Dee Caffari fully prepared for nasty conditions ahead 1/3/06

Date 1 March at 0016

Position S 46° 39’/E 115° 7′

The morning was spent in bright skies and the wind was steadily building. We were heading south of west so the sheets were slightly cracked giving us some great speeds. However, the knowledge of what lay ahead in 24 hours time loomed over me like a black cloud that I couldn’t shake. As soon as the wind speed increased even slightly, I was on deck reducing sail to the next plan. So we were reducing sail early, not a bad ploy, but there was still no avoiding what was to come.

The weather fax displays a dartboard with a long front extending for hundreds of miles north-west. It is travelling fast so is coming to meet me with an air of inevitability about it.

I spent the day feeling very emotional and couldn’t shake the fear I had for the front in the depression ahead.

I am not sure if I am getting more tired as the voyage continues so therefore have less fight in me or if experience of previous storm conditions have given me a well earned dread of the conditions ahead.

I spent the day checking and double-checking everything on deck. As always the conditions were going to get worse over night when darkness makes even the most benign conditions feel a little uncomfortable. Dealing with problems is twice as tricky at night so I wanted to be left with the minimum of jobs on deck for the dark night hours.

My body is still not healed from my rag doll impression up the mast and if anything my muscles have got tighter as they try and repair themselves. Lifting my arms above my head is painful and they have lost a lot of strength in this state. Therefore everything takes me twice as long if not longer. Just getting dressed for a trip on deck takes an effort. Then the simple task of getting out of the companionway hatch once kitted up is inelegant to say the least.

My main concern is for the mainsail, as to put the other sails away although hard work is relatively easy compared with dropping the mainsail if conditions are to be that bad. The excessive wind whipping the sail around as I attempt to drop the sail and gain control of it would possibly do more damage, so I would hope that conditions would allow the mainsail to remain deep reefed. I therefore spent an agonising 45 minutes tying up the reefed section of the sail to reduce the risk of damage from the wind and water. This involved my arms above my head holding onto the boom whilst I fed a sail tie through the cringle in the sail. Easier said than done I can assure you especially with a bucking bronco beneath you that you are hoping to stay aboard.

I have returned to that pointless obsession with the wind instruments watching the numbers increase. I have killed hours just sat watching and hoping that they won’t go too far. I have talked about breaking the remaining Southern Ocean into manageable sections so I can tick them off and feel a sense of progress. I am now reduced to thinking about the remaining voyage in four-hour sections. Six more of these and we should be through the other side! The dawn light has arrived to display an evil, harsh environment outside that will remain that way for some days to come, but the battle is really over in the next 12 hours for me as I am aiming to emerge from this front, in one piece.

Dee and Aviva