Diary for Sailing Adventures

The Crossing

2011-04-05 to 2011-04-28

The first three days were the slowest of the whole crossing, in that time we barely made 150 miles. Our goal was to make it to 8 degrees south and 90 degrees west, which was a little over 700 miles from our starting point. Since we were starting from the Galapagos Islands, which are in the middle of the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone, formerly called the doldrums), we needed to get south to the trade wind belt. We never actually made it to the trade wind belt until around the 17th of the month. We were able to get good air which varied from ENE-E-ESE in strengths from 10 to 20 knots. We did have our fair share of squalls, which are very “interesting” at 2 in the morning, when it feels like you are sailing in a closet. When we reached the trade wind belt it was stronger than anticipated, 15-20 knots during the day. The wind was its strongest from midnight to sunrise, which included most of my watch. Don and I worked watches with him on from 7 in the evening to 1 in the morning, and I took over until 7 in the morning. I would usually have coffee with Don in the morning then grab a couple of hours sleep. During the afternoon we just made sure that one of us was checking the horizon for ship traffic. I would sleep from 7:30 until 1 in the morning, and that was how our 24 days passed during the crossing.
We had various projects that popped up during the crossing, which would require our focused effort. Our normal sail configuration was headsail and main to starboard on a port jibe with the headsail held out with the whisker pole. Depending upon the wind strength we would furl or unfurl either sail all or part way as part of a reefing process. We had one squall that lasted about 3 hours, which had gusts exceeding 40 knots, so that we had about 4 feet of each sail out and were still doing 6 knots downwind. I was also hand steering as neither the windvane or auto-pilot could handle the helm. Our major problem was that with the attachment to the mast of the staysail broken we could not use it during the crossing, and the chafing of the sheets on the headsail had to be checked every 2 or 3 days. We probably cut off at least 10-12 feet of the starboard headsail sheet during the crossing as a result of the chafe caused by the whisker pole. Another daily check was to toss overboard the squid and flying fish that had landed on the deck and died. The windvane did an excellent job of steering the boat during a majority of the crossing and did not require any electricity. The dodger provided protection from the rain squalls and the sun, with the ability to raise and lower the side panels depending upon temperature and sea conditions. The normal swells were from the southeast, while the wind waves were usually 40 to 60 degrees different, and this would lead to a large heeling motion about every 8th or 9th wave of 30-35 degrees. You would get used to timing your movements to just after the large wave passed. The normal heel was around 15 degrees to starboard, which was great for me sleeping in the forward berth as it pushed me against the bulkhead rather than roll me off to the floor when we heeled to port. We would adjust the two solar panels during the day for maximum energy production and they would normally top off the batteries, while the wind generator would supply enough power during the day and night to eliminate the need for running the genset to charge the batteries most of the time. The genset was used to power the freezer/refer twice a day for about an hour, and to supply enough power to the battery bank to operate the watermaker to keep the tanks topped off or run the washer/dryer when needed. During the crossing we only saw three ships, one container ship and two fishing processors. We did manage to snag a floating net that was hung up on our prop, but since we were not under power we were able to free it without going swimming in the middle of the ocean. We used the SSB to make email reports to family and friends and to Commander’s Weather Routing. We were limited to 90 minutes a week of connect time which varied depending upon the strength of the station receiving/sending the emails. We tried to keep the messages short. It is an excellent way of keeping loved ones informed with the knowledge that you are OK. There is not much wildlife to see during the crossing, with flying fish being there every day and some birds. We did have a 30 lb tuna hit our fishing pole and take all our line and lure, which ended our fishing project for the trip. The days become quite similar and you begin to think that you are in your own version of “Groundhog Day”. When you finally sight land it seems to take forever to make it to the harbor, where you can drop anchor and sleep the whole night through.