Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gambier to Marquesas - Day 5: Fronts are Not Our Friends

Time: 2315UTC, COG 335T, SOG 7.5kts, Distance Remaining: 120nm

According to our calculations and weather sources, Irie would run into the
warm front around 3am, my shift. We mentally prepared for an unenjoyable
night and I frequently checked the radar. 3am came and went, with relatively
clear skies above. At 4am there was still nothing to be seen on the radar.
5am didn't bring any squalls or funky wind either and I started to believe
the thing had dissipated and we were lucky again. "Passing the front was a
non-event," would be my first words to Mark this morning... I thought...
until the daylight replaced the darkness of the night, and I saw a massive
grey horizon, in all directions.

We had just entered the not so pretty zone, unnoticed by the radar because
the cloud mass did not contain any rain. It was nice of the front to wait
for us until daylight, when we were both awake and able to see what was
going on! Soon enough the wind picked up to 15-20 knots and we were flying,
making good progress. Now, you can't expect to be going 7 knots and have
flat seas... For that we would have to go back, well no, we would have had
to stay, in the Caribbean; the BVI, Bahamas or San Blas in particular. Here,
when the wind picks up, so does the sea. The waves grew some and the ride
became bouncier. The papayas jumped out of the fruit net, turning into
bruised mush. The coconuts had jumped their resting place earlier on and I
had to put them downstairs. Those propelling canonballs are just too
dangerous, for men and boat!

In the worst part of the frontal system, the wind was blowing a steady 25
knots (on our not so reliable wind meter) and turned NE, which was more on
the nose. What about those benign and pleasant weather predictions? We had
all the sails reefed and Irie was a bucking horse, speeding along and taking
many waves over the side. It was a wet and bumpy ride for most of the day.
Forget about sunbathing, listening to music, trying to bake or to fish. It
was too rough for that; a good excuse to resolve to doing "nothing" again.
Today that meant keeping an eye on the horizon and the instruments,
adjusting sails, taking reefs in and out, trying to keep the spirits high
and the bodies dry.

During the afternoon things eased a bit. The remaining clouds evaporated and
the sky turned blue. On the western horizon, we saw two fishing boats within
3 miles of us. Where did they come from? Why did we not notice them sooner?
Because our VHF-radio, and therefore AIS-system, was turned off to save
power. How to not use AIS... Mark threw a fishing line out and within 20
minutes, we caught three big ones. Unfortunately, they both escaped. One day
we'll get lucky. Or skilled. One trick is doing 6 knots, but most of the
time we go much slower or faster.

Irie was our bouncy house for the remainder of the day. Mark and I bumped
our heads, kicked our toes and hurt other body parts, caused by sudden boat
movements. When we kissed goodnight, his nose poked in my eye! He managed to
stay dry during his shift and I managed to stay mattress bound and pretty
much awake.

By midnight, the wind had slowed down to 10-15 knots, and would become even
lighter, from a more eastern direction. The ride became comfortable again,
Irie sailing along at about 5 knots, still having a - now needless - reefed
mainsail. I settled in my routine: watching the night show for a couple of
hours: the millions of lights in the clear sky above and in our watery wake
behind the boat, the shooting stars, the cloudy milky way and the rising,
shrinking moon. Then, writing this blog, doing a few Sudoku's and reading my
book, all the while keeping an eye on our surroundings and the instruments.
For the record: the VHF-radio is turned on! The sea might be teeming with
Japanese fishing boats for all I know...

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