Sunday, May 29, 2016

Passage to Hawaii: day 28

2016-05-25 10:00PM UTC, 22°03'S 143°28'W # noon
2016-05-26 10:00PM UTC, 19°59'S 143°50'W # noon
2016-05-27 10:00PM UTC, 17°48'S 144°14'W # noon
2016-05-28 10:00PM UTC, 16°08'S 144°19'W # noon
2016-05-29 10:00PM UTC, 14°49'S 144°06'W # noon

Sea temperature: 85deg

My noon to noon runs for the previous five days, working backwards, have been: 80nm, 101nm, 133nm, 125nm, 104nm. Generally a slow run.

I passed three islands 10nm to my East on the 26th, very early in the morning, the first land I had seen since leaving New Zealand, when I was around 20 26s 143 43w. After doing that, my run continued to the waypoint I had setup to mark the start of my transit through the Tuamotus. The transit was around 60nm, with the first 20 passing between two atolls, then 20nm of open ocean, and then two more atolls to pass by. I started the transit on the 27th at around 8pm, very dark as the moon had yet to rise. Later when the moon was up, I could just make out the atoll to my East. The wind at the start was good, around 18 from the S, so I was moving well. The forecast was for the wind to quickly fall off leaving me with light wind - I was hoping to finish the transit before this happened.

I passed by the first two atolls, sailing well, with my sleep timer set to 15min but staying awake until I was past. During the middle 20nm the wind began to fall, and by the time I was in sight of the eastern of the last two atolls, Katiu, I was doing around 2 knots.

I'm not a sailing purist, and will motor if needed, but I hadn't motored on this passage yet and I was hoping to have that trend continue. I raised the spinnaker at 6am as the wind fell further and started to veer. I was just able to make my way around the atoll, at between 2 and 3 knots and get into open ocean again. A few hours later the wind picked up, I snuffed the spinnaker and have been sailing with my genoa ever since. Although, 'sailing' isn't quite accurate as there have been several spells, lasting several hours each where I was drifting, waiting for a little wind to arrive.

Its now the evening of the 29th. The forecast is starting to resolve into a tradewind pattern. All night and morning I have had squalls, rain, cloud and variable wind. Now the wind around 10-12 from the SSE, I have puffy clouds floating by, and the wind is expected to back around to the East, gradually, over the next 36 hours. I'm heading NNE or NE at something like 4-5 knots, and once the wind backs around a little further I should be able to head directly North - to the equator! Yay!

Today is day 28 of the passage I've covered 3150nm with 2300nm to go. If I average 5 knots I will finish in 19 more days. At 5.5 knots, it will be 17.5 days. 6 knots would mean 16 days. I would be happy with an average around 5.5.

I'm starting to wonder about the state of my hull - due to my finger injury I was unable to dive and clean the hull before leaving New Zealand, so I left from fertile water having been in for 6 weeks, with visible growth before I left. It now feels like I'm not moving as well as I should be in light wind. I'll dive the boat when I get to Hawaii and see if my imagination is playing tricks or not. It will be nice to clean the hull and have Luckness nice and clean again. Oh, and my poor crushed fingers are doing very well, both still in a dressing, which I change every two days, but not for very much longer I think. The fingers look a little abused, and they are both a little longer than they used to be, but I'm pretty hopeful.

All well onboard.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Passage to Hawaii: day 23

2016-05-20 10:00PM UTC, 30°53'S 148°05'W # noon
2016-05-21 10:00PM UTC, 29°12'S 146°23'W # noon
2016-05-22 10:00PM UTC, 27°39'S 145°15'W # noon
2016-05-23 10:00PM UTC, 26°03'S 144°06'W # noon
2016-05-24 10:00PM UTC, 23°45'S 143°40'W # noon

Sea temperature: 74deg

My noon to noon runs for the previous four day, working backward, have been: 140nm, 114nm, 110nm, 134nm. Nothing dramatically fast or slow.

I jibed a few days ago, as the wind backed around from W to SW, S, SE. As soon as I was heading west rather than E or NE I jibed and headed back in the proper direction. I have been downloading small weather forecast files, so I don't have a very good idea of what the overall weather picture looks like, but it appears there is a large high to my south and that I started sailing up its eastern edge and am now sailing along on top of it, headed north. I expect that for the majority of the time remaining in this passage, the wind will continue coming over my starboard side, as it is now.

At this point in the the passage, the goal is to head north to the Tuamotus, those atolls I enjoyed so much when I visited them in 2014, pass straight through without stopping and then from there continue north to the equator, cross it, and then head more or less directly to Hilo, Hawaii. I say "more or less" as there will be some strategy required, depending on what the weather looks like at the time. I'm roughly half way to my destination.

At the moment, the forecast looks good for several days. I'm sailing north in east winds or around 15 knots, so sailing slightly upwind but nothing too awful yet. Once I'm through the Tuamotus I can fall off a little if needed, as I have ended up pretty far east. I'm currently planning on transiting through the atolls north starting around 144°30, and that point is a little over three days away. The weather looks steady for that period, and then it kind of falls apart and there is a mixture of north, west, south and calms for a bit - there may be a front rolling through, although that is far enough ahead in the forecast that it lacks any real accuracy.

Last night, at around 6pm, an hour after the sun had set and hours before the moon was going to rise I was reading in the cockpit when I heard a whale blow very close by. The whale surfaced again to my port side, maybe a few hundred feet away, then behind me, then port side again. For a while he (she?) followed in my wake, a few hundred feet back. Now, I like whales, love seeing them in the wild, but I was getting a little nervous and was happy when it headed off never to be seen again. Majestic, but I prefer to admire from afar. A little later some dolphins arrived, and kept me company for 10 or 20 minutes. Half an hour after they left I was in the cockpit checking my instruments and chart plotter, seeing where I was going and how fast I was headed there, when a flying fish flew into the cockpit nailing me in the back. Fish stink all over my coat. It was certainly a good night for wildlife, as this was my first sighting of whales or dolphins on this passage. In the morning I found 8 flying fish on the side decks, Luckness is a pretty good fishing boat, she has good luck.

This is now my longest passage. My previous longest was Hawaii to Neah Bay in 21 days, 2012. I have at least three weeks left before arriving in Hawaii.

All is well here.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Passage to Tahiti: day 19

2016-05-17 10:00PM UTC, 33°52'S 151°43'W # noon
2016-05-19 8:00AM UTC, 32°57'S 149°38'W # reduced sail, drifting in no wind
2016-05-19 10:00PM UTC, 32°42'S 149°28'W # noon
2016-05-20 5:00PM UTC, 31°18'S 148°22'W

Yesterday's noon to noon run was: 52nm, for the 18th it was 91nm, the 17th was 110nm.

The wind has been light these last few days, as you can see from my noon to noon runs. Its improved at the moment, and looks pretty good through the 7 day forecast period, some more light wind areas and some ok wind. I am in the area they call the variables - I'm looking forward to the steady trade winds, far north of me.

Yesterday I drifted for 7 hours over night, as the wend fell to the point that my spinnaker wouldn't even fly. I reset my alarm timer to 90min and had my best sleep of the passage that night, which was nice. I still haven't motored. I would rather save what diesel I have in case I really were to need it along the way somewhere.

My SSB radio is having a hard time connecting to the sailmail stations, it may need some attention. Unfortunately I'm not able to get at the part I want to look at - my antenna feed connection to my backstay - as its high and I need flat water to get up there.

I always warn that if this blog stops receiving updates that nobody should worry. Please keep that in mind, as there is more of a possibility of that happening now than in the past. Also, this passage may last longer than you would expect from a passage to Tahiti... I'm in the final stages of my decision of whether or not to carry on to Hawaii, and am leaning toward doing that. I'll post if that's the case, or in the case of the radio stopping working, if there is a 30 day or longer gap in posts, that is what I'm doing!

All is well here.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Passage to Tahiti: day 16

2016-05-14 10:00PM UTC, 35°34'S 157°59'W # noon
2016-05-15 10:00PM UTC, 34°56'S 155°36'W # noon
2016-05-16 10:00PM UTC, 33°47'S 153°56'W # noon
2016-05-17 7:00PM UTC, 33°53'S 152°00'W

Yesterday's noon to noon run was: 107nm, for the 15th it was 123nm, the 14th was 149nm.

One of the things that you try to plan around when heading East from New Zealand is the position of the high pressure systems. In the southern hemisphere, highs circulate counter-clockwise. If you are heading east, you would like wind from the North, West or South, not coming from the direction you are going. In order to achieve this, you need to be below the high pressure systems, as that is where the west wind is. However, there is actually not that much control we have over this as high pressure systems can be large enough that being south of them would not be practical. Also, generally the later in the season you wait the more northerly the highs migrate.

The normal pattern is also that there is a low which follows the high, and the low is followed by another high.

I have had some good luck with this passage and have been riding to the south of a high for the last little while, with wind behind me, generally making good progress. The high has now pretty much moved to my east and the low that follows is approaching. The pressure where I am as fallen from 1021 to 1012 currently. Highs are generally warm with blue skies, lows are generally colder with heavy cloud - I have that now as well.

The weather forecast shows my having north winds where I am, however I am experiencing NE wind, which is moving me well to the east but also a little to the south. As the low moves over me, the winds will back around and come from the N, the NW, W, SW, S, etc. I hope that the winds will start backing tomorrow, which will allow me to make progress north again.

The passage will be a little more work for the next week or more than it has been, but I have been waiting for a break in the beautiful sailing I have had - it lasted much longer than I had any expectation for.

All is well here.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Passage to Tahiti: day 12

2016-05-11 10:00PM UTC, 36°35'S 167°09'W # noon
2016-05-12 10:00PM UTC, 36°20'S 163°52'W # noon
2016-05-13 5:00AM UTC, 36°09'S 163°00'W
2016-05-13 10:00PM UTC, 36°01'S 160°59'W

Today's noon to noon run, from noon yesterday to noon today, was 141nm. The previous day was 159, and the day before that was 124. I have been making better progress these last few days.

I'm currently riding the bottom of a high which is giving me steady NW winds. Right now the wind is around 14 knots, moving me along at 6.5 kts. I'm heading East, more or less.

It looks like tomorrow, Saturday, I will have good wind to sail in, possibly Sunday as well. Then there is a light day preceding a large low that may sweep through the area. I haven't yet updated my weather forecast, and once I do that may all change of course. Yesterday's forecast was the first of the series which showed the low that is expected on around Tuesday being so large - in the previous forecasts the low was not as deep and stayed much further South. GFS, the weather model I'm using has a tendency to inflate the weather forecast the further you get from its start, so I would not be surprised to see the large low end up not being as deep or as large. I'll deal with whatever comes along of course - lows tend to be colder than riding the bottom of a high such as I'm doing now, given a choice I prefer to stay warm!

If the weather is agreeable, I'll start turning more North on Sunday - I should have almost made all the Easting that is required for this passage by then.

There is not much to report from out here. There have been no AIS contacts for over a week - that was a Fijian fishing boat, 151' long.

All is well.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Passage to Tahiti: day 9

2016-05-11 2:00AM UTC, 36°28'S 169°18'W

Today's noon-to-noon distance was 83nm, yesterday's was 99nm. This continues to be a slow passage although it is interspersed with some glorious sailing.

Yesterday before noon the wind had been falling steadily after a fun ride the previous evening. At noon I raised the spinnaker again, and this time it stayed up for 24 hours. Overnight last night was glorious. The wind was something like 6-9 from the N or NNW and depending on its speed I would steer a little into it, putting the apparent wind at around 60deg in order to increase the apparent wind speed, increasing boats speed to around 5kts. Then as the wind picked up and the boat speed started hovering just under 6 knots, I would steer down a little, decreasing the apparent wind angle to be around the beam, slowing the boat to mid 4 knots, ready for sleep again with room for the wind to increase. By noon today the wind was starting to increase to around 10-12 and I lowered the spinnaker and have been sailing with the genoa and main since, doing 5 to 6. The seas are very settled, with no wind waves to speak of, certainly no white caps and only a low long swell. Its warm, the sun is out - this is very enjoyable sailing.

The weather models have been struggling to figure out what is going on in this area, its a difficult area of relatively high pressure over a large area. As I was trying to figure out whether or not to jibe just before dark last night, I was looking at the previous days forecast, which called for south winds where I was. The most recent forecast I had at the time was calling or west winds, and the actual winds were north. I am hoping that the forecast for the next few days proves accurate as I hope to have some medium strength winds from the north backing to NW over a period of three days, which will help move me toward my destination.

All is well onboard.

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Passage to Tahiti: day 7

2016-05-06 10:00PM UTC, 37°14'S 176°37'W # noon
2016-05-07 2:33AM UTC, 37°21'S 176°21'W # jibed to 100
2016-05-07 10:00PM UTC, 37°31'S 175°17'W # noon, spin+m1
2016-05-08 10:00PM UTC, 37°29'S 173°19'W # noon
2016-05-09 4:21AM UTC, 37°27'S 172°32'W

Today's noon to noon distance was 93nm. Yesterdays was 65nm. Tomorrow's is going to be better as I'm finally sailing in 12-15 knots of wind, port beam, heading East at 5-6 knots.

I spent hours traveling at around 1 knot yesterday and the day before, with the spinnaker up but not filling. Surprisingly, my Monitor self steering wind vane continued to steer and there was enough movement to retain steerage. I hate it when the boat slowly moves in circles without steerage, but luckily that hasn't happened yet this trip.

Today I have had mainly high cloud, with a few rain clouds floating by creating localized squall winds. I'm sailing conservatively with a double reefed main, staysail and double reefed genoa - but still moving well so I'm happy - this setup is good for a wide range of wind conditions, if it gets too light tonight I can easily unfurl some genoa.

Tomorrow looks like the wind is starting to change in front of a high I expect in the area the day after, but if the forecasts hold, I'll be able to sail tomorrow - I may slow down dramatically again the following day.

All is well aboard.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Passage to Tahiti: day 5

2016-05-05 6:23PM UTC, 37°31'S 179°11'W # jibed
2016-05-05 10:00PM UTC, 37°30'S 178°44'W # noon
2016-05-06 5:55AM UTC, 37°25'S 177°54'W
2016-05-06 6:18PM UTC, 37°14'S 176°48'W
2016-05-06 10:00PM UTC, 37°14'S 176°37'W # noon
2016-05-07 2:33AM UTC, 37°21'S 176°21'W # jibed to 100

Today's noon to noon distance was 103nm. Yesterdays was 121nm. Tomorrow's is going to be a much smaller number!

Yesterday I had some wind and I used it to make my way towards my destination - that being the entire point of being out here. Today 1/3 of the day was making my way further south in hopes that I could find a little wind. By 4pm I decided that doing a tactical move at 2 knots was pointless, so I jibed and started heading east again. I had my spinnaker up at the time, as there is only 6-7 knots of wind, and like a chicken I snuffed the spinnaker, jibed the boat and re-raised it. That takes quite a while! I am not quite as fast as some racing teams I have seen, taking roughly 15 minutes to accomplish the snuff/jibe/raise. Although to be fair, 5 minutes of that was me trying to steer Luckness's stern through the wind with the GPS speed showing 0.0. I still haven't motored - its all sailing so far. Some of it very slow...

When I left I was expecting to be becalmed at points in time, but preferred to get out what I thought would be 300 or 400 miles and bob around waiting for wind than to wait longer in NZ. I've actually gone a little more than 480nm, and spent 1 1/2 hours bobing around today. I had the spinnaker up doing around 1.8 knots when the wind fell even further and I slowed below 1. With the swell pattern and my direction the boat was rolling and as a result the spinnaker was filling and spilling the wind as the boat went through its roll motion. I ended up lowing the sail and decided to wait for wind to arrive. The thing is, when you start that, you don't know how long you'll have to wait. The GRIBs were showing 9 knots of wind where I was, so I couldn't rely in them to tell me when wind would arrive - they were saying it should have been here. After an hour, no wind. Luckily after an hour and a half some wind arrived, I raised the spinnaker again and rocked off at 2 knots. Its been a slow day.

It looks like tomorrow is also going to be slow. The next day and a half after tomorrow look like they will bring some wind, then it vanishes again and then it may be back for a while, with the GRIB forecasts showing high teens/low 20's, all from behind me or sightly forward of the beam. It will be nice to start making some faster progress.

Today has been sunny and warm-ish. All is well aboard.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Passage to Tahiti: day 3

2016-05-05 4:00AM UTC, 36°23'S 179°51'E

Since leaving NZ the weather has given me a nice gentle start. Today is the roughest it has been, and that is perhaps 14 knots of WNW wind and a 1.5m sea - still very gentle. It has started to cool down, which is a trend that is bound to continue until I make the turn north, heading to the tropics. However, that turn is likely not for at least 10 days.

I am currently heading generally SE, sailing downwind on a broad reach, or a bit deeper. From reading the weather forecasts and seeing my predicted positions in it, I have a plan on how to navigate the highs and light wind that are ahead of me. The plan may not work out of course, but I might as well make a plan as it helps pass the day if nothing else. I hope what happens is that I continue heading SE all night and then tomorrow jibe and head generally east. For the rest of the forecast there are currently West winds down by latitude 37 or below. There are light days and more medium days, so I hope that with a mixture of Genoa and Spinnaker, on and off, I can jibe my way East until the weather changes and I have to adjust my plan.

I've started re-reading the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. I haven't read this series for over 15 years - its such a pleasure to read.

All is well onboard.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Passage to Tahiti: day 1

I left New Zealand yesterday, motoring out of the bay of islands in a flat calm. 3 1/2 hours later I found some wind and have been sailing slowly ever since.

I saw the nurse who had been treating my fingers last week, and she thought that they had healed well enough for me to leave. I saw her on Wednesday and left on the following Monday (NZ Monday, North America Sunday.)

The weather window that I have left on looks like its going to be on the light side. There is an unusual pattern established where there is a big high east of the country which seems to head east and then come back and join with the high that is following it. As a result, the weather in this area looks light for the length of the forecast - which I'll take, as a gentle few days will be welcome. I may end up drifting for periods of this trip due to lack of wind, but I wanted to get away and there is nothing wrong with a light wind sail in gentle seas.

This morning the wind eventually faded off to almost nothing and I lowered my Staysail and furled my Genoa and raised my Spinnaker (spin-drifter.) At first it just sat there lifeless, as there was no wind at all, but then a few whisps of wind arrived and I stared moving. I love this sail! I've been able to move along nicely in wind that would otherwise leave me wallowing. It looks like this trip I will be using the Spinnaker quite a lot, at least as far as I can see in the forecast, these things sometimes change. I'm currently moving at 4.5 to 5 knots in 5 to 7 knots of apparent wind, on my port side beam.

For a change, I'm going to be reporting my positions in a LuckGrib friendly manner. If you have a copy of my app, you should be able to copy/paste the following text into the 'create point' editor window. First step would be to create a vessel called Luckness, then paste the following into the position report field and press 'return':

2016-05-01 11:00PM UTC, 35°14.33'S 174°06.15'E
2016-05-02 4:50AM UTC, 35°10.3'S 174°23.6'E
2016-05-02 7:16PM UTC, 35°25'S 175°25'E
2016-05-02 10:02PM UTC, 35°28'S 175°34'E
2016-05-03 4:00AM UTC, 35°38'S 175°59'E

All is well. There are many miles to go!

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