Green light in the night

I’m noticing a huge difference in the winds we are having since leaving the
Azores, compared with the steady trade winds (or steady lack of wind) of the
Atlantic crossing, the winds are more unsure in this part of the world. That
gives us chance to practice our reefing techniques (to shorten the main
sail). Our first day out of the Azores we had light winds, but enjoyed the
lack of time pressure while bobbing slowly along. Then we had about 8 hours
with 2 reefs in the main, screaming along at 8-9 knots before the wind died
off. It built a little again during the day, and on my evening watch last
night we hit the much celebrated 10 knot mark several times – at 10 knots,
the helm is allowed to do the 10 knot dance, provided they were heading in
the right direction. When I awoke this morning, it was to the sound of the
engine. The wind has gone again.

Life has been very relaxed on board these last few days, and the four new
crew members Leslie, Benito, Cliff and Richard have settled in well and are
providing us with new sources of stories and entertainment. Leslie’s origami
competition yesterday was a hit and saw the creation of birds, penguins, a
turtle, elephant, zebra and a book (?). I have yet to find out who won and
what the “quality prizes” are that Leslie has in store but I think my fat
penguin must be a strong contender! Cliff plays the guitar very well and so
there was a little sing song in the afternoon. In the absence of a lyrics
book, the crew got quite inventive, and as I lay in bed trying to get a
little shut eye, I couldn’t help but giggle at Rachel’s song about a goat on
a boat and having oats stuck in her throat(s). Interesting to say the least.

After the drought of wildlife during our Atlantic crossing, we are almost
back to complacency about dolphins. We have regularly had them on the bow or
fizzing through the phosphorescence in the water at night. The dolphins
around here mostly seem to be short-beaked common dolphins and it’s lovely
to watch them playing on the bow, especially at night when their body is
perfectly outlined by green flashes of phosphorescence as they carve through
the water. It looks as though they have been draped in fairy lights, or have
a flashing LED disco suit on. Rachel likes to call them Torpedo Disco
Dolphins, and has an absolutely – ahem – delightful song to go with them.
We’ve also seen a number of whales, but at quite some distance. I think they
are fin whales, judging from the tall columnar blow, but without seeing them
closer and getting a sight of their heads, backs or fins it’s pretty
difficult to say for sure. Last night we had some particularly strange glows
in the water. The phosphorescence was particularly bright, and we had
sparkling water fizzing down either side of the boat, and a long glowing
wake behind us where the rudder disturbs the little creatures that make the
light. In the wake of the boat there are particularly bright green blobs
about the size of a large potato, sometimes you can see the tentacles that
identify these blobs as jelly fish – or flumi-lumis as they have become
known on board. But most eerily, there were also huge expanses of glowing
water that we kept sailing through. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
We couldn’t see any definition under the water to explain what was making
the phosphorescence glow and it was a little creepy sailing through one of
these patches and thinking that there was something unknown down there. In
the end we came up with two possible explanations: 1. large shoals of really
small fish were disturbing the phosphorescence a little deeper below the
surface or 2. patches of water temperature change in upwellings were
exciting the phosphorescence. Other theories or general facts about
phosphorescence would be most welcome as we know very little about this
phenomena we enjoy so much every night.

Now away from dreaming about wildlife, and back to dreaming about lunch. I
need to see how my bread is coming along.

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