British sailor Jeanne Socrates, the 70-year-old solo circumnavigator who is now trying for a solo, unassisted and non-stop circumnavigation, is approaching a waypoint south of Cape Leeuin south of Australia. She is having a tough time. Her radar mount is damaged, her wind generator trashed and steering rudder has fallen off. Read her unabridged email from the comfort of your cockpit at anchor or lounge chair at home and empathize.
Jeanne Socrates in port
Friday 22nd March 2013:
Up before dawn to 'gybe mains' with increased, veered wind - now from NW. Pressure was down - and kept dropping over the day to 1007 by nightfall - more than expected .... and wind stronger, also.
Rough conditions - enormous swell of 6m or so, with wind waves on top, foam streaks and lots of 'white horses' , wind 30+kt ...whistling in the rigging... mainly overcast with occasional weak sunshine getting through gaps in cloud. Kept going OK until about 4pm when heaved to after a wave had knocked us rather suddenly and damaged the radar mount - the bracket welded on to the pole, holding the nice Scanstrut gimballed fitting, was skew and the radar was no longer level.
I tied the radar holder to keep it from moving too much in an effort to reduce stress on the weldd joint- the GPS is on the same fitting - I don't want to lose that.
We'd made good progress up to then but seas had built more with the constant strong wind.
I came below, as darkness was falling, to make up the log and prepare my usual daily position/weather report and then made some radio contacts. Later, I heard an odd noise from on deck - the wind generator had come off its pole and was swinging around on its thick cable, banging into things.
It had already lost two blades and most of its tail and the third went as I prepared to go on deck (foulies, boots & harness take time!). I had to tie it off to prevent it moving - It was threatening to damage a solar panel and possibly the steel arch itself - it's a heavy item..
We'll stay hove to in the strong, gusty conditions overnight and hope the wind and seas will reduce soon...
I'd watched the scene around us a lot over the day.. Lots of the usual birds, enjoying the strong winds - but among them were two White-faced petrels very close by- eye-catchingly different from the many Soft-plumaged petrels.
As I was organising the boat to heave to, I noticed a lovely Royal albatross not far away - but I was too busy just then to pay it my usual attention...
Saturday 23rd March 2013:
Was awoken before 6am, soon after dawn, from a short sleep while still hove-to by a banging on deck. The wind generator, that I'd tied onto the stern arch temporarily in the dark last night after it had come off its pole, was again swinging freely in the big seas. It's very heavy and threatens to do major damage when banging into things so I hurriedly got into my foulies and boots and went up to lash it with a far stronger & longer line - difficult with seas still up around 5m or more and in wind around 25kt, although both far less than overnight. As soon as it's calm, I'll take the generator down below but it's far too heavy for me to move safely until these seas have lain right down. (So that can't happen very soon!)
A little later, I was about to get back to sleep but realised that conditions seemed reasonable enough to get underway. Took a time to organise but finally we got sailing - first of all on starboard tack and sometime later, in veered wind, goosewinged on port tack. Used AP (hydraulic autopilot, acting on the main ship's rudder directly) initially, while I re-set Fred - wasn't behaving quite right, although I couldn't see why - ... Sails became backed with boat heading wrongly soon after I turned off AP... Tried again - same thing happened - most odd... Back onto AP - had just finished adjusting our course and was looking over to see why Fred was having such trouble coping - saw the rudder come free...! Luckily, its safety leash held, despite some bad chafe, so I was able to retrieve it as it trailed behind the boat - but the sugarscoop (steps on stern) was really slippery, not making it any easier & my hands got smothered in black anti-fouling! Goretex-lined Dubarry seaboots worked well when washed by seas! So the Hydrovane rudder is now lying lashed on deck - we're committed to the AP until seas are calm enough to get it back on - need fairly still water for that, so that's another thing that can't happen too soon! I can only think that the security clip holding the pin in place that fixes the rudder to the post had broken or rusted away - it was really strong, so shouldn't have given rise to this problem.
Ran generator while I downloaded emails/grib files... Should really do it beforehand, but I like to have batteries reasonably well charged once I've finished with radio - never know how long emailing will take since depends on whether fast or slow connections - unpredictable! I'm conserving battery power by turning off anything not vital - e.g.the chart plotter takes 3-4A , I've found, so it's now turned on only rarely, and similarly, the laptop, conected to 12V, is put into 'Sleep' mode whenever not in use. Solar panels put in power nicely for a short while in sunshine this morning, but sky is mainly overcast, giving minimal input.
Snatched some more sleep before trying to contact Pacific Seafarers' Net at 10:30am- but Net Control, Jane, N7TZ, could not copy me (nor could anyone else), although I heard her just above my noise level - frustrating! Emailed report and then got back to bunk for some more sleep before downloading weatherfaxes from Wiluna, Aus, just before midday.
Sailing today has been far calmer, despite 4-5m seas, with pleasant WSW F5 wind, veering to NW, for most of the day. Tonight, seas are up slightly and might increase further as another deep Low passes by S of us, possibly also giving increased wind tomorrow.....
Highlight of today was spotting a Sooty albatross flying past - a juvenile with a pale grey 'collar', otherwise all dark. Much smaller than the Royal albatross seen yesterday.
I'm about to have some of the meal- in-a-soup (beans, lentils, ham, with several vegetables) that I made earlier today in between a major clear-up in the galley area - should last me several days!
Having been hove-to at night for 15-16 hours, Jeanne had made just 62nm in the 24-hour period. She is now situated 540nm from Cape Leeuwin on the south west tip of Australia, and just 259nm from her waypoint to pass this next of her 'Great Capes', having already passed Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope. Her next - and last - Cape to pass is the South East Cape of Tasmania, before she heads north to cross the Pacific on her way back to Victoria in Canada and final victory.
Stay with it, Jeanne, we're all with you in your endeavours.