Less Than 3000 Miles to Go!

Over the past 24 hours the winds have gone from 4 knots to 30 knots so there have definitely been some sail changes.  For the most part of last night the winds were 6-8 knots as I was near the centre of the high-pressure system, I was still sailing with the 2nd reef in the main sail and the storm jib and the stay sail but the boat was also still rocking in the swell making any sails hard to fill.  As the system started to pass over me and I passed the centre of it the winds started to changed direction.  Firstly, the winds were from the west.  I had been running as far down wind as possible so I was sailing at a slow 4 knots and all I could hear was the sails flogging as the boat rolled in the swell.  I knew that there was going to be a night of sail changes and gybes so I decided to get to bed early and hope in bed around 7.30pm.  I generally like to read a little before sleeping in bed, I find it clears my mind.  The winds shifted to the south west within the hour so I needed to get up and re-trim the sails.  I finally decided to just try for some sleep after that but it eluded me as I rocked in the swell.  Just knowing I am going so slow bugs me.  It makes me restless as I try to think of more ways to go faster, it also means that when I am trying to sleep and the boat speed is 4-5 knots all I can think about is shaking that reef or trying to get more sail out so I laid awake for another hour tossing and turning in bed.

I must have drifted off for a bit because I woke to my alarm blaring.  I have these extra loud alarm clocks for kitchens that I use to wake me at intervals in the night.  This one I had set to 4 hours at 7.30pm so it was beeping very loudly in my ear at 11.30 pm last night.  I have them extra loud because I am paranoid that I will sleep through them on an approach to land or some other hazard but it doesn’t make for a nice way to wake up.  Hear stuttering in my chest I turned off the alarm and checked the wind direction again.  The wind shift was finally happening as I exited the centre of the high-pressure system and the winds were veering from the SW to the NW.  It was time to gybe.

Again on deck I put the boat through a gybe putting me on a port tack, I also noticed that the winds were back up to 10 knots of breeze so the sails had steadied somewhat.  It was cold last night at 3 degrees outside air temp. Given that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky to be seen so none of the heat of the day was trapped.  I had the pleasure of watching a full sky of stars and a half moon with a halo around it.  In the calmer conditions, it was beautiful, even if the lack of wind drove me nuts.  Shortly after the warmth of my bunk was calling me so I went below again to try and sleep.  As I was still chilled from being on deck I took the time to re-heat my luke-warm hot water bottle before flopping into bed.

I managed to get a few good hours sleep then and at 5 am the alarms started going off because the boat was rounding up in the winds.  I was now getting 20-25 knots of wind.  My 2nd reef in the main sail was the right choice now but I didn’t want to risk damaging the stay sail if the winds increased while I slept.  I was expecting a cold front to pass over today with increasing gale winds from the North so I knew 30 knots or more was on its way.  I decided then to furl away the stay sail and keep going with the 2nd reef in the main sail and the storm jib.  With this sail arrangement, I would have been fine up to 27 knots and the occasional 30 knots and I knew that I would sleep better if the sail wasn’t at risk.

 I managed another 2 hours sleep, making the total amount of sleep last night a broken 5 hours but the sun was up and a new day was calling me.  I sent out my morning position report, made some calls to my family and then set about making my porridge.  By the time that was all done the winds were steady 25 knots gusting 30 knots and the barometer had only just started to fall from 1031 mb.  It was meant to fall to 1014 through this storm so there was likely a lot of wind on its way.  Being the conservative sailor that I am, I decided that I would put the third reef in the main sail now to balance the boat and stop those round ups in the gusts.  With the 3rd reef and the storm jib I was able to hold this arrangement up to steady 35 knots should it be necessary before needing to put in the 4th reef, so I was likely set for a while.

Settling in I read a little, watched another movie and generally passed the time.  It’s now 8.30pm and the swell has kicked up a touch to 4-5 meters and the winds are still blowing 25-30 knots.  The Barometer reads 1017 mb so it is still falling for a little while longer and as I have learnt the worst winds always show up just after the barometer hits the bottom and starts climbing again.  Also, the winds are due to back all the way around  the SW tonight and then back to the NW in the early morning, so I will likely have some gybing to do tonight.  So far the boat is traveling well in the conditions making good time at 8-9 knots of boat speed.

I am also now 3 000 nm from the finish line so I am starting to get really excited about seeing Australia again.