Dee soaks up the ambience of the Southern Ocean & enjoys a respite in weather 7/3/06

Date6 March at 2305

PositionS 45° 21’/E 110° 39′

Progress has been good and after having chance for some rest and recuperation over yesterday the breeze has filled in and conditions have picked up again.

I have put reefs back in the mainsail and have watched the swell of the ocean increase. We have a low-pressure system crossing our path ahead of us over the next 24 hours and then we shall be the other side of it on the other tack heading north-west.

I have experienced some very strange weather today as we were sailing along. Every couple of hours we had extremely poor visibility where you could see no more than a couple of boat lengths and everything was really wet. Then in just a couple of hours we would pass through it and be in clear skies with visibility all the way to the far off horizon. A very strange sensation and for safety I kept the radar on as I cannot shake the visions of icebergs that I have etched on my mind from the end of last week. Also as we approached the frontal system of the low, the sea temperature dropped from 10.3 to 8.2. This was not what I was expecting and can only put it down to large chucks of ice chilling it down.

With all the pounding Aviva has taken recently and the excessive amounts of seawater being shipped across the decks, the shore team and I are drawing up an extensive list of checks to be carried out for peace of mind more than anything. This list will include obvious deck and rig checks but also internal checks such as wiring looms, connections and pipe work. A salt-water environment is extremely tough on electrical systems and tremendous care needs to be taken. Even for the 24 hours I had to let the heating exhaust manifold dry out before I could use it again after my smoke alarm test, left the whole boat feeling damp and sticky from the salt-water.

The regular heat has helped protect against the damp and the cold so should have helped systems internally but it will be reassuring to check. Especially when in the worst of the two most recent storms I had a great deal of water ingress into the saloon and the chart table area where most of the electrical systems come back to.

The constant jarring and crashing off waves can make pipes, wires or ropes shift in location and although great care is taken to ensure chafe is not possible, a slight shift could realign something and put it at risk of chafe. Pipes are a classic for this. It is difficult to notice especially if in an area that is not checked daily or a pipe that is connected to something that is not used daily.

An obvious sign of the crashing that has taken place has been in the light fittings. The main lights are a push fit into the ceiling and two have fallen as we have fallen off waves and a couple of bulbs have blown that I have replaced and one set of wires to a bulb housing have corroded as a result of salt water ingress and so no longer supply power to that light.

The forces in these Southern Ocean conditions exerted on Aviva have been phenomenal, and have proved the strength of her structure beyond doubt, but even so there are areas of concern that we will be testing and checking over the next few days while conditions allow.

Dee and Aviva