Monday, April 07, 2014

Sailing to Hawaii - Day 7

Sent from sea

Weather: [Sunny, with clouds]

Sailing conditions: [Mostly downwind sailing, the Spinnaker has been up for over 24 hours now. The seas are becoming a little more mixed and choppy, but still a fairly gentle ride]

Food: [Breakfast: Parfait, Lunch: (home made) bread and jam, Dinner: Fishcakes and rice. Yes, I made bread yesterday (using the pressure cooker as a dutch oven).. not too bad]

General Comments: [Brown Noddies are regular visitors. No birds so far seen to land on the boat, just to circle us and catch any flying fish we disturb. The other day We had a school of 5 tuna at the bow sitting in the shade of the spinnaker. I got excited and put out a fishing line, when Kyle was on watch he promptly took the line in and hid it away (such a softy!). We *think* we are about 40nm short of the trade winds - when we find it, we'll turn more west for Hawaii. Yesterday was our first *good* day of sailing distance wise, and much appreciated. The sea water temperature is climbing and is currently a balmy 37 celcius (96 Fahrenheit). At night (if it wasn't for the clouds) we should be able to see the (North) pole star again, and for now we still see the Southern cross.]

Progress: so far we've made [455]nm on this passage and have [3658]nm to go. Last 24 hours we made [124]nm through the water [119]nm over the ground.

Updated after the fact

By morning on day two, we were south-west of Isabela and headed quickly NNW. What little wind there was in the area was sped up as it funneled around the edges of the island. When we reached the lee we coasted to a stop in the dead patch behind.

The traditional sailing route between the Galapagos and Hawaii heads South-West until reaching the southern trade winds, then crosses the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITZ) at the equator at about 115°W where it is narrower. From there the northern trade winds are picked up for the passage to Hawaii. In our case, both sets of trade winds were positioned 300 miles south of their usual position. This made it just barely shorter for us to make a run to the North. This strategy would also put us at a more comfortable angle once we reached the trades, and would get us out of the ITZ for good.

It was a clear warm day and we could see the rim of the Sierra Negra volcano sharply from 40 miles out. We knew we had made the right decision for us, but it was hard to look back at the island and not feel cheated, we had missed out terribly. There is so much to see and we barely scratched the surface.

Local fishermen can be many miles out at sea in these small open boats, and sunsets continue to add color to our passage

On day three, we were only 30 miles farther than we had been before. We could still see the volcanoes of Isabela, and also a new Island Fernandina. More melancholy! Just at the end of her night watch Maryanne finally started picking up some speed as she sailed out of Isabela’s wind shadow. Almost as soon as she did, it was gone again. She did some investigation and found herself trailing a fishing line, two floats and maybe two dozen hooks. She tried alone for half and hour before she finally admitted defeat and woke me up for help. I tried all the same stuff she tried and had the same predictable result. Reluctantly I realized that I’d have to go into the water to free us. Well this was another first. Swimming in 10,000 ft of water in the middle of the night (in an area famed for sharks). It does wake you up, but I still prefer the slower process of savoring a pot of coffee.

We knew that the headlamps worked underwater from my plunge in Contadora, so I donned one of those along with mask, snorkel and fins and went in. I looked around but there was not much to see. My light disappeared into a blue void of scattered light. Close up there were a few plankton looking like larger versions of the critters seen in a drop of water through a microscope; no giant sets of teeth came booming out of the deep.

The fishing line had caught in the little gap between the port rudder and the hull. Checking that there were no hooks to snag, I pulled it clear. As soon as I let go of it, it sprang out of sight. I REALLY wish those guys would not use floating line.

A couple of hours later at 1:39am on day four, we crossed the equator for a second time. We had been in the southern hemisphere for almost 11 days. Four hours later I spotted a line of black floats ahead (really, black ones, what are they thinking!). I turned 90° to avoid them and sailed along the line. Once I was sure I was clear, I turned back on course and immediately snagged a line suspended between two slimy black floats that were just breaking the surface. This time I didn’t even try starting with the boat hook – on with the fins, and in I went. These fishermen are a real menace. We do our best to avoid the lines, and if we snag them to free rather than cut them, but they don’t make our job any easier!

Maryanne caught yet another that night; my night swim was practically a tradition now. At least this time I had chance to go back to bed for a while afterwards.

Fish are hanging out tantalizingly close to us, but Kyle is not keen to catch any. With no fresh bread aboard I had to go ahead and make some!

The next few days, heading towards the trade winds were calm and slow. Maryanne got lucky and was visited almost every watch by a pod of dolphins trying to make the best of our meager bow waves. Once, she even had a school of Bluefin tuna jockeying for shade at the bow.

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