06/09/2011, 16N; 126W
Last night was pretty rough and not very restful. The seas were pretty big -- in the 10-12' range -- and not very organized. It made it tough for Otto to steer to and consequently the crew was jostled about a bit. I actually was able to somehow get some good rest through it all.
We bid a fond farewell to the spinnaker this morning. It was sad. About 1020 the wind had died down to a paltry 15k and I decided we may as well go ahead and throw up the spinnaker. We were running downwind with an apparent wind angle of about 140 degrees. We got the kite up all right and she pulled well for about half an hour. But the aforementioned sea state had Otto steering like a drunken sailor. (I suspect he has been nipping at the vodka in the fishing locker!)
Anyhow, I punched up the response level on Otto a notch so he would steer a straighter course. About 15 minutes later we got sort of knocked down. It wasn't a real knockdown where the kite is flogging. We just had a wave push our stern around so the bow came up closer to the wind. We had the kite over trimmed so it kept drawing but now more on a beam reach. Just as I was thinking of going for the helm Otto took over and got the boat back on track. Well, that was the warning.
A few minutes later it happened again with the boat essentially leaned over sailing on a beam reach in 15k. This time I hesitated to see if Otto was going to correct the course and that was the spinnaker's undoing. Otto was taking his dang time getting the course corrected so I moved over to the steering station to do it for him. But before I could get to the wheel I heard a big bang like from a shotgun. I looked up to see the spinnaker trailing off to leeward, floating in the air above the water like a butterfly.
My heart sank but I didn't have time to dwell on emotions. I jumped up to the bow and instinctively tugged on the dousing sock. Of course, I wasn't dousing anything -- all the sail material was floating above the water. I called for Jim to come help and he came up onto the foredeck with me and started hauling in the now wet spinnaker from the water. I didn't want to run over it and foul it in our prop nor did I want to go 'shrimping' and have to try to haul a water balloon of a sail out of the water. Fortunately Jim got the sail on deck without incident and we were able to put it away.
Some after-the-fact investigation has shown that the spinnaker block attached to the top of the mast failed completely. When it failed, the shock load on the sail finished it off. I will talk to Harken, but I am sure all they will do is replace the block. The sail is on me! So it looks like we will do the rest of the let to Hawaii as well as the return trip to Seattle with just the jib and main.
I am pretty sad about it. When it blew up the first time in the Atlantic during the ARC I was mad at myself and upset over the incident. Now I am just sad. That sail has given me/us many fond memories. Like sailing into Hvar, Croatia under full main and spinnaker. Or trimming her like I was racing while Otto drove off the coast of Italy. Or screaming along Ibiza on our way to Fomenterra in the Ballearics. Or Sailing her solo (with Will sleeping down below) while crossing the Ionian Sea to Greece at night. There are many more memories, but I wanted to list a few as a fitting tribute. It is like losing a part of yourself.
On a more pragmatic level, we put in 180 nm yesterday so we are closing fast on our target. We caught 4 bonito this afternoon and threw them all back. I felt bad because I am pretty sure one is not going to make it. So I killed a fish and lost a spinnaker today -- not the best of worlds. But we remain safe, and I am forever grateful for that. The seas are building -- in the 12' range with the larger ones approaching 15'. They are on our quarter so it isn't too bad. Still quite uncomfortable, though. We'll manage just fine.
Farewell my good friend.
06/08/2011, 16N; 126W
Ahhhh! When its good, it's REALLY good! Too bad we haven't found that just yet. But we have reached the trades and we are starting to see the wind and sea swing around to the stern of us. It isn't quite where it needs to be, but it is improving.
Yesterday was pretty bad. To move about the boat required the skill of a mountain climber as you would look for one handhold before letting go of the other. The motion was that violent. We have been sailing under white sails (jib and main) putting in 6 and 7 nm per hour. Our daily run today (noon to noon) totalled 151 nm! Not bad for a couple of geezers lost out on the big pond, eh?
We have kept with the white sails the past couple of days to dive deep into these trades. Tomorrow we will start to crack off and run the kite during the day, then douse and head up during the night. Hawaii is at 19N and change and we are at 16N. We figure we can get down to 14N or 14.5N as we expect the trades to back us around to a more northerly heading as we approach Hawaii. That is our current strategy at least -- always subject to change without notice!!
As we see the wind and sea crank around to our stern, it should make the ride more and more comfortable. Today is a 'transition' day -- a whole lot better than yesterday, but still a pretty bumpy ride. We are holding up pretty good. God doesn't give us the sleep we want -- just the sleep we need! So we nap daytime, nighttime, anytime! The rest of the time is spent reading books or (in my case) playing word games on the Kindle.
We reached the halfway point this afternoon unceremoniously. We toasted a rum drink in celebration, but that was about it. The good news is we still have ice from Huatulco for the drinks!! But we are waaaay beyond the halfway point in terms of time. We will make up the second half of distance in lightning speed compared to the drudgery of the first half. As the seas swing around and start pushing the boat towards Hawaii, I am expecting our daily runs to grow from the 150 nm we saw today.
06/07/2011, 16N; 123W
Ahhhh!! At last! After 10 days of searching, we think we have finally found the trades! Last night we didn't get the fluky winds we had been experiencing earlier. The wind has held firm the last 36-48 hours at around 12-15k. We are beam reaching under a full main and jib and averaging about 7k. Our daily run today was 144 nm -- up from 129 the day before. We are expecting further increases in our daily runs as we dive further into these trades and get a more favorable sea.-
The only issue now is the sea. It is on the beam and pushes the boat around awkwardly. Going down below, or even standing in the cockpit -- requires finding hand holds as the boat gets jostled around. It is pretty uncomfortable. But we are headed due west right for our target and so I guess we'll bite the bullet on the ride for the next few days and hope/pray the Good Lord brings the seas around more to our stern. Then we can get pushed or surf on them and make up even more distance while definitely getting a more comfortable ride.
Jim held his press conference at noon today to announce his guesstimate for arrival in Hilo. But no one sowed up! So at 1800 I pried it out of him and also took the opportunity to update my estimate based on "new information" provided by the trades. With our runs increasing, I am thinking now we can lay Hilo a week from Saturday at 1000 hrs. Jim has picked Friday at 1800 hrs. Either of those is good enough for me as my original estimate was Monday at 1300 hrs. So we think we can shave 2-3 days off in these trades. Could be over optimism? Only time will tell.
I am feeling better about our chances to avoid the hurricane south of Acapulco. The last forecast Will sent me said it had a 100% chance of developing into a hurricane, which I take to be speak-ese for 'Watch out'! But I think we are far enough ahead of it and also if it takes its usual, projected path NW, then we should be well clear. If it tracks due W then we will have to keep a close on it.
The updated arrival forecast -- if it materializes -- will ease the food and diesel situation. We have plenty of both. But with the food, it may save us a couple of days eating out of tins!!
06/06/2011, 16N; 120W
My biggest fear -- the possibility of a hurricane -- was realized last night when my 'weather watcher', Will, reported there was "cyclonic activity 450 nm S of Acapulco with a 90% chance of becoming a hurricane and traveling in a NWerly direction"'!! Oh, just wonderful!! We are about 1,100 nm (nautical miles) NW of the center of it. I have no experience with these things and am runnin' scared. How big do they get? How fast do they travel? Right now I am hanging on for more word from Will as to whether we need to batten our hatches and start getting ready for a gale. Also, Nirvana -- a Portland-based Tayana 35 we transited the Canal with is headed home as well and they may be quite close to it right now. So we are also worried for them.
On the brighter side, we have reached 'the promised land' -- that being 120 West. When looking at weather forecasts prior to departure, 120W seemed to be where the trade winds kicked in. We haven't seen the real trades yet, but things are definitely improving. We are running our spinnaker during the day and the breeze is becoming much more consistent both in direction as well as strength. We have had daily runs the past two days of 129 and 128 nm. Right now the seas are still on our beam. But as they kick around to our stern, I am expecting we will be able to build on those numbers.
Even so, we still aren't halfway across! We just snuck under 2,000 nm to go to Hilo, and we started with 3,365 nm. Jim and I have a beer bet for when we arrive. I say Tues., June 21 at 1300. He has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow to announce his entry!! (I think/hope we may actually arrive sooner -- on Monday -- but don't tell him!!)
Things continue to get cooler. The water temperature is now down to 77.7 deg. -- from a high of 92 we saw in the Gulf of Tuhuantepec. We are having to wear fleece and jackets at night. It's been a long time for that for me!!
The birds get a little meddlesome. At dusk they want to roost either on our masthead or our bow pulpit. We are done giving rides to hitchhikers, so we scare them off. You should see the antics with me on the deck holding a boat hook trying to scare off the birds. Quite the sight!!
06/05/2011, 16N; 115W
Well, we finally had a good day's run in a breeze that is starting to feel like a trade wind. We aren't entirely there yet, I suspect, but at least it is starting to feel that way.
We set the kite early in the morning and the breeze stayed steady all day long. There were the usual puffs and lulls but, hey, that's sailing! The breeze was around 13-15k (remember, our wind instrument is gone so we have to do all of this by 'guesstimating') and out of the north. We were running in the 6's and 7's all day and posting hourly runs of 6 and 7 nm rather than the usual 4-6 nm, so that is good as well.
It was strong enough to force us to bear off in a southerly direction so as not to stress the spinnaker too much. We still have several thousand miles to go to get to Seattle and we don't want to be blowing that baby up just yet, now do we? So we are babying her and nursing her and when the breeze gets up, we go down.
We took the spinnaker down a few hours early -- a few hours before sunset because the sky up ahead looked ominous. But as it turned out it was nothing to be afraid of or concerned about -- just more dark clouds. But better to be safer than sorrier, right? Other than a few brief, soft spots, the breeze has stayed through the night thus far. That is different as well, and gives me pause to wonder if we aren't getting close. Heretofore we have really struggled with a dying breeze at night. Granted, it is still soft, but at least we don't have to work so hard.
That's about all there is to report for now. We have been blessed with a really calm sea, so cooking down below in the salon has not been an issue. (I was concerned about that before departure.) The food and water are holding out well (for now), though I wonder what we will be eating when we arrive in Hilo!!!
We are both involved in a good book and keep ourselves busy the rest of the time with maintenance on the boat. Chores include washing the dodger with fresh water to improve visibility, installing a window for the connector panel between dodger and bimini so we can see the hawk easier, my 3-minute maintenance walk around the boat, and things like that. More later.
06/03/2011, 16N; 112W
How quickly things can change out here. By noon today our noon-to-noon run was a whopping 84 nm -- an all-time low! Last night was sooo painful -- with fits and starts of puffs followed by lots of sail slappiong. At one point we covered just one mile in an hour! Most of our postings were in the 2-4 nm range -- not very impressive at all.
But the sunrise and the subsequent burn off the cloud layer brought a better breeze and by mid-morning we had the spinnaker up and comfortably beam reaching in 8k of breeze. The thermal engine kept on chugging and by afternoon we had dropped the spinnaker and were making 6-7k in 13-15k of breeze on a beam reach still. It feels good to finally put in some REAL miles, and not just do a dance step with the wind. The breeze kept up all the way to about 2100, when it finally "petered out"! (OK, my bad!!)
What caused us to drop our spinnaker this afternoon was our autopilot turning itself off and the boat going off course. We had to hand steer for about an hour while I figured out the problem. We had the main oversheeted and the boat was out of balance and Otto couldn't keep up with it. Once we adjusted the sails, all was well. But for about an hour there the prospect of hand steering for 2-3 more weeks stared us ominously in the face.
The other big event today was we saw a ship -- our first in about 3 days. It was a freighter heading, we think, for Hawaii like us. About the same time as it crossed our bow a sailfish bit on the port lure/line. We watched in awe as we scrambled to do something. But he spit the lure almost as fast as he got on and was gone. It was just as well. He was too big for the two of us to keep and we would have just had to figure a way to help him slip the hook. Still, I was hoping to bring him in closer to the boat for a closer look. But all is well that ends well and the sailfish is out there presumably chasing the real thing!!