Sunday 21st April 2013 First flying fish found on deck - proof of warmer seas!
It's been good to have decent wind for a change - we've been making around 7 kt overnight and into this morning and around 6kt at midday. The wind has slowly backed - to NW and then WNW this afternoon - and was definitely nothing like as strong by the time the sun was getting low, around 5pm. Apart from a very short time of light rain mid-afternoon, with a few clouds threatening more, it's been a very pleasant, warm, sunny day .... but the swell has been impressively large and steep-faced at times - very reminiscent of the Southern Ocean I've not long left behind.
Had excellent clear radio contact on 20m with US this morning and a more difficult one with US/Aus/NZ on 40m last night, due to running the autopilot & instruments which interfere a lot on certain frequencies. Radio contact has become an important part of my day - nice to chat to friendly people and it's probably helped to keep me half-sane! Can't believe I've been at sea for six months now - that's half a year...!!!
On plotting our position just after midday on the paper chart, rather than depending solely on the chart-plotter, which gave no detail of ocean contours hereabouts, I suddenly realised that we were heading rather close to a shallow area on the Wanganella Bank, to the NW of Cape Reinga which is due W of the North Cape of New Zealand. The Bank rises up abruptly from deep ocean depths of 2000-3000m at its edges and generally has depths of 200-300m, It's an important fishing ground, as many coastal banks are. Just downwind and very near to our planned path was an area with just 62m depth - no problem in calm conditions but had me concerned in the fairly rough conditions of 3m/10ft or more swell and strong wind at the time... Decided to change course & head due East - which would minimise the shallow water effect on the prevailing seas since we'd be going over depth noted as 267m, so rather less shallow. Diverting around the extensive Bank didn't seem like an option - wind was from N-NNW, so impossible to head upwind around it, and I didn't fancy a big detour SSE.
4pm Nice sunshine still, although sun getting low now, .... broken cloud. Wind has backed further and died quite a lot - good speed was nice while we had it but now we're back to struggling to make 3-4kt downwind. Will possibly need to gybe at some point soon and pole out the genoa.... We're over the Wanganella Bank now and passing SSW of the shallow area, but that's not a big problem in the present lighter wind, although seas are still well up and rolling us around a lot all the time.
I'm continually downloading updated grib (weather) files, as well as weatherfaxes from Wiluna, Australia... spending a lot of time each day on that. Seems as though best plan is to keep heading East for next few days in order to keep some semblance of helpful wind N of New Zealand, before heading up towards the Tropics and Equator - where calms are almost guaranteed. Long-term planning for this section of route is almost impossible just now - I know what I'd like to do - but I also know that the weather will dictate what's possible in practice - I'd like to think I could avoid slopping about in more calms - but that's bound to happen again....
Several white-chinned petrels around again today - also another petrel - dark on top, with with black tipped white underwings, white underbody and white area on dark head- need to get my book out to check what it might be.... Similar to Soft-plumaged petrel.
9pm SOG (speed over the ground): 2.7kt. (Later died to 1kt...) Wind has definitely died right away and what there is comes from astern so less effective. Lovely bright moon lighting up the seascape and starry sky - Southern Cross overhead, as is Sagittarius, the Archer, with bright Arcturus in the constellation.
D.M.G. over 24hr to 10am LT: 123 n.ml. - better, despite yesterday's light wind for a time. Hobart: 1060 n.ml. (244T) ;Sydney: 752 n.ml. (due W); New Zealand's North Cape: 340 n.ml. (279T)
For my positions and track, see:
www.svnereida.com - 'Travels' - "Where is 'Nereida'?"