I wanted a hot drink but not coffee, and I had only a few bags of Twinning tea left, so it was time to dig out the hot chocolate. I found a 200g can of Milo chocolate drink, made in Australia, complete with instructions to use Sunshine milk. The can had probably been on board since 2008 but the contents were in top condition and I enjoyed it so much that I had a second cup. The Milo won't last long but I have plenty of Hershey chocolate syrup on board.
Twenty minutes later I was topside again, rolling in most of the headsail due to the increasing wind. Below I kept being bothered by the regular luffing (fluttering) of the staysail which transmitted a gentle rattle along the starboard side of the boat. I didn't like this because it represented needless subtle stress on the sail and stay. I had been accepting this for several reasons: the sail was tacked too far off the centreline of the boat, the rolling and yawing of the boat caused momentary over pointing into the wind, and there was a latency in responsiveness to the rudder as the boat yawed left and right. My response had been to fall off the wind until the luffing stopped. I went outside, looked up at the mechanical wind indicator, and saw that we were already almost on a beam reach. "This is bullshit" I told myself and did something that I should have done a week earlier. I turned on the deck light then went to the forward hatch to look at the sail from below. At that angle and with that lighting I could clearly see that the entire front half of the sail was luffing (collapsing) every few seconds. I could see that the sheeting angle was OK (i.e. sheet block not to far forward or aft) but there was plenty of scope for tightening the sail. I returned to the cockpit, brought the sail on harder with the winch, and like magic the luffing stopped. This event should be taken as a confession to the blog. It was a very fundamental problem and I should have gotten on to it much earlier. I had allowed myself to be distracted by the other factors that were degrading the performance of the sail.
In the morning we sailed under an overcast sky and somewhat weaker wind. Nevertheless we were making a half knot less in speed that I would have expected, and I attributed this to sailing closer to the wind. I didn't want to bear away off the wind because the Ducie-Henderson Island gap (which is 200 miles wide) was less than 350 miles away and I wanted to pass as close to the west side of Ducie Island as possible.
I consulted Bowditch about the effect of latitude on the length of a degree of longitude. The standard navigation chart is a Mercator projection of the world, where lines of latitude and longitude are at right angles and a rhumb line (i.e. straight line drawn on the chart) will always intersect lines of longitude at the same angle. But the reality is that whereas lines of latitude go around the world, are parallel, and are always evenly spaced, lines of longitude go from pole to pole. The effect is that whereas a degree of latitude always represents 60 nautical miles (let's forget the well known nuances), a degree of longitude represents 60 nm at the equator but less and less as it approaches the pole. This is why we use dividers to measure distances off the latitude scale of a chart. For example, at latitude 50S a degree of longitude represents only 38.7 nm, or 64% of its length at the equator. For my purposes, between the natural convergence of the lines of longitude and my slanting toward the east when I encounter the westeries at 30-40S I don't see a terribly big handicap in being this far west.
I also read an interesting section in Bowditch on the long term almanac. I was not able to get the latest almanac while I was in the USA because it was too early in the year, but that is not a problem. Applying adjustments to the 4-year cycle of the celestial numbers, the maximum altitude errors that I can get are 2.0 minutes for the sun and 1.3 minutes for stars. That translates to a position error of 2 miles or less. Also, my tables for solving the spherical triangle go only to latitude 45 degrees, and Drake Passage is at about 55 degrees. Bowditch specifies techniques for solving the spherical triangle by hand. None of this will be necessary as long as at least one of my 3 computers or one GPS keeps functioning, but I know that in a severe crisis I should still be able to find my way.
At noon our position was 19S35, 123W54, giving us a n-n distance of 114 miles in the direction 196T. We had made 1.8 degrees to the south. I expected to cross 20S before nightfall, meaning that I will have crossed the ten degrees from 10S to 20S in about 5.5 days. I was farther west than I would have liked to be, but otherwise I couldn't complain.
After the noon report I walked to the mast along the weather (port) side to have a look around. Both headsails looked fine. The headstay and been very taut when I left La Paz and I did not see any oscillations that would indicate that it had gone loose. I would check its tension by hand the next calm day when the sail was rolled up. I felt around the lower swages of the shrouds, which had been carrying the load for over a week, for any broken wires and thankfully found none. I then went back to the cockpit and rolled out more headsail which improved our speed but not direction. The wind was coming from the SE and I needed it to back to the E.
The grib file presented a beautifully accurate description of my situation. I had just gone through a rain band of about 45 miles and was now in moderate SE winds. North of that band of rain - about 1 degree away - the wind was from the NE at less than 6 knots. Unfortunately this system would catch me and I faced the prospect of weak NE winds in 12 hours. If it came to that I hoped that there would be enough strength in that wind to keep me moving toward the SE, a very good direction.
Incidentally, last night I got my Sailmail service from Manihi, 1300 miles away in the Tuamotu Archipelago. The throughput was not great but acceptable. I got a strong signal out of Chile, but the frequency was busy with other Sailmail traffic during the 10 minutes that I monitored it. It looks like Chile is destined to become my Sailmail conduit to the world until I am past the Horn.
At mid afternoon I attended to something that I've had on my mind for a few days. I emptied the emergency grab bag and went through all of the items in to make sure that everything is in good condition and I know how to use it. The first item was the EPIRB. It has an expiry date of Feb 2015 and it tested out fine.
Then I looked at the submersible hand held VHF radio and realized that I wasn't sure of the state of its batteries or even how to use it. I found the instructions in another part of the boat. I turned the radio on and nothing happened. It's rechargeable lithium ion battery needed recharging and the parts list described the charging cradle and both AC and DC adapters. I found them stored below the navigation table and commenced charging. The radio also has a case that can take four AAA batteries. To the case and four AAA batteries in the grab bag I added four fresh AAA batteries. Later I read the entire manual and was impressed at the sophistication in that tiny radio (West Marine VHF150). Having said that, my main interest for now is being able to communicate with a rescue airplane or ship on VHF 16. I'll be able to select power levels of 1W, 2.5W, or 5W. I will keep the instructions with the radio in a ziploc bag. I will keep the recharge kit on the shelf next to the navigation table ready to go.
The other items were in good condition, e.g. rigger knife, reading glasses, 2 parachute flares, a small first aid kit, a signalling mirror, a head torch (working), a small hand held torch, a liter of water, and laminated copies of both of my passports. From now on I will visit the grab bag frequently and make sure that the lithium ion battery stays charged.
We crossed latitude 20S just before 6.30 PM local time. There was rain at various parts of the horizon and it caused disruption to the wind at times. At one point we were headed WSW and I foolishly threw a tack that I was force to abandon 30 minutes later. As darkness approached we were hanging in there doing about 5 knots and headed SSW. I had a feeling that I'd be on deck tending to the sails several times during the night.
radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com