Ascension Northwards - Day Eleven 02 32.436N 034 44.974W

Mike and Liz Downing
Thu 24 Apr 2014 18:44
A night of squalls - almost continuous with the gaps between squalls being shorter than the squalls themselves! The winds in the squalls never went much higher than 20kts, so it wasn't too bad from that point of view and gave us some good speed, but the constant rain that came with each squall made it a miserable night. The clouds were so dark and thick that when the moon should have been out, it wasn't and it remained pitch black for the whole night. That really is quite rare and makes the night seem that much longer. We had taken the main down at dusk as all we could see was black clouds in every direction. It all looked very menacing. After trials with the genoa we found that we could make 5kts when really close to the wind, so decided to leave the main down for the night, not being sure what was going to come. And with all the squalls we were glad that we did. The difficulty sailing in these conditions, particularly at night, is trying to get a sail plan that you don't have to keep changing. Between the squalls the wind would drop down to 6 to 10kts and for periods the speed would drop right down. So the tactic was hard on the wind between squalls to increase the apparent wind as much as possible, and bear away when the squalls came through to reduce the apparent wind and keep the boat under control - careering into the blackness of the night at a vast rate of knots is not good for the nerves! Bearing away also got us back on course - hadn't intended to go quite so far north in the ITCZ. However, at some point (we hope!) we will pass out of the ITCZ into clearer conditions and the faster we go north, the sooner that will be. Our noon-to-noon run was 120 miles. We chose to ignore the fact that we put the clock back 2 hours and had a 26 hour day!

We have a problem with the computer - the 't' key isn't working the first time you press it. So we're having to go back and insert the 't's and may miss a few - it's surprising how many sensible words (to the spell checker) you get simply by missing off the letter 't'! Hope we haven't missed too many.

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