The northerlies filled in sooner than expected and gradually built in strength so we have had some great sailing over the past couple of days and have made good speed. I am appreciating more and more the value of the staysail. It is such a tiny sail in comparison with the genoa but since the apparent wind was forward of the beam, even in lighter winds we have been flying it in conjunction with the genoa and have found it has added to our speed. The big advantage of it is that as the wind builds, it keeps the forces low and central to the boat whereas a reefed genoa sets much higher and loses its shape with reefing. Gradually we have reduced sail and overnight, with winds of 20-25 knots and gusts over 30, we were flying the double-reefed mainsail with just the staysail and still averaging 6-7 knots. The boat was being tossed about by the waves but handled the conditions very well and, although wet above decks from waves breaking over the boat, there have been very few signs of water ingress down below; indeed I just tightened up a couple of hatches that let in a few dribbles and it seems to have solved that issue. The water-maker we think is the likely source of some water that has been entering our bilges. It has lasted for this trip, thanks to Benjy who has been nursing it through, but will need to be serviced to stop the leaks emanating from the Clark pump when we reach Lagos.
Now we are traversing the shipping lanes off Cape St Vincent. There is quite a bit of shipping and Howard and Benjy, who are on watch now, have altered course to avoid one as I type. AIS certainly takes a lot of stress out of these situations because the ships information shows up on the chart-plotter with an estimate of time to and distance of closest approach. We have been in radio contact with the ship in question so our intentions are known to him as his are to us. We hope to be in port later this afternoon ….