Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: day 16

2016-07-16 7:00PM UTC, 46°09'N 154°36'W # noon
2016-07-17 7:00PM UTC, 47°16'N 152°07'W # noon
2016-07-17 11:10PM UTC, 47°14'N 151°46'W # Jibed - Yay!
2016-07-18 7:00PM UTC, 47°53'N 149°39'W # noon
2016-07-19 7:00PM UTC, 47°48'N 146°07'W # noon

Sea temperature: 53.5deg
Barometric pressure: 1026 (center high pressure 1040)

I'm now around the top of the high on the final leg into Neah Bay.

However, backing up and starting again from after my last blog post...

I mentioned the fog in my last post. Fog has ended up appearing every evening for the following four days, and has stayed around for two afternoons as well - its very foggy out here.

In the morning of the 16th, my 13th day on the passage, I was doing my checks after a sleep cycle at 12:30am and noticed that there was an AIS contact, with our closest point of approach (CPA) in 60min. My alarm goes off when the time to CPA, TCPA, is 45min or less. The initial CPA was close, less than 0.5nm and seemed to be jumping around. At 45min the CPA was still indicating a close approach, within 0.5nm, where the solution was jumping around to show the closest point being 0.5nm ahead of me, then behind, then 0.1 ahead, then 0.0, etc. This is bad, and indicated that I was on a collision course with a freighter. The CPA normally jumps around like this, but what you want to see is a steady set of solutions where the CPA is, for example, 2.5 in front, or behind, or to a side, and then have all the following solutions be close to that one and always on the same side. Anyway, I adjusted my course while 45min away, the new CPA showed the freighter passing 1.5nm ahead of me. I stayed up and 'watched' it pass. I say 'watched' it pass, as there was dense fog, and even at 1.3nm I could not see anything, not even a hint of its deck lights. AIS is wonderful! If I hadn't had AIS and had not altered course the chances are likely that I would have continued and not noticed anything. Freighters have professional crews, excellent radars, and of course receive AIS. As I also transmit AIS, their AIS alarm would have gone off when we were around 8nm apart - my signal is not as strong as theirs, being the recreational AIS version. Even without my AIS transmission, if they were actually paying attention at that time of the morning, they could easily have avoided me with their radar. However I much prefer seeing the situation myself from far away and altering course to avoid it. I've altered course twice now to avoid close encounters with freighters, and had one alter course on me when they must have felt our CPA was too close. Its a large ocean, but its not empty.

That same afternoon, just after the sun had appeared from behind the fog at 6pm PDT (around 3pm local time), I was sitting in the cockpit looking around when I heard the sound of a whale close by. I jumped up and looked around, and there was a large whale close by. It finished its breath and dove. Then surfaced, breathed and dove again. And then a third time and disappeared for a while. I thought that might be the last time I saw it, but it returned - again within a few hundred feet of the boat, appearing slightly behind and then approaching a little closer for each breath. It stayed around for about 1/2 hour and it was an amazing experience. It seemed to move off, and later I saw a whale on the horizon when it rose and breathed its plume of mist into the air. A little after that, it returned and stayed close to Luckness again for about 20min, then left again. After another hour or so, it returned a final time, and then left and I have not seen him/her again. I have pictures - if any of them turn out I'll post them when I get to the internet. I have friends on two other boats who left Hawaii at around the same time that I did. Dennis on s/v Pamela saw a whale and had a very similar experience 4-5 days ago. Colin & Wendy on s/v Bangorang left after both of us, and they had a similar experience yesterday. Its amazing that these whales take time out of their day to hang around with us yachties for a while. This is a huge ocean, and if the whales wanted to avoid us they very easily could. I have seen a lot of dolphins approach Luckness, and hang around, enjoying themselves. After watching dolphins interact a few times, you end up realizing that they are curious about us, they're friendly and are having a good time. I hadn't thought of whales this way until now - but the fact that they approached all three vessels and hung around, in my mind, shows a real sense of curiosity and friendliness on their behalf.

By 2pm on the next day, day 13, I was starting to get close to the high. The final plan I decided on was to sail a constant apparent wind angle, on starboard beam, and let Luckness sail the wind as it veered around, and this ended up working really well. As the winds veered around I went from NE to E to SE to S at which point I jibed and started heading NNE, NE, and finally East. The wind had slowed to 5-7 by the time I jibed as I was very close to the high, but I kept moving the whole time and was able to sail around the top of the high, cool.

After passing by the high the next part of this passage had me exiting the high pressure system and passing through a region of higher wind to its East. This started yesterday and continues today and tomorrow. The winds yesterday were quite strong, 28-32 knots with large waves developing. Luckily I have been able to put the wind behind me and I'm sailing at an apparent wind angle of 120, port side, and the ride has been boisterous but ok. Today the wind has been falling all day and the same is expected tomorrow.

After I exit the higher NW winds, there is short light wind region followed by what looks like WSW 10-12 knots for three days. I'm hoping those winds end up a little higher than forecast as I will be sailing close to dead downwind toward Neah Bay and a little more wind would speed things up.

The ball bearing-less turning block for the monitor control lines is holding up well. I started greasing it with SuperLube a few days ago, and that's working better than the SailKote - not a slam on SailKote, its just that a little grease is a better approach to this problem. The block is turning pretty freely and I expect it to survive the passage. My backup plans are still available of course.

I've currently sailed 2040nm since leaving Hawaii, and have roughly 830nm to go.

All is well onboard.

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