Posts Tagged ‘Offshore sailing’

NZ to Fiji

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

We made landfall tonight at 0200 and now we motor into the Koro Sea with Great Astrolabe Reef 55 nm to port and Matuku Island just visible to starboard in the blue light of a full moon. The entry to these waters is also guarded by an uncharted reef south of Matuku which S carefully noted on the chart plotter with a liberal sprinkling of sinking ship symbols.

It’s a relief to be across the last 1000 nm with its notorious threatening tropical lows and the sloppy seas of its boisterous sub-tropical highs.  These high pressure systems are really the way in and out of New Zealand though, and so it was that we set out toward a monstrous system of  rain and squalls and one big swirling storm, flying down like a red eyed dragon from the northwest to intercept our course.

It’s not clear to us where “Tropical Disturbance” falls in the hierarchy of tropical trouble but we did find it disturbing when the forecast began to include this term after we had been sailing north for a day. Our cunning plan on departure was to aim for the tail of  this beast and “hit ‘em where they ain’t”  but we slowed down for a day or two just to make sure that this thing would not turn on us.

Two days out of NZ the beast had crossed our track several hundred miles to the north and was slithering off the southeast leaving us to deal with a rearguard of squalls and a running head-sea.

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Up went the staysail, out came the 3nd reef on the jib and we sailed at great speed through the sort of uncomfortable sea that only Albatrosses enjoy.

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We love these big birds with their six foot wingspans and their determined but seemingly purposeless soaring through the troughs. S wants to know where they keep their feet. K is pretty sure they don’t have any.

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There was very little else to see. Several hundred miles north of NZ, a small swallow stopped and took a breather under the dodger for about 5 minutes before setting off again heading upwind against 20 knots.  We put out a saucer of water for him in case he came back, but though we saw him again the next day, he didn’t stop in.  The flying fish reappeared  flying through the night at alarming altitudes to ricochet off the rig, leaving blue scales and the strong smell of impacted flying fish in hidden places.

One day S saw a stick.

Khamseen thrives in these conditions. We’ve seen more than a few waves roll under the keel but it’s still fun to see this boat sail up to a wave the size of a house, crawl up the steep side, slide down the backside on her belly and still keep all the tea in your mug. In this heavy-ish weather, life revolves around sleeping and eating. We left with two whole legs of lamb. K brothed the bones in the pressure cooker and then made lamb curry everyday for about a week. There was lamb butter curry, lamb korma, banana coconut lamb curry, lamb vindaloo and a Jordanian  lamb maklouba (just for variety). The sea state was at “No Baking” so we did without our naan.

Our final days in Opua were delightful. First there was the discounted legs of lamb. Then our friends Michele and Bernie, who live with their two girls Lola and Jana on Momo, let us borrow their car for an expedition to the big supermarket in the town of Kerikeri. It was a great day out with lots of shopping and a nice shawarma lunch in an Israeli cafe.  Then we kept the kids up too late at the boring old yacht club where adults talked on and on about boats after a hard day of school.

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The next day we met up again with the Momo crew and the local syndicate of the Bubblegum Mafia for crepes and coffee.

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Some of us were on high alert with the impending visit of a dental nurse and were carrying a toothbrush and toothpaste in our shirt pockets at all times.

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Others of us were just pleased to have a whole locker converted into a single occupancy aviary.

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We’ll miss our Opua friends.  We’ll also miss our anchor spot next to Hawke of Tuonela with front row seats on an endless parade of vessels in this bay.

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Like the chick magnet Glyn Bird with its lusty ancient diesel on the daily social outing of young locals…

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and the folks from Zephyrus launching their sweet nesting two-part dinghy.

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19°46.12’S 179°29.07’E 17-Apr-11 07:00 UTC

Landfall

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

We were lucky to just see the islands in the evening before standing off to wait for sunrise.

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S sussed out the hole in the mountains leading into a hidden bay.

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And when the sun came out we found ourselves in the most beautiful of anchorages.

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All fun was suspended for the following 24 hours as we force marched into town a couple of miles away and caught up on 3 weeks of housekeeping.

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It was hard work but a grand location to be working outside.

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We really needed a bigger boat for the required miles of clothes lines.

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09°48.22’S 139°01.93’W 10-Apr-11 11:30 PDT

Neptune the capricious

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

S has been slow to provide the expected art work in honor of Neptune’s livestock and was delivered a warning bucket full of seawater thru a cracked hatch as she slept. She was not amused.

K has taken notice and while he would have enjoyed a sluicing while he slept in the intense sauna-like conditions of a boat in the tropics in heavy weather he can imagine more appropriate punishments and so provides the following rhyme in recognition of the sea.

There once was a boat from Seattle
That sailed like a stampede of cattle
Her sprit would go under
With a great clap of thunder
And the bones of her people would rattle

This is a wild and boisterous bit of ocean this week, not at all the placid, reachy sailing typical of forecasts over the past couple of months. We’ve been alternately pounding upwind in 18-28 kts in lumpy seas or getting pasted by extremely productive rain squalls. Never knew you get so much water up in the sky. The good news is that we have kept our speed up and are finally sailing straight down the line at a nice clip, just managing to keep our feet in the stirrups. The outside of the boat is very, very clean. The inside is developing a certain je ne c’est quoi atmosphere. In the almost words of Johnny Cash, K gets up “and puts on my cleanest dirty shorts”.

02°21.34’S 133°25.62’W 06-Apr-10 03:34 UTC

Easterquator? Equeaster?

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

It’s Easter and we’re at the equator. And so we reflect upon the love of God, the sphericallity of this globe and the role of Neptune in our ocean crossing. It will be a big day with inbound recognitions of all three and wardrobe choices ranging from tar, paint, and funny hats to pastel dresses and a checkered vest (oh wait, K outgrew that when he was 6).

Dinner will be equally conflicted. We’ve been told by those who know, that Neptune would have us suffer a nasty, fishy, garbage-based gruel. On the other hand our christian forefathers prescribe canned ham with cabbage and potatoes. S will not be having the Neptune menu, and K will not be cooking to meet everyone’s whim and so canned ham and cabbage it will be. This suits S very well, she loves to celebrate with cabbage (you can take the girl’s grandparents out of Slovakia but you can’t take the Slovak out of the girl).

Neptune will be appeased and recognized by as yet undeterimed methods. We’re sure he likes a surprise… like something to post on his refrigerator door! S is good with stick figure cartoons. She might be talked into a hippoicthyus, she’s good with horsey things too and a hippoicthyus is at least half horse. K could probably do a limmerick.

00°00.38’S 131°50.69’W 04-Apr-10 17:31 UTC

The Sameness of the Sea

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

We have inspected every inch of the past 1000 nautical miles and found it all to be identical. And so it is with our days here upon the ocean. There have been few highlights; we saw a tuna trawler about a week ago, we see birds at least once a day – including an indicator species of the tropics, a tropic bird – and S saw a piece of flotsam. Flying fish and four individual wave trains bearing down and rushing beneath us are our constant companions and we never tire of watching them.

We’ve begun some course corrections and refinements as we bear down on the ITCZ some 650nm away. It feels like re-entry from outer space at 7 miles an hour. Our plan is to skirt the southern boundary of the tradewind belt, staying just out of reach of the ITCZ thunderstorms until we see a gap and then we’ll sprint across, probably getting mauled anyway because it will take us two days.

And now K will provide a book report on the 12 CD volume of The Silmarillion by J R.R. Tolkien:

The Silmarillion is the pre-history of the Lord of The Rings. The first 300 hours are in the style of an Old Testament genealogy. While it is absolutely mindnumbing, it is delivered with severe gravitas by a British guy and is well suited to watchstanding alone at night over a tempestuous sea. The second half has lots of nice stories about sword fights and dragons.

12°19.47’N 122°02.32’W 28-Mar-10 02:34 UTC

Where are we going? And are we there yet?

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Perhaps you’re wondering, why does Bint al Khamseen appear to be headed for 05N 130W when the Marquesas are at 09S 140W? Like all good Seattle yuppies we navigate life based on the musings in other peoples’ blogs. Several years ago our friends on S/V Marcy discovered two guide stars during this very passage: “Westie” and “Eastie.” We think we know which stars these are and we track them every night. It’s not an exact science.

What is an exact science are the in-depth explanations of equatorial Pacific weather that are broadcast twice daily by the penultimate weather guru, Dr. Don Anderson. Don holds court on the single side band radio from his bat cave in Oxnard California and advises sailors on everything from micro-forecasts of the ridiculously complex Mexican coast to the proper way to communicate on a radio. He has written a concise guide on sailing from Mexico to French Polynesia which illuminates the vagaries of the mythical and intimidating Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), otherwise known as the “doldrums.”

The ITCZ is the mixing zone where the Southeast trade winds of the South Pacific run into the Northeast trade winds of the North Pacific. One might hope that they merge nicely together and make a lovely East trade wind right down the equator. Instead they plow into each other and spend their energies milling around making rain squalls and thunderstorms with no useful or consistent wind direction. Avoiding the ITCZ is the key goal of this passage but cross it we must. It spans the Pacific just north of the equator. On the coast of Central America it is quite wide, perhaps 1,000nm. It tapers to the west until it is only a 200nm wide (or less) at 130W. So there we are headed, the thin end of the ITCZ wedge. When we arrive we’ll take a turn to the south and sprint across like a turtle on the interstate hopefully getting a pleasant washdown without any squally winds. Once we meet the Southeast trades we’ll set course directly for the nearest palm tree.

15°16.27’N 119°03.01’W 25-Mar-10 11:45 BST

Bint Speaks

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Bint al Khamseen is migrating to the South Pacific with unusual purposefulness. Its clear we’ve been holding her back like a greyhound forced to compete in a dog paddle competition. Now that she’s been given her head she is racing down the line with little help from us, propelled by something beyond sails. Neither reefing, course tweeking, sloppy sideseas, or cross current has slowed her down or turned her nose.

She charges down 220 degrees by the compass with a bone in her teeth, free from the anchorage tethers in this bay or that, free from the barnacles and sea lice that colonized her smooth parts, and free from the embarrassing spinning egg beater that sticks out of her bottom. The prop blades are feathered now and Bint al Khamseen has met the dream to be in the place where she is at her best.

She’s bringing us with her, lunging across big long waves and smashing through short steep ones that detonate like Roman candles, red and green in the running lights. After 24 hrs she’s just now easing to the pace of her people. S will soon be living below without screwing her eyes shut to block out the motion.

21°35.17’N 111°42.89’W 20-Mar-10 20:26 UTC