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Date: 14 Apr 2014 18:42:00
Title: Ascension Northwards - Day One 07 29.045S 016 05.936W

On our way again after a 4 day stop. We're bound for Fernando de Noronha, a small island about 200 miles off the coast of Brazil. A passage of just over 1,100 miles. However, as before, if either the anchorage or the weather are not good, we may decide to keep going. A couple of the boats on the net decided to give Ascension a miss and head straight for FdN (our short hand!). They should get there 2 or 3 days before we do, so we hope to get reports back on what it's like and whether it's good to stop. We know it will be expensive - £200 just to anchor for 3 nights, plus £50 each if we want to go ashore, but it is conveniently placed to break up the journey. If we stop it will only be for 2 or 3 days - apart from the costs, we don't have the time if we're to get through the Caribbean and out the other side before the next hurricane season.

Successfully predicting nature rarely seems to work! The course to FdN is 282T, so our stern would be pointing 102T. Why is that important, well, if the wind is going to be somewhere between ESE (112.5), the forecast direction, and SSE (157.5) the direction reported by a couple of the boats underway, it will be on our port side. When setting both poles she always goes a bit better if the outer genoa is poled out to windward. While it's easy enough to put poles up underway, it's easier if it's done while at anchor. So we did - both poles up with sheets lead through blocks etc, with the outer genoa set up to be poled out to port. Didn't work! Once clear of the island (and the winds are always fluky around small islands) the wind was coming from the East (90) or even a bit north of East, and it's been like that all the time so far. That put the wind on our starboard side and the inner genoa poled out to windward. While she goes well enough like that, we would prefer to have it the other way round if it could be for a long time (e.g. days). So around midday both poles came down and we swapped the sails over. Quite an interesting challenge to work out the minimum number of moves to do it, and, how to do it trying to keep one sail up the whole time so we keep moving. (We always aim never to stop when changing sails. It's not always possible, but most of the time it is.) We did it well considering the number of lines involved and it has made a difference (and regardless of the difference, having it the right way round makes us feel happier!). (For those that might be interested, with the outer genoa poled out to windward, the windward wind (is there any other!) deflects off the sail through the gap between our two headsails and it's all very efficient and both sails set well. If the inner genoa is poled to windward, the wind deflects onto the outer genoa and appears to create turbulence that can cause the sail not to set as well.)

Left Ascension Island yesterday afternoon at 17.00 and the above is our noon day position today. As it's approaching 17.00 now, our first 24 hour run is 124 miles. Not too bad considering the light conditions that are still prevailing. Generally the wind has been a little stronger than on the passage from St Helena, but there's a lot of rain about and the wind seems to drop right out when it rains. Rain can be tracked on the radar and we've changed course a couple of times to successfully miss it, but we got caught earlier today in a heavy downpour - the wind died and boat speed dropped to 1.5kts for an hour or so. Hope that doesn't happen too many times!

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