The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Fri 9 Feb 2018 06:17



24:59S 11:50E


So far we've done 205 miles with 1,130 miles to go to St Helena. We did 120 miles in the last 24 hours.  We have 100% cloud cover, a light sea mist and 3-5 knot West winds.  We’re motor-sailing at 5 knot with a ½ metre swell.  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


8 February 2018   Namibia to St Helena (Day 2)

It was a miserable, cold, grey morning with a light 5 knot SSW wind and a sea mist wetting everything on deck.  While we were in Lüderitz, our decks, rig and ropes were covered in sand and dirt blown from the desert.  Unfortunately, the condensation from the sea mist isn’t enough to wash everything, instead we now have wet muck on every surface and have to wash our hands every time we adjust a rope or go on deck.


Last night Glenys and I agreed a strategy of only motoring at night – it’s so depressing doing a three hour watch and only going 3 miles.  Like good little sailors, we turned the engine off at 07:00 and then slopped around only managing an average boat speed of 1 knot.


I downloaded a GRIB weather forecast, which showed there’s a trough coming through causing these light SSW winds, which will persist all today and all tomorrow.  Early on Saturday 10th, we should get SSW 15-20 for a few days.  The good news is that the water temperature has risen by 1½° to 11°C.


At 09:00, I cracked up and turned on the engine – I’d had enough of the sails slatting and the boom banging as we rolled in the remorseless swell.  I reasoned that we’ve still got enough fuel to motor for 5 days – that’s 2 days until the wind arrives plus a reserve of 3 days to get us into St Helena.


Bizarrely, 30 minutes later, the wind suddenly veered by 180° degrees and increased to 8-10 knots from the north.  We still had the spinnaker pole set out to port, so I had to spend 15 minutes stowing the pole, swapping the running back stays and gybing the sails, so that we could turn the engine off and sail hard on the wind on starboard tack making 3.5 - 5 knots. 


We have a constant stream of Shearwaters and Albatross flying past us, struggling to stay aloft in the light winds. I spent a while trying to photograph them, but the sea mist kept fogging my lens and the dull conditions made for dull pictures. It was frustrating – sometimes I waited for ½ hour and none came near; and at other times I’d spot one very close, but the time that I’d scrabbled for my camera it was gone.  It kept me occupied for a while.


The wind dropped and backed to dead ahead at midday, so we started the engine again.  The cold, saturating mist persisted and we heard the mournful sound of a ship’s fog horn when it passed  three miles in front of us – we knew it was there because of the wonders of AIS.  We dug out our fog horn, which is a small human-blown horn like you’d use at a football match.  Glenys made an effort at sounding it, but it’s unlikely that the ship heard it because its range is probably only ½ mile.


I went to bed at 13:30 and, as I was snuggling down under the duvet in the only warm place on the boat, I heard Glenys pulling out sails and cranking winches.  When I surfaced three hours later, we were cracking along at 6 - 7 knots on a port beam reach with 10-12 knot winds.  To make things even better, the fog had lifted and the sun was shining.


The wind continued into the night until 23:00, when it dropped again.  After 3 hours of motor-sailing, the wind veered by 30 degrees and picked up to 8 knots from the west putting us close hauled with 5 knots boat speed.  We continued sailing until dawn.