Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Passage to Nuka Hiva, Day 15

Date: Mar 25, 2014
00° 07' N 131° 41' W
Previous 24 hour run: 133nm
Water Temp: 81.5
Wind: ENE 9. Boat: 5 @ 190T
Log: 12662
Distance to go: 746nm (Distance from the start 2794nm.)

I've been out for over fourteen days. The previous day's run (March 24th), over 24 hours, was 125nm.

I'm sailing peacefully and easily in the SE trade winds, making my way comfortably toward my destination. The sailing today has been just beautiful.

Yesterday wasn't as nice. I thought I might have passed through the ITCZ in my last blog report. That was wrong. There was more to come. The day started with squalls all around, but my sail plan, with a reef in my main and two in my genoa, was able to handle all the varying wind strengths easily. I turned the boat a little more downwind a couple of times to ease the loads, but that was all that was required. Starting in the early morning, around 4am, I started seeing sheet lightning and hearing thunder. This is one of the things which freaks me out the most about being at sea and being surrounded by rain - the possibility of thunder storms. Here they were, starting up. I didn't see any lightning strikes and only saw sheet lightning, but it kept me suitably freaked out for many hours. Finally the lightning died away. The squalls turned into continual rain. It was just a solid rain cloud, with no end in sight in any direction. This lasted for a while. The winds were light, down to around 7 knots with the seas being pretty confused - 4 to 5 feet high with waves from the NE, E and SE. I wasn't able to make very good progress but was able to maintain steerage the whole time, with the knot meter showing 0.0 knots but the GPS showing around 1 knot of speed. The Monitor was able to steer the whole time, so I was never totally becalmed. At around 4:30pm I broke through another set of squalls, looked ahead, and started seeing patches of blue surrounded by fluffy white clouds, far ahead. By 5:30pm, I was able to look behind me to see a lot of convection, squalls and grey clouds, but looking ahead and to either side I saw clouds which are typical of tradewind conditions. The wind had improved, I was moving well and thought that I had left the worst behind me.

I sailed all night with the waves gradually improving in character, with some SE waves - more orderly, much less confused. Their heights were also more suitable for the wind conditions I was in, something like 8 - 12 knots. Today, as I mentioned at the start, the sailing has been beautiful. I believe I passed through the ITCZ yesterday and hope to not see it again this trip! My ITCZ crossing was really painless compared to many of the stories I had heard. The whole trip I was expecting to spend at least a day, becalmed, looking out at glassy seas. I was wondering if I would be patient enough to wait for wind to arrive, or if I would just turn on the engine and motor until I found wind. This latter is a popular strategy among many sailboats which make this trip. Well, it turned out that I was able to sail through the whole way, with two periods of very slow progress, but I was never quite becalmed.

Of course, I may yet be becalmed. If the winds I am in really are the tradewinds - they are light. The GRIB weather forecast I have shows decent wind for a few days, and then starting to trail off. I'm hoping the forecast improves in a few more days.

Another milestone was passed yesterday. I sailed all day yesterday with the sun to my south. When the sun rose this morning, it rose slightly to my north. I've passed underneath the sun!

The last milestone which I will make in a few hours is my crossing of the equator. Yahoo! Southern hemisphere, here I come!

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  1. Lightening is no fun at sea. Ran into a good storm sailing to Bermuda last May with lightening all around but luckily we did not become a target. The seas went from good 10 footers to flat calm in a little over day. That is what is great about making a passage, you never know what you will get.

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  3. Your blog is wonderful, Craig! I may not comment often, but I'm following your descriptions of your trip with great interest! I hope the wind keeps up for you. Cheers! (just had to edit a typo)