Friday, June 16. Day 7

I woke at 0345 to Martha & Bruce rousting Mia, who in turn rousted me. I'm not taking an 'official' watch this passage, but promised to do Mia's first half this morning. Getting up to see the sunrise sounded like a great idea last evening when I tucked into my warm bunk in sweatpants and a hoodie...

A clear horizon was already visible by 0400 in the grey dawn, and it's light out now (it doesn't get fully dark until 2300 in the evening). A waning but bright half moon peeks through low, scudding clouds every few minutes. The cockpit is wet, though it's not raining. I'm dressed, fully - long underwear beneath sweatpants, wool socks, two long sleeve shirts under my puffy coat, my merino neck gaiter, hat, all under my waterproof foulies and PFD. It's not THAT cold - this is more than I wear to go skiing - but at 0400 when you crawl out of a warm bed and into the cool, damp air, it feels it. Two cups of freshly ground coffee have warmed me up and I'll shed some layers soon.

Isbjorn sails downwind, wing on wing on starboard tack, one reef in the mainsail and the genoa sheeted to the end of the spinnaker pole, furled in just enough to keep the foot flat and not banging around as she rolls in the gentle swell. The wind is in the high teens, touching the low twenties and steady, We've a smooth ride alright - for the first time I slept the night right through, 2000 until 0345, wondering where I was when I awoke.

Dampness pervades on Isbjorn now as we head farther north. The cabin sole is cool to bare feet. It doesn't feel like June, though both Mia & I are thrilled to back in the cool northern latitudes. We are closer to the North Pole than the equator now, and will cross 50 degrees north this afternoon.

We're in the latitude of the English Channel, though some 520 miles west of Lands End, but still, the shipping traffic has increased markedly. Mac & Harold passed two ships heading east last night inside two miles. Currently there are six ships heading east & west on the AIS, though none will come close enough for a visual. Several planes have passed overhead, flying east, and we've debated where they're headed.

Thus far we've sailed 855 miles and are way ahead of schedule. We'd planned extra days into this leg to account for weather - indeed the day before we departed there was a huge and gnarly gale between the Azores & Iceland that wreaked havoc on the OSTAR fleet of yachts racing from the U.K. to Newport. Three boats needed rescue in wind speeds in the 60's with 30-40' waves...and that's conditions as reported by the Canadian coast guard, so you know they're not trying to impress anyone. Bottom line, it wouldn't have surprised me to have sat in Sao Miguel for several days waiting for a weather window, hence the added days on the program to be safe. Instead, we left on time and after an 18-hour calm on day 2, have had brisk, downwind sailing ever since. We're laying down the miles towards Scotland.

One always says that one is sailing 'towards' a desired destination rather than to it. 'To' a place implies a kind of bravado, a certainty that you'll get there that doesn't quite respect the natural forces that stand in the way. Think of the poor OSTAR sailors who were sailing 'towards' Newport. They're boats never made it. So in deference to Neptune, ocean sailors are taught to say we're sailing 'towards' a place, come what may on the way.

In our case, it's good fortune rather than bad that may alter our planned landfall. We don't have to be in Oban until the 24th. And as it stands now, it appears we're going to run out of wind and sail into a hole on Sunday, just about the time we're off Galway Bay on Ireland's rugged west coast, and I don't like motoring... There so happens to be a little village called Kilronan on Inishmore, one of the fabled Aran Islands that guard the city of Galway from the mighty Atlantic, that's not too far off the rhumb line to Oban. Kilronan town supposedly has a stunning medieval fortress, a few good pubs, bicycle rentals and a protected anchorage with a public quay. The place is now firmly on my radar and duly noted on the chart. A few pints of Guinness while we wait for wind sounds better than a motorboat ride to me.

But we're not there yet either, and I won't tempt fate by announcing a definite departure from our original plan. As far as I'm concerned, we're still sailing towards Oban. If the wind holds, we'll probably keep going. Where we actually wind up remains to be seen...