Day Eighteen from Cape Town to Hobart -stormy weather with the Cold Front...

Friday 24th February 2012

Wind had died down overnight into morning, from NNE 25knots in the evening, but would occasionally gust up.... Pressure kept dropping - to 997 at 10am - so we were clearly getting close to that Cold Front, although wind was still NE-NNE ... Sky covered in thin overcast, with slight fog early on and the sun trying hard to get through later.

Got myself so worried overnight, with the uncertainty of when exactly the supposedly strong front would come through, that I reduced sail vastly to just triple-reefed mains'l and slightly furled stays'l, closehauled - which almost stopped the boat! It was rather like being 'hove-to', except we were making about 2 knots on a close reach - lying at about 50 degrees off the wind - perfect! I decided to leave things like that, since it felt nice and steady, with none of the banging into the seas we'd had before ... and had an excellent few hours of sleep until just after dawn!

Soon after, by adding in a fair bit of genoa, we made a good speed for a time - until the wind died down again. Around midday, the NE wind had started backing, bit by bit ...to N 12 kt as pressure dropped to 993. ... All very slow and gentle - felt almost like being in a High. But almost as soon as I'd completed my daily position report, conditions quickly changed - the wind increased rapidly and at the same time we were into big seas. I got ready for heaving to, furling in all but a tiny bit of the genoa and all of the staysail and, for a time, we sped along like that, keeping the wind astern, making good progress. We were headed due E virtually on a run - so things felt quite comfortable, in winds of around 35 knots, gusting to over 40kt and occasionally dropping to near 30kt.

But soon enough, the seas built up more with the continued strong wind and it definitely felt like time to stop when our speed was regularly up to 8-10kt in 40kt winds, with seas getting rougher and sunset close. It's always difficult to get out on deck at that point, but it had to be done... Not only were we beginning to go too fast, the seas were tossing us around too much as well. I furled in the last of the genoa as we rounded to head upwind under main alone. The boat was stopped and all I had to do was to tie the wheel in position and adjust the mainsheet and preventer to hold the boom in place... 0.0 boatspeed - good. I stayed for quite a bit to watch how the boat fared in the big seas... The sky had partly cleared, sunset was imminent and there were lots of birds wheeling around in the strong winds and dipping into the stormy seas... When birds fly backward, you know the wind is definitely very strong!! ...All OK. Down below to take off wet foulies and heat up that welcome stew I made yesterday!

1630GMT/8.30pm LT: The stew was great ... and the wind is still around 37-40 kt. Not expected to die down until after dawn - a long night... Time to take to my bunk... after I've posted this, hopefully.

To my surprise, on trying 14300 kHz this morning, just before 0400GMT/8a.m. LT, I clearly heard Randy, KH6RC, on frequency for the Pacific Seafarers Net (he's in Hilo, Hawaii!) and after a short chat, he passed me over to Jane, NH7TZ, on Kauai, another Hawaiian island - incredible that we had such good propagation for that distance (over 8500ml via S of Australia, more if across the Antarctic from here). I couldn't make out John, VK4DBJ, in Queensland, Australia, nor anyone else, at all. Randy seemed to think the radio waves were using the 'long hop' rather than the 'short hop' - across the night-time region to the W, rather than the daytime region of the Earth to the E .... However it happened, it was good to hear them so clearly and to be able to chat to them after a long time absent from the Net.

DMG today, not surprisingly, low at just 92ml - likely to be even less tomorrow! A current is taking us NNE at well over 2 knots, despite zero boatspeed through the water! So far we've made about 7 miles... pity it's not in the right direction!

Written by : Mike

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