An occlusion dealt headwinds and caused us to sail southwards much before I had planned thrusting the furious 50s on me as it went. The welcome began with 30 knot winds that soon picked up to 45 and the usual swell from south west. While the hammering went on and I reached top speeds of 16 knots surfing down some steep waves, I had a message from Admiral Awati. Bash on Regardless- it read. Pretty encouraging words and the 50s are all the more reason I need them. Irrespective of who was bashing whom, the boat and I escaped without much injuries.
Heading south, in a way, had solved a question which followers of the voyage have been pondering over endlessly. At 50 degrees south, and about a couple of hundred miles off Tasmania, that isn’t really a question anymore. Bass Strait would be a huge detour. As I passed Tasmania over the weekend, I could safely say that I had my Bight.
New Zealand is only a hop across from here but in between lies a minefield I would not want to step into. A low is moving from my north-west to cross our route south of New Zealand. It conceals more than 50 knot winds with waves added to taste. After due consideration, I have decided to slow down and accord it right of way. I am planning to dig myself into a windless hole for a day or so and pay the attention that equipment and rigging has been asking of me. And then, I too am entitled to a Christmas vacation, some carols and possibly a movie and popcorn.
21st of December was winter solstice. It marked the end of the southern transit of the sun this year putting an end to all the Mayan-Calendar-End-of-the-World jokes that have been doing the rounds. I wasn’t really worried, but after I threw the stone calendars out, the boat has been significantly lighter and livelier. Till now the voyage has been a race into the sun, sailing south as it went south, seeking a path through the weather that its passage cleared up. But from now on, almost for another month till I round the Horn, our paths will diverge with the sun heading northward while we go further down till at least 56 degrees. That makes it all the more important that I get to the Horn on the appointed date from where I will be free to follow the sun and head back to India.
At 50 degree south I am closer to the pole than to the equator. The temperatures too have been plunging southward and at the time of writing this blog, it hovers between 7 and 10 degrees during the day. It is becoming impossible to touch any steel fitting or walk on deck barefoot because the chill it sends up at times appears to burn. Anyone can read my thoughts now because they seem to condense in the air as thought bubbles. Showering, that ubiquitous consideration, is becoming a well planned ritual, not for shortage of water but of warmth. I will chance the plunge when I am becalmed.
This transit has been my second association with Australia, in a manner of speaking. I had visited Fremantle in 2009 to help with Cdr Donde’s stopover as his sole shore support and Man Friday. Located at the mouth of Swan river, Fremantle is the port town of Perth. With a maritime museum resembling an upturned hull, anchors and buoys strewn along pavements and motifs of the America’s Cup adorning its walkways, Fremantle comes across as a very tastefully designed maritime town. It is no wonder that it has inspired the likes of John Sanders, the eight time solo circumnavigator. The acquaintances we made during our stay- Pat and Fred, Pip and John, and Shruti among others- continue to be ardent followers of this voyage too.
Click here to have a peek into the town through my lens. https://picasaweb.google.com/107226194295094703484/Freo2009?authkey=Gv1sRgCLut3qHU1_TegQE
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