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Day Twelve from Cape Town to Hobart - not my best of days, with wind 35-40+knots...

Saturday 18th February

A day to remember - but not for the best of reasons!

The wind and seas have both been well up - winds consistently 30-35kt overnight and then 35-40 all morning, with seas up accordingly - so yesterday's 4-5m seas became today's 6-7m (or more) with occasional small sections of white breaking crests - impressive from a distance but not good when caught by them - as we were several times. With the strong F8-9 wind, it all became too much (never mid the good speed we were making!) and got to feeling downright dangerous when, instead of maintaining our downwind course with the waves approaching our stern, we kept being taken by an oncoming wave and being turned violently upwind into it, to climb up its face, heeling a lot, sometimes getting knocked sideways by the crest with a bang.

I'd been debating whether to heave to or deploy the Jordan series drogue we carried ready - but after one particularly worrying incident that made me decide to act, I decided the quickest was to deploy the drogue which was all ready to go in its bag on the stern. We were heeling a lot from time to time and I had trouble getting the chain out of its bag - the lovely new 'galvanised' chain I'd bought in Ushuaia had turned totally rusty - but I got it out finally and sent it out, the rest of the drogue following, to stream off the bridle attached to the two strong points at the quarters. We settled down nicely and I watched the line streaming well in the big waves approaching, giving and taking up gently to keep our stern into the waves. No more rounding up into the waves, just a gentle lifting over them as they passed under us. I began to relax....

After seeing to a few small jobs, I decided it was time for a late breakfast,... I was just getting started when I heard a bang from the stern.... Once on deck, I found the drogue had disappeared... a remnant of one bridle line was to be seen, along with most of the floating (polypropylene) retrieval line attached to a stern cleat. The spectra line had obviously seen too much sunlight and must have degraded as a result... I cursed my stupidity in not replacing the two bridle lines when I'd had the chance (the thought had crossed my mind several times but each time I'd been busy with other things) .. too late now - what to do?

We were basically lying ahull in the seas and not doing too badly in fact,while the seas were being kind, but I needed to get us pointing up more into the wind and seas to be safer. Having downed the mains'l to lie to the series drogue, I now had the problem of raising the sail in the strong conditions.. not so easy, and definitely not helped by the sail, and also the halyard, getting caught behind the mast steps (I'd forgotten to tighten the string tied between them to prevent that happening) ...Up with the halyard and then down with it, trying to time things with the swell... as fast as I released one, the other got caught quite badly. I even climbed a short distance up the mast to release the sail at one point.... an interesting experience in the big swell! In the end, having retrieved two dangling lines from the water first, I started the motor to point us more upwind - that made matters so much easier, with everything coming free, & the sail was soon raised. Then it was a matter of easing the sheet and slowly bringing it in, having first fixed the wheel halfway to windward. We lay nicely hove-to in the end and I was finally able to get below to change out of my wet things - I was sopping wet from hair (forgot my hat!) to shoes (they'd got well filled as we heeled when sorting out the drogue). I had a lovely nap for an hour before finally getting some very late food.

When I spoke to Graham, ZS2ABK, on the S.A.M.M. Net a short while later, he commented that the Giovanna TS had been downgraded further and looked as though both it and the other one, were unlikely to pose me a problem next week - good news!

Pressure has been rising fast over the last few hours and I've been watching the wind die down to around 20 knots also... As soon as the seas had calmed down to something reasonable, I got us sailing again. We're now heading ESE while we can, before that High fills in completely over us and our speed drops right down - maybe for two days or more.... Sky has cleared, bright stars everywhere ... Nice to be sailing pleasantly once more!

DMG: 140 n.ml. (we were averaging 7knots for quite a time, before heaving to!)
Present position: 41S, 047E

Written by : Mike

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