Sails, Batteries and Silicone Spray.

Noon Position: 01 45.1 S 153 38.4 E
Course: North by east Speed: knots
Wind: East nor’ east, F3 gentle breeze
Sea: slight Swell: North east 1.5 meters
Weather: overcast, warm and humid
Day’s run: 79 nm

Another satisfactory day’s run. We parted company yesterday with me standing in the back of the cockpit scanning the horizon for wind. Here is how the day went from there.

We continued to drift until 14.45 when a light air came in from the south west, causing my all purpose wind and weather indicator, the Australian flag, to stand out from the backstay and flap gently from side to side. It wasn’t much but it was enough for the drifter, so up it went. At 15.10 the wind picked up a little more as a rain shower passed over us, so I raised the mainsail to it and we picked up speed to 2.9 knots. By 15.50 the rain was pouring down in torrents – out buckets and shampoo. Fifteen minutes later, as the rain suddenly cleared, it was once more totally calm. Down came the sails and we drifted some more.

But not for long. At 16.55 the wind started to pick up again from the south west. Another thunderhead was approaching so this time I opted for the jib. At 17.10 the wind backed around to the south sou’ east and freshened to about twelve knots. I gybed the jib to the new wind direction and Sylph picked up speed to five and half knots. We carried this breeze until early evening when it backed further into the east. At 19.10 I raised the mainsail with one reef in it to keep Sylph balanced and her speed up. We continued to the north nor’ east making good six knots. At 20.15 the wind was easing, I shook out the reef but by 20.45 the wind was once more down to a light air, but now from the north east and well forward of the beam. The drifter is not an upwind sail so I dropped the mainsail and left a bit of jib up to reduce Sylph’s roll.

We drifted for three hours, until midnight when a light breeze came in from the east nor’ east. I set the mainsail and jib to it and once again we were making ground to the north at a modest three and a half knots. The breeze has fluctuated in strength and direction since than but has been sufficiently steady for Sylph to keep on sailing throughout the remainder of the night and morning. Because the wind has mostly been in the north east we have not made any ground to the east as I was hoping, and in fact have spent much of the forenoon watch skirting the eastern side of Lyra Reef. According to the charts there is a minimum depth over it of six meters so it should not have caused us any problems, except perhaps causing disturbed water conditions. In the end we have remained about three miles clear of it, so did not experience any disturbances apart from catching a brief glimpse of a small pod of small whales a few hundred yards ahead of us; perhaps Orcas, undoubtedly feeding on the marine life that gathers about such a reef.

Apart from sail handling, this morning’s major chore was swapping the heavy deep cycle lead acid batteries around. Last night it became obvious to me that one of the battery banks was not holding its charge, and as this was the bank that is used to start the engine, it did not have enough power in it to turn the engine over, despite attempts to revitalise them using the little Honda genset connected to a smart battery charger. So this morning, while keeping a watchful eye out for Lyra Reef, I pulled the floor boards up and the four heavy batteries out and swapped them all around, so that the good batteries were now connected to the engine. Those of you who are somewhat familiar with boats are undoubtedly raising a quizzical eyebrow to this procedure, wondering why I could not have simply flipped a switch to achieve the same end. All I can say is Sylph, despite her age, or indeed perhaps because of it, is a continuous work in progress, and as such some things tend to be a little eccentric. This little anomaly was left unresolved after I had installed the new engine and changed the electrical system from twenty four volts to the more standard twelve. I will probably sort it out a little better when we get to Japan and buy a couple of new batteries.

I will leave you now, if in fact If you are still with me, with my safety tip for the day: Do not lubricate your stove gimbals with silicon spray, especially when one of the burners is alight, even if it is the far burner. Silicone, or at least the solvent in which it is dissolved, is quite flammable. Rather, I would recommend olive oil as a lubricant; it works just as well and has a much higher flash point. Of course I am sure that no one would be so silly, but, just in case.

All is well.