Week 16 - Swerving Around NZ (We didn't want to go there anyway!)
This week is all about our departure from The Pacific Ocean and our entry into The Tasman Sea on the voyage leg from Tahiti to Hobart.
Thu 17/03 (Day 106)
Our GPS readout at the very moment we crossed the International Dateline
At 18:48 hrs we crossed the International Dateline (Longitude: 180° 00.00’) in the parallel of Latitude of 40° 40.6’S.
On that same evening we also featured as a 3 minute news item on the Scottish Television early evening news : you can watch it here if you would really like to (this one is in English).
Fri 18/03 (Day 107) A rookery of albatrosses joined us to escort us out of The Pacific Ocean. (Hah! - someone was googling collective terms while on watch.....Ed)
As we approached NZ, crossing the continental shelf off South Island we passed a couple of local ships and a local fishing boat. Iain & Luke, who both have fishing backgrounds, identified it as a stern trawler, but the outriggers with heavy lines streaming from them looked distinctly odd.
Luke sent the pic to a friend who fishes in Orkney, who in turn sent it to a fishermen friend in NZ, who told us that these outriggers are used to deter albatrosses and other rare birds from approaching the working area of the fishing vessel and becoming entangled in the nets. Cool!
Sun 20/03 (Day 109)
Today we rounded South Cape, Stewart Island, New Zealand, which was our 2nd Cape of the trip. This big Cape is another with a confluence of two very powerful bodies of water, in this case where the SW Pacific meets The Tasman Sea, and the characteristics of such Capes are where the real challenges of this trip are created.
Eight hours before we reached South Cape, we could tell we were approaching a dynamic water area as we had to start our 2nd steering motor. This doubles the speed of our steering gear, that in turn drives our rudder arrangement, and we need it to ensure we can keep up with the overfalls, rips and eddies that were causing us to yaw +/- 10° from our prescribed course. Its a very remote looking rocky outcrop and we felt a sense of achievement as we passed it.
Time in the Pacific: 60 days Distance in the Pacific: 10,600 miles
Traffic seen in the Pacific: 1 x LNG Tanker, 1 x Bulk Carrier, 1 x Ferry NZ – Tahiti and 1 x Chinese fishing vessel.
(This was all the traffic we saw in 60 days in the Pacific and the 3 larger ships were all reasonably close to port or land)
As we rounded South Cape on a fine Sunday afternoon we were fortunate to have 20-25 knot following winds. The crew all enjoyed their 2nd dram of whisky to celebrate the rounding of a Cape, but it really did feel as if we had been in the Pacific forever. It is a seriously big ocean and our distance covered in the it represents just over 1/3 of the overall circumnavigation distance.
As we savoured our drams of whisky to celebrate this 2nd Cape, and just as we turned WNW to cross the Tasman Sea from South Cape to Hobart, Luke said while raising his glass in a small salute “you know… the first ship I sailed on was called TASMAN SPIRIT”, and with that he finished his dram, with one of Luke’s grins. (Ah, we should have got a pic of that grin!.......ED)
To give some further insight in to how dynamic and changeable the weather is down here, we have been watching a Low Pressure of 987 millibars that is forecast to be just South of Tasmania at the end of the week. By the time it tracks south and reaches the Antarctic shelf next week, it will have deepened to 940 millibars!
Description of this ‘vigorous’ weather system by the Australian Gov’t Bureau of Meteorology
Interesting caveat at the end of the weather report by the Australian Gov’t Bureau of Meteorology
Mon 21/03 (Day 110)
Today is the spring solstice for the Northern Hemisphere and the autumnal solstice for the Southern Hemisphere. It's the day where at noon, if you were stood on the equator, the sun would be directly overhead as it crossed from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere and continued its journey north over the next 3 months until it reaches the Tropic of Cancer.
However, for us, Day 110 will be remembered for medical reasons. The most obvious risk onboard is injury through a slip, trip or fall. We are very conscious of our heavy fire doors to the laundry room and engine room access and the two heavy watertight doors in the engine room.
Medically, we felt one of the bigger risks was dental and the risk of infection, particularly on our larger ocean legs. All crew were asked to see a dentist in the month before we departed Lanzarote and many of you will be aware that one crew member needed a multiple wisdom tooth extraction 6 days before we sailed and only got the ‘go ahead’ from the dentist 22hrs before we departed!
We carry a substantial stock of readily accessible consumable medicines and vitamins (eg ibuprofen, paracetamol, antacid tablets and plasters) but because Astra has no restrictions on where she can go, we also carry a ship’s medical chest that reflects the remoteness of our circumnavigation. This is backed up by a team of shore based doctors in Southampton who specialise in supplying telemedical/video services to shipping and large yachts.
So, 72 hours from Hobart, a crew member asked to have a sore checked in a location that he could neither see nor attend to (Discreet veil thrown here....Ed)
After inspection, it turned out to be a rather fast developing abscess, that absolutely could not be left untreated until Hobart. I am not sure how the locals would describe The Tasman Sea (welcome feedback here?), but a fair description would be 'lively' at the very least and so, in seas of 4 metres (13 ft), we were very glad of the MagnusMaster stabilisers to arrest the rolling as a short procedure was necessary to drain the abscess.
(I would like to point out to readers here that Iain is downplaying his skills somewhat, as this rather delicate surgical procedure requires a steady hand and many sharp items. I feel it may be better not to point out that he learnt these skills on the family sheep farm..... Ed)
Having 4 crew members who can keep a navigational watch provided the benefit that, in the event of illness or incapacitation of a crew member, the bridge team are able to switch to sea watches (ie 12-4, 4-8 and 8-12) and allow them a proper break to recuperate. This we were able to do seamlessly.
We are happy to report that the following day the crew member reported as being 100x better than he had been on Monday and returned to watchkeeping duties on Tuesday afternoon. A Doctor is booked for Thursday evening in Hobart to check the wound and provide reassurance before we depart for Fremantle/Perth.
With less than 11,000 miles remaining and currently completing 1,000 miles every 4.5 days, we all now have a real sense of being very much homeward bound. This feeling was further marked by Luke giving an interview to The Orcadian, which is the main newspaper in the Orkney Islands, and Iain giving an interview to The Stornoway Gazette, which is the main paper in the Outer Hebrides.
Pounding westward in the Tasman Sea towards Hobart with waves crashing over the bridge!
Current predicted ETAs Hobart Thu 24/03 Perth Sat 02/04