4 January 2014

The wind eased enough by 1900 last night for me to get a couple of reefs in the main and sail a bit faster. As I came down into the cabin the VHF was crackling into life, “Yacht Elsi Arrub, this is the Western Neptune on channel 16, do you receive, over”.  It was a survey ship 9 miles ahead of us and on a reciprocal course. They were towing cables, which I think he said were five miles long, and he wanted to be sure I would be clear of them. Bizarrely, they had internet onboard and had been looking at this website before calling me up. At about the same time the container ship HS Paris passed 2nm astern of heading in to discharge her cargo in Santos.

This morning the wind was light enough to get the genoa set and we sailed along fine for a while before the wind dropped light and by 1000 there was hardly anything. I saw something on the water ahead and altered course slightly to see what it was.
It looked like a green compost or fertilizer bag but as we passed it I saw it was, or had been, an inflatable toy helicopter with most of the puff out of it. Some little kid probably watched it disappear out over the ocean a few days ago.

I had been scraping off some goose barnacles and with the wind so light I thought it would be a good opportunity to dive below and see how bad the bottom was with barnacles and scrape some off.

I dropped the sails to bring us to a complete stop and as I did I noticed a build up of dark clouds that stretched from south to west. There was a thin dark line just where the sea met the sky stretching as far as the cloud base as if someone had emphasized it with a dark pencil. As I watched the line grew thicker and the clouds appeared to come nearer. I went below and pulled on oilskins. When the wind hit us soon after it rose from barely anything to a F6 in about two minutes. Luckily the sails were down and that made life easier.

I wondered what sails to set when the weather made up my mind for me. The wind was from the SW or SSW and continued to grow so that by the time I’d got the genoa below it was near a full gale. It was too much to sail against. I lashed the mainsail, coiled up the log line, lashed the helm and secured the Aries. Then I got up the trysail, a small heavy weather mainsail and got it set. I have a separate track in the mast for this sail so I don’t have to alter the mainsail. I pulled it up and got the sheets tightened up. Setting this sail meant we were hove to with Elsi’s bow now pointed more into the sea than if there were no sail set. The sail also helps to dampen the roll a fair bit as well. Being hove to isn’t really that uncomfortable and is a lot better than battering to windward. So that’s where we are now, hove to in the Santos Basin south of Rio.

The barometer isn’t low. In fact it’s at 1020mb just now. But I’ve seen before down here that a high of 1020mb can have as much wind in it as a low of 980mb. So, hopefully, with this coming up so fast it will be shortly past and we will be on our way again before too long.

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