Last night was one of those rare nights of utter peace on board Climate Action Now. Just after I finished the blog I went on deck in the twilight to shake a reef out. The winds had now dropped to 10-15 knots and the seas were also back to a reasonable 3 meters. My point of sail was broad reach and the boat speed was regularly dropping below 5 knots. Even though it was dark, I usually like to keep my sail handling to daylight hours, I went up to shoot the reef out. I was still quite tired so I took a mini rest halfway through grinding the sail up but apart from that it all went smoothly.
As I was tidying away the lines I saw a bright flash of orange out of the corner of my eye. It was an amazing moon bright and almost full ducking out from behind a distant cloud bank. I stopped to enjoy and the more I watched the more I saw. Under the moonlight sky the water was rippling past the boat on either side, looking up there was a whole sky filled with twinkling stars. The Southern Cross was off to starboard, Orion's belt to port and the Milky way stretched in between.
The temperature was pleasant and cool. Its night like this that made me fall so in love with sailing. As I sat and enjoyed the show from mother nature I was completely content. I am where I want to be, storms and all. It was nice to have the chance to re-centre and simply enjoy. Sometime later I made my way below and to a peaceful night’s sleep.
I awoke with the sunrise cresting the horizon, still sleepy and took stock of the boat. Climate Action Now was humming along keeping up good speeds mostly above 8 knots. There was little to do so I crawled back into bed and rested some more.
The winds have remained relatively steady throughout the day between W and WNW and 10-15 knots. The boat is still sailing on the same tack as yesterday on a course of 070 as I make my way a little bit further north to get around some large swells due in a day or so. Once the swell has passed I will be then diving south once again to avoid a large High pressure system. The Highs often have very little wind and I don’t feel too much like drifting my way to cape Horn.
Cape Horn is by far the pinnacle of this challenge and is extremely difficult to sail around, for a several reasons. You will all remember me talking about the influences of the continental shelf on the sea state. A 10-foot wave in 5000m of water suddenly becomes a very different beast when that 10-foot wave hits shallow water. Well there aren’t that many 10 foot waves at 55 South, most of the Southern Ocean swell is 30 feet plus. So, you have all these huge waves in 4000m to 5000m deep water suddenly hitting 50 meters. If you catch the wind going against the currents, you can then add some very messy conditions. The result is dangerously large seas.
On top of that all the winds that are lapping the bottom of the earth are funnelled through between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsular giving strong winds, bullets of wind, that can catch you unawares. Add to that the extreme cold and the risk of Ice and you have a good challenge.
There is a reason that Cape Horn is likened to the Everest of sailing……. many people have safely sailed around Cape Horn however many have not……… timing with the weather is everything.