Friday 18th March 2011
Overnight we hove to for a bit .... The wind had got quite strong (gusting to near 30kt) and the seas really got up - as they usually do... We were making such a good speed, I was worried we'd be making a night-time landfall but we were also getting knocked about by the seas . I'd wanted to test out heaving to with just the mains'l to see how that went - the idea being to heave to with bows just off the wind, not beam to .... I had to push myself to go on deck in the strong winds .... I definitely didn't feel too enthusiastic after my last experience.... but felt I had to try to improve the technique ... and there's only one way to do that - by practising it in strong winds! To my surprise, even with only two reefs in the mains'l, not the three I'd normally have in strong conditions, & with no headsails at all, we lay 60 degrees off the wind - not good enough in really bad conditions. With no breaking waves, I decided it was just about acceptable and got several hours sleep before moving on near dawn. I've been having a lot of useful email discussion with Beth and Evans on 'Hawk' about drogues and heaving to. As they pointed out, I needed to let out another reef next time, to head us up better - ideally, enough to produce an upwind 'slick' with our DDW leeway to smooth the waves and any occasional breaking crests which come along. (Heaving to like that is clearly not advisable in very large breaking seas - that's when the series drogue would be deployed.)
10pm LT - sky clearing overhead to show Southern Cross almost directly above, lots of tiny white clouds (alto cirrus?) with bright moon shining through and on to a far less rough sea than earlier today... A bank of grey cloud ahead, not yet cleared - over the Falklands.... landfall ahead! The nearest offshore islets are only 10 miles away ... Just before sunset, there were lots of albatross (yellow-nosed and other) gliding around us, and some prions - unlike earlier in the day which was noticeable for their absence.
Just spoke on SSB MMNet to Fred, W3ZU and then to Bob, VP8LP - one in Florida, the other in Stanley, to give my position and ETA in Stanley Harbour - tomorrow afternoon, I hope. Already had two emails from people who'll be coming by to say "Hallo" and hope to see others here that I've been in email contact with in the recent past - none I've as yet met face-to-face, so looking forward to meeting them.
Bob worried me slightly by warning me that there are whales around ... certainly in and around Stanley Harbour and maybe further offshore, although, as in Alaska, they mainly feed very close inshore. I don't want to run onto one as it sleeps, as has happened to two people I know of, so I'm happy to be running the engine gently as we continue to head downwind, as we have since entering the Estrecho de Le Maire, with an increasingly lighter SSW wind abaft the beam. It's expected to get lighter overnight and veer to NW, before backing to the W by tomorrow evening.
I'm hoping the sound will alert any whales to avoid us if they're nearby! I'd love to see some as I get closer in daylight. The last time I saw some was on my approach from Hawaii to the Strait of Juan de Fuca last August - one big humpback surfaced right beside the boat - but must have taken fright because it dived deep and I saw no more of it, although the previous day, a pair were cruising not far away for quite a time. It always feels such a privilege to see them so close by - equally, the magnificent albatross and other birds I've been seeing so much of. (Don't think I mentioned how the white-chinned petrels dangle a foot as a rudder at times when banking - one black foot lowered to aid steering!!)
Missed my short nap, gybing the mains'l before the PacSeaNet at 0315 GMT/UTC (1215 LT) - can't sleep for long when getting close to land... and the Falklands are mostly low, so won't show up on radar too well... I'll sleep well, tomorrow night!