Wednesday 21st March 2012
Early in the morning, was able to cut the engine which had been gently turning over to keep us pointing in the right direction when speed dropped to 1-2 kt in very light wind overnight. As I poled out the stays'l to starboard, a juvenile Sooty albatross flew around - distinctive pale collar on its upper neck, otherwise all dark. The albatross outline, together with relative wing size & shape, is very eye-catching - you can see it's an albatross long before you know which kind it is! A Yellow-nosed was also nearby, later in the morning, and a Wandering, and our company included a pair of the usual Soft-plumaged petrels... and a prion I couldn't see well enough to identify properly - haven't seen one of those for quite a time... lovely blue-grey and white plumage and distinctive dark 'M' marking on its upper wings.
Went to start the generator overnight - started but wasn't putting anything into the batteries - same problem as I'd had shortly after leaving Cape Town -so, hopefully, same solution... Opened the case, ... sure enough, the actuator spindle wasn't moving freely, as it needed to. Got a spanner to the actuator spindle nuts ... freed the spindle... sprayed some lubricant for good measure (needs some proper grease when we get to Hobart)... genset worked fine when started up again ... YES!
Had a long radio chat with Greg, VE0MUR, after our daily contact with Graham, ZS2ABK (on shore in East London, running the S.African Maritime Mobile Net) - who I've had only poor copy on for quite a time now, whereas Greg seems to be able to hear him OK most days (Greg's about 730 ml WSW of me) . Our chat started, as usual, with a long discussion on weather coming up but then we got onto birds - he's also keenly interested in them but has a different birdbook from me that he's referring to - Harrison - very well-respected, but very out-of-date, with all the recent studies and research that's gone on since 1985 when the book was published....It was very interesting to compare notes.
Was very sad to hear what Petr had to tell me when we made radio contact tonight (a very good one - for the first time we could hear each other very clearly!). He was hove-to in winds of 45knots, but had seen 75kt on display earlier and it had ripped his reefed mainsail, so it was now useless. Even worse, he was busily trying to deploy his parachute anchor (his boat has a long keel for which that works well) when he lost the line - and the parachute with it. He had already been having problems with his autopilots (several!) and has been making use of rubber bungies oto his tiller for most of his 'autopilot' steering help of late. So he told me that he's decided to abandon his solo nonstop RTW attempt and head for Auckland via his 'antipode' WP - which is even further to the SSE than he is now. He's had a lot of very strong weather and has hove to constantly over the short time I've been in contact with him. I feel very sad for him - he's put so much time and effort into it, having built the 28ft sloop 'Singa' himself and, from what he's told me, he's clearly made thorough preparations for his attempt and can repair most things on board. He has a spare mainsail which he hopes to be able to hoist in calmer conditions - as and when... but I worry that there's more bad weather headed his way shortly, so I hope he'll be OK. He's clearly upset by his experience, understandably. I hope to hear things are better when I speak to him tomorrow.
As for me, I think I also could well heave to shortly... Most of the time, we've nice wind around 21-22kt, but it keeps gusting up to near 30kt and we rush along at speed, sometimes surfing on a big wave that happens by. The worry is that the wind is set to increase from now into Friday and an area of very big swell is on its way with the increased wind - so conditions will get more difficult. If I want to rest tonight, the best answer is to heave to. That would also neatly solve the problem of heading too far N (Hobart is to the SE) if I were to run before the wind, or too far E which would end us up in the really big swell later tomorrow.
10:30pm ..... Well that's it - we're hove to! Overhead, the stars were beautiful, but clouds were lurking all around. For now, it's some nice hot stew and a good sleep.... I can always sail on again in daylight - when I can see what's happening with the seas.
With the light wind last night overnight, DMG was just 99 n.ml. Hobart was 1181 n.ml. away at 1200GMT.