Sir Robin Knox-Johnston spots Crozet Islands. Here's the latest log from aboard Yacht Saga Insurance 13/12/06

Log date Wednesday 13 December 2006
Miles To Fremantle 2,915 nm
Distance in 24 Hours 191.1 nm
Average Speed in 24 Hours 7.96 knots

There are three groups of islands in the Southern Ocean between Africa and Australia. The Marions, Crozets and Kerguelen. Kerguelen is a mark of the course, which we must leave to the south of us. Looking at the weather ahead, and some strong northerlies forecast a few days ago, I decided to ease north early. It meant losing some more favourable wind further south, but I reckon that will be compensated by the ability to bear off when the northerlies, of north by easterlies as forecast, arrive in a few days time.

This brought Saga Insurance close to the Crozet group and yesterday afternoon we sighted them at a distance of about 30 miles. I don’t think they are inhabited even by scientists, at least on a permanent basis. The highest peak is over 1,000 metres, Munro, but there seemed to be at least four good peaks on the eastern most island named Il de L’est. It appeared very steep too, but we were a long way away so unable to see the lowest part due to the curvature of the earth. My horizon is about three miles when I am standing on deck. Beyond that I cannot see sea level. This is the first time in five voyages through this ocean that I have seen any of the islands and the temptation to pull over and explore was with difficulty resisted!

Sadly the sighting came with a serious drop in the wind strength. The mainsail is now fully set, the first time this has been possible for a week, but its shape is diabolical, and not much use in light winds so we are down on power. Added to which the only way I can be certain of the wind direction is to gybe and see when the sails come over. It is not efficient as it loses time and so our estimated time of arrival moves backwards again. Our run from noon yesterday to noon today was our lowest since we were hung up on the fishing line. We are moving a little better now.

It is becoming very cold at nights. Due to the loss of the masthead instruments I now do not know the air temperature, but you don’t leave a gap round the top of the sleeping bag in the cabin. The cold has lead to an increase in the number of hot drinks being made. Coffee is now a treat, tea plentiful and beef tea a nice change. The reward for leaving the sleeping bag is a cup of something hot, unless it is to run the electricity generator, which, for some reason, does not count, and if I gybe I allow myself one slice of Ryvita as a special treat. Bribery works, even down here!

No sign of the Aurora Australis. When we ran through this region in Enza 12 years ago we had the most magnificent displays I have ever seen, it was as if the sky was being lit up by huge searchlights. The only word for it from Saga Insurance was awesome!