Cape Town to St Helena - Day Eight 21 14.963S 002 03.335E

Mike and Liz Downing
Fri 21 Mar 2014 15:12
The wind started easing yesterday afternoon and continued through the night. It's now much lighter, between 10-15kts and still dead behind. With all our headsails out the we're just about keeping the speed above 5kts. So still making progress, but it seems slow compared to the speeds we've been doing up to now. The sea has dropped down to slight, but there's still enough swell to cause a little roll, which even collapses the poled out sails if they were all out, so they're not - just rolled enough to prevent that. Overnight the winds remained good enough to keep the speed around 6kts with the occasional foray around 7kts, so our noon-to-noon run was a pleasing 153 miles. We will struggle to make that over the next 24 hours as the winds are forecast to remain light for the next few days. As I write we have 528 miles to go.

It's not often on an ocean passage that the crew gets asked to take a shower and use as much water, as much hot water, as they can! That was what was needed and after Liz, I did the same. It was needed as we let the batteries run down too far overnight and the autopilot started tripping out as the voltage went too low. When the autopilot does this it switches to manual and if you don't realise it's done it you're pushing buttons in the darkness and wondering why the boat is going off course. The big genoa almost backed the first time, not something that you want to happen! The lack of sunshine yesterday significantly reduced the power from the solar panels and the reduction in wind (so little apparent wind) did the same for the wind generator. So this morning the generator was run for 2.5 hours to get the batteries back up and we needed to put a load on it, hence the need to get the watermaker going and run the immersion heater. So we needed to get rid of hot water to do that - hence the showers. The battery charger alone only uses up to 20% of the generator's output and running at that light level for long periods is not good for it. With the watermaker going, immersion heater and battery charger all on it uses up to 60%, which is much better. This afternoon the clouds are much higher in the sky and the solar panels have been putting in 13 amps on their own, so much better. The freezer and fridge are both thermostatically controlled, but when both on take 11 amps alone, so add all the instrumentation we have on and it doesn't take long to take the batteries down. (Our domestic bank is 525ah.)

Most of the shipping seems to keep relatively close to the coast and since the second day out, heading away from the coast, we've not seen any ships or any other signs of life. It's nice not to be dodging ships every day, but the odd ship on the horizon now and again is not a bad thing to remind us that we're not the only ones out here! After the comment on the wildlife, it's all been very quiet on that front too, apart from the flying fish on deck. Only had one overnight. Tends to support the theory that it's the waves that bring most of them on deck, rather than they actually fly there, as the sea was quiet last night compared with previous nights.

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