DAY 3: FRIDAY, 31st October 2014
Early morning, the iron sail sparked to life propelling Blue Heeler through the calm water. With 2kn of wind there’s little we could do to fill our sails. The foresail was furled while the main kept the boat stable in the small swell. Dolphins played follow-the-leader in the bow wave.
It was three days since the last grib file download and time for updated data. (Landlubbers note: a grib file is a compressed data file providing up to an eight day forecast on much needed weather conditions such as wave height, currents, wind speed, precipitation, cloud cover, and temperature). The forecast criteria may be set to include more or less of this information and its sent to us in compressed format. The forecast is vital and reasonably reliable, at least the first couple of days. Comfortable with our method of downloading gribs from Saildocs through the satphone, then importing them into forecasting and navigation iPad apps, Weather4D or iNavx, we were frustrated, and somewhat anxious, to discover that after a recent iPad IOS upgrade by Apple, the Axcesspoint app could no longer open gribs in the apps! Before panic set in and before cranking up the Weatherfax (which basically hangs on the bulkhead like an artifact of voyages past), I’d remembered my iPhone hadn’t been updated to the new IOS. Using this simple gadget, I successfully downloaded the data then transferred it to our iPads. Phew! This is the one place on earth that we really need good weather info. Yes, yes, I can hear the erudite men-of-the-sea scoffing at our Gen-X dilemma! But like all good sailors, we have forecasting methods other than a reliance on new gadgetry. In addition to our senses; eyes to read the sky, clouds and conditions, skin to feel the wind direction, ears to hear the wind whistling through the shrouds, we also have old technology – SSB – to listen to weather reports on Peri Peri net (if we can ever receive their broadcasts clearly). Plus the super-old but super-reliable technology, the compass to show direction, and the barometer, to watch for sudden drops in hectopascals indicating a potentially nerve-wracking southerly buster. Finally there’s the antiquated and clunky Weatherfax, if you have a spare few hours to download an almost incomprehensible synoptic chart. The new eight day forecast indicated light winds over the coming days with strong winds forming further south. With Blue Heeler’s hull rippling a wake through the flat, blue water, we decided to switch off the iron sail and take a plunge to cool off! Fifty miles off the coast of Madagascar we jumped into the refreshing water (separately in case the wind picked up resulting in a runaway boat and two naked people drifting along the Mozambique Channel). It was divine! On deck, soap, face-washer, shampoo and a fresh water rinse brought us back to life. These are the special moments we savour!
By mid afternoon the wind increased to a mind-numbing 8.5knots on the beam. With help from a little current, our freshly scrubbed bodies were sailing along at a surprising 6knots! Crew condition Day 3: clean and technologically satisfied Day 3 distance: an average 120nm
DAY 4: SATURDAY, 1st November 2014
Passing ships with strong names like ‘Hedvig Bulker’, ‘Overseas McKinley’ or ‘Captain Paris’ assert their transition into or from pirate territory with the AIS identifier “Armed Guards Onboard”, while others simply state their destination as “Madagascar”. With so much water to sail on, it always astounds me that our paths are always within a couple of miles of one another.
A new month, but the same sailing conditions, except today we saw whales swimming south. Still no wind as I write this after our third night at sea and begin our fourth day. Our route of 225degrees has us more or less heading directly to Inhaca/Maputo, north of Richards Bay where we’ll join the southerly current. We don’t really want to hole up in Mozambique if we don’t have to.
The original grib that suggested we leave last Wednesday indicated stronger winds, but actually the winds have been dismally light. We had a boost last afternoon with a favourable breeze, but the glassy conditions returned by evening. On four hourly watches, the bonus of motoring is that sleeper can have a satisfying rest. Best to take advantage of it while we can as the low pressure systems are still rolling clockwise in the southern waters. By early evening the wind was up to 10knots and we were sailing along at 4knots. Slow but steady, we managed to sail our fourth night at sea with light breezes increasing to 15knots by 2am. With full sails Blue Heeler crashed into the wind and waves trying to stay on our rhumb line and keep our speed up. The two knot countercurrent ruined any chance of making headway. It also ruined any chance of me having a decent sleep! Today we’ll update our gribs to see what’s in store for the coming days. Current position: 19*02.500S 041*07.515E Day 4 distance: a dismal 102nm
Crew condition: happily listening to audio books, looking for a positive current Miles to Richards Bay: 745nm
ETA: 8/9 November [end]