Day 56 – Furthest South

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 7 Feb 2022 18:00
Noon Position: 55 55.2 S 071 28.6 W
Course: ESE Speed: 6.5 knots
Wind: NNE, F5 Sea: moderate
Swell: NW 3 meters
Weather: overcast, cool
Day’s Run: 145 nm

Yesterday evening, just before sunset, I sat in the cockpit for about an hour assessing conditions and deciding what the plan should be for the night. We were down to a staysail with a scrap of jib unrolled to help prevent Sylph from broaching if any breaking seas might catch her off guard. I guessed the wind to be around the forecast 40 knots. The wind was forecast to remain at that strength throughout the night so I could expect the seas perhaps to get slightly larger. Also there was the possibility that the forecast might not be quite right and that the wind could get stronger. My options were basically to continue as we were or to stream the drogue to help stabilise Sylph’s attitude to the seas coming from astern. Ultimately, I decided that Sylph was doing very well as she was. She was doing six to seven knots, the wind vane was performing well and the seas looked well formed and stable. It seemed to me that keeping Sylph moving was her preferred option, so that is what we did.
Eventually I turned in, setting an alarm for every hour so I could make sure Sylph was still managing okay and adjust things if needed. Obviously it is a lot more difficult at night to judge what is going on. Basically one has to rely on hearing and the feel of the boat. Initially I was very tense but by about midnight I had relaxed considerably. Sylph was once more tracking fast and smooth. I wondered whether conditions had changed significantly but she was still making good seven to eight knots and I could hear the wind howling outside so that must not have changed. I wondered whether South America might now be providing something of a lee and reducing the seas and swell but it was still over 60 miles away so that seemed unlikely. In the end I stopped worrying, rolled over and got some more sleep, leaving Sylph to manage things.
Come 0200, however, I was certain that conditions were abating, much earlier than forecast. Sylph was down to about five knots and she was rolling. Initially I thought I would leave things until daylight but it was clear that Sylph was not happy, so I got up, donned foul weather gear and went on deck to have a look around. I really do not want to loiter in this part of the world any longer than absolutely necessary so I started setting more sail, and a half hour later we were under full sail again.
But the lull in conditions did not last for long. Since 0230 the wind has picked up again from the north, but only to force 5 so we have reduced sail to two reefs in the main and 50% jib, with the staysail still set. Thus Sylph is now close reaching at six to seven knots making good a course of ESE.
Meanwhile, from this morning’s radio sched with Coconut, it would seem she is getting a more torrid time of it. Mark reported he was experiencing force 9 winds gusting force 10, that the seas were large and confused, and that in the gusts the wind was absolutely screaming. Several times during our conversation Mark had to break off to adjust the self-steering. He reported that one particularly strong gust had laid Coconut over on her side and she hung there for quite a while but eventually recovered. Unfortunately the sched was cut short as Mark was just too busy taking care of Coconut. We have another sched this afternoon so hopefully things will have calmed down a bit by then.
My plan remains to continue to make best speed to the Horn and get behind Staten Island before the low pressure system that Coconut is currently enduring about 260 miles to the west makes it way to Sylph’s vicinity, though by then I hope it will have lost some of its sting.
The only other little drama I have to report is that my hot water bottle leaked this morning and now the foot of my bunk is wet with sea water. I think I over-tightened the plastic bung with the idea of preventing just this eventuality. Not to worry, it is only one end of the bunk and eventually we will find some sunshine to dry it out. And one of the lines on the port lazy jacks has chafed through so that will require a climb aloft, but only to the spreaders. Unlike the boom topping lift, the lazy jacks are not very important with regards to sailing the boat, so they can wait until conditions improve.
This marks the furthest south that Sylph has been to date, though not the highest latitude which was the Arctic Circle in 2008. Last time we were in this part of the world was when we sailed through the Chilean channels and the furthest south we got would have been in the approaches to Beagle Channel at about 55° 08’ S.
Distance to Cape Horn: 140 nm.
All is well.