Saturday November 18th, 2000


Southern Ocean






065 True


Westerly gale, Force 9 plus



Air temp

4 deg C

Sea temp

5.5 deg C

It’s now 0930 hrs. I’m rather tired this morning after an “everything” night. And I am sure that the rest of the crew feel the same. The ship is quiet down below.

We are in the Southern Ocean down at 50 degrees south, and have been getting Southern Ocean conditions. After a reasonably pleasant evening sail in still rough seas, and a great dinner from Ollie (Southern Ocean stew followed by apple flan – fantastic effort in the rough conditions) the wind died completely around midnight, and it began to rain Southern Ocean rain. We all came on deck to try and stop the sails banging and crashing, and started the motors when nothing much helped. The barograph (recording atmospheric pressure) dropped alarmingly.

Back on course, under motor, with reefed mainsail and foresail and the tiny staysail to steady us we had little breeze. But, by 0230 the wind was building. By 0530 it was an “all hands alert” yet again and we needed to get the mainsail (the back sail) off in a hurry. Down it came (sheer will power) and was properly stowed on the boom. The early morning light showed the seas to be starting to streak with foam ahead of the squalls that developed very quickly. Then we needed to gybe (change course from south east to north east – with the wind going from the starboard side of the yacht, to the port side). This is a tricky manoeuvre at the best of times, but in a building near gale, it can be very character forming. It went well, except many of the sliders securing the sail to the mast broke. We dropped the damaged sail in a hurry – leaving only the tiny staysail. By this time, this was enough anyway. The wind went to 56 knots in gusts, with the surface of the sea turning white – spume blowing down the faces of the huge breaking seas. We are still running before these seas that have built up in size to be quite awe-inspiring. Probably up to 10 meters high – but really hard to estimate – with the crests breaking and rolling down their faces. One wave came roaring aboard over the stern whilst we were working in the mid-part of the yacht tidying up the mess from the morning. We have double-checked the dinghy lashings on the stern, and other items of deck-stowed equipment and so far, so good. The pilot house door has been closed much of the time to stop the spray driving inside. And to keep the noise of the fury of the gale, outside.

10am: Looking out through the pilot house windows, or harnessed to a strong point on the deck, one can still see the occasional albatross quite unconcernedly going about their morning business of looking for food.