Noon Position: 0 30 84S 127 58.85W
Course/Speed: S 7
Wind: ESE 14 – 20
Sail: Double reef in working jib and main
Sea: Mostly SE to 8
Cabin Temp: 82
Water Temp: 73
Miles last 24-hours: 158
Miles since departure: 2803
At 7:30 this morning Pacific Time, Mo crossed the line for Cape Horn and is now in the southern hemisphere. There’s something pleasurably exotic about putting an ‘S’ at the end of one’s latitude. Though still in the Pacific, one has definitively left home waters and has entered a world where there is far more ocean than land and where the lows turn around and go backwards.
On the old square riggers, a hand who made such a crossing was forever more referred to as a “Shellback,” a term I am fond of and would entertain as a tattoo on some part of my person if tattoos had ever made the priorities list.
It is reported that Neptune, on such occasions, comes aboard for some festivities with the uninitiated that, to contemporary sensibilities, looks a lot like hazing. Workplace harassment protocols have not made it this far to sea. I’ve always crossed the line alone, and for some reason, the King has failed to note any occurrence.
By way of celebration, in the evening I popped a bottle of sparkling wine from my good friend Jim Walter at Amphora Wines. The cork lept from the bottle and must have sailed three boat lengths in a lovely arc before splashing down at the crest of a wave. Room temperature, shall we say, but fine and crisp. Thank you, Jim.
Fantastic day’s run. 158 miles in the last 24-hours. Winds have been strong the last day and have finally backed more into the east as we’ve approached the line.
Can’t win for losing with reefs, though. Fail to put one in and the wind keeps rising; put one in, and the wind drops. Last night I rose every hour and fretted for a time as the winds crept up from 12 to 15 to 18 to 20 knots. I already had a reef in both working jib and main, but at about 18, Mo wants less canvas when reaching. Each time I chose sleep over kitting up and going foreward to the mast. We were, after all, flying! At dawn I put in a second reef in the main. Wind dropped immediately to 15 (though it did come back to 18 – 20 within the hour). In the afternoon a squall came by and winds dropped. Thinking this the effect of the squall, I waited two hours before going back to full sail, at which point winds jumped to 15 and have been creeping upwards since
Ah well, it all drives the ship ever southward, so I can’t complain.
Noon Position: 01 53.52N 127 06.23W
Course/Speed: SSW 5
Wind: ESE 12
Sail: Full working jib, reef in main
Sea: SE 5
Cabin Temp: 84
Water Temp: 73
Miles last 24-hours: 119
Miles since departure: 2645
It’s been a day of epiphany.
Since entering the SE trades and putting Mo close hauled, I’ve been mystified at a) our consistently slow speeds and b) our inability to make southing without a whopping lot of westing into the bargain.
I blamed this on the skipper, who had little experience getting his good ship to go upwind. Not a one of you called to disagree.
My heading wasn’t translating into miles made good in *that* direction, but I had no idea by how much because I wasn’t tracking heading closely, only course over the ground. This is my first “fancy” chart plotter, and I’ll admit with some embarrassment that I had no idea a unit that is getting but one signal from the sky could surmise heading. Course, sure. But only Monte knows my heading and he only whispers it to me.
But look at that! I even get extension lines that show the variance between the two. And holy smokes–heading and course are out by 30 degrees. My intuition was right, at least.
Other evidence. We’ve had a couple days of very poor mileage, results that don’t correspond to my visual check of our wake. Chart plotter says 4.5 knots over the ground. Randall says that looks more like 5.5 knots through the water.
Today we took off. On the same wind speed and set of sail our course-over-the-ground speed went to the high 7 knots and touched 8 knots several times. Yippie. But when Randall looks over the side, it still looks like 5.5 knots through the water.
Other evidence. Damn this swell. At the moment I’m having a tough time hitting the right keys on the laptop because for the last hour we’ve had schoolbus 8-footers rolling through and the swell is crashing and breaking everywhere. Wind speed: 12 knots. Those who sail San Francisco Bay would say this looks unusually like a wind-against-tide kind of slop.
Conclusion: this particular quadrant of ocean is experiencing some currents not noted in the Pilot Charts, which show only an slow, unvaried west-trending set. Actually, it’s likely a hybrid of Mo’s natural leeway, the leeway she is gifted when she bangs into the SE swell, and then whatever odd current is happening hereabouts.
Otherwise it’s been a day of chores on deck, like re-reeving Monte’s control line. Nice sailing day, but I’m looking forward to the more easterly trades we are slated to get below the line.
Noon Position: 3 30.25N 126 00.97W
Course/Speed: SW 4 – 5
Wind: SE 11 – 13
Sail: All plain sail.
Sea: SE to 6 (These are the reason we can’t get our speed over 5 knots.)
Cabin Temp: 85
Water Temp: 74
Miles last 24-hours: 118
Miles since departure: 2526
Wind softened overnight as a series of outlier squalls–dry and starved for heat–passed overhead. They were large enough to disturb the wind flow around them, but too far from their feeding grounds to the north to do any damage. In my bunk, I pulled the sleeping bag over my legs by way of noting that it is beginning to cool. The cabin was 76 degrees when I came on deck.
After sunup, the sky brightened to a pale blue blank slate, and the wind came on steady and gentle and has remained that way all day. These trades, not the too fresh trades of yesterday nor the too variable trades of the day before, these steady trades are the timeless trades. The boat rolls on and on as if a machine of perpetual motion in a world of endless, undulating blues.
Gadfly Petrels strong-stroking the air nearby, a new, even more diminutive Storm Petrel, and then, in the afternoon, a herd of dolphins charging east, frothing the water with their mysterious chase, leaping in quick arcs, their bodies the color of stone, some flinging themselves into the air five times their body length, crashing down haphazardly.
Symbols of what we do not and cannot know, these animals that live entirely outside the human realm. If you wish to study the insects of the Amazon, you can go to them. The elephant of Africa awaits your inspection there by a tree. But the dolphin of the deep Pacific? Who could swim with him for a day would be a hero. Who could soar with the Albatross at night as he sleeps on the wing would know more than the profets.
Next to which I am a mere onlooker, a vacationer in a safari park. Please keep doors locked, hands and arms inside windows at all times. No flash photography.
Not all musing and poetry here. On gentle days, domestic chores. Rinsing out salt soaked boots in the caught water of a few days ago. Washing head and beard again in same. Mopping the floors. And then a job long denied–scraping the salt crust from the inside of the toilet bowl.
In answer to questions from Doug and Dustin, who wish to know how much fuel I’ve got left after motoring through the doldrums, some reckoning…
I’ve been across the Pacific doldrums twice, and each was a piece of cake compared to this trip, which saw some serious wind holes starting at 29N and then some whoppers in the ITCZ proper. In total, I motored 35 hours, including one run of 20 hours on November 12th between 12N and 11N.
This used 41 gallons of fuel. Mo carries 200 gallons of diesel in two 100-gallon tanks port and starboard of the engine, both of which were chockablock full upon departure. So, I’ve burned about 20% of all available fuel in order to punch through the Pacific doldrums and have roughly 160 gallons remaining.
I don’t use diesel for any other device except the Reflex gravity-fed heater in the salon, and I’ve not budgeted any current fuel for its use prior to the Arctic. I don’t think it will operate in the heavy swell I expect in the south. That said, its 5-gallon tank is partially full and ready for testing many miles from here.
Noon Position: 5 00.56N 124 55.59W
Course/Speed: SW 5
Wind: SE 20
Sail: Tripple reefed main, double reefed working jib, close hauled
Sea: SE to 6 and 8 late in the day
Cabin Temp: 84 (79 in the cabin when I woke. A first in days.)
Water Temp: 78
Miles last 24-hours: 116
Miles since departure: 2408
The challenge today has been how to handle this newfound resource, which is to say, what course and what set of sail gets us where we need to go with some speed but without treating Mo like a junk yard dog.
Mo and I haven’t done much upwind work, so I’ve spent most of the day on deck. By noon we had 20 knots on the nose (NOT in the forecast), and I’ll just say that there isn’t all that much one can do to climb in such a wind at sea. I’ve now gotten us all the way down to a tripple reefed main and a double reefed working jib, and 75 degrees true with 5 knots or so of speed is about the best I can do.
Plowing into the oncoming stream such that water gets down the dorades and falling off a wave onto one’s bilge such that Mo shudders as if she’s coming unglued has some charm, just not very much. It’s wearing, and the profit is disappointingly small, which gives me renewed respect for Chay Blythe, who went around the world in just such a fashion.
I’m very worried not to get too far west, as then lining up for the west side of the South Pacific high could be awkward business. I also want to start making up some of the average daily miles we lost dawdling above the ITCZ.
At moment, I’m not getting either. I’m still cheating the course a bit too much, and every few minutes Mo pays for this sin by taking a wave over the bow and then falling on her side. She makes me pay by tossing my coffee in my face and then ensuring that the cookie I’m aiming for my mouth ends up in my ear.
We are in the relm of the Gadfly Petrel, which I now see in fives and tens cutting up the air like small Albatross. Also, the flying fish flush in herds down here. To starboard, a hundred will take to the air at once, a sprinkling of pale blue diamonds skipping over the obsidian water.
Noon Position: 6 28.43N 123 48.66W
Course/Speed: SW 4 – 5
Wind: SE 10 – 16
Sail: Double reefed #2; single reefed main
Sea: SE lumpy stuff to 5 feet
Sky: Overcast. Squally.
Cabin Temp: 86
Water Temp: 82
Miles last 24-hours: 99
Miles since departure: 2292
Sustained winds (sustained equals 30 minutes to several hours) of 10 knots, 0 knots, 16 knots, 21 knots, 5 knots, 7 knots, 12 knots…etc. All from the south and southeast.
It’s not the fault of the trade winds. It’s that we’re under a massive, spread-out squall complex. I have no idea what else to call it. Most of the sky is overcast, just a flat deck of gray, but in any direction, one can see rain columns (indicators of thunderheads). At their leading edge, winds increase, inside, winds decrease. In between is anyone’s guess. This morning we were becalmed for two hours in perfectly clear conditions, except that on each side of us were these squall heads eating up the air.
And poor Mo is pounding. How such little wind can kick up such a chop is beyond me, but water is flying everywhere.
It makes for a busy time on deck when one is trying to climb in conditions like this. Reef in. Reef out. Adjust sheets. Twig Monte to pull a little this way or that.
Not much sleep last two nights due to such frequent wind changes. Or night before.
On the plus side, there is wind, and we are making steady, if slow, progress southwest.
I spent time today recalculating the route to the Horn based on current weather/wind trends. Of course, things will change as we descend, but if the South Pacific high provides a lane of wind in its western quadrant similar to what I see now, Mo and I have 5,000 miles to the Horn. Could be there by Christmas.
It’s sobering to think on it.
Nov 15, 2017
Noon Position: 7 29.17N 122 40.90W
Course/Speed: SW 4
Wind: SE 9
Sail: Main and big genoa out
Sea: SE 3
Sky: Clear, squalls just ahead
Cabin Temp: 87
Water Temp: 84
Miles last 24-hours: 97
Miles since departure: 2193
The image that I had been entertaining these last, interminably muggy days was that on the other side of the mountain, billowing trade wind cumulus would march over a crystalline ocean, and the wind would blow cool from abaft the beam, and there would be a stationary barge hull up just there, and it would sell us a burger and beer so cold it would crack your teeth.
Whereas, what we have on the other side of the mountain is more of what we had, except with a south wind.
We cruised slowly but steadily all night on a light easterly. The sky shown. Orion, reclining upon the sea, levitated into the heavens without waking, not even to roll over. Later, a sliver moon the color of ivory.
At dawn the horizon to windward was black. By mid morning the wind had backed into the southeast and then south without so much as slacking off. That’s all there was to the transition.
We fell in with the line of squalls by noon. I began to shoot a time-lapse video entitled “Going Into and Out of a Squall.” Except six hours later we’ve not come out.
Rain. Heavy at times. I’ve harvested buckets of fresh water from the main cover cradle. It still tastes a too much like new sail cloth to be drunk but will be good for washing.
And with that we have broken through the Doldrums and have entered the southern hemisphere (from the perspective of weather).
Mo is currently hauled as close to the wind as ever she will go. The immediate task is to make as much southing as we can while the winds are light and the sea relatively flat. Later, when winds go to 20, I want the option to ease off.
We have passed the first gate. Now we begin a chapter called “On Port Tack,” on which we will remain for some 2000 miles and more. But I’ve expanded my daily weather charts to include Cape Horn, because the next gate is that much closer.
Day 17 (I said 18 in today’s video log. I’m losing count.)
Noon Position: 8 56.53N 122 31.87W
Course/Speed: S 2
Wind: ESE 5
Sail: Main and big genoa out
Sea: SE, long and low rollers
Sky: Sunny, open, thunderheads to windward
Cabin Temp: 86
Water Temp: 83
Miles last 24-hours: 115
Miles since departure: 2096
I sat with Monte in the wee hours, taking the tiller when he dozed, which is his want in winds under 4 knots. Then I too gave up. I dropped the slatting main, left the big genoa flying, handed all back to Monte to do what he could, and hit the sack at 4am.
At 8am I came on deck to find the big genoa had pricked some wind from the NE and Monte had us on course at 3 knots and 6 miles to the good. THAT is a first.
At 2am, I found a storm petrel had flown in through the open main mast hatch above my bunk. Pinned, spread eagle, to the forepeak bulkhead like a crucifix. Returned, open palm, to the night.
Daylight showed us on course for some towering squall cells. By 10:30 were flat becalmed and by noon were under a most lovely, drenching downpour. Everyone got a bath, not a shower. I found the font! It’s the aft end of the cradle cover, which catches rain by gallons and can be turned on like a spigot.
In the afternoon, laundry.
Then, flying out of a thunderhead, a snowy egret (or similar). It circled Mo thrice and took off for the south. That makes two land birds we’ve seen this leg, the other being some sort of swallow. How, when Panama is over 2000 miles to the east? It is common for land birds to become lost at sea. But to have traveled such distance–and to be lost still!
I too am of the land and must admit today to feeling far, far away–and at the same time, still approaching the very cusp of the beginning of this enterprise. The doldrums are the first gate, but once opened deliver us only to the SE trades, which we will ride for a month, and only then will begin the true challenge of the Figure 8.
Dinner: a fry up of zucchini, bell peppers, canned salmon over mashed potatoes. Breakfast: coffee, two danishes (too hot for else). Lunch: Crackers and cheese and a bell pepper spread. In the afternoon, a cookie with black coffee.
Noon Position: 10 46.05N 122 08.91W
Course/Speed: S 6
Wind: ENE 10
Sail: Main and big genoa out; wind on the beam
Bar: 1016, rising
Sea: SE, long and low rollers
Sky: Sunny, open, light cumulus to windward
Cabin Temp: 87
Water Temp: 83 (note sea slightly cooler)
Miles last 24-hours: 116
Miles since departure: 1981
All day and all night we motored slowly south, heaving our way through a greasy witch’s brew of SE and NE swells that ricocheted merrily off each other but drove Mo starkers. Not a breath. A flat, gray sky. Enough rain to require hatches closed. And as the engine warmed, the cabin approached 90 degrees. I slept the night in a puddle of my own making, satisfied only that we were at least making southing.
Twenty hours. And when I came on deck at 4am, a lovely NE wind at 11 knots that has changed everything. The genoa and main went up before coffee.
Sunup delivered an open sky with three heavy squalls to leeward. And nothing to windward but cherubic cumulus, leant over just enough to suggest we might make way today under sail for some time.
“You will note those heretics they are to leeward, Senior,” said Monte with a wink. He was already halfway through an omelet so golden as to make my mouth tringle with envy. Omelets are not on the provisions list.
“I was unaware we had spinach and feta aboard,” I said.
“You are unaware of a good many things, Senior,” he replied. “For one, you sleep too much.” And with that he turned to face the wind.
Under a steady, dry deck I was quite productive, but still found ample opportunity to stare off into my own wild, blue yonder.
A powdery blue sky. Small herds of cumulus grazing off the minimal heat radiating upwards. A cobalt blue ocean, a prairie of sea in all directions without interruptions or limits. A light, steady, empowering wind. And Mo, charging. Or is it that Mo is still and the ocean, conveyor belt-like, reels under her for an eternity?
I know no better definition of heaven. Except maybe one that includes omelets.
Overnight a ship passed within two miles, notable only because I see a ship on the chart plotter every other night or so but this is the first whose lights were visible since departing the San Francisco bar.
Breakfast, a hotcake with peanut butter and jelly, and then another with the last decrepit bananna. The fresh vegetables are holding up well, with the exception of the apples, a third of which have given up the will to live before the zucchini look the least bit stressed.
I remember on the Friday before you left thinking “This is a house cleaning day. The sheets are going to be washed.” The process of removing you from the house, almost your ghost like footprint on a pillowcase was happening to quickly for me. I almost didn’t get the sheets washed. But my logical mind realized how ridiculous that was and did it anyway.
Today, it’s 2 weeks later and it’s an house cleaning day again. The decision this morning was – do I wash Randall’s pillow case? Yes, technically the pillow case hasn’t had a head on it so it should be clean. But the confirmation of your missing pillow in the wash would confirm that you’re not here.
Randall, as you know, I’be been going at a break neck speed since you left. I have barely been home to make my own pillow dirty. This is why it works for us. I’m off again today for an offsite with a room full of #ladybadass women. I have no doubt I’ll come out of it with more ideas and more activities to keep me busy while you’re gone. So don’t worry. While I’m thinking of pillowcases #teamjojo has be amply distracted.
And yet I have time for conversations with myself about pillow cases.
Ah the weird musings, I guess that means 25 pillow washes before you come home.
Noon Position: 12 46.82N 122 03.28W
Course/Speed: S 4.5
Bar: 1015, dropping
Sea: SE 4, steep, plus others
Sky: Sunny in the morning. Then rain.
Cabin Temp: 85
Water Temp: 84
Miles last 24-hours: 110
Miles since departure: 1868
I saw movement in the cockpit well when I came on deck at 2am. A drizzly, hot rain fell. The dark of night was total, and my dim headlamp seemed to cast more shadow than light. Turned up a notch, what it revealed was a storm petrel. They are attracted to Mo’s stern light, but on such nights as this, can’t see the rigging, which catches them up short and down they come. It’s happened before.
This bird spends most of its life at sea and most of that on the wing, so its legs–long, black twigs that are cold to the touch, webbed at the ends–are nearly useless for walking. On land, it looks paraplegic as it scoots around. On Mo, once down, it’s captured and can do little to stop being rolled from one wet corner of the cockpit well to the other.
I picked it up, slowly, with as delicate a squeeze as I could muster. My wet hands formed around a thing that appeared more like a wet rag than a bird, and as I lifted, I got no perception of weight at all. It fought. Its bite was imperceptible.
I moved to take a photo, but stopped. It seemed wrong, like snapping pictures of accident victims, an invasion of privacy of sorts. Moreover, I wanted the brief pleasure of holding this animal in my hand to go unrecorded in that way.
For this bird has my utter regard. An animal with all the heft of a cup of spun sugar lives an entire life on the open ocean, in all seasons, in all weathers, flying day and night with acrobatics that make pigeons look as nimble as a dodo. Out there it is entirely suited, out there it is nearly indestructible. If I can help it return…
I lift it, palm up, into the faint wind; its sharp, crooked wings open. Within three beats the night has it.
There is another, I find, in the port scupper. Same ritual.
Later, while dropping the storm saiI, I hear their calling from just beyond the glow of the stern light. A tiny porcelain moan. Haunting. Alien.
The wind, what there was of it, got sucked up by the day and we’ve been motoring since late morning. Due south. When the sun was out, I pulled the wet things from below, foulies, dish towels, clothing, boots, and spread them on deck to dry. In the afternoon, a brown boobie came to roost on the bow pulpit and has been preening with a vengeance since.
It is now evening, and the doldrums, if this they be in fact, are playing spitefully with us. Now and again, a wind to 6 and 7 knots has been tempting. I spread our wings and the wind melts away. Worse, we’d need more wind than that to sail as the swell in here is crazy-making. Any roller created in any part of the Pacific finds its way here to play. Right now there’s a steep doozy from the southeast (with others, for fun) into which we pound and a faint, 5 knot breeze from the north. Mo’s 35,000 lbs of boat bobs like a cork. She give’s me white-eyed, wild looks as we go scupper to scupper that says, “can’t you make this stop?”
It will be an uncomfortable night.
Noon Position: 13 57.32N 120 54.69W
Course/Speed: SE 6
Wind: ENE 19 – 25
Sail: Two reefs in working jib, two reefs in main. Then, deeply reefed jib
Bar: 1013, dropping
Sea: NE 4 – 8
Sky: Fully overcast. Squally
Cabin Temp: 88
Water Temp: 84
Miles last 24-hours: 142
Miles since departure: 1758
By noon the sky to windward darkened and so the squalls began. The first caught me flat-footed. Previous squalls had been all rain, and I had stripped to board shorts and boots in anticipation of a refreshing, not to mention needed, shower.
As the wall of rain approached, winds went suddenly to 35 knots. One gust I saw touched 40. The rigging began to roar and wave tops were knocked off. Mo rounded. I dashed to the mast to lower the main whose number two reef still left acres too much sail aloft. Down it came to the second batten and stopped. The wind friction had outdone the weight of the sail and I had to climb the mast fifteen feet to grab the head.
Once back in the cockpit, I reeled in the working jib to a kerchief and then bore away. Still we made 7 knots, but suddenly Mo was solid as a newly planked floor; 35 gusting 40–just nothing to bother about.
Heavy, raggend on their undersides, usually two or three cells dumping rain connected by a line of low dark cloud. One after the other separated by half an hour to an hour. All afternoon. I left Mo under deeply reefed jib. Now adjusting to a squall was simply informing Monte it was time to bear away again.
Today’s lesson in squalls was brought to us by a depression forming S and E of our position. We are crossing its path, but with the luck, it will be W and N of us by the time it develops into something to worry about.
Not wanting to play the squall game all night, I went to the storm jib before dinner. Winds obliged by immediately dropping into the teens. We wallowed in our prudence for two hours before I opened the working jib–heading SW, 6 knots. The barometer has come up two clicks since sundown.
Sadly, this may be the last good wind for a while.
In the evening a brown noddie attempted to board. As I stood in the companionway, he flew up to me repeatedly with what appeared to be an intention to go below and raid the wine cellar. I stepped aside. My cellar, for what it’s worth, is open to all pelagic friends. But his courage failed. He gave me a hard look and, not liking what he saw, sat himself back into the heaving sea with a shrug.
165 miles noon to noon. Best day yet, this on a double reefed headsail and same for the main in trades sometimes reaching the mid 20s. Seas steep to 8 feet. Decks awash.
Yesterday the Watt and Sea hydrogenerator downhaul lanyard parted. This is a small loop of Dyneema-type line attached to the unit’s leading edge that contains a low friction ring and serves as a turning block for the downhaul. It was too late in the day yesterday to attack a job that needed thinking through, so I left it until morning. Successfully back online by noon.
In the afternoon, Mo rounded up sharply and when I went back to have a confab with Monte, I saw that the paddle had sheered right off and was dangling in the water like a dead fish. So, over the side I went (for the forth time this trip) and a new shear tube was in place within the hour. I have six such tubes for just such occasions. Not sure what the paddle hit, but in also bent (cosmetically) the paddle tube.
I was re-stowing the forepeak before getting underway and noticed a wet spot on the floor. Lifting the floorboards I found the area full of water, to the tune of 20 gallons. The only explanation so far is that the water stop I have over the anchor hause pipe on the windlass has not functioned all that well and water is getting into the anchor locker. The cock on the drain in the forepeak was open slightly, which would have let water into that compartment. Bailing and clean up left us hove to for two more hours. We weren’t underway again until 8pm.
Have had dinner. Am having a beer. Next move: bed.
Noon Position: 18 39.15N 122 42.11W
Course/Speed: SE 7+
Wind: NE 19 – 22
Sail: Two reefs in working jib, reef in main.
Bar: 1017 and dropping (1015 by 3pm)
Sea: NE 4 – 8
Cabin Temp: 85
Water Temp: 80
Miles last 24-hours: 161
Miles since departure: 1451
All night the boobie clung to the windward rail as Mo heaved, head tucked into feathers, a study in balance and nonchalance. Spray, illuminated by the port running light, exploded a Christmas-red every few minutes and showered the bird. It would simply untuck, shake, and re-tuck.
I made dinner, then had a beer in the cockpit, and every time I looked forward, the bird had moved a few feet aft. When I came on deck at midnight, it had scooted in increments all the way back to the shrouds, which apparently qualified as dry enough territory, for there it remained during each of my successive inspections. It waited until I rose for the day before casting off. It circled the boat twice at dawn and then headed east toward crimson clouds on the horizon.
Having a visitor was pleasant as was providing such a tenuous though clearly appreciated resource, a perch above the sea.
I’ve not seen the boobie all day.
Winds freshened in the morning and by noon were often more in the 20s than not. I’d run the night with a full working jib and a single reef in the main. Speeds were great with 8 knots not uncommon. At noon we’d clocked our best day yet, 161 miles. But Mo was really working, the deck often in spray back to the cockpit. I should reef again, I thought, but I wanted the speed, and it wasn’t until 2pm that my nature’s better angel came to the winning argument: a boat at sea should seek to carry as *little* sail as is needed.
Fine! Now we carry two reefs in the main and two in the jib. Immediately, wind took note by jumping to 25 knots. Seas have built to 8 feet. The boat is entirely closed up and is a sauna below. I’m down to underwear.
I’m taking wind flat on the beam and am thus falling off my line to 10N and 115W, but it can’t be helped for now.
Noon Position: 20 50.49N 123 21.06W
Course/Speed: SE 7
Wind: NE 18
Sail: Working jib, reef in main. True wind abeam; apparent running about 70 degrees
Sea: NE 4
Cabin Temp: 80
Water Temp: 78
Miles last 24-hours: 141 (!)
Miles since departure: 1254
Thus far the wind has held, though I got a lump in my throat in the early afternoon when it softened to 10 knots. I popped the reef in the main and whistled a happy tune and the wind soon rebuilt to 16 gusting 20.
Over night I ran with a full main and one tuck in the working jib and we averaged over 7 knots, even touched 8 knots a couple times (good speed for Mo), but it was hard work for Monte and in the morning he was soar with me. Now, with a tuck in the main and a full working jib, we steer more easily but produce a half knot less. Monte tells me this is due to an adverse current; he is sure. Whatever it may be, the more conservative is the better. We’ve many miles to go.
Current strategy: As this looks to be *the* wind, I’ve put us on a course SE to a spot at 10N by 115W, about 800 miles down hill and roughly the top edge of the ITCZ. The Horn is well E of us and as the SE trades look to be initially from the S on the other side of the ITCZ, I want to make some easting now knowing that we’ll likely lose ground to the W on the other side of the line. I also don’t want to feel pressed to be as close hauled as every can be through the early trades. I’d rather ease off and boomerang around down to about 35S.Now flying fish are common as is a lone masked boobie (black primaries, white coverts and body, blue face) that appears every few hours to patrol Mo’s wake for escaping fish. As if on queue, the fish stop flying when he is about. Twice he has dived without success. Then he wanders off only to return later and try it all again.
I don’t know the first thing about flying fish, except to say that from my observations some are small and clumsy flyers and some a large and can fly almost like birds, sailing expertly over a great many waves before nosing back home. The species we are seeing now are decidedly of the former type. As Mo runs them down, they leap and crash and cartwheel and fling themselves straight into the air and do pretty much everything except fly. It’s a wonder the boobie isn’t having a field day.
Found a squid on deck today. Didn’t eat it, though I did contemplate it.
AHA, the boobie has just landed on the bow pulpit. The sun is down. Guess he’s going to wait “here” till morning to see of the hunting gets any better.
Noon Position: 22 50.06N, 125 35.93W
Course/Speed: SE 1 – 2
Wind: E 6
Sail: All plain sail
Sea: Very lumpy from SE
Sky: Clear with cloud at all horizons
Cabin Temp: 82
Water Temp: 76
Miles last 24-hours: 88
Miles since departure: 1113
If it is true that all great literature is, at base, an extended complaint, then could I write you such a book right now! Only the sailor knows how crazy-making (not to mention, hard work) is that teasing, on-again-off-again wind.
Which, in my case, died right away after dinner. More cautious after my batten pin failure of yesterday, I took in sail, put on the anchor light, and hit the sack. But the swell rolled Mo sick. Clang, bang. Sleep, impossible. Began motoring slowly at midnight more as a defensive move; I could put Mo’s head into the swell and at least she was quite.
Wind came out of the ESE at 6am and built to 15 knots within a couple hours. We romped off close hauled. The weather charts suggested we should, hosanna!, pick up steady wind today. Would this be our ride to the line? Man, this could be it! Monte broke out a cigar and made himself an espresso.
By noon the wind had eased to 6 knots. Two hours later, becalmed. Monte spat. “In my country, we do not do it like this.”
I took two reefs in both sails and sheeted them in tight, this so as to ease our rolling, then got on with the day’s major event: bathing, specifically, my first head and beard wash since departure. Cool salt water in a big red bucket in the cockpit, shampoo, and dunk away. Then a clean shirt and a few rolls in my (not clean) trouser bottoms–summer attire.
Revitalized, I dug out the pilot charts. It’s been nagging me for days, this idea that my course down 125W to the ITCZ took me into seasonal high pressure. Did I not see that coming? My route planning, to be fair, had been done two years ago and was based on a September, and later, an early October departure. But Cornell’s OCEAN ATLAS showed that at our current postion west of Cabo, I could expect northeasterly winds to Force 4 *seventy percent* of the time on average.
Good. Not crazy. Just unlucky.
This fact checking seems to have embarrassed Neptune, for within the hour we had 15 knots NE. As I type we are bettering 7 knots with wind on the beam.
Will *this* be our ride to the line?
Breakfast, a big pancake taco filled with two scrambled eggs and cheese (these pancakes are a real hit with the crew). Lunch, a bell pepper and a can of Dolmas. Dinner, lentil stew with rice. A beer.
Noon Position: 23.52.22N, 125.02.98W
Course/Speed: SE 4.5
Sea: Glassy but quite some rollers coming in from the SE
Sky: Low, gray, squally with rain
Cabin Temp: 80
Water Temp: 74
Miles last 24-hours: 114
Miles since departure: 1025
Typing in the dark tonight as Mo ghosts. Still 80 degrees in the cabin at 8pm.
In today’s video, I refer to a “classic” routing error, that being that we had such good wind yesterday and the night before that I couldn’t bring myself to give up on my southing, to tack around and head E in order to stay in clear air. The GRIBS were unequivocal: I’d sail myself right out of wind if I wasn’t careful, but I didn’t believe them. I had wind–surely it would hold. After all, that’s what wind does.
Ain’t nothing “classic” about that. It was just dumb. And I’m paying dearly today and likely most of tomorrow. I sailed right into the blob and, well, have a great load of nothing to show for it.
Started motoring at 5am on a heading E and then SE to where GRIBS said wind would be later. Motored at 4 knots for nine hours during which I got the anchor off the bow and into the anchor locker, where it is lashed; I re-rove Monte’s tiller rings, and moved some heavy items from the forepeak to locations further aft. Not an unproductive morning.
Wind came up at 7 knots from the S late this afternoon. I unfurled Mo’s lovely wings … and, by way of recognition of my appreciation, the wind … died. Then it rained. Again.
We bobbed and slatted for a couple hours during which I discovered my first gear failure. The main has sheared one of the stainless pins that attaches the batten holder to the batten car. A function of all the slatting and tells me I should have dropped that big, 85lb sail rather than let if fan.
What gave me fits today, however, was that I don’t have a spare batten holder. Easy fix if I did. Sails were a late arrival and I was well into last-minute mode. Got a boat full of spares for many (clearly, not any) conceivable necessity. Except that one. Can jury rig an attach point easily enough, but a spare would have been better.
A bit low today. Didn’t anticipate such a slow, clumsy start to my happy cruise around the world.
Noon Position: 25.24.16N, 125.26.02W
Course/Speed: SSW 6-7
Wind: SE 13-16 (these are true, by the way)
Sail: Close hauled, one reef in main; reef in #1 late
Sea: SE to 6; lumpy
Sky: Clear till noon, then overcast, thick rain late afternoon
Cabin Temp: 78
Water Temp: 72
Miles last 24-hours: 113
Miles since departure: 911
Wind died right away in the afternoon of yesterday, and didn’t return until the big moon was well up. Then it was SE 12 and stayed that way all night. Today, same, but built to 20 as the day matured. We’ve been close hauled on a course S and then SW. Wind died for an hour in the later afternoon as a heavy rain cell moved through but soon returned. I reefed the main after lunch and now have a reef in the working jib as well, but that is more for comfort as we move into a bit of a dirty night. Speeds continue over 6 knots, so who’s complaining? (I am not.)
In hindsight, I would have been better to route myself closer to the Baja coast where wind has been consistent this last week. The weather charts keep forecasting a column of air due S of me, which is part of the reason for attempting to stay right around 125W. The other is that this column is now hemmed in by high pressure on each side. Having made the decision, I’m effectively stuck with it.
And the westward dead zone is migrating my way. If I can just get down to 22N, then by Tuesday I’ll pick up a train of wind that will take me to the line.
One sign we are making southing is the temperature. Cabin is 80 degrees as I type and sticky-humid. I’m in shorts. Bare feet. The forepeak is also warm, which means I need to get at the fresh food before it stops being fresh.
Not many birds doing business in this part of the ocean. One brown boobie made several visits today and I’ve had fleeting glimpses of gadfly petrels.
Noon Position: 26.55.51N, 124.54.75W
Course/Speed: S 7
Wind: ESE 12
Sail: Close hauled under working jib and main
Sea: NW 4, long, rolling, ESE 3, steep
Sky: Overcast, rain
Cabin Temp: 74
Water Temp: 70
Miles last 24-hours: 104 and most of it in the right direction
Miles since departure: 793
“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away” is a saying most certainly invented by sailors, for there is simply no other rational explanation for my experience of inconsistency in the wind department.
We lay becalmed until midnight when a lovely breeze struck up from the ESE at 6 knots. This put us on a course due S. A few hours later the breeze was gone, though a healthy chop from that quadrant suggested something was brewing upstream. Later the breeze came in at 10 knots for a time; then 5. Each time the wind velocity changed, Monte wanted to talk about it, and I had to go to his place; he never came to mine.
I got little sleep.
The source of the chop turned out to be a steady 12 knots of wind from the ESE that arrived an hour after sunup. Now we were driving at 7 knots … straight south! “So this is what it feels like to make time,” I thought.
That held until the rains came at 2pm, at which point the wind vanished, only to be replaced two hours later by that curmudgeon, a light southerly. Currently we have 7 knots of wind from the S and are beating with painful slowness into an unaccountably sloppy sea. Speed, 3.5 knots.
Such capriciousness has all the hallmarks of divine intervention, as the ancient sailors rightly sussed.
And it is not lost on me that the above is never quoted in the reverse. What is taken is never given back, which means that my only hope is that the good lord eventually bores of messing with my wind and goes in search of more interesting projects.
The GRIBS (weather charts I receive daily) suggest this may be as early as tomorrow, when something more settled from the E is due.
No chores got done today. I was busy picking up after the Lord.
Breakfast was Muesli, powdered milk and dates; lunch, a can of baked lima beans in tomato sauce with crackers and cheese. Dinner? Unsure, except that it will be served after a well-deserved beer and may be Shepherd’s Pie.
A sailor’s hands get rough work and take some time to break in. How mine get so all-fired dirty is a mystery.
Making log entries in the pilot house.