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Friday - dolphins came to say "Goodnight" last night/...total change of strategy

What a lovely "Goodnight" I had last night, as the light was fading. A large group of dolphins came speeding towards us, leaping together in small groups, clear of the water... Among them were clearly some far smaller ones - this must have been several families with young, travelling together as a group. They stayed close by, leaping and surfacing for quite a time, and I enouraged them with shouts of joy as they cleared the water... I'm sure they appreciated the applause! While they were in the air, I wondered if they were taking a good look at "Nereida".

Up at 2am - enough wind to switch off engine and sail - speed dropped from 5kt to 4kt in 13 kt of SW wind. We'd been motor-sailing up to then, having fallen off the wind a bit last evening to get more speed by getting lift from the sails - full genoa, as well as mains'l.

10am Changed from autopilot to using Hydrovane (for wind steering) - so much better in shifty, light conditions and conserves battery power. Wind has been mainly WSW wind last evening and overnight, but is expected to veer to NW-NNW sometime soon - the longer it stays WSW the better I'll like it - we're making NW just now.

Ooops! Just noticed (11.20am) the windshift has arrived - wind now from WNW so we're making 004T - almost due N. That's the beauty of windsteering - we sail to the wind, so if the wind shifts, we go with it - still nicely close-hauled ... No drama! We're set to sail as close to the wind as gives fair speed in these light conditions (~10 kt) - any closer would kill our speed completely but coming off the wind more, which would actually increase our speed, would mean heading more NE - which is the course I'm trying hard to avoid being set onto since it will be almost impossible to get W again in the NW winds expected for several days.

At least we're not becalmed (yet!), unlike most of the SHTP race fleet just now - spoke to them this morning on their Net - sails flapping, sitting in calm sea going nowhere - not pleasant, especially in a race!

12.30pm Time for daily download session of weather faxes from Point Reyes - normally leave computer running to store them in turn as they finish. Usually works fine and I get on with something else but recently computer has frequently been losing contact with modem and stops recording, so I need to keep an eye on things - a bit of a pain!

1pm Wind is from 300T, COG 025T (NNE), SOG ~3.3kt (Had to bear away a touch to increase speed - under 2 kt is just too slow. It's a juggling act!) A Low to the N, off Vancouver Island and the Washington coast, is affecting weather a lot and giving problems for vessels trying to reach Cape Flattery from offshore - just as when I was trying to complete my nonstop RTW in July 2013.

1.25pm Wind from 325T at 13-14kt, COG 040T, SOG ~4.3kt. Grey, occasional slight drizzle. Winds will be very light again in four days' time...

3.30pm I seem to have spent most of my time over the last few days studying gribs and weather-faxes and trying to see how we can possibly head NW to get far enough N to reach the W winds on the N side of the High that we need to take us to Cape Flattery ... It's just NOT going to happen in the forecast NNW-NW winds - often very light! We'd end up in light winds near the High centre, well S of where we need to be - without enough fuel to motor N far enough...

The only way to make good progress is to make use of the strong winds of the Low coming S and the subsequent strong N-NNW winds off the coast - so we're now going to head NNE-NE (preferably NNE given a choice), using the winds to make good speed. Once we've reached the N winds off the coast we can head W so as to get to the W wind we need to get to the Cape... It seems to me to be the only way forward that's guaranteed to work.... Total change of strategy!!

Written by : Jeanne Socrates