Clouds, Whales, and Coffee

Day 151/29

Noon Position: 23 58S 157 28W

Course/Speed: NNW5

Wind: ENE9

Bar: 1018

Sea: NE3

Sky: Overcast; but squall complex with rain

Cabin Temperature: 80

Water Temperature: 78

Sail: Close reaching with big genoa and main

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 68 (It doesn’t help when you tack most of a day over your noon position.)

Miles this leg: 3,481

Avg. Miles this leg: 120

Miles since departure: 20,725

Woke to a brisk wind this morning (brisk being 7 to 9 knots) with enough east in it that we could almost make due north. What’s more, the clouds had new features; the cumulus had height and they leaned. That’s a sure sign that there is wind–aloft, at least. As the cumulus forms, its vapors rise and lean in the direction the wind is traveling. This is because winds at the surface travel more slowly than winds aloft; the top of the cloud is being swept along more rapidly than its lower parts. Leaners are trade wind clouds.

Heretofore, clouds have either been dry cotton balls or dark, anvil-headed squalls–neither with any movement other than up. So, this development is a good sign that we may be coming to the edge of the Horse Latitudes. We still have plenty of anvil-heads, mind you. But now we have leaners too.

Another sign of change is proximity to our first tropical islands. As I type, the southern most of the Cook Islands, Mangaia and Maria–one slightly west of north, the other slightly east–are under 150 miles distant. Good and bad. Good in that the Cook Islands are well within the trade wind belt; bad because I’d wanted to be east of them by this time. The goal was to enter the trades at about the longitude of Tahiti. But these persistant northeast winds have knocked that one on the head.

Whales: saw my first pod of the entire trip today. Humpbacks. Four in the group and freight-training it north. I saw them abeam at first. At the time our course had a bit of west in it and (amazingly) Mo was a bit faster. I only observed four blows. I am guessing they are on their winter migration to warmer waters. In which case, they’re almost there.

Had a coffee scare this morning. When I opened the cupboard where are stored the vacuum pouches of grounds, I could see the bottom. Wait, how many are left? Are we running out? We started from home with thirty-three 12oz pouches, enough for a year, I thought. I did a quick count. Seventeen remain. OK, phew!

One tropic bird; one gadfly petrel. Nothing more. The day was really about clouds.

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