Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It Looks Like a Passage

Two days ago, at 6 a.m., I suddenly felt THAT wind on my cheek---10 knots true!---and joyously set the headsail and stopped the engine. I was proceeding to engage the wind vane when Patrick came up on deck to relieve me of my watch. A couple of hours later when I woke up from my nap, I asked him who had replaced the floating platform we'd been on with a boat?! There was a discernible ocean swell, and Silhouette had a definite roll to her motion. We were on a sailboat! We sailed all that day under a full main and jib on a broad to beam reach in light northwesterly breezes.

But sometime after dinner, the wind dropped down to between two and four knots. The ocean once again turned into the bathtub of somebody's imagination, the surface of which was only disturbed by the plastic boat floating in it. We had to motor through the night. At 2:30 a.m., it was Patrick's turn to feel that breeze on his cheek, and we set sail again. We sailed all through yesterday and last night, and it finally started to look and feel like a passage.

We've had several milestones. Yesterday morning, I saw my first South Island/Southern Ocean albatross! Three of them accompanied the boat for a couple of hours. We crossed the International Dateline and are back in the western longitudes. Today, we crossed 39 degrees South latitude. This is the farthest south we've ever been on Silhouette, and Patrick says it's as far as we're going. I had hoped to set one foot inside 40 degrees S, but there are some nasty seas and big winds developing at about 42 S that we will endeavor to avoid.

We haven't found those westerlies yet. Indeed, our progress continues to be extremely slow, because we have been hard on the wind, beating into southeasterlies. (However, had we not diverted south, we would be beating into 35 knot head winds, so our progress wouldn't be much faster.) At least we have made some easting. Our average boat speed on this trip has been somewhere around 3.5-4.0 knots, and it seems excruciatingly slow at times. I am longing to see a hull speed of 6.0 knots. The wind is supposed to lighten up, clock around to the north and then to the west, and we are supposed to have a day of sailing in strong westerlies before encountering a front whose southwesterly tail winds we will ride back to the north, away from the big swells of the Southern Ocean. But so far, nothing that has been forecasted his actually happened, and today we found ourselves in 3-4 meter swells beating against 18-25 knots of wind.

While it is psychologically demoralizing to be traveling in the direction opposite to where you're actually going, I find that it is much better when you're sailing! And it's starting to look like a passage around here...

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Posted from sea via Ham Radio.

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