Day Three from Cape Town to Hobart - "The Calm before the Storm" - then came the strong cold front..

Thurs 09 Feb 2012

Early morning brief heavy rain and overcast skies cleared away to give bright sunny morning, but for the rest of the day we've been among clouds and showers - but the air is warm and feels good to be out here! Bad news is that the wind slowly died, often to 6 kts, and became very variable with the clouds overhead, keeping me busy trimming the sails, and our speed often dropped right down. So that, together with the still-present Agulhas Current, means we've not gone very far today... Until tonight, that is, (10pm) when the wind has now picked up to around 20-22 knots, ahead of the Low coming this way.

I'm making contact each day with the S.African Maritime Mobile Net (S.A.M.M. Net), presently on 7120kHz at 0635Z &/or 1130Z (later, as I get further away, on 14316 kHz), giving my position and current weather conditions. I also download weather grib files daily - very useful info, which is usually pretty accurate - and getting weatherfaxes from Cape Naval - good that it's up and running again!

With nasty conditions forecast (v.big swell and strong winds due to the deep Low that will be passing by), I decided that today, being relatively calm, was the time to cook the ratatouille I'd not had time to prepare before leaving. It'll be nice to have that when things get rough, as they're expected to, by tomorrow. (Later: I added in some tinned ham - mmm ... tasty!!)

When I'd finished cooking, I checked the battery volltage (as I do constantly!) and saw that, with the overcast conditions and light wind, the solar and wind power input wasn't coping and the batteries were down too low - so I started the little diesel generator. It started up fine - but seemed to fail to develop any power and certainly was putting nothing into the batteries .... ***##@@$#&*. I had to charge using the main engine in neutral while I tried to see if there was anything simple I could do to rectify the situation - out with the manual and the multimeter ... With darkness falling, and the need to concentrate on sailing and preparing for the expected bad weather, I postponed taking off the genset cover to look for a blown fuse or loose wire, having not found anything obviously wrong elsewhere ... There should be a simple 10A blade fuse somewhere in the genset-to-battery and -to-inverter circuits, but I couldn't see one.... maybe soon, in calm conditions. Oh well, we might have to top up with the main engine all the way to Tasmania... No big deal, although I don't like running the engine too often when not under load.

Wind's getting up some more - I'd better go furl in some genoa - always fun in the dark...! At least it's not raining.. and the moon is shining from behind the clouds occasionally...

Midnight: TG I went up on deck when I did... and also decided that tying in the third reef might be a wise precaution as well as reducing the (full!) genoa by a lot...! The wind veered and was almost dead astern so I gybed the mains'l onto port tack and unfurled some stays'l, sheeting it to port... Was just dealing with the running backstay when the main tried to gybe (it was on a preventer, as usual) in a sudden increase of backed wind, accompanied soon after by heavy rain.

I hurriedly furled the genoa away completely and reduced the stays'l further, as we heeled several times in strong gusts ... excitement I could do without! We were headed almost downwind and making 6-8 knots in apparent winds of over 30kt - so clearly the wind was nearly 40knots at times - but the boat was coping well, as I sat for quite a time in the shelter of the (new) plastic screen under the awning. It's good to have clear sea-room at times like this - no problem with running off downwind when there are no ships and no obstructions around... Not sure if I can get any sleep though... Feel bound to keep an eye on the wind and sea-state, in case things deteriorate further....

Written by : Mike

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