Day 15 - Wednesday 15 Dec Today the swells got up to 3.0m and with winds of Force 5-6, the going was tough. However (and this is a bit for the ship nerds) our RPM has remained constant, with no racing of the main engine and at no point do we ever hear the noise of the propeller coming out of the water. We remain so very impressed by the design that went in to Astra and her sea-keeping ability. Today we made our first 'big' alteration based on weather routeing advice, by altering course 20° to avoid the approaching adverse currents. We jinked to port for 200’ to avoid them.
Day 16 The last transfer of fuel from the 14 IBC/Tote Tanks on deck into our main diesel tanks within the hull of the ship was completed. Fuel consumption is on schedule at 16,000 litres.
Out of the doldrums, the sun came out and we tried to remove the salt encrusted to our windows. We tried water and even hot water, finally resorting to a fine paint scraper to carefully remove it.
Today we started to make some significant decisions about routeing, somewhat more than a 20deg jink to port! The videos at the bottom of this page, taken just before we arrived in St Helena, tell the story (worth a watch here and here if you didn't catch them on instagram, apologies for the delivery.....12 days of adverse weather and non watch time spent planning kind of showed!)
Day 18 At Latitude 11°S , the SE tradewinds dropped to less than 16 knots, but remained fine on the bow. We were able to switch the stabilisers off and get the speed up to a more acceptable 6.5 knots.
So, anyone watching the AIS will have noticed some odd manoeuvres on day 19. Just before arriving at St Helena we got into some steady Force 4 weather conditions (11-16 knots) so we were able to turn and pause for short periods every 30° to take speed observations.
Making these turns, we set the RPM to 680 and the propeller pitch to 60%. With the engine consuming 1,000 litres per day we created some curve charts are known as ‘Polars’ which, while more common for yachts, are of great use to assist Passageweather.com who are providing the daily weather routeing advice for Astra.
We took the opportunity, when manoeuvring, to put the drone up for some photos, which resulted in an epic struggle to land it. At one point, possibly due to reducing battery power, the drone flew back about 1.5 miles to the point of origin where it had taken off from! Carlos, our drone pilot, had been studying man overboard procedures the day before and now we had to put it all in practice with lookouts stationed around the bridge wings looking for the drone! We turned and then once it was spotted Carlos kept an arm pointed to allow us to come back to where it had positioned and before it dropped automatically to what it thought was the ground! Great cardio exercise for Carlos and he had no need to do his fitness regime afterwards! It will forever be known as the drone overboard day!(picture below taken from the drone)
Day 20 From about 04:00, some 30+ miles away we could see the lights of Saint Helena. As day broke we could see the whole island clearly at some 16-18 miles distant, but the highest peak (820m) was in the clouds. To Iain, it seemed very reminiscent of coming up on Saint Kilda, a trip he made several years ago on ‘Silver Dee’.
The island ferry boat MV HELENA, which like ASTRA is also managed by Andrew Weir Shipmanagement in London, was alongside the berth and the plan was for it to vacate on day 21 to allow Astra on. HELENA runs with supplies from Cape Town to Saint Helena and then on to Ascension Island, before returning to Saint Helena and back to Cape Town. A total round trip of 1 month.
Saint Helena is very steep shelving, but we found an anchor spot in 20 metres of water about 300 metres from the cliff face. With a day at anchor, we have a very long job list to get through, including checks of the main engine, which had undoubtedly just had its longest run since it was built.
The big job was to activate the large 6 tonne aft crane to lift the air conditioning unit located on the deck (or roof) above the Navigation Bridge (known as the monkey island), which had not functioned properly since we left Lanzarote. After 2 hours of repairs to the AC unit we were able to lower its cover back in to position and we now have everything crossed that, as we hit the warmer weather, the aircon can be used. Remember it was 31 DegC on the bridge as we crossed the equator!
Berthed alongside in Saint Helena to receive 22,000 litres of fuel from 4 x 5,500 litre island size fuel truck.
We are departing in the afternoon to the WEST for Montevideo (Uruguay) (so if you haven't watched that video yet - do so!