Southern Ocean just won't let go. Dee Caffari hits another storm overnight 24/3/06

Date23 March at 2308
PositionS 40° 53′ /E 49° 3′

The barometer dropped 10 mb in just three hours. Whenever you see that kind of drop in pressure it is heart in mouth time.

Fortunately, it was only those three hours where the fall in pressure was that severe. I was desperately trying to get south to avoid the worst of the weather. The system had gathered pace and the winds ahead of it were a severe storm force. Thankfully I was sailing off the wind in the worst of the conditions.

They were very similar to the storm before I found myself trapped in the iceberg field. The autopilot was really struggling driving in the swell with the strength of wind we had. I saw 58 knots of wind at one stage but I would estimate that there were some stronger gusts.

Aviva kept rounding up to windward when the gusts came or when the swell hit us beam on. With the boom dragging in the water, the autopilot alarm would sound and I would coax it back to life and steer us the right direction again. I basically spent three hours poised at the autopilot control ready to operate it when the alarms sounded.

It was a bit of a wild ride, but we did eventually make it to the centre of the system. Once there the rain that had been pretty consistent fell even harder making such a noise on the deck. It was like standing in a power shower, an unbelievable amount of water.

The night was pitch black and all I could sense was the screaming wind in the rig and the rain pummelling Aviva and I. It was a very strange sensation. We tacked in the rain and the lighter winds, then after about an hour of this rain it stopped.

As the daylight returned, a beautiful blue sky was revealed and the sun shone, the sea turned to a bright blue and conditions eased as the day progressed. It is difficult to comprehend the two extremes of conditions experienced within 24 hours of each other. I still find it difficult to accept.

We are now approaching the evening again and the wind has increased. I have put some reefs back in the mainsail and we are set to sail through another front tonight, with a tack in the early hours to allow us to sail to the northwest. The forecast is for the winds not to be as strong as last night, thankfully, but it will be another night of reducing sail as conditions worsen then slowly increasing sail tomorrow as the weather improves.

I can honestly say that I am very tired at the moment. Two nights ago we had fickle winds and I was trying to keep Aviva moving, last night was a wild ride with no sleep at all and then tonight we shall see how tricky this front will be. I am desperately trying to sleep when I can.

It seems the Southern Ocean just wont let us go easily.

Dee and Aviva