Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: arrived!

2016-07-27 1:00PM UTC, 48°27'N 126°03'W
2016-07-27 3:45PM UTC, 48°27'N 125°43'W # motoring
2016-07-27 7:00PM UTC, 48°27'N 125°14'W # noon
2016-07-28 12:30AM UTC, 48°22.30'N 124°37.12'W # Anchored in Neah Bay

Sea temperature: 51.8deg

I'm anchored in Neah Bay!

The final day was quite varied. After the last blog post, I entered the stronger wind band. The wind picked up from 15, to 20 and then into 'near gale' strength which is 28-33 kts (gale starts at 34kts.) During the stronger winds I was doing my 20min sleep cycles, so the wind strength may have been higher. The forecast was for the wind to reduce the next day to 20 at 5am and then 15 by 11am. At 6am the winds were reducing into the 20-24 range. At 7:30am the winds had fallen to 16 and I was rolling out my genoa to keep the boat speed up. By 8am the wind had fallen to 4-8kts, from the NW, which was behind me as I headed directly East. At this point, the seas were still quite active and I had slowed dramatically.

I decided to motor at 8am. I started the engine and started to furl (roll away) the genoa (big head sail) when I felt the wind increase and I started to sail again, and ended up sailing at 5kts. This lasted for 10min when the wind faded again. I decided to slow down my decisions, give the wind a chance to recover - so I finished drinking my pot of coffee. No wind. So I started the engine again and again started to furl the sail at 8:30am. Again some wind arrived - I started to sail in it, and by 8:45am it had faded again. This time I started the engine, furled the sail and ignored any little puffs of wind. By 9:40am the wind was basically zero and it stayed there until I was 5nm from Neah Bay. I motored the remaining 41nm to anchor.

Shortly after the wind faded to zero, some fog arrived and then got gradually denser until the visibility dropped to less than 1/2 a mile. The fog stayed for the rest of the day, until I got to Neah Bay where it lifted - as I write this there is still a dense fog bank out to sea, but Neah Bay has sunshine - its glorious! As I arrived I could smell the pine forests and it really reminded me of home - various homes, pine forests have a strong association with me - mountains, hiking, creeks - things I am looking forward to exploring again.

The other notable thing about the day is that there were a *lot* of AIS contacts. While I was far offshore in the early morning, around 4am I had three cargo ships displaying on AIS, all with a closest point of approach to me of less than 5nm. There were two which would pass me within 20min and then one further away, 45min away. I decided to stay up to make sure there wasn't a wind shift which would have me alter course into them. As the third contact was approaching, two more appeared, again close CPA's, so I decided to not sleep until *those* two passed. This kept happening. At one point I had 12 AIS contacts, with 8 of them passing within 10nm of me - this at something like 70nm from shore. Its been a long day, as I slept poorly through the gale.

It feels so good to have finished this huge passage! I left New Zealand on May 1st and arrived in Hawaii on June 20 - 50 days at sea. I was in Hawaii for 14 days, but when you subtract the 2 1/2 days I was on passage from Hilo to Hanalei, thats down to 11. If you subtract the days when I was either arriving or departing, that's down to 9. So 9 full days in Hawaii. Over the past 88 days, I've sailed on 79 of them.

Its been a long day and a lot of sailing. Its time for a short break now.

I'm going to make a quick dinner, eat and go to sleep. I'll stay in Neah Bay for a few days, perhaps more. Over the next month or so, I'll slowly cruise back toward the San Juan Islands and Seattle, where I hope a slip at Shilshole Marine will open up for me, sometime in September.

All is very well onboard.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: day 23

2016-07-24 7:00PM UTC, 48°18'N 133°05'W # noon
2016-07-25 2:00AM UTC, 48°05'N 132°32'W # jibed
2016-07-25 6:01PM UTC, 48°43'N 131°34'W # jibed
2016-07-25 7:00PM UTC, 48°39'N 131°29'W # noon
2016-07-25 9:45PM UTC, 48°31'N 131°15'W # wing and wing
2016-07-26 5:10AM UTC, 48°10'N 130°31'W # jibed
2016-07-26 7:00PM UTC, 48°28'N 128°50'W # noon
2016-07-27 1:00AM UTC, 48°30'N 127°56'W

Sea temperature: 60.8deg

In my last post I mentioned that I was trying to get in front of a ridge that was building between where I was and a stronger band of higher winds to my East. That didn't work. By the early morning of the following day the wind was falling and I started having to sail wider angles and jibing back and forth in order to make progress. I ended up jibing three times over the next two days, jibing NE for the last time Monday night at 10pm. Since then the wind has been increasing and I am now sailing due East at speed, having entered the stronger wind zone.

There is around 130nm to go to Neah Bay. That is a 24 hour day at 5.5 knots, so if everything remains constant, there's a pretty good chance I'll arrive and be able to sleep at anchor tomorrow.

Its so nice to be so close! My last day is going to be fast and salty, much like how this passage started.

All is well aboard.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: day 20

2016-07-20 7:00PM UTC, 47°31'N 142°55'W # noon
2016-07-21 7:00PM UTC, 47°31'N 141°08'W # noon
2016-07-22 3:50PM UTC, 48°29'N 140°17'W # jibed to wing and wing
2016-07-22 7:00PM UTC, 48°27'N 139°51'W # noon
2016-07-23 7:00PM UTC, 48°31'N 136°16'W # noon

Sea temperature: 55.3deg
Barometric pressure: 1022

In my last post I mentioned that the wind was starting to fall, and that I expected a light patch to follow - which is exactly what happened. I sailed in falling wind for the remainder of day 16, through day 17 and at 1:20 on day 18, July 21, the wind had fallen to the point where I was not making any progress. The seas had been falling through this period as well, so I was actually able to sail slowly in very light wind, but when I noticed the boat speed had fallen to 0.5 knots after a sleep cycle, I lowered the sails which were hanging limp.

At 4:15am a light N wind arrived and I raised sail and started sailing in it. At 5:10am the wind had faded and I lowered the sails. At 7:15am I raised them, lowered them at 8:05am, raised them at 8:40am, lowered them at 10:10am, raised them at 12:45pm, lowered them at 1:15pm. At 4pm I raised them again, and this time the wind held and I was sailing NE in 7kts of wind at 3.5 to 4kts boat speed.

The only real angle I had in this wind was NE or SE, and so I chose to sail NE and did this overnight. By 8:50 the next morning, day 19, I jibed to wing and wing and started heading almost directly East. I am still sailing wing and wing and making good progress.

The forecast shows the wind slowly fading for me until I reach around 130W, which is the start of a stronger band of wind which ends at around 125W. My next little goal is to approach 130W before a ridge of high pressure builds between me and 130W. If I can travel at an average of around 5.5kts, I am hoping to beat the formation of the ridge and sail straight into the stronger wind band. If the falling wind over the next few days slows me too much, then I'll enter the newly formed ridge and slow even further.

Once I'm either past the newly formed ridge or into the stronger winds, I'll need to jibe again, get back onto port tack and sail through the 15kt to 25kt wind and into Neah Bay - those are the forecast winds, I'm expecting them to be a little higher in reality.

I have something like 420nm to go, which at an average speed of 5.5kts is 3.2 more days. I have no real idea what my average speed is going to be over the next two days, it depends entirely on how fast and far the wind falls from its present conditions.

I'm looking forward to arriving, heading over to the anchorage that I've used a number of times before, and dropping the hook and resting easy for a few days. I hope the Pizza place I remember is still there...

All is well onboard.

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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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Friday, July 15, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: day 12

2016-07-12 7:00PM UTC, 40°31'N 162°26'W # noon
2016-07-13 7:00PM UTC, 41°32'N 159°54'W # noon
2016-07-14 7:00PM UTC, 42°47'N 158°37'W # noon
2016-07-15 7:00PM UTC, 44°21'N 156°46'W # noon

Sea temperature: 57.2deg
Barometric pressure: 1028 (center high pressure 1036)

I've started to relax into this passage. After starting, there was a period of initial shock for me to be back at sea, on passage, yet again. It took until around day 9 for me to relax into the passage - normally the initial adjustment period is only a day or two.

I closed my last blog post by mentioning how far there was to go and how long it might take if I average 5 knots, and then mentioned that I was hoping to move faster than 5 knots on some of the remaining days. I should have mentioned that I also expected to move slower than 5 knots from time to time as well.

By 9:30pm on day 8, the day I last posted, the wind had fallen to 5 knots and the boat speed was less than 2. There are times when this is just fine. If the seas are calm Luckess will happily sail for days in such wind, maintaining steerage, making slow progress. However this was not the case, the seas were not calm and the sails were not happy - as the boat rolled back and forth the sails would slat and bang back and forth. As this light wind was exactly what the forecast said would happen I didn't let this go on very long before reducing sail and starting to wait it out. By 2:30am the next morning a light wind, 7-8kts, had filled in, which I noticed after one of my one hour sleep cycles. I raised the sails and started sailing slowly again - then went back to sleep. At 3:30am the wind was back to 4kts and the sails were not happy again, so I reduced sail and started to drift again. By 6:15am the wind had returned in the direction I expected, I jibed and started sailing. The situation was that I was initially approaching the high, with the wind on my starboard side, and then the high moved away and a low from the NW came down and I rode its southern edge for a while, the jibe was my transitioning from moving toward the high to moving away from it. It makes sense if you draw a picture...I hope.

This was around the time I started to relax into the passage. The morning was colder, cloudy and a little rainy, but the cloud was patchy - some blue sky, some dark cloud, some light puffy clouds with the sun rays shining through and lighting up patches of the ocean - it looked quite majestic and amazing. I keep seeing different but quite beautiful sea/cloud/sky-scapes, each day.

By the next day, July 13th, at 11:30pm I lost the wind again, and again, this was perfectly forecast by the GFS weather model. As the low moved out of the area it left behind a little light wind chaos as often happens behind a low (or a front.) The next low was scheduled to appear around the afternoon of the 15th, with a light wind filling in before it arrived. This also happened exactly as forecast. By 12:40am on the 14th a little wind from the original direction that had fallen earlier returned, and I rode it for 1/2 hour before lowering my sails again. By 4:30am more wind had arrived, from the proper direction, I again jibed and started sailing - and still am.

The next weather feature I will encounter is the high itself. I'm currently sailing at a heading of around 40-50deg, beam reach, starboard side, in 18-20 knots of wind, with a fully reefed main, staysail and a little bit of genoa, doing between 6.5 and 7 knots. I had more genoa out earlier and was going 7-7.5 knots, but the present speed is just fine and its easier on me as well as the sails/rig/lines/etc. I have learned that, almost every single time that I report the current conditions in a blog report, that shortly after doing so the conditions will change...

I've had my first fog of the trip. Last night, after a beautiful and warm (relatively speaking) afternoon, the sun set and the blue sky started to almost immediately develop a low layer of what looked like cloud. As the sunset turned to dusk the cloud started to descend and by dark there was a heavy dense fog from horizon to horizon. It was pretty amazing watching it happen - I could look around in a 360 degree circle watching the cloud approach the horizon until it touched and I had fog. That lasted all night and into morning, when the sun has again come out making this afternoon another of long series of (patchy) blue sky afternoons. Energy has not been a problem at all on this trip - my battery bank has been fully charged at some point during the day, every day since leaving Hawaii.

I've currently sailed 1510nm with approximately 1350nm to go - so I'm over half way there now. Yay! It looks like am going to have two days of good sailing, perhaps 36 hours of lighter stuff with the possibility of a little drifting as I hit the top of the high, depending on how close I end up to it, and then a few days of good sailing again. At that point the projected icon for Luckness in LuckGrib falls off my last weather forecast, both off its Eastern edge and at the extreme of its time. I'll download new weather as this blog report goes out and try to get a view of what I might encounter beyond my last forecast region and Neah Bay.

Not wanting to leave the blog post solely to sailing and weather topics - I've added a new food to my diet, a cold weather food. Before leaving Hawaii I bought a few loaves of Oroweat, a long life bread that seems to last forever, and I am now enjoying some cheese on toast everyday - yum! So tasty. The cheese is from NZ, a 2 year old Tasty cheddar. Actually, its name is Tasty Cheese, with Tasty being a category just like Edam, Brie, Blue, etc. When you shop for cheese in NZ, you can buy some Tasty, or something else, which made my decisions pretty easy. If you know Tillamook 2 year white vintage cheddar, that's very close. The Cheese on Toast is toasted under the grill in my oven, which is perfect for both toasting the bread as well as getting a good bubble going with the cheese. Of course just after pulling it out of the oven I shake a little Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce on top, doing that immediately so that the sauce soaks into the cheese. Oh, so good! Feel free to 'sail along with Craig' by having a little cheese on toast yourselves.

All is well onboard.

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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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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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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Passage to Neah Bay: about to start

I arrived in Hawaii on Monday June 19th, and now, two weeks later, I'm ready to start the trip back to Neah Bay. This has been a quick stopover.

The climate average data suggests that early July is a good time to leave Hawaii for the trip back to the mainland - this appears to be the time with the lowest probability of encountering a gale on my trip back. Of course climate data is the average of many years and decades of actual weather, and what I you will encounter on any given trip may vary widely from these long term averages. However, I feel like I'm ready to leave, and that's what I'm doing.

The trip to Neah Bay from where I am is roughly 3000nm, which should take somewhere over three weeks to complete. The last time I sailed this passage, I finished it in 21 days. I would be surprised if I was able to sail it any faster this time.

The big weather feature on this passage is the North Pacific High. The cliche is that in the summer, a large high pressure system develops and parks itself to the NE of Hawaii and just sits there. As winds circulate clockwise around the high, this generates the trade winds in Hawaii, and as I travel North the wind will generally be on my beam or behind, giving me a beautiful sail all the way to Neah Bay. The reality is quite different from this cliche however. The high is constantly being pushed around by the lows that move across the North Pacific, and the high will grow, shrink, move, morph into long ridges, spit into two, become stronger and weaker, join other highs which come in from the West and so on.

Leaving Hawaii, it is hard not to have 4 or 5 days of trade wind sailing - wind from between the E and NE - and make good progress North or slightly West of North, depending on the comfort level I choose. At that point you start to approach the region where you are probably close to the high and need to take its shape, size and position into account. There are several problems with this. A first problem is that weather forecasts are really only good for 3 or 4 days - so you can leave with a good high resolution forecast and a plan, but by the time you start to approach the high the actual situation may have changed. A second problem is that at the speeds I travel, compared to the size of the high and the speed it travels, it is difficult to plan any sort of tactical move to take advantage of movement you see in the high.

It looks at the moment like the high may initially stay to the NE of me and that I will have good sailing until Sunday July 10th - a week of good sailing. At that point the forecast is at 192 hours and is strongly into the region where what you are seeing is pretty random. Yesterdays forecast for this time region was quite different, the day before that was quite different again.

If I can get a week of good sailing, with a possibility of it continuing for the reminder of my passage, and do so at a time when the climate averages are suggesting there should be no strong weather systems in the area - that's pretty good!

I'm still at anchor and plan to leave in the next few hours. All well here!