Rolex Transatlantic 2005: Movies, a Birthday, and 1,000 Miles to Go

Aboard Sariyah June 1, 45 40N 32 26 W, 1,123 miles to The Lizard

Sailing in the middle of the North Atlantic requires no small degree of awareness. As I came on for my midnight-to-3 a.m. watch, the first thing I noticed was the radar. Looking as if drawn by a ruler was a line of approaching weather: clouds, rain, and, we assumed, wind, was coming straight at us from our port quarter. I took the helm with some slight trepidation, knowing that our present sail setup-wing-and-wing yankee and genoa, full main, mizzen staysail, and full mizzen-would have to be reduced, soon. Our forecast had the wind changing direction, which would take us off starboard jibe for the first time in many days, and we expected this line of weather would bring the change. Skipper Tim stayed on deck after his watch ended to shepherd Sariyah through the jibe, and by 12:30 a.m. we decided to reduce sail and jibe while the weather was still relatively benign. By the time the rain and wind arrived we were ready and we began the jibe with only the main up. The hardest thing was adjusting to the changes in wind direction and course to steer. It took me a good ten minutes to get used to the new numbers on the Ockam displays, ten minutes where I played dialing for dollars with the wheel and tried to keep the boat from jibing back. As soon as the breeze settled in to the new direction we started rolling sails out and re-setting the mizzen staysail. The breeze was much cooler and drier than before, which helped dry us out after the brief rain shower which came through with the change in wind direction. Soon we were on port jibe, exercising new muscles, and thinking about how comfortable, or uncomfortable our bunks would be with the change in heel. We've made good time of late, racking up 270 miles in the last 24 hours. Our midnight Monday to midnight Tuesday mileage was 283. It's been fun sailing, a little hard on the helmsmen with the waves coming from the quarter, but fast. We're all keyed into the fact that very soon we'll have less than a 1,000 miles to go to our first finish line off The Lizard (the next is a little over a hundred miles to The Needles). It's good we're getting down the line, because the washing machine is broken and we're all recycling clothing. There may well be an exclusionary zone around us when we have that first crew dinner in Cowes. Our matinee movie this afternoon was Shrek 2. The off watches were laughing loudly in the salon as the on watch kept the bus rolling. So far this trip I've watched Ocean's 12 (good), Ladder 49 (sad), Shrek 2 (hysterically funny, especially the cat), and Pirates of the Caribbean (good). This is not your normal ocean racer, and we're not suffering much discomfort on this crossing. The worst thing that can happen is to sleep through a meal. Still, we're still pushing hard, which is easier to do when you're well-fed and well-rested. The boys on Mari-Cha IV and Maximus may get in well before us, but think of the depravations they've endured to do so. Freeze-dried food, stinky gear, and constantly interrupted sleep. Yesterday was Dale (Crusty) Tremain's 44th birthday and we celebrated it in style with a great dinner and a cake that somehow survived the major heel angle we had yesterday. It was nerve-wracking watching our cook, Salisha, deal with the non-gimballed oven while the batter was still liquid. Let's just say that not all of the batter stayed in the pan. It might be occasionally tough on deck, but nothing beats the discomfort and trials of cooking for 17 hungry crewmembers in a tossing galley. We're still seeing plenty of wildlife, especially porpoise. Late yesterday afternoon we watched a large pod chasing food across our bow. Thirty or forty of the black and gray porpoise were in a line, quite obviously working together to herd whatever they were eating into an easily accessed ball of easily snacked upon fish. We noticed several babies closely tended by their mothers, and large males that stayed on the outskirts of the pod watching for danger. The universal opinion aboard Sariyah is that porpoise have great lives. I'm back on watch at 6 p.m., so I've got a few hours to read and sleep. My B watch has great watches tonight and tomorrow morning: a daylight 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and a sunrise 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. When I wake up tomorrow we'll probably be within a thousand miles of the finish, a distance that doesn't seem as great as it used to.