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Day 26 - SUCCESS! Fixed the instrument problem - all working OK... after heaving to in rough seas!

Saturday 30th April 2011 - SUCCESS! Fixed the instrument problem - all working OK... after heaving to in rough seas overnight...

I was feeling a lot happier by this afternoon - with all instruments working fine that were not yesterday.... (except for VHF radio - transmitting fine, but not receiving - John, on Gough Island, said sounds as though handset must be faulty ... Was fine when I left Falklands...grrr!)

By yesterday evening, the winds had increased to around 30 knots and with them the seas had got up quite a lot, regularly catching us and tossing us about. Our course was beam on to the 4m seas and it just got to be too much - so I thought I'd try running off more downwind - at least to put the seas more on our quarter. But even that didn't feel good, surfing with most waves and still being hit by some - they were getting pretty rough.

So, with the night hardly begun, and barometer by now well down and still dropping (1013 at 11pm compared with 1020 at 2pm), I decided to try heaving to - remembering it hadn't worked too well the last time but wanting to experiment with suggestions I'd received. Well, it worked far better!! I hove to with just mains'l, having furled in the genoa and stays'l, helm to windward and boom initially well sheeted out. Very slowly, bit by bit, and pausing each time to see the effect, I sheeted in until we were hove to with bows pointing up well into the seas, boatspeed zero... then I went down for a good sleep!!

In the morning, I received a very helpful email reply from Robert Galley in Simons Town to my request for advice on tackling the instrument malfunction - he's very good at troubleshooting and knew my boat and instruments well from my stop in Cape Town last year. Being hove-to turned into a useful state to be in - no instruments or autopilot were needed! I decided to stay put and try to sort things out. Following his advice, I eventually solved the problem (after removing/changing over lots of connections to four instruments, changing one instrument completely for a spare I had available - TG! - and another email sent and received in the meantime!). It turned out to be caused by a faulty data connection at the Speed instrument together with a dodgy positive power feed to the Depth instrument (which supplies power to all 3 basic instruments, Wind included)..... Suddenly, all the instruments were displaying everything they should and working perfectly - so, for instance, my autopilot will be able to work in 'windvane mode' if I expect the wind to shift overnight and want to avoid tacking or gybing.... very handy!

I'd had breakfast with lovely fresh-brewed coffee before starting on the instruments in the morning and was now ready to sail off - by 2.30pm we were underway again, headed just N of E on the Great Circle route to Cape Town in good SW winds but fair-sized seas still, in company with a lot of birds, all of which probably breed on Gough Island:
A pair of dark brown skuas - big, heavy-looking, 'flappy' birds - all brown, except for pale flashes along middle of wings, above and below - clearly not the ocean gliders I've mainly been seeing... "Aggressive!", John told me.
A tiny storm petrel - all dark with white rump - flitting about , hovering right on the water surface, legs dangling, picking out something from the water from time to time...
A flock of graceful prions - coming so very close I could see them really clearly... and a pair of Yellow-nosed albatross - curious, coming close often until well after sunset, for a good look at "Nereida" and me!
Spectacled, white-chinned and Atlantic petrels ......... and, of course, great shearwaters ... Such a variety of birds....

1400 GMT report:

LAT: 40-02S LONG: 005-57W COURSE: 340T SPEED: 1.7
CLOUDS: 100% BARO: 1015 TREND: 2 AIR_TEMP: 16.0C

Distance to Cape Town: 1221 n.ml.

Written by : Mike

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