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We thought that the non-sailors might be interested in knowing about the nights. Someone asked me, before we left Ireland, where would we stop at night? The answer is, there is nowhere to stop. We keep sailing!

There are about 11 hours of darkness. It gets dark very suddenly as we are now down at 17* latitude.
The sun sets around 19:30 (depending on whether we have kept up with the changing time zones). We have timed it to have our evening meal and tidied up before that. By day, most of us are on deck, most of the time. Through the night we have two people on deck, on watch.

The watch rota continues throughout the 24 hours. There are two teams of four. Two people, one from each team, are on watch at all times. A watch period is 3 hours, followed by 6 or 9 hours off, depending on the day. The start of the watch is staggered, so one team starts 90 minutes after the other. This means, for example, that one person starts at 21:00, for a 3 hour shift til midnight, 00:00, when a team-mate will take over. Then their watch partner from the other team swops out at 22:30, with a new person from the second team coming on for their 3 hours til 01:30. And so on. (Thanks to Tom Shanahan for working out the complex rota!). This means there are always two on deck at night, but ones companion changes around, and ones time slot also changes, so no one gets all the early morning shifts. Life jackets are mandatory at night, and we are "clipped-on" with a safety strap attaching you to the boat, to avoid a man-(or woman)-overboard!

Those who aren't on the early evening watch go to bed early, around 20:00-20:30, to get some sleep as they will be up at some stage for a shift during the night. Sleeping has been difficult over the past few nights as we have had high winds and the boat is rocking and rolling. So much so that we need to use lee-cloths to stop us rolling out of our bunks. These are a strong fabric/canvas, emerging from under the mattress, and tied to the wall, like a sideways hammock (see photo). After getting into bed, you tie up the lee-cloth which catches you sideways when the boat heels over. Its best to sleep on your back, as a sideways position means the momentum of the rolling boat turns you over into the lee-cloth, and wakens you. Plus its hot! And getting hotter the further south we go. Its too dangerous to have hatches open in case water floods in, and air-con would use up too much precious generator/fuel. Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, everyone is getting sleep, supplemented by naps on deck when off duty during the day.

So when coming on to one of our night shifts, what is there to do? Watching the sky and the instruments ( see photo) for weather and wind direction and wind strength, checking that the sail trim is appropriate if there are wind shifts, and watching the radar for other boats (rare) and rain squalls. That's been fun for the past few nights. Big red patches appear on the radar, signifying rain, and some dissipate. With rain comes wind. Gusts of up to 38 knots last night (gale force 8). A tiny sail area was enough to keep us flying along at 9-10 knots in a 25-28 knot breeze through the night.
We haven't had many stars visible for the past few nights because of the clouds/rain. But the night skies last week were glorious. Clear skies with thousands of stars. Many, many more than one would see in Ireland. No light pollution. We had a full moon the weekend we left Las Palmas, which has waned, and didn't rise til 04:00 last night. It's pitch black until the moon rises. On those starry, moonless nights, its absolutely exhilarating, hurtling forwards in the pitch black, must be like driving a car at speed without headlights. With no visible horizon ahead, and only stars, it must be the closest thing to travelling in space, which we could experience on earth. Into the mystic!



  1. Sounds great. I would live to know who asked you where you were stopping for the night

  2. Fantastic insight, thanks M! It's great to catch the news every day. Happy sailing...

  3. Great to hear about the mechanics of life on board. When's the next poem / limerick due?

  4. sounds like perfect weather for the Big pink!

  5. Well done Margaret, you've painted a great picture for us! What an amazing experience.
    How nice to be so far away from NPHET too......!

  6. So jealous of you all, what a trip. Safe sailing.

  7. Fabulous insight to life on the ocean waves ( even when hurtling thro the dark nights in gale force winds). Safe travels all and enjoy your destination rest.


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