Sunseeker Chapter 22
Throughout the later afternoon an onshore breeze developed allowing us to set main and genoa closehauled on the starboard tack and shut down the engine. This westerly stayed with us throughout the night and by daylight the breeze had veered and become a light northerly so that we now had the benefit of a following wind together with the south-going Portuguese current of just less than one knot. Twenty four hours out and we had covered eighty four miles. Not brilliant considering the twenty four free miles due to the current! Still, we were moving in the right direction and we still had a breeze. By the time the sun had fallen into the ocean in the west our breeze had us wallowing in a lumpy sea.
Rene and I always maintained a three hours on, three hours off, nighttime watch system whilst at sea. This passage was to be no exception. As our horizon disappeared with the coming of the night and our world shrank to the confines of Sunseeker’s cockpit we fired up, once again, the noisy engine to push us through the dark night. Rene volunteered to take the first watch and after well hot meal I retired wearily to my bunk.
It was not long before I was deep in sleep and Rene had the ocean to herself. Sunseeker was sailing over a calm sea, only the tiny flashes of light moving from fore to aft along Sunseeker’s water line betrayed her forward movement. The night was very dark as the Moon had not yet risen and the brightest stars hurled shimmering slivers of light deep into the ocean depths. When steering we both favoured the seat to port of the helm and this is where Rene passed most of her watch. About an hour into her watch, as she was gazing into the depths of the ocean, it seemed that a million lights moved up to the side of the boat. She watched in wonder as the form of a giant manta ray was outlined by the lights of millions of tiny phosphorescent animals.
“You could see its whole body lit up, even the horn shaped things at each side of its mouth” she told me later. “It was fantastic! I never thought they were so big! It was so beautiful and graceful. It seemed to be flying in the water and all the time keeping pace with Sunseeker. Maybe it was lonely and wanted company. Anyway it was with us for about half an hour.”
The next day we had more company. A large fish about six feet long with a pale blue body and a purple stripe running along hits back joined Sunseeker and stayed with us for a couple of days. Rene wondered if it was edible and worth catching. She prodded it few times with the boat hook before she decided that its skin was very rough and must be very thick. Many days later after we had pondered the shape of the fish and in particular its tail, we realised, with not a little horror, that Rene had been prodding a shark!
Eventually the wind filled in. Unfortunately its direction was from the south-west, which was, surprise surprise, the direction of Madeira, our hoped for destination Throughout the following night and the next day the southwesterly wind increased and because it was opposing the south going Portuguese current the season became much rougher. Lying across our course, roughly halfway between Portugal and Madeira we encountered rougher water as the ocean bed rose up from the depths to form a vast range of submarine mountains and the wind over current situation only made this worse. As the wind steadily increased and the seas rose it didn’t seem to make much difference which tack we chose to sail. We never seemed to make any headway towards our destination and Sunseeker was pounded mercilessly by the towering waves and constantly fell into deeper and deeper holes in the sea.
End of Sunseeker Chapter 22