Day 62 - Exhilarating day.... a solitary Royal albatross seen - at last!

Sunday 26th December 2010 (Boxing Day)

A lovely morning again, with the sun shining out of occasional patches of blue sky quite often... Spent quite a lot of time over the day wedged in the companionway looking out at the impressive swell - felt so exhilarated at times - marvellous to be out here in such good weather, despite the cold! Late in the afternoon, a cloud bank approached and blanketed the sun with grey.... But as the sun disappeared, the birds arrived - not just a few .... lots of them!!

I thought some were sooty shearwaters, all dark with lighter underwing parts, but then realized that some, at least, were not - they had yellow beaks and a touch of white nearby - White-chinned petrels...! Then I spotted several Juan Fernandez petrels, as seen the other day - distinctive in their grey and white plumage with black and white heads. As I was trying to see two of them better, I suddenly saw this much larger bird nearby - distinctive with its big wingspan, white body and underparts, dark wings above and dark tips to the white of its wings beneath.... a Royal albatross! It circled and came quite close, so we each got a good look at each other! A great Boxing Day present!

The expected front came through around dawn. The wind had been slowly backing over yesterday and overnight, and by midnight was dropping... by dawn, it had died almost completely to just 6 knots from the SW, preceded by rain... our boatspeed dropped to near zero! An hour later, it had veered to WNW and increased to 11 knots - and continued to increase a little... we were moving again - good news!! The wind strength has varied a lot over the day, from 11 to 25 knots, just as the cloud cover has - one moment, lovely clear sky overhead, with bright sun, .... a short while later, murky grey skies....

Sea temperature is down to 8C and, with air temperature down to 13C, I finally succumbed - and donned fleeces as my third layer .... I'm definitely getting into 'Michelin man' mode...,. Hat is being worn most of the day now and I'm thinking about hot soups and warm gloves! And it's just gone midsummer hereabouts!

I monitored 14300 kHz after 0400GMT for a short while, in case anyone wanted to contact me there - propagation at that time is excellent. Hearing no-one, I tuned into the Antarctic station frequency I had been told about recently - and immediately made contact with Andy, WA2DKJ, from New Jersey, who has been working for the last two months at maintaining communications at out-stations, this particular one being 550 miles from the S. Pole. We had quite a long chat and then I heard another station calling me - from MacMurdo Sound ... Ben, KB1LOL, from Boston, MA, was on frequency - wanting to chat, as one sailor to another! (His work is on maintaining VHF repeater stations in the US sector.) Ham radio has become a great source of communication and human contact for me of late!!

I'm keeping an eye on that nasty-looking Low heading this way, ready for New Year's Eve ... looks slightly less compressed today - but has plenty of time to get worse....and is still packing quite a punch, even now.

24hr DMG to noon UTC: 143 (See maps showing track & position via links on my website 'Travels' page)

At 1200 (Sunday) UTC: 48:32S, 105:12W. Cape Horn WP 1438 ml SE; Easter Island 1297ml N; Chile 1155ml ESE; N.Z. (Portland Island) 3230ml WSW; Mexico (Cabo S. Lucas) 4292ml. N.

Written by : Mike

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