Atlantic Crossing Days 13, 14 and 15

The third quarter of the crossing brought about the re-birth of the drone , some personal grooming, a serious medical injury, and a bit of rum soaked sailing. 

The third quarter of the crossing brought about the re-birth of the drone , some personal grooming, a serious medical injury, and a bit of rum soaked sailing. 

Saturday March 18 - Day 13

Today saw the lightest winds of the trip so far. With the wind shifting NE through SE at only 10kts, we were having trouble getting Starlight moving. We hoisted every stitch of sail we had but couldn't manage more than 3kts. And with the light variable winds, sometimes that 3kts wasn't even in the right direction. However, determined to try to sail most of the way, we persevered with it all day. As sunset approached, we calculated that we’d only gained 30NM since day break. At this stage of the trip, that was pretty demoralising. We made the call to motor through the night. 

We gave the old Gardner a kick in the guts, set a course and stowed the sails. Just as we were coiling down, we noticed a really strong burning smell. There was a bit of white smoke coming out of the engine exhaust. Heavy. The sea water cooling pump had not been running and the engine was starting to overheat. We switched it off immediately and let the engine cool down for 20mins.

“Faaaark… Help Help”, heard the lads in the wheelhouse. We ran down to the engine room to see what Mick was up to. “I popped my shoulder out, quick, help”. He grimaced as Toothy grabbed his left arm to try and help him relocate his dislocated shoulder. After a few painful attempts, his shoulder was back in place with a “crunch”. We got most of the action on film too, cringe worthy viewing though… Righto, back to starting this engine…

We bled the sea water pump of air and got it working again. I then engaged the engine and increased the revs to head off on our course, but here was the worrying part, the increase in revs didn't stop. Soon the engine was screaming at over 1000 rpm. “Shut it down” I yelled from the wheelhouse to the engine room and Mick hit the kill switch. “What are you doin up there?” He shouted once the engine died, thinking it was me on the throttle who’d rev’d it out. “Wasn’t me man”, I replied, “the engine had a mind of its own”. Really weird. So we tried it again, same thing happened… Mick called Charlie for a bit of insight, but he said the same thing that we were thinking. We’d have to rig something up to control the revs. A few trial and errors later, and a couple of zip ties, and Starlight was chugging away again at a steady 700rpm. 

The old Gardner engine has had a long trip by this stage. Mick reckons it'll be fine though...

The old Gardner engine has had a long trip by this stage. Mick reckons it'll be fine though...

The sailor’s beards. We’re all running beards at the moment. Apparently thats what you do on an Atlantic crossing, you grow a beard. The lads all look really old I reckon with bearded faces. I personally cant wait to shave the itchy thing off. 

Sunday March 19 - Day 14

Today marks 2 weeks at sea for Starlight and her crew. It’s good going, I reckon, that after all the rocking, nobody has had a proper wig out. Don't get me wrong, everyone has had their moments. Cooking seems to produce the most testing moments. I had a mini wig today, come to think of it, while I was cooking lunch. After boiling the jug, Starlight took a good roll and the kettle tipped out all over the bench and down the front of my Billabong boardies, so I lobbed it out the window to give it some time out. But other than a few moments like that, the crew have managed to stay relatively sane. 

“Should we crack a bottle of rum?” a thirsty sailor enquired. With a nod and a grunt from his fellow seaman, the approval was unanimous. It was a nice day, so we thought we should have a couple of scoops. With an easy day of sailing, the lads made short work of a bottle of Captain Morgans while we kept an eye on the sails from the bow. 

“See that sunset” explained Brio, “thats a Caribbean sunset. Look how close we are”. He had a point, we were now only 340nm from our destination. Starlight’s arrival to the land of reggae and rum seemed to be just over the horizon.  

Sailors and rum. 

Sailors and rum. 

Monday March 20 - Day 15

Today started way to early for me. With the start up of the engine, I knew this could mean only one thing, another ripped sail. But I didn't get up, I just lay there and waited until I was requested by a fellow sailor. Realising I was sporting a mild hangover, I was roused by Mick who confirmed the ripped sail. So we got out on deck, strapped our action man harnesses on, changed out the torn sail for another ageing sail and shut down the engine just in time for my night shift to begin. Looks like another day of practicing our sewing once the sun comes up. 

“Can I borrow your beard trimming clippers?” Brio asked Toothy. “Sure” he said. “They’re in my room”. “Cheers man, I need to neaten this beard up a bit, its itchy as…” After sorting out his rogue whispy beard hairs, Brio decided his arm pits needed a bit of a trim as well. Perched at the door of the wheelhouse, wind blowing inward, Brio trimmed up his armpit hair. “What are you up to?” I asked, noticing the armpit hair trimming taking place next to the galley. “Just giving them bit of a trim” he said proudly. “This is how Paula likes it”…

Around midday saw the re-incarnation of the DJI Phantom Drone. I must say, I had my doubts after the last episode, however, like the biblical Jesus, who miraculously rose from his tomb to be reborn again, so too was the fate of Starlights’ Drone. Mick had performed a week long surgery in bursts of excitement infused frustration and today was to be the big day. Flight day. I was bloody nervous. Could this thing even fly? Will it fall straight out of the sky and into the piss?Who knows? However, with the confidence of Tom Brady before a Super Bowl, Mick was about to try it. I was in charge of the catch and release. To the astonishment of the onlooking seamen, the Drone took flight, no worries. As it circled Starlight, “ooo’s” and “aaahhh’s” escaped the mouths of the sailors trying to find words to describe what they were seeing on the control monitor. The perspective of Starlight from the air with 4 sails up, was nothing short of amazing. All was going well. With a few passes of the ship and a near collision with an inquisitive Albatros, it was time to land. The pressure was on. If we ditched it, not only would we loose the expensive toy, but we’d also loose that incredible footage that we all just witnessed. As it approached the stern, I made myself as long as possible (thats pretty long) and readied myself for the catch. Resembling a youthful, and slightly more handsome, Larry Bird, I reached up and plucked the Drone out of the sky only to loose my footing. But all was good, I fell in board and the Drone was landed safely. Good job by the pilot, I’ll say.   

By the afternoon, the pilot was ready for another flight. “Let’s get the Drone up for golden hour” ‘Spielberg’ suggested. So once again, I held the Drone ready for take off. But for some reason, the controller wouldn't connect to it. So I thought I’d put it down for a bit. As I did, the Drone sprung to life, all 4 propellors started spinning at full pace, one of which chopped straight through my finger nail and into the flesh. Still holding on, I pointed it skyward once more as the pilot shouted “let go, let it fly”. Righto, I thought, “Fly, get outta here”. As it awkwardly took flight, we all thought it was going in the drink for sure. Wait til you see the comedy of footage from this session… Its good for a laugh. 

Some of the footage the drone captured during the last few days of the trip was unreal. 

Some of the footage the drone captured during the last few days of the trip was unreal.