Last night was a night of squalls and heavily fluctuating winds. I would be happily sailing along, lying in bed when out of nowhere there would be this screech of wind and the whole boat would get laid over almost flat, The screech would stay around for a few minutes, the rain would start belting the cabin and in less than 5 minutes it would all be over and I would have just sailed through yet another squall with winds over 45 knots. The max that I saw from bed was 53 knots of wind in the night. Remember that the air is denser down here so 30 knots in the Southern Ocean feels like 50 knots in the tropics, 50 knots in the Southern Ocean is a whole lot of wind. In between the squalls I would be in 25-30 knots of wind and the boat would be making a good time to the SSE and to my racetrack entry point.
I am starting to feel like I am finally getting somewhere in all these storms however I do have another doozy coming down on me tomorrow night, so we shall have to see if another hove too is required with that. Tonight however is going to be made of celebration as I will be sailing past 45 South again and getting back within the bounds of my original record of sailing between 45-60 South. I will still have a bit further to sail to cross my track at the position of dismasting but I feel like I am finally so close to turning left, a mere 300nm and I will be then officially sailing home.
I must say that I expected the challenges to start once I got below 45 South not on the way down but given that I am sailing across the storm systems I am encountering them much more frequently than I should be when I finally turn left. Once I take that turn I will be sailing with the systems so the grace period in between should be slightly longer…… I hope.
For now though I just need to sail through all these squalls and storms safely, hove too when necessary. For the rest of the day today the conditions seemed to abate with the winds dropping off to 15 knots at times. I had one of those days where I am constantly trying to decide whether I shake out a reef or not. I felt that I was going nowhere in the lulls with my 4th reef in and my storm jib but sailing pressed in the gusts. Every time I finally made up my mind to shake a reef there would be a squall or large gusts that would persuade me not too so. In the end, I figured that I would simply have to have a bit of slow sailing in between the fast sailing. My concern was that I would shake a reef and 10 minutes later need to put it back in again, also, I didn’t want to risk damage to the sails. I had hours of 20-25 knots and I get so annoyed that I was making such little progress and then I would get that one gust of 43 knots and be glad that I didn’t shake out that reef.
The Barometer has been rising all day as we were in between the systems but has once again started to fall and with the fall the wind has started to build again. Bob (Metbob) suggested that I could Hove too tonight in preparation for a storm building tomorrow and Thursday. It should peak Wednesday night. The effects of the storm lesson the further south I get so instead of stopping I have decided to keep sailing south until I feel that the winds are too strong and the swell is too large and I can then Hove too and ride it out. If I hoved too tonight, the current forecast model is for 10 meter plus waves and winds steady at 40 knots and gusting up to 57 knots on Thursday. I am hoping that the system will push a touch further to the North, ill sail a bit further to the south and hopefully avoid the worst of it. That may be wishful thinking. Tonight, the gusts are forecast to get into the mid 40's, so should the need arise I may end up stopping tonight.
Given the incoming weather I did go on deck at sunset and just had a look around, a general boat check. I also decided to tie off the wind generators tonight rather than leave them till the morning in case the winds built to high and I couldn’t tie the blades down later. It was a 5-minute job, very easy, but by the end I had almost completely lost the feeling in my hands, they were burning with a white-hot pain from the cold. When I was finally able to get below and out of the wind I enjoyed another 10 or so minutes of extreme pain as they defrosted. I think my glove free days are now over with this cold. Unfortunately, not all jobs can be completed with gloves on so occasionally I will need to wear the pain from the cold exposure.
In the middle of the lots of wind and the no wind I remained wrapped up in my sleeping bag remaining warm. I have now started using my Zhik mid layers just to sit inside the cabin.