Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Xplore in the Drake Passage: 11 Feb 2009

This morning a few thoughts from port watch which has hitherto been silent in the blogosphere ... One thing that is nigh impossible to convey to those not lucky enough to experience it firsthand, is the sheer beauty and exhilaration of being on a large fast boat with a balanced sailplan on a downhill romp (wind in the aft quarters) in the open ocean with a following sea. I have tried and failed many times, on this boat and others, to capture on film (or chip) the gracefully choreographed poetry of motion as the boat weaves its course ... the rig aloft creaking and groaning (or is it 'oohing and ahhing'?) as it powers up into the wind on the crests of large ocean rollers ... and then -- as if knowing too much of a good thing ruins the novelty -- it expels all this energy sliding down the waves in a gliding flourish, de-powering as it goes, ready to be held high on the next wave and sip from the cup of nature's force. Well my 'poetry' is of course drivel, but I was just caught up in the emotion of sunrise in near-perfect sailing conditions with something cultured like Chopin, which is playing gently in the background (someone else left it on, of course) at the nav table (although naturally I am spending much time outside enjoying the elements rather than the relative serenity - and warmth - that the virtual world has to offer). As the low pressure system we have been monitoring has moved over us it has gifted us with steady south westerlies ranging from 20 to 35 knots during the course of the last 16 hours or so. The sea-state has calmed considerably during the course of the night (not counting the 10 or so metre ground swell that is) and the boat has been powering along at between 8 and 12 knots consistently, with similar measure being made over ground. This, the best sailing of this trip so far, was delivered at the just the right moment, after more than a few watches of frustration at 'mixed' conditions shared amongst us all as we have waited what seemed like an eternity for weather predictions, and therefore our strategy to address it to play out. As Steve shared in one of his last communications, our frustration at the mixed conditions was somewhat amplified by one small spanner in the works: the mainsail headboard imbroglio (i.e. it busted). After a day of letting what will be be, I think this caper had the strange effect of energizing us, causing us to stand up and try and to do better with the resources immediately at hand: those being a big powerful green boat and some other flappy white things (well some of them are the sailmaker's yellow) to play with. And here we are: the flurry of activity yesterday paid off, and this morning at dog-watch changeover we are 120 nautical miles from our waypoint near Cape Horn, slipping steadily in the right direction, rather than 300 miles from that waypoint, crawling the surface of the Southern Ocean, following weather around as was yesterday morning. How times change, and they will again, and so we enjoy these moments while they last. This attempt at a blog is incriminating evidence. Better break free of the nav desk cocoon and spend some time outside or risk a bollocking from Steve. It is too nice out not to really ... One final fortunate note: some colour has returned to the faces (and appetites to bellies) of a few unfortunate Xplorers who have been rather subdued of late. A good thing ... [ED NOTE: At last report Xplore was 85nm from Cape Horn, with plans to sail directly to Puerto Williams and onto Ushuaia by Friday.]

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