North or South of South Georgia Islands?

Last night was intended to be a night of recovery with the winds a nice 10-15 knots from the South.  I was sailing a course directly east; the sky was grey with rain, but it was a drizzly light rain that was only effective in reducing my visibility.  As I managed to get a good few hours’ sleep in that afternoon it wasn’t until 2am that I finally went to bed for the night and it wasn’t a successful sleep.

As I still had the full main sail up and the no 1 jib I set a wind alarm on the B and G instruments that would alarm when the winds reached 20 knots.  I didn’t want to risk blowing out the sails in too much wind if I slept through. As I drifted off to sleep, I was awoken again by a beep beep beep.  Ahh the wind alarm.  The winds were just starting to touch 20 knots.  As this is a bit too much for my No 1 head sail I needed to get on deck and change the jibs over to the No 2 head sail.  It’s dark and cold, but at least at the time it wasn’t raining.  While I was on deck I was thinking do I or don’t I put in the 1st reef...  I was making such great speeds on a beam reach, often hitting 11 knots.  I still didn’t feel that this was too much wind provided the winds didn’t increase any further. In the 30 minutes, I had been watching there had been no change, so I was confident that I could go back to bed...

Again I set a wind alarm but this time I set it for 27 knots. Sure enough, just as I am about to actually go to sleep beep beep beep.  It was nearing 4am this time and I was beginning to get rather frustrated with the fact that I had spent all this time in bed and had yet to get any sleep.  I went on deck again and put the 1st reef in.  I was so annoyed that I didn’t bother tidying up the ropes afterwards. This is very out of character for me as I am very OCD about having my ropes all packed away all the time, but I was so tired by now.  I figured that when I wake up I would likely need to shake out the reef again as the forecast was for some lighter airs.  So off to bed again and this time I managed to get a good healthy few hours’ sleep.  I woke up a few times to check on things from bed but all in all I managed a nice 6 hours sleep.  I still felt tired though when I woke up around midday.

The first thing I noticed when I woke up was the fact that the winds had dropped down to 13 knots and had shifted to the ESE.  So, with the sails set for a beam reach the boat was trying to sail close hauled.  This doesn’t work very well and my 3 knots of boat speed would confirm that.  Back on deck to shake out the reef to the full main.  Job done. I then re-trimmed the boat and started packing away all the ropes. 

I was on the last rope when the winds started filling in again, ahhh.  I watched it for 10 minutes but with the strength of the winds at 17-18 knots and me trying to sail close hauled with the full main sail it was just too much. I was easing the sail so much that most of it was just flapping in the winds and not even working. So, again I put the first reef back in and finally managed to clear away all the lines.

Back down, I took a minute to see where i was in the world.  I had by now sailing clear of the Falkland Islands. I felt that this needed to be celebrated, as I was too busy in that storm to celebrate the Cape Horn rounding, so it was going to be pancakes for breakfast.  Yum!  I cut each pancake in half.  On one half I had some of the Dick Smith Food Strawberry Jam.  On the other half, I had Maple syrup.  My spirits were bolstered by this.  I just felt much happier on the boat.  Those frustrations from the night before were now behind me.

One of the more important jobs that I needed to do was repair the manual bilge pump.  The night before it got a split in the rubber, preventing it from working.  I wanted to strip it apart and see if I could run a repair.  I happened to have on-board a tyre repair kit that we used to patch a small hole in the rudder boot. This is a bit of truck tire tube that you clamp around the rudder shaft, as a secondary means of preventing leaks in the steering compartment.  It took me a few goes to get it to stick but after using my cheese grater to scuff up the surface I finally got the patches to bond. I held them together using a locker lid and a clamp until the glue set.  Success I once again have a manual bilge pump and just in time to catch a lovely sunset.

Sunset near Falkland Islands

Sunset near Falkland Islands

By this time the winds had continued to increase so I put in the second reef on the main sail and furled a bit more head sail away.  The winds were by now blowing 25-30 knots from the SE so I was sailing on a wind angle of 50 degrees or close reach, so my boat speed was now in the lower range of 6 - 7 knots, but at least I was traveling the right direction. 

Still feeling tired I went back to bed for a few more hours and have now just gotten up at midnight my time to have something to eat and to phone back to my shore support crew, we have a decision to make.  Do I sail north or south of the South Georgia islands?  By going south, I could save a week of sailing on my home return, but I would need to be sailing into the Antarctica Polar convergence line, where the sea temperature will drop off to 4 degrees and maybe even as low as 2 degrees. This would bring with it the risk of ice bergs. We are very fortunate to have the support of C-Core who are monitoring the Ice Berg movement on my behalf, so that at least I know where they are when I sail past. 

The other consideration of this is that I may get ice forming on the deck and there is the potential for the water in the tanks to freeze. So, I am less inclined to sail to the south of South Georgia islands.  By going North, I will be sailing a greater distance due to the curvature of the earth, but I will have a lot less issues with the cold.  There is a spot over by 42 degrees W where I will have a short sea temperature drop to 4 degrees and I think that this will be enough.  I will let you all know the outcome tomorrow.

For now I am still sailing in 25-30- knots of wind and the boat is maintaining a relatively good speed of 7-8 knots.  The winds are forecast to veer to the South again and I will likely have better sailing then.  Right now, I am punching into a SE swell and the boat is healed over on a 30-degree angle smashing off waves....