Arabian Sea Day 9 – Friday 28th February

It’s 04:35, the skipper just helpfully pointed out the wind that has had us sailing for the past few hours comes direct from Russia via the Himalayas; whatever, its cold. I sit huddled out of it in the bottom corner of the cockpit wearing two shirts, a fleece gilet, long trousers, a rug over my knee and socks on my feet. For now bone marrow chilling yet in three hours I’ll be throwing it all off for shorts and t-shirt again when the sun rises.

We’ve sailed most of the night even if it was rather slow at times, by dawn we had under 350nm to our waypoint. Yesterday afternoon Kevin decanted 40l of fuel into the tank from our jerrycans and estimated we need to sail at least 200nm of the next 1000nm. There was no shipping overnight. The only thing of note was the incredible patch of bioluminescence we sailed though during the evening, sparkling silver stars scattered over the black sea.

After breakfast as the wind was very light and when the batteries had charged for an hour we decided it was time for the big white asymmetric kite rather than the diesel guzzling engine. This secret weapon kept us sane and moving in the Pacific on many occasions and so it was this morning. It enabled Temptress to make speeds ranging from one knot to almost five, slow but sure in a wind that was mostly F1 from the north. It’s lovely when the sound of the water along the hull changes as the wind accelerates Temptress even just a fraction faster.

Sadly the time to go estimates for the next waypoint seem depressing at six or seven days when the speed is down but hey we are getting there and won’t starve enroute. The forecast downloaded this morning is for more of the same, ie light winds during the day with a little bit more during some of the night, it’s going to be a slow haul.

We’ve covered some 1100nm since leaving Cochin, twice that still to go to reach Suez. By comparison Suez to Bangor is around another 4500-5000nm, obviously we won’t be doing that in one big hop! This is Temptress’ last big ocean passage, maybe.

Just after lunch Kevin suddenly announced the kite needed to come down now. He’d spotted the downhaul, used as the tackline was seriously fraying. We scampered onto the foredeck. Closer inspection showed it was just the outer casing rotted after years in the tropical sun. It’s done good service having been bought in 2004. We left the kite flying as it was giving us great speeds.

By mid afternoon however the wind had picked up enough to heel the boat a tad too far for cruising comfort, the newly baked loaf was in danger of falling from its cooling perch. Well actually knowing the wind may build more as it has other afternoons it seem advisable to take the asym down whilst it was still feasible, we were doing 6 knots already. Bear away 40 degrees, check the halyard is ready to run, spike the tack free, the Skipper gathers the foot then the mate lowers the acres of fabric into his arms. Why was it never that tidy when we raced? Once everything had settled down again we were making much the same speed with the genoa.

The boobies, a growing crowd, have begun to visit our trolling bird on a regular basis. At first we though they fancied the sparkly pink lump of wood as a snack but we’ve now concluded they are waiting for the fish surface to investigate the splashing and get themselves a easy meal. They are out of luck so far today.

As we close the coast a few more ships are in evidence, one tanker came steaming up behind on the same course as Temptress at 12 knots, altering course a few miles before it reached us to give us almost a mile of space. Two others showed up on the AIS about the same time.

We viewed the stronger wind all afternoon and evening as a bonus, definitely not in the forecast. Suddenly in the middle of the first night watch it piped up a lot. Time to reef, having furled half the gennie we dropped in the second reef as well. One of the great things about having sailed together on Temptress for twenty years is that this is an automatic routine. Our hands know where every rope is and when they are sheeted home, easy work despite the darkness. Twenty minutes after I woke the skipper he was back in his bunk and Temptress was sailing more comfortably. The stars were still out as was the new moon so no sign of a rain squall, think this is Africa making its considerable presence felt. The potential diesel crisis is rapidly fading.

Noonday Run: 128nm
Noon Distance to Suez: 2230nm approx

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