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Friday, February 08, 2013

French Polynesia rewind

February 8, 2013 (2100UTC)
Position: 11°47'S 153°02' W
Underway for Rangiroa atoll, Tuamotu archipelago, French Polynesia, South Pacific ocean.
Course 123T
Speed: 7.4 knots

It's not too often that boats sail East to French Polynesia. It's usually Kiwi's sailing from New Zealand who ride the roaring forties to get their easting before heading north to Tahiti. Then there are the salty sailors who tack up the Rhumb line, battling the SE trades head on. Our approach is one of balancing the risk of cyclones with the benefit of their favorable winds to make our easting.

Our route from American Samoa to Penrhyn atoll, Northern Cooks to Rangiroa atoll, French Polynesia would have us gain 1350nm of easting while using periphery winds found on the North side of tropical lows. Each voyage carefully timed to ride the coat tails of a tropical low as it tracked to the East then ESE and SSE, the low conveniently blocking the SE trade winds and furnishing north component winds on which to carry us east.

Note: We are not advocating this route as any sailing during cyclone season is inherently risky and potentially deadly.

Why are we doing this? The short answer is we want to sail s/v LightSpeed back to the West coast of the USA. And the easiest way to get back to the USA West coast is via Hawaii and the easiest way to get to Hawaii from the South Pacific is via the Marquesas. So, we're setting up over the next few months to make a jump to Hilo, Hawaii and then in Spring/Summer toward North America, possibly with a landfall in BC or Alaska.

Look for the long answer in an upcoming email.

As I write we have 340nm to the Tuamotu archipelago and 'knock on wood' it looks like we picked a sweet weather window. The tropical low we were riding is turning to the SSE and the South Pacific Convergence is to the South of us, all good things. From here on out it looks like smooth sailing and mostly clear skies for the next few days.

We covered the first 348nm in 43 hours for an average speed of 8.1 knots with a conservative sail plan of a double reefed main and jib. The first 24 hours was a bumpy ride with confused seas and a 3 meter NE swell to bash through, but now the seas and wind have calmed and it's now time to shake out a reef.

I picked up a nasty cold at Penrhyn atoll. A sore throat and upper respiratory distress that has had me coughing in fits every time I try to get some rest. Other than that we're having a great trip. The winds are going a little light so, it's time to shake out another reef.

That's it for now.

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