The Maiden Factor Blog

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Tropical latitudes = stifling heat!

This blog post was written last week by Erica Lush, onboard Maiden.
16 deg 02.072’ N
98 deg 41.715’W
Compass Course 115
Boat speed 7.3

When I come on deck at 4 pm ship’s time (6 pm local) the sun is just about to set, and soon after the night becomes so dark I can’t see my own hands. It makes it hard to steer sometimes, but it also means stars are bright enough to study the constellations. I just learned to recognize Cassiopeia, which we see off our port side each evening. 

Hearing a break in the wave pattern, we turn to see a glowing torpedo trace the outline of our wake before the dolphin darts ahead to the bow. Our wake glows with bioluminescent plankton; it’s like looking down into another galaxy.

A stunning night with the whole galaxy above… ©The Maiden Factor/Amalia Infante

Our first week of night watches were illuminated by a huge moon, each night spilling over its ellipses more than we thought possible. Now it’s waning and the moonrise has come later each night, time slipping past us as quickly as the miles. We are more than halfway to Panama.

The main light in the dark! ©The Maiden Factor/Amalia Infante
Erica onboard at night ©The Maiden Factor/Amalia Infante

Previously on Maiden we had taken our kites down at night, especially the A2 which has become increasingly valuable to us. However, on this leg the wind has been perfect and very stable most days, allowing us to put great hours on both our kites! The sailing has been idyllic.

Beautiful conditions- can you spot the dolphins in front of the boat? ©The Maiden Factor/Amalia Infante

With our new watch schedule (4 hours on, 4 hours off) we usually have 4 people on deck, except for the first two hours of my watch when we have 3 (myself, Hadley, and Liz). Liz has done plenty of shorthanded sailing in the past, so we’re learning a lot from her in that regard. The best part was gybing the symmetric kite with just the three of us (and a dip pole). We pre-planned everything, and the execution got better each time. I did mast/bow, first securing the lazy guy forward, then raising the inboard end of the pole. Hadley squares the kite back, I trip the jaws, run forward to grab the new guy, swing the pole to the other side of the forestay and CLUNK! the jaws close on the new guy, topping lift goes up, we square back, inboard end back down, trim on… woohoo! Such fun.

Since reaching the tropical latitudes it has abruptly become stiflingly hot! Occasional squalls meant a ton of sail changes. Our crew on board for this leg has meshed very well, and it’s fun to throw in all these manoeuvres as a team. We are also taking this opportunity to fine tune our crossover chart which shows us when to use which sail. 

Time for some shade under the sail cover! ©The Maiden Factor/Amalia Infante

On slower days like this morning we get stuck motoring. Hadley, who is studying for a celestial navigation course, is teaching me to calculate local apparent noon and do sun sights with her sextant! Celestial navigation is something I’ve always wanted to learn, but I never had enough reason to sit down and teach myself. How lucky I am to have a built-in teacher on this trip! The slow watches also allow for some storytelling. Liz and Julia are both brimming with wild tales, from commercial diving with territorial fish, to rescuing a puppy 30 nm offshore.

Practicing with the sextant©The Maiden Factor/Amalia Infante

When I’m off watch I am thinking about our upcoming time in the Caribbean. We will have opportunities to meet with many school aged kids, and to compete in some races! We are hoping to find a second hand A2 or A3 to race with so we can preserve our “Hands Around the World” kite, which we are filling with handprints from kids at every stopover. The growing spiral of handprints represents the next generation’s desire for equality and belief in the potential of girls. If we get to race in the Caribbean 600 this year, we’ll want an asymmetric kite in our inventory that we aren’t afraid to push to its limits!

Hands around the World Sail ©The Maiden Factor/Kaia Bint Savage

Signing off for now, as we have to be diligent about sleeping with this watch schedule. If you need me, I’ll be melting in a puddle on my bunk!