Brazil to The Falklands – Day 11

Reading: Winter Holiday (Arthur Ransome) (finished)
Weather: Changeable! Wind dropped overnight and became S2. Sun came out occasionally, but getting colder. We are in the roaring forties …..
Thought for the day: Is the fact that the Falklands current flows north – away from the Falklands – trying to tell us something?
Evening meal: Roast chicken with baked veg (pumpkin, courgette and sweet potato) and spinach dahl
Course: 190-240oC
Distance covered: At 1200 we had covered 1,464 miles (Log 5,649)
Wildlife headcount: The wanderer returned and lots cape pigeons flitting around. Pilot whales – plural, in fact very plural – a pod of around 50 whales with dolphins as well.

The wind dropped over night and the sails had come down since we had been expecting a change with the passage of another front. However, these are not cold fronts as we might expect them with gradual weather changes – wind shifts and increases, a bit of rain and so on. These are grown-up weather fronts on steroids. The passage of the front often has really torrential rain and sudden wind shifts. Today’s was a wind shift of nearly 180o in around an hour. Luckily (in some ways) this was accompanied by a drop in the wind strength as well, so it made life a little easier. However, when the wind drops this suddenly, you get a situation where it is as if the sea hasn’t read the memo, so it just carries on tossing you around, but without the wind to stabilise things. So, in our case the engine went on during the night to get us through and the sails (apart from staysail and reefed mizzen) were dropped to deal with it.

Around 09.30am it looked like the wind might have built enough to sail and the seas were much more manageable, so up went the sails again with just us and Jet – quite a workout. Initially we were only making around 3 knots, but this slowly grew to 4 and then 5 knots over the ground as the breeze found its sea legs. All very nice apart from the fact that the ‘ground’ was in the wrong direction! While we are steering around 210oC we are only making around 240o over the ground partly due to the current, but also probably our leeway as we are close-hauled – a relative term on this boat! The Falklands are on around 190o, so the TTA on the chart plotter is now teasing us again, telling us it will take 5-6 days to get there. Time to stop watching the screen once more ….

The wind slowly shifted so we could come up to a course closer to our destination, but eventually the engine had to go on as the wind died more or less completely. Just before the 6pm watch changeover though I got called excitedly. Running behind us was a pod of pilot whales. It was difficult to tell exactly how large the pod was, but we estimated around 50 whales with dolphins jumping around in the vicinity as well. They slowly tracked across past our transom – a stunning sight.