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Friday, October 23, 2009

Another trawl through the wheelie bin

0700/23rd Position 1504 02531 Trip 2605=127/24

The midnight to 0300 watch is always a long one. This morning I spent the first hour up and down between the cockpit and the watermaker supervising a 5 litre squeeze of the North Atlantic. The moon had gone - hazy overcast, occasional gaps with murky stars poking a few photons through - shapeless, grey, woolly night, no meeting of the sky and the horizon, just a faint change in density. Blacker the closer to the boat you look except! Except for the phosphorescence - writhing jade green swirls of smoky water with zillions of sparkles instantly there and gently fading. Lovely - reminded me of the Milky Way, invisible tonight - and then Douglas Adams and his dolphins and my first voyage metaphor of the Milky Way as the phosphorescent streak of the dolphins across the heavens. And then some idle speculation about spacetime as a doughnut - a toroidal whimsy - or perhaps as a series of nesting Russian dolls - could the Universe as we know it, with all its billions and gerzillions of stars and gas clouds and black holes and dark matter - could all this be just the workings of a small part of the brain of a cockroach in the next biggest universe as it nibbles some happy camper's toes?

And idly thinking about Trafalgar - which, along with Waterloo ten years later formed the basis for the next 100 years of peace in Europe, the Pax Britannica. But here on the old slave route it's hard not to see it from the point of view of native peoples everywhere else who were systematically subdued, transported, enslaved and otherwise looted during that century by the British, the Dutch, French, Spanish, Germans, Portugese and Italians who had the time and military resources to do so as they weren't fighting eachother.

Sitting up there in the cockpit you can become mesmerised by scale and its effects. My niece had to make a business trip from Luxembourg to Rio recently - odd to think that she was only 6 miles above some part of Berri's recent track - and how much of the world many of us have actually been within 6 miles of without knowing anything about what is below. I see winking strobes high above, or a growing con trail in the distance pushing so fast across what to us is a vast expanse of planet. That tiny - invisible - speck with 300 people in it and several tons of avtur in the tanks - how much energy is locked up in that stuff and how much is dissipated as heat

And so on for three hours...

Another sailing vessel just sailed across our stern - about the same size, sailing a more southerly course, couldn't see anyone on deck, called on the VHF but no answer. Couldn't see any sail number. Wonder who and where...


You could easily sail past the Cape Verdes at less than 10 miles and not see them despite their very impressive presence. There's a local hazy overcast day and night that hides them completely. There are the usual clues - swell patterns, birds, lenticular clouds when visible - but you don't see the rocky bits.

Yesterday Pete had his first flying fish breakfast - only one small one because he was kind to the first two that arrived and tossed them back. I've heard three more arrive on deck as I have been writing this so a feast for tomorrow. They are such lovely graceful creatures that it's sad to see them dead in the scuppers.

Last time we were here was September 8th 2005, the day before Pete's birthday, in almost exactly the same groove. Later today we should pass Baha at a range of about 10 miles. We were a bit closer last time. And the day after that, Pete went for a swim.

Carol, thanks for monster retype. Today I'll trawl the frequencies and report back.
Doug, thanks for Kerguelen data. Sounds like a big French base - my chart very spiky and sparse - if we go Cape Town, I'll get a better one and maybe talk to the French Consulate.


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I put poor Henry 180 miles north of where he really is - sorry mate - proper position 2835 S 2609 W. We're on our way. Thanks Doug - I don't have a detailed chart of the Kerguelens though could probably get one in Cape Town. My CMap shows Port Douzieme and Port Jeanne Arc on the north sides of the two larger islands to the SE of the big one. No Port Christmas. Looks like a pretty forbidding place and well worth a visit if the Examiner allows. I think the German navy used it as a coaling depot in WW1 as well - is there a French scientific team there somewhere?

Carol - interesting if it was a wayward rocket. I think you may have sent frequencies - thanks if you have.

Saw the NWestern island of the Cape Verdes this morning about 25 miles away - big volcanic peak - oddly, doesn't have a name on my chart. Next one is Sao Vicente. But, just like last time, there's so much haze that mostly you cant see them until you are about 5 miles off.

Current position 1640/22nd 1620 02548 and we have the main up for the first time in about 2 weeks - 2 reefs so as not to overpower the headsail and cause Kevvo to connipsicate and the 15 knots or so just ahead of the beam. Holding course about 190 just a bit west of what we really need but it's due to free us tomorrow. East Canaries current probably taking us west at 1 knot too.

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