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Date: 23 Jul 2014 17:46:00
Title: Azores to Falmouth - Day Eight 47 46.379N 012 42.148W

Despite the light winds, and the no-wind forecast, we've continued sailing throughout the last 24 hours, until now that is as the engine has just gone on. The sea is like glass and we hope this is the winds changing from the SE to the north. We still manage to make around 4kts in hardly any wind, going close hauled into it with big outer genoa and main. The sea being so flat also helps - no waves to stop her. However, for most of my watch last night it was a different story. Just after midnight with all the sail up a huge rain system engulfed us and it poured, but with it came wind. More than expected and the speeds went up to 7kts or more. Great during daylight hours, not so great in the pitch black of night with no moon and pouring rain! Over 7kts at night in those conditions is like driving at 100 miles an hour so the boat had to be slowed down for a change. I didn't want to wake Liz to help reef (it's easier with 2 and I never go on deck at night without Liz being in the cockpit), and anyway I didn't fancy getting soaked doing it, so ended up rolling most of the headsail away and going under main alone. It was a really horrible night, so incredibly dark and the rain didn't stop from midnight to 03.30. It was not until 04.00 that the horizon could just be made out. After the rain stopped the wind went light and the task was then to try and maximize our speed once again. The noon-to-noon run was 117 miles. It's virtually new moon time so even if it wasn't for the clouds and rain, there is no moon and won't be tonight, but hope it doesn't rain again! It would be nice to see the stars for a change.

Of yesterday's 2 forecasts, Shipping Forecast and Grib files, neither was right! The Grib files were closer in getting the strengths about right, but they gave the direction as SW when it was actually SE. The Shipping Forecast got both the strength and direction way out. It's probably an unfair comparison as the Shipping Forecast covers a very large area whereas the Grib files are very specific to the area you need (you specify the area when requesting them). The latest forecast has changed again! The NE winds forecast for Friday, and days after that, are now showing as northerly winds once again. That should be better for us, if it stays that way and doesn't change again. The Grib files provide the output of a forecasting model and it appears that the high pressure system that we're currently in is proving too difficult to model! We don't normally see it changing so much when only 48 hours away.

Saw two more whales yesterday evening, this time very close, within 20 yards of the boat. They were big, 40/50ft, and stayed on the surface blowing for 15 minutes or so. Didn't expect to see whales this far north. Today we've seen more dolphins and in fact from the boat we've seen more whales and dolphins closer to the UK than we did when leaving the Azores. Didn't expect that!

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