Thursday, December 22, 2005

Trade wind sailing

It's been an exhilarating and wild day's sailing under clear skies. The trade winds have reestablished themselves and we're well within them. The sea is still lumpy, but the wind has been consistent 18-25 knots and we've been making a good 6+knots under double reefed main and reefed twin head sails. It's great to be making good progress under sail again.

We crossed the 40deg west line today at 10am (ships time). Ed and Ellen who we met in Santa Cruz and shared much of their hard-won experience with us, gave us a leaving present with strict instructions not to open it until we'd crossed 40deg W. It's a DVD of their first sailing trip - over 20 years ago - we watched the first few sections in which they meet, build their boat, sail to the Bahamas and are just about to set for the Virgin Islands. It's a great present and we plan to watch the rest when we're at anchor in Martinique.
Ed & Ellen in Tenerife
Ed & Ellen in Tenerife

I've been keeping busy fixing odds and ends. One of the jobs on the never ending to-do list was to solve the intermittent problems with the wind instrument. The torrential rain over the last few days seems to have finally killed it - the inside face is covered with condensation making the dial barely readable. I've been putting off looking into the problem as I was concerned that the mast-head cable from the wind-dial might have been damaged when the inner forestay was fitted. Replacing the
cable would be time-consuming and difficult. Also we'd been content to use the mast-head wind indicator. Unfortunately the bimini now obscures our view of the mast-head so the ostrich approach to problem solving couldn't be sustained. Fortunately Kika's inventory included a spare wind instrument. It turned out the fault lay with the instrument and not with the cabling. It was straight-forward to swap the two. We have a working wind instrument once again - just hope the skies remain clear to give
the sealant a chance to cure.

While I was fiddling with wind instrument wiring I heared a buzzing sound which I hadn't registered before. New noises worry me. I want to find out what's making them otherwise I lie awake at night imagining any number of horrors. Normally I discover that the sound of the mast fracturing is in-fact a loose cabbage crashing around in a locker. This time I imagined the electronic autopilot's mptor spinning furiously out of control, which would be strange as the wind-vane steers us. Instead the noise turned out to be the buzz of the wind/water generator's dump resistors. The buzzing sound is a little like the fizzing you hear from high-voltage power-lines on a rainy day. It turned out that the batteries were approaching full charge and the regulator was diverting battery charging current to the dump resistors. We've had the water generator out for a few days and it looks as though it's managed to fully recharge the batteries. This means given decent winds there is no need to run the engine simply to recharge.

We've been having difficulty sending email. It turns out for some frequencies the mail software isn't tuning the transmission frequency correctly. We have a work around of using a more limited set of frequencies we know work and we'll wait until Martinique to download the latest software. In the meantime if we carefully choose the time and station we have no problem connecting.

At 37.5W we passed into another time-zone (utc-3), but we're still acclimatising to our previous change so will probably keep our current ship's time until after Christmas.

Tomorrow we plan to put up Christmas decorations in earnest, although first we'll have to make them out of silver foil and coloured paper - just like being back at school....

Position at 14.40 UTC: 15deg 26'N, 40deg 13'W
Daily distance run: 135nm; cumulative distance: 1767:
Engine hours: 0
Distance to go: ~ 1200nm
Conditions: NE 15-20 knots, rough sea, 1012 millibars

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