Dee Caffari with a taste of what lies ahead in the Southern Ocean

Date 5 January at 2137

Position S 56° 28′ / W 73° 39′

Well, my journey from Cape Horn after the wind filled in was a little different to the serene conditions I saw in the morning. I knew the weather was coming but the speed at which it arrived amazes me. We went from 10 knots to 45 knots in the space of an hour. I had forgotten how uncomfortable it is going upwind in that kind of breeze down here.

The boat felt as if she was on her ear. The leeward deck was constantly under water, more from the wave action than anything else, but I am paranoid about leaning too far in case the autopilot decides to get upset again. I was still on the continental shelf when the breeze came. I knew I had to get off it to get a better sea state. In deep water there is a longer swell, where as on the shelf the waves were short sharp and all over the place. I was just about making a southwest direction and with the wind being on the nose, the apparent wind was at the close end of 50 knots. I was at the stage where I didn’t know what sails to get rid of first. I furled a small amount of the headsail away and then got rid of the staysail completely. This helped the motion of the boat but things were slow due to the mountainous waves we were climbing.

About 60 miles SW of Cape Horn are some more islands called, Islas Diego Ramirez. Aviva was sailing as if we were magnetised. Every course and wave made us head straight for them. I tried to sail high and clear above them but the sea state was not having that. In the end, although we bore away to pass to the south, the mainsail was driving the boat to windward and also the actions from the waves were taking us towards the islands too. I ended up sat on deck easing the mainsheet in the gusts to ensure we sailed below the islands safely. They are the last land I hope to see until I pass south of New Zealand or Tasmania. I can relax now; there are far fewer obstacles to pass from now on. It was a sudden reminder of how horrible the wind and waves can be in the wilds of the Southern Ocean. With the sea temperature at 7.6 degrees and the wind chill being quite icy, my hands were frozen within minutes. I didn’t really notice until the blood started to circulate once down below, off deck, then that was really painful.

The wind started to ease in the early hours, as did the sea state as we cleared the continental shelf. The morning delivered a beautiful day. I re-hoisted to a full main once more as the sun rose above the horizon. The Southern Ocean, I remember was grey, all different shades. This sky had blue bits and there was a warm sun. About mid morning we were becalmed and I was on deck steering to get any movement we could and a whale rose alongside the boat, snorted, then swam under the boat and saw us from the other side. The whale then swam around the boat and then disappeared. It was amazing, almost as if the weather had stopped to allow me to see this, a bit like Cape Horn. I was so busy being gob smacked that I didn’t get a camera in time so I am afraid there is no evidence of my whale, but he was very cool.

The breeze has again filled in and we are reaching, which is a much more comfortable point of sail than sailing to windward. We are passing below two low-pressure systems tonight and the barometer is dropping and the wind freshening, so we could be on for another wet and windy night.

Dee and Aviva