St Helena Northwards - Day Five 09 15.175S 012 47.528W

Mike and Liz Downing
Tue 8 Apr 2014 17:06
The light winds have continued and the speed dropped down to 2 to 3kts again during periods overnight. But overall it's been a little better as far as wind strength is concerned and our noon-to-noon run was 104.7 miles. Weatherwise, we had quit a few clouds overnight and again today, but it's stayed generally sunny most of the time. It's been another lovely day sailing, gently moving along at around 4 to 5kts in a slight sea.

Having not seen any wildlife (or in fact, any life whatsoever!) for several days, we had our first visitors today. A pair of terns came past, but too far away to identify what they were. A Brown Booby however, came very close and circled the boat several times before deciding, like others before it, that the solar panels looked like a good runway and came in to land. However, it lost it's nerve with about a foot to go, aborted the landing and decided to go for a swim in the sea instead! Looking towards us as we continued on our way, it was clearly very puzzled about what had just taken place. It hasn't come back! We suspect the wildlife has appeared as we are much closer to the only land for hundreds of miles, Ascension being about 110 miles to the north.

The Booby actually chose a good time to land on the solar panels as the mincing machine (the wind generator) that's up there hasn't turned for days. It needs an apparent wind of at least 9kts for the blades to turn and it's been more like 5 to 7kts most of the time. That doesn't help the electricity generation needed to keep the freezer going. Neither does the tow generator struggling to make more than a few amps. In fact the other night we were going so slowly we pulled it in. We would normally wait for daylight, but at around midnight decided that it wasn't generating anything worthwhile and was just slowing us down, so in it came (and at 2kts it was very easy to do!). It stayed out for most of the day, but once the speed was back up to 4 to 5kts it went back in again. The tow gen normally averages around 5 amps, so 120 amp hours a day. The wind gen, on a downwind passage, would normally only give about 2 amps, so 48 amp hours, giving a total of about 170 amp hours a day. The solar panels normally average around 9 amps for perhaps 8 hours, so 72 amp hours, but with the sunny conditions we've been having we're getting more like 12 amps, so 96 amp hours. If you're still with me (and I'm not sure I am!), in these conditions that gives a deficit of around 100 amp hours, so the generator has to be run more to make up the difference. That uses more fuel, so we hope we might be able to top up the fuel tank again. Did that in St Helena, using the two 20 litre cans that we have on deck - putting 40 litres in the tank and then getting them filled ashore. We have used about 20 litres in the generator on this trip, so it would be good to top up the tank again. Always like to have it full before a long passage, just in case we need it and to reduce the risk of condensation (water) in the tank. (For anyone considering a wind generator, it needs a decent apparent wind. With 20kts plus it will generate between 15 and 20 amps. In a really windy anchorage it can get up to 25 amps. So it's good to have, but needs the right conditions.)

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