The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Thu 25 May 2017 02:47



11:50S  070:21E


So far we've done 430 miles with 660 miles to go. We did 140 miles in the last 24 hours.  We have 100% cloud cover and 15-25 knot SE winds.  We’re beating upwind into 2½ metre seas.   Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


24 May 2017   Chagos to Rodrigues (Day 3)

Daylight revealed grey skies and confused waves.  There was a 2½ to 3 metre swell from the south-east with 1 metre wind waves coming from different directions, churning up the surface of the water.  During the morning, we maintained our 180° course with 20-28 knot winds at 70 degrees apparent, so we were able to bash along at 6 to 7 knots.


The ride became much bouncier and we were taking more water over the deck, with occasional loud bangs as waves hit our port side and sent water hurtling over our sprayhood and bimini.  We have Glenys’ new dodger fastened low on the guard rails and the port side flap zipped onto the bimini, so for the time being we’re keeping most of the water out of the cockpit.


Last night, I could hear an intermittent groaning noise, which I suspected came from the block on the running backstay.  It’s very unsettling to hear a new noise and, in the dark of the night, my imagination ran wild.  In my mind, I saw the running backstay breaking, causing the mast to collapse, stranding us in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  I didn’t sleep very well.


When I got up, I greased the bearings in the block and retied a piece of bungee cord holding the block up.  Thankfully, the noise has stopped and I suspect that it was just the bungee cord rubbing on the rope of the running backstay.


A little more worrying is that the front lower shroud on the leeward side of the mast is loose.  I tightened the shroud before we left Chagos, but it’s still wobbling about when we bash into a wave.  I suspect that the mast is “panting” and bending forward when under load.  When I look up the mast, I can’t see any serious problem, but something is compressing or bending causing the shroud to go loose.  I’ll have to sort it out when we get to Rodrigues, but in the meantime all I can do is to worry.


During the afternoon, the skies cleared and the wind dropped to a more pleasant 18-22 knots, but veered by 20 degrees, putting us hard on the wind again and forcing us onto a course of 190°.  The wind stayed stable into the night, so I amended our planned route.


We’re now heading for a waypoint at 15°S 69°40E, which leaves us on this course of 190° for another 2 days.  We’ll then head for 19°S 66°E, which will put us on a course of 220° for 2 days when the winds are stronger and then it’s downwind for a day to Rodrigues.  I’m glad that we adopted the strategy of heading directly south for as long as we could – I think that trying to sail the rhumb line would give much tougher legs at the end of the passage where the winds are historically stronger.


The night stayed free of squalls, so we had a star filled sky – it would have been lovely, if we weren’t heeled over at 20 degrees and being thrown around by the 2½ metre seas.