27 May, 07 – 22.30
24 hr progress: 31.5 Nautical Miles (1 nm = 1.85 km)
Distance left to Antigua (straight line): 463 Nautical Miles ( 856 km)
Distance completed: 2883 NM (5333 km)
Wave height: 12-15ft, Winds: 25-30 knots NE, Bearing: 240-260 degrees.
Very testing weather. Clouds have been low and depressingly gray all day. High winds and high waves. Usually, the higher the waves, better the mileage gotten by by surfing down them and increasing the momentum to row up the next one. Unfortunately, without a rudder, the higher the chance of capsizing as well. As a general rule, if the height of the wave is more than twice the width of the boat, the boat is likely to capsize.
The good news is I got my mileage back up into the 30's by putting the rudder back and taking advantage of the good surfing conditions.
June 1st is the official start of the hurricane season. Although most hurricanes occur in the July-September period (when the water temperature in the Atlantic starts heading upwards of 26 degrees C), one or two hurricanes still occur in June. Last year, the first low pressure system swept thru the South Atlantic on the 7th of June. Given the ongoing changes in global weather (plus this year is an El Ninio year), opinions vary on whether it will be a late start or an early start this year.
So right now, to err on the side of caution, I'm desperate to improve the mileage, so that I can make it to the safety of land before the hurricanes start.
Ever since I took the rudder out a while back, I've watched my daily mileage drop from 40 miles/day to 8 miles/day and from then on hover between 10-15 miles/day for the past few days. This morning, I re-calculated my ETA for arrival based on speed and distance left to Antigua (above). 40 miles/day would be an ideal, to finish around 1st June. However at my current mileage of 15 miles a day I would be well within the chances of getting caught in a hurricane.
As I wrote earlier, I was saving the use of the rudder for the last 300 miles to Antigua, so that in case the force of the water ripped it off the back, I would still be within rescue distance. However, the drogue slows the boat down and putting it back on now (at 463 miles to Antigua) is the only way could be on target to achieve around 30 miles/day and make landfall by June 10th, before the hurricanes start.(I will be trying for 40 miles/day but right now 30 miles/day seems a more realistic target, taking into account my physical condition, salt sores, lack of sleep etc).
Putting the rudder back in was easier said than done. As the rudder is made from plywood coated with fiberglass it's quite buoyant in the water and I had a tough time trying to get it back on the hinges (which are underwater). I spent about 45 minutes in the rough water trying to get it back on but it was impossible to do so in the rising and falling swell and the hull of the boat threating to smash into my head. In the end, I finally got it on the hinges and lashed down by leaning out of the rear hatch of the cabin. But in the process, I had a few waves break and flood the cabin.
Though it took me some time I've now cleaned up most of the water but it's going to be quite a damp night ahead. Luckily, there is sun today to help dry out the sleeping bag and rubber mattress.
Well, at least the mileage and mood onboard is back up again!
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Gray clouds and metallic silver sea all around