Since we stopped racing we have been on a new watch system of 3 watches with 3 hours on and 6 hours off, as we motor further South. It allows a lot of time to catch up on sleep and also to read, watch movies (if we can pry the crew laptop off Wendo!) and generally hang out. Bunks are at a premium and those which are in a draught are sought after. People have taken to sleeping anywhere they can; sail locker (great when the hatch is open but a sweat box when it’s closed for sail changes), saloon benches, on the floor, occasionally on deck (though it means you probably end up getting moved – and sometimes helping – if the sails need changing).

We have been hoping for wind but despite a few hours yesterday with some good upwind breezes, there has been very little, and we are now in a large wind hole, going nowhere quickly. We have joined up with 3 other boats; Visit Seattle, PSP and Mission Performance, in order to support each other should the diesel for our engine run out.

We took a careful calculation on the amount of fuel left in our tanks
and we have much less than any of the other boats. Why? We have been revving the engine much higher than anyone else in order to maintain a similar speed to the other boats. Why? It’s back to the problem of our prop not being able to close completely due to the fishing net wrapped around it.

Also, during our upwind jaunt we were doing much much better speeds and sailing at our expected performance. Why?
We hypothesised
a while ago, after dismal placings, that our two rudders may be slightly out of alignment since the new helm was put on in Seattle, and this has caused too much drag
on the bottom of the boat. Going upwind, with one of the rudders almost out of the water, means that the lack of alignment is no longer an issue, hence more speed.

Happily, the Clipper race office has paid attention to both issues and promise to sort out of diver to look at both problems when we get to Panama. It’s a big relief to the crew to know that our bad result could be for a valid reason, and not just sour grapes following bad performance.

So, back to the motor sailing, and it’s a good thing that we have the other boats around us, since we do not have enough fuel left to get us to Costa Rica, where we are booked in for refuelling. We have paired up with Mission Performance, who have taken us under tow, so we are trekking along a boat length behind them, attached together by a mooring line. We steer in line with their movements, which is easy at the moment given that there is
little wave action and calm seas.

We did have a bit of weather this morning – about an hour of heavy rain though little wind. This meant everyone was up on deck in their underwear (not necessarily a good thing with the Zimmer Watch!), washing hair, bodies and sweaty clothing. You can get a great shower by standing under the mainsail and tipping out the water that has collected in the folds of the reef. Jo probably has the best cold water dousing dance, complete with girlie squealing.

Those who wanted a bit of privacy to wash more sensitive areas retired to the back of the boat behind the helming stations. That was fine. What was a little more surprising was that the crew on Mission Performance did the same thing – forgetting that we are only a boat length behind them and can see everything. Several unintentional moonies later (with loud comments from us) and they realised they were probably showing us more than they (and we) wanted to see!
Everyone is now refreshed and (relatively) clean. Even Craig’s T-shirt is no longer walking and talking on its own. It’s amazing how crew morale shoots up just with a simple thing like a proper wash.

It looks like we will have another 12 or so hours of being towed before we get close enough to have sufficient fuel to make it to Costa Rica under our own steam. It’s slow going, but the end is in sight and everyone is looking forward to finally reaching Panama after this very long leg.

Love and hugs to you from us all. More soon (since we have lots of time to write blogs!)

Guest Blog by Valerie Saint-Pierre ad Emily Fripp.