Tales from the Pacific Day 7

After supper last night, a rather tough cut of pork served in a black-eyed bean and tomato sauce (what else?) with cabbage and boiled potatoes, the ships officers convened under the bimini to discuss the small matter of bread for lunch. Recent lunches have consisted of salads in bowls and the skipper would prefer sandwiches. He and the ships engineer agreed with the Admiral, First Mate and Navigator the for the ships cook to have been engaged in bread making during the past afternoon would have been a folly. For not only was cook occupied in turning a batch of over ripe tomatoes into tasty dishes for the future the shear temperature increase created would give rise to heat exhaustion of anyone foolish enough to sleep down below later.

After one of those maths sessions the crew are fond of it was calculated that bread could indeed be ready in time for tomorrow lunch without resorting to the oven if the Admiral, First Mate, Navigator and Ships Cook utilised their time during the last watch of the night to prepare the dough rather than star gazing which is her usual occupation when it is her turn for the 4am-7am watch. Accordingly at 04:30 the yeast was set to work and the pre-measured flour emptied into a bowl with a large pinch of salt and some olive oil.

The rest of the bread making process follows at the accelerated rate that the Tropics make possible. The dough rises within an hour and the secondary proving in the bread tin may only take half that. Then the tin is sealed and placed in the inner pot of the thermal cooker in which a trivet sits along with a quantity of boiling water. Thirty minutes of simmering later the pot is placed in its outer thermal one and the whole left to cook away for at least four hours. No heat or gas usage once the simmering is done and everything squared away before the sun has risen.

Another concern of the skipper is the battery charging; our current heading means that during the afternoon the solar panels are shaded nicely by the sails. Overnight with George the autopilot steering the voltage is dropping to 11.9 which the Ships engineer tells me is too low and we must keep an eye on the situation. The cockpit may be cool but the electricity supplies are suffering. To combat this the engine is now being run for an hour before sun rise and an hour after sunset and it is being run in gear (albeit at low revs to keep diesel consumption minimal). As well as recording our engine hours the ships officers have been instructed to note in the log percentage charge before and after running the engine. And the engine can be turned off once the rate of charge falls below 30 amps.

Despite my preoccupation with the bread making at dawn today (a very red affair) I was able to spot Jupiter just above the western horizon and Venus in a similar position above the eastern one. There was little wind overnight but it built again as the sun came up and made unfurling the genoa (rolled up at the 4am watch change as it was doing nothing) sensible. Three knots through the water means a satisfactory 6.6 knots over the ground.

By 11am Isla Darwin, an oval of rocky cliffs rising slightly from left to right as we viewed it from its eastern side came in sight. It has a grassy domed top and is steep to.off the southern end was a rock stack with what appeared from the distance to be a hole right through it. Hundreds of sea birds filled the water and skies. Flocks of Boobies and Galapagos Gulls fishing. The fishing was good but not for us – we lost the new rapala lure we’d bought in Panama including the wire leader it was on to something very big judging by the splash when it hit our line. Ten minutes later the replacement lure a rubbery swimming fish lost its tail. Then I spotted something big jump out of the water a metre or so abeam of us, as my brain computed that it wasn’t a dolphin but a fish it jumped again – a huge wahoo a metre or a metre and a half long. Glad we didn’t catch that one it wouldn’t have fitted in the cockpit!

The current meant Darwin rapidly vanished behind us in the manner that islands do – you spend hours looking at them approach and then they seem to disappear over the horizon in an instant. A new GRIB file indicates that our best chance of some wind in the coming days lies on a more southerly course. Late afternoon a plume of water was spotted off the starboard quarter(ie astern of us but off to the east). The binoculars showed us a whale and soon we had no need for them, we both watched in awe as the dark shapes of several whales created the most amazing splashes or displayed their tails high above the ocean surface. Sadly they remained traversing the far edge of our little disc and never got any closer or perhaps that was a good thing,they were so big.

All well on board if a little hot and frustrated by the slowing progress.

Noon to noon: through the water: 90nm over the ground: 146nm Noon position: 01 45.67N 09200.05W