Here be Hobgoblins!

We left Gibraltar on Thursday morning . I expected to see an Armada of  ARC Migrants coming with us , but apart from a Cat who joined us at Tarifa – we were alone. Perhaps they were put off by the possibility of strong Southerlies on Monday . We talked of “slipping over to Madeira” , but it is all of 600 miles, which takes us out of the comfort zone of accurate forecasting ( 3 days?).

As expected getting out of the Straits in a Westerly , however light , is a bit of a struggle , but by Tarifa the wind was 15 knots and the tide beginning to turn in our favour , so we thrashed our way to windward under full sail. Some sort of front approached and I confidently predicted a swing to the NW or even North – and for 30 minutes thats what happened – then it went back into the West.

Our first dusk saw us finally clear of the African coast ,and more importantly the huge number of ships converging from all directions. We were  still hard on the wind ,and low of our course , but if you absolutely  have to go to winward ,10 knots is the ideal wind strength . Through the next day the wind veered bit by bit and finally freshened to a beam reach. We are beginning to learn that sail choice in cruising is a different matter to racing. The boat is easily driven by surprisingly small sails, so our second dusk saw us beam reaching in 16 knots and a steep sea with 2 reefs and the No 3. I slabbed down the 3rd reef  as it got dark feeling glad that noeone could see us – but 2 hours later was heartily glad as the wind got up to 23 knots. We were doing a steady 7.5 knots  with this tiny rig  and the wind vane was steering a perfect course whilst the on watch crew dozed under the dodger. What made me even more glad was that an updated grib file suggested that we should easily be at Madeira long before  the wind went Southerly,  and so we were under no pressure and could dawdle along slightly undercanvassed at night without the pressure of  having to get there asap.

As forecast the wind continued to veer , and with it came the return of the “Craeck”. It started off in a small way but with each increment of wind change it got louder and more malevolent until it reached its nerve jangling shriek of old. There was no doubt about it , the “Craeck” was back .

I should just explain the spelling.  It began as a typo , but in our minds this was the screaming  of an ancient hobgoblin  – probably marked on some medieval chart somewhere – and the spelling seemed just right. I have been though umpteen theories as to its origin , but the problem was that each “fix ” then had to be tested at sea , and obviously we had not had the combination of pitch and heave and wind just so that brought the  creature back to life. The mast was now chocked to within an inch of its life ( that had been my last theory ) , everything was greased and as before adjusting backstay and vang altered his howl , but nothing took him away except slabbing in the 3rd reef, which luckily was once more the appropriate rig. Its hard to  look forward to 2500 miles  of Atlantic crossing with such a companion , and at first light I was on deck and grimly determined to find, and banish forever , this ghastly sprite.

And I think I have found him. As part of our refit we replaced vang and gooseneck brackets and toggles.. The toggles were different from the old ones , made out of stainless and with a little tang welded on the upper half. This appears to be rubbing on the lower surface of the bracket , and perhaps because of the windy conditions we have had , there is now evidence of the wear. It only does so with the boom out near the shrouds . Now I have been here before and put an extra nylon washer to try and prevent it ( there is no room for more) but perhaps it wasnt enough as it certainly didnt work ,  and sent me chasing him in  another direction.

To test my theory we took down the main and are now bowling downwind under twin boomed out headsails – in blissful absence of the “Craeck” and able to gaze round in wonder at the seascape with its dolphins and turtles and one unfortunate flying fish , whereas previously , accompanied by its demonic howling it was impossible to enjoy any of it.

Taking the boom and vang off is quite hard enough in flat water , and would be a nightmare out here , so I have rigged up a relieving tackle which might work if , as is likely , the wind comes ahead again and we hoist the main. I hope the final cure will be to cut off the tang – or if all else fails I have the old toggle. One way or another the daemon has to go!

100 miles ENE of Madeira, All well.

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