Crossing the Atlantic – Day Seven

A tad uncomfortable in the morning; we had all adjusted in the afternoon and had a lovely time racing downwind in the 3m swells. It was my birthday, but we didn’t really do anything to celebrate. Will bake a cake etc., when the seas are a little smaller!

“Interesting” night – autopilot started to slip soon after dusk. We disassembled it (which involved removing the wheel) and found that the belt had broken. Replaced, but while we were doing so found that the steering is still very tight at a certain point (with the rudder 8 degrees to starboard) when there are strong following seas. I’m wondering if there’s still a rudder problem and will investigate whenever the wind dies completely. Arthur was still up when the belt snapped – he understands that the autopilot is rather important so was a touch worried – but he still took himself to bed 20 minutes later while I was struggling with the wheel removing tool and Charlie was holding a torch. Cool kid when he needs to be.

For the rest of the night, there was lots of wind. The forecast was for a steady 20 knots with gusts up to 28 – so we had a couple of reefs in the main to start with. We’d set up the double headsails with preventers (to stop them swinging back if the swell changed our heading too much) and as they are on the furler changing their size as the wind speed changes is easy-peasy. By 2am the regular wind speed was up to 25-30 knots, so I put the third reef in the main to help with control and sail balance if any further gusts came along. Good job I did, as there were a number of squalls lasting 15 minutes or so in the mid-high 30 knot range, and a few gusts to a maximum of 44 knots according to the wind instrument. We ran downwind throughout, which helped (even with 35 knots of ‘true’ wind it only feels like 20-22 ‘apparent’ due to the boat speed), but because the heavy winds lasted for a while the seas built a fair bit too. Quite fun, if tiring staying “on” all the time.