Thursday, December 10, 2015

Evanston: black waves

December 10, 1975

DURING the night, the wind swung back to the southwest. I checked the course several times and deliberately let us reach to the southeast, even though that carries us away from the direct course to the Cape. I believe a lone sailor ought to maintain if possible a position which allows a margin of error to either side of his course. Then if the boat takes off 50° or so while he is asleep, it is not an immediate disaster. The rhumb line course to Cape Horn from our position yesterday was 100°, but it carried us too close to the islands west of the Horn.
At present we are still steering south of that direct course, but no longer by choice. We would have to go on a dead run to do so, and an accidental jibe would be inevitable. A front is moving through, which spins us even farther south in gusts. Horn Island is about 200 miles ahead. I doubt very much that we will see it.
While writing this, sitting at the chart table and wearing foul-weather gear, I noticed that the barometer is falling.
A wave just justified wearing foul-weather gear while writing at the chart table.
The essential characteristic of this wind is inconstancy; inconstancy of force and direction. There is no way to establish effective self-steering when the wind blows 15 then 30, 15 then 30, changing perhaps every minute. And there is no precise way to calculate a DR position when with each of these gusts the compass swings from 110° to 175° and then back to 90°, and the desired course is 100°.
Although it has been very cold for several days, today is colder. The cabin ports are fogged on the inside, presumably from what we may laughingly consider as body heat because the stove has not been on. For many days I have been able to amuse myself by watching the steam of my breath here in the cabin, but this morning, when it froze into one solid lump as I exhaled, the joke ceased to be funny.
I spend many hours standing braced in the galley, looking out through the starboard ports, which I must frequently wipe clear of fog, at the oncoming black waves. From that vantage, I can see the compass at the chart table and consider our relationship to those waves and if there is anything I need do to improve our handling the seas.
No sun sights again today and I increasingly doubt that I will see the Cape. We are already south of it, heading toward the Diego Ramirez Islands, a clump of rocks 60 miles southwest of Horn Island. If we get a good position fix tomorrow, or if we sight the Diego Ramirez before nightfall, and if the wind permits, I will change course for Horn Island. But if these conditions are not met, we will have to sail southeast tomorrow night to be safe.