Day 4 & 5, 21 & 22 August
I had pulled in the birds for the paravanes last evening, but overnight the rolling had increased as the winds and waves increased, so at 05:30 birds went back in the water (when underway, I always keep the paravane poles out, so if I need to deploy the birds, it’s just a matter of throwing them in the water), as the rolling had increased to ±20° (again reminder this means the boat is heeling or rolling 10° in each direction, left and right, though in actuality, the waves make a difference so it’s usually 12° on the downwind side (which for the rest of this trip will be the starboard (right) side).
This was a fateful day. My Horta luck ran out. I made some really strange decisions that I would really suffer for a week later. The day had stared with strong NE winds at 20 knots. I could not travel into those winds as the boat goes very slowly, like half speed and the pitching of the bow becomes like a bucking bronco. One lesson I’ve learned about ocean travel is that since you don’t have to worry about running onto shore, you can go any direction, but in a boat that travels 6 knots normally, it’s fruitless to go into strong winds.
So therefore, I made a decision to go NW! Which would have put me in Greenland in two weeks. But an hour later I turn around and head SE. Now, SE would put me in North Africa in a week. But, remember, I could not go NE because of the winds. This little escapade cost me three hours, as I crossed the spot I was the hours earlier. I was so irritated at myself that I did not realize for a full day that I was compounding this error tenfold!
Later on, someone asked if I did a “Crazy Ivan”. In the cold war days, Russian submarines, would turn suddenly and go back the way they came to check to see if anyone was following, thus earning the name, “Crazy Ivan”. No I just changed my mind a few too many times.
The winds stayed at 20 knots out of the NNE all day. I continued to motor SE towards Africa. Had I not been alone, someone, anyone, on the scene would have asked, what our goal was and as soon as I answered that question, I would have seen the folly of my ways. Decision making is the biggest casualty of single handing.
Winds continued all day, night and into the next day from the NE, finally becoming easterly by evening and weakening to 15 knots. I keep my course of ESE now aiming for Gibraltar.
A number of folks on Trawler Forum have helped me by texting me the current locations of high and low pressure centers, along with their center pressure. I then plot these positions and draw the isobars, so I have an idea of the gradient, which causes winds. The picture shows the 21 Aug, then I used it for the next two days to plot positions. I need to be on the east side of the developing low, so the southerly winds it will develop there push me north. So far, it seems to be working.
In looking at the weather maps I had created based on the positions I was texted, I am starting to understand my logic, I was determined to stay on the east side of any low pressure area. On the first map, the 21st there is this large High to the NNW of Dauntless, moving southeastward. That was producing the NE winds I encountered and at first I thought to go NW to get on its other side, but then realized it would take forever, so I turned around.
Two days later, the map shows the high already over Dauntless, with the large low pressure area building to the NW. Looking at that map now, it seems I did take a good course by trying to get to the east, as the winds built strongly from the SW over the coming days.
The east side would mean Southeasterly winds, which I wanted and which came on the 23rd.
But as I look at the maps again, I see that my idea was right on, it was my execution that was lacking. First, even looking at the positions of Dauntless on the three consecutive days, it’s like we hardly moved, yet the highs and lows moved a quarter of the way across the ocean. On the 21st, when I turned SE, I accepted the fact that the winds were going to push me to Portugal. I would have been right, had they kept up for a solid week, So, finally in hindsight, I see I should have motored slowly north that first and second day, until the winds had a southerly component, as they would have on the 23rd. then full speed ahead north
I spent much of this day experimenting with course and speed, to find the best way to mitigate the wind coming directly from the direction I wanted to go. It was slow, 3 knots, but at least I wasn’t wasting fuel and I wasn’t getting further away from my destination. I spent three hours going due east, and had a very easy ride with 6 ft. waves coming from the NE.
Finally, after a full day and a half, 34 hours after my first harebrained course change, I changed course to due NNE, into the winds, but really slow, at low (1100) rpms. The ride wasn’t bad, the roll was minor and I was going in a direction that I needed to go.
This ended up being a very good strategy for the conditions and this boat