Comes Another Blow

1 Mar

Day 106

Noon Position: 42 48S 88 01E

Course/Speed: E6 Wind: SW20 – 30

Bar: 1021 Sea: SW15

Sky: Overcast

Cabin Temp: 57

Sea Temp: 53

Miles Last 24 hours: 167 Longitude Made Good: 112

Total Miles: 14,460

Not too long ago the best weather forecast one could get at sea was from his barometer. And without a satellite link or single sideband radio, that is essentially what I’ve been reduced to. The barometer will tell you that change is a-comin, but with what intensity and from what direction—on these topics, it is more or less mum. When one is used to full-color wind charts for his quadrant for every hour out for five days, the barometer’s silence is deafening. Actually, I’m not entirely blind. Tony Gooch is tracking wind and systems for me. And based on his input, I’ve been pushing hard to get north and above the heart of a  quickly intensifying low from the west whose winds were forecast in the 40s.

I turned northeast just after noon yesterday in winds to 30 knots and NW. All day I spent in getting ready. I taped-up the electronics cabinets against possible water intrusion and anything sensitive got put in plastic bags. I pumped Mo’s bilges, of which we have four, and drained the water from the sleeve into which slides the companionway hatch. I secured anything that might fly. On deck I got the storm jib ready, put the high wind paddle on Monte, and secured lines. In the late afternoon I took a long nap; then got up just before sundown and studied the swell. It wasn’t much. Northwest at 12, maybe. But not steep nor breaking. Still, I tried to make a plan fo when the westerly set in. Winds had increased to 35 and gusting higher, so I dropped the main. Dinner was left over curry, better the day after, and a beer. Then I waited.

The night was dirty with rain and low cloud. Slowly the winds tracked into the west, and at 8pm the sky broke clear and clean.  Low cumulus raced under a bright moon and the sea was black and slick, a giant expanse of crude oil. Now winds intensified into the high 30s with frequent pushes of 40,  but the steepness and break of the wave train did not. I rolled the working jib up to the size of a snot rag and went to bed. Each time I rose, things were the same. I slept until daylight. Wind was still high. Seas were large and confused but still lacked the speed and meanness I had feared. Winds began to ease by noon and I set a course to the east. And that was it.

Why this low of similar strength and duration had such different sea-state characteristics, I can’t say. But grateful, without a drogue, I feel I’ve lost one important tactic in my survival quiver and it’s put me on edge. One low down. 2600 miles to Hobart.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


  1. Capt. Peter Watkins

    Hi Randell
    Following your epic adventures with interest……..thanks for sharing…


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