Cape Town to St Helena - Day Eleven 17 08.376S 003 49.742W

Mike and Liz Downing
Mon 24 Mar 2014 13:12
The last 15 hours have not been so good! It's been blowing 20-28kts, gusting to 34kts, with a rough sea (waves 3 to 4 metres, occasionally 5+). I woke up this morning around 02.30 to go on watch only to find that everything that's normally on the chart table was on the floor, including the computer. It was the right way up, so presumably made a complete somersault on the way down! It must have made quite a bang, but it didn't wake me. There are no cracks and it appears to work okay, so fingers crossed there's no damage. It must have been one of the big waves that cause us to roll quite violently every so often. You do get used to it, but things around you can become airborne, so you also need to keep your wits about you!

We were not expecting rough weather at this point in the passage. Having studied the weather in this area, our expectation was that it would be light, possibly too light to sail and we thought it more likely that we would have to motor to get in. As well as the wind, it has also rained several times and is not at all tropical! Had both poles still up overnight, but was able to roll the sails away and set half the staysail without it touching the poles. That slowed us down to a relatively pleasant 5 to 5.5kts. Took both poles down this morning and now have the staysail fully out and are making 5 to 6kts. The motion is not too good if you go too slow - the boat needs directional stability and with the staysail up making 5 to 6kts, it gets that. It also means we are making reasonable progress towards our destination. Our noon-to-noon run was 133 miles and we have 130 miles to go. Generating lots of electricity with the wind gen and tow gen (especially when surfing down a wave!), and the sun is trying to break through too, so that will help.

When going out into the cockpit for watches (and we still stand watches in the cockpit in these conditions) you look aft and see a mountain of water looming over the boat. It is like mountain scenery with high, dark craggy peaks towering behind the boat, some with snow on top! Actually breaking waves, but it looks like snow. One key difference - most mountain scenery doesn't change for hundreds, if not thousands or millions of years. The mountain scenery we see is changing every second! Old peaks fall and new peaks rise and if they break just before reaching the boat, we're surrounded in a cascade of white water. It's quite spectacular when the sun is shining too (which it now is), but not so good when it's not! The winds are considerably higher than forecast, which has been pretty good up to now. So we hope this system will pass through and we'll get back to more normal conditions soon.

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