Monday, November 19, 2012

Day 10 - From Peace to Violence

It began as another calm day, coasting along at a respectable 3.5-5 knots with full main and jib with light NE/ENE winds. Chris was in a writing mood and composed a melody to sing to Roz and Holger on 'Melody', teasing them about leaving us behind. Sadly, we lost sight of them over the horizon and then VHF contact as our paths diverged, Ladybug pointing a little west of south while they continued more to the east.

In the afternoon we began seeing squally looking clouds around us and ahead. We listened to the weather reports from boats south of us on the Pacific Drifters Net. A few had experienced rain but no significant wind under those clouds. Nevertheless, we put a reef in the main at sunset to be ready for change in wind.

Thunder and lightning greeted us at 9pm, so we unplugged our radios and placed the secondary GPS in the oven. I have a terrible fear of lightning and wanted to hide under a blanket when the sky lit up every few seconds. Rain began and wind increased to 15 knots from the northeast. The windvane was able to cope and we were speeding along at 6-7 knots on our rhumb line to Opua. An hour later, the wind built up to 25 knots and we were doing 7-8 knots. Chris furled in part of the jib and we surfed the building waves for a while until it was more comfortable to put a second reef in the main.

Radar showed us under an extensive squall front but it looked to overtake us in another half hour. Well, the clouds disappeared off the radar screen but the winds and seas continued to build. By 2.30am we had dropped the main and had only about 60 sq. ft. of jib giving us 7 knots and more in the gusts. The seas were 2 to 3 meters by this time and closely spaced, coming at us every 5 seconds. Occasionally their force over-powered the windvane, so Chris stood in the cockpit ready to lend a hand. He looked quite wild with the tiller between his legs!

The barometric pressure had fallen 6 mb in 4 hours - not a good sign. I was monitoring the weather station like a dog in the window hoping to see an upward swing but none came. All we could do was to ride it out and let Ladybug do her thing. It was impossible to sleep as I was paranoid about running into another vessel or getting struck by lightning. Visibility was zero outside so we monitored the radar frequently. We knew there were several yachts and possible commercial traffic between NZ and Fiji in our vicinity. I found the rain and sea scatter on the radar very confusing.

To give you an idea of the wind speeds, when we jibed, Ladybug continued to sail at 4-5 knots under bare poles!

Thankfully it was all over by 9.30am this morning and now we have very little wind and bouncy 2m seas. Our happy solution is to point southeast for now with a reefed main and full jib in 6-7 knots from the north, with following seas. The sky was blue for a while with wispy fast moving clouds at high altitude but we are approaching an area of low clouds again. Friends south of us reported light and variable conditions with flattish seas.

Our position at 0745 this morning was 29 53 S 176 51 E and we ran 133 nM in the previous 24 hours.

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