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Days 31-33 from Hobart - pleasant relaxed sailing, ...but then a Front came thro

Wednesday 30th May 2012 (NZT)

Lovely blue skies all day, with just a few small white clouds lined up in wind direction. Good wind - WSW veering slowly to WNW by evening - time to gybe - which meant changing over the genoa pole to port .... As expected, it kept twisting & jamming again, but took less time (but no less cursing!!) than yesterday to sort it out under a lovely starry sky with bright half-moon.

Red-tailed tropic bird came by early in the day- circled a few times, as though wanting to land, but then flew off. Found a good-sized flying fish in cockpit in the morning - almost big enough to fry in olive oil for a good lunch - but not quite. They're quite tasty, but with lots of bones, and have very large scales, making it easy to de-scale them.

Thursday 31st May (NZT)

Rainclouds and almost total light overcast, after a lovely sunrise followed by sunny skies for a while - enjoyed breakfast in the cockpit, with a fresh Australian grapefruit! Frequent showers, some heavy but mostly light... continual 'tweaking' of the sails and Fred as the wind varied, trying to keep on our preferred course of 080T. Tried motorsailing, when charging batteries in very light winds, to see if Hydrovane could cope - we were swinging about rather a lot, trying to keep course with great difficulty... but more-or-less OK. Then suddenly I realized wind had backed to WSW - glad I hadn't taken down pole yet, so genoa was poled to port and we headed almost DDW... at all of 1.8-2.1 kt in 4-6 kt of SW wind...

This is where I missed the autopilot - I could have turned on the motor to make reasonable speed, keeping on course without a problem... After several hours of drifting around in almost no wind, coming from all points of the compass, which had me really worried about the next few days to Tahiti (visions of having to sit at the wheel for long periods, steering in no wind, under motor), the wind suddenly began to fill in - from the NNW.... and quickly built... It was dark, with regular flashes of lightning from clouds astern (I hoped they would stay well away!) and it was raining quite hard.

I tied in the second reef and not long after the wind rose to 30+ knots. I got into my foulies & hurried on deck to furl in the genoa - we were heeling a lot.... decided to heave to and get some sleep - hopefully conditions would moderate in the meantime... So I furled in the genoa totally and heaved to under mains'l. We were 24 due N of Rarotonga which was far enough not to be a problem for the few hours we would be stopped - in fact, we drifted E at 1-2 knots precisely on our course - what luck!

Friday 1st June (NZT)

I really must change my date and time soon. Local date today is actually 31st May, having crossed the Date Line recently, with local time about to become GMT - 10hrs as we cross the longitude of 157d 30'W into a new time zone.

Solidly grey & rainy all day long .... but good N-WNW wind and so we've made good speed.. DMG to 1pm NZT, despite four hours or more hove to overnight, was 104 n.ml. Wed, it was 138 n.ml. and Thurs, 129 n.ml. Lots of tweaking of Fred and sailtrim in the often-varying winds.

Raymarine have been very helpful, as usual - two new replacement motors (hydraulic pumps) and a complete new ram unit (turning the rudder) are on their way to Papeete, to be fitted soon after I get there. So I'll be back to two, independent, working AP systems for my passages north to Hawaii and on to Canada/USA. The genset seawater pump shouldn't take long to finish changing with the help of the Fischer-Panda agent in Papeete, who can give the genset a 'health check' at the same time.. He is being organized for me by Laurent at Taina marina - we have a mutual good friend! Laurent has also kindly offered any other help I might need - which will be very useful. On the whiteboard above my chart table seat is a long list of big and small jobs to do when I get in... among them, servicing the winches - they've seen a lot of use since Cape Town earlier this year!

Written by : Mike

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