Tuesday March 21 - Day 16
This morning brought about the lightest winds we’ve had so far. I know I said this earlier, but today was defiantly the stillest of winds, ranging from 5 to 10kts. So, after trying to sail and not managing more than 2 kts, it would’ve been stupid not to turn on the old engine.
“Oi lads! I think she’s overheating, the sea water temp is over 70’C” the watch keeper said with concern. At around 4pm, Toothy noticed the sea water cooling temperature was soaring above the norm. We immediately shut the old gal down and hoisted the sails. Something had gone wrong with the sea water cooling pump and the old Gardner engine was running hotter than @thewetwayhome’s Instagram account. After a few hours in the hot engine room and numerous calls to Charlie for advice, we were still no better off. We couldn't cool the engine. Every time we kicked it over, it looked like Starlight was exhaling a super toke from a shisha pipe. Between the smoke and the steam, the call was made to let it rest for the night. If we couldn't sort it, we would be relying on sails only to make land fall, which was still over 200NM away.
With the ever so reliable Gardner engine out of service, and only two sails up, we would have to figure out a way to maximise sail area in the light winds once the sun comes up in the morning.
Wednesday March 22 - Day 17
Upon commencing my watch at 1am, I noticed a strange clunking in the ships steering gear every time the the auto pilot adjusted course. 'What the hell is that?' I thought of the unfamiliar sound. I had to have a look. So, I pulled off the timber cover panel behind the steering wheel and instantly found the problem. The spindle that extends from the ships steering wheel to the rudder cables had come loose. The steering gear was literally hanging by the last thread of a bolt. Coincidentally, around the same time, Mick showed up. He’d been roused by the pain in his once dislocated shoulder and was on the hunt for some pain killers. ‘You beauty’ I thought to myself, and immediately roped him into help out. As you can imagine, he was delighted. We grabbed the socket set, spanners and couple more nuts and bolts to hold the steering gear together. We then managed to cover ourselves in grease and sweat, and finally fixed the steering gear. Another little test presented by our beloved, ageing, Scottish beauty.
I had the feeling Starlight was going to make us work for the last 200NM of the trip.
I’d only just finished my watch at 3am and bang on sunrise, I woke to, “Hey Dyl, I might need a hand. I got a fish on”, Brio said, as he pulled open the hatch above my bed, with a fishing rod in hand. “Righto” I said, dusting my eyes off. I hopped straight out the hatch and said “what do you need me to do?” “Grab the gaff hook” he said, stating the obvious. “Feels like a big one” Brio said. Ok, ‘time to wake up’ I thought. As the fish inched closer to the boat, we got a good look at it. Wholly shit, it’s a monster! “Have you got a plan here Brio? How should I gaff this big thing?” “Well, it might help if you turn the gaff around the right way”, Brio suggested, pointing out that, in my half conscious state, I had the gaff hook around the wrong way.
Finally the fish was a couple of meters from our reach, but he saw the gaff hook, spooked, and he was off. He ran the line out on the drag for about 20m before settling down again. Once again, Brio wound it closer to the reach of the long man armed with a gaff hook. This time I was going to have a crack. At only meters from the boat, I could hear Brio in the background, saying “hit it, hit it”. Boom! I hit it, and, believe it or not, I hit it perfectly. If it was a human, the gaff went through its shoulder and back out its chest. However, that was just the start of the wrestle. We now had to bring this thing on board. Bewildered, it tried to shake the hook, and initially I lost my footing. On the second attempt, I managed to get him to the capping rail, and then, with Brio’s help, we pulled him in board.
We celebrated wildly, erupting in cheers and screaming like primates. We high five’d once, and then shared a prolonged stare that bordered on creepy. We fought the urge to embrace and, realising that neither of us was wearing a T shirt, settled for a second high five before humanly putting the beast of a fish out of its misery.
With the fish now safely landed on deck, only now did we realise the sheer size of it. It was a monster. We hoisted it on a halliard and hooked up the scales. The Wahoo weighed in at a whopping 48kg. Yep, Kilograms, not Pounds.
Due to all the commotion on deck, the lads from the cabins below came up one by one to see what all the fuss was about. Toothy was first to reach the aft deck and couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the fish. “Wholly Dooley” he said, before nature called. The ships toilet was still blocked from Brio’s morning of mayhem the other day, so Toothy perched himself on his favourite part of the bulwark and quietly went about his business. Next up on deck was Mike. Mike wears contact lenses and this particular morning, he hadn't put them in. However, he could still make out the size of the monstrous fish that lay on the aft deck. “Wow, well done lads” he remarked, squinting to make out the fish. The next bit was the funny part though. Not realising what Toothy was up to due to his impaired vision, he went over to him and started chatting about the size of the fish. Without his contacts in, it just looked like Toothy was sitting down on the capping rail. They chatted for some time before Toothy finally said “Hey Mike, do you mind giving me a sec man? Your kind of putting me off”. Finally, realising what was going on, Mike said “oohh crook Toothy, are you taking a shit? You are aren’t you, you’re shitting”. Toothy just gave him a creepy smile and a nod as Mike backed away, a little scarred.
Today also saw the re-birth of Starlight’s main sail. Knowing that the wind would be light for much of the day, we decided to remove the lashing at the foot of the sail, effectively detaching it from the boom. With only 12kts of wind, and Starlight sporting only the mainsail and the big Jib, Starlight managed a pleasant 5kts in the light air. Removing the boom allowed the sail to belly out a lot more and catch the light wind which was hitting us on our port quarter from the SE.
Once the sails were set and we were on course for the day, Mick jumped back into the engine room to see if he could get the sea water pump happening again. He suspected that the pump might be ok and there could possibly be a blockage somewhere. So he traced it back, all the way from the exhaust and the water seemed to pass ok. It must be the pump then, he thought. So with the sun setting, and the Gardner not running as cool as it’s reputation, the day’s work was done. He’d have another crack at it in the morning.
“Should I cook pancakes for dessert?” asked Mick. “ooohh yeah”, “do it”, “you won’t”, were some of the replies from the lads. With this potentially being the last night of the Atlantic crossing (this statement is heavily dependent upon wind speed and direction tomorrow), Mick thought he’d go all out and make a dessert for his fellow seaman to top off an amazing feed of Wahoo. The pancakes had all the trimmings, lemon, sucre, Nutella, biscuit crumbs (scotch finger biscuit crumbs) and strawberry jam. Not a bad effort considering we were supposed to be down to just rations by now.