Days 14-16 22nd-24thMarch - Fire on 'Nereida'!

Tuesday 23March - was notable for quite a few events... one of which was a lesson in chemistry ... I learned that when silicon rubber burns, it turns to a fine white ash - silicon dioxide, maybe? I was cooking some ratatouille in the pressure cooker (not for the pressure, but for safety) and moved it over to the small burner - which just wouldn't light... I tried several times, puzzled, ... finally it lit. (Bear in mind, it was night-time and I had minimal lighting on in the cabin.) But a few moments later, I saw thick smoke pouring up from the back of the stove... What was going on?? ....
I realized something was amiss inside the stove .... and on opening the door, soon saw that a silicon rubber steamer, stored on the stove floor, was on fire... It was touching the gas burner... which I turned off... but it kept on burning.... Thick, thick fumes rose up ... so I hurriedly opened the sliding hatch nearby and the galley portlight directly above to let the fumes out. Fortunately, it wasn't too rough at the time so the portlight seemed a safe thing to open.
I was able to pick up the flaming item using a knife and ladle, get it into the sink close by and douse it with water..... fine white ash everywhere... but no harm done... or was there?
Inside the oven, I always kept my spare computer and various other spare electronic items ... "The oven acts as a Faraday cage in case of lightning strikes," I was always telling people, "So put electronic items in the oven and they'll be safe. But, obviously, you've to be careful not to light the oven with them inside..." Tell me!!!! In trying to light the small burner, on the right-hand side of the cooker, I'd unwittingly turned the furthest right-hand knob ... & lit the oven! I hurriedly removed the laptop and an oven baking dish with a handheld GPS unit in it.... They might be OK, I thought, since there were two large metal sheets shielding them from the flames and they didn't seem overly warm...
As I was beginning to sort out the mess, a spurious wave crashed into the boat... water came through the open portlight ... and landed partly onto the laptop... Oh, no!! Fate laughing at me, as usual?? I grabbed some paper towels and hopefully dried it off as best I could....
But this was just the evening entertainment . .. there'd also been plenty going on in the early morning of Tuesday to keep the Gods amused..... A reefing marathon, in fact....
Monday had been a really uncomfortable, grey day. We were headed into big lumpy seas and NNE winds, unable to quite make our course & falling off waves which got bigger as the day progressed - difficult to do anything much except hang on tight, maybe stay in my bunk for safety and try not to get hurt when moving anywhere. The only good thing about the day was the realization that the really big, solitary albatross I'd seen for several days, Monday included, was definitely a Wandering Albatross and almost certainly a Snowy Albatross by the distinctive white patches on its dark upper wings. I'd also named the pair of dark, white-rumped, sparrow-sized storm petrels that danced and flitted on the water surface, wing-tips constantly getting wet - Wilson's Petrel. The small group of blue-grey & white, fast-flying middle-sized birds that came by occasionally, with a distinctive black 'M' on their upper wings, were either Antarctic Prions or Blue Petrels - but I need to look at tail feathers and underparts more carefully next time to be sure which one.
So as we moved into Tuesday, around dawn, it was still grey, with rainclouds around, & we were still falling off waves - 'banging horribly', I noted in my log - but we were making good speed: SOG 7.2knots. Just over an hour or so later, the wind suddenly backed - from NNE to NNW to NW ...and went light: from 19kt .. to 10 kt.. and then 6 kt ... "Wind's dying, as forecast," I thought... and let out the full genoa, winching it in hard because we were still on a close reach, but fortunately waiting before shaking out the two reefs in the mainsail... I went down below to make a log entry but soon realized the wind was getting up... and up...
So back on deck to furl in the genoa - a lot! - and some staysail... The wind was now up to 24 knots true, meaning an even higher apparent wind, and we were heeling like mad. It was tough, slow going, furling in the sails, and took me a long time, not helped by the angle of heel. When finished, we were still heeling way too much -nothing for it but to take in the third reef - never easy... I decided to run off downwind a bit, to ease the heeling by reducing the apparent wind, but that didn't make reefing any easier. Release the kicker... & mainsheet... start dropping the sail... Damn! ... it's getting caught in the downwind lazyjack... go to the mast & release the lazyjack - good news and bad news .. The sail's not getting caught in it anymore - that's good.. but it's also not being supported anymore - not so good! Taking in the 3rd reef always takes me a time, especially downwind, pulling in both lines to take up the slack as the halyard is slowly eased .. but eventually it was done... and the reef cringle was tied in with a strop to prevent chafe on the reef line. Then I tried to tie in the big loose slab of sail with two sail ties ... difficult...! ....And tighten the lazyjack - not so easy either, with the slab of sail falling off to one side... but at least we could come back on course & felt more in control. The wind had, by now, veered into the north ... There was a large,dirty grey raincloud close by. "The cause of the problem?" I thought.. but the wind stayed up all morning, by midday easing a touch to 20 knots. I'd shipped quite a lot of water from the big waves that an increasing wind always builds up, a lot down my neck (where was that sou'wester?!) and was soaked again ... but found some nearly-dry gear to change into. Well over two hours had passed by....!! (I'd easily missed the 0630 UTC SSB radio call!)

Wednesday: The wind has been fairly consistent throughout the day at NNW, but down from the 16-18kt of late yesterday evening, to around just 8-10 knots all day from before dawn. So the seas have lain down and I've been able to clear up yesterday's mess in the oven, open up and dry out the computer (not too much water got inside so there's hope there yet) and try to dry and wash some clothes... Anyone who's seen "Nereida" of late will know how many lines I've strung up across the main cabin - all in good use now for drying lots of damp or wet gear! And my short piece of 'preventer' line under the boom makes an excellent washing line, if conditions permit - as today!

The moon is up in a starry sky throwing a path of light across the sea to "Nereida". Upside-down Orion is in full view & Sirius, in its 'Dog' constellation, is high up, seas are calm... but we're slowing down gradually (wind now is only 8kt and veering more to the N). It's a lovely night... not too cold... Is it the layers I'm wearing... or have I acclimatized??

Noon-to-noon distances:
Monday 22nd March: 70 n.ml. (big tacks against E wind)
Tuesday 23rd March: 156 n.ml. (good wind strengths!)
Wednesday 24th March: 137 n.ml. (reducing wind strength over period)

Position at 2200UTC Wed: 39*06'S, 052*52'E

Written by : Mike

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