Day 99, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 14-Snail’s Pace
Date: Monday, January 31, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Partly Cloudy, Bright Sunshine; Winds SSE 8-10
Temperature: Water and Air 74 degrees F
Latitude: 16 24.167 S
Longitude: 004 54.134 W
Miles Traveled: 1862.18
Miles to Go: 60
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena

We have been slowing inching forward today at a nice and easy snail’s pace. Just as predicted, the winds slowed down to just 8-11 just after midnight. So last night instead of the usual increased winds around midnight that I have started calling Midnight Madness, I had the very opposite. The nice thing about these winds is that they have stayed consistent and we have been able to continue sailing wing’n wing at 3 to 3.5 knots, sometimes 4.0 knots. A person could get used to this slow pace pretty quickly as long as the seas are as calm as they are now. This was a perfect speed for us today as it delays our arrival in St. Helena until the early morning hours. If it stays consistent all night we St. Helena. Once there we will turn our clocks back and be on GMT until we leave there. Then the steady countdown to Atlantic and then Eastern Standard time begins.

As with all passages, this one has been a mixed bag:

Days 1 and 2–We had two beautiful days at the start followed by three very windy, very lumpy days. On Day 1 we rounded Cape Point and sailed passed the Cape of Good Hope. The sun was shining and the sailing was delightful. The winds were 10 to 15 from the SSE and continued this way through most of Day 2. It was cool, but the sun was shining.

Days 3 through 5–But by Day 3 the skies were overcast and it felt cold. We had winds anywhere from 25 to 35 and the seas were very lumpy. The days and nights were most overcast, although the sun did peak through for a couple of hours each afternoon. The water temperature was climbing in to the 60’s and with it the air temperature. Those three days were not our most favorite.

Days 6 through 9–The next four days gave us winds in the 15 to 25 knot range, still with fairly lumpy seas. But it was so much better than the three really windy, really lumpy days, that we were greatly relieved. The air and water temperatures were now above 65 degrees F and it was starting to feel a little warmer despite those overcast skies.

Days 12 and 13-The winds decreased even more, down to 10 to 15 knots. The water temperature hit 72 degrees on Day 13 and it is starting to feel like we were heading in to the tropics–no more polar fleece, no more jackets, and short sleeved shirts. The only glitch was those overcast skies. On Day 13, yesterday, the winds decreased even more to 11 to 14 and then at midnight last night we reached the 8 to 10 knot stage.

Day 14-The skies are still cloudy but we could see stars last night and the sun has been shining all day today. The wind has stayed at in the 8 to 10 knot range and the seas are calm. The air and water temperatures are both approaching the mid-70’s. Life is good even though we are traveling slowly.

On this passage, we have seen a 20 degree increase in the water temperature since leaving the Cape and the air temperature is now in the low 70’s even at night. I think this is the most drastic increase we have encountered since heading south to New Zealand. One thing that did not work out for us on this passage was the plan to travel by the light of the moon. Our first night out the moon was nearly full and it lit up the water making it easy to see at night. The second night out, the night of the full moon, the sky was almost totally overcast, but the light of the moon still shone through giving us enough light. But by the third night, all stars had disappeared and only once in the following nights did we even get a glimpse of the shrinking moon. Last night was only partly cloudy so we could see the stars, but the crescent moon didn’t rise until almost morning. So for the most part our night watches have been totally black. So much for timing departure hoping for the light of the moon to guide us.

Right now we are traveling at about 3 knots. If we continue at that rate, it will take us 20 hours to reach St. Helena making it about noon. At some point I figure we will switch on the iron jenny and give ourselves a boost so we can arrive earlier in the morning. We have had to use the engine very little on this trip except for charging the batteries, so we feel like we can now afford to give ourselves a little assist. The next log should come to you from the tiny British island of St. Helena.

And last but not least-the big news of the day. Mr. Fix-it installed the rebuilt salt water pump (rebuilt from old parts from the salt water pump from the aft head) and on first try, it didn’t work. It was leaking salt water all over the place. So he took it out, took it apart and found the problem. One of the gaskets was crinkled. So he straightened things out, put it back together, and reinstalled it. And now it works beautifully. So the first part of our new water saving plan is in order. Now we need to get to St. Helena and see if we can buy water in containers to take with us. The good news is that after two weeks, we are still on our first tank of water. So we know the two full tanks will take us for four weeks. Now we just need back-up in case we are stuck in the doldrums for longer than we hope. And the other news is that Moose is continuing on to St. Helena without their auto helm. They will have to hand steer all the way, but they do have friends still in South Africa who are going to buy the necessary parts for repair and bring them when they sail to St. Helena. It sounds like Irene and Duncan will be in St. Helena for some time, but it sounds like an okay place to be stuck for a bit.

110131 Day 99 South Africa–Passage to St. Helena
Day 100, Year 6 Arrival in St. Helena
Day 98, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 13-Busy Day