Day 90, Year 6 Passage to St. Helena, Day 5-Rolling Along
Date: Saturday, January 22, 2011, 1430 UTC
Weather: Overcast, then Sunny; Winds SE 22-30
Temperature: Water 66 degrees F; Air 68 degrees F
Latitude: 29 22.516 S
Longitude: 008 07.112 E
Miles Traveled: 664.97
Miles to Go: 1116
Location: Passage from South Africa to St. Helena

Not much has changed since yesterday except that we are nice and cozy inside our cockpit enclosure now and still trying to figure out why we didn’t zip ourselves in sooner. We are running with a double-reefed main and a single-reefed stay sail with 25 knots of wind, plus or minus 5 knots. We still get extended periods of 28-34 knots but they are becoming less regular and I think the seas are also calming just a bit from 4 meters to 3. For the past two days I reported the weather as ‘overcast, then sunny’ but I now realize that was misleading. When I look at the log entries, it has been 90 to 100 per cent overcast since Wednesday night, except for a short period of 40 per cent cloud cover in mid-afternoon, just when I am writing the log. Today, however, the totally overcast sky just lifted like a curtain rising on stage and right now the skies are bright blue without a cloud in sight. It will be interesting to see if this holds or if it reverts to 100 per cent cloud cover by 6 pm like the last two days The water temperature is rising just a bit day by day as we head north and west. Right now the wind is forcing us more to the west, but soon we will be passed the sea mounts we have been trying to avoid and we can tack back to a more northerly course. Sea mounts are exactly what they say-mountains rising from the floor of the ocean and coming near the top. These are some 38 meters below sea level, so no fear of hitting anything, it is just that the ocean can be quite turbulent around the mounts and we don’t need any additional turbulence right now.

Our change from head sail to stay sail was a good one except for one thing. The sheet (rope) heading back to the cockpit from the clue (end) of the sail somehow caught on one of our Dorade vents and flipped the stainless steel vent as well as the wooden top of the Dorade box overboard. The Dorade box and vent system was designed to allow air to flow into the boat through holes in the deck without letting water in. The holes in the deck have a piece of pipe that extends about two inches higher than the deck, then the wooden box screws onto the deck covering the hole. The wooden box then has a hole on the opposite end from the hole in the deck and the Dorade vent screws into that hole, the idea being that if water does go into the vent it will not go directly down the hole into the cabin. We varnish our teak boxes and take pride in the six (now five) beautiful stainless vents. I wanted stainless vents instead of the plastic ones that constantly mildew and have to be painted, but the stainless ones are extremely expensive. My memory is that each vent cost over $300, but because I wanted these so badly, Mark got them for ‘us’ for our 30th wedding anniversary. We now have a four-sided box with no top and ugly white tape covering the four-inch diameter hole so water cannot come in. This vent is right over the starboard settee that we use as a sea berth, so I sure hope the tape holds! Oh,yes, one more problem due to the change in sails. Because the seas are high, we constantly rock from side to side and the lines and sails are in constant motion. When we furled the head sail and put out the stay sail yesterday afternoon, I pulled the sheet (sailor-speak for rope that pulls horizontally to trim the sail instead of vertically to raise the sails) from the head sail too tight to keep it from flailing around and by doing so, it rubbed against the Sunbrella sun covering on the stay sail all night and virtually destroyed that. So one more repair when things calm down.

The good news is that we are more than one-third of the way to St. Helena. We continue to make more than 150 miles every twenty-four hours. I finished reading James Michener’s Caribbean last night. The last chapter focused on Trinidad and painted a picture of Carnival that sounded so inviting that I’ve talked to Mark about skipping Ascension Island and going directly from St. Helena to Trinidad. Of course that makes that run almost 4,000 miles so that fancy might pass. Carnival in Trinidad is March 7 and 8 and we might be able to just barely make it. So we shall see.