Log: The Wire

All or nothing

More sail changes in 24 hours than in an entire Atlantic crossing…

Very busy here in the last 24 hours. Any beer and calories consumed on shore in the last month are being well and truly burnt off. All or nothing sailing conditions.Our sedate pace of the initial time spent in the Gulf of Panama continued for the remaining daylight hours. We had the pleasure of the company of the Alliance of Panamanian Dolphins (APD) – Gulf Chapter for a while. There was another green flash let down, however it was a pretty enough sunset all the same. The non-believers survive another day…

Then, it all changed. After darkness had fallen, something distinctly peculiar happened to the boat. It leant over slightly, and the ambient temperature changed from 50ºC to 49ºC. Must be wind! The main went up quickly, followed by our beloved cable-tie-hanked genoa. As we began to round Punta Mala, we emerged from the lee of the headland and the wind grew. Soon the yankee 1 and staysail were also up, and we’d already done more sail changes than the entire Caribbean Sea!

The evening continued with a varying wind, keeping us on our toes, and changing between different combinations of headsails. The fact we were sailing again was enough to seriously up the mood and put smiles on everyone’s faces, however the reemergence of the APD, combined with the most spectacular bioluminescence the world has ever seen, created a real show. A bright green bow wave and wake shone brightly and lit up the topsides of the boat, while the dolphins diving in between all of it made the best display of glow-in-the-dark dolphins any of us had ever seen, including our Southern Ocean penguin explorer (and ocean scientist) Renaud.

Today has seen much more sailing and wildlife action, with more of the same headsail changing to keep Disco moving towards San Diego (officially topping the entire Atlantic tally), but no abate of relentless heat that is making life such hard going during the day. The APD – Basin Chapter came over to say hi, and had teamed up with some humpback whales, which stood off making big splashes in the distance.

Onboard, life continues despite of the oppressive heat. Landon has earned himself a new nickname (of which he now has many). When passing up some new genoa sheets out of the sail locker, he attempted to throw them to the waiting arms above. This didn’t go too well, and he remembered the stainless steel shackles on the end of each the hard way, when they came back down at him. He is now sporting a tiny cut as a result of this, but will now forever be known on Disco as Shackleton.

In an idle moment I was reading up on the finer points of our gearbox, and came across a paragraph that stated it was specifically engineered to allow a propeller to free rotate without damage, contradicting previous information. The spanners were out in no time, the shaft brake hydraulic reservoirs jacked, Poppy the Propeller free-spinning away under the boat, and another knot of speed was instantly added to the instruments.

The sad news of the day was that halfway through writing this, the well-travelled cable-tie-hanks of the genoa finally gave up with the customary zipper sound of a sail detaching from the forestay. The team did a great job of getting it into the boat without any damage, and it’s now bagged up in the sail locker, awaiting an inspired way of hoisting it without hanks or cable ties.

Our weather situation for the longer term outlook is a bit interesting, along with our consumption of finite fuel and water supplies, so all that is keeping me busy thinking through options that won’t slow us down. Until then, we’ll keep pushing on to get the best speed possible out of a 50 tonne boat in 10kts of wind…

Date: 3rd March 2017
Time: 2009z
Position: 07°00.3N 081°35.4W
COG: 300°T
SOG: 5kts
Wind: NW 2-3
Swell: N 1-2ft
Sky: 1/8 stratus
Weather: Fair

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