Monday, July 30, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: Day 17

Date: July 29, 2012
47° 44' N 146° 17' W
Previous 24 hour run: 116
Water Temp: 51.8

Date: July 30, 2012, Time: noon PST
47° 38' N 142° 42' W
Wind speed: 17 / wind dir: 180 (S), Heading: 090, Speed: 6.7
Barometer: 1020, Water Temp: 53.6
Log: 7545.6
Previous 24 hour run: 145

Approximate destination lat/lon: 48° 30' N 128° 50' W

Yesterday evening some wind started to arrive and then overnight it filled in to 15 to 17 knots from the south. This is a nice wind range and I've been making really good time ever since. From the computer model of the weather I downloaded yesterday (the GRIB file) it looks like the current wind is going to stay around tonight, through tomorrow and then tomorrow evening it will start veering around to the west and weaken overnight. Two days from now it looks like I may be back to light winds.

At noon today I was 720nm from Neah Bay. At 130nm days, that's just over 5 days. I hate to predict my landfall, so I'm not going to. It probably won't be another 17 days though!

One note on my equipment, my wind indicator's battery died again a few days ago. I've left it off charging for two days and turned it back on today - it had a 2/3'rds charge and so will probably die again tomorrow or the next day. This happened the last time I was in cloud for a long period and I need to get the unit to TackTick (now Raymarine) so they can fix it. Or alternatively find a way of wiring in a non-TackTick unit powered by my boat system. Its on my growing list of things I want to work on when I arrive in Seattle. When I left last September I couldn't think of very much else I could do to the I have two full pages of improvements I want to make. That's what sea trials are for, right?

Aside from the improvement in the wind, the weather here is pretty much unchanged from my last report. 100% grey skies. It has been raining off and on today, but more of a heavy mist than a rain mainly, it hasn't been any real hardship.

I am constantly amazed at how large this ocean is. Its huge! I've been traveling for 17 days now and will still have only seen a small fraction of it. Its an amazing place to be. One thing that has returned is phosphorescence - it was largely absent in the Hawaiian waters - there were sparkles in my wake but that's all. Now at night I'm seeing a bright column of water behind the boat where the keel has passed through as well as my bow wake on both sides of the boat lit up brightly. There are no stars out, and watching it helps pass the time.

There are still seabirds around, and I have had several albatross sightings a day for the last few weeks. The albatross flies majestically, with what looks like so little effort. Its a big bird with a wide wingspan and I watch them every chance I get.

That's today's report. All is well onboard.

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 15

Date: July 27, 2012
46° 31' N 152° 37' W
Previous 24 hour run: 121
Water Temp: 55.4

Date: July 28, 2012, Time: noon PST
46° 59' N 148° 55' W
Wind speed: 13 / wind dir: ? (NW), Heading: 070, Speed: 6.5
Barometer: 1025, Water Temp: 52.7
Log: 7325.5
Previous 24 hour run: 155

Approximate destination lat/lon: 48° 30' N 128° 50' W

Yesterday I had a really good run in the afternoon and overnight. The boat was often moving at speeds in the 7 knot range as Luckness would move through the building waves. There was some sacrifice for comfort in the interests of speed, but as the wind was blowing in a favorable direction I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make the most of it. (Well, by 'most' I mean my conservative version - no spinnaker or anything crazy, I still had a reef in the main.) However the wind started to die off in the early morning and my noon to noon run which was looking like it was going to be very good, suffered a little.

Neah Bay is 943 miles away as I write this, which may mean there are around 7 days left in this passage. However, the wind has been light today and its looking like my noon to noon run today is going to be something like 120nm, less than I need to arrive in 7 days.

If I average 5 knots all day, then over 24 hours I make 120 miles. 6 knots would be 144 miles. 7 knots is 168 miles. My greatest distance day so far is 165nm, a few days ago. So if I average 6 knots for the rest of the trip, there are 6 and a half days left. If I average 120nm per day, there are almost 8 days left. Time will tell how it turns out.

I have been a little surprised by the weather systems that are in the North Pacific right now. I was expecting the strong high that was present when I left to last longer than it did. At the moment the mixture of highs and lows look a little chaotic and I'm sure the forecasts are having some fun trying to figure out what things will look like in 4 days time. For now my wind is lightish and tomorrow is expected to be similar. The current weather model shows Monday as having stronger south winds influenced by a low which is coming into the picture for my area.

The other aspect to the weather is the temperature. Its freezing! This morning the cabin temperature was 54 degrees, around the same as the water temperature. I'm not turning my boat heat on as the companionway is open all day and I don't want to use up the power or the diesel. I'm sleeping fully clothed on top of my duvet to make it easier to get up every 20 minutes. I've added another layer or two to what I'm wearing. When I left Hawaii I was wearing a t-shirt and short pants, day and night - it was beautiful. Right now I'm wearing: wool socks, foul weather boots, wool long underwear, foul weather pants, t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, fleece, prima-loft insulation layer, foul weather coat, neck gaitor (neck warmer), windproof toque. Its July 28th! The middle of summer!

Its totally overcast here and I'm completely surrounded by grey clouds - but for now it hasn't rained at all and the fog has gone away for the last few days. I'm hoping the rain can hold off for another week or so. Right now the relative humidity here is just under 80%, so once something is wet it stays wet. Rain would be a little miserable...

Nothing much to report here. The passage is going smoothly.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 13

Date: July 25, 2012
44° 23' N 155° 28' W
Previous 24 hour run: 92
Water Temp: 60.8

Date: July 26, 2012, Time: noon PST
45° 06' N 154° 40' W
Wind speed: 6.5 / wind dir: 240 (WSW), Heading: 020, Speed: 2.5
Barometer: 1029, Water Temp: 59.0
Log: 7072.2
Previous 24 hour run: 54

Overnight the wind died down to a few knots and I spend most of the night bobbing around. At around 7am PST (4am local) the wind had increased enough to start to sail again, and I rolled out the Genoa, jibed and got headed back to my destination at 2 to 2.5 knots. It felt good to be moving again. Since then, I haven't stopped moving. The boat speeds increased to 3 and is now finally in the 5.5 range which feels good. I'm making good progress toward my next waypoint again.

I've been sailing in dense fog, on and off for the last two days which feels pretty strange. Traveling along at just under 6 knots into fog is a strange sensation. AIS has again been a great help, I've 'seen' several freighters pass by me, in front and behind. At around 9am my AIS alarm went off as a target was received and its closest point of approach (CPA) was calculated as being within my alarm threshold. It was moving along quickly, 19 knots, and was initially 17nm away, so I had plenty of time to decide how to deal with it. I decided to jibe as the CPA, after I approached a little closer, was getting smaller. The CPA solution was within 0.3nm both sides of the freighter as Luckness moved through the waves. Its surprising that with this ocean being so large, that I would pass so closely to a freighter, but it clearly happens. The other vessel was 1096' long. In the end, after jibing the freighter passed my port side two miles to my north - I spoke to them as they passed and they had seen me on their radar for quite some time. After the freighter passed I jibed again and continued my previous course. I'm fortunate to be doing my passage making in these days when all of these pieces of electronics are available - AIS, GPS, SSB.

Luckness is running well, everything is just fine onboard.

That's all for today. Bye for now.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 11

Date: July 23, 2012
41° 44' N 159° 45' W
Previous 24 hour run: 165
Water Temp: 68.0

Date: July 24, 2012, Time: noon PST
43° 31' N 157° 12' W
Wind speed: 13 / wind dir: 180 (S), Heading: 042, Speed: 4.6
Barometer: 1033, Water Temp: 64.4
Log: 6951.4
Previous 24 hour run: 154

Its starting to cool down. Last night was the first night since leaving Hawaii that I had to wear more than a t-shirt at night. I added a long sleave shirt and a windbreaker when outside. I expect that more layers will be added in the days to come. The water temperature is falling fast now. Since the last blog post, the water temp has fallen from 74.3 to 64.3.

Yesterday the wind had backed around to the east again and in order to hold the course to my way point I had to bash into the waves all day which lead to a wet and bumpy ride (apparent wind around 45deg.) During daylight this is no problem. I'm out in the cockpit with the wind in my face, watching the waves go by. Occasionally the timing of the waves and the boat are such that we hit a wave just as its cresting and an enormous wall of spray is launched up and then back toward the cockpit. Its all in a days fun. At night however, even though the conditions remain the same, the experience is much different. The boat interior is noisy. Crashing through waves at 7 knots and over creates a lot of noise in the cabin. There is also a lot of motion. I'll be in my lee berth trying to get to sleep as the water noise, spray noise and the occasional squeak or bang is happening around me. At the same time the motion is moving me up, down and side to side in a smooth way but through a lot of motion non the less. Its surprising what we can adapt to, and these conditions are quite benign compared to what I experienced earlier in this trip (off the coast of Oregon last year) or what others experience when conditions turn sour. The conditions I'm in are nowhere near sour - its beautiful sailing. I'm still on my 20min regime - the Watch Commander is still plugged in and sounding its alarm every 20 minutes. Again, its surprising what we can adapt to.

Last night the wind started veering around and is currently from the south. This makes for a much nicer boat motion as the apparent wind has moved back to 124deg, however the boat speed has also fallen. I may fly my spinnaker today, but 4.6 knots of boat speed is not that bad... If the wind falls further that will weigh in the spinnakers favor.

There is something like 1400nm to go which puts me just over the half way point of this passage.

I'll try to send along another update in a few days.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 9

Date: July 21, 2012
37° 34' N 163° 39' W
Previous 24 hour run: 102
Water Temp: 74.3

Date: July 22, 2012, Time: noon PST
39° 47' N 162° 16' W
Wind speed: 15 / wind dir: 130 (SE), Heading: 042, Speed: 6.8
Barometer: 1023, Water Temp: 71.6
Log: 6686.3
Previous 24 hour run: 148

Overnight yesterday, early morning on the 21st, the wind started to fall off dramatically. 6.8 knots, then 6.5, down to 5 knots at noon with the boat moving at just over 3 knots beam reaching. There was a 6 foot swell, but the swell was perfectly round shaped as there were virtually no wind waves present, it looked unlike anything I had seen before - the ocean smoothly rising and falling. I had breakfast and started flying my spinnaker at around 1pm (which is really 10am local time as locally Hawaii time still applies.) The spinnaker looked great. The boat started moving nicely again, downwind now. I thought that might have been the last of my upwind sailing for a little while - sailing downwind is a much nicer point of sail. By 5:30 there was starting to be enough wind to fly my normal sails with some stronger gusts, so I took down the spinnaker and I have been sailing in decent wind ever since.

I passed astern of a freighter yesterday afternoon, my closest point of approach was 4nm. I saw it on my AIS display when it was 17nm away. The initial CPA calculated was ranging between 2nm and 5nm (as my boat is constantly changing its heading as it moves through the waves.)

The passage is going beautifully. I just passed the waypoint marking a turn for me, and I am now heading roughly for 48° north and 150° west - 750nm away. That point will likely be adjusted as I keep up with the weather but my idea is to get above the high before heading too far east, as to avoid ending up in its middle if it moves to me too quickly. As it turns out, all the westerly travel I did may have been unnecessary. I had expected the high to be much further west than it is now - this game of trying to predict the weather further out than what the forecasts say is hit and miss. I feel good about my choice still though, as my initial course made for a much more comfortable ride than if I had tried to bash directly north from Hanalei. I am currently sailing upwind again, with the apparent wind approximately 60deg, starboard. I expect the wind to veer around to more south and then south west eventually as I get further up and around the high.

That's today's report. From the beautiful blue pacific, this is Luckness, signing off for now.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 7

Date: July 19, 2012
33° 36' N 164° 25' W
Previous 24 hour run: 145
Water Temp: 76.1

Date: July 20, 2012, Time: noon PST
36° 00' N 164° 30' W
Wind speed: 11 / wind dir: 060 (ENE), Heading: 355, Speed: 6.1
Barometer: 1029, Water Temp: 75.2
Log: 6475.0
Previous 24 hour run: 145

I realized a day or so ago that my original plan to sail NNW from Hanalei to the edge of a nice well defined high and run with the weather clockwise up and around it ending up pointing back to the east isn't going to work out as planned. The high has been moving around and weakening and strengthening. Up until this point in my passage I've had good wind. There have only been short periods when I was left with so little wind that the sails would start slatting (banging back and forth as the waves and swell roll the boat.) If there is enough wind, you don't have slatting sails. I'm expecting that the wind is going to further die off between today and tomorrow, with luck I'll be able to keep making progress. It looks like I'm now sailing in-between what will be two high pressure systems, the stronger one to the east and the weaker one to the west. In-between is a saddle area with weak winds. The forecast is that a low will soon form in the area between the two highs, at which point the winds are forecast to increase and push me out of that area - if I'm still there. It'll be interesting (for me) to see if I'm able to keep moving over the next couple of days, or if I end up becalmed. Time will tell.

The sailing is still wonderful. The nights are starting to get cooler, as is the water. I haven't had to resort to more clothing so far, which is nice. There continue to be squalls which come by each day, delivering short bursts of stronger wind and rain. The wind increase so far hasn't been strong enough for me to worry about having to reef the sails, I am just running through the weather that comes without trying to maneuver out of the way.

Yesterday was the first day when I had my full set of 'white' sails up - full main, staysail and full genoa. After leaving Hanalei I had a reef in the main and a reef in my genoa and ran that way for the first 5 days making good speed the whole way. Yesterday the winds fell enough that I raised what I had. My non-white sail is my spinnaker which may be in use soon...

There still isn't much to see out here, depending on how you define a 'thing to see'. The number of sea birds has decreased dramatically. The only other ship I've seen (only on AIS) is still the one I saw three days ago. But the light, waves, clouds and just being out here is satisfying, I don't really feel the need to see other things. The nights have been mainly clear and the stars are just astounding.

Signing off for now.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 5

Date: July 17, 2012
Previous 24 hour run: 160.0
Water Temp: 78

Date: July 18, 2012, Time: noon PST
31° 17' N 163° 36' W
Wind speed: 15 / wind dir: 080 (E), Heading: 355, Speed: 6.5
Barometer: 1027, Water Temp: 76
Log: 6215.0
Previous 24 hour run: 154.0

The sailing is still wonderful. Yesterday I had the wind on my beam all day with nice wind for a good run. The wind has fallen off a little overnight and today I've put more north in my heading and still have a comfortable ride.

In the last blog update I believe I said that I passed by a squall, 'my first ever.' After thinking about that some more, I don't think that's true - but if I lined all the squalls up that I have come across, the one two days ago was the best looking squall I've seen. There have been a few more since then, but that one I mentioned was still the best looking and best behaved squall I've come across.

Part of my routine is to send this update out, and at the same time request weather information from SailDocs, so any comment I make on weather forecasts now will be out of date in a half hour or so. When I left Hanalei there was a large high forming NE of Hawaii with a forecast of being strong, around 1036mb or so. So far that has proven to be true. I can only see four days out in the weather forecasts however, and now that I'm on day 5 I'm seeing weather that I couldn't have forecast before leaving. It appears the high is moving west slowly and weakening, and the four day forecast I saw yesterday had it weakening and forming a ridge to a second on third high pressure system far to the west. My original intent was to sail west of the high and benefit from the wind veering around as we circled the system leaving me with good beam or downwind sailing. It looks now like I'll have to sail across the high in three or four days - which will probably mean slow sailing in light and variable wind - if I'm lucky! It could also mean that I'll have a little while of bobbing around waiting for more wind to arrive. It'll be interesting to see how it turns out. So far this has been a fast and relatively comfortable passage.

The water temperature has finally started to fall, although the days are still warm with shorts and a t-shirt being fine all day. At night I put on my foul weather pants and that leaves me plenty warm. I suspect these conditions won't last that much longer...

I had a couple of flying fish on desk this morning but other than the flying fish and a few sea birds, there hasn't been much to see out here. A freighter crossed 20nm behind me yesterday heading west. I saw it on my AIS display but not visually as at 20 miles it was over the horizon.

I'll try to send an update out in a few more days.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Passage to Neah Bay: day 3

Date: July 15, 2012
Previous distance run from the start of the passage: 122.5 (over 20 hours)

Date: July 16, 2012, Time: noon PST
26° 28' N 161° 17' W
Wind speed: 13 / wind dir: 075 (ENE), Heading: 345, Speed: 6.5
Barometer: 1023, Water Temp: 78
Log: 5938.6
Previous 24 hour run: 150.2

I'm currently beam reaching across the trade winds, its beautiful sailing. I'm been making good progress since my star although the winds this morning are diminished from what I have been experiencing since I left Hanalei Bay. Leaving the bay, I had winds in the 15 to 20 knot range, consistently. I had the wind on my starboard side, slightly forward of my beam, sailing an apparent angle of 60 to 80. This resulted in an occasionally wet ride, but I'm perfectly willing to put up with that as the boat is moving really well. The seas are relatively small, maybe 6ft.

Its still warm out, with daytime temperatures in the 80's with the nights remaining warm. The sea temperature actually increased slightly after leaving Hanalei but is now back where it started.

Nothing much to report. Everything is working well, I'm feeling good.

I passed a squall yesterday, my first ever. I passed it on its right side (as you look at it) and the winds behaved just as I expected, from the book: increased wind ahead of the squall, backed winds to its side and diminished backed wind behind it. The diminished winds behind it lasted for roughly 25min, then the original wind picked up again. That was neat.

On this run, I won't be reporting the remaining distance until I'm more or less a straight run from where I am to my destination. At the moment, any attempt at approximating the remaining distance is a guessing game. Its something like 3000 miles, give or take a bunch depending on a lot of things.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Heading back toward colder waters

I'm leaving Hawaii today and heading back to Seattle.  Hawaii has been fun, but the path I've chosen to future warm waters is via Seattle where I plan to spend the fall, winter and spring.

I was asked a couple of days ago what my favorite spot has been on this trip and had a difficult time answering.  Its hard for me to even pick a favorite stop in Hawaii, let alone the entire past 10 and a half months that I've been sailing since leaving Seattle last September.  Hilo/Radio Bay was a pretty cool place to hang out - it was wet but the sun came out sometimes and the people were friendly and there was just a good vibe in town.  Of course this may have been influenced by Hilo being my landfall location after "being at sea" for 19 days.  The anchorages around the leeward side of the Big Island were awesome and I had my best experiences of remote, beautiful anchorages there.  Skinny dipping, snorkeling, dolphins, sunsets - the leeward side was good.  Lahina in Mau'i was an awesome stop, largely as a result of the hospitality expressed by the people in the Lahina Yacht Club - its a good bunch of folks.  Lahina is a nice town - easy to walk around and everything I needed was close.  I only saw Lana'i and Moloka'i very briefly and I don't really have an opinion on them either way.  I spent most of my time on O'ahu in Kane'ohe Bay which was beautiful.  I met with some friends there which was fun, and O'ahu has the best marine facilities (including a West Marine) in the state.  Its also the most populated island by far and I was seeking a quieter experience.  I've been at Hanalei on Kaua'i for almost three weeks now, and this is by far the most beautiful anchorage I've seen in Hawaii.  Its a large bay with room for lots of boats, the holding for the anchor here is great, and anchoring is easy as there is no coral to worry about.  Over the last couple of days its suddenly become much more social for me here due to the Single Handed Transpac which is finishing in the bay at the moment.  But its still hard to pick favorites - my experience at one stop is influenced by my experiences at the others and I'm pretty happy with all of the stops I've made.  Its been a good visit to the island chain.

Hawaii is not easy though.  Cruising around Hawaii has a much different feel than cruising around Mexico.  In my experience, in Mexico there were other people cruising everywhere you looked - lots and lots of sailboats around and people on them having a good time.  There just don't seem to be that many people sailing around the Hawaiian islands, or through them.  The larger stops along the way have often had lots of boats at anchor or on moorings, but many of them end up being local boats which do not go out.  I had expected to be crossing paths with lots of people who were out cruising around the pacific here, but I just didn't bump into that many.  I've met more cruisers in Hanalei than the rest of my trip, by far.  This makes some sense as Hanalei is known as the premier summer anchorage in the Hawaiian islands and is a popular spot to leave the islands for the mainland.  If I had the ability to change anything about the trip, I might stay a little longer in Mexico and have made my stay here a little shorter.  Mexico left a very good impression on me.  Hawaii is a little more complex.  Hawaii is at a convenient place in the Pacific to break up some logical passages and I may well be back here. Being in Hawaii has been good, but cruising around Hawaii is not the slam-dunk cruising paradise that I think of Mexico as being.  I hope to add new countries to this comparison list in future years...

I mentioned the single handed Transpac briefly above.  This is a race held every two years composed of single handed sailors leaving San Francisco who sail to Hanalei Bay, here on Kaua'i.  Two of the people organizing the race on this end are Rob and LaDonna.  It turns out that some cruising buddies of mine, who I've written about before - Jim and Karen on Sockdolager, are friends with Rob and LaDonna.  Rob and LaDonna have been kind enough to include me in the race festivities here and I've met some of the racers and local cruisers through them.  Cool.  One of the cruising boats which just came through was Nereida sailed by Jeanne Socrates.  Jeanne is going to be starting her third non-stop single handed around the world attempt later this year.  I had a chance to talk with her for a while at a get together and was further inspired in this cruising thing I'm doing.  She's sailed her boat around the world, south of all five capes, single handed.  Its very impressive stuff.

My sail back to Seattle will be quite a lot less impressive than what Jeanne has done.  I'm expecting the trip to take between three and four weeks.  The big challenge on this last leg of my first cruising year is dealing with the high pressure system in the north pacific.  Wind in the high, of course, circulates clockwise.  The high pressure system is constantly changing but typically, on average, hopefully, stays north and east of Hawaii.  With the high in this location the typical sail back from where I am is to sail a little west of north leaving here until you get up to 40 degrees or so (I'm at 22 degrees now,) and then start to put some east into the direction until you're eventually above the high and you can sail for Neah Bay.  The problem with this ideal scenario is that the high pressure system can move much faster than I can sail, and it doesn't always behave itself.  I'll be leaving with a plan in mind, but will try to constantly adjust it for what the weather forecasters think the high will be doing two and four days into the future - but the weather system can move faster than I can adjust, so there is some luck involved.  The problem is if the high gets too close to me, there will be little or no wind and I will be left bobbing around not going anywhere.  Luckily I'll have lots of food, water and books to read so if this happens it will lengthen my journey, be annoying, but otherwise be ok.

A good link to see the ocean I'll be crossing, along with the weather in the north pacific is here.  You can find other weather images for the north pacific at this site, it contains forecasts and other products.  I have access to these products while I'm underway via radio fax.

I've been planning and preparing for this passage now for a few months.  I've inspected the rig, found and fixed a few small things.  The boat is in good shape, I can't think of anything that is remaining to do before I leave. It appears that the weather is cooperating as the high is forming nicely where it should be.  The boat is ready to go.  I'm in good shape - so its time to leave anchor here and start the passage back.

I'll try to update the blog as I go, every few days.  If I should stop updating the blog, don't worry.  Equipment failures at sea are not that unusual, and if my SSB should stop working I won't be able to send updates.  Wish me luck.  Next stop, Neah Bay and then Seattle soon afterwards!