quick Scat is a satellite based, radar reading of the water surface in super fine resolution. From this reading, the software can discern, with very good accuracy, what the actual wind direction and speeds were at the point in time that the “picture” was taken. By the time we get the Quick Scat, it is rather “old” information, usually about 12 hours old, but it is helpful when used in correlation with Satellite pictures and the GRIB files.

The heat is down a bit today as we are under the high overcast of the Doldrums area. Life onboard is ok despite the heat. The crew are sleeping ok and the ride has been very tame. We may get some strong winds tonight under the squalls of the Doldrums. In these situations you need a versatile set up as the wind may go from 5 knots to 35 knots and back again in 10 minutes. We are planning now what will be the right set up on deck to handle those wind speeds at the angles we expect.

Yesterday we were treated to a little wildlife show. Some type of bird.looking like a miniature Albatross, but very fast and agile, were playing a game of tag or similar. One would chase the other and the one being chased would escape by eventually diving in the water from 50 feet up in the air and go down about 8 feet under water. It was impressive to see these little missiles pierce the water at that speed. When they weren’t playing tag, they were fishing using the same diving technique.

We are expecting the Pearl to gain an extra step to her pace as she starts to close in on her home turf.”The Caribbean”. There may be some good karma coming our way. It would not feel undeserved after the frustrating past couple of days.

Stay tuned.

Captain Paul

Pirates of the Caribbean