Monday, July 11, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: day 8

2016-07-08 7:00PM UTC, 32°34'N 162°29'W # noon
2016-07-09 7:00PM UTC, 34°41'N 162°59'W # noon
2016-07-10 7:00PM UTC, 37°07'N 162°50'W # noon
2016-07-11 7:00PM UTC, 39°23'N 163°11'W # noon

Sea temperature: 68deg (at Hanalei the sea was 82.)
Barometric pressure: 1029.

Today is the day that I leave behind the steady trade winds and start to have to navigate my way through the fickle winds close to the Pacific high. There has been some wonderful sailing over the last few days - days where I would hardly touch anything, just let Luckness sail, mile after mile. There was an occasional small tweak to the Monitor trim line to adjust my angle to the wind, or attempts to put out more sail, which were mainly reversed fairly quickly when a squall rolled through. The winds have generally been in the range low to upper teens, perfect sailing wind. This afternoon has been warm and sunny, with the wind lightening into the 6-8 range, with the seas also calming significantly.

As you would imagine, I have a lot of time on my hands at the moment. I've used some of this time to review my logbook for my previous passage from Hawaii to Neah Bay, from July 14 to August 4th, 2012. Reading my record of that passage, it was initially in much less wind, mid to high teens rather than low to mid 20's. The seas were much more comfortable, and most notable to me at the present, is that on the last passage I encountered very few squalls. In the log, I mention a few times that there was a rain cloud on the horizon and how it altered the wind speed and direction - like this was an unusual event. I had heard of 'squalls' by that time and how sailors disliked them, but I had encountered very few. On my trip from Mexico to Hawaii in 2012, I don't think there were any squalls? When my current passage and the previous one are combined, I have quite a lot more experience with squalls now, much more than I would have chosen. The previous few days have been mainly squall free during the afternoon, and then the evenings, overnight and pre-dawn have seen squall after squall roll by. Luckily there was enough wind that I could sail with a sail combination suitable for the squall wind, and still make good progress in-between the stronger winds.

Today is the first day in the last few, where I had what looked like squalls on the horizon during the morning and early afternoon. However, these squalls have now changed - they are more like rain clouds now than squalls, the winds generated have been very mild with little change in direction (and those two go together or course.) I like this new trend, and hope it continues, although I think the price I am paying for the reduced squall/rain cloud intensity is that the sea water is growing much colder - and as a result the air is cooling down as well. My theory is that colder = less evaporation = less energy released into the upper atmosphere = less intense squall.

As I mentioned, the winds have been falling today, and they are starting to change direction due to the shape and location of the high. What has been a fairly constant ENE/E wind is now forecast to veer (move clockwise) over the rest of today and tomorrow. My plan is to let Luckness run, with the wind on her beam, with my direction changing from N through NE and then East. At the point where I am traveling South of East, I'll jibe and start heading NW. Then as the wind continues to veer, I will sail NNW, N, NNE, NE, etc. That sequence is currently forecast to continue until Wednesday evening, when things sort of fall apart - but by then I'll have a couple of new forecasts and will figure out how I want to proceed from where I end up.

The new Monitor line I installed looks good, the Monitor is steering well. Sweet. Unfortunately the day after I replaced that line, the Monitor control line turning block, a twin block mounted on the cockpit coaming, started to shed the ball bearings from its top block. Its a little disconcerting to see ball bearings rolling around the cockpit. After a little thought, I dug out a spare block which I could mount to the top of this pair, running the monitor control line through it. I'll do this if and when needed. It turns out that the block is working pretty well without any ball bearings. The block frame is some sort of high strength metal and the block itself is made from some sort of tough composite/plastic material. The bearing-less block is continuing to turn, as long as I lubricate it with SailKote, a dry lubricant spray, a couple of times a day. So plan A, with regard to this breakage, is to do nothing but keep it clean and lubricated, until the block starts to look like its going to fail, which may not happen before I arrive in Neah Bay. Plan B and C involve various lashings and the spare block, and both would work fine if necessary. I probably should have been pouring a cup of fresh water through this block while on passage, every day. Oops. I'll look after the next one a little better.

There appears to be either a hurricane or a tropical storm developing between Hawaii and Mexico - this is the third or fourth of this years series. I was exchanging email with a friend a couple of days ago, he will have left Hawaii on Sunday to start his passage to Neah Bay. He, Colin, mentioned that at the time the GFS model was forecasting this latest storm hitting the islands sometime around the 15 or 16? Of course the storms track may change, it may miss the islands. In 2012 I left Hanalei on July 14th with no hurricanes or storms to worry about. I'm glad that this year I left when I did, as its nice to be so far north of the islands as these storms develop. I'm also glad that I did not stop in French Polynesia this year - I imagine that stop would have been at least two weeks. Sailing across the equator and ITCZ to see tropical storms approaching my planned destination at around the same time I was planning to approach them is a sensation I'd like to avoid... I also hope that the race fleets that are sailing between the mainland and Hawaii are OK. The single handed Transpac runs this year - that fleet left San Francisco on July 2nd, headed to Hanalei. There is also the Pacific Cup and possibly a third race fleet out there? I wish them all the best.

I've currently sailed 1080nm with approximately 1780nm to go. If I can sail at an average of 5kts, there are around 15 more days. I hope to move a little faster on some of those days!

All is well onboard.

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