Wednesday November 15th, 2000

Location

The Roaring Forties, approaching the Furious Fifties

Latitude

48.19S

Longitude

167.18W

Course

SE

Wind

SW 20 to 25 knots

Sea

Moderate

Air temp

6 deg C

Sea temp

9.5 deg C

It’s 0430 and the dawn is here as I start to write this – it’s been a clear night with a few puffy cumulus clouds about and a somewhat watery moon. The wind has eased overnight to the point where we now need more sail, but will wait until the change of watch at 0600 before we take out the reefs in both the foresail and mainsail. Looking up through the overhead window from where I sit in the communications room there is a clear blue sky–which makes a change to the angry squalls and ragged clouds of only a few hours ago.

Yesterday gave us our first Southern Ocean gale with squalls of over 50 knots in the rain. The seas quickly became quite large, with breaking crests. Seamaster would at times be right on the top of the crest of a breaking wave of foaming white water – but most times the waves went harmlessly underneath. It seemed as though the bow of our vessel was in the air on one side of the crest, while the stern was in the air on the other. We had only a few big dollops of ocean on the deck, one of which went over the saloon windows at the same time as it filled up Don’s sea boots–he was standing on deck checking the rig soon after we had decided to re-hoist the mainsail just before dinner last night. Much of yesterday was spent with only a reefed foresail and headsail set – with Seamaster marching south-eastwards at 9 to 10 knots – not fast but under the conditions, about right. Compared to the race yachts that I have been on down here in the roaring forties, being on Seamaster is like being on an aircraft carrier. We had a slow night last night, still under reduced sail, as we waited for further squalls, but the winds gradually abated.

Jeanno had a day in the galley yesterday, whilst Tracey joined our watch on deck. This worked well for both of them and Ollie is keen to try his hand at the pots and pans on Sunday – he already has the cook books out and is wondering what to produce. The guest “chefs” are, however, restricted to what Tracey says they can use from the supplies we have onboard.

The albatross have been with us all the time, no matter what the weather. The most common type are now the Royal Albatross – the biggest variety of seabird there is with a wing span that can get to 3.5 meters. Most of the ones we have seen are probably not much more than 2 meters across, but they are still large birds. This is their home, not ours. And they are the most graceful flyers imaginable. They can fly extremely fast, or almost hover in one place, all without flapping their wings. They use the up-currents of air from the waves and swells of the ocean to give them “lift”. When turning at low level they bank over so that one wing-tip is just brushing the surface of the sea. They quite often land nearby and watch us sail past – they seem very buoyant and are quite at ease sitting on the surface of the sea, even with breaking waves about them.