Jumping the Puddle- part 4
02 April 2008 | 11? 26'N, 119? 50'W
Day 13 10? 22N, 123? 31'W
The wind is still in the 17-20 knot range, still from the northwest. This means sailing the rhumb line- the direct route- is dead downwind and not possible for us. Particularly since our whisker pole broke at the mast end fitting. So we can no longer pole out our head sail. That's what's known as a big bummer.
Normally we'd go west, jibe, go south, jibe, repeat. Except the wind is just north enough that a southerly tack would have us losing our westing. So we'll head west with a very slight bias to the south. The best we can do until a wind shift.
Day 14 09? 53N, 125? 46'W
Still trying to work more south into our course. We'd like to shoot for an intermediate waypoint of about 5N 128S. That sets us up for crossing the ITCZ- the Intratropical Convergence Zone. This is a band of unsettled weather just north of the equator where the north and south Trade winds converge. It's sometimes called the "Doldrums" because you can have no wind. You can also have lightening storms and numerous squalls. Needless to say you want to spend as little time there as possible so a common tactic is to head due south as soon as you encounter it and maintain that course until you're through to the other side- crossing it at right angles to shorten the amount of time you're exposed to the "unsettled" weather.
Day 15 08? 52N, 127? 33'W
Conditions the same. Wind, Swell, yada, yada, yada.
We haven't seen much in the way of sea life on this passage so far. A couple of dolphins and one or two sea turtles. What we see a lot of is flying fish. They launch out of the waves, sometimes in schools (flocks?) of one hundred or more, and fly for about 50 to 100 feet before submerging again. Most of them are only about 2 inches long, but once in awhile we see a loner that's more like 5 to 6 inches long. So they really do fly. Unfortunately they don't seem to look where they're going. Every morning we find several of them dead on the deck having landed there during the night.
In fact, during one of John's night watches one of the larger ones flew into the cockpit. John heard in the dark a THUNK, WAP! Followed by a pause and then "flap. flap. flap". The fish had flown into the cockpit, smacked hard into the vertical service of our folded table and rebounded to the floor. He must have been stunned for a moment before he started flapping around. like a fish out of water. John quickly scooped him up and tossed him back to the sea. John was saying that just a moment prior he'd had his head leaning out from the dodger. That fish could so easily have smacked him upside the head! And judging from the scales it left behind on the table, that would have been a hard hit indeed.
The flying fish aren't the only creatures "dying" to get on our boat, (Heh, heh). We also see dead squid on the deck most mornings. These guys are about 4-6 inches. The puzzling thing about these is they don't have wings. So they must be washed on board by breaking waves- of which I don't think we've had that many. But I guess enough to transport- at last count- 12 of these guys. They don't leave behind little patches of scales like the fish do. Instead they leave little bits of ink. We could use a nice wet squall to wash this gunk off the boat!
In other news we got an updated forecast from Commander's Weather and they're forecasting a wind shift that should allow us to head in a more southerly direction. That's great 'cause we're running out of west.
Day 16 08? 01N, 129? 17'W
Yea! The wind shifted as forecast and we are able to make a nearly due south course. In addition we finally have the weather I'd envisioned for this passage: 15 knot winds, very mild swell and a beautiful sunny day. I made some bread and we had a lovely sail.