07 August 2012 | N29 31 W153 46
Day 7th - August 5th NIGHT WATCH II
We, the 4 delivery swabbies, overlap each other by 2 hours in our individual 4 hour watch periods. When Christof leaves, Jay comes up for my last 2 hours, and then Ross relives me and on through the night. 2 nights ago Jay, who by the way is a psycho-therapist and not what I wrote above, and I were literally watching, on our Watch, a seemingly endless line of squalls pass us to starboard as we sailed on northwards
Consider the face of a big old kitchen clock (with numbers) and you are sitting mentally in the center of the clock face with 12:00 straight ahead of you with 03:00, 06:00, and 09:00 at your right hand, directly behind you, and at your left hand respectively. These small squalls would pass slowly by us from the 01:00 through to 05:00 (actually they stayed still and we passed them but it seems the other way around in the boat). As we/they approached each other we would get a rapidly increasing wind radiating outwards in all directions from the center of the squall or cell. They are like embryonic thunderstorms that have not yet grown up into thunder and blitzen mayhem producing nasties like those seen during a real storm. These are cute little clouds gently dropping rain when viewed from afar. The winds are gusty, generally increasing from 5-6 knots to 15 gusting to 20 knots and take about 20 to 30 minutes to pass. This does not sound like a big deal but the force on our sails is directly proportional to the square of the wind velocity. That means the force of a 5 knot wind produces a force per unit area of 25 square thing units while a 20 knot wind produces a force per unit area of 400 thing units. You can call them metric thingys or foot/pound thingys as you are comfortable with but it is the same amount of push on the boat system that you must oppose with the force from your rudder. This why a sailboat leans or heals while sailing in anything stronger than light winds but you can take a sailing course to learn all that neat stuff. This can come on in about 15 to 30 seconds from an almost calm and really gets one’s attention if the sails are trimmed to power up as much as possible in a light wind. Do nothing soon enough and the boat can be blown onto its side (knocked down).
Before leaving this bit and horrify wives and children, friends and relatives of the racers and deliverers, that is why we are there at the helm and alert and on watch. Besides, the world needs more lerts. As the wind speed increases we ease the helm (turn the steering wheel) to counter the rounding up tendency with opposite rudder. As the gust decreases we ease the helm off towards neutral or whatever was required before the gust. Easy once you have done it a couple or many times. It actually can become a sort of bouncing ballet with the helmsman a sort of conductor of the intricate and random movements of the boat through the night waters. I am reminded of the scene in the movie Das Boot where the submarine was passing through the ocean at night and plunging smoothly and elegantly through the Atlantic swells on its way to a patrol area. Red Sheilla has a somewhat similar bounding ahead motion as she powers through the conflicting waves and swells like an eager greyhound straining to catch the uncatchable rabbit at the race track.
Jay and I were taking turns handling these squall cells as they passed in the night, going from massive amounts of weather helm to neutral and back in order to keep tracking straight on our desired northward course. In one of the lulls between cells I commented that this is somewhat similar to NASA slingshotting satellites beside the planets outbound to Pluto, picking up energy as they approach the next planet and diving in and out of the gravity well and being slung outward to the next. Pretty deep but there wasn’t much going on between cells and we had lots of time to talk. Cool! Time for an advert here. “Next time you are beset with unwanted squalls, who you gonna call? Squall Busters!!!” We also train delivery crews in Squall Shotting. Call 1- 800-SQUALL. Hurry.
Next, we were becalmed, zero boat speed but with a currant drift rate of 1 knot exactly in our desired direction. With this small energy state we drifted with no helm control between 2 cells which were approximately a mile apart. We were expecting to do some 360 turn arounds or some such exiting uncontrolled exercise but instead we silently ghosted through with no wind at all. I guess the squalls cancelled out each other’s winds. Also, I experimented with full right rudder and we very very slowly came to starboard and with full left rudder again the helm answered with zero indicated or observable weigh upon. Magic moments at night are us! Daytime as well. The whole package is magical when I think about it. My old grade 12 physics teacher who didn’t think I would amount to much, would be amazed to see me now, in the middle of some part of the Pacific Ocean, not having amounted to much but having another incredible time of my life. Apparently I didn’t need the physics. All for now from Leutnant Best.