West of Darwin - Day 8 - 12 06.246S 112 22.393E

Mike and Liz Downing
Fri 13 Sep 2013 08:57
Five things to celebrate in the last 24 hours: we passed the halfway point, have less than a 1,000 miles to go, have finally passed the most western point of Australia, had our best noon-to-noon run of the passage by far (173.9 miles) and it's our wedding anniversary, but not necessarily in that order!
The wind has increased a bit, up to 16kts at times, and swung much more to the southeast and even a bit further south at times. We still have the same sail configuration as yesterday, but have had to push the windward pole even further forward, which means having to reef that sail more (as the pole still isn't long enough!) to take the bag out of it. So it's now really quite small, but with the increase in wind, it does the trick when combined with the working genoa sheeted normally to leeward, and we're making anything from 5.5 to 7kts depending on the wind gusts. Add the current to that and we've been racing along, hence the noon-to-noon run. Overnight the current increased to 1.8kts at times. We must have been in the perfect part of the ocean for it as it's dropped back down to around 1/2kt today. Having passed the most western part of Australia (if we turn left now and keep going we'll eventually hit Antarctica!) we're getting the occasional huge swell coming up from the Southern Ocean. It's very long period, so the sort of swell you imagine you will get on the ocean, but generally never do! (The Pacific swell was often confused and sometimes short.) It was a quiet night, no ships at all, but going back to the ships, we were wondering what they were all carrying and Mike on Jacaranda (about 8 miles behind us) ask the one that was just about to cut them in half (slight exaggeration, but they had to call it up and it did have to change course). It's iron ore, going to China. Started to use the Hydrovane wind steering system (uses no power) today and so far it's working quite well. In the Pacific it used to get knocked off course by a large wave and struggled to recover, so we used it during the day and the electronic autopilot at night. We'll see how we get on in the Indian Ocean. Should have used it earlier in the week, but we get lazy when we have enough power to use the electronic pilot. As I write, we have 886 miles to go.