A frustrating day for Dee Caffari who's currently battling with unstable winds in nteh Atlantic

Date 13 December 2005

Time 2317

Position S 16° 51’/W 35° 38′

Speed over ground 4.7kts

Apparent wind speed 7.1 kts

True wind speed 9.4kts

The early hours of Tuesday morning proved to be really frustrating. After having such a good day’s sail and then to be left with a nightmare morning, it did not do well to put me in a positive frame of mind.

The wind was blowing from directions in the range of 030 degrees to 120 degrees. It also had a strength that varied from 10 knots to 25 knots. It just made me really frustrated and really tired. Clouds were the main cause of all the shifts but even in the clear skies the wind was having a mind of its own. There must have been something happening somewhere nearby to have had that effect on the breeze where I was sailing.

This trend continued all morning and then in the afternoon the breeze was really dying out and then along came the clouds with all sorts of breeze from all sorts of directions again. They departed and left me with barely 6 knots of breeze and I was sailing hard on the breeze for a while. Again, I was back to keeping Aviva moving as best as I could to avoid her stopping at all costs. Fortunately our heading was still in the right direction. All day long there was probably only a postage stamp size of blue sky, all around was grey but still the oppressive heat remained.

It is frustrating as hell having unstable winds. The whole aim is to be sailing as fast as I can in order to return home quicker. I could have done endless sail changes today but the wind didn’t stay put long enough to allow me to get the new sail from the sail locker. I have to keep Aviva, her equipment and myself in one piece to achieve the complete circumnavigation, so making the correct calls on sail plan is essential, otherwise I spend endless hours sewing, which as a one person job is very difficult, or I expend excess energy for little reward. It is days like yesterday that I find myself talking to anyone around that will listen and asking what the grand plan is, and how on earth I am meant to make decisions when there is so little to help me. I just really wanted a break.

Well, the evening left me wondering what else I could possibly do. I had hoisted the code 0 and it had made little difference. I also noticed that the repair I made was handling all the strain and the luff rope was still slack, so I dropped the sail for me to alter the repair and then re hoisted, only when I hoisted it again the head got caught on the top of the headsail’s furling gear. It took me three goes to hoist the sail, so after all that effort I am flying it anyway. I am now sat watching every shift of breeze and also I keep checking the tack of the sail. The last thing I need right now is for the sail to break again. Progress is slow but we are moving and that is the important part. Sleep I feel will come later when we have settled into some steadier breeze. That is looking around Friday time.

I have just scared myself to death. Whilst writing this, the autopilot alarm sounded. The pilot often has errors and you have to go on deck, steer for a little bit and then allow the pilot to calm down and it can be switched on again. So I leap on deck, engage the wheel and turn around to clear the autopilot fault to find a bird sat on top of the box. He must have been having a rest and found the warmth of the autopilot motor quite comfortable. When everything was settled, I went to return to writing and his mate joined him. It’s all very well mixing with nature but I did tell them that this is meant to be a single handed affair and if they were going to stay for a while the least they could do was make conversation!

Dee, Aviva and a couple of birds!