Day 21 to CT Up to 32 knots...down to 5 knots .... as a Front passes by...

Monday 25th April 2011

Consistent winds from just W of N at 20-23 knots overnight, swell around 3m, so plenty of waves catching us from time to time & tossing us around. An albatross and a spectacled petrel around dawn. Then, around 9.30am, I heard the sound of the wind starting to rise. It was soon up to 29kt... and then to 32 kt.. all very quickly ... I debated whether to heave to, since conditions had got pretty rough, with the swell nearer to 4m.... but decided it was simpler, with no shortage of searoom (Antarctica being a good distance away!), just to run off downwind for a time - I was hoping the strong winds would pass soon - which they did! Amazing how much more comfortable it always feels when we turn downwind... so much smoother a ride and the apparent wind instantly becomes less.

We headed SE for a time, instead of E, and were making 6.2 kt, well-reefed from overnight still - I'd been expecting strong winds at some point, so was prepared. It lasted about an hour and then we were able to get back on course with the wind down to 23kt or so, but slightly backed, to NNW. In fact, during my radio Net times. from 10.40 until 11.15, I hove to... it was simpler that way and meant I could switch off both autopilot and instruments (which give a lot of RF noise) to maximize my chances of hearing people clearly on frequency!

In the afternoon, we had some really heavy rain - not had that for an age! - and the wind backed and dropped as a Front came through... from NNW 24kt to W 15kt and then to SW 11kt... meaning I had to gybe the sails ... with changing of preventers in the swell and releasing of a running backstay to add in to the wet procedure. But as I was busy, I glanced up - to see a Wandering albatross glide powerfully by on fixed wings ... no movement at all... Very different from the occasional Yellow-nosed ones I've seen - far larger, and with conspicuously far more pure white on its underbody, back and wings, with dark ends to its upper wings - a Tristan albatross possibly... I paused for quite a time, until it disappeared from view...! They breed on Gough Island, my birdbook tells me.

When the rain finally stopped, I saw we had lots of birds around - the flock of Great shearwaters was back again! They so often rest in the water right beside us - handsome birds. But soon after, the wind had dropped from 12kt to just 5 knots ... and we were drifting at about 2-2.5 kt - so on with the engine (no problems!) to motor gently at just over 4knots, while the wind shifted around in a High pressure ridge... As I write this, at 9.30pm, it's still only 7knots but from the NE.... Winds will pick up over tomorrow, becoming strong N winds as a small Low approaches, to give a bit of excitement as it passes over us on Thursday, possibly....

Report for 1400GMT:
LAT: 40-22S LONG: 019-17W COURSE: 093T SPEED: 5.9
WIND_SPEED: 23 WIND_DIR: NNW SWELL_DIR: N SWELL_HT: 3.5M
CLOUDS: 100% BARO: 1017 TREND: -1
Rough seas still.
24hr DMG: 129ml. Distance to Cape Town: 1831 ml, to Gough Isl: 430ml

Written by : Mike

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