Day 57 - Shearwaters soaring over good-sized seas under grey sky....

Tuesday 21st December Day 57 - Swell builds up with 20 kt winds - but no rain!

Full eclipse of the moon - I'd really been looking forward to seeing an orange eclipsed moon rising in the East just as the sun set orange in the West - but

the murky drizzly conditions yesterday prevented it. Didn't see the moon at all last night, although I did see the sun rise as the overcast began to disperse

to give a very pleasant morning with broken cloud for a few hours.

The 3-4 birds I've been seeing over the last few days, shearwaters, I think, seem to have adopted us - they're usually somewhere nearby soaring and

swooping, using the waves for uplift - I could spend hours watching them, they're so graceful and totally in their element - especially now that the seas have

built up to over 3m in the consistent 20 knots or so of WSW wind we've had overnight and on into this afternoon.

Urgent job of today was carrying out the switch-over from butane to propane for cooking. With an already quite big swell running, forecast to increase over

the next day or so with the expected increase in wind, I was beginning to get worried that I'd run out of gas in the very near future in the galley and not be in

safe conditions to make the change over. So, seeing a bright sky, with just thin overcast, and a dry deck this morning, I got ready: dressed up in foul-weather gear (guaranteed if I didn't wear it, I'd get a wave breaking over me!), harness & two safety lines (deck was pitching every which way, with the occasional extra large wave to concentrate the mind), the gas pipe I needed for the connection and a couple of tools. It took almost as long getting everything and myself organized as it did to do the job!

Basically, I had to undo the Camping Gaz cylinder from the pipework by rotating it bodily, - such a stupid, awkward system in a confined space! The only practical way to deal with it is to remove it from its holder and bring it up on deck. Then I attached the end of the propane pipe connection with the special adaptor to the solenoid & regulator, in place of the cylinder, at the end of the pipe leading to the galley and attached the other end to the propane tank. The propane connection uses a nice simple system with a collar, easy to connect & tighten up without moving the tank at all, unlike the stupid butane system.... Just to help things along, the butane tank was completely covered in rust.... (I'd installed aluminium propane tanks, to avoid the rust problem of steel tanks.) I checked at the galley - all working OK - relief! When the time comes to switch from one propane tank to the other, that's a simple matter of removing the pipe from one tank and onto the other - a simple unscrewing and re-screwing of the pipe connector end... no moving of tanks - they stay fixed in place.

Early afternoon - the fair-sized swell continues - a wave often catching hold of us & making us lurch to leeward. Sun trying unsuccessfully to get out again. The cabin is still full of clothing hung up to dry - I'm pleased that it seems to have almost dried now. It's still fairly warm down below compared with outside so that has helped.

6pm A 'hole' in the grey overcast appeared - clear blue sky for a short while overhead before it moved on downwind.... and a fleeting glimpse of the sun.

One of the birds soaring nearby was a definite sooty shearwater - dark below as well as above - but the others are clearly white below with dark underwing

edges and tips and dark eye patches and cap.

Wind is still from WSW around 20 kts, very occasionally dropping to 15-16 kt, sometimes rising to 22-23 kt. I'm keeping an eye out, waiting for the wind to

rise higher, ready to reef down again. I'm expecting the wind to increase a lot over tomorrow (Wed), probably from the early morning on, so it won't harm to

reef well in advance - but I don't want to do it too soon, since that would kill our present good speed .... our 3rd reef is a very deep one.

24hr DMG to noon UTC: 109 n.ml. (reflecting the 7 knot winds giving low boat speed over much of the day yesterday)

At 1200 UTC: Easter Island 1002ml NE; Pitcairn 1140ml NNW; Chile 1857ml ESE; Cape Horn WP 2151 ml SE; N.Z. (Portland Island) 2802ml WSW; Mexico (Cabo San Lucas) 3917 ml. (010T)

Written by : Mike

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