Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gambier to Marquesas - Day 3: Light Winds

Time: 2315UTC, COG 336T, SOG 5.0kts, Distance Remaining: 420nm

When first light arrived on Monday morning, the wind was still light. Mark
and I didn't change the sails yet, because we were surrounded by nasty
squalls. So, we kept moving north-ish at 4 knots. Around 9am, the sky
cleared up enough to risk putting the light sail up. Spinnaker time! It was
worth the hassle to take both white sails down and rig the spinnaker up for
an extra half a knot of speed. We seemed to go as fast as the apparent wind,
and, for the first time we were on course!

We progressed NE and managed to keep the spinnaker flying for the biggest
part of the day. The squalls kept their distance. The sun joined us for a
while, its heat and effect stronger than yesterday. One layer of clothes
disappeared, until the clouds came back. During the afternoon, the squalls
around us multiplied. Once again, no rain fell upon us, but the formations
sucked up all the wind. At 4pm, the spinnaker collapsed and the relaxing
sailing was over. We put the other sails up again and tried to head north.

Irie was becalmed for an hour, while the needle of the wind meter did
circles and not the tiniest breeze was felt. The sails slammed left and
right and it was hard to be patient. Finally, the SE wind filled in a bit
and we started moving, albeit slowly. The predicted 10 knots of wind - which
keeps us going OK - was in actuality only 7 and Irie sailed into the night
at 3 knots, just enough to keep the sails from flapping around. But when the
wind drops under five knots, even our light boat is having trouble to keep
moving steadily, a frustrating time for whoever is at the helm. If only the
weather would be more like what is predicted, it would make us, cruisers,
much happier. Because, it is what we base our decisions on!

Usually, we don't mind slow progress, as long as it is comfortable. And,
with the mellow seas from behind us, it was. But, in order to have no effect
from a front that was heading north, we had to make latitude 17° S before
tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon! When night fell at 5:30pm, once again without
a sunset, we noticed a growing grey wall behind us. The massive cloud
covered half of our spectrum. Was this the front already? Will this giant
system close in on us? We better got moving north, as quickly as possible,
in less than ten knots of wind... Luckily, once it was dark, we couldn't see
the looming monster cloud anymore.

My shift at midnight started with an observation of the nightly
surroundings. Tons of stars dotted the dark sky, framed by even darker
clouds. The bright half-moon rose, glowing yellow, turning white. As it
climbed the sky, its light erased the little twinkles of stars one by one.
What a peaceful setting. While I kept a close eye on our pathetic 3 knot
"speed" (many moments it even dropped to a very annoying 2 knots), I prayed
for more wind. I always seem to ask for something regarding the weather
while on watch... I tried not to stress about our deadline and watched the
decimals of our latitude slowly tick down. 52 more miles to go, until we
reach 17° S! Will we beat this front?

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