So we’re into our 10th day now. The engine is humming in my right ear as I type this – we’re motoring and have been since about 10:00pm last night. There’s a concept – 10:00pm… Eastern time or UTC (Universal Time) or Azorean time? Fortunately, Azorean is the same as UTC… Laurie has moved onto Azorean time, I’m still on the East coast – which is what explains why I had Indian Curry for breakfast this morning!
It’s been an interesting few days since I last reported. We received an excellent forecast from our weather router Herb – for three solid days of 20 – 25kt winds abaft the beam and enjoyed the first immensely. It was a day for biology: In the morning I discovered a dead squid on top of the coachroof! We then had sighting of a solitary whale and with an excellent book we have aboard, we are pretty confident that we have identified it correctly as a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale – an unusual species. We saw flying fish off in the distance and various birds – mostly Shearwaters and a few Petrels. We were then joined by a pod of a dozen dolphins – looked like pairs of mothers/calves with dads swimming alone. Difficult to identify – we went from Striped Dolphins to Cylmene Dolphins with the second pod of 20 or more that joined us – to finally Spotted Dolphins (much more common) when the third group arrived and I briefly identified spots that I’d not previously seen. (Presumably each group were of similar make-up over the 2 – 3 hour period we were watching them.) The last group was difficult to watch well as we were amid a sail-change – stronger weather was in the offing.
We were looking forward to the second day of a forecast that Herb had given us the previous day, but the winds were climbing already to the high end of his predicted range. When we reviewed the forecast with Herb on the evening SSB Net, he decides that yes the winds will be solidly in the 30-35kt range (!) tonight and the following day – it was about to get hectic. The winds were as he foretold. Also the seas were up and I estimate that while the majority of waves were around 15ft, there was a couple of swells compounding – such that we often had waves in the 25ft range. How can you tell? Difficult – but standing on deck with my eyes parallel with the solar panels that are mounted at about 15 – 18ft off the sea, it was pretty clear that the tops of the waves (from the bottom of the trough) was a solid 25ft… Fortunately, we were running with the wind and the wave trains, so every time a monster wave would approach us, the stern would simply ride up it – and then fall off the backside as the wave traversed through. (Unfortunately the one exception to this occurred when Laurie was hand steering while I was on the SSB attempting to talk with Herb – she got dumped on by a following wave – the only one that has so far managed to soak the cockpit. Adding insult to injury, we were unable to contact Herb that night due to poor propagation.) We were well positioned for these big winds and seas – being able to run with them with just a portion of our jib out and 350ft warp (rope with a short piece of anchor chain at the end) being towed out the back. This was our first use of a warp – it did really well at keeping the boat pointed in the right direction – rather than riding up a wave to port or starboard – followed by the inevitable wobbly fall-off. We managed the boat like this for 24 hours.
Sleep was tough to come by and we were in touchy recovery mode all the following day – when the winds had abated and the seas were calming – and we were once again sailing in good conditions and making sail changes galore.
Last night the winds died away such that we motor sailed for a good stretch and then finally brought in the genoa and let the engine do its thing. It’s been doing its thing since about 10:00pm…
Charging the batteries is becoming a little touchy. Without the wind generator we are down some anyway – and the engine alternator/charging system is only putting out a fraction of what it should. However, yesterday a new problem appeared – there’s apparently some suspect wiring in the generator circuits – I was unable for a long time to get the AC running. Tried this and that and in the end did nothing and the problem just went away. Needs looking at – probably by someone that understands arcs and sparks! We can’t lose our last method of charging!
Our ship’s compass and all the electronics are out of synch. We knew this going into this passage – and the problem is manageable since our position is reported independently by GPS and how we get there doesn’t really matter – just join the dots to get there. Would be nice to understand headings a little more clearly however. All this requires is some calibration routines – that require riding around in circles in a flat calm sea…
Our Monitor Wind Vane ‘Gail’ has been great – as long as we’re heading into weather. When running she’s useless. We therefore have to use the autopilot – exacerbating the energy issue – plus we are nervous that Otto may suddenly quit on us… Need some changes to the control lines on Gail once we get in.
We’re doing great – just 400 miles left to Flores…