About 150nm remaining to Majuro, Republic of Marshall Islands. Light winds mixed with squalls and lightening overnight. GRIB model suggest we'll get NE 15 later today which would be nice compared to the 4 knots and lump seas we have now. We're about 50 SSE of Mili atoll and hope to pick up the stonger NE winds as we round Mili and reach overnight toward Majuro.
So far we've traveled 1362 (as a crow flies) from Vanua Levu, Fiji.
Vanua Levu to Rotuma 42 hours underway, 1 yellow fin tuna and 4 squalls mentioned in log entries.
Rotuma to Tarawa, Kiribati 172 hours underway and 1 yellow fin tuna eaten and 1 grey shark released 12 squalls mentioned in logbook
Kiribati to Majuro, Marshall Islands 57 hours (estimated) and 1 Mahi Mahi and 4 squalls mentioned in logbook.
Despite the light winds and squally weather, it's really been a pleasant voyage overall. Looking forward to picking up our new Kiteboarding kites in Majuro, uploading photos to the blog and catching up with cruising friends.
About 260nm to Majuro, so we should arrive on Friday with just enough time to check-in with Customs and Immigration. Excitement for yesterday was departing Tarawa, Kiribati. Our four day stay at the capital city of Kiribati was too long. Trash of epic quantities line the lagoon shore the roads and pretty much every square inch of the dusty dirty town of Betio. We're sure that more remote portions of Kiribati are beautiful and I have no doubt that I-Kirbatians are friendly, but onerous regulations discouraged us from spending more time in the capital waiting for permit approval to go elsewhere.
Everyone was friendly enough, but it's a sad place.
On a positive note we met Tom and Vivienne of s/v Imajica and enjoyed a fun evening aboard sampling Tom's homebrew beer.
We caught a really nice Mahi Mahi today breaking our streak of fishing with some catching.
It's HOT HOT HOT at 3 degrees north of the equator.
LightSpeed- Day 7 @ 7pm sailing from Rotuma, Fiji to Tarawa, Kiribati
Doldrums sailing daily runs 9am to 9am
Day 1 = Begin voyage at 9am
Day 2 = 124nm
Day 3 = 124nm
Day 4 = 108nm
Day 5 = 135nm
Day 6 = 118nm
Day 7 = 150nm
Days 1-7 = 759nm at average speed of 5.27 knots
Day 8 = 6.4 knots average since 9AM
At the moment we are 4nm south of the equator and planning a small party for our equator crossing. The big question of the evening is should we stop at Tarawa, Kiribati tomorrow afternoon or continue on for Majuro, Republic Marshall Islands. Stay tuned.
TIME: 2013/11/12 19:42UTC (7:42AM local)
WIND_DIR: E (100T)
CLOUDS: 20% with squall clouds to East
AIR_TEMP: 31.1C (88F)
SEA_TEMP: 30.0C (86F)
Flying a asymmetric drifter since yesterday afternoon. It's working well to keep us moving in 3-6 knot winds from 100T on a course that's almost perfect to lay Tarawa, Kiribati. Clear skies overnight, but now we have some cumulus clouds moving in from the east. Looks like it's gong to be another light day with a high potential for squalls. In the cabin at 8AM it's 91F with 67% humidity which slightly diminishes my interest in a cup of piping hot morning coffee.
Update: It's now 9:40am. The wind shifted to NE at 4 knots and we dropped the drifter and went for a swim. Tarawa, Kirbati is 300nm distant.
Excitement overnight was encountering a 135 foot fishing vessel named the Sho Jin Maru #38 (MMSI 432365000). I noticed the lights and then noticed that our AIS was offline (likely a result of SSB radio interference earlier in the evening), when I rebooted the AIS we were within 4nm of ship and ultimately passed within 1.5nm. They were going E at 5 knots and we were headed NW at 2-6 knots flying our drifter with the autopilot in wind mode.
Autopilot 'wind mode' keeps the apparent wind at a predefined value such as 110 degrees, thereby allowing a sail to maintain proper trim despite shifts in the wind direction and strength. It's a nice feature at night when you can't see the sail and it's like a human steering the boat, but better as it never looses focus or complains about watch schedules.
Wind data currently comes from our Tacktick wireless wind instruments and is fed via a multiplexed NMEA 0183 data stream to the autopilot. I'm not sure what the data rate from the wind instrument is, but it's good enough for slow speed sailing.
I've been thinking about replacing the TackTick mast head wind instrument with a wired NMEA 2000 unit with a super fast data output frequency 20 times per second and directly connecting it the Simrad Autopilot.
Tonight we reaching north with with our asymmetrical drifter. True wind is ESE at 9 and we're sailing at 120 app at 5 knots with the main sail stowed. The main is a pain in light conditions as backs and slats nosily in these light conditions. The a-sail is perfectly quiet, just the whooshing of water along the hull as we coast along through the night.
Around sunset we arrived at the seamount fishing spot I'd identified this morning and almost on cue the reel started to sing. After a clunky take down of the a-sail we reeled in and released a 3' grey shark. No other fish decided to join us for dinner so we opened a can of chili con carne and Kathy made up a pan of homemade cornbread. Delicious!
Lovely sailing conditions for a change, steady winds for the last 13 hours driving us at 7+ knots for the last 9 hours in a row.
The goal for today is catching dinner. About 50nm to the north lies a 5340 meter (17,355') tall seamount that rises to within 160 meters of the surface. Upwelling nutrient rich waters should support a rich ecosystem near the surface and make for some good catching.
We finally found some wind! At 8pm last night the wind started to built to 5 knots with gusts to 7 knots. In the 7 knot peak winds we were hitting 5's through the water for short periods of time, a nice increase from mid-day speeds of only 2.5 knots! Utilizing our autopilots 'Wind' mode to maintains a constant apparent wind angle and has proven indispensable in these fickle shifty light conditions.
The wind has continued to build and now we have an amazing 11 knots true out of the ESE providing nearly 10 knots of apparent wind and yielding boat speeds around 7.5 knots. Our worries of low fuel and a possible stop at Nanumea atoll are fading into our wake. We're 12nm to the west of Nanumea atoll, the northern most island of Tuvalu and looking forward to a only 3 more days at sea if the wind holds up.
TIME: 2013/11/10 18:04 UTC 6AM local
WIND_DIR: ENE (60T)
AIR_TEMP: 28.3C (83F)
SEA_TEMP: 30.0C (86F)
A little wind has us sailing this morning after a long night of motoring in calms and a few squalls. Skies this AM look more characteristic of trade wind conditions, so we are optimistic that sailing conditions will improve throughout the day. Yesterday I reworked the SSB ground plane installing new copper foil amidships under the floor boards. Kathy did a big Yoga session and made a delicious pizza for dinner.
Our trip thus far has been plagued by very light winds and it looks like we'll have more of the same for the next few days as we inch toward latitude 5 south where there's more promise of steady easterly flow. Overnight it was 2-4 knots from variable directions with a handful of squalls packing 25+ knots. From 8PM to 7AM we ran the port Yanmar 3YM30 diesel engine at 2000RPM pushing us at 5.2 knots slowly to the north. Typically, we run the engine(s) at 2500-2750RPM burning approximately ~2.5 L/hr or ~0.6 gal/hr (per engine). Running at slower speeds can cause carbon build up in the exhaust elbow, but with precious little fuel aboard and spare exhaust elbows onboard, I throttled back in an effort to maximize our range under power.
This morning around 7AM extra ugly low black clouds brought 20 knots from the NNE and we sailed fast with a double reef main and partially furled jib to the NNW. As I write at 9:30AM we have 100% cloud cover and the wind has diminished to 10-12 knots NNE. No complaints as we're still making decent VMG toward Tarawa, Kirbati which lies just north of equator some 650nm distant.
Day 1 we sailed 126nm making 109 good.
Day 2 we sailed 123nm making 120 good. 7 knots average wind speed mostly NE as taken from our hourly log entries.
Yesterday the Simrad autopilot stopped working. Murphy must have been on vacation as the breakage occurred mid-day with mild conditions and Kathy easily hand steered while I investigated and quickly fixed the problem. I worked from the Autopilot computer toward the hydraulic drive motor located in the port engine room. I determined that the motor brushes had simply worn down and I swapped in new ones from my spare hydraulic drive motor, a much simpler task than swapping the entire motor and pump. We were back online in about 30 minutes and we should get at least another 10,000 nm of use until the brushes wear out again. Just in case I'll order a spare set when we get to Majuro, Marshall Islands.
Thinking about our voyage to Alaska next May/June we'll need to purchase some special gear for the more extreme conditions. Shipping to the Marshall Islands is USPS and the rates are very reasonable, unlike everywhere else in the South Pacific (except American Samoa).
On the list:
Winter clothes- Hopefully we can get some hand me downs from our friends (YOU) for the chill of Alaska. We're not total bums and plan to get new gear when we get jobs in San Francisco, but until then we need some used gear for beach fires, fish guts and to fit in with the rough and tumble Alaska fishermen crowd. Luckily I still have my Xtra-Tuff boots from our last trip to Alaska.
We need: Mens XL and Womens S jackets, hoodies, fleece, foulies, gloves and hats or whatever you have filling up your closet that could keep us warm. We'll gladly pay the shipping.
Immersion suits- Big orange survival suits for worst case scenario situations in the frigid arctic waters.
Jordan series drogue- A drag device to limit boat speed should we encounter a nasty low and heavy conditions in the high latitudes.
Replacing the battery in our ACR EPIRB.
Replacing exhaust lines on our Espar forced air diesel heaters.
Hot water heater- Replacing our old hot water tank and installing a new header tank.
Head Sail- Spare small head sail for heavy conditions.
Furler- Inspect top swivel and or replace with high load version.
Duct Engine room venting so possible infiltrating water in heavy conditions will be routed to bilge and not splash engine.
Damage control kit- Expand existing repair kit should we have a collision with debris that requires patching the hull or break out a hatch or window.
Motor mounts- Yanmar 3YM30 with SD20 drive.
Other excitement for the day was a big squall that had us catch 15 gallons of water using our new cockpit awning. We could have tanked twice as much if we had a bigger hose as the rain was coming down much faster than our 1/2 hose could handle. Standing in the driving rain we experienced a novel sensation of feeling cool, a nice reprieve from the tropical heat.
Enjoying a sundowner in the calm evening conditions a school of huge tuna lept pass the boat. At first we thought they were dolphins for their enormous size and I reeled in my fishing line thinking they would frolic around the boat. As the school neared it became clear they were giant tuna and the fishing line quickly went back in the water, but no takers.
Wind is now under 10 and NE (45T) with slightly lumpy seas that have the main slatting.
We're underway from Rotuma, Fiji to Tarawa, Kiribati a 900nm sail crossing the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ). The SPCZ is an area of low pressure where warm moist equatorial air collides with cooler drier air of high pressure systems passing to the south. It's a grab bag of chaos characterized by light winds punctuated with intense rain and fearsome squalls.
Between December and April the SPCZ hatches budding cyclones that can grow into monsters as they track to the south.
Weather models struggle to make sense of the ever changing chaos and GRIB files for the area are notorious for their inaccuracy. Fancy routing software and onboard data downloads offer insight, but mostly it's a take what you get voyage.
When we decided to initiate the customs/immigration check out procedure in Rotuma a few days ago it looked like we'd have a nice weather window as soon as we reached 8S or about 270nm north of Rotuma. Now a few days later we're underway and we may be stuck with light SPCZ winds until 4S for 530nm. It's going to be a slower passage than expected, but so far the seas have been pleasantly small and we've made good use of the light winds.
Overnight the wind dropped to 4-5 ESE with clear skies and we motored NNE for about 6 hours and considered a stop at one of the smallest countries on earth, Funafuti, Tuvalu 200 nm to the NE.
This morning we have super flat seas and 8 knots of wind pushing us along at 6 knots. This makes us happy, so we're once again fully committed to continuing on to Tarawa, Kiribati.