After dodging a massive storm, Brian Thompson sets off past the Falkland Islands in 55 knots and 7m seas
I had a very interesting night behind Staten Island [east of Cape Horn] as the storm force northerlies blew down. For the first couple of hours it was relatively calm with 20 knots of wind and the boat comfortably sat hove to by a couple of tiny granite islands with just 4 reefs in the mainsail. Then the clouds started to increase, the rain began and the wind crept up. I started to sail up and down the 30 mile island to find the most sheltered spot.
I certainly seemed to have found the windiest at one point with violent 50 knot williwaws (katabatic gusts) coming down through a gap in the tall mountains. I sailed away downwind of this spot in driving rain so thick the radar could not pick out the tiny islands, and a very general chart on the computer. I used the old track of the boat on the computer and the GPS to reference our position against the landmarks so as not to hit the islands. A few miles downwind of the gap the winds fanned out and weakened to 30 knots so I hove to again with just the 4 reefs, lashed the wheels together to protect the rudders, and went below to monitor our position. Fortunately there was a current taking us to windward and with the leeway the boat was making through the water, we sat in roughly the same spot, 2 miles off the land.
I stayed up to monitor our position and the weather until the wind dropped away at dawn as the depression passed almost overhead. The barometer dropped to 963mb which is very low. I then set the wind alarm and grabbed a short sleep. Before long the wind had started coming in from the SW, at 10 knots. Within 15 minutes this was 30 knots and I was heading for the west end of the island and the end of the Tierra del Fuegan holiday. By the time I was clear of the island it was up to 45 knots and the 4 reefs in the main quite adequate in the short sea that was coming from the previous northerly winds. So for a few hours I was in the eye of the storm as all around the winds raged in all directions.
The day was spent sailing fast to the Falklands in increasing winds and seas. Wind was steadily between 45 and 55 knots and the seas got up to at least 7 metres despite the only 200 mile fetch to Patagonia. It felt just like the other side of the Horn. It was certainly the right thing to do to shelter from this storm, as I was not in the windiest zone, and it was plenty enough wind.
In the evening I was approaching the Falklands so I did not sleep at all to make sure that we avoided the rocky coastline. At dawn I passed the NW tip of the Falkand Isles, the Jason islands, some of which were very tricky to spot as they were so low. One I could not see at all until I had passed it, as the waves were breaking right over the island. Fortunately the radar could see it and unlike off Patagonia, the charts were putting the islands in the correct place. The Falklands are likely to be the last land I see until the finish in about a month’s time.
Lots of squalls around made getting the right sails tricky and I have had to do several gybes. I am quite deficient in weather information so I really need to work on my comms equipment now. Also I have 2 power problems to look at. The wind generator is not working properly, and also the main engine is making a burning smell, which could be the clutch plates for the hydraulic keel pump slightly engaging and building up friction and heat. I need to make up some shims to move the pump slightly further from the engine, so the plates are not engaging.
Lots of seabirds around the Falklands, but sadly I did not see any penguins or orcas near Staten Island. Sea temp at 4930S 5939W is 9.8 degrees. It should all be warmer from here onwards, even in the Bay of Biscay.