Sunday, May 06, 2007

A good sail

Our weather worries are now behind us as the Low pressure system has not intensified and is predicted to take a track further east away from us. We have some brisk winds as a result of Low, but nothing out of the ordinary for a passage from NZ. The last twenty four hours we've had steady eighteen to twenty four knots of wind with the record gust of thirty three knots making for some fast sailing in four to six foot seas with boat speeds often in the mid sevens range and our max speed of 8.5 knots. Not too shabby since we are sailing with a double reefed main sail and a small jib. This sail combination is easily handeled and forgiving in the bigger gusts. "Sir Jimmy" the mechanical wind/water powered self-steering device has been driving pretty much the entire trip and does a great job is the winds are steady. The beauty of this device is that it doesn't use any electricity and we can remain energy independent (i.e. we don't need to run the engine to charge batteries). The ride is pretty vigorous with the seas and wind just aft of the beam and requires holding on as you move about the cabin.

We are sailing in fairly close proximity (<100nm) to three other boats all having departed Opua, NZ on the same day. The other were headed to Fiji while we later modified our course from Tonga to Fiji en route and consequently sailed many extra miles in our effort to avoid the predicted adverse weather. Since we are a bit faster than the other boats we've caught up with them and now lead the way to Fiji.

Daily at 0830 and 1700 we check in with the other boats on our "Radio Net". The boats are Shoestring (South Africa), Zafarse and Moorea (USA) sharing weather info and exchanging our GPS positions so that we might track each others progress. Daily we also listen in to other nets at 0700, 0900 and 1845 for weather info and to chat with other boats underway all of which creates a great "Safety Net" in the event any of the boats has problems while underway.

Kathy and Chris are doing great keeping their assigned watches. Our watch schedule is three hour shifts from 6PM to 6AM and four hour shifts from 6AM to 6PM making for seven watches per day so with three people the schedule shifts on watch period per day providing equal opportunities to see sunrises and sunsets and share the tougher early morning watches. We keep an active look out at all times aboard La Vie and hourly enter our position, weather observations, course steered and distance made good as well as comments into our ships log book. Between adjusting the sails, checking our position and keeping an active watch for other boats we stay pretty busy on watch and the three or four hour shifts seem pretty short once you add in some star gazing at night and fishing during the day.

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