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Hello Tristan and Hello Roaring Forties of the Southern Ocean

December 10, 2014

Good to see an old friend. Yes I am passing by Tristan da Cunha again, a towering volcanic island looking very much like a nuclear power station's cooling tower. Tristan along with the associated islands of I’Isola Inaccessible and le Isole Nightingale are home to very little other than birds of which I have seen quite a few these past days. They come very close to the boat flying effortlessly rarely flapping their wings. The giant albatross with its seven to nine foot wing span is the most gracious and majestic. The strange thing is that the birds here never seem to plunge into the water to gather food. They just fly and swoop often with their wings tips almost touching the water. They may stop and alight but they don’t seem to gather food. How do they survive and on what?  

 

I am now at latitude south 39 and tomorrow no doubt south 40 - known as the roaring forties. Here I can experience winds with an average strength of 22 knots from predominantly the NW, W and SW. Of course, some winds will be weaker and others stronger. Hopefully we (Kiwi Spirit and I) are ready both mentally and physically.

 

I have secured much of that below which go flying when we face our first gale. The lines to the sails have been checked for chafe and the storm jib (a small but strong headsail) is in place and ready to go. I have also placed on the aft deck the ultimate piece of storm gear - a Jordan Sea Drogue. Kiwi has not yet been tested in a full gale. How will she sail under shortened canvas? Will she be able to go with the wind at full speed surfing down each wave with burying her nose into the wave ahead and causing the worst of all - a pitch rolling where the nose goes down and doesn’t left while a following wave raise up the beam and flips the boat end on end.  It happens and usually results in much damage. Will the autopilots be able to handle the seas fury for it will be impossible for me to steer for one or two days of tempest? If I find that the seas are becoming unmanageable, I will resort to the use of the drogue to slow me down and keep the stern square on to the seas. In the past ropes I have used are ropes tied to the stern and trailing being in a loop and on one occasion I tied a car tire to work as a drogue. But note I carry the best - a Jordan Sea Drogue which is a length of chain followed by a long line of some 200 feet with parachute like cones sewn at eighteen inch intervals along its length. It’s in place as I write attached to the two aft deck cleats and ready to be launched. I hope never to use her but will if necessary. In place she will take less than a minute to launch.

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