Position Report on Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sat 29 Mar 2014 15:16

Position Report on Saturday, 29 March 2014 at 0800


03:40.72S 093:00.36W


We had a hell of a night last night.  Glenys is repairing a rip in our main sail, it’s raining with horrible grey skies and the sea is very confused – it’s like being in a washing machine.  We’re still heading south-south-west looking for the trade winds, we’ll be glad when we’re clear of this crappy weather.  Here’s what we did yesterday and overnight.


28 March 2014   Galapagos to Marquesas (Day 2)

After breakfast, I downloaded a GRIB file via our satellite phone, which shows that the unsettled weather of the ITCZ is still between 4:S and 7:S.  The GRIB file shows heavy rainfall and 20 knot winds in various areas of the ITCZ over the next seven days and we've got to pass through it to get to the south-east trade winds.  My biggest worry is encountering squalls and lightning.


The wind picked up at  nine o'clock, so we were able to fly the spinnaker, but it only lasted for two hours before we had to turn the engine back on.  We motored all day with the wind staying below five knots and constantly changing direction. 


I switched on the SSB radio at midday and chatted to the other boats on our little radio net. There's six of us out here; Baraka are a day in front of us and the other four (Shakti, Kika, Hera and Levana) are all within 30 miles of Alba.  We're all heading down towards 5 or 6 degrees south looking for steady winds.  Baraka is 120 miles ahead and still has variable weather.


Our afternoon was a quiet affair, reading and napping.  Glenys cooked some of the yellow fin tuna for dinner, which was delicious.  It has a nice, light coloured meat, much nicer than the dark red meat of the Bonitos that we've been catching recently.  I wonder how much difference it made to bleed the fish for ten minutes?


It started drizzling as darkness fell and the rain continued on and off for most of the night.  The wind finally returned at one o'clock, but bizarrely, it was coming from the west. However, it was only 10-14 knots and it was quite comfortable even though we were sailing hard on the wind. 


By three o'clock, the wind had dropped to 5-10 knots and veered to the north-west, so we were on a reach, but worryingly, I saw flashes of lightning in the clouds.  Ten minutes later, the wind had backed around to the south and increased to 20 knots, so I had a hectic time tacking both sails, then rolling away the staysail and reefing the genoa.  We continued on a close reach, with heavy rain and the wind increasing to 25 knots, so I had to put another reef in the main and roll away more of the genoa. By this time Glenys had got out of bed and was providing moral support – there was no moon and it was as black as Hades out there.


An hour later, the wind started to drop and then suddenly backed to the north-east.  Ten minutes later, we were getting 30 knots winds from behind us with torrential rain. He autopilot was struggling with the confused seas and strong gusts, so I ended up hand steering for an hour.  We only had a scrap of genoa out, and I had the heavily reefed main pulled centrally to stop us rolling.  At one point, we recorded 42 knots with the wind behind us.


We had no idea where the centre of the weather system was, so all we could do was to head south west.  The wind finally started to abate at dawn. 


I went forward to investigate a flapping noise and found to my horror that we had a large eight foot rip in the mainsail. The wind was still blowing 20 knots and the seas were horrible, but we had to get the mainsail down before it ripped even more.  We turned into wind and motored slowly into the waves, then had a ten minute struggle on the bucking foredeck to get the main down and shoved into the cockpit.  Fortunately, most of the tear is where stitching has been ripped out, which can be fairly easily repaired.  There’s a bit more damage on the leech of the sail and we’ll have to sew on a one foot long patch, but it’s not impossible.