As I write this entry, its a starry cloudless night and Kika is speeding her way west at 6.5 knots. At present the moon rises around midnight, so on nights like tonight I get to see a myriad of stars; on overcast nights, the darkness is so complete my eyes get tired trying to penetrate the night. The sea-me is quiet tonight, indicating there aren't any boats with radar out there, so I just need to worry about rowers, other yachts and ships without radar.
The wind eased off in the early hours of yesterday night, leaving the sails slamming in the swell (just as I was trying to sleep). It picked up again before dawn so Ellen could sleep and has stayed with us ever since.
We haven't touched the sails today, other than some chafe prevention - a tea-towel tied on the guard rail where the genoa sheet crosses. We've been sailing along comfortably at 5 - 7 knots. The sail configuration feels well balanced, so we're leaving well alone. We're accepting that we'll steer off our compass course as the wind changes direction in squalls. The deviation will only be brief, for once the squall passes, the wind vane will steer us back on track.
The decision of the day was whether to shake out our single reef in the main or continue under the first reef. I was about to take the reef out when we were hit by a brief squall. The decision was taken out of my hands; the reef stayed in.
A tour around the deck this morning produced two flying fish which had been out of the water for too long to revive. I'm sure the sound of one of them flapping on deck penetrated my sleep and I imagined parts of the rig about to collapse.
We mourned the loss of one of our solar showers today. We'd recently refilled it in the torrential rain of a few days ago and were looking forward to using it. We thought it was snugly stowed under the spray hood, but I think must have escaped during one of the more violet rolls in the night. Our water monitor, Ellen, thinks we can spare enough water for a Christmas eve shower and I could certainly do with one.
Kika's starting to show signs of the impending festivities in the saloon. We have two paper chains, an attempt at tinsel around the mast support (silver foil), two mouse balloons (a purchasing error - they have ears and when hung upside down look a little like udders.)
The chart shows some sea-mounts which we'll have to negotiation tomorrow. The charted depth changes from 2500m to 500m and 650m over the mounts, which can produce a choppy sea. On the trip to the Canaries we steered clear of some sea mounts we'd noticed, but Freespirit maintained their course and suffered from a bumpy night as they sailed over them. Based on that experience I think we'll try to avoid the mounts.
In preparation for Christmas I came up with the inspired idea of taking some of our canned fruit and covering them in chocolate. We both thought it was so good that we didn't need to save the unmelted pre-bought chocolates for Christmas day and decided to eat them before they too melted. I tested the idea today with a can of pineapple slices and a packet of diary milk. After slaving away in a hot roller coaster of a galley I duly produced chocolate covered canned pineapples and Ellen's verdict - "I like pineapple and I like chocolate, but I think the two should be kept separate", I wonder if Jamie Oliver suffered from such a critical taster when he was starting out. Undeterred I'm going to try coating the fruit cocktail can's contents tomorrow and perhaps presoak the fruit in some some alcohol for added festive flavour.
We've been rehearsing some Christmas entertainment, for "Radio Kika" - broadcasting to selected boats on Christmas day.
We heard on the radio net this morning that Iolanthe finally left Santa Cruz today for La Gomera. They were unluckily on a pontoon that collapsed in tropical storm Delta. They ended up sandwiched between the quay and all the other boats, as one by one the finger pontoons gave way and the wind pushed them onto Iolanthe. Since then they've been repairing the damage; their wind vane steering was bent out of recognition, their hull suffered from delamination and I think they had problems with their rig. Even with all this damage to put right Don still spared the time to advise us on our broken gate valve. We feel very lucky we picked a pontoon that more or less stayed together and happy that Iolanthe is finally able to set-off.
The forecast is good until Sunday, when there'll start to be a gradual decrease in the strength of the trade wind. It's too early to say if we'll still make a pre-New Year arrival in the Caribbean.
We've been discussing options for Christmas dinner. One option is dependant on us catching another fish. Reports abound of delicious fish meals on the radio net so we remain optimistic. Since we caught our dolphin fish we've learnt that they are also known as Mahi-Mahi and Dorado. Failing fish we might have to resort to some dish based around soya mince.
Position at 15.45 UTC: 15deg 16'N, 45deg 16'W
Daily distance run: 140nm; cumulative distance: 2054:
Engine hours: 0
Distance to go: ~ 913nm
Conditions: NE 15-20 knots, moderate/rough sea, 1014 millibars