The anchorage were we spent last evening and night proved to be a quiet spot, sheltered from the strong winds blowing further offshore around Tristan da Cunha. Just a 25kn blow provided a bit of sudden surprise in the early hours of the morning, but soon was gone and calm conditions were back.
This time was enough one anchor and 5 shackles of chain to hold tight overnight, and still in calm conditions it was heaved about an hour before breakfast. We left our overnight spot behind and head straight towards the NE shores of the island, to “Edinburgh of the Seven Seas” little town. But soon we found ourselves under 30 to 35kn of wind from WSW plus growing W-ly swell. The feeling of missing the landfall started hoovering in the air as Europa faces those conditions on her way. The sunny day and clear skies seem to tell a different story, just high clouds cling on top of the mighty Queen Mary’s Peak. But as soon as we had radio contact with the islanders we were informed that the harbour situation wasn’t good for trying any landings and actually the port was closed, with no signs of improvement for the rest of the day.
Europa pitches and rolls in front of the settlement on winds over 20kn and substantial swell, while the Captain gathers all of us to make official the news that the coveted landing will not be possible, and after two and a half days waiting for a weather improvement, now time had come to set sail towards Cape Town.
During the last days we have seen more of Tristan than in the several other occasions the Europa had visited the island. Not being lucky enough to land, nevertheless we have used 3 different anchorages on its SW, S and SE sides, and then made our way too the NE in front of the village. With this we could have pretty good impression of the remoteness, isolation and roughness of Tristan da Cunha, seemingly taken out of a movie set.
We all could see as well the tremendous difference it makes to choose a good spot for waiting at anchor, like last night calm and sheltered area, and the rough conditions that reign just a couple of miles off the coast. Hopes for going ashore were high yesterday as “Halfway beach” anchorage provided perfect refuge, and many felt that being flat calm and windless there, it would be similar elsewhere. But reality proved to be different, and although the wind eased from a couple of days ago, still blow hard and raised the seas offshore.
Nothing else to do than turn around and enjoy the great sailing conditions. First unfurling the sails under the sunny weather and the watchful glance of the island’s top, showing up between its hat of clouds. In 20kn of wind, first Top sails are clued down and hoisted, together with Fore Top Mast Staysail, Inner Jib, Dekzbbaber, Middle Staysails and Spanker. But after a great start we fell into an area of confused and variable breeze, where the general S and SW-ly wind is under the island effects. Sails fall aback and engine runs for a few minutes just to get us further off the coast where the uninterrupted flow of wind fill the canvas again.
Like this, after not having the chance to set foot ashore, but gifted now with good sunny weather, fair winds and great sailing conditions, we leave Tristan da Cunha. At our back we can all enjoy spectacular views of the whole island, including its highest point, over 2060m high, while its endemic Yellow-nosed albatrosses fly over our heads bidding their farewell.
During the first part of the morning we still experience quite variable winds, shifting between SE-Ly and S-ly, 20 to 30kn, while we keep up sailing from Close Hauled to Beam Reach and back, finally adding some more sails to the configuration. All Squares and Outer Jib were set. Like this we start making good progress towards the 1550nm distant Cape Town.
All the remaining canvas is hoisted before diner on S-ly 15kn of wind, but again higher Staysails and Flying Jib come down under the strong gusts blowing before midnight.
Although Tristan da Cunha is located at a latitude of 37ºS and Cape town slightly north of it, at 34ºS, our track will lead us first on a SE course, close back to the 40ºS, in search of fair winds.
During the last days we found ourselves under the influence of a High Pressure System located North of us, causing the good winds we experienced today, but those lower latitudes are known to host Anticyclones, and what we want is to keep ourselves on the South side of them, avoiding falling again at their windless centre. For this we head on a course leading towards the Roaring Forties once more. Here at the Southern area of the South hemisphere the global patterns of wind circulation are less affected by the landmasses. The large expanses of open ocean below 40ºS allow for development of high W-ly wind speed, with its flow just interrupted by small islands, Tasmania and New Zealand. North of this wind band we take the risk of falling on calmer areas like the “Horse Latitudes”. A straight line as a shortest route to a destination is more naturally taken by motor-vessels. Since the wind dictates the progress of sailing ships, their Captains must find rules where the wind will probably blow in fair directions to accomplish an itinerary.