Sat/Sun /Mon 21-232Nov09 Days 43-45 Lovely fast sailing at times - but big swell

Saturday 21st November 09
Wind slowly increased from nothing at all at sunset Friday to N 18 kn most of the day - so fast sailing on a beam reach - very nice, although an increasing SW swell so rather bumpy at times.

Saw a mass of cloud of approaching on W horizon not long before sunset... Thought it was a forecast Cold Front arriving ... So slowed the boat right down - from 7.6-7.8 to just 4.2 boatspeed... genoa furled, 3rd (deep ) reef in mains'l with stays'l... and got Jordan series drogue all ready just to chuck over the stern ... General idea was that all that effort should guarantee nothing will happen.......! Which was exactly right - because the cloud turned out to be nothing dramatic at all - just a lot of fluffy light cumulus! So eventually, to increase our speed, I unfurled some genoa - much better!!
I had to keep an eye on our heading because the wind, as usual when a Low is approaching S of here, is slowly backing all the time.. E-NE-N-etc, so our course changes with it, being under wind-steering. So I frequently have to adjust 'Fred' (the Hydrovane acquired a name some time ago!)to keep us heading in the right direction.

Still have a pair of 'spectacled petrels' soaring around the boat and some kind of 'masked booby' (a big white bird with handsome black markings - clearly gannet family)came by earlier. We're pretty close to the small island of Tristan de Cunha - less than 400 mls to the S! I gather that's where the spectacled petrels breed - they're rare because they're endemic to Tristan so we're privileged to have their company(Info courtesy of my 'sailing companions' on 'Berrimilla' - just over 200 miles to the north)Seems the name I made up wasn't far short of being correct - but they're petrels, not shearwaters...

More problems... First reef line has broken at leech cringle (chafed)- so I had to drop the mains'l and tie the first reef in with a line around the boom.(I put in 2nd reef while I was at it, since wind was expected to keep building overnight and Sunday). Was thinking of heaving-to but managed it 'on-the-trot' with the boom more or less centred.

I then thought it was a good time to un-wire the topping lift shackle at the end of the boom so I could keep the topping lift at the mast(It's my trysail halyard, so better there anyway)..But I'd done an excellent job wiring it...it was really difficult to get off - especially with the swell!! Managed eventually and new topping lift home is at the mast, close to where I'd hanked on the trysail yesterday to be ready for use...

Sunday 22nd November 09

Had an excellent fast overnight sail - and on into today. The wind is continuing to build very slowly, as it backs to the north and then into the northwest, and the seas are getting a bit difficult at times - but we're sailing well with a small amount of genoa to boost our speed added to the stays'l and triple-reefed main from overnight.

It seems the expected cold front has speeded up and may get to our position by this evening or overnight, rather than later on Monday. Hopefully, it won't be as dramatic as last Tuesday since I'm at the tail end of the Front, rather than slap-bang in the middle. In the meantime, I'm preparing for a repeat - but hope to be better able to deal with it this time . At least now I'll be expecting the 'switching' of the wind direction: a sudden backing from N/NW to S/SW - as is normal when these fronts pass by. Of course, that relates to here in the S hemisphere - everything is round the other way, weatherwise, in the North!

Winds are expected to continue building from their present, early-afternoon 22knots to as much as 30-35 kn tonight, with higher gusts, possibly - so I could be due for another interesting night... with rain, again, of course! I think I'll have my evening meal early today...

Monday 23rd November 09

Posted report yesterday for Sat/Sun, but for some reason it failed - so I'm trying again, with addition of today.

Last night the cold front came through soon after midnight - with no very strong wind (about 13 knots), just the sudden 'switching' of wind as it backed to SSW from NW... Of course, expecting the worst, (grib weather files were showing a front & associated rain (squalls?) passing me overnight)& with wind and seas building gradually, I'd decided to down the main completely before it got dark(partly just to see how that went, never having done it alone at sea in wind before..)and furl in the genoa, so the only sail we had up by 5pm was the (small) staysail. It was then that I discovered that the threatened failure of the gas-filled rod-kicker had occurred, due to losing oil from the seals gradually since soon after leaving the Canaries. The failure was made very obvious once the sail had been lowered & so no longer helping to support the boom. But, unfortunately, just yesterday, I'd taken the topping lift away to put near the trysail at the mast.... so it was no longer on the boom end helping to support it.... I'd been wondering what a certain noise had been over the afternoon - now I knew.... because the rod-kicker had failed, & was no longer supporting the boom, and neither was the topping lift, the boom was moving about in the swell in an unusual way.

The wind was around 22knots by then (and pressure was dropping)but we seemed to end up way under-powered in a big swell which kept knocking us off course - and then 'Fred' would have a problem getting us back on course because of the lack of sail area in the right place (i.e. no mainsail to help balance) . I switched on the autopilot occasionally to help out... At least I knew that I shouldn't end up in difficulties should a strong, veered wind come through - backing the stays'l presented only a minor problem, unlike backing the main.

So I later got into my bunk and had a good sleep!! ... to be woken up just before 1am with the wind shift having just occurred and the stays'l backed.... we were effectively hove-to, so not going anywhere. I brought the stays'l over to port & unfurled some genoa to help our speed in the lighter wind ( 13 knots and going down) - no big drama this time around!! But speed was badly compromised by the lack of mainsail - that would have to wait until daylight, I decided.... I'm not racing just now!!

By 6am, the sun was just up and I set to... Not as straightforward as it should have been - the topping lift had to be brought back to its place on the boom aft end, so it could support the boom, & the lazyjacks had to be released on the leeward side of the sail to avoid battens getting caught, but eventually it was done - and our speed increased with it. It's been very gusty and at one point, with full genoa, staysail and single-reefed main, we were doing 8.6-8.7 knots consistently through the water!! I decided maybe I'd better reef again - so life calmed down a little and I was able to have breakfast in peace!

As I was writing this, soon after midday, we suddenly heeled over as a big gust came through - from 12 knots, it was suddenly up to 20-25 knots .... and I had full genoa out.... We ran off downwind to lower the apparent wind while I frantically winched in the genoa completely... oh, what fun!! With the wind seeming to stay well up, I put in the 3rd reef ... so now the wind has dropped and we're going nowhere... Time to shake out that reef again....! It had been such a lovely sunny day a short while before that I'd relaxed and thought that was it... front passed by, problems over for one or two days... but this was a delayed area of convection behind that same front. Wind speed now? 9knots....! 20mins later: 18knots... "Variable conditions"!!

DMG noon-to-noon:
Saturday: 82M (By Log: 95M)- Wind died during Friday afternoon and didn't return until just before dawn
Sunday: 142M (By log: 143M!) - Reflecting some excellent sailing, despite the swell & even though I slowed us down for several hours during the evening and was careful overnight!
Monday: 105M (By log: 99M -) - Difference due to slight fair current from evening until early morning. Low because slowed right down overnight with front expected to pass over.

Written by : Mike

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