Week 15 - They're Behind You..... (Oh No They're Not - They're Ahead!)
A Note from your DPA
If you ever wanted an insight into the mind of Iain Macneil (not that I am recommending it) this is what he posted in the Saloon to tell everyone to change their clocks and watches.
Basically it says they are going from UTC-10 to UTC +13
See how easy that was?!?
Wed 09/03 (Day 99)
Every day at 00:00 UTC meteorological officers worldwide collate their weather forecast data, which is issued as raw data before it is represented and re-interpreted by the main weather websites and Apps.
Our weather routeing advisor at PassageWeather.com works to these hours and before he starts his day, at 21:00-22:00 UTC we send in our Position, Course, Speed and details of the wind and sea state that we are experiencing. This is projected forward to 00:00 UTC and once the latest weather modelling is overlaid, he issues a forecast and routeing guidelines specifically for Astra.
Today, at 02:30 UTC our updated forecast revealed that the low pressure system 700 miles ahead of us that we have watched for over a week) has been upgraded to a Tropical Storm (ID: 96L) and its now unpredictable track is worrying and will need to be closely watched.
At this stage, due to the low N’ly swell, the stabilisers were switched on but too late to save our 3.3 Litre glass blender rolling over and smashing to pieces on a BIG synchronous roll!. With the stabilisers on speed dropped to 5 knots, but this was currently ok as no-one wants to go charging onward to meet this storm. We were happy to slowly progress SW towards the South Cape, New Zealand until we got more information on 96L and the best strategy to navigate around it.
As the vessel came to life that morning we had continual drizzle most of the night and it’s the first day where it was too wet and unpleasant for the exercise bike. (As it becomes cooler outside, the engine room becomes a noticeably cosier place!)
It is getting cooler again as we move to the deeper Southern Latitudes and the heavier duvets and blankets have been broken out and brought in to use.
A frequent question is about what it's like to sleep onboard and how comfortable (Snort....Ed) it is, particularly in heavy seas?
On merchant ships it is common practice to take one of the large SOLAS approved orange lifejackets and wedge it under your mattress in bad weather to hold you in place!
Boating Tip – Sleeping Position
During sea trials in the North Atlantic we found that the mattresses were comfortable, but when rolling we would slide about in our bunks. When the engine was serviced in Vigo across October 2021, we searched the bedding shops and found some 1.35m long memory foam pillows. Two of these were purchased for each bunk onboard. The main sleeping approach at sea with a slight roll is to sleep in the recovery position with the 2nd pillow propped behind you. Using these long memory foam pillows was quite transformational in allowing us to sleep with a reasonable level of comfort onboard.
Thu 10/03 Day 100
03:00 UTC – As our updated weather forecast comes throughout looked much better .. The tropical storm 96L had been downgraded (again) to a low pressure system of 990mb and was now tracking west to the top of North Island (NZ), forecast to track SW and dissipate. This was really good newsaftrk watching it for over a week. It was this weather system that encouraged us to stay in Tahiti, as its movements had been unpredictable for some time.
Last week, as we waited for this storm to decide which direction it was going to move in, it felt like a game of 'tag', where we were in our ‘den’ in Tahiti. However, even with the significant expanse of the SW Pacific between us and NZ, we definitely did not want to get caught by it as there was nowhere to hide or shelter. This storm definitely had a sense of hum and did nothing as expected!
At 10:00 hrs a 30 ft log revealed itself immediately ahead of us!
When we left on Sat 05/03, the game plan was to proceed very slowly, at 5.75 knots, and strike off the initial 600-700 miles over the next 5 or 6 days, by which time we should know exactly which direction the storm was moving. With some 2,000 miles to go to the South Cape of NZ, we could make our move and run for it (before the next storm comes across!).
At 10:30 on Thu 10/03 the time had arrived and, after some final calculations, from Iain, Carlos was given the go ahead to steadily build up our speed from 5.75 to 9.5 knots, with our fuel consumption increasing from 32 litres/hr to 85 litres/hr. (Clearly, the calculations do not factor in any rise in fuel costs.....Ed)
Carlos speeds things up!
Fri 11/03 (Day 101)
We were becalmed at the night, with our specialist wave analyser reading a wave height of only 0.14 metres. This really is the calm after the storm as this is the area that showed wave heights of 7-8 metres on Monday/Tuesday of this week. However, as we watched carefully there was an incredibly long swell from the south, but this period of 17+ secs was so long that it appeared, for a time, to be indiscernible by the technology.
By early afternoon, the wind was blowing from the East and the swell slowly followed it in an anti-clockwise direction. As the 2.7 metre high swell came on to our beam we started to roll but as it continued to follow the wind round to the East it made the movement onboard more comfortable. After our increased fuel consumption decision, on Thursday/Friday we pumped 6,000 litres of diesel down from our deck tanks to our main internal tanks.
Sat 12/03 (Day 102) through to Mon 14/03
While we are a few days off crossing the 180 degree meridian, NZ is currently keeping a time zone of UTC +13 Hrs, so rather than put our clocks back one further hour from UTC -10 Hrs to UTC -11 Hrs, we decide to strike UTC -11Hrs and call it UTC -13 Hrs and in essence skip the dateline a little early, losing Sunday completely in the process!
(ok - here he tries to make the explanation a little easier....Ed)
If you imagine a world map, we will basically be falling of the extreme left hand side and coming back on in the margin of the right hand side of the world map just off NZ and in a time zone ahead of most of the world.
(did that help? nope, me neither.....Ed)
Psychologically it feels great to get to a time zone ahead of the UK/Lanzarote, which for so long we have been languishing behind. Now we just have to continue to sail westward, getting closer and closer to the time zone that our families and loved ones are on.
Mon 14/03 (Day 103) 19:15
At this time the wind dropped to Force 3-4. However, as we were on the 220° Heading we still needed use of our stabilisers as the swell was coming from 070° and we were making a speed of 9.2 knots.
Therefore, after our evening meal, I adjusted our heading to the Rhumb Line bearing to South Cape of 239°, placing the swell almost directly astern and switched off the stabilisers. This brought our speed up to 10.0 knots immediately and so we have continued.
Tue 15/03 (Day 104) 18:30 We exited the most recent communications blackhole in the SW Pacific after a period of 9 days!
Location: 300 miles east of Wellington, NZ
Cross 180° Meridian: Thu 17/03
ETA South Cape, NZ: Sun 20/03 afternoon
ETA Hobart, Tasmania: Thu 24/03
ETA Fremantle/Perth: Sat 02/04.