Thursday, November 6, 2014

Passage to NZ: day 7

Date: Nov 7, 2014
30° 21' S 175° 57' E
24 hour run: 115nm
Previous 24 hour run: 75nm
Previous Previous 24 hour run: 108nm
Water Temp: 66
Log: 16391
Distance to go: 300nm (straight line to Opua, my destination port in NZ.)

This is being written in the afternoon of the 7th, and will be sent out tonight when the SSB frequencies I need are less noisy - they are pretty noisy these days. Could be sun spot, weather or some other cause.

I went through the trough on the 5th. Before it arrived, the winds turned northerly at low teens strength. I went through one side of the trough, and as I was fairly high on it, the winds simply turned NW for a while. Then the wind died off for two hours and then came back as south, eventually backing around to SE. A typical southern hemisphere trough! I lowered my sails when the wind died, and eventually, after one of my sleep cycles at night I heard the wind arriving and I was able to raise a sail, get turned around and then raise the other. Knowing the weather forecast and what to expect is so nice. I knew the trough was moving east and the calms wouldn't last long, so waiting was an option.

When I was in the NW wind section of the trough I came across my first ship on this journey - an AIS contact 45 minutes away, freighter, traveling at 12 knots. I first saw it on AIS at 12nm away and almost immediately my AIS unit started its buzzer warning me of a collision alert. It was calculating a closest point of approach at 1 mile ahead, then 0.5 miles behind, then 0.5 miles ahead, 1 mile behind etc - as my boat would ride the waves the solution was changing but when it becomes random, close and on alternating sides - ahead, behind, that's a good sign I needed to change something. I waited 10 minutes, the CPA stayed as random so I altered course, passing it port-to-port 1/2 hour later. I spoke with them, they saw my signal at 7nm, which seems typical for small boats like me. AIS pays off again.

Once I was clear of the trough the winds were expected to back around to the SSE, SE, ESE, and east, then hover between east and ESE for four or five days. My trouble was that with taking the trough high, and then going through the south winds, I had ended up further west than expected. Since then I've been sailing into the wind, as close to the wind as possible in order to make more southing. This is working, although sailing close to the wind as I am is not nearly as comfortable. Last night was the first night of the trip I didn't bother making a 'good' meal for dinner - I opened a can of Dinty Moore stew, added a can of corn, heated it up, added a few crackers and that was that. Even doing that is an effort. Moving around the boat is an effort. Every movement has to be planned and it ends up being very physical sailing in these conditions. Too bad all sailing can't be downwind.

In one day I had gone from warm downwind sailing, sailing in shorts and a t-shirt day and night, barefoot to something a little more harsh. I'm wearing shoes again - you end up bracing more strongly, more often with your feet when upwind, and you don't want to break a toe... The south wind has brought cold from antarctica, or so it feels like, so I'm wearing pants and four layers on top, with a light toque. I'm already missing the tropics.

I should add a note about these sailing conditions. I know some people who are considering going cruising read this blog - Hello! The vast majority of the sailing on this coconut milk run is really nice. At the moment, its not, it happens. Luckily, it doesn't happen that frequently, but when you do happen to need to sail through some weather to get somewhere, there is no turning it off. You can often heave to in order to avoid weather, but on this passage the longer you hang around this area the more likely you are to be hit by something really nasty. What I'm in is not as fun as going downwind but is nothing compared to what you can get in this area at this time. In fact, what I'm in is really nothing - upwind in 4 to 5 foot seas with the wind 10 to 20 - and I've seen the wind at all those strengths, back and forth, so reefing, unreefing, trimming. Its real sailing. This would be ideal for a nice afternoon daysail. But this sailing isn't daysailing and you've got to respect it. If you are outfitting a boat for these conditions make sure you have a solid handhold to grab everywhere. In the head, every path you may need to walk in the cabin, getting up to the cockpit, and in the cockpit. When I go up from down below to the cockpit I never carry anything - I put what it is I'm taking up and place it on the companionway top step, then brace myself carefully while very deliberately placing my feet, hands, then elbows and forearms. The boat will and often does suddenly move in an unexpected direction. The handholds need to be strong enough to support your weight and placed such that if you were to put your weight onto them you wouldn't dislocate an arm in the process. My dodge is super strong with plenty of handholds, make sure your cockpit has lots to grab onto. If you have weather cloths put them outside the lifelines. Sailing in these conditions resembles a carnival ride, the ones where you get bounced around, leaning this way and that, jumping up and down. Except once you are in these conditions and going somewhere there is no getting off - you're committed. Eat well, get plenty of rest, look after yourself and the boat, and try to stay amused. And remember, that it won't last forever, that the boat is well maintained and strong and that you are the weak link. I try not to let Luckness down during these periods. Anyway. Most sailing is really nice. I'm doing fine Mom, really! I realized recently that most of my writing about sailing is 'all good', I'll try to add some of the not-so-good to balance it out. I continue to have a lot of respect for this Crealock designed and Pacific Seacraft built boat, they got so much, so right.

I think I have 3 1/2 or 4 days left. This sailing close to the wind is slowing me down and I'm unsure the weather will cooperate with its forecast, so I'm going to overshoot my ideal bearing to Opua so that if the wind veers around I won't need to tack to get there. So far, I haven't had to run the engine on the passage, it would be sweet to arrive having sailed the whole way.

All is well onboard.

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1 comment:

  1. Sounds as if you have your work cut our for you. The handholds seem very sensible and lordy knows you don't want to break a toe or anything else for that matter. Thanks for the details. A challenge is what you signed up for and what you're getting. Heave HO! xo Mum