8 January 2014

Noon position Jan 8th 31º 16’S  47º 52’W   Days run 116nm
The barometer had been falling since mid-day yesterday and after speaking with Alyson I decided to reduce sail before nightfall. It was as well I did. The wind had been rising slowly all night and then at 0130 it picked up sharply and I had to put two reefs in the main. I didn’t get much sleep between then and sunrise. At 0500 the wind was more a F7-8 and I put a third reef in the main and set the storm jib to try and keep our head downwind. We were rolling a fair bit and at times the end of the boom was a metre below the sea. According to the AIS we were making seven knots, which it about as fast as Elsi ever goes. I hoped it would drag every goose barnacle off the hull but they are too tenacious for that.

The first light of the new day showed an army of grey clouds moving fast across a red eastern sky. Red sky in the morning – sailors warning? We seemed to be fairly well settled though with the sail we had set and I turned in for some sleep. By 0830 the barometer was leveling out and an hour later it was definitely beginning to rise. I went out at 0930 to see how things looked.

As I sat down I was surprised to feel the deck warm under my hand in the midst of all this wind and sea. It was overcast but the sun was still shinning through the cracks. A flying fish had got lodged in one of the cockpit drains. The wind was still fresh but no worse than it had been. To windward I could see the smoky greyness of rain coming across the water towards us. As it hit and enveloped us it was short-lived but very heavy. Every drop was an explosion as it hit the water. I thought about going below for the rain bucket but I could see it was clearing on the back of it and it would be past by the time I had got it rigged.

A white chinned petrel having a rest on the water ahead of us obviously thought we were getting a bit too close. With an anxious look it lifted its wings, did a short run across the water into the wind and was airborne. The rain seemed to ease the wind a bit, which had now swung more NW’ly. I sat for a bit to see if it would stay as it was and it seemed settled enough. I let out a reef so that we now had two reefs in the main.

The day’s run was 116nm but from point to point on the chart it is more like 140nm. At times we were certainly moving fast on the night. Now (1630) we have the jib set in place of the staysail with two reefs in the main. The wind has backed to the SW and eased to a F5 but we can no longer hold the course we want. So, we are heading away from the coast instead of down along it. Hopefully it will change before too long and we can be sailing free again soon.

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