Crossing the Equator
12 July 2010
We crossed the equator this morning, and the Southern Cross was clearly visible this evening. We had a small celebration marking our crossing and being over halfway to Samoa. The kids were excited! Sophie has been conducting coriolis effect experiments with a funnel - within half a degree of the equator there was no perceptible spinning as the water drained. Finn was a little disappointed that the chart plotter didn't have a bright line on it, but this provided a chance to explain the difference between theoretical and physical landmarks. Freya was excited to get a doll and guava juice. With the Equator and the doldrums behind us, we expect steady trade winds into Samoa.
Last night we raced along with 14 kt of steady wind on the beam, flat seas, and a favorable current. We often exceeded 7 kt over ground and were looking to set trip record for our daily run. I spent much of my watch in the cockpit feeling the wind in my face, admiring the stars, and re-estimating our arrival in Samoa.
It didn't last though: around 2 AM the wind dropped, shifted and became unsettled. By 4 AM we were motor sailing to keep up speed and save the sails from flogging. At 7 AM a belt broke on the electronic Autohelm autopilot, the second of the trip. The device provided great service over the last ten years in the San Juans and Puget Sound, but is just not up to the stresses of open ocean sailing. I have one belt remaining. Fortunately my friend Kevin has tracked down a replacement motor for my system, and is finding spare belts as well. Hopefully these parts will meet us in Samoa, if not, then Tonga. We shouldn't have to motor too much and I will have to save the Autohelm for periods of critical need. We can always hand steer, but hand steering is tiring and precludes any other activity, such as child care. The short episode this morning highlighted how dependant we are on steering systems to keep up with running the boat, taking care of the kids, and sleeping. While we could manually steer to Samoa it would be grueling. Fortunately we are primarily sailing with the Monitor, which is definitely up to ocean sailing.
The morning mishap delayed our celebration somewhat, but conditions quickly improved. By 10 AM we were sailing with the Monitor again, and we watched the skies completely clear. For most of the day it was hard to find wisps of clouds in the sky. Such a clear sky promised a night free from squalls, and so far it has not disappointed. We had a spectacular red sunset and the sailing is smooth. ("Red sky at night, sailors delight" does have meteorological basis.)
Tonight is glorious again. When I came on watch there was so much luminescence in the water lighting up our wake I thought our stern light was on. While some nights I spend the bulk of my time below, tonight I have been spending a lot of time with my star guide, learning to identify more constellations to point out to the kids. The sky here is very different from the Midwest and Northwest skies I am accustomed to. So many more stars are visible, even familiar constellations look different and shooting stars are visible most nights.
When my 9 -12:00 AM watch is over tonight, I will not rush to wake Christine. I do like the passagemaking.