06/11/2012, Coral Sea
After the wind picked up yesterday in the wee hours we spent the first part of the day beating into 17- 20 knots, with some impressive pounding. The wind is fluky, and is meandering at least 30 degrees over periods of minutes. We are sailing with our auto pilot on wind, which means our course is not perfectly straight, but the sails are tuned as the wind angle changes, keeping our boat speed up. The winds died down mid afternoon and we motor sailed, sailed, motor sailed, sailed for the rest of the afternoon.
We were all up to see our first way point, just off Magdelane Cays go by at nightfall. Passing small sharp bits of rock and coral at night is a bit frightful, but we are pretty sure of our position using a combination of Google Earth and our C Maps. Our google earth program is now running right in our MaxSea navigation program, so we are able to compare very easily. This is yet another revision of our use of google earth for live navigation, which makes it even easier to use to help confirm whether electronic charts are accurate and if you are where you want to be.
Sightings: As we approached the reef in the light afternoon airs, thousands upon thousands of sea birds were adrift on the open ocean and in flight, some flying in formation. This was truly spectacular especially as there were a wide variety of seabirds to be spotted.
Fish Update: Yellow fin tuna, again too small to keep. We are beginning to think we will not be eating fish, all bananas are going overboard this morning.
After finishing off Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, Kai announced yesterday afternoon that he now knew nearly everything! Megan is rolling her eyes!
Sailing update: Wow it feels good right now-Kai has the sails double reefed main and genoa furled slightly, doing a steady 8.6 knots. I haven't had to touch a thing on my shift yet! At this speed we arrive 6 am tomorrow morning, but more likely we will get there sometime mid day.
06/10/2012, Coral Sea
The winds are beginning to wake us all up from our slothful pose. Literally! At 3 am this morning, all four of us were up! Kai has been doing the 1 to 4 shift, and I follow him on the 4 to 7. As we went through a squall, winds picked up and have stay there ever since. Micheal got out of bed to help reef (my job as I'm next on), I got up so that Michael could go back to bed, and Megan got up to see what all the excitement i was about. I'll stay up, but the other two are back trying to sleep. With over 350 nm to go, a reef structure and the effects of a large continent on the winds, it is best to keep as much energy in the bank as possible. I expect we will be doing some pounding as we meet some of the waves reflected back to us. Yipee! Inside the reef should be smoother sailing again.
Yesterday was a light air day with winds between 8-10 knots. We sailed most of the day on a gentle beat making 5 to 6 knots, with a northerly current pushing us off our rhumbline to the entrance to the reef. We continue to eat well, although as four people can move through alot of groceries in this amount of time, we will likely start to eat a little less gourmet, especially in these winds which are now over 20 knots.
Oh, and don't worry, we are now pointed right to the large entrance to the reef, we just weren't able to do as easily that in yesterday's light airs.
Sightings: 3 freighters in the last 24 hours. We are on the lookout for more traffic as we close in on Australia. Fishing update: We caught a small Mahi Mahi we were didn't keep, and also lost a very pretty pink lure to a big hit almost as soon as the lure hit the water.
We haven't really stopped to figure out the time difference. Of course, we are moving west, so as per our Vanuatan clocks the sun is setting later and my early morning shift is becoming darker and darker.
06/09/2012, Coral Sea
We had a lazy sailing day yesterday with light winds from behind pushing us through the dying swell. It always amazes me how much the ocean moves even without a lot of wind. We averaged around 6 knots in winds of 8-11 knots using the code zero and our genoa poled out. By evening the wind died and we began to motor sail. Just as I changed shift with Kai early this morning, the wind came around in front of us, and we are now motor sailing up wind in light airs. We expect wind to pick up again as we reach the first reef. These reefs are well offshore, I bet they surprised the heck out of Cook when he first discovered Australia. I think I remember a story of his ship being washed over the reef, and then when they wanted to leave they could not spot a way out. His men would climb a lookout (Lizard Island) daily to see if they could find an opening in the reef! We will sail to Lizard Island on our way north, and take the same hike out to Cook's Lookout.
The wind is from the south again today. Yesterday with the eastern winds it was very hot, and of course very little apparent wind to cool you off. Today's wind carries some cold kick from the Antarctic which is so nice to feel. Love it!
Sightings: A Australian Gannet (blue beak?!)was very persistent at trying to land on our rig. We have not had a bird succeed in this as yet due to our diagonal rigging between spreaders. This guy actually managed to squeak into a very small spot between the spreader and the rigging- impressive. These guys will roost in your rigging for days at a time. As bird S***t all over the deck is less than impressive, we shooed him away with a spare halyard, and he dropped to the water and flew away never to be seen again! Wind just picked up to 10 knots, sailing again!
06/08/2012, Coral Sea
We've officially reached the half way point of our passage. The passage from Luganville to Cairns is about 1250 nm, and our log shows we've come 673! We've put in another solid day of progress, making about 170 in the last 24 hour period. The current is finally in our favour. We use a cruising guide written by Jimmy Cornell, and that guide told us the passage would be fast in SE trades with a good current pushing us along. For the last 12 hours or so its finally about 1/2 knot in our favor.
We are running dead down wind in long rolling swell sweeping across us from the south- about 3 meters with a nice long interval of 12-16 seconds. Our Code Zero sail is poled out to starboard. We expect the wind to die down by tomorrow, but will pull up a new grib weather file today for the outlook. From the first way point outside the Great Barrier Reef, we will still have 200 nm through the reef system to make our way into Cairns.
Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day. The hot air is nicely tempered by the cool winds from the south, which are brought up from the storm. Life is great onboard as we all settle into our offshore lives. We are eating fantastic meals every night and continuing to enjoy the easy miles we are making. Enjoyable bird life to watch and we caught an undersized skipjack tuna which went back to the sea. The lure will be set again this morning!
We are in touch with two other boats who left Luganville the Friday afternoon ahead of us, (SV Ambika from Sweden and SV Imagine from US) They are just entering the reef area today - they met in Vanuatu and found that their boats sail almost identical speed- 1000 nm later they are still in sight of each other.
06/07/2012, Coral Sea
Our obvious obmission after the send button was hit yesterday to the things we saw: the transit of Venus! We have the special glasses on board that allow you to look directly into the sun. They are left over from 2010 when we sailed a couple hundred miles off our rhumbline to Rarotonga to be on the path of the total solar eclipse. Without a telescope Megan and especially Kai (with his brand-new-lasered-in- Mexico eyes) confirmed that the suggestion of a dot over the sun that my old eyes were sensing was indeed there! All of this might have been a bit more interesting if we had a telescope on board as it was really just a speck! In Bora Bora we visited Venus Point, where Captain Cook sat in 1769, as a very young man and became the first person to successfully measure the transit of Venus across the Sun. His measurements allowed scientists of the time to calculate the distance to the sun. Cooks measurements were pretty good, and showed that the earth was 150 million kilometers away (sure glad I'm not sailing there!) Measurements today are of course more exact, but he was only off by a scant 41 million kms!
Easy miles! The last 24 hours winds have been on the beam between 16-23 knots and we are averaging 7 to 8 knots over ground. Over all seas have been pretty calm, just a bit of increase late yesterday from the storm to the south of us. The current is a dog's breakfast, some times carrying us north, sometimes south, and sometimes against us. If it has ever switched to behind us, we haven't noticed!
602 nm to go to first way point outside the reefs!
06/05/2012, Coral Sea
Big excitement at 1'oclock in the afternoon- we finally had enough wind to motor sail! With a low RPM (what a nice relief in sound) and winds in the 4-6 knots range we made steady progress 5.5-6 knots. Twelve hours later the anticipated winds finally arrived and we turned iron genny off and have been enjoying a gentle, fast sail ever since. Winds are consistently just ahead of the beam at about 15 knots, one of those sweet spots for Paikea Mist. Seas are really soft, like moving through butter, albeit with a few swirls! We are expecting seas to pick up a fair amount today. Those of you who are weather junkies might know that there is a huge low well below us in the Tasman Sea. It is squashed between two highs, making almost vertical skinny isobars north to south. Glad I'm not there, but apparently there is a NZ race making for safety at Norfolk Island. Got to love those Kiwis. Okay, well that storm spews waves out pretty far north and we will see the tip of those waves today.
Once we moved through the front last night the skies clouded and we even had a drop of rain. The moon is still doing its lighting theatrics through the clouds- great visibility.
It's sure nice having Kai and Megan aboard, we are enjoying their company and the extra hands on deck, and of course watches. Ahhh... so great to get a bit more sleep on a passage again- I may not let them leave!
Sightings yesterday: Dolphins, man of war jellies, a piece of styrofoam and a French sailing vessel, headed for Thursday Island, Australia, and then also to Darwin. We will see who gets there first I guess!