Day 5 from Hobart Lovely sunny day - and a possible disaster vanishes into thin

Friday 4th May 2012

Lovely sunny day - quite a few birds circling around several times ... a small, graceful flock of prions wheeling about together, blue-grey, with distinctive 'M' on their upperwings and mainly white underneath...from the thick dark band under the end of their tail, likely to be fulmar or fairy prions. Spent a long time just watching them - some seemed to want to try to land in the rigging - definitely having a good look around and keeping an eye on me! Solitary majestic albatross - Black-browed a couple of times and a Great albatross another time - too far away to see if a Wandering or Royal - but BIG!!

We've made good progress yet again - 140 24hr DMG up to 0100Z today (11am EST) with the SW Cape away. Still close-hauled, as we expect to be until reaching Stewart Island and passing the SW Cape there (hopefully Monday), but our speed is varying a bit with the wind direction, which is generally around NNE, mostly 17kt or so. Seas have been a bit rough at times, with wind chop adding into the swell - sometimes from 2-3 directions, it seems to me! Heeling most of the time - doesn't make it too easy to move around the boat, despite furling in a bit more genoa earlier - but not too much, so as not to reduce our speed.... I'm really looking forward to rounding this final one of the Five Gt Capes and heading away from the Southern Ocean...!

Didn't have much luck talking to Tasmania tonight or yesterday and when I spoke to the Pacific Seafarers Net at 1pm (EST), I got very worried on being told my signal, normally very good, was breaking up badly - both Paul, VK2HMV, in S. Australia and Fred, W3ZU, in Florida told me to check my antenna connections. Considering my antenna is my backstay with a couple of insulators placed in it at each end and I'd just tensioned it before leaving Hobart, maybe my concern is understandable - was my backstay about to give way at one of the insulators, that being the reason for the broken signal? After all, we've been in some pretty nasty seas on & off for quite a time, so maybe there was a problem looming.. Losing one's rig at sea is a major disaster and not one to be happily contemplated! I wondered whether I should tie my topping lift onto the stern steelwork base, just in case... not that it's very strong line... Went & checked that the running backstay was really tight... maybe I should tension the other one as well...? Maybe I should pull in to Oban, on Stewart Island, or Dunedin, in South Island, NZ, to check and maybe change the backstay?

The good news came tonight when, by chance, I twiddled the knobs on the HF radio and came across some people chatting on 14345kHz. I joined in, hoping to get a signal report - and was told not only was it 5/9 (excellent!) in Brisbane, S. Australia - but also in Belgium! I chatted to Hans (VK5YX), John (VK5HX) and Ben (ON4BBC - in Belgium) for a bit - and switched off feeling VERY relieved!! They were telling me that the problem was undoubtedly due to propagation being poor - it certainly does vary, I know, and even while we were talking, it dropped down suddenly, for a short time, giving a break then in my signal.

I'm about to cook myself some bacon and eggs to celebrate!! The wind has veered and died down to 12 knots, giving calmer seas, so no problem cooking - once I've unfurled the genoa, that is....

Written by : Mike

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