Dee Caffari a month into her westabout global record attempt battles with erratic winds as she heads south down the Atlantic

Date18 December 2005


Sunday morning at 0800 UTC I had three reefs in the mainsail and some of the headsail furled away as 30 knots of breeze hit me. The wind direction had also changed so that we were now hard on the breeze heading east of south.

By 0900 UTC I had shaken two reefs out, had tacked the boat as the wind had continued to back and I had fully unfurled the headsail again.

By 1000 UTC I had barely 5 knots of breeze, a full mainsail and headsails, trying to keep going on a reach.

By midday, I had 2-3 knots of breeze, becalmed. I had turned the autopilot off as it was working really hard to stay on course and we were barely making a knot of boat speed. I lashed the wheel and started adjusting sails to try and make us move.

By 1300 UTC I realised that the breeze will come to she who waits, so I started to make use of my time with no autopilot on. Armed with my grease gun, I raised the cockpit sole boards to reveal the steering quadrant. There are various pullies and bearings that need greasing, and that was my task. Located in all the really awkward places to get to are various nipples for the grease gun and I spent about 20 minutes as a contortionist trying to get to the right places. A task much suited to when the quadrant isn’t moving as the tendency to trap feet and legs would be too huge to consider with the autopilot merrily steering away. I’m not sure if I got more grease on me or in the bearings but that is another job off the list.

At about 1400 UTC about 5 knots of breeze came from the west. I gently moved the sails across to the other side and we gathered momentum. The autopilot went to work again and I can only keep my fingers crossed that the breeze will stay, as there is no indication in the sky.

Twenty minutes later the breeze died again. Then it filled from the south, then it died and filled from the west to 4 knots and then it came from everywhere and nowhere yet again and so the cycle went on… and on… and on….

That is what I thought until we had a little momentum and we were sailing just before dark and I went on deck to do a quick check before I lost the light and ahead I saw a huge wall of black cloud. Here we go again! All day nothing and then just to say goodnight a huge downpour and who knows what breeze! When it came, it came fast. The rain fell in sheets and it was a cold rain, the first time I had felt that in a while. The wind blew hard and caused the sails to flap as it came forward on us. The reefs went in fast, two; one after the other. I went back to the cockpit to see 30 knots on the dial. I couldn’t see how big this cloud was, would the wind stay or was this to be short lived again. I furled some headsail away and waited. No more than 15 minutes and the wind speed began to drop again. It was still raining but the wind had gone. All that effort and now I needed to put it all back again. Was this the middle for more wind to hit us at the other edge of the cloud or was this it and no more wind is coming. I need a good decision or I am going to be busy all night long.

I am sat just before midnight with 4 knots of breeze rotating the anemometer at the top of the mast as if it is about to take off. Although, I am not pointing in the right direction and not sailing at a good speed, to look at my surroundings made me realise I should share them with you. Each wave that laps the hull as we ghost along sends a shimmer of light across the water. It is like sailing on a sea of Christmas glitter. The phosphorescence is always mesmerising.

Now we have been at sea a month and this last week has gone by very quickly. I have sailed 5500 miles and we are only 700 miles from the end of the coast of Brazil and the start of the coast of Uruguay. We have about 2000 miles to the gateway of the Southern Ocean, the notorious Cape Horn. So all being well we could be rounding at New Year.

Dee & Aviva