10 Mar

Day 112 (Day 52 since Ushuaia)

Noon Position: 44 16S 106 50E

Course/Speed: E6

Wind: SSW15

Bar: 1015

Sea: SW8

Sky: Clear, Cumulus: look like Tradewind weather

Cabin Temp: 56

Sea Temp: 51

Miles last 24 hours: 143

Longitude Made Good: 116

Total Miles: 15,352

Miles to Hobart: 1800. I need to average 138 miles/day in order to arrive Hobart in time to see my wife, who arrives on the 19th.

Weather building. It started on the 4th. At first NW 20, then 25, then 30. By 6am  on the 5th winds had gone 30 plus, at which point I opened our course up from E to SE to make the ride more comfortable.  I’ll ease back up on the coming W and SW winds, I thought, winds I anticipated any moment. But the bar kept dropping. 1007, 1005, 1004; every hour or two, down a point. And then the wind veered into the N, as high as 350 true. Now, instead of a SE course for comfort, I was locked in. I couldn’t point any higher without taking a building, toppling swell dead on the beam. And we were racing, a steady seven knots on a double reefed working jib and a three-reef main.

After sundown, wind increased to the high 30s gusting 40. I dropped the main. Bar down to 1002. By 11pm there was more 40 than 30 in the wind. Bar down to 1001.I rolled in the working jib until it looked like something you could fold up and put in your pocket. Swell had built to a steep and sloshy 8 or 10 feet, but was nothing serious if left on the quarter. After a time I figured this was the max we’d get; Mo was riding fine, so I started sleeping. An hour later the radar alarm woke me. “Targets in your guard zone,” it said. Nothing but sea clutter, I thought. But before I could check, I noticed was Mo was off course. The chart plotter showed her heading due north, and her turn on the screen was sharp. A glance at the wind indicator showed wind still 40 and still on port, but now the direction was not 350T but 210T; from nearly north to nearly south—same velocity, in about an hour. Then I noticed pounding. Now we were pushing into the NW sea. Our speed, 3 knots. I had to gybe around.

On deck, things were wild. Mo jumped and kicked like a wild mustang. Sea spray and rain flew every which way. It took an hour to move the sheets from starboard to port; roll in the jib; gybe, and unroll it again, simple work when you don’t need to hold on with both hands and feet. I kept checking the wind indicator because I simply couldn’t believe wind could do a one-eighty like that and hold its punch.  Indicator kept reading 40. Gybe complete I came below and waited.

By 3am winds were down to 30-35, so I called it a watch and started sleeping again. In the morning, blue sky filled with tropical cumulus and a sea full of birds, prions, storm petrels, albatross. And the sea itself, a lumpy, heaving, chaos of opposing swell. But by afternoon it was all over. As I type, wind is coming into the west at 10 knots. I have the twin headsails out full, and we make 5 knots on flat (for the south) water.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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