In convoy with Fin whales
03 November 2011 | South Atlantic Oceam
Over half way!
We had rolly but fair sailing conditions for the last day or so with breeze up to 25 knots from dead astern. We were sailing with a reefed main out to one side and the yankee poled out on the other side (butterfly rig) which is used to present the maximum sail area possible to the wind. We do not carry any special light weather downwind sails such as a spinnaker as in our usual sailing area we don't expect much downwind sailing and very little light wind sailing.
Last night the swell built up to two or three metres, just enough to give the boat a little push as they lift the stern and we were regularly hitting 10 knots, if only for seconds at a time.
The wind died in the early hours of this morning and when I came watch at 3am it was time to furl the yankee and take down the pole, and start the motor. We have been motoring ever since and now have no wind across the deck with the temperature at about 15 degrees Centigrade it is very pleasant.
As pleasant as it is right now I lit the Refleks heater last night for the first time on this trip. The Refleks heater (or something similar) is a vital part of any high latitude sailing vessel. It is a Danish brand originally designed for fishing boats and is very simple; a carburettor regulates the flow of diesel fuel into a burner pot. It is primarily a space heater but we also cook on ours and it is great for making toast. Our Refleks sits in a stainless steel pan which is also a drip tray for the foul-weather clothing drying rail located behind it - we rarely have to put on cold and wet foulies on this boat.
On top of the Refleks sits our Ecofan a remarkable Canadian invention. It was originally designed to sit on the top of wood burning room heaters to push the air around the room avoiding hot and cold spots. It is an electric fan powered via something known as the Peltier effect. Basically you make one side of a semiconductor hot (the side that sits on the stove) and the other side cold (via an air cooled heat sink); the semiconductor generates electricity which turns a fairly big coarse pitch fan blade which pushes air around the cabin. My description doesn't do the fan justice so if you want to know more check them out online, just search for Ecofan.
We have just had the company of a few fin whales for 30 minutes or so. They kept station on us and checked us out from both sides before heading to wherever it is that fin whales head off to at this time of year.
There are plenty of albatross around, for the last couple of days they were mostly immature black browed, but today we are seeing more wanderers and royals. All the other usual suspects are present including various prions, storm petrels, cape petrels, Antarctic petrels, and fulmars. We have the occasional company of dusky dolphins who come to ride the bow wave.
Dylan and Tom have been learning the ropes (really they have !), Tom cooked a very respectable macaroni cheese last night. I think Dylan was a bit dismayed at having to take a turn at cooking but Dave has taken him under his wing and we are having steak and potato wedges tonight. Dave was concerned that Dylan might have been going to cook pasta again and Dave being a carnivore he had to step in and provide some guidance on proper food.
That's all folks.