A Tad Windy

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sun 2 Jun 2013 09:02
18.00 Position: 34 52.3 S 151 01.7 E
Course: North Speed: 4 knot5s
Wind: South sou' west F8 Gale
Seas: Rough Swell: South 4 meters
Weather: partly cloudy
Day's run 148 nm (27.5 hours)

It has been a little windier than I had hoped. I left Eden with a strong wind warning, that is winds up to 30 knots, but since leaving it has turned into a full blown gale. I do not blame the weather forecaster. It is my own fault. I knew gale force winds were expected up the coast but I was thinking that I would be able to remain south of these gale force winds. As we made our way north the various coastal radio stations put out their forecasts and they have proven spot on, unfortunately. It was windy overnight, but only up to about 25 knots, which we managed comfortably under a triple reefed main and number three jib. Early this afternoon it really started to pipe up, and the seas along with it. To make matters worse the winds are undoubtedly pushing against the East Coast current, which cause them to be steeper than usual. We have had some real doozies.

As a consequence I have had a few dramas. This morning I reduced sail down to the number three jib, about half furled. We have had big breaking seas collapse over the boat, filling the cockpit several times. I do not think I have seen the cockpit so full of water before. I stood knee deep in the water watching it swirl around, wondering how long it would take Sylph to drain it off. I was pleased it did not take very long and it did not seem to weigh her down too much, which has been a bit of a concern of mine, as Sylph has quite a large cockpit and a slender stern, so less reserve of buoyancy down aft than I would ideally like. To this end I have reduced the volume of the cockpit over the years, but will do something a bit more permanent in the coming months.

The next drama occurred when I was standing in the companionway watching the wind vane at work. In the heavy conditions it is under an enormous load and I noticed that there was a little bit of movement in it that should not have been there. I donned foul weather gear and looked over the stern. Bother, the struts were loose. I grabbed a spanner to tighten them and laid prone on the aft deck leaning over the stern. Of course I got rather wet, but there was not much else I could do. I consoled myself that Francis Chickchester had a much worse time with his wind vane on Gypsy Moth IV when he sailed around the world. As I tried to tighten the struts I noticed that in fact a bolt was missing from a bracket on the transom, Oh dear, not good. Not much for it though, I had to fix it. I found a suitable bolt and after a good hour or so had it all pretty much back the way it should be. Hopefully it will not have any more trouble until Sydney. I shall make sure it gets a good overhaul before heading offshore again.

With the strong winds and heavy seas the wind vane is working overtime, so having fixed the wind vane as best I could, this afternoon I decided to give the series drogue a go. I have never used this before. I reckon in all my previous sailing there has only been one occasion when it might have been of assistance. Anyway, I won't go into details of how it works, suffice to say it slows the boat down and helps keep her stern into the waves, make it less likely that she will broach, and in theory relieving some of the load on the wind vane. So far it seems to be helping, we haven't had any heavy seas break over the stern for quite a while now, but I do not want to put the mockers on things. (Everyone touch a piece of wood as you read this - not that I am superstitious at all, but it can't hurt.)

At our current rate of progress we should be off Sydney heads tomorrow morning. Conditions are expected to abate a little, but the wind will will still be up to thirty knots or so, so getting into Sydney might be a bit of a challenge. Getting the drogue back inboard is going to be a challenge. But I will worry about that tomorrow.

All is well, so far.