Every once in a while some things just need a bit of explanation, and for Xplore there are many characters that make up this boat. There of course is the actual people who are on Xplore, and there are the others who are a part of Xplore.
Yes yes, I know your probably saying, right, Stephen needs his head read,
but the reality is (or imagination is probably a better word) is that there
are so many components to Xplore as a boat, and which are so important to
the ongoing running of the boat, so that each major part deserves a little
pet name, just like the nick names that people give to their cars. So that
when its playing up, misbehaving or broken, then we can talk to this item
and try to ascertain what their little problem is, make it all better, and
then life continues as normal. Sounds pretty logical, now doesn't it.
We have digressed, so let's back to Wilma and the fat English girl, well
Wilma is the wheel that we steer Xplore with, well actually Xplore is fondly
referred to as the Fat English girl, and that is because when "she" (in
English we refer to boats as being She's) was designed 22 years ago, she was quite radical, in that her beam (width of the boat) is quite wide and that
width is carried well aft (back towards the rear of the boat) giving her a
quite wide stern or transom ( that's the fat ass bit) then not only was she
designed by an English man of repute, but she was also built at the royal
dock yards in Plymouth, so now you can put together the whole thing, Fat and
English (no slight at all on English women)
So as you know we have been travelling back across the South Pacific to
Chile, "We" I mean the crew, myself, Alexis and Cris, Australian, Corsican
and Argentinean (now that would make a story in itself)
Since leaving Gambier islands we have had excellent sailing, and some pretty
fast going if I do say so myself, even now in the last 7 days we have
averaged 210 nautical miles every day since leaving Easter Island. And in
boat talk that's pretty fast, as a comparison for land folk, that would be
like driving a solar powered car at 140 kilometres per hour continuously for
a week, and to do that with the Fat English girl you need quite a bit of
wind as she is 38 tons ! (external wind as opposed to internal wind)
So there we are zooming across the Pacific, alls fine and dandy and then in
Easter Island "It" happened. Well it's really is about "Who" happened.
We charge our house batteries (Boris and his 5 other mates) once or twice a
day, and this is done with the alternator (Allan) which is driven by the
generator (Mrs Perkins, she's a good girl but getting on a bit, went through
menopause the other year so we took her to the doctor and had her all sorted
out, much happier now) or from Mr Perkins (main engine, very stoic and
strong, reliable and very English) when there is low, or no wind.
Well, as we have left the warmth of the sub-tropics and have been heading a
little further south, Boris and his mates have been playing up and are just
not having this cooler temperature, it's like they have gone into winter
hibernation, or a union meeting, anyone would think they are bears, but they
just want to play ball and won't hold a charge for long at all (right little
buggers, because they are only 3 years old and are meant to be the best)
What that means is that we have been having to run Mrs Perkins much more to
charge Boris and his mates, and that also means that Allan has a lot more
work to do. So in Easter Islands whilst on anchor, Allan spits the dummy and
just stops, had enough. I scratch my head and go "dam" have to get Allan's
twin brother out (Alex) before we leave the next day.
So at first light, we change Allan for Alex and off we go, problem is that
even though Alex is meant to be identical twins to Allan, he's actually not
half the match (must have come out of the factory late in the day on a
Friday) as he is only putting out half the power that his twin brother does
when he's working.
Now how does this all effect us and fit in with Wilma and the Fat English
girl ? So here we are, we have 1940 nautical miles to travel to Chile and we
have crap batteries (Boris and his mates) and Alex isn't putting out. We
have calculated how much fuel we are going to need in normal circumstances,
but this new development may just leave us a bit short.
So that means that me and the crew (Alexis and Cris) will have to hand steer
a lot so as not to use too much power, and that is where Wilma comes in.
Let me tell you a little bit about Wilma, she's a round and robust sort of a
girl (quite a size) but she loves being played with, ( I recon she must be a
reincarnation of a 1970's gypsy surfy chick that took too many drugs, but
always dreamt of travelling the world) she can also be turned around by
Arnie (that's short for Arnold Schwarzenegger our auto pilot, who is very
big and strong) but she doesn't like that so much as he's a bit too
mechanical and German like, you know left, right, left right, never stops,
but has no real feeling. Wilma prefers the soft, but firm human touch.
Power, well electricity consumption is the bain of every sailing yacht, we
need power for so many things on board, the navigation electronics, the
lights, stereo for a bit of music and of course for Freida ( she's the
reincarnated ex girl friend of a mate of mine called Simon, he gave her to
us because he thought she would be of better use to us than to him, she's a
cold bitch, quite pretty, uses a bit of energy and is only good for sticking
your meat in her, yep she's the freezer)
For the last 7 days we have been hand steering for 90% of the time some
great days and great miles, and all in all, life on board has been very
good. But yesterday was the zenith of the weather system that was driving us
and we knew that there was going to be some fairly windy conditions.
The sails that we had out weren't much, Baz and Max (the boom and main sail)
were all put to bed, we didn't need the extra power as we were consistently
doing 8.5 to 10 knots and Max is getting a bit tired these days after a long
but eventful life, that only left Yuri and Stan out (Yankee headsail and
Staysail) and even then with Yuri poled out we only had 80% of it flying,
As the watches have been broken into two, myself on one watch and Alexis and
Cris on the other we have only been having short conversations between us at
the change over times, but we all have agreed that the boat is going well
even with the larger seas which are now around the 5 to 7 meter mark.
I was doing the early morning "dog" watch in blustery running conditions, 3
to 7am is a traditional watch where the crew tend to get very sleepy about
half way through just before the dawn light starts to creep in, and there
was no exception this morning, even with the stonky conditions we were
having (fast speeds and strong winds)
So I was a bit dozy and not probably watching things closely enough, because
all of a sudden Wilma gives a little wiggle and points the fat English girl
straight down this wave face ! she had obviously been looking out of the
corner of her eye and spotted this one coming in from the rear, and with her
reincarnated "Surfy Chick" previous life she just couldn't resist.
Well off we went like a bat out of hell, it was like sitting at the top of a
hill and someone puts a skate board under your ass. What was a normal 8 to 9
knots suddenly became 9 to 10, then 11's, 12 and I couldn't believe it when
we hit 13.1 knots, it just sat there surfing away for what seemed like ages
and then at the end we peaked with grand total of 13.2 knots. There were
rooster tails of water squirting off the bow as we plunged head first down
into the dark wave chasm, poor old Larry must have taken a right old fright
seeing all those tons of water rush past his head (Larry's the anchor winch
up on the bow)
The feeling of getting a heavy displacement yacht up to surfing speed would
be in comparison to a Bungee jumper tying extra concrete blocks to your legs
so as to increase the adrenalin rush with extra velocity when you first step
off the platform to plunge hundreds of feet down.
And this is not the first time that Wilma has gone off surfing before, once
in the Falkland islands her and Arnie collaborated, and when we all went
down below decks as we were sailing along, she picked up a small wave
assisted by a nice gust of wind and took off as well, bloody hit 17.5 knots
that time. And even the watch before I came on, Cris had mentioned also that
she was looking for some waves as she had done a similar thing to him. Dam
cheeky wench she is, but you have to love her spirit.
As you can see we have been having a right old time for many reasons, and
overall we have had some superb sailing, and there is not much left to go as
we are only 659 nautical miles from Valdivia on the Chilean coast.
But I do think it is important that all of you readers do get familiar with
the "gang" which makes up Xplore, because when you next come sailing you
will feel right at home, and know everyone that we have been talking about,
but most importantly you won't be confused when you hear myself and the crew
Can you just imagine standing down below decks when you hear me say "Oh I'll
give Alexis a break, best I take over and turn Arnie on" now anyone not
knowing what I was saying would think that we are all gay boys shagging this
bloke called Arnie.