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Day 66 - Strong winds - up to around 40kts - with usual birds for company!

Thursday 30th December 2010

Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year 2011! Cheers!!

Had a very enjoyable 'blue cheese' omelette last night - fresh eggs still fine with my regular turning of the box they're all stored in. They're possibly being helped now by the current low ambient temperatures - 11C at night, 13C daytime, but I've quite simply tried to remember to turn them every couple of days or so ... no vaseline or other messy coating! Not being chilled initially was vitally important, as was getting them from 'under the hen', straight from the farm!! (I'd stowed the pressure cooker, holding the stew I made earlier in the day, inside a galley locker for safety, in advance of the expected 'bumpy' conditions today - I'm looking forward to having that hot this evening! I've no heating just now....)

I was woken quite early, soon after daybreak, around 5.30am LT (local time), by the wind having increased - to around 35knots from NNW. Skies were very grey and seas were getting up, really knocking the boat around. The propshaft is spinning again - but it will have to wait to calmer conditions for me to try anything there. It's 'two hands for the boat' today, not just the usual one, preferably leaning against something. The motion can be quite violent at times, so sitting (or lying in my warm bunk!) is the safest position! Winds soon were gusting up to around 40 knots, sometimes sustained - but not going much higher, I was pleased to see... We were coping fine on a very broad reach with 3 reefs in mains'l and a scrap of genoa on the pole and some stays'l also out, although very small. (I have this worry that I might need that in a hurry if I wanted to heave to for some reason, but really it's not doing a lot, except that when a big wave knocks us over and we suddenly turn upwind, I feel it might be helping our balance to get us back off the wind...).

I say we were coping fine - in fact, seeing 40 knots of wind regularly when I first came up to check on deck, I wanted to reduce the genoa a bit more from its overnight size - but had run out of port winches (pole, genoa sheet and running backstay). so decided to take the furling line over to a stbd winch - not the best of options but it works.... if you're careful! Unfortunately, I managed to over-ride the furling line really badly on the winch. (Didn't keep an eye on a very bad lead! ) I tried taking the end onto another winch nearby, and did manage to undo it a little - but nothing like enough ... What an idiot!! So there we were with a bar-taut furling line crossing the cockpit from one side to the other, with two winches unuseable (to help the lead, I'd taken it around the main port sheet winch!) and impossible to furl the genoa in or out... and even stronger, rising winds and seas possibly imminent...!! Not a comfortable feeling!

The last thing I wanted to do was to cut the line, although I seriously considered that ... Time to try a rolling hitch to take the strain off the line where it was tangled. I found some Spectra line, which was about the same size and is very strong, and after several attempts (it's quite slippery), the knot held and I got some slack.... sigh of relief!! I had to use the winch I'd released the running backstay from and just hoped that for a short while that wouldn't matter. Of course then, with no tension on the line, ....no problem releasing the tangle! While I had the port winch available, I furled in a touch more genoa - in these strong conditions, a little canvas does a lot - we were making good speed and surfing often with the big waves....!

At some point I glanced up - to see a large Royal Albatross, hovering just above me, eyeing me....!! The 3 Grey-headed albatross and lots of prions/petrels from yesterday are still with us, soaring over the waves - they love these strong winds and big seas...!

Afterwards, I sat at the chart table for quite a while, in full foul weather gear, feeling cold, tired and very damp (I'd only slept for 3-4 hrs) but wanting to keep an eye on the wind and the boat's behaviour when the big waves hit ... Tried to relax and close my eyes ... but eventually, having reassured myself that conditions weren't worsening and the boat was coping fine, I made for my bunk where I warmed up and got some very welcome sleep!

The winds had eased a bit by 2-3pm, to a fairly steady 30 knots from WNW, so hopefully, that's the most we'll see and the winds will slowly ease further, although seas are still well up, of course.

Evening: Winds are still around 27kt, from WNW, and seas are big but well-spaced, so although it's a bit bumpy at times, all is well... I'm about to have some nice hot stew!!

I've had some enjoyable radio chats (one with MacMurdoSound, Antarctica, and one with S. Africa), in addition to usual chats on checking in to the Pacific Seafarers Net - they're all beginning to feel like old friends, we've talked every day now for so long!

Now I'm looking forward to increasing swell over the coming New Year weekend.... Not far to Cape Horn now (816ml to WP 60mls S of the Cape, as I write this) ... beginning to feel excited but trepidatious... And there's still a lot of the Southern Ocean to cover as yet, over the coming months...

24hr DMG to noon UTC: 123 n.ml. (See maps showing track & position via links on my website 'Travels' page)

At 1200 (Thursday) UTC: 51:35S, 092:27W. Cape Horn WP 926 ml 120T; Chile 638 ml 097T; N.Z. (C.Saunders, Dunedin, S.Island) 3555 ml 234T; Mexico (Cabo S. Lucas) 4560ml 343T.

Written by : Mike

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