Mon/Tues 16/17 Nov 09 White-chinned petrels??? ... a big 'blow'...& then a bigger one...!

Sunday evening, around 9.30pm, I saw on AIS that we had a ship on a definite collision course with us.... I called over and over, at intervals, on VHF and even sent DSC calls to their bridge - no response .. I got really worried when they were within a few miles and I could see their lights and but still got no response... Finally, they obligingly turned to port to pass astern of me, once we could hear each other properly. Well before then, I'd turned on my deck light (it lights up my sails beautifully)in an effort to attract their attention - just in case someone was looking out, ... only too often, not so! Afterwards they came back to me to chat a little... clearly intrigued by the thought of a woman out here sailing by herself...!

By the time the incident was all over, it was well past 11pm - and I'd missed the 'window' to speak to the Maritime Mobile Net in the USA on 14300 kHz - as I'd done the night before. Amazing to get such clear reception between two people so far apart - Net Control in Minnesota was clear as a bell! It was fun to try it and fun to chat and make contact. They have a rota of radio 'hams' who keep the Net going all day & are there in case anyone needs help of some kind.

That same night, Groupama 3 passed about 150 mls S of me! Going at nearly 30kn - just a little bit faster than me! So sad to hear of the breakage they just suffered, putting an end to their Jules Verne attempt - they're limping towards Cape Town as I write this... hoping to try again maybe next year, after repairs...

Well, it's rather bumpy out here... and has been since Monday mid-morning when the wind started rising with an incoming Low. That evening we were making good speed in NE 20knots -- boatspeed: 7.5kn, SOG 6.3kn - (pity about the foul current!!)Plan was to ease the sheets to keep us heading roughly East as the wind slowly backed as the centre of the Low passed S of our position.... I was hoping that the 40-45kn forecast for Tues noon wouldn't happen.... but it did!! Right on cue!!

I'd two (deep) reefs in mains'l and full stays'l, (genoa furled away)until early evening when wind started building more - to ~24kn apparent, so took in 3rd reef, eased sheets and headed more downwind.

At 5am, I'd just managed to retrieve and lash down the emergency forestay, which had come loose and was banging around noisily, when a squall came through: wind rose quickly from 19 to 28-31, dying back a bit later, & staying down at 24kn from 0600-1100, when another squall came through, although waves stayed high. Midday actually saw the sun trying to struggle through a thin layer of cloud ... I thought that was it! But at 1300, it started gusting to 32k,... by 1410, up to 38-42+kn, then by 1425, down to 34kn. Pressure dropped a touch over this time: by just 1mb to 1010, having stayed virtually constant all day. By 1500... all seemed to be over, just big waves and 24kn , ... Had 3rd reef in mains'l + stays'l and followed wind around as it backed -which happened very much more slowly overnight than I expected - it went to NNW and stayed there until the 'big blow' when it backed to NW. Now just left-over swell ... waiting for it to die down now...

Might get some more wind later, but hopefully, not so strong..! Until Wed when the High will drop over me, bringing very little!

LATER: So much for that hope....Got hit again....even more!! A really strong squall came in with heavy rain and winds well over 50kn - the display went crazy...!! Wow - did I get worried! I'd only just furled in a bit of staysail with the line having come loose.. and BANG!! The spume was being blown like horizontal mist over the sea surface... the waves got even bigger - but we did OK.. I'd retreated VERY shakily down below, pleased with the good job being done by the specially-made perspex storm hatch over the companionway. I'd adjusted our course to try to make sure the waves were still on the quarter - we'd rounded up initially in the strong wind... TG the really strong stuff must have only lasted for about 15-20 minutes - although, of course, it seemed never-ending, especially when we were on our ears momentarily in the water!! Now we're down to 22kn... but the seas are still up - every now and then we're hit by a big one & rock violently - a good test of how well things are stowed!!... I wonder how long this system will take to pass through...?? Seems the first 'hit' was a Front, ahead of the second 'hit' due to the Low itself passing by.

And I thought all I was going to talk about was my little following of 7-8 dark brown seabirds....!! Seems they might be 'White-Chinned Petrels' , not shearwaters at all. They have a definite white 'chin strap' from behind the eye (which is ringed by white) to down by their mid-grey beak - very handsome!. Under parts are all dark brown and some birds (females/immature?) are all brown They all have the same black tips to the upper wing surface. They may have gone now - midday, I saw just two.

Let's see if I can send this - hopefully by SSB/HF radio, because the Iridium phone is playing up badly - and that's definitely NOT something I can fix!!

DMG noon to noon:

Mon: 129M (147M by log)- bit of a curved track over the period!
Tues: 132M (145M by log)- not exactly a straight line..!

Written by : Mike

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