Thursday, July 7, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: day 4

2016-07-03 8:30PM UTC, 22°13.24'N 159°30.69'W
2016-07-04 7:00PM UTC, 23°43'N 159°59'W # noon
2016-07-05 7:00PM UTC, 25°53'N 160°40'W # noon
2016-07-06 7:00PM UTC, 28°05'N 161°13'W # noon
2016-07-07 7:00PM UTC, 30°23'N 161°47'W # noon
2016-07-08 1:00AM UTC, 30°51'N 161°58'W

Here it is, day 4 of my final passage this season, the passage to Neah Bay. I've sailed just over 500nm, with approximately 2400nm to go. The mileage remaining will depend heavily on the shape and position of the high as I sail around it, or through it, as the case may be.

The start to this passage was quite boisterous - the wind was 20-25kts with 2-3m seas. Once I was out in the open ocean again I understood why the Hanalei anchorage had been so rolly and uncomfortable - I was surprised there wasn't a larger swell entering the bay. Hanalei was doing a very good job of reducing the swell from the outside, but the swell that did make its way in was making life aboard Luckness a little tiring. Now, its not like Luckness is currently steady by any means, she's rolling quite dramatically at times, but at least I'm making my way towards a calm anchorage, the one at Neah Bay. Something like 20 more days of this and I will be able to sleep calmly through the night - that doesn't seem too far away?

The first day had excellent wind, as we sailors say, when there is lots of wind to move our boats along. Excellent wind for sailing, however also excellent wind for generating large waves and helping to push the water onboard when a wave crest hits the side of the boat. It was quite a wet first three days - typical of this type of sailing, which is currently upwind, with an apparent wind angle of 60-70.

The barometric pressure in Hanalei was 1016 when I left and has now increased to 1025. The GFS weather model is currently forecasting a center high pressure of 1033, so I am clearly approaching the high. The wind has been decreasing, which is a trend which will likely continue until I get around the high and onto the final leg heading East to Neah Bay.

There has been a pretty steady supply of squalls since I left. This afternoon has been squall free, as were the previous two afternoons, however the evenings, nights and mornings have seen many squalls roll through. My sail plan is currently underpowered for the conditions, fully reefed main, staysail and some genoa, in 15kts of wind, but its easy, as when the squalls roll through I do not need to adjust anything. I am losing some mileage and gaining convenience - an easy choice at the moment. Depending on your point of view, I have either really learned patience and am sailing with less sail than I used to in an effort to reduce breakages and wear, or alternatively I have become timid and am carrying less sail than I used to in the same conditions, in an effort to reduce breakages and wear. This started when I was around 15 days out of New Zealand in perhaps the most remote ocean I have ever been in, and I started to make much more of an effort to reduce the forces on the rig, rigging, sails, lines - in an effort that nothing break. Friends on other sailboats I was in contact with, on their own passages, were reporting their breakages to me. I have been lucky this trip, so far.

However, despite my effort, I had my first breakage since leaving New Zealand. I was sitting in the cockpit yesterday, looking around at the ocean, passing the time, as I do, when I heard a snap, or slap. I looked around, thinking that was weird - you learn to classify the sounds your hear as the familiar sounds, the ones you can ignore, and the unusual sounds, the ones you need to investigate. That sound needed to be investigated. The Monitor fin was swaying back and forth in the wind, the wheel seemed to be turning, nothing else seemed out of place - and then after a few moments I realized one of the Monitor self steering control lines had snapped and the boat was no longer being steered by anybody or anything, she was slowly turning into the wind. I moved myself to the wheel to hand steer and after a little cursing turned on the autopilot to let that steer and started to see what had gone wrong. The control lines have three areas of chafe. Two of the areas were much worse than the third, and I had added dyneema chafe sleeve to those areas which had solved the problem nicely, I thought. However the third, fairly minor chafe area had gotten worse in an area I hadn't been inspecting, in the area the line enters the leg of the monitor and goes down to the pendulum - that part of the line had worn through and finally snapped. It was 3/16" Amsteel, a 12 strand dyneema. Drat. I replaced the control line, while underway. It was fairly easy. As the winds and waves at the time were pretty active, by the end of the process I was completely drenched - many waves had taken the opportunity, with me exposed by the stern, to come aboard. In the past I thought I had fixed the Monitor control line problem in a clever way, with the dyneema chafe sleeve - I will now consider these lines to be sacrificial, and simply replace them before every long passage - its an easy replacement and I have something like 100' of the 1/4" Amsteel line I replace them with (I used larger line as there was no chafe sleeve added this time.)

I'm making steady progress towards my destination. The next four or five days will be interesting, for me anyway, as I start to enter the area of the high, and I'll find out if I end up motoring out of it, waiting for more wind to arrive, or getting lucky and being able to sail the whole way. How exciting! Stay tuned!

All is well onboard.

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