Trip Log 1778 nautical miles. Last 24 hours: 152 nautical miles, 1843 nautical miles to Hiva Oa.
Flying fish on deck: 12 Squid on deck: 0
We passed the longitude of Las Cruces today, at about 1:30pm Las Cruces time, and we set our clocks back 2 hours to match that time. That is, we passed directly south of Las Cruces.
We caught two nice mahi mahi yesterday and a 30lb tuna today. The sashimi chef (Tane) prepared a spectacular sashimi tuna dish --- beautifully presented.
Diagnosing the problem with the autopilot yesterday (the drive unit has failed) took some time. The winds had dropped to 8-12 knots, so our main and relatively small working jib were only giving us an average of 5 knots or less. With about an hour to sunset, we decided to raise the spinnaker. It wasn't pretty --- three or four mistakes were made, but it was up and flying in time for the green flash. The moon rose promptly, making it very easy to see the spinnaker, and so to steer. Through the night, we averaged over 6 knots as we settled in to actually having to work steering on night watches.
Today, the winds have stayed in the same range and we've been refining our steering technique. Tane is getting quite good at it now. There is a very distinct sweet spot with a spinnaker on a reach the way we're sailing. If you sail with the wind filling the spinnaker completely in this wind, it all looks great and you travel at somewhere between 5 and 6.5 knots. On the other hand, if you bring the leading edge of the sail to a point where it is just collapsing, everything powers up and suddenly you're at 8 knots. It's a knife edge, however, because if you go to far the whole sail collapses, and you have to spin hard in the opposite direction to fill it again, and in the process, the boat slows to about 5 knots for a while. If you're at the sweet spot, a wave coming up from behind will kick you into collapse, so you have to anticipate the wave action by turning to cancel it. So... we've been at it for two hours on and four off all night and all day. It looks as though the trade winds will stay at this lower level for several more days, so we'll be able to keep the spinnaker up. Without the full moon, however, it would be considerably more difficult --- to get full speed, you definitely need to be able to see the leading edge of the sail quite clearly all of the time.
Apart from trying to maintain the highest speed, the other part of the game is to watch the TTG (Time To Go) readout. When we're really flying, says there are less than 10 days to go. Then, when you slow down...
The beauty of the current conditions are that, with relatively lighter winds, the seas are calmer. The spinnaker, on a reach (wind coming from the side more than from behind), tends to really stabilize the boat. The weather is currently fine and clear, another bonus.
We dropped the spinnaker right on dusk and are now proceeding under jib and main.
It's dangerous in the cockpit tonight! Two flying fish have hit hard right next to us. They sound like bullets hitting the metal fittings.
The trade winds are forecast to increase significantly as we get west, so the issues then will have to do with reefing and keeping control in the waves.
Trip Log 1612 nautical miles.
There were only 12 flying fish on deck this morning --- it's probably because it was a quiet night --- the wind has dropped significantly.
At about 4pm our time this afternoon, we were all down below when suddenly it because clear that the motion had changed. A quick check revealed we were off course and the sails were back winded. The first thought was that someone had accidentally turned off the autopilot, but sadly, this wasn't the case. I called the manufacturer in Seattle (it's an Alpha 3000) and worked through various tests and checks. It turns out there is a sensor failure in the main drive unit and the only solution is to replace it. We don't have a spare on board.
We're arranging for a new drive unit to be shipped to Bruce McLelland so that he can bring it to the Marquesas when he joins us. In the meantime, our lives have changed abruptly. We have to hand steer for the rest of the leg to the Marquesas, which, at over 2000 miles, is the equivalent of an Atlantic crossing. Our movie evenings have to go. Watches are will be very different. Rather than being relaxing periods just at night, they will involve steering the entire time, and will have to be extended for the full 24 hours. The loss of the autopilot is a considerable degradation of life on board---we've had to take the cruise brochure rating down by a couple of stars!
Bugger! It must have known we were at maximum distance from land!
Trip Log 1458 Nautical miles.
Morning body count: 54 flying fish, 0 squid.
Small rain clouds (baby squalls?) developed in late morning and we received a boat wash and some increased winds. However, this made the seas confused again, so we actually slowed down. It took all afternoon for things to settle back down again, and now it appears the wind is dropping a little from yesterday and this morning.
Still... we did 175 nautical miles over the last 24 hours, which is definitely a record for Kena. Now we need to beat it! I don't think that will happen in the next 24 hours, however.
We have just under 2200 miles to go, which is the length of the Atlantic crossing that Bruce and I did with Bob and Jack on Patience in 1999.
There was one mahi mahi on the line today.
And... from sister Joline, here is the explanation for the appearance of squid on the deck. Thanks, Joline.
Thought you might be interested in this - Joline from - www.susanscott.net/Oceanwatch2002/jan04-02.htm
A few years ago, I mentioned flying squid in a column, and another reader wrote, "Not to be critical, but didn't you mean flying fish?"
No, there really are flying squid. During an offshore voyage once, we once found a flying squid lying on the 6-foot-high deck of our sailboat. That might not sound like much of a jump, but this squid was only about an inch long. Flying squid have been found on ship decks 12 feet above the water's surface.
The squids that make such leaps belong to the squid family Onycoteuthidae.
Members of this group have long narrow bodies and such powerful funnels they can shoot from the water like little rockets.
Actually, squids don't fly any more than flying fish fly. They glide. Both these creatures burst from the water at speed and then soar on aerodynamic fins.
Squids are the speed demons of marine invertebrates, reaching rates of 24 mph. Such a burst of speed is called escape swimming and usually occurs when a predator is about to eat the squid.
During less stressful moments, squids can hover, cruise slowly and swim in precise directions.
They do all this using their multipurpose mantle, the thick cloak of muscle surrounding squid bodies. For a squid, its mantle is everything. It protects the soft body organs, creates water flow for respiration and is the organ of jet propulsion.
Here's how it works. Between the squid's mantle and its body is a space, or cavity, containing gills. The squid opens the top of its mantle (around the neck) and inhales water into the space. To exhale, the muscular mantle contracts. This closes the top opening and forces water out through a tube called the funnel, located under the head.
The squid can move its funnel, enabling the creature to swim in all directions. Small triangular fins on the outside of the mantle stabilize the squid and fine-tune its course. These fins can also propel the animal slowly.
When the squid needs speed, it contracts its mantle strongly, pushing water out the funnel with great force. Bending the funnel backward causes the squid to dart forward so it can grab prey. But when the funnel points forward and straight, the squid shoots backward like a tiny torpedo.
All squids dart with some speed, but the flying squids are champs. Their superstrong mantles, dartlike bodies and gliding-style fins make them able to clear the water and "fly" away from whatever is chasing them beneath.
Unfortunately, there is often something chasing them from above, too. The seabirds are up there, cruising over the water in constant search of food.
So just when the poor squid escapes the jaws of a tuna by bursting from the water, it gets plucked from the air by an albatross. But that's nature.