23 January 2014

We had light headwinds all last night and so didn’t get as far as I had thought. At 0700 this morning the wind was still light and it was a fine chance to replace the steering lines on the Aries. I hove to and lifted it up and within an hour had got the old ones off and the new ones fitted. I was very glad of the chance to do it as the wind and sea will probably pick up from here on and the old lines would have chaffed through at some point.
The wind was in the south and it was noticeably cooler than yesterday.

While I was working on the Aries the sea turned red beneath me. It was a shoal of Krill swimming underneath us. At least I think they were Krill. I’ve never seen them close up but it was some kind of red crustaceans.

The wind has been light all day. In fact I had to drop the sails for an hour around mid-day as it fell away completely. We’re sailing again but the wind is in the SW and we’re actually heading north of west to try and make some headway.

There’s been a few Wilson’s Storm Petrels around today. They are funny birds to watch. As they hover near the water they look like they are either walking or skipping across the surface looking for whatever food they can pick up. They are such small delicate birds you would think anything more than a light breeze would flatten them. And yet they have developed survival techniques to face the storms which come through here.

In the afternoon we were sailing to windward in a light SW’ly F3. I’d seen an orange buoy floating and sailed towards it thinking I would pick it up if it was drifting. It turned out to be anchored, it’s not that deep here, and was obviously some fishing boats property. As we got nearer the sky to the SW got darker. To the south was a huge bank of brilliant white cumulus. It was so striking I got the camera out and took some photos. But on the under side of it was a dark band and as I looked I saw a waterspout forming. I’ve never seen one before and it was fascinating to watch but also un-nerving as well, they can generate powerful whirls of wind and can be hugely destructive, similar to a tornado.

The dark clouds in the southwest began to darken the sea below them and I could see something was going to come out of it. I dropped the genoa and while doing so saw another two waterspouts, one of them not too far away. I thought about five miles but it might have been further. The wind went from a F3 to a F7 in about five minutes. I could see this was going to be no normal sail change so I threw the genoa below and began to stow the main. If we were to get hit by a waterspout I would have to snug down everything as much as I could. By the time I’d stowed the main I’d seen another three waterspouts. I thought it was the kind of thing that was individual and a bit of a rarity but this was six of them in less than half an hour. I snapped some photos and took some video as well.

Below decks I secured everything as well as I could. I hadn’t had any dinner and it was coming on for that time so I scoffed a few Wagon wheels and a packet of crisps thinking I might not get a chance to eat for a while.

There was a sizeable crowd of birds around us, mostly Albatross and big Shearwaters. They usually don’t come that close to us and I thought it was odd they had flocked around at this time. I had arranged to phone Alyson at 9pm home time and it was that time now. I also managed to speak to my son Lowrie who is away back to University on Saturday.

I decided to cook some dinner and see how things were looking after that. The wind had dropped to about a F5. As I scrubbed a couple of tatties up on deck I saw yet another waterspout away to the east. The ones before had been to the south. I had some dinner, mince and tatties, and looked out to see how it was. There were no waterspouts just a lumpy grey sea with a generous helping of whitecaps. I tucked two reefs in the main and set a small staysail and got underway. I’d gathered up the logline earlier in a hurry and stowed it below and it was now in a tangle so that got sorted before it went over the side. We were making little headway with the staysail so I swapped it for the jib and we’re now battering away to windward. This is the first time I’ve typed this up in oilskins but I half expect to be on deck anytime so it feels better if I’m half ready to go on deck. I certainly hope I’ve seen the last of the waterspouts though. They were amazing to watch but I’m glad I saw them from a safe distance. If I never see another one I’ll be quite happy.

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