Day 149 – More Squalls

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 11 May 2022 07:47
Noon Position: 02 34.5 S 093 22.9 E
Course: SE Speed: 7 knots
Wind: SW Force 5
Sea: moderate Swell: W 2m
Weather: overcast, warm
Day’s Run: 120 nm

My prognosis that we shouldn’t see any more thunderheads for a while proved correct, up until 0330 this morning. And the thunderhead was a beauty.
It started as usual with the breeze freshening and veering. We had had a few wind shifts during the night requiring sails to be trimmed but no squalls so I was not overly concerned with this particular wind shift. I looked around and the sky did look rather inky black to the west but then the whole sky was pretty dark at this time, the half moon having set a couple of hours before. I thought about putting a reef in the main but decided to wait and see. Then, all of a sudden the wind increased to force seven and the rain started to bucket down. Sylph still had full sail up. She heeled over and took off at eight knots, the sea pummelled white with rain. I needed to reduce sail but often these squalls are short lived and by the time one has put a reef in the squall has passed. So I decided to wait for a bit more. A white-knuckled five minutes later the wind and rain had not abated.
I donned swimmers, a shirt and a foul weather jacket and clambered up the windward side to the mast. Eventually I managed to get three reefs in the main. Then it was back to the cockpit to roll up the jib. I regret I did not do a very good job of this as I lost control of the sheet, letting too much out allowing the sail flog badly before I could roll up enough to get it back under control. The sail was tough enough but the flogging causes a lot of strain on the rig, particular the forestay terminals. We have sailed a lot of tough miles now and while we are over three quarters through the voyage, we still have some five thousand miles to go with the final leg across the Australian Bight in the middle of winter likely to be a challenging section. So I reckon I need to be conserving the rig as much as possible.
By 0410 the worst of the squall was past and as the wind eased I gradually increased sail. By sunrise we were back under full sail, beam reaching to a moderate breeze making good six knots … And by 1100 we had no wind at all. I put two reefs in the main and rolled up most of the jib to prevent the sails from slatting excessively in the short two meter swell.
Which actually has turned out to be a most fortuitous thing for thirty minutes later another long dark cloud was approaching from windward. This time, being daylight, I could see the cloud clearly and after last night’s experience I thought two reefs and 30% jib should be about right.
Again rain and wind pummelled Sylph but with the reduced sail plan we bore away quite comfortably, and again within thirty minutes the worst was past. However, this particular line squall has a distinct frontal quality to it as behind the squall line the wind has steadied up from the SW at force five with a slate grey sky overhead. I wonder whether this might be a pattern associated with the SW monsoon. Alternatively, maybe the cyclone some 800 miles to our south is causing unusual weather patterns at the moment. Regardless, while the squalls are keeping us on our toes, the fresh favourable breeze is getting us to where we want to go.
All is well.