In The Forties

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 12 Jan 2010 17:35
Position: 42 25.5 S 061 13.5 W
Course: Southeast Speed 3.5 knots
Wind: Southwest, F7: near gale
Weather: Partly cloudy.
Day´s Run: 97 nm

The front played around with us a bit before declaring its hand early this morning. At least we were ready. After the pre-frontal trough had passed through the cold front started to give moe hints of its presence, a cool dry air stream´providing once more a cloudless night and brilliant stars, by midnight the barometer had fallen to 997 mb but it didn´t begin to blow until 3.30 a.m. when the wind picked up from the west and within a few hours had backed around to the southwest and increased to ??, having no wind instruments (well I do have a hand held anemometer (thankyou Hank and Cathy) but it and I would get thoroughly drenched just to be able to put a number on an observable fact (this would provide the basis for an nesting philosophical discussion with my scientist friend Greg from Adelai III)) so I would estimate force 7, about 30-35 knots. At that time I had some jib set so I crawled into foul weather gear and furled it which left us with the trysail and staysail. This proved a good combination for the conditions and had us making a respectable 5 to 6 knots into the rapidly increasing seas. With sunrise I reluctantly climbed once more into to my foul weather gear to attend to some loose ends on deck. At this stage all my clothing was dry and I wanted it to stay that way for as long as possible. Some of the spray cloths were coming loose, I tied those up. The staysail sheet was chafing, I re-led the sheet. I looked forward to the staysail, it was starting to luff quite a bit, and I looked aft to the windvane, the vane was working rather wildly. The wind had obviously increased a notch. I decided to try the boat under the trysail alone and without the windvane. This didn´t take long and I had thus far remained relatively dry, my foul weather gear was of course wet on the outside with spray but no significant water had ingressed to the layers beneath. This pleased me. I stood in the cockpit and surveyed the scene. Waves were now well formed, large (about 3 meters) and breaking regularly. With the stayail up Sylph had been forging through them and while a little exciting at times I felt she was in control. Now without the staysail she was wallowing. A large wave broke against the bow, cataracts of spray burst over the coach house and water cascaded down the decks, but more importantly the wave had managed to push Sylph´s bow off the wind and it took her a little while to recover and climb back up. Another breaking wave following the first could easily have made matters interesting. It did not feel comfortable. I decided to set the storm jib and see what difference that would make. Sitting on the foredeck hanking the sail onto the inner forestay, the waves continued to break over us, now I was getting wet. I would have needed a dry suit to keep the water out. At one point while kneeling on the side deck re-leading a sheet Sylph came off a wave and buried the deck and me up to my chest. "Oh bother!" I thought as I felt the cool water pour down inside the front of my foul weather jacket and on down into my boots to the souls of my thick warm woollen socks.

First set of the stormbound did not go so well. It flogged madly as I hoisted it, the sheets thrashing wildly threatening to decapitate me and one of them managed to wrap itself around my wrist. I quickly got free, abandoned my safety tethers and beat a hasty retreat to the cockpit to get some tension on the sheet. "Double bother!¨" the sheet had come undone and lay limp and useless in the waist. I made my way back to the foredeck avoiding the flogging jib, released the halyard and sitting on the deck pulled it down by its luff. Keeping a knee on the jib I reached for the sheet and soon had the bowline retied, giving it an extra tug to ensure it wouldn´t come undone a second time. The second set went OK. With only a third the sail area of the staysail it could not hope to draw Sylph along as well but it did make a difference, and helped Sylph hold a slightly better angle to the wind and waves, close reaching at about three to four knots. Sylph, and I, felt a lot more comfortable.

I looked around, the seas were well formed now, they seemed rather steep but Sylph climbed each one without a problem. Time for some breakfast.

Since then I have kept a nervous eye on things from the security of the companionway, so far all seems to be going OK. My thoughts turn to young Jessica Watson. She is down here somewhere on the wrong side of the Horn and the weather fax does not look good, those isobars are way too tight for my liking. I hope she is OK. I reckon someone ought to drop her parents in a liferaft down here for a couple of days, might help them to think a bit about their responsibilities. But with not much else I could do for the moment, the sun shining, visibility excellent, I decided to join Bob Cat and catch up on a little sleep.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Catch up! I have not yet begun to sleep. The skipper comes in damp and cold, rudely pushes me to one side and expects me to catch up on some sleep. And there is a lot of noise out there, I am not a very happy feline.