14.January 2014

It’s Mam’s birthday today so Happy Birthday Mam! There is a gathering planned for later tonight at the house so I’ll phone then and get to speak to the family.

As I’m writing this we have at least two Humpback whales breaching about half a mile away. We’ve been becalmed all day about 100nm to seaward of the mouth of the river Plate (Rio de la Plata). It’s been glassy calm all day and we’ve gone nowhere.
There have been plenty of birds around. Albatross, Cape Hens, they do make a sort of clucking sound, which is maybe where they get their name, and Mother Carey’s Chickens. They are nearly always in the air but a lot of the time today they have been sitting in groups on the water, maybe there’s not enough wind to make for easy flying.
I saw a shark earlier; I think only the second time I’ve ever seen one in the deep ocean. Not sure what it was but it looked to be about 10′ to 12′ long. He didn’t appear to be too interested in us and lazily swam around with two fins breaking the surface.

I took the opportunity of the calm to lift up the Aries and take off the steering oar.
I thoroughly cleaned it of goose barnacles with a scraper and scrubbing brush. The big ones were obvious but there were plenty of little spots of them on there just waiting to get bigger as well.
As I was working with it I could hear a soughing like a whale blowing but I couldn’t see any plumes of spray. The sound got louder and more frequent, like someone blowing across the top of a deep wide necked bottle. I was sure it was whales and as I looked up I could see the fins of at least two Humpbacks surfacing and falling away again. With the stillness of the day it sounded like they weren’t far away at all but they were at least half a mile away.

I spoke on the radio to Dean earlier. He is of the Winlink email operators who receive and send on these messages for the website. He is based in the north of Chile near Iquique and lives on the edge of the Alto Plano desert in a house powered entirely by solar power. Just now he is only one of two contacts I can get reliable emails sent through. The other is Colin, another radio amateur, based in Cape Town.

Well, I’ve seen more wildlife today than I’ve seen for a while. I was peeling an onion in the cockpit in the late afternoon when a seal popped his head up alongside. He took one look at me and dived under again. I haven’t seen him since. I was able to get sails up at 1630 with just a whisper of wind to move us. About ten minutes later there was a huge splash 50 metres to starboard, which I think was another Humpback. So, we’re moving again after a very windless day. I did get the steering oar cleaned so it wasn’t entirely wasted. The barometer is falling so there may be more wind before too long.

p.s. I’d written the above for sending and was on deck on the phone to Alyson when there was a school of about 50 dolphins appeared on one side of us and another with maybe 30 dolphins on the other side plus another three seals playing themselves not far away. Maybe this place is teeming with fish, there must be something attracting them.

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