Saturday 20th November 2010 (Day 26)
(I'm way behind on answering emails - apologies if I'm keeping you waiting for a reply - Sunday hopefully!)
Wind stayed mainly NE 14-16 kt overnight and a lot of the day, occasionally backing to NNE 20kt under a large cloud. Foul current from mid-afternoon to early morning, making us lose speed of half to one knot.
By 8.30am, the mainly clear sky was dominated by big mass of dark, threatening cloud in th E - wind suddenly gusted up to 20kt or more.... windsteering ('Fred'!) had a problem .... we kept rounding up, picking up speed and heading directly to the cloud mass... Tried to use AP to head us off wind ... couldn't cope in strong wind ... 'Drive stopped' msg kept coming up... switched off, then on, & AP ended up coping OK.... or was it Fred steering us? Anyway, all calmed down for a bit.... wind down to 15 kt. Unfurled genoa I'd just furled in a touch.... sky looked fairly clear ahead. Down for b'fast and to check in to friendly 'Chubasco' Net.
A shoal of small flying fish leapt out of sea & all flew together a short distance... several times.... clearly being chased! A graceful, handsome prion, with black cap down to around eyes, later joined by two more, was soaring near the boat & kept us company on & off a lot of the day, as did 3-4 white-rumped, small, dark, storm petrels.
10am ...Another backing of increased wind to NNE, ... the unfurled genoa was taken in again.... Decided best to leave it! Swell has increased so we're rolling around a lot in beam seas.
10.30am.... Another stronger backing of wind to NNE 20kt... we headed up... neither Fred nor AP coping... In fact, AP seemed hardly to move wheel at all... Had to handsteer for quite a time, 2nd mains'l reef taken in.... Finally, left Fred coping fine & went down to finish clearing up in galley - & to try to get that breakfast finally! A lot of grey cloud around now.... but still birds keeping us company.
Downloaded several weatherfaxes and a satellite picture of the area - showed we were clearly catching the edge of a mass of cloud (remnant of a tropical Low stationary at around 10N, 110W) and crossing a trough - pressure had dropped to 1010 hPa. By 3.15pm, there was a long line of grey rolling cloud stretched across ahead of us from E to W - no avoiding it! Fine, misty rain... Then... dolphins!! First I'd seen so far on this passage - always lovely to see but they didn't stay long. Sailing gently now, but in increased 3m seas, so rolling around quite a bit.
Tried to check in with US MM Net on 14300 at 3.20pm- impossible! Some kind of 'ham' radio contest - lots of people trying to contact each other...! Also on 14305 - so no sociable chat session possible today.
When I turned instruments back on after radio use .... we were headed W! We'd clearly passed through the trough shown on the weather maps earlier - and the wind was now from the S!! I tacked around to head E - there might be a helpful current, at least, in that direction.... but not so... We were close-hauled, banging into a confused 2-3m swell at 4knots, headed due E initially with the rain having cleared, still a grey sky but with patchs of blue..
We kept on that heading for quite a time (while I cooked some steak and onions, in fact!), to see how the wind settled down - but after finding us headed consistently NNE at 3.5kt, I decided enough was enough - we tacked around soon after nightfall and made a far better course and speed - 5knots on 200T in a SSE 12 kt wind.... We were still north of 11N, and yet were clearly out of the NE Trades and seemed to have found the beginning of the SE Trades already.
The sky had cleared to just a few wispy clouds and a bright, near-full moon.... We were gently sailing in a 2m SE swell...
DMG to this morning was 111 ml - reflecting the variable conditions met with frequent backing of wind under clouds and a lot of downwind sailing.
We're 2000 mls W of Honduras/Nicaragua in Central America now and soon to pass about 700 miles W of Clipperton Island (a French possession!)