At 0900 UT, Elinca was at 45’35S 42’14W heading roughly 330T.
We are now comfortably back in ocean passage making mode (and as we head North and the temperature rises, so too does the comfort and cheerfulness level).For the first time yesterday there were off-watch bodies catching the sun on the foredeck or in the cockpit rather than immediately heading for their bunks. At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, our 24 hour routine means there is a constancy to the attendant noise of the ocean, vessel and crew. At times the crew noise drowns out the other two. Sometimes the human noise is a necessary part of working the boat, such as gaining access to the forward bulkhead yesterday morning, an activity that required removing and then replacing the access plate held by 20 nuts and covered by a wooden board secured with half a dozen screws, so that we could get to the cruising chute to assist our progress in falling winds. Sometimes it’s the “music centre and speakers”, less essential but perhaps more welcome. Thanks Richard Clarke for fitting the new ones in Ushuaia.
However, when human activity is reduced, typically at night, then there is a chance to attune to the noises of ocean and vessel. Ordinarily there is a rhythmic comfort from the one reflecting the other, as so beautifully expressed by Cecily Fox-Smith “the ship took it up as she tugged at her tether, brace foot rope and halyards all singing together” . These are the sounds of ocean sailing in all its beauty and wonder, perhaps personified by the rhythmic slap of water on the hull so iconic and inseparable from lying in one’s berth during the much sought after and dreamed of idyllic sailing conditions. There are, of course exceptions, such as the noise and change of movement caused by an accidental luff or gybe and then of course, the “iron topsail*” that destroys the tranquillity and drowns all before it. It was recourse to intermittent use of the latter that plagued the last of my rest before being roused for the midnight to 0400 watch, affectionately and colloquially referred to as the “drag stag”. Those who scurried below to the comfort and warmth of their berth have ,however, been as lucky as the watch on deck. The wind has held, perhaps even marginally strengthened and backed. No need for iron topsail or destruction of the night air. Instead we have been better able to lay our desired course and become as one with the night as Elinca makes the most of a F4 wind and calm sea. Overhead the stars have occasionally broken through the banks of cloud and graced us with a heavenly light show that surpasses all fireworks or laser light shows. John Masefield’s ” a tall ship and a star to steer her by” has come alive, the bow wave has rushed along her hull with white foam that occasionally phosphoresces and she has yawed and pitched with a reassuring and comforting constancy (unless the helm has had a momentary loss of connection or concentration). Elinca has been alive with the noise of the ocean and like a horse tugging at the rein we can feel her kick her heels and revel in the freedom of ocean night sailing. She is as they say “in the groove” and that is when ocean sailing and the drag stag become an indescribable joy.
Now it’s 0400 and the tranquillity is shattered by the noise of watch change. There is an enthusiasm for the off going watch as the call of their “bag” grows louder, and its mirrored by the loud excited voices punctuated by laughter of the oncoming watch in the cockpit. For them there is the prospect of an ocean sunrise in all its splendour. The sounds of the ocean will give way to the sights and will assume their background rhythm before being pushed back to the forefront tomorrow night but what tune they offer will largely depend on the ocean and weather gods’ mood as they conduct the orchestra and choir. In the meantime, the call of my bunk is growing louder and when I next arise it will be to the sights of the ocean and I suspect the sounds of humans that will dominate but beneath it, I know the ocean and Elinca will be humming away together.