FROM 1-6. Below 50S

Feb 27, 2005 – 0730hrs UTC

Sitrep: 0730hrs 27 Feb 2005 UTC 53’14”S 106’45”W Map Ref 85

It’s amazing how fast things change down here. This morning I was looking back over my shoulder and thinking whoopee – steady flow lines for a few days, no problems. Tonight, with a new grib file, there’s a tight little low forming right behind us and about two days away with some strong northerlies in between, which we are now experiencing. We’re heading a bit north of east, along 53 14 S to try to get as far across as possible in the hope that the low will be forced to the south by the high over the S American coast. If it isn’t we’re due for a bit of a bashing. The back of the low has 35+ knots from the south in it now and if it intensifies, anything goes, including ice. So some mild trepidation and I’ve sent for the new grib file.

Propagation is improving all the time as we close the coast – 1370nm to go, VMG 6 kts – so getting information is relatively easy. The generator has kicked in again too, although not perfect, so we have some power.

Just been in the cockpit for half an hour to feel the elements.  Bit of a shock to have to get into party gear again after having been out of it for a couple of days. We are close reaching in about 25 kts with #1 and full main, the lee gunwale about a foot above the water and surging along. Only possible because the sea is still relatively flat over a long swell. Boat nicely balanced, with Kevvo keeping the tiller centred with small adjustments, so he’s not working too hard. Exhilarating sailing. Grey misty night with the horizon dimly visible, really just as a soft change in shades of grey. Background glow from the moon, up behind it all to the north and some downlight from the masthead tricolour casting faint shadows in the cockpit. Instrument lights dimmed right down. LED caver’s light on my head over my beanie under party hood to keep the ears warm and lined sailing gloves for the hands. These only ok in the cockpit – need open fingers on the foredeck and they get very cold. And that’s at 53 S – must be really cold for the people like Ellen McArthur who sail down in the 60’s.

Things that really work: LED caver’s head lights. Great for inside and deckwork. Goes without saying that you should buy a waterproof one. Need to get used to strapping them on so they don’t move and to the switch on your particular version. Mine has a mechanical switch rather that a digital toggle switch as I found that the digital switches on early versions weren’t too reliable. (Kathmandhu exchanged the last one without question – onya and I’ll be back) Also, I don’t think you need to go for the complicated versions with three LEDs that can be used incrementally – I’ve never needed more that just the first one and too much light doesn’t really help. And remember not to shine them back at the person on the helm. Bad karma.

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