Letter from the raft. Day 11. 500 miles from Valle Gran Rey!
Things have slowed down somewhat here. After 9 days of being tossed about by force 3-4 winds and the waves, the wind and the sea have calmed down and we are into our second day of sunshine and gentle breezes. The sail has even been flapping for lack of enough wind. It seems like we are barely moving, but are still proceeding at about 1.5 knots in a slightly west of southerly direction.
One certainly gets a good impression out here of how enormous and empty the ocean is. We are never far from anyone on land at any time (unless you are Andy and Beryl living in the wilds of old Alberta), and I’m sure many people at home imagine that with all the yachts and the freighters and tankers travelling the Atlantic one would see signs of life on a regular basis. In the 11 days since we left we have seen only 3 ships, one Dave saw very far away on the first night and since then an unidentified freighter which overtook us on about the third day and then the Olsen cruise liner Boudicca which passed us about 3 or 4 miles away on Saturday or Sunday evening. Apart from that we have been completely on our own, and we look about us and can see nothing but a clear horizon of sometimes deep blue, sometimes gunmetal-coloured sea.
We had a brief visit from a couple of dolphins yesterday, and they performed a few tricks like leaping out of the water and making a great deal of splashing back in before getting bored with our sedate progress and moving on. Dave and Anthony took some plankton samples yesterday afternoon, and spent an interesting hour or so looking at them through the microscope. From outside the cabin I could hear some “ooohs” and “aaahs” so assume the specimens were interesting anyway ! We now have several plankton samples in jars taken from various depths and at different times of the day and night.
Thanks for your replies to our queries so far, on which we look forward to hearing further from you. We have another question, or rather one asked before and not yet answered ! Anthony wishes to know more about the costs of the satphone. He has paid upfront for so many minutes of use. We don’t seem to be using the phone much except for e mail transmissions, and he would like to know whether he will receive a refund if there are minutes left when we finish the voyage. Your reply will tend to dictate how much future use we make of the phone !
We started on our bananas today, as they have just ripened. Much of our fresh fruit and veg is coming to the end of its useful life. Our large pumpkin is going a bit mouldy around the top, but is still good inside and is staple for all our meals, our potatoes and cabbage are still going strong, but the avocados are ripe and being eaten before they go off and our oranges are nearly finished. Some of them had to be thrown away, sadly, as they had started to rot.
Dave made a couple of small tin loaves of excellent bread on Monday, now that our supply of supermarket bread has been consumed. We ate the first loaf and more at supper that day, and what remained was still fresh enough for sandwiches at lunchtime yesterday. He is making more today, and has a high standard to keep to now. Our little oven hasn’t been asked to do much so far, just one Fray Bentos steak and Ale pie before the bread, but it works well and gets up to over 200C very quickly.
It is another sunny, warm, calm day here, and as I write this Anthony is sitting out on the front deck in his chair doing exercises, while Dave and Andy are at the stern tweaking the tethers for the steering oar. We have rigged up three ropes to control the oar which connect via a collar just at the front of the blade. Because the collar has a larger circumference than the shaft of the oar wooden spacers have been cut and fitted around the shaft before the collar is bolted into place. Those spacers originally fitted have shifted and need to be moved back into position and probably augmented with additional pieces of timber.
Well, that’s it from another busy day at the office here. All is well with the raft and with us. We 4 seem to be rubbing along very well, and there have been no dramas (or drama queens in evidence, for that matter). Anthony is busy taking notes for his book, so we are all on our best behaviour, of course. We will take some more photos and send those through with another report in the not-too-distant future.
John and Co