Where Next?
Bob Williams
Fri 13 May 2011 00:25
Noon Position: 17 48.0 S 165 27.0 W
Course: West Speed: 4 knots
Wind: South, F3 gentle breeze
Weather: Partly cloudy, warm, slight seas
Day's run: 90 miles

BEEEP … BEEEP … BEEEP … what's that? An alarm but what? I get up from my sight reductions and look around. It is the newly installed AIS, an alarm I am not familiar with, which has just picked up a contact 16 miles away. Brilliant, it works! Sylph has many alarms on board. I have mentioned my "Watch Commander", the glorified egg timer, several times in the past, an invaluable piece of safety equipment for the tired single hander. It will never let you sleep when you need to get up, particularly useful when making landfall or for coastal navigation. Its major limitation is that the maximum time interval it will go out to is 27 minutes. I believe the newer ones will go out to an hour. Then there are the two kitchen timers to make sure I don't miss various things, like putting a fix on the chart or getting up every couple of hours when out in the opeen ocean to check the sails etc., and of course to time the boiling of an egg and other such domestic niceties. Then there is the GPS which occasionally goes off when it reckons it has lost reliable fixing, very rare these days, or is approaching a way point. There is the FM/MW/LW/SW synthesized receiver which I mentioned the other day which has its own unique and persistent little alarm. I set this for when I wish to receive a weather fax. The depth sounder has an alarm for either deep, shallow or fish, very useful when navigating shoal waters. And finally, I almost forgot it because it very rarely goes off, is the carbon monoxide detector next to the diesel heater. So quite a few alarms for a little old boat.

Last night was very tiring. We had two rain squalls go past. You can tell when they approach because the wind invariably picks up and shifts direction, in this part of the world towards the north, which generally entails putting a reef or two in the mainsail. Sylph takes off and then the pitter patter of some light raindrops can be heard followed by the heavy splosh of fat globulous drops heralding the real downpour. As the heavens open up (that is if the squall goes over the top which often it doesn't) the wind starts to die off and the seas to flatten out, a good time to have a shower if it isn't too cold. Then quite suddenly it will be past, the rain will stop and we are left behind the back end of the rain cell with no wind and confused seas, Sylph rolling and hobby horsing all over the place, the sails slatting and the counter slamming. After listening to this for maybe two minutes, hoping that just maybe, just maybe the gradient wind will kick back in in just a moment, which it never does, I go back on deck, drop sail and return below to towel off and flop in my bunk for a while until the wind returns and we can set sail again. (This is one of those occasions where I set one of the kitchen timers for about 20 minutes to get up and have a look around for the wind.) The whole process generally takes a little over an hour.

So I slept through morning stars this morning, no big deal, not like there is any land or reefs nearby to worry about, we have several days to go before landfall, and I can always cheat and sneak a peek at the GPS.

The ship is getting closer, now about 3 miles away on a course of 045, speed 13.5 knots and has a CPA (closest point of approach) of about a mile. The thing even tells me the ship's name, the Pacific Makassar. How very neat.

All is well.