Four words to sum up last night: Grey. Drizzle. Rain. Miserable.
We never really saw the sun set. They day went from a dull grey, to a darker grey and then the blackness of night under a solid layer of low stratus clouds. And then the drizzle set in. At first a soft and intermittent sprinkle and then a steady soaking drizzle as the clouds transformed into an even lower layer of nimbostratus. In the tropics, and even in the high latitudes, the radar has been a good indicator of approaching rain squalls at night, but here even the radar was defeated as the display gradually went from being lightly speckled, as if it was about to break out in some sort of rash, to the entire screen glowing softly as even the radar waves found it impossible to penetrate the shroud of water. No amount of fiddling with the tuning would induce it to show anything around the boat other than a weird glow that was perhaps appropriate to our position in the centre of the Bermuda Triangle.
Ominously, as the drizzle later gave way to a steady, but light downpour of rain the glow on the radar eased off only to be replaced by a contact that looked like nothing so much as a soaring vulture about to swoop down on us! In a bizarre electronic form of Rorschach Test the approaching line squall looked as evil on the screen as the approaching clouds looked in the darkness of the night. All the strange legends of the Bermuda Triangle seemed to be embodied in the rolling, living mass of cloud that bore down on us but perhaps thankfully it turned out to be nothing more than even more intense rain accompanied by a big wind shift to the south east. Not really what we wanted in any way, as it forced us to sail a little further north than we would have liked and by morning we were left in very light winds and a heavy swell. Never a good combination.
On one of the few occasions when the radar did penetrate the rain it did pick up a couple of ships during the night, with one of them eventually being identified by the AIS as the “Prisco Udokan”.
The logbook for the rest of the night continued with the following entries:
03H00: Continuous rain
04H00: Big rain squall
06H00: Squall ahead.
And then at sunrise the rain all disappeared! Nonetheless it remained a grey day, of interest only to cloud-spotters.
Lines of cumulus clouds would occasionally pass overhead bringing brief gusts of wind, but generally the sky was covered in a uniform mat of stratus and altostratus clouds leaving a uniform and light wind on the surface of the sea. As the day wore on the mid-layer of cloud optimistically began to break up into altocumulus clouds and we even began to wonder if we might soon see the sun. But it was not to be. Above this layer of cloud was another layer of cirrocumulus and cirrostratus, the latter producing a brilliant halo around the moon as the sun set again at the end of the day. In 24 hours we had at least been treated to a view of almost all the main cloud types except for cumulonimbus and cirrus!
Wildlife has again been minimal with only a pair of White-tailed tropic birds being recorded in the logbook, along with the usual Flying fishes and Sargasso weed.
During the late afternoon another ship appeared on the AIS, southbound, over 15 miles away, so too far away to be seen, but at least something to break the monotony of the day.
One bit of really good news today is that we finally seem to have found the southern edge of the Gulf Stream. Sailing this afternoon was a real challenge as Phesheya-Racing cork-screwed down some steep, high swells in relatively light winds. The form of the seas appeared to be out of context with the prevailing wind conditions, but after sunset our track began to indicate that we were being pushed rapidly northwards by a strong current. In hindsight it seems obvious that the strange swell was generated by the water swirling on the edge of the Gulf Stream.
Just 270 miles to go now, and after a frustrating 24 hours Sec.Hayai has gained 24 miles on us, leaving them 55 miles astern, and Financial Crisis have stretched their lead by nearly 22 miles, to 68 miles ahead. But fear not, we do still have a plan, and we hope that by morning we will be in a better position to start making gains. Going back to the chess analogy of a few blogs back: the pawn is slowly creeping across the board and we hope to soon replace it with a queen, but whether or not that will be enough to get Financial Crisis in check-mate remains to be seen! Just four days ago he was 150 miles ahead, but our long term strategy caused him to make a dramatic move that lost him 100 miles. Now can we replicate that to gain 50 miles in the remaining 2 days? Mathematically it is possible, but the challenge is certainly on. And
Sec.Hayai creeps ever closer to both of us…