Earth Hour in the Southern Ocean

Evening all,

As expected the winds arrived...  At midnight, last night the winds started to slowly fill in to a steady 15 knots from the NW.  After the last few days of winds below 10 knots it was a nice change. Given the late hour I furled away the no 1 jib and put out the no 2 head sail and also put the first reef in the main sail.  I was a bit early on the reefing and the boat was going slow for a time but given that I knew that there were gusts up to 50 knots forecast I was trying to beat the wind a little.  I also set about getting my newly repaired storm sail up on the bow.  I especially wanted to get this up before the fore deck was a wet roller coaster and I needed to battle with not only the wind but the waves as well.  I was still using my second storm sail and had added a spectra strop to stop the top section pulling away as it was.  This meant that the pressure was on the spectra line not the sail and seems to be working quite well.

No more than an hr later and the winds were already blowing 25 knots so in went the second reef.  I was now sailing a course of 030 True, in an effort to get North as quick as possible and get around the worst of the swell that the storm was to generate. This meant that I was once again sailing on a close reach in a gale...  By 3am the winds were at 30 knots which was okay for the No 2 reef.  The amount of sail area is hugely reduced with the no 3 reef in so I wanted to hold with the No 2 reefing point for as long as possible, so that I could maximize my speed, however once I saw 37 knots I called it a day. I put the third reef in...  The boat was well healed over by now and I was reduced to living life on a 45 degree heal again.  With all this leaning over I also was getting a lot of leeway, this is when the boat is drifting sideways as well as sailing forward and can make keeping course difficult at times so I was now sailing close hauled to counter act the leeway.

I needed to sail up to 45.30 South before I was planning on putting a gybe in and sailing off to the east. As I still had 70 nm to sail before reaching this line and some nasty cold and wet weather outside I decided to sleep it off and went to bed at 5am.  I awoke every hour to check on everything but it all looked in order.  I was also being extra careful not to sail past my gybing mark as I could void my record attempt if I sailed over 45 South.  By midday the winds were ferocious and gusting up to 45 knots.  The average winds were still in the 35-knot range and the boat seemed to be coping okay.  This afternoon I altered course to 050 True which had the added benefit of calming the boat down.  I was no longer sailing close hauled and what a difference it made to my ability to move around the boat.

I napped on and off all day and when I awoke on sunset with not much to do but watch a storm rage outside I decided to make pancakes.  They were delicious but it really wasn't the best time to be making pancakes...  The swell was by now also starting to build and was occasionally side swiping the boat, when these happen there is an almighty bang as the wave impacts on the hull and the whole boat is shoved sideways several meters, the mast whiplashes from the impact and the wave continues on its path right over the boat in a cascade of water.  I need to make sure that all the lines are tied away as the water tends to carry them out the back.  Last storm the water carried away my winch handle....

It was after dark and I had something to celebrate...  Happy Earth Hour everyone!  Even though I am in the middle of the ocean I have switched off all my lights for an hr to support the great awareness campaign for our environment.  People forget how much the little things like turning off the lights makes a difference.  A million-people turning off their lights and that is a whole lot of power saved. What if a million-people stopped using single use plastic bags?  Or refused to buy the plastic wrapped bananas from the supermarket?  There are so many small things each of us can do to help make our future a brighter place. We all just need to remember that it starts with one person and with the ripple effect we create a difference so I hope everyone in Australia is celebrating Earth Hour tonight.

Earth Hour in the Southern Ocean

Earth Hour in the Southern Ocean

By midnight the barometer has once again started to rise so I know that the worst of the winds has passed but I am expecting for the swell to continue to build until tomorrow evening.  The winds have also started dropping off and can’t seem to figure out how much strength they would like to blow with.  The winds are one minute 17 knots and the next 33 knots and in between settle on 25 knots for a time.  It is hard because I want to shake out to the 2nd reef again but I also don’t want to be caught out by a big gust of wind...  I decided that I would watch the winds over the next hour and then look at shaking out that reef when I gybed the boat at 45.30 S.

At 1.30am the winds had still been jumping around in strength however I hadn’t seen anything over 30 knots for quite a while and it was now time to gybe the boat.  I was still unsure if I would shake out the reef and wanted to get on deck for a time and just watch the wind and the waves.  I was greeted with a black as black night. The only things that I could see was what was illuminated by my head torch.  I decided to gybe the boat first and hopefully by then I would have a feel for the size of the swell.  The winds had continued to back all afternoon so I was now sailing on a broad reach with the winds from the SW. I would need to gybe to alter my course to 090 True.  Gybing in the rolling swell on such a dark night takes a little pre-planning.  I don’t want a wave to roll the boat while the boom is unsecured, so it was little by little that I trimmed in on the main sail as I eased off on the preventer line.  After a few minutes the gybe was completed but it was a rolling one for sure.

I was still undecided on shaking out the reef, while the winds were only blowing in the low 20's.  I still hadn’t been able to see the size of the swell in the dark. I could only hear it which was probably much worse.  I could hear the roaring sounds of breaking waves as the tops of the waves would crumble to pieces and come charging at the boat.  To shake the reef out I needed to turn the boat back upwind and into those waves, putting the boat at the mercy of the swell for a time.  I finally decided to go for it when the winds dropped off to 16 knots and turned the boat up to windward.  I shook out the reef but just as I was tightening the final halyard tension I noticed something was wrong.  The top mainsail batten was caught once again around the running backstay line causing me to have to lower the sail halfway to shake it free and then finally re-hoist. No Tantrums this time.  Job done and I shot right back down below to get out of the wetness of the sea spray on deck.

Once I got below I had a minuet to watch the boat speed,. Before shaking out the reef I was sailing at 5 knot,s but would get little surfs on the waves which would get my speed up to 8-9 knots. Now, with the reef out, I was sailing at 8 knots and my surfs were fast and furious.  I have cracked 20 knots several times and am often sailing at 16 knots of boat speed. With this great swell pushing form behind means I am sailing along nicely and will be home before I know it...