Friday, November 20, 2009

Mhadei chased by a Seal

I was told to look for mermaids before I started and today we were actually chased by a creature that would come closest to being described as a mermaid! A seal kept chasing us for over 15 minutes, coming quite close, stopping, taking a good look with its head bobbing above the water and as it fell behind, chasing us again. The sea was calm and we were doing an easy 6 kts. It was quite a sight, seeing it jump out of water and also swimming underwater when it would come close to the transom. A totally different experience than being followed by a dolphin.

Looks like this will be the last post of this leg. As I write we are about 30 Nm from Lyttleton harbour and need to reach there by 0530 to meet the pilot and our agent for the Port. The Defence advisor has planned some photography etc as we enter, so will show off a bit around the harbour and then enter by 1000 h. Judging by the links below we are more than expected in the harbour and looking forward to it!

This will be the end of leg II, the shortest of the legs. We would have covered over 3200 Nm in 20 days across the Great Australian Bight and the Tasman sea. Barring a few days while crossing the Tasman sea where the Southern Ocean showed a hint of what it can throw up, I must say we have had exceptionally good weather through out the leg. Trying to remain awake tonight as this if the first time since leaving Mumbai that we are sailing so close to the coast at night. Luckily it is warmer than the last few nights so easy to stay on deck all bundled up alternating between regular cups of hot soup & coffee.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Land Ahoy after 18 days

Sighted Snares Islands, a small group of Islands and rocks at the Southern tip of New Zealand, this morning. Very barren, thanks to the harsh weather they are exposed to throughout the year, but teeming with bird life I am sure. Small wonder that they have been declared a wildlife reserve. So this is where the Albatrosses & Petrels that have been following me come to nest! Started heading North East after crossing the Islands, the first time we are heading North in this trip. The next time will be after rounding Cape Horn and all the way home!

          Good following breeze and seas today translating into good progress. The winds are expected to start heading and easing from tomorrow which will slow us down so trying to make as much progress as possible while they last.  Spent the better part of the day making list of work to be done during the stopover. Unlike Fremantle, the planned stop is for two weeks so will need to get the work done quickly. The sun came up nicely in the afternoon and it was nice to just sit out and watch the birds putting up magnificent displays of their flying skills. Another 300 Nm to go but with a forecast for light and head winds difficult to figure out if we will be able to cover the distance in two days and one night or will require two days & two nights.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Heading for Southern tip of New Zealand

The gale that really rattled Mhadei and the crew for the last few days finally subsided. The winds reduced first and it took another day for the swell to come down so by morning it was fairly calm with about 2 mtrs of swell. The winds have started picking up again to about 25 kts and so has the swell, about 4 mtrs. But both are from behind making us do good speed towards the Southern tip of New Zealand. We need to go round Stewart Island off the Southern coast and then start heading up the coast in a North Easterly direction for the next two days to reach Lyttleton, the port for Christ Church.

          Made use of yesterday's calm weather to open up the broken steering assembly and put it back. While it will require work in the harbour presently it seems to be holding with an adhoc arrangement of securing with a bolt and some good rope. Also managed to have the first hot meal in the last few days with a menu of Sarson ka Saag, steaming hot rice and generous quantities of homemade Mango pickle! It is getting increasingly cold by the day. There were reports of sightings of Icebergs about 200 Nm South while we were going through the Gale. Usually I would be very curious to see an Iceberg but on a pitch dark night with the boat screaming downwind I would rather stay as far away as possible.

          Giving two photos of the different moods of the Southern Ocean taken in a span of less than 24 hrs. We were becalmed in glassy seas and then in less than 24 hrs struggling with 9 mtr swell and 50 kts winds!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Surviving the First Southern Ocean Gale

Since the last three days winds gusting to 55 Kts, Swell - 8 to 9 mtrs, temp below 10 deg C. Stay sail came down yesterday probably due broken halyard, waiting for winds to reduce to put it up. Starboard wheel had to be disconnected as the base holding its ram connection to the rudder broke in heavy weather so one electronic autopilot less and no Wind Vane autopilot. Port, and only, autopilot groaning badly and threatening to rip its base out! Doing over 8 kts with just 1/3 of main sail, 03 reefs, and still getting overpowered at times! Forecast predicts winds to reduce after tomorrow, keeping my fingers crossed!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pumps & Pancakes!

The day started with a nice sunny morning, putting the cook in a creative mood after a long gap. A grand menu of hot "pan to plate" pancakes & honey, fresh orange and freshly brewed coffee followed. The best part was sitting out in the sun and having it, bare feet & without any woolens! The calm following sea with a light breeze enabled the cook to cook in relative comfort and the Skipper to enjoy the breakfast without worrying about spilling things. The catch, and there always has to be one, was that despite buying the smallest of the ready mix bottles, the quantity of batter was enough to last for a couple of breakfasts! So a bit of experimentation followed for lunch, different combinations with cheese, chutneys, pickles etc! No prizes for guessing tomorrow's menu either, weather permitting of course!

          One of my bilge pump seems to have gone "Whacky" and I mean literally. Realized it was not working in the morning so checked all electrical connections, strainer and everything that could be checked without any luck when finally gave it two good whacks out of sheer frustration, rather than any technical competence, and it came to life! So till the next port the starting procedure includes, in addition to putting the switch on, opening the floor boards and whacking the pump while muttering a silent prayer! Having been somewhat lucky with the bilge pump, the confident electrician decided to tackle the fresh water pump next which had stopped working soon after Freo. Found a blown fuze that needed replacement, but then Murphy started acting and every fuze except the required 15 Amp one could be found. Confidently used a 30 Amp one as a substitute, started the pump and saw a wisp of black smoke rising near the pump! The supply to the pump was promptly switched off and the electrician sacked even faster! So no watermaker, which isn't a problem really as I have enough for more than a month, but the worse, no hot water baths! Which in this cold effectively means no baths till New Zealand! Looks like the Indian Defence Attache who has promised to be at Lyttleton before me will be able to sniff me out before I get alongside!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Week since Freo

          Completed one week since leaving Fremantle. I have found the first week to be the hardest to pass, letting go of the land ties, after that the days start passing faster. Unfortunately one needs to go through the first week afresh after every halt!

          Another calm day of sailing. Less than 20 kts of following breeze and a following sea making the boat move sedately, sometimes so much that one forgets that she is moving at all! Very glad that the preventer is working otherwise I would have been at my wit's end trying to stop the boom from thrashing about in these conditions!

          Watched a movie after dark and got out to see a nice starry sky. The first time in the past week! Can't sit out and admire it for too long though, due to the cold. Nice sunset earlier. Not often that you get to see the sun going down in the sea all the way!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A nice calm day in the Southern Ocean

Looks like a Cold front coming from the South met a Warm front from North not too far from us today. The result was a foggy day with intermittent drizzle, light winds and fairly calm sea. The wind didn't die down completely as I feared it would and we managed to keep moving at a leisurely 6 kts on a beam reach. The preventer rigged at Fremantle proved its utility as now even in light winds with a quartering sea  the boom does not thrash and the boat keeps moving. I had tried rigging it up during the earlier leg but ended up without much success and a mangled snatch block! The flaw in my arrangement was pointed out by Jon Sanders, a veteran at Solo circumnavigations, at Fremantle and looks like he was spot on!

          A sedate day, some quick cook Rissoto for dinner followed by a movie on the laptop. A far cry from being hosted by Pip & John last Friday to a dinner of gourmet Pizzas at a fancy place in Perth followed by a nice drive through the King's Park Botanical garden!  

Thursday, November 5, 2009

First Night in the Roaring Forties

We crossed 40 Deg S latitude today, home of the "Roaring Forties"! The wind has slowly backed from being Easterly last night to Northerly through the day and is now blowing from the NNW about 20 to 25 kts. That gives us a nice fast reach to sail onto the Southern Tip of New Zealand. It also means that we are not thumping into the swell any longer but cork-screwing about due to an almost quarterly swell. It has been raining on & off since morning with a thick cloud cover making for a cold gloomy day and a colder dark night.
          Saw a Ship's AIS icon on my chart plotter after lunch at about 3 Nm. Couldn't sight him visually and realized that I was yet to fix the VHF MMB set that had stopped functioning the day after leaving Freo. If the Ship wanted to call me or warn me there was no way he could, so got down to figuring out the loose wire that was the culprit. Not so easy on a jumping boat and with my terrible skills as an electrician! First managed to shut off the Chart plotter by pulling some wire, cause for real concern! Then managed to create enough sparking to panic and switch the mains off only to switch off the auto pilot with them! Ran out to get the boat under control, got the auto pilot going and spent the better part of the day sorting out the connections. Thankfully everything came on line by evening. Just another day on board!          

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rounding Cape Leuwin - Finally!

As I write this we are crossing the longitude of Cape Leuwin thus effectively rounding the first of the three "Great Capes" that make for a Circumnavigation. The next will be Cape Horn followed by the Cape of Good Hope. It has been a fairly uneventful day with a decent breeze that has been backing from ENE to NNE making us sail in the direction we want to go at a healthy pace. The wind has been picking up for the last couple of hrs and is expected to back further which will allow us to gradually starting reaching and  picking up speed without slamming around too much.

     The mystery of the broken clew of the Genoa and subsequent shredding was finally solved by John Sharpie, our good host at Fremantle and an experienced sailor. He reckons that a big wave must have hit the Genoa as we were slamming through the waves making the clew part. We were, when the incident happened, sailing upwind in a fairly large sea and had waves washing over the boat. One wave too big and that was the end of the sail!

     On the day I left Fremantle I met an old friend Timothy Ettridge. We had worked as part of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston's support crew during his Velux 5 Oceans race in 2006. It was quite a coincidence that he arrived at Fremantle the night before I was leaving and was there to see me off! Giving a link to his blog (here) for some photos & philosophy!  

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Goodbye Fremantle

Mhadei left Fremantle as planned on 01 Nov at 1030 local time on a nice sunny day after a sojourn of 05 weeks. The stay at Fremantle proved to be an excellent break for both the boat & the crew. However, it was time to move on before the land legs became too strong and the sea legs started fading from memory!

     We ran into head seas soon after rounding Rottnest Island North of Fremantle. It was almost a beat for the next two days in winds between 20 to 25 kts. The first night the Clew of the Genoa parted making the sail flog uncontrollably. By the time I could furl it the poor thing had shredded itself! The winds finally eased today and I managed to take down the torn sail and replace it with the spare one. Luckily we bought the sails from New Zealand and the repairs can be carried out at the loft it was made. Survived on some scrumptious Bologenese sauce so thoughtfully packed by Pip Sawyer till today's breakfast . I was supposed to have it with pasta but the boat was bouncing around so much it was much easier to have it with bread instead! Tasted as good!

     We seem to be sitting in a High pressure system since morning which means light and shifty winds. For once I am not complaining as otherwise it would not have been possible to change the sail. The weather forecast is predicting backing of the wind to Easterly and then NE direction which should start taking us towards New Zealand our next destination.