Galapagos passage day 5
25 March 2012 | 18 22'S:85 16'W, Pacific ocean
Today dawned with a mostly clear sky, the first visible sunrise of this passage. Last night, our first well within the tropic zone, was marked by relentless squalls, a completely moonless night, and the need for the watch captain to actively operate this vessel by instrument. At regular intervals, we would be in mild conditions, then hear the roar of the wind in the sails, the rush of water by the hulls, and the humming of the floorboards as Hekla surged to 13, 14, even 15 knots. The boat motion would change, usually for the better, as we would sail closer to the speed of the waves instead of bumping around as they rolled under us. There are no visual clues to the environment, it is all dark except for the dim glow of the instruments. The watch captain would punch in new parameters to the autopilot, to sail deeper, slower, safer, then stare at the wind speed indicator, 25, 26, 27, 26, whew, the watch instructions say to wake captain if wind speed reaches 28; not this tim e. Then it would be over, eery silence, the boat slowed, and the waves would toss the boat around a bit as the sails began slatting, banging against their control lines, lacking the wind pressure that keeps it all taught and powerful. The watch person would then look at the other end of the watch instructions, where it says "start engine if wind speed drops below 8 knots."
Tropical squalls are like this. Some days nothing, other days we will stay busy. Usually less then 30 knots peak wind speed, nothing that a single reef and deep sailing angles cannot handle safely. For better or worse, the night has most of the squalls and the days are clear and steady. This morning, the wind has backed to a very favorable ENE direction, and Hekla is power reaching in the sweet spot, 9 to 12 knots, eager to make up the miles lost in the night.
In just a few weeks this crew has experienced the relentless rains of Patagonia, the mid-latitude need to wait for a good weather window to set sail then hold on tight for what ever really happens, the race to escape the building high winds of middle eastern south Pacific and head for the tropics, and now finally the relatively smooth, warm, trade wind sailing that has long been enjoyed by sailors. Today will mark our halfway point from Robinson Crusoe Islands to the Galapagos. Onward!