Monday, June 12, 2006

Less than 1000 nm to go

As of 6am we have 933 miles to go. The weather hasn't improved and we're still sailing under heavily reefed sails in strong squally winds. Compared with the effortless 150+ mile days we achieved in the first half of the trip, it now feels as though we've more than earned every mile we make west, with frequent adjustments to the sails and attention to the helm required as we hand-steer through the squalls and lulls. We've tried different strategies; initially we'd reef at the onset of a squall then increase the sail when the squall passed. Inevitably as we became tired we tended to reef too late and ended up slopping around with too little sail up in the lulls. So the next strategy was to sail under reefed sail, but with sufficient sail to keep us sailing through the lulls and hand-steer through the squalls when George (our wind-vane) struggled to keep the course. This worked well, and gave us something purposeful to do but was tiring.

The huge southern ocean swells of yesterday have diminished, leaving a confused sea in the cross-swell, but resulting in more easily steerable seas. So after much trail and error, we've managed to sufficiently balance the sails to allow George to steer through the squalls and lulls. It's a revelation, we're getting good rest, we're racing along in a reasonably straight line without too much rolling and we can marvel at the atrocious scene around us from the relative dryness of the spray hood. Despite the wetness it's thrilling sailing. The large seas of yesterday also brought their own excitement; on occasions we registered 10knots on the log while surfing and hand-steering down the waves. At these moments Kika came alive, feeling as responsive as a high-performance sailing dinghy.

Before the huge swell had subsided life down-below was difficult, the motion of the boat was erratic with extremely violent rolls. Yesterday I cooked one of my infamous treacle sponge puddings and for lunch we decided to have spanish omelette and treacle sponge and custard. What a mess. The poor gimbals on the stove couldn't keep up with the erratic motion with a third of the omelette ending up in a 50cm radius around the stove. The non-slip surface couldn't contain the custard mixing jug which deposited its contents in the condiments locker. Still the end result, although somewhat diminished, was worth the effort.

We spied our first boat of the crossing yesterday, a large fishing boat about 1 mile to our stern, they didn't respond to our friendly VHF calls, perhaps we weren't such a novelty to them.

As of last night Zefferin were 37 miles behind us, they are catching us up, but at a slower rate. Positively, it's proving useful to have someone close who is experiencing the same weather. We compared strategies and wetness - they've given up using their wind-vane and have switched to their electronic autopilot and hand-steering through the squalls.

We're not sure how much longer this weather will last, but while it does we can make the most of it. Tomorrow we're going to perfect the water catching system, Currently the pipe from the bimini leaks, with the leak strategically placed to pour water down the helm's neck.
Position @ 22:15 UTC: S07°20' W121° 23'
Daily distance run: 160 nm (estimated)
Distance to go: 1024 nm
Cumulative distance: 1809 nm
Engine hours:0
Wind: SE/E/ENE 10-30 knots
Weather: rough sea, 100% cloud cover, frequent showers, 1009 millibars,
gusts up to 35 knots

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