Thursday 10th May 2012
Dawn saw the start of another cold, grey day - with a pair of Southern Royal albatross circling the boat. They stayed around on and off all day, together with a pair of pretty Cape Petrels - distinctive in their jazzy black and white markings - tiny by comparison with the majestic albatross.
As usual, in rough conditions, with more forecast, I've spent a lot of time checking weather info and downloading weatherfaxes regularly.
Swell has been 4m from both the S and the E over today and yesterday - making definitely for a bumpy ride!
Dave & Trish, on Tony's Net, have suggested a stop in Raivavae, rather than Tahiti, both in French Polynesia - they reckon it to be one of the nicest of the French islands there, with an easy, safe entry into the lagoon... but it seems a bit off my path...
Fred, my Hydrovane helper, has been happily in control all last night and today. But I gave him a rest tonight ... Although I'd recently got out the paper chart for the SW Pacific, I'd not really looked at it much, not thinking it necessary with the plotter available - big mistake!
When I spoke to Meri (controller of the Bluff Fishermen's Radio) tonight, I double-checked her Gale warning for the sea area I'm in now - and fortunately she asked Paul, on the nearby fishing vessel "Southern Progress", to check my position on his plotter to see which forecast area I should be using... We got chatting and he warned me of the shoals in the Mernoo Bank, saying I was heading directly for very shallow water, on which the swell would be breaking very heavily...
What a timely comment! It didn't take long for me to realize that it might be a very good idea to go around the Bank... On checking the depths ahead in detail, he was absolutely right - the sea rises to just 50m depth in several places in the Bank - right on my path...
Problem was the wind direction - heading E wasn't an option in the SE wind, so I had to gybe and head NW in order to be sure of avoiding the several shoal areas. Of course, heading downwind promptly made our motion calmer and the seas now seem even calmer due, no doubt, to being on the far side of the Bank from the swell direction. Later tonight, I'll be able to gybe around again and gradually get back on course.
We eventually made very good speed last night and today, once I'd unfurled quite a bit of genoa on deciding that there didn't seem to be the strong winds that had been forecast. So our DMG ended up vaguely respectable - at 100 n.ml.
The Low that had been promising strong winds seems now to be expected to hang around for several days, more's the pity... Getting away from New Zealand is proving to be quite complicated!