Mostly Sailing

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 12 Dec 2013 06:23
Noon Position: 06 25.5 S 152 05.0 E
Course: North nor’ east Speed: 2.5 knots
Wind: West nor’ west, F2 - light breeze
Sea: slight Swell: South east 0.5 meters
Weather: overcast, warm, and humid
Days run: 71 nm sailed, 59 nm made good.

The light westerly breeze that we were enjoying this time yesterday remained
with us throughout the night. Indeed, at one thirty I was drawn on deck by
loud rumblings of thunder and bright flashes of lightning. It looked like
we were sailing into a large thunderhead. The breeze was still less than
ten knots but as it is difficult to judge conditions in the dark, I erred
on the side of caution, furled most of the jib, and initially reduced the
mainsail by one reef. I stayed on deck to keep a close eye on things,
enjoying nature’s impressive sound and light show. An hour later the wind
freshened ever so slightly and had a distinct chill to it. I thought it
wise to put another reef in the main. The wind was perhaps still only
touching ten knots but I have been caught out before in sudden squalls
leading to significant damage to sails, so did not want to take any chances
so early in a voyage. Despite the reduced sail in the relatively light
winds Sylph still made a nice steady three knots.

At one point in the lightning storm, I turned off the tri-light so I could
see better into the darkness. It helped, but a moment later a flash of
lightning erupted nearby. All I could see was blinding white light and then
nothing but blackness for several seconds. I was effectively blinded and it
did not feel good. I turned the tri-light back on.
By four o’clock, while it was still overcast and there was still quite a bit
of lightning about, the peak of the fireworks display seemed to be past, so
I decided it was safe to increase sail again. Initially I shook out a reef
and gave Sylph a bit more headsail, but at five, with the sky turning to
grey as dawn approached, I set full sail which allowed Sylph to reach up to
four and a half knots. I retired below for some rest but was awoken at
seven to the sound of slatting sails. The wind was gone. Down came the
sails, and down I went back to my bunk.

But the morning calm did not last long. At a little after eight a ghost of
a breeze stirred the Australian flag on Sylph’s backstay into languid life.
Just enough for the drifter, I thought, so up it went. At ten thirty the
breeze picked up a touch more, maybe all of seven knots, enough for the
mainsail, and the seas were smooth so up it went.

As a result of the light but relatively consistent breeze we have made a
respectable day’s run, sailing seventy miles and making good sixty along our
planned track. Light and fickle winds are of course to be expected when
approaching the equator, and while the last twenty four hour run was better
than expected, it is highly likely that we will have quite few more days of
drifting calms ahead of us before we get into the north east trades, when we
will likely be complaining of too much wind, not to mention the possibility
of typhoons. But it sure beats the hell out of swinging to an anchor back
in Cairns for the entire cyclone season.

All is well.