04/10/2015 – Whether the weather be…

This rhyme which I had to recite in speech therapy when I was 5 seems most apt for sailors crossing oceans. It ends: whether the weather, whatever the weather, whether we like it or not. The Indian Ocean crossing from Cocos Keeling to Mauritius is about 2,350 miles, expected to take between 14 and 16 days. Within this time frame a number of weather systems will develop and affect the conditions we experience. At least we have access to weather forecasting at sea via e-mails to the satellite phone, together with routing advice, luxuries not available in even the fairly recent past. Knowledge is one thing, being able to do much about it is completely different! The 5 day forecast before we left Cocos Keeling mentioned 4-5m swell, plus waves, on Friday and Saturday and a small low over a thousand miles ahead and to north of us that had the potential to develop into a tropical cyclone. By Wednesday the low had filled and disappeared, thankfully, but the advice was to work north of the rhumb line, above 13o S, to avoid the worst of the waves generated by storms south of us caused by a massive low about 2,000 miles away. The waves would, of course, be from a different direction to the swell leading to confused, uncomfortable seas. On schedule, the waves built quite quickly during Friday, together with an increase in the wind, but started to subside Saturday afternoon. The wind has also dropped a little but we are still making a good speed. In the tropics squalls are always a possibility, usually short lived but they can be quite fierce. Thursday night was quite damp with numerous showers but no increase in wind and several squalls with much heavier rain and increased wind from a different direction which gave the autopilot several problems! We had set it on the ’vane’ setting so that it follows the wind, reducing the need to constantly trim the sails, it is also less likely to cause a gybe. Twice John had to leap behind the wheel and take over the steering when the autopilot couldn’t cope, getting very wet in the process! The winds are predicted to reduce on Monday and Tuesday but hopefully increase from Wednesday. Sailors are never satisfied. We set off last Monday with 15-20 knots and flat seas, resulting in good speed and a 164 mile day followed by a 142 mile day. Then the winds dropped, sailing was gentle and living on board comfortable but at a cost. The daily run dropped to 128 miles then 118 to noon Friday when the wind finally started to increase. By 1700 we had dropped a reef in the mainsail and rolled away a lot of the genoa to make the boat more comfortable while still achieving good speed. The run to noon Saturday was a wonderful 172 miles, an average of 7 knots, fantastic for a fairly heavy 42 ft cruising boat. The light weight fliers and the much bigger boats are a long way ahead, at least it means we can get information about the conditions ahead, one advantage of being a slower boat. Whatever the weather throws at us we need to respond, make the best of it and stay safe. We don’t like gentle breezes more suitable for an afternoon drift from one bay to the next, we don’t like rain though at least it’s nowhere near as cold as sailing in wet weather in the UK, we don’t like huge, confused seas however there is not a lot we can do about it! Life on board is good, we are eating very well and managing showers when it isn’t too rough. The galley has been a little challenging during the past 36 hours. Trying to maintain balance while using both hands to transfer something from a pan to a plate is difficult. One major lurch sent me crashing into the cabinets quite unexpectedly. I didn’t drop anything and only had a minor bump on the knee and the head. Now we await tomorrow when the seas are expected to be calmer. Joyce

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