As Dee Caffari prepares for the oncoming low, Aviva has a close encounter with an iceberg 3/3/06

Date2 March at 2319

PositionS 48° 45’/E 109° 58′

The front passing was a huge relief and the night saw easier winds and a great opportunity for me to eat drink and sleep, something that I had missed out on in my anxiety regarding the conditions. Also with the motion of Aviva and the violently swinging stove in the galley, I probably would have ended up with third degree burns to add to my problems.

The daylight saw a brighter sky, a sun was present but was misleading in its presence, as it contained no warmth as again we continued our plummet southwards again. The incoming secondary low is heading towards me at 49 knots and I am desperately trying to avoid the worst of him. The strongest winds, as before are in the north and west quadrant and we are trying to dip below or at least minimise our time spent with yet again storm force winds.

As we head south in hope of getting out of his way, the sea temperature is also falling as is the air temperature and I am thankful for the extra set of thermals I put on the other day.

It has been a frustrating morning, as after some rest I have been looking at our progress and with the wind being so very gusty it is difficult to keep the boat speed. I am dealing with winds from 20 to 40 knots within a one hour period and a sea state that is still large and agitated by the depression just passed and who is eager to maintain its size with the prospect of another depression.

The wind is steadily building and again I find myself jammed in at the chart table, which is on the low side. I have the keyboard jammed against the bulkhead to prevent it moving as I type. It is pretty uncomfortable but this is the easier tack for typing on. The other tack means that I have to find a way to wedge myself in at the chart table, which becomes the high side.

Crashing off waves produces the funniest documents, as my fingers are suspended above the keyboard for a while and then strike the letters sometimes too many and often too many times as Aviva crashes down into a wave. I have created some interesting words and have to spend some time correcting my improvised language used in the first draft. I am quite proficient at it now and only on a couple of occasions have I had to resort to one handed typing while the other hand either supported me or the keyboard. Typing then becomes a slow and painful experience, whilst I use two hands, I still only use two fingers, however I am pretty quick now with the continued practice.

As the seas remain mountainous and the seawater being shipped over the deck gets colder as we progress further south, again I am on count down for this next depression to pass. In the aftermath of the secondary low passing we will tack and head northwest. The conditions will ease, the sea state will improve and the temperatures of the air and sea will rise. So now I just have to keep it together with Aviva for another 24 hours.

Just before I am due to send this a strange turn of events have occurred that I need to share with you. I had the news that we were looking good to have cleared the bottom of the secondary low pressure and that as it passes overhead we may have cyclonic winds. No sooner had I read this message then the winds dropped and the sea was very sloppy. I looked out to see poor visibility and drizzle making things very miserable. Now during the night, while I had been trying to get some sleep before we met the low pressure I had been thinking about the Volvo race and the previous Whitbread races and an account from Sir Peter Blake’s book regarding sailing through iceberg strewn seas. The temperature had been dropping and the air temperature was freezing too, that along with the poor visibility just gave me a feeling.

Dawn was just breaking and you could see without a torch, I changed course as the wind dictated and went on deck to trim the sails. There, less than a mile abeam of me was an iceberg. Had I not changed course I would have been much closer, probably even too close. Had I not been comparing races of old with new and reading about a great sailing hero, I would not have even thought about ice, had it been a few hours earlier I would not have seen it in the dark. It was very strange and scary with excitement thrown in for good measure. Now I can definitely cross off the Southern Ocean as I have now seen a real iceberg where it should be as opposed to the berg I saw north of the Falkland Islands before I even got into the South.

Dee & Aviva