We have had some outstanding sailing with favourable SW winds and two nights at sea with most sails set (except for t'gallants and royals during the night in case we should get caught out with sudden high winds). The starry skies have been magnificent and with the help of our "gadget" Richard ,some indentification has been possible. Azimuths have been worked out and on.
Captain John has given us detailed briefings at least every evening and with the help of our watchleader's blackberry ,online wikipaedia has produced much useful information about the string of islands north of Sicily. We started with Uschia, population 1300 which has a thriving tourist industry based an superb scuba diving. The last island is the highly volcanic Stromboli. As we came off our 2000hrs-midnight watch we were stretching our eyes to see the glow over the horizon 70 miles away. What excitement, a glow appeared on the horizon-but up popped the moon! Much laughter and legpulling from the oncoming watch!
More excitement was promised with the passing over of the space station early next morning before dawn. As promised we had really wonderful views of a very bright space station passing overhead.
Gradually other islands appeared out of the sunrise and then Stromboli with a very solid cloud over her top.She has a population of 4oo people and we could see 2 settlements at each end. There was some sign of greenery on the steep slopes. The last big explosion was in April this year. The people make their living from tourists visiting the volcano.
We then set the sails to make our way to the Straits of Messina. This is a tricky entrance with opposing tides and strong winds and many ships entering and leaving this narrow stetch of water.
We are planning to anchor off N Malta to-morrow evening.
During our nightwatch we had a very interestng talk with Piers about the state of our world and what might happen if we have the due switching of the magnetic poles followed by a very thorough in depth study of all the instruments in the chart room. We also had a very good talk by the 2nd mate Dave on weather and weather systems which was one of the clearest we have heard.
To-day in the middle of all these excitements we had a full hour of happiness and were entreated by Mate Steve to "demonstrate enthusiasm please", so there was singing and laughter!
Some of us donned harnesses and went on to the bowsprit and did a limited Titanic impression!
MVB and John W continue mending sails. John had a fright this evening thinking I had washed his mug as there was a washed identical one but he dashed behind the coffee percolator and lo an behold ,there was his mug, successfully hidden.