Counting Down the Days

We’ve told people this passage should be expected to take 21 days. This is derived by assuming we will average about 6 knots…approximately 150 miles per day…approximately 1,000 miles per week; 3,000 miles = 3 weeks. We tend to be conservative in such estimates; I was hoping to make it in less than 21 days, because I think we can average better than 6 knots. I had visions of logging a few 200 mile days in the trade winds.

Well, the 200 mile day still eludes us. We’ve done 190 twice, but we’ve had some very light winds on other days. Today is Day 17. We have about 450 miles to go. Three more days.

After 2,500+ miles, we converged today with Tahawus. We can just see them as a speck on the horizon, occasionally rising above the ocean swells. The two of us are sailing “neck and neck.” We pulled ahead, they pulled even, we pulled ahead, they are gaining. I think we do better in some wind strengths; they do better in others.

Our solitude is gone (I can’t help looking at them, or at the general area where they ought to appear if I stare long enough), but at this point we are preparing (mentally) for reentry anyway. Finishing up the favorite foods, since we don’t have to stretch them out beyond three days; learning about the anchorage, and what is required for formalities in entering French Polynesia; realizing that we don’t know anything about cruising in the Marquesas. Luckily, as part of the BPO rally, we have someone meeting us at Hiva Oa who can help us get oriented. Three days…

Next Boat…

I spent an hour or two today sitting atop the pilot house (where it was shady), watching our wake streaming out behind — a continuous river disappearing into the sea. A continuous river stretching some 5,000 miles astern, back home…

Thoughts of “back home” are often about food, and usually a comfy sofa, either in front of a favorite TV show, or overlooking the ocean from our Maine cottage. But this time my thoughts meandered to another favorite topic: boats. What kind of boat will scratch my sailing itch after this adventure…?

Thoughts begin with my little trimaran, sitting in a barn 2/3rds built. If I completed this project, and took it a step further to outfit it thoroughly for backpacker-type cruising, it could satisfy my desire to sail over the horizon — e.g., to Downeast Maine. A huge plus for this boat is cost. Even with complete cruising gear it would be the least expensive option by far. But it has its drawbacks. I’d want a little autopilot, so I don’t have to steer 100% of the time. So I need a battery, and a way to charge the battery. And a little boat like that has no good way to carry a dinghy for getting ashore. I could lash a small kayak on the cross-beams. Ugly, but workable. And potentially the biggest drawback: it would accommodate me only — not a boat for cruising with Hallie.

To get a boat for cruising together, we should have a reasonable galley, and an enclosed (at least by a curtain) head. There’s a big trade-off between interior space and my thought that I’d like to have a trimaran. Trimarans have exciting sailing qualities but very little space. There are some nice ones in the 30 – 35 foot range that probably have enough inside so that the two of us could be reasonably comfortable.

But…only the two of us. What about sailing with friends? If we go a little bigger we could have a “guest room” and be able to accommodate another couple. Probably not a trimaran at this point, as its size would get unwieldy and its expense would be exorbitant. Maybe a catamaran? Hey, maybe like the one I’m on right now?

But if we go that big/expensive, maybe we should be thinking about living aboard. We could migrate along the Intracoastal Waterway, which I found quite enticing on the way south. Living aboard changes the equation in big ways Sailing qualities have to take a back seat to space and comfort. Maybe it wouldn’t even be a sailboat at all. We saw some nice “trawlers” on the ICW that seemed like ideal vessels for that environment, where one has to motor most of the time anyway.

Boats are always a compromise. Whatever we do, I will lust after other boats that can do the other things better. I’ll just have to keep contemplating this question that has no right answer, and kick it around with Hallie a few times…over the next 15,000 miles…

Trade Winds at Last!

Finally we seem to have the expected trade winds. For the past 24 hours they’ve been blowing 13 knots. We’d prefer another five knots, but we’re happy to be sailing once again. We have just the spinnaker up, which makes for very easy going. Just set it and forget it, so to speak.

In fact, this is the first day that I’ve felt rather bored. Last night a line that controls our hydro generator broke, and I thought I might be repairing that this morning. But Bill had already fixed it during his watch. (Pretty impressive, hanging off the back of the boat alone at night…) This morning we had a problem with our electronics, where some of the wind and speed information wasn’t getting displayed. But a “reboot” of the system set that right. There’s not much route planning/strategizing to be done, assuming the trade winds will continue. I wasn’t planning to do any cooking/baking today. So not much on the agenda.

We entertained ourselves for a while with ideas about getting more sail flying, since our spinnaker isn’t terribly big, and we could use more power. We drop the mainsail when we fly the spinnaker, because the main blocks the spinnaker’s wind, and we go just as fast with it down. But there’s a big gap between the bottom of the spinnaker and the deck — could we come up with a way to capture the wind that must escape there…? First we put up our storm jib. We knew it wouldn’t be very big, but we’d never flown it before, so this was a chance to learn something. It was good to go through the exercise of rigging it, in case we ever actually need it, but it’s so tiny it didn’t make any discernible difference in our speed. So we brought that down and tried flying our small spinnaker “under” the bigger one. This didn’t seem to catch much wind, and it interfered a little with the big spinnaker; we judged the net difference to be zero. Then we tried pulling the small spinnaker aft, close to the mast, inside the furled jibs, and off to one side. This actually seemed to work. That is, it increased our speed by half a knot. Not pretty, since it was rubbing up against the headstay and the big spinnaker sheet and sometimes other things, and had the potential for getting fouled and making a mess. We brought it down for the night. I doubt it will go back up unless we get back into the racing mind-set, which we lost when everyone started motoring (and the boats ahead of us motor faster than we do).

I had a dozen or so books on my iPad that I wanted to read, but my iPad got a salt water shower the day before we left Galapagos, and it died. So I’ve been reading the PAPER books that we have on board. I’m on the last of the three novels. Next I’ll have to decide whether to start reading reference manuals or switch to electronic books that Tim has on his extra laptop.

One thousand miles to go to Hiva Oa.