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Wed/Thurs 21/22 Oct 09 Days 12 & 13 Hit by big squall midnight Wed...!

HOT sun around midday - I got slight sunburn on my lower back, despite keeping well out of sun except when unavoidable working on deck.

We're going relatively well, in wind that's a lot better than over Mon & Tues. I've tried to head to where the 'best' wind looks to be over the following few days, by downloading daily grib files for the next five days. Contact with my 'weather routers' is useful - mainly for keeping an eye out for nasty weather to warn me (such as the Tropical Wave presently just to the south and likely to bring more squalls my way), rather than actually 'routeing' me - I prefer to do that myself, assuming I have sufficient information, although I must say that on Thursday we seemed to be in total agreement (not many options, really!).

I was making a log entry just before midnight and had noted ENE 3-4, looked again - drat! - changed it to E... and then to ESE. We were sailing well under full canvas and genoa poled out. "Must be under a cloud," I thought - looked out - yes, the stars were obscured above ... and then the rain started ... and the wind got up... big time!! I had to force myself to stay calm - we were way overpowered & my heart was racing!.... I reefed down and handsteered for some time in heavy rain until things calmed down - as they always do eventually! I definitely had a very good shower and fortunately the air was just warm enough to be acceptable until conditions got better and I was able to go down below and towel down...! The wind returned to ENE - and died down to 5 knots. We had a near-miss about 7.45 am - the wind veered into the ESE again and I could see the grey cloud causing it - but it went on its way harmlessly. I took down the pole and by 9am I shook out the first reef (my whipping seems to be doing its work at present)... and then spent most of the morning cursing the varying winds - lots of windshifts, making it difficult to maintain a steady course without the continual handsteering and change of sail trim I had to do....

On the subject of weather information, I've been talking to the Winlink Development Team (Lor, W3QA, has been really helpful) about the possibility of adding a few more weatherfax 'products', if it can be arranged, to the present very useful, but restricted, listing in the Winlink Catalog - such as for South Africa, Australia and New Zealand (and something for South America?). It would be really great if they could be added - I'd find them really useful and would use them for sure - and they'd be much used and appreciated by a lot of cruisers either when on passage or for planning.

I'm hoping to cross the Equator at 25W, then head towards 20S, 25W unless winds dictate differently. I've been studying grib files for the S. Atlantic for last two weeks, to get an idea of where the St Helena High is likely to be as I get closer - it moves around a lot and I don't want to get headed.... (so going SE direct from here to the Cape of Good Hope is definitely not an option!) I think I must head S for quite a way before turning SSE and then ESE to pass the Cape. Adds a lot of miles to the 'direct route' - but that's pretty well unavoidable for a sailing boat.

Spent more time on the Jordan series drogue - finding a strong swivelling shackle (stolen off the unused Delta drogue salvaged from my old boat!) was a big bonus... that means I'll be able to use it to attach the two bridle arms to the main drogue line so that the bridle can be fixed in place 'ready to go' quite separately from the rest of the gear - which will be kept in the cockpit locker. The main drogue is now flaked nicely into its bag and I have the chain (acting as a weight, attached to the far end of the drogue) stowed separately in a bucket, ready to take to the stern when the drogue is deployed - it makes the bag a lot lighter not having the chain and bridle plus shackles in it! Then all I have to do is to open the locker, take out the end of the main line with cones & use the swivelling shackle to attach it to the end of the bridle (which I think I can keep safely secured in the cockpit, ready to hand) and then make my way to the stern with the bucket to deploy the chain etc! Think I should attach bucket to boat also!! I spent some time on Thursday afternoon, going through the motions, after using wire to 'mouse' the swivel shackle holding the two bridle arm ends together. (Many thanks to Coryn and Tony Gooch, who've deployed theirs several times, for their extremely helpful emails on the subject)

Early evening Thursday - after a good day's sail, we've slowed right down to 4 knots in just 6-7 knots of ESE wind now.. and we're surrounded by lots of grey clouds..... Feels rather eerie and threatening, especially knowing that they're likely to turn into nasty squall clouds as soon as darkness falls and it becomes difficult to see anything!!! Chances of being hit tonight are rather high....!

Later (2000 GMT): Still ambling along at 4 knots... lovely crescent moon high up and sky clear to windward ... Think I'll eat now - yesterday cooked last of aubergine, peppers & courgettes with some meat, potatoes and tomatoes (they're going off fast)...mmm! So far so good.... but I'll put a reef in the mains'l quite soon - and definitely before I start my night's sleep routine...!!

DMG .... to noon Wednesday: 94 M (very slow overnight Tues/Wed) 480 M due W of Pt Kamsar in Guinea, W. Africa;
.... to noon Thursday: 114 M (reflecting better sailing much of the time) 630 M due W of Sierra Leone, W. Africa

Written by : Mike

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