Sunday 25th October

12:30 GMT – Forecast SE 15/18 all day, hope it’s 15 and high. Need some luck today as I drifted north on para anchor last night which means NW current, not good really. Things less feisty this morning than yesterday, should at least get a full day in.

After visiting the poop deck, wind is actually SSE/SE, not a good start really. We’ll see if we can hang on under 270°, got to take miles however they come unfortunately.

17:30 GMT – Wind from SSE/SE, swell mainly W/WNW and current NW, not a great combination if you’re trying to go SW. I’ve struggled doing one arm rowing all morning to hold even under 270° but failed. I’ve lost another 1/3 of a mile of south and gone back north of 10°02 and if I’m not careful I will lose the 10° as well. Add to that I seem to be exhausted after fighting the last 3 or 4 days for low totals and not much is going my way today. I’m having a para anchor break and going to see if 20 minutes with my eyes shut does anything and hopefully it will change the wind. I can’t take much longer as I’m going NW on para anchor but desperate to wake myself up.

Don’t know if I’ve mentioned but everyday this week there have been big electrical storms off to the NW, N, NE. Pretty impressive to watch as you’re rowing along in the dark.

05:30 GMT – What a long day. I had two meals at the break so I thought I’d be good food 4 or 5 hours at least, in the end I did a nine and a half hour stretch. Much the same when I started, wind still from 150°/160° and still doing one arm rowing. About an hour in the wind moved up a bit and I at least got to put the other oar out and give my left arm some help. Strong wind, steep angle, tough to make your COG (course over ground). Then the wind strength increased, it’s supposed to be easing back to 15 knots but it just gets stronger. I struggle on, not made any south (or lost any) and the swell is increasing in size and going NNW. About an hour after that the wind does move up to about 120° which is much better and then settles there for the rest of the day, however the wind takes another jump in strength and it’s now easily over 20 knots. While I’m now making a tiny bit of south, with the wind I can’t get any XTE (cross track error, amount off chosen course) back, it just keeps growing. With the change in wind direction I’m back to 2 knot miles, well nearly, 31/32 minutes. I’ll take what I can get, still running through patches which drain my speed (more on that below). The wind drops back to under 20 knots but not much and it stayed between 18 and 21 the rest of the afternoon. Still rowing 90° to the wind most of the time. As soon as I get close to my COG I get hit by a massive wave and the boats full of water. Happened a couple of dozen times, don’t know how many small dunking’s I’ve had, too many to count. The worst are the ones that come from the front of the boat (from the SSE) they sneak up and then dump a 100 gallons of water on you and then you then have to waste time bailing out. Things were big all afternoon and it wasn’t until the last hour things freed up. I only felt the drag a couple of times and felt the boat handled ok. It’s another low score though and adds more pressure.
Any other news:

Frustrations

I have plenty but a couple of big ones. As I said above I felt things loosen up towards the end, maybe I’m coming to the end of it but all day I’ve been trying to work out what it is:

Is it the boat? I replaced the rudder bungees today, the old ones weren’t holding as they should and the rudder slewed when big swell passed, thought this could be contributing, but no change, other than the rudder is better. Stuck my head under the boat, both sides, she’s clean as a whistle, absolutely nothing and nothing snagged on the rudder.
Is it too much rudder bias? This can slow you down so I experimented and no difference. I have to have some or I can’t hold my COG in the wind.
Is it wind angle or wind speed? Pretty sure it’s not as two days ago I had varying wind direction and speed and it made no difference.
Is it my COG? Well it could be. I am cutting across the main thrust of the swell but it doesn’t seem related, it happens if I drop to 270° so I think not.
It can only be current, but that’s not so simple. The current now seems to be NW, I’m on para anchor now going NW, it must be some kind of eddy effect.

I can only hope tonight was a good sign I’m close to normal rowing again. The most frustrating thing is that it has stolen at least 100nm this week and there’s no getting the time back.

2nd frustration – I’m sure I can do this now, the tough off the scale difficult bits are done. This last 2000nm is tough because I’m crossing the main trade winds to get south but that’s just grinding. I know I can do it, I’m just not sure I can do it in the time I have available. We’re looking at all options to give me a bit more time but it is running out. It’s not just my commitments, it’s also the deeper you go into December the more you risk running into a cyclone. Tony is convinced that in strong El Niño years they are suppressed but in my opinion it’s a big risk after the first couple of weeks. Not sure yet what the plan is, if I row past Vanuatu there’s nowhere to stop before Cairns.

In just about to pull the para anchor in, I’ve lost nearly 3 tenth’s of a mile of south while I finished this, I was drifting free and losing less. If I’m going to lose it I may as well have the west, may get in trouble but I need some help. It’s still feisty out there, not easing yet at all, it will also be less stress on the boat she’s getting bumped about quite a bit.

So that’s it for now.

John

Out

Notes:

Dave: I’m in the trade winds now, just need to escape this current thing. Love the joke, will stick it in the blog tomorrow.

Inge: Thanks for the support, just hope I can live up to the hype.

Brian: Good job I’m not there if they’re digging out old photos! Have a good trip back to Blighty.