Saturday, July 27, 2013

New Zealand to Rarotonga Day 9

We have been underway for over a week, and only today have we moved north of the latitude of Whangarei, New Zealand, from whence we departed. At last we are heading northeast, on our course for Rarotonga. We have made some of our easting and are currently at 170 W; Rarotonga is at approximately 160 W.

We finally gained some momentum on this passage when we stopped our descent into the southern latitudes to avoid a large low pressure system and started heading east. 39 degrees 16 minutes was our farthest point south. (High latitudes, I will be back for you someday!) Then, we screamed along for a couple of days---first, in westerlies; then, in southwesterlies---on a beam to broad reach, finally seeing Silhouette's hull speed of seven knots and beyond (when surfing down waves), and maintaining a respectable average boat speed of five to six knots. On July 24 and 25, we recorded daily runs of 115 and 131 nautical miles. Our best mileage day ever on Silhouette so far has been 158 nm, so those runs represent good progress.

On July 26, we recorded 118 nm, but that was with the help of the motor. We lost the wind and motored, then motor-sailed under the headsail, until the wind built up enough to raise the main again.

We are currently under sail alone, but we are back on a beat, moving along at under four knots. It's going to be a long passage to Rarotonga. If we are able to keep up our boat speed, we can be there in as little as nine days, but at this pace, it could take two weeks.

There isn't much to remark on besides the sailing. After eight months without making a passage, it took us longer than usual to get back into the passage rhythm. We were both very tired at first; but then the rhythm suddenly kicked in, and we have fallen into an easy routine of watches, chores, and naps. We haven't caught any fish yet---although we've tried---but on most days, we haven't been going fast enough. There has been a remarkable absence of marine life: We haven't seen any dolphins or whales, and there is only a small amount of bioluminescence in our wake at night. We do have an avian escort of various types of shearwaters and storm petrels, but the New Zealand bird book I picked up in the cruiser's book exchange at the marina hasn't helped me in identifying them.

We've been eating well during the calm weather and while our fresh food stores have lasted: beef stroganoff with fresh mushrooms and sour cream over noodles, accompanied by a tossed salad; baked chicken served with quinoa and steamed green beans; roasted pork and root vegetables from the farmer's market; potato-fennel soup and homemade biscuits. When it's been rougher, we've pulled out the D'aucy brand canned lentil stew leftover from French Polynesia, or the lamb-based Chunky soups that Campbell's markets to the Kiwis. We've put away a couple of pans of brownies on night watches. But now, our fresh meat is gone and we hope for a fish, meanwhile devising meals like tonight's: a canned chicken pasta in a white sauce with fresh zucchini (courgettes), canned mushrooms, garlic, and thyme.

What can I say about this passage that I haven't already said about other passages? One particular feature of the past couple of days I could mention are the broad, long period ocean swells that roll along lazily under the surface of the sea like muscles rippling under the skin of a stretching beast. The sea doesn't seem to be in a hurry to wake up from its present nap, but when it does---look out!

I learned today that there is an island in the Seychelles named Silhouette. (I have been reading "Always a Distant Anchorage" by Hal Roth, which chronicles Whisper's journey---the Roth's boat---across the Indian Ocean.) Our Silhouette had four previous owners, and somewhere along the way, her name was changed from "Maria C." to "Silhouette." As far as we know, she'd never been beyond Hawaii: until our voyage. Does Silhouette's name reflect the distant dream of a previous owner?

Posted from sea via Ham Radio.

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