Breezy Angles and Inner Debates

Catching up with you all on the weekend out here in the watery world. Decent breezes and good angles kept us averaging around 9 and 10 knots for most of the last few days – just the right speed for providing you that sense of forward progress! At the moment, as dawn rises on Saturday after the full moon sets, I’m closing in on the waypoint where I’ll start to make the big turn east and set up the final 2200 mile run to Cape Town.

http://goo.gl/maps/V5eeM26.92078W, 29.67041S

After consulting with our weather gurus at Commander’s Weather this morning, it’s looking like I should arrive at the waypoint just about the same time as a passing front that may give me some weather issues, but they don’t look to be really bad ones. The winds will be from the North (by northwest) and then switch to the southwest, but either of those directions should push me towards Cape Town, so that’s good. I may have to endure another day or two of squalls and higher winds, but the results should prove all positive. We’ll see how it all plays out by the beginning of the week. The thing about weather that you have to get used to out here is that it never stops! It just changes either slowly or quickly from one state to another, from weaker to stronger and back again … and those changes may proceed as predicted, or they might not. There’s never a guarantee that nature will play nice with your human plans.

Friday was a great day for drying out things, and I’ve got lots of foul weather gear and clothes strewn around the cockpit to give them a chance to fully dry out.  Regardless of what they say, nothing out here is water-proof and breathable … you’re either sweating faster than it can breathe or the water inevitably works its way through whatever material is covering you. I expect my pants could stand up by themselves with all the salt dried into the weave!!

A toastThe photo on the right here, that’s from last weekend, on the evening after we crossed the equator … when I opened the bottle of Irish Cream that my friend Joe Harris had thoughtfully provided. You can see the splash there … as tradition requires … a little onto the deck as a toast to Neptune, to the good ship that bears you and to this newbie equatorial crosser.

The other night, a visit from a bird initiated what would be a long night’s encounter. It hovered around the high corner of the stern for a while, then flew to the bow and jumped out in front and led us on for a while. Then it circled around a few times before trying once again to land on my head! I got some great photos of him flying by, but I can’t upload them (perhaps) until I get to Cape Town, as our KVH satellite system is out of range this far south of the Equator. Nonetheless, he did land and settled into a spot on the sail that is sitting on the weather rail trying to block some of the water that comes into the cockpit. Not more than 20 minutes later, another bird arrived and did the same thing, this time settling in on the edge of the splash guard where he could check out the first bird. From time to time all night long, they’d get up, fly around, dart in and out of the rigging and then settle back down and rest. Not sure where they might be headed or coming from, but it was nice to have some company through the dark and windy night. I thought all the spray might drive them away, but it never seemed to phase them. We are all clearly a bunch of tough old birds out here.

32.7234W, 1.8690S
Not exactly the bird in the story … similar but different … This one at 32.7234W, 1.8690S

Some days keep you busy, other days, you spend the extra time doing battle with your own mind. Yesterday, I was experiencing frustration with the wind and the instability of the boat, not to mention my desire to just point the bow to Cape Town. A lot of arguments ensued with both sides of the argument being vigorously debated by me, and all of which I won handily. I’ve learned that when frustrations arise, it usually means I’m either tired, hungry or in need of a break in the routine. Last night, I did my best to shut down my thoughts and I spent the night napping in my standard 15-20 minute intervals. I didn’t even try to do any writing, reading or other work, just tried to relax and rest … and this morning, I felt a lot better and pretty refreshed!

Today, Saturday … has been a good day and I’ve only a couple of hours left until sunset. These middle of the day hours, it’s necessary to get out of the cockpit and out of the sun. The cockpit is just too hot, because the sun is behind the boat and the cockpit coverings block the breeze. I generally spend a few hours below doing some work, thinking, napping, reading or writing.

Today has included a bit of everything, not to mention coaxing the wind to increase some, so I don’t have to change sails! If I were racing, I’d be changing sails without question, but today, the sail options all fell into the “overlapping” part of the chart, meaning I could go with any of three different sails. However, if the wind lets up even a knot or two, I really should have the spinnaker up, but if it increases a knot or two, jib and main would be best. I was feeling like I wanted a day off, and as it was almost Sunday, I did my best to talk the wind up a few knots which meant we stayed with what we had up.

Having wiggled my way out of that chore, I did add some water to the ballast tanks to help offset the wind. There are two ballast tanks on each side of the boat – the bigger one is 480 liters and the smaller one 270 liters, which makes for 750 liters total on each side. This ballast water weight makes the boat more stable and faster, and helps balance out the boat against the force of wind in the sails. At capacity then, the weight is roughly equivalent to having 10 guys sitting on the rail.

As I write this, I’m now sailing at about 9 knots which should translate into about 225 miles for the day, which is just what I need to make that waypoint by Monday and still stay ahead of the front! Typically, the winds ease up about sunset, and then come back a couple of hours later. Maybe I’ll have an easy night of it and not have to work so hard. If so, think I’ll go out for a movie and a pizza! (LOL!)

So, on we go…. sailing through the South Atlantic on our way to the southern tip of Africa!

- Dave, Bodacious Dream and the especially convivial Franklin
26.92078W, 29.67041S