A Flying Start

Noon Position (3 Dec): 14 56.0 S 147 17.2 E
Course: North east. Speed: 6 knots
Wind: South east, F5 - fresh breeze
Sea: moderate Swell: SE 2 meters
Weather: sunny and warm.
Days run: 140 nm

As expected once we cleared the Barrier Reef the sea became a lot rougher,
but Sylph with two reefs in the main and a half furled jib continued to
plough through the sea and swell at a furious seven knots, throwing sheets
of water over her bow and flinging spray high into the air. Approaching
sunset I took stock of the conditions. If anything the wind had picked up a
few knots. I was concerned about overloading the partially rolled up jib
and decided it might be a good idea to set the staysail before dark. The
first thing I did was don foul weather gear, then I rolled up the jib to
slow Sylph down a little and reduce the amount of water she was throwing
around everywhere. This helped a bit. Sylph calmed down a bit like a race
horse that has just run a hard race, she jogged along at about three and a
half knots, though there was still plenty of water coming over the bow.
Clipping on with the safety line I crawled forward and connected up the
inner forestay, then back to the cockpit, I fetched the bagged staysail and
dragged it up to the foredeck, hanked it on to the forestay, attached the
sheets, led them through the staysail sheet blocks back to the cockpit, put
a little tension in them, then to the mast, hauled in the staysail halyard
and up she went without a hitch. Back to the cockpit, winched the sheet in
a little more, and off Sylph went again, a lot less sail now but still she
careened over and through the waves.

I must confess that the last twenty four hours have been a little nerve
racking. We have been sailing in mostly benign conditions for the last
several months, so it takes a little while to get accustomed to the noise
and movement of the vessel in such boisterous conditions. Having gotten
through the night without any breakages so far, my confidence is returning
and I am feeling fairly relaxed. We have made excellent progress, covering
140 miles in the last 24 hours, and with the conditions forecast to remain
fresh from the southeast for the next couple of days we should be across the
Coral Sea and working our way north up the Solomon Sea in about four days
from now.

One minor problem I encountered today was discovering that there is a
problem with the satellite phone antenna. I had a great deal of difficulty
getting yesterday's messages through and this morning came to the conclusion
that there must be something wrong with the coaxial cable between the
antenna and the phone. I checked all the connections but they all seemed
good. I then took the actual phone out into the cockpit with its integral
antenna attached and immediately got a strong signal. I had close look at
the external marine antenna and there are some suspicious bulges in its
cover. I suspect that some water has gotten into it causing some corrosion
and swelling. I tried the emergency external antenna (basically for use in
a car) but it was no good either. For now I have lashed the phone with its
integral antenna connected under the skylight where it can get a reasonable
signal. It is not the tidiest of setups, but hopefully it will get me to my
destination where I can work out a better solution. Probably a new antenna
is required.

If I do go off the air over the next several days please do not be alarmed.
I now have three EPIRBs on board, two on the boat, and one in the liferaft,
so I reckon if the worst happens that I have a pretty reasonable chance of
being found.

RC is feeling a lot better and has adopted his usual sleeping position on
top of the ex-fridge.

All is well.