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Dispatches from the Atlantic: Naval Warfare, Fish, and Squalls

Associate Editor Chris White sends in another blog as he crosses the Atlantic.

December 8, 2009
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Blogging From the Atlantic!

Ben Little, captain of Snark, welcomes aboard a tasty bluefin tuna.

14°06.592N 57°13.260W Boat Speed: 9 knots Wind Speed: 20-25 knots, gusting 28-30 knots Magnetic Direction: 255° Distance Traveled Thus Far: 2, 519.4 nautical miles

As happens on long passages, some rituals have developed aboard Snark. One of the less rigorous is that, each day around 16:30, we gather in the cockpit to play a travel version of the board game Battleship, accompanied, in the great British tradition, by a ration of rum. Battleship seems like a fitting game to play while sailing the Atlantic, and currently I’m tied for second in the Snark round-robin tournament (in a three-man crew).

For our grog, Dugald makes Mt. Gay and Cokes, and he keeps track of whose cup is whose by cutting the lemons into different shapes. Ben gets halves, Dugald gets circles, and I have quarters-a brilliant solution to an age-old problem! Ben keeps tabs on the games from the galley while he cooks dinner, chiming in with a hearty rendition of “Rule Britannia” where appropriate. Since Friday saw another fishing success-a larger bluefin tuna-Ben pan-seared the fresh fish with teriyaki and sesame seeds, potatoes, and fried eggplant. We ate our dinner in the cockpit, laughing and chatting as myriad colors painted the western sky.

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On Saturday, the winds were slack (dropping to 9 and 8 knots at times) and it was a slow day. We hobbled along at around 5.5 knots, sometimes dropping into the 4-knot range. But over the evening the winds picked up, and by Sunday we were back on the right course, hammering along at around 7.5 to 8 knots. Yesterday morning, we all made our picks for the time we will arrive in St. Lucia, which we should do sometime tomorrow evening (we’re only a little over 200 miles away now). I’ve chosen 10 pm Tuesday, local time, splitting Ben’s 9 pm Tuesday bet and Dugald’s wager of 2 am Wednesday. Whoever’s guess is furthest off has to buy the first round. Over the course of the voyage, we’ve chatted on the VHF with several of the boats we met in Las Palmas, and landfall is shaping up to be quite a party. If our speed keeps up, we’re looking at rounds of rum punches, champagne (from the French, of course), beer, and other cocktails. It should make for a festive night in port.

The fishing rod bent over again on Sunday, just as dinner prep was about to begin-perfect timing. Ben cleaned the fish (we think it’s a kingfish) on deck and browned up the filets in the frying pan, easily the freshest seafood I’ve ever had. It’s been convenient that we started catching fish toward the end of our journey, as our stores of fresh meat are getting low.

While our pace on Friday and Saturday was a little slower than we would have liked, we made up for it with some hammering winds Saturday night and all day Sunday. We got hit by a squall yesterday that came upon us so suddenly and strong that it rounded us up, literally spinning us around like a top.

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Right now it’s blowing a hooley: 25 to 30 knots! In the midst of writing this entry, I had to shut down my computer and run topside to help throw a reef in the sail. If the wind keeps up like this, which is the forecast, we should cruise into St. Lucia at quite a nice clip, and arrive there tomorrow sometime in the evening-I’m thinking around 10, local time.

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