Thursday 24th November

14:00. – Forecast – E – E/ESE – E, 15/12, 12/9. Good wind direction, ok speed if it’s top end, forecast says big wind shadow behind island which is not good, pretty obvious though. Drifted at a good angle, under course but pretty poor distance, could be current or wind shadow. Going to have to work hard to get 40 today, not the start to the campaign I needed. Will do my best, be good to get close to 15° latitude. Fingers crossed.

18:30 GMT – Set off with very light ESE wind, calm surface with easy swell. Sculling along at nearly 2.5 knots. My injury is finding sculling tough so I removed my seat pad to lower my bottom by a couple of inches and that angle change helped however I might still have to resort to pain killers though as it has been tough to keep going all day. First two and a bit hours were fine, then the wind such as it was dropped off altogether. I could feel a pressure change and it felt like it was from the front of the boat and then I started to loose a bit of speed. As I’ve said before, better to have no wind from the right direction than some from the wrong direction. There’s always movement and its best going you’re way. I didn’t have to wait long for confirmation, the flag picked up and it was direct from SW, rowing into a headwind, only light but still a headwind. This is not the start I was looking for, it’s a disaster really. This will be my only break today, it’s not about getting to 40, now it’s damage limitation, the best I can do on the best course. That’s the only good thing so far is my course is rich with south, one consolation at least.

More later

05:00 – Vanuatu doesn’t seem finished with me yet. Didn’t even get to 30, I’m currently on para anchor as I hadn’t had a break in 9 hours, just a handful of biscuits and two power bars. If I stop, I go backwards and it takes 50 to 70 minutes to row a mile. I have to get to 166° to escape the wind shadow that’s 11nm west. I can’t go due west as I’m in the good side of a rotating current and I have a target to not get caught up in the wrong side. I stopped at 04:00, got cleaned up, had something to eat, I’m doing this then will get some rest for 3 hours or so and row all night if I have to. I need to get out of this shadow and somehow get a good number tomorrow. If I can get to the wind before daylight and drift, I’ll grab an hours sleep if not I guess I just have to keep going. At least I have coffee and music to keep me going through the night now. Problem is I don’t have days to waste. If I hang about I stand a chance of not making Australia while Cheryl is even there. I knew it would be calmer on this side of the island but I didn’t expect 40nm of nothing but headwind. Light as it is, it just steals all your speed. I’m pretty sure Tony didn’t expect this either, first I heard of it from him was this morning. It’s been a grind all day, the only good thing is the current helped a bit, without that I would have jumped ship and swam back, well not actually, see below.

It’s 06:00 now, I need my head down by 07:00, up at 10:00 and row as long as required from 10:30.

In other news:

There was one diversion today, I got up to use the little boys room, looked over the side and saw some bait fish, out of nowhere this 7/8 foot shark appears, I got the camera, by which time he had gone. I rowed on thinking what a smart move not going over the side was yesterday when some Dolphins appeared. I grabbed the camera and stuck it in the water, then I saw 7/8 maybe 9 sharks. The Dolphins, about 45/50 of them seemed unperturbed by the Sharks, swam under, over and around them without a care. I drifted further than I could handle and had to get back to the day job. The Dolphins stayed by the boat for ages, playing in the small swell, slapping their tails, which was a real treat.

I realized last night that I had described the row yesterday but not Espiritu Santo itself. A shame seeing it’s the closest I’ve come to land in six months. I was was within a mile of the tip of the island, the vegetation was unbelievably dense, short stubby trees packed tightly together right up to the water. From the shore line, I was looking at the island which soars high into the clouds. As I went down the west side of the island it was just cliffs and solid with trees, then you realise it’s got multiple peaks as you look down the coastline, huge plumes of cloud streaming from each. There’s no obvious place to go ashore, it looked uninhabited and uninhabitable and there’s no habitation marked on the charts either. However, when I went out to brush my teeth last night, I saw a tiny single light on a hillside. No idea what it was, no navigation lights shown on the charts so can’t be that. An intriguing place for sure.

Cairns is actually less than 1200nm, can’t believe I’ve moved an inch closer.

That’s it for today, not received messages yet so will do them tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

John

Out