Our first few days at sea went by with an easy 10-15 knots on the quarter. On the forth day the wind died and at around midnight I turned on a deck light and went outside the pilot house to adjust a lifeline. The wind had decreased to such an extent that we were only moving at 1.5 knots which would normally bother me but it was so peaceful outside I didn’t care that we were hardly moving. As I was working on the life lines I saw a rope in the water, then another. It wasn’t long before I noticed that what I was seeing wasn’t rope but golf ball sized jelly fish that ban together in rope-like sections. I’ve never seen these before and was wondering if they come up from the deep at night. I was enjoying watching these rope-like jellyfish pass by when I heard a noise more chipmunk then bird. This is a sound I have heard before. There is a small type of bird that lives from roughly 100 to 400 miles off shore. I’ve mostly seen them between 37 north and the latitude of Nova Scotia. What’s different about these birds is in the day time they are always alone and near the surface of the water. At night they meet up in the hundreds and fly circles around anything floating in the water. My boat became there hang out spot for the night. This has happened to me several times in the past but what was different this time is my very bright deck light and head lamp seemed to attract them then like moths to a light. First they started hitting my sail and plopping down all over my deck. I was walking around picking the birds up and throwing them back in the air when they started bouncing off of me. For a moment I felt like I was in the old Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds. One bird hit me right in the face. After that I quickly turned my head lamp and deck light off and things went back to normal.
The wind picked up to 25 to 30 knots for the next two days which was a good test for this boat. On one hand we sailed 316 miles in 48 hours, on the other hand the masts creaked and groaned in the most nerve shattering manner. This is the first boat I’ve ever sailed that has unstayed masts. Watching my masts bend in the wind and hearing them complain about it is hard to get used to. I’ve always kept the attitude that either my mast will hold or it will fall. I’ll reef when I need to reef and I’m not going worry much about it. That philosophy was certainly put to the test the last few days. All in all Ault sails faster and is more comfortable than I thought she would be. I’m interested to see how she will perform in heavy weather, time will tell.
The last 36 hours has been screwy to say the least. I’m guessing we sailed right into a strong eddy. My compasses were telling me I was going in one direction and my GPS was saying something completely different. Sometimes the current was in my favor but mostly it wasn’t. We must have sailed out of it in the middle of the night because the GPS and compass are friends again.
We have 1,200 miles to go before we reach the eastern extreme of the North Atlantic Gyre where we will start pulling Manta Nets which can determine the amount of plastic in the ocean. In the meantime we are working with NOAA as a mobile observation station. (Which is more work than it sounds) and deploying sensors called drifters. NOAA gave us $30,000 worth of these special drifters to deploy. After 9 days at sea Nikki is still doing great and has found her rhythm. As I sit here writing this she is elbow deep in rusty dirt cleaning the bilge. She is also taking apart the bilge pump and float switch, completely cleaning all parts and pieces and putting it all back together again. I never as asked her to clean the bilge she does stuff like that on her own. Talk about good crew!