WE HAD a major event on board. The Skipper changed his socks.
Also one of the largest Cruise Ships in the World, the Island Princess out of Bermuda, turned around on our account, a deep sea trawler off Chile gave us a shock - we thought they were pirates - and most important, mainsail repairs have been completed. Now we have no need to stop at the Falklands and we are now slowly beating North into headwinds up the South Atlantic.
The sock change came after three weeks on the same feet, night and day. In fact I might almost say, they hardened up and walked themselves overboard cheered and encouraged by the Southern Ocean Residents Association. And while they gave good service, the sheer delight in wearing a fresh pair was almost erotic.
I have been wearing the same clothes all the time for warmth. Also I am also fairly certain the socks would not have qualified for the Souffle du Nord 'odd socks' charity fundraising campaign - so they were no loss when tossed over the side. Being biodegradable, the ocean will quickly absorb them.
This is unlike my other rubbish to date of the two refuse sacks - collected on board from living. This will be disposed and hopefully recycled on landfall.
Be that as it may, following the elation of rounding Cape Horn, it was back to work to execute repairs under almost ideal conditions. For almost two days we were becalmed off the coast Tierra del Fuego. The ocean was beautiful, rich in sealife and large clumps of drifting seaweed - that snarled around the keel and rudders. The weed was difficult to remove, however sailing the boat backwards helped.
And while not pretty, the mainsail repair looks solid. For one person it was demanding removing the sail from the boom and patching it. Effectively one of the broken battens, went out of control in the 40 knot squall when I was dropping the main and its sharp end punched two large holes and 8 small holes in the sail.
The damage fortunately was not structural to the sail and after sewing the heavy sail together I put on several patches secured on by Sycaflex, a powerful flexible adhesive.
It was another problem and another solution found.
Through friends of friends a kind introduction to the Harbourmaster in Port Stanley in the Falklands was made. Fortunately I managed to avoid stopping for repairs which has a different set of risks for a solo sailor in a 60 footer in a commercial port.
Also, within the "Spirit of the Vendee and finishing unofficially, I wanted if at all possible to remain self-contained and complete the repair onboard. Here a great thanks to Maxime Buoy and Pierre-Antoine Tesson for their excellent preparatory work.
Mind you; we did sail past the Falklands. For many other reasons it would have been great to visit and see how they are getting on since Argentina grabbed them in 1982 from the British. Then Margaret Thatcher mustered an invasion Task Force who fought and won the islands back two months later.
It's still enshrined in my memory. It was fascinating to follow at the time and perhaps the last great maritime and traditional war. It played out in slow motion as the massive task force was assembled over several weeks and sailing to the Falklands. And while Britain still holds the islands and the vast majority of the islanders wish to remain British, they Maldives as the Argentinians remain a source conflict between the two countries for almost 200 years.
Now 35 years later the islands are self-governed while Britain provide Defence and Foreign Office representation. In world ranking the Falklands have the 222nd smallest economy in the World out of 229 countries ranked. However their per capita annual income at $96,000 is the 5th highest in the world. So I guess it's a cool place to visit,
The islands developed most as a shipping base and repair centre, some 350 miles from Cape Horn, before the Panama Canal opened in 1914 and had been in decline until the Argentinian invasion. And now with fishing, sheep farming and the prospect of oil, the population is growing again.
Then as we sailed north, past the Falklands and up along the South American coastline, early in the morning my collision alarm sounded on board. On looking out in the distance a vessel was approaching and pointed straight at me.
With some tales of local Hispanic pirates I was alarmed. All I could do was start the auxiliary motor to avoid them and have flares ready, my only defence. Or should I be passive and not resist? Gradually it grew and grew on the horizon. What kind of vessel was it?
I need not have worried. It was a Chilean long-liner fishing boat which simply swept past. I guess it was simply boredom or curiosity and they came past to check us out! With a massive wave (of relief on my side) they were on the way. With language issues, radio contact, was futile.
And later that day, these being my first vessel encounters in almost a month since leaving New Zealand I had a totally different kind of visitor. It was a massive cruise ship, the Island Princess out of Bermuda. She is one of the largest in the World and I guessed had followed me a few days later around Cape Horn, being too big to go through Panama,
She actually went past and that was it. Or so I thought. Some 20 minutes later, while below deck, I looked up and saw the massive ship hovering above in the evening light. Clearly they had come back - a massive exercise for such a ship - and must have thought I could be in trouble. This was very embarrassing.
While in a little shock, I grabbed the hand-held VHF and called the ship on channel 16 and established quick contact and explained to the ship, the radio operator and I guess the Captain, that I was fine and really did not wish to cause any inconvenience and would have called if that was the case when passing. It seems that I had caused some excitement on board.
I was surprised that any passengers even noticed me. Or could it have been my socks?
They explained some passengers were watching and reported to the Bridge that they thought I might be in trouble. Therefore Captain felt obliged to turn around. They seemed relaxed about it and went on their way while I had a friendly chat with the ship. One of the officers said he would be in Paris April 9th so I invited him for a drink at O'Sullivan's Irish Pub - I guess the owner Tom St.John will oblige with a pint!!
So with that, in the comfort of fresh socks and as a tribute to Le Souffle du Nord's collection of odd socks I finish with a selection of two expressions.
"Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me……"
"Enda, your're a Hard Man…
Hard as socks…."
In response to which I was never sure was this a compliment or an insult? Being positive as the voyage of our ship sails on, I opt for the former, though the latter may be more deserved.