In the Belly of the Whale

Hello again from the wild and windy Southern Indian Ocean! I’m just about through another frontal passage here, where it’s been blowing in the 35-knot range now for about 24 hours. Our weather gurus tells us the winds are supposed to diminish here at some point through the night, so we shall see what tomorrow will bring.

I’m getting a little risky here even pulling out the laptop, as everything both above and below deck is pretty wet. You would think that below decks, things would stay dry, and for the most part they do, but the water here is cold, so water on the outside of the hull condenses against the warmer moist air on the inside, made warmer by my body and breath and any boiling water I occasionally make. Also, there are the inevitable little leaks that show up around hardware that’s been bolted through the deck.

companionwayNow, onboard I have two companionway doors that lead below decks. One is closed all the time (unless the weather is nice) – but the other I keep open so that I can monitor what’s going on up top. That’s usually not a problem, but for the last couple of days, the angle of the wind has been mostly from behind me, which pushes thick spray right through the companionway door and into the boat! Each time a rain squall rolls in, I have to sit with the door just slightly cracked open to keep the spray out, but with still enough room to allow me to see what’s going on outside, all fully dressed as I am in my foul weather gear and safety harness, at-the-ready to jump out there to tend to any problems that might arise.

From down below in the belly of the boat, I have instruments that monitor course, wind, and speed. I also monitor how Otto (the auto-pilot) is doing, and can override him as is necessary. Otto makes all the corrections necessary via the computers and electro-magnetic compasses … sometimes sailing to a wind angle and at other times to a compass course. Presently, he is set to sail to a compass course which means that I must keep a constant watch to make sure the wind isn’t shifting to the wrong corner and forcing us into a gybe … which at these wind speeds is a huge mess … and dangerous. I adjust the course as necessary via button commands, but sometimes, a huge wave will push us far enough off course that Otto’s auto-correction goes too far the other way, which leaves me to to straighten out the mess.

Auto-Command Center
The Command Center

Sounds like pretty gnarly and complicated conditions, huh? Well, they are! The winds are strong enough, that they pulsate with the pressure. You can sense when the pressure is building, when the storm passes and when it begins to abate just by the rhythm of the wind gusts. When the lull between gusts lengthens in duration, the wind is likely losing pressure and may also be changing directions, which means, climbing outside to check the trim of the sails and make adjustments. Now up to about 30-35 knots, I can use the smallest portion of the mainsail that I call the “storm stub.” Above that though, depending on the direction of the boat and waves, I use it or take it all down.

38.3553S, 94.4701E38.3553S, 94.4701E About 650 miles away from being under the down under.

Now things can get pretty interesting when you first jump back on deck. The waves are generally pretty huge … so you have to stay alert and do what you need to do and get back below before some “ginormous” wave lands. Yesterday, one caught me by surprise and totally doused me. It was like I’d won the Super Bowl and the team took a bathtub-sized Gatorade cooler and poured it over me. I had to laugh at the sea’s sense of humor … as if to say… ”Hey … you hiding down below all the time … welcome up on deck!” Trust me, I don’t dare try to get back at the sea; escalating joking at that level could quickly get out of hand, and not to my advantage.

So, back to the present, we’re just about through this latest frontal passage, which has been a tough one, though not as extended as last week’s was. It sounds like tomorrow I’ll see a bit of daylight, but I’ve got to keep the pace up because at the same time, we’re trying to outrun a combination low/cold front that is developing just behind me. I passed under it today, but the center is moving south and then will head towards me. If I’m able to keep my pace up around 8 knots through tomorrow, I should remain east of it, which should hopefully shrink the time I spend hunkered down to around 6 hours. It should also give me a pretty good push for a day or so. Since the big winds, when they do arrive, are likely to be in the 40-50 knot range, I’d REALLY like to minimize the time I have spend in the ring with thugs like that! So, push on I do … looking for that patch of blue!

A Patch of BlueSometimes even a little blue is enough to make you happy.

Once we get through this next storm, we should be into better weather conditions, hopefully for the rest of the passage to New Zealand. We’ll be crossing the 90 E Longitude barrier and crossing under Australia heading for Tasmania and then New Zealand. As far as milestones go, this morning, it appears that I crossed the 4000 miles remaining marker, so I’m hoping to be in New Zealand by the end of the first week of February. Since all supplies are starting to run low, sooner would be better. Not to worry though, I have plenty of fresh water and freeze-dried food. It’s just I’m running low on chocolate, candy, fruit juice, crackers, cheese, fresh fruit and of course, cookies. So, I’ve got plenty of things to keep me from going hungry. It’s more about having fun things to look forward to, when the sun goes away and you’re always soggy and cold.

So for now…. there you have it! Be back in a couple of days after the next front goes by!

- Dave, Bodacious Dream and (I’m NOT going out there) Franklin

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