Macquarie Island lies in the eye of the wind, 850 nautical miles away, at 54 degrees 30 minutes south and 159 degrees east. With Tasmania astern, we put Northern Light on port tack, with slack in the sheets. We make a tactical maneuver not to sail upwind and point as close as we can to the mark. Instead, we head south-southwest to skirt around the west side of the high pressure, counting on a more favorable wind angle toward Macquarie when the wind of the approaching low eventually arrives and pipes up. By afternoon, there are 12 to 15 knots of easterly wind, and when it turns to east-northeast, we ease the sheets but continue heading south. By noon the next day, we're on course for Macquarie, with northerly wind blowing 25 to 30 knots aft of abeam. Over the first 24 hours, we log 186 nautical miles, but with the current, we cover 198 nautical miles-not bad for a 40-footer.
During the evening of the third day, the northwest wind increases to 40 knots. A southwest shift will be next. That's the common pattern in the Southern Ocean, and we expect it to repeat many times over the next few years. At midnight, halfway through Rolf's watch, the cold front passes, and during the change, the southwesterly wind gusts to 58 knots. The sea builds accordingly, reaching 18 to 21 feet. Tucked into the sea berth in the main cabin, I'm awakened by Rolf's footsteps on the deck overhead. He's walking forward, and I listen to figure out what he's up to. I hear the main preventer's snap shackle being unclipped from the toerail. He's jibing.