Sailing Through the Trade Winds

The Trade Winds Falter (continued)

Yet another beautiful sunset.  

Thursday, May 6, 2004 (Day 13 of the Easter Island Passage)

The other swell is more noticeable today and it seems to be coming from the south-southwest. The swell is substantial but long-period and non-breaking so it's rather harmless. It is an indication, though, that somewhere ahead there are strong south-southwest winds; it's hard to tell if the winds will affect us. The period isn't as long as I thought yesterday, only about 15 seconds or so. According to the GPS the swell height today is about 10 to 15 feet.

This was a very slow day, mileage-wise. The winds were very light most of the day and it was difficult to get the sails to draw well, if at all. It gets very frustrating and annoying listening to the sails slat loudly and slowly beat themselves to death—all for (nearly) naught as our forward progress is so poor.

In the early evening, Marcie stood the 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. hour of my watch and I cooked dinner: rice with achiote and garbanzo beans, tuna nuggets pan-fried then mixed with fenesca (a canned mixture of beans, peas, corn, and some tough fish chunks). It turned out pretty good, though it needed more spices. At least I didn't overcook the tuna, which was my biggest worry. Overcooked fish is tough and rubbery, and it would have been a crime to overcook the beautiful tuna David caught.

My night watch started out very dark. I've become used to the moon over the past several days, but tonight it didn't come up right away and we were treated to an extraordinarily dark sky. The Milky Way was very prominent, as well as a blob of light closer to the horizon that might be one of the Magellanic Clouds (a pair of small galaxies that orbit the Milky Way, discovered by Magellan during his Pacific voyage). The dark fields embedded in the Milky Way were particularly prominent. When the moon came up, it was an orange egg, egg-shaped due to its phase. I looked and looked through the binoculars and had a great view. The atmosphere was so clear and stable many surface details were easily visible in the binoculars. It was an exceptionally good view, and I don't remember ever seeing such good surface detail on the moon, with such a wide range of visual contrast.

YABS (an acronym I invented for "Yet Another Beautiful Sunset").  

Friday, May 7, 2004 (Day 14 of the Easter Island Passage)

The rest of my night watch was uneventful and passed surprisingly quickly, considering how slow we were going (sometimes less than one knot). During his night watch, David recomputed how much fuel we could use and decided we could motor for longer periods of time. At the end of his night watch he started motoring, and we continued motoring into Marcie's watch, for a total of four hours. This not only generated some decent mileage, but also gave the batteries a good charging and ran the watermaker to produce drinking water.

During the night in the forward berth, it felt like we weren't moving at all. Even the swell was dying down, which is not a good sign. The swell is caused by steady significant winds from one direction; if there's little swell, it means winds over the region are probably light and/or variable in direction. When I came topsides at 8:00 a.m., I was surprised to see a little wind, and we were sailing slowly and close to our desired course. The wind came up a little more and I set the jib, but we could only manage the low to middle two knot range, rarely breaking into the three knot range.

After I finished my morning watch, I typed up a Mother's Day email to Mom and posted it to the Pactor outbound message queue (it will be sent when David next fires-up the rig). I also finished reading Robert B. Parker's book Sudden Mischief, which was a good and quick read. The characters had good banter, there was a plausible plot, and there was a satisfying conclusion. Best of all, on my afternoon dog watch the wind came up a little, but this time from the north so we had an easy beam reach. Not exactly speedy (mid four knot range), but at least we got some wind and are pointed in the right direction.

A couple nights ago, David saw a whale on his night watch. There was bright moonlight and it wasn't too far away so it was easy to see and unmistakable. Most of the time we see relatively little "wildlife", perhaps a couple of birds each watch. I'm sure if we looked diligently we would see many more birds. I spend most of my time reading books or writing in my journal, and when I see a bird it's because I happened to glance up from my book when it was flying by.

My night watch was relatively uneventful except towards the end, when we sailed under a big regional cloud (which cut off the moonlight) and approached a line of low dark clouds. I could see rain showers under the clouds and prepared for rain; I also prepared for gusty winds. Instead, the winds died out for a while and I furled the jib to keep if from flapping uselessly. Shortly thereafter, the winds returned but threatened to be gusty, so I set the staysail. Gusts failed to materialize, so I finally furled the staysail and set the jib. We did get a couple of light showers, but not enough to wash the salt off the boat.

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