2016-06-09 10:00PM UTC, 02°28'N 144°35'W # noon
2016-06-10 10:00PM UTC, 03°58'N 143°51'W # noon
2016-06-11 10:00PM UTC, 05°31'N 144°29'W # noon
2016-06-12 10:00PM UTC, 06°48'N 144°41'W # noon
2016-06-13 10:00PM UTC, 07°58'N 145°33'W # noon
Sea temperature: 82deg
My noon to noon runs for the previous five days, working backwards, have been: 87nm, 78nm, 100nm, 100nm, 122nm,
I had some nice sailing in SE/SSE wind for three days, heading generally N. It was beautiful sailing - I hardly touched the sail trim or monitor the whole time. It was squall free and I ran with my full genoa the entire time - wonderful. At the end of that run, I was at the edge of the ITCZ and it was decision time.
At the time, I was heading NE in SSE wind, at around 5pm, looking ahead at a solid wall of black cloud. Looking at the gribs, if I continued in this direction I would end up in a large area of calms the next morning - following whatever that night would have held. Instead I jibed I started heading WNW, as the forecast showed a very narrow of calms over that way, and north. I ran like that all night, got a new weather forecast at 5am and discovered there were now calms forecast ahead of me as well. At that point the wind had veered around to E, so I jibed and headed north until the wind ran out. It looked like about 60nm of calms, with the wind not descending from the N to where I was for 36 hours. This is when I started motoring, the first time this passage, 10am on the 11th.
I motored for 10 hours and found 6-7 knots of NNE and started sailing slowly at around NW to NNW. I had my first big squall at 5am the next morning. It caught me by surprise as I was in a sleep cycle. I sorted that out, and kept watch while the squall passed. Afterwards there was much lighter NW wind which really never went away. I downloaded a new weather forecast and discovered the light air I was in was forecast to last until 8pm. If I motored 30nm north it looked like there would be 9kts of NE wind. I tried to sail until noon, tacking back and forth, making very litle progress, got fed up and started motoring. By 1:30pm I found more than enough wind to sail again, NNE 12, and started sailing close hauled at around 300 degrees, WNW.
This is when the chaos started. It was massive squall after squall with much more wind than forecast between them. I was sailing with fully reefed main, staysail and double reefed genoa and needing to reef the genoa further for each squall. By 6pm I saw that the squalls were not stopping and that I needed a sail plan I could sail with all night, so rolled away the genoa and sailed with fully reefed main and staysail, at 2.5 - 3 kts. Shortly after doing this the first of the final 5 squalls hit, one after another with maybe 15min between them, and by the time the second squall had hit twilight had faded to night and I could no longer see them coming. It was a little crazy - but with the new sail plan I could now just ride the squalls out - Luckness would speed up and roll more in the squalls, but the sails, rig and boat were fine. I was sailing close to the wind as I didn't want to lose the easting I had worked so hard to achieve. The fourth squall was the worst, with apparent winds in the mid 30's, the others had apparent winds of 25-28. Overnight the wind increased into the 20-23 knot range and backed to the E, so I'm now running downwind with the same sail plan, doing 5.5-6 towards my destination. Yay!
At 2pm I was hit with another squall, 2:45pm another large one and there are more on the horizon as I write this.
The forecast I have to work with now is from yesterday - the radio has been having a hard time connecting with all the rain/cloud around. I'll update the forecast tonight. It currently shows that this wind will continue for the next few days, at which point I sail off the edge of the forecast area. I do hope that is true, I'm a little fed up with the whole ITCZ thing.
I've crossed through the ITCZ only twice. Now I realize how lucky I was the first time. A friend was sailing his Pacific Seacraft 37, s/v Pamela, across the ITCZ a few weeks ago and simply sailed across, no fuss - although sailors are known, at times, to minimize these things. Looking at my forecasts, if I had been, I think, 5 days earlier I may have done the same thing. I just happened to hit it at a bad time, and timing these things is something you sacrifice when you do this passage as one long trip rather than having a stop in the middle. With a stop you can plan a little for your departure weather again, I had to just accept what I got.
I think I'm almost through the ITCZ now, and will soon be in the trade winds. Even with the current squalls I'm making good progress with the wind I have. With luck, I'll have a more or less straight run into Hilo.
All is well aboard.
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