Aboard Phesheya-Racing we have been avidly scanning the weather data as we download it on our Xtra-link supplied Fleet Broadband 250 satellite communications system. The problem that we are facing is how to avoid running into the light winds of the high pressure in front of us while watching out for the gale developing with the low pressure behind us.
Yesterday the high pressure was the dominating factor and this morning it remains so, though we are finally trying to make some meaningful easting to be sure that we are in the right position when the forecast gale does arrive. It was a classic case of the calm before the storm as we nudged at the edges of the high pressure yesterday.
In the early hours of the morning we saw the lights of a ship passing astern of us but we were unable to identify her. As the sun rose it revealed a flat sea with a light NE breeze blowing and we had another beautiful day of sailing in crisp sunshine.
During the afternoon a second ship appeared and we had a very pleasant conversation with the officer of the watch of the Genco Surprise. He told us that they were carrying soya beans from Brazil to the Far East.
With the forecast for gales later we took the opportunity to make sure that the boat is well prepared for any eventuality.
I used a technique borrowed from the adventure sport of rap-jumping to go overboard and remove both bobstays from the bow as they aren’t useful anymore, now that we can’t use the prodder. In order to do that I put my climbing harness on backwards and then attached a halyard behind me so that Phillippa could lower me head first over the bow. Like this I was able to lie in a position like a hang-glider pilot and work close to the waterline without getting wet!
We also took the mainsail down and rigged the third reef line. Just in case…
As we were doing that we had the remarkable luck to come across a very large pod of Long-finned pilot whales. It was difficult to estimate the group size but it must have been at least 50 and possibly as many as 100! They passed very slowly about 1/4 mile away, just to far to get a decent photo, but I think we did get some very good video footage! some of the younger members of the pod were very frisky and we saw a few of them breaching quite spectacularly.
In the evening the wind suddenly shifted more to the E as the high pressure held the gale at bay and by early this morning we were forced to do a series of tacks in order to make any progress. So far we have tacked 7 times in the last 7 hours, but now the wind has shifted N of E again and we have the main ballast tank full and are beating in a roughly easterly direction. The barometer took a bit of a nose dive around sunrise, while we were in the middle of tacking, and with the increasingly choppy seas and gusty winds we thought the gale might be upon us, but now that we are heading E again the barometer has flattened out. This does not mean that we are escaping the weather, only that for the moment we are moving E at the same rate as the pressure system. The weather is still coming, and the motion onboard is already getting quite uncomfortable, not to mention cold. Below 14 degrees this morning.