Cape Town to St Helena - Day Three 29 24.564S 012 37.933E

Mike and Liz Downing
Sun 16 Mar 2014 14:27
Had our first two flying fish on deck overnight. One was quite big and lucky for him (or her) came onboard very close to the cockpit, so Liz was able to get it back into the water and it survived. The other one we found this morning and it was very dead. The wind is following a pattern of coming up in the afternoon and evening and then dropping off in the morning. The seas come up and go down with it. The direction of the wind has changed from being southerly to SSE or SE, swinging back and forth between them. It does mean that we could put the other pole up this morning and we've spent the day so far with both headsails poled out with the wind dead behind. She goes really well and is well balanced under this configuration, with very little rolling. What sea there is is generally coming in the same direction as the wind (a very pleasant change from the Pacific and especially the Indian ocean), so again dead behind us and we just rise and fall as each wave passes. There is a very occasional underlying south west swell that can skew us round a little, but so far it's very mild and we hope it stays that way! With the good winds we've made a good noon-to-noon run of 150.4 sea miles and at noon today were 405 miles from Cape Town.

We crossed the 30 degree parallel (latitude) early this morning and that's always something to feel good about. It's probably more psychological than anything, but it does tend to be where the weather systems start to change with the influence of the high latitude weather systems making way for the tradewinds which grow in domination as you approach the tropics. Talking of the tropics (which are still 360 miles to the north), it is getting a little warmer. We're still wearing several layers and our full wet weather gear at night to keep warm, but the days are definitely a little warmer. So we must be heading in the right direction!

We have the hydrovane/autopilot combination steering, as we perfected last year, but with a slight difference. The autopilot is still set on it's least responsive mode and the hydrovane is set to steer within the bound of the autopilot's limits. So the hydrovane steers the boat, boat the autopilot kicks in if the hydrovane gets it wrong (perhaps being knocked too far off course by a bigger wave to recover). Only this time we have the autopilot steering to the wind vane at the top of the mast. So once we set the angle of the wind to the boat that we want, the autopilot, like the hydrovane, aims to keep that angle. It means we don't have the autopilot and hydrovane fighting each other if the wind direction changes, but it does mean that if the wind does change direction the boat course will change. Generally with the wind swinging back and forth between SSE and SE, that's not a problem; the track of where we've been just looks like we've had one too many as it snakes back and forth! The autopilot does beep to warn us when there's been a wind shift, so we do know what's going on and can react if the shift is too great and we go right off course.

When in Cape Town we downloaded a number of podcasts from the BBC. It's the first time we've done that and listening to Desert Islands Discs in the middle of the ocean makes a nice change on night watches!

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