Sunday, December 8, 2013

Fanning to Hilo, Day 11: Moving Again and an Early Retirement

Did I say we had left the zone of tempestuous weather behind in my last post? I should have known better than to say anything like that out loud. The squally, rainy weather has continued following us north. We haven't had any bursts of 40 knot winds...but we've had 20 knots...and 30. We've had lightning flashing continuously in the sky for hours at a time (thankfully, none of it too near the boat.) And we've had deluges of rain. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. Maybe not deluges. We're still a boat, not an ark yet, but I think more rain has crossed Silhouette's decks on this passage than on any other single passage we've made.

Up until yesterday. That's not to say it didn't rain yesterday: It just rained less. Everything was less. The swell was lower. The wind lightened up---enough---but not too much. More and more time passed between squalls until they turned into just big gusts of wind or sprinkle showers. And the result was better sailing conditions. Today, we finally got the boat moving at better than five knots of boat speed. All. Day. Long.

Between the huge swells, winds on the nose, and the period of time when we had no wind at all and had to motor, we've had a difficult time on this passage getting the boat moving and making any miles. Yesterday was only the second day of the entire passage in which our speed over ground has been a consistent five knots. It was also the first night in four or five evenings when I could do more than heat something out of a can for dinner. I enjoyed our reprieve for a day.

I didn't expect it to last. I gave up any hope of a ten or twelve day passage to Hilo long ago. So I wasn't surprised when we had lightning again last night, and Patrick had to hand steer through several squalls in the wee hours of the morning. On my first watch of the day, the wind quickly built from 18 to 25 knots, and we had to strike the jib (which we were using in conjunction with a double-reefed main) and exchange it for the stays'l once more. That slowed our progress yet again, but gave us a more genteel angle of heel and kept the rail of the boat out of the water. Later today, the wind and swell moderated, and we were able to unfurl a little of the jib to increase our speed. Once again, we are moving at over five knots.

Silhouette has been a needy companion on this leg, demanding constant attention. Frequent shifts in wind direction and strength require many minor adjustments to sail trim and course and the reefing and un-reefing of sails in order to keep her moving along. She does not tolerate any lapses in attention, and she lets you know it by either galloping wildly away, luffing her sails, or skating along the water on her rail. The sea also chimes in, spitting around the corner of the dodger as if to give you a gentle slap in the face for daydreaming.

We have discovered a change we want to make to the roller furler installation on Silhouette. This came to light because in rough conditions like the ones we have been in, we often use a double-reefed main/stays'l combination. Rather than take a reef out of the main during the lulls in wind, we sometimes prefer to unfurl some jib. It's easier to reduce sail when the wind suddenly increases again, and the helm seems to stay better balanced in big swells than with a single-reefed main. The issue is, we only have two winches on each side of the cockpit:  not enough to accommodate the jib sheet, stays'l sheet, and furling line on one tack. We should have seen this one coming; but we had never spent days on end going upwind, so it wasn't a big issue before. It's not a big change:  just the addition of a line stopper/clutch ahead of the cockpit furling line turning block, which will facilitate transferring the furling line to a different winch and also simplify securing the line when the sail is partially furled. Since we have been on a starboard tack for days, Patrick has worked around this situation by leading the furling line behind the helm, through two snatch blocks secured to the radar arch, and onto the starboard stays'l winch. It's not ideal, but it's working for us, for now. We'll add the stopper in Hawaii.

Changing topics, those who've been to sea know that you dream more at sea. Or maybe we just remember our dreams more due to the interrupted sleep schedule. In any case, I was a little confused a few nights ago when Patrick woke me for my watch. As a matter of fact, I was a bit resentful. I couldn't understand why I was being asked to take another watch, when our third crew member hadn't yet stood a watch! In this event, our "third crew member" was an imaginary person in my dream...

We put our real third crew member---our Monitor wind vane---into temporary retirement yesterday. The Monitor's water paddle broke off at a weld on the shaft (not at the safety tube which is designed to break should the water paddle strike an object.) Our vane came with the boat and is twenty years old. This break was due to crevice corrosion in the weld, which is not unexpected given its age and life in saltwater. Since Patrick had a safety line attached as per the operation instructions, we did not lose the paddle. However, we are now without a steering vane for the rest of this passage. It's times like these when I think of our friends Noel and Litara Barrott, who completed not one---but two---circumnavigations entirely by hand steering. We're not in their league yet, because we still have the autopilot!

357 nautical miles to go. ETA Hilo: Wednesday

Posted from sea via Ham Radio.

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