Thursday, July 17, 2014

Underway Day 22 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

July 18, 2014 @ Noon local or (UTC July 18 @ 0000)

Day 22 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

Day 9 at sea since our last anchorage at Bikar atoll.

Underway position: 26 35N 178 05E

147nm day/1535nm trip total

Course 035
Speed 6.2

Wind 16 @ 210T
20 % Cloud cover
1012 mbar
Air temp 85F
Sea temp 83F

I'm not sure what's bigger news, so I'll go in chronological order. Around 10am yesterday we'd just finished setting our small spinnaker, for the hour previous I was having an internal debate on which of our 4 spinnakers to set. I could set the biggest spinnaker based on the current light'ish conditions and run dead downwind making best speed, but if the wind piped up, it could be a drama to get the big 1200 square foot kite down in one piece. Alternately, I could go with the medium size spinnaker which was probably the best compromise, but it doesn't have a dedicated dousing sock, so that would entail removing the sock from the big kite and swapping it. No small job given the current heat wave and lack of breeze in the cabin as we go down wind. Or we could alter course a little to the east and heat up our sailing angle a bit and fly the A-Sail, but I was concerned that putting more east in our course would move us too far from the low pressure system that was providing all SSW wind and we might get into really light air.

The Grib file was suggesting that we head more north east and sail parallel and about 120 east of the convergence zone where we'd find about 18-20 knots of wind, but avoid the squalls and higher winds in the convergence zone. Or I could fly the smallest spinnaker and enjoy peace of mind that nothing could go wrong, but the trade off would be loosing a 2+ knots of potential boat speed. I was still reeling from my night watch and was/am feeling pretty sleep deprived, so I went with the most trouble free small spinnaker. I remind myself that this isn't a race, but regretted the lost speed that could shave many hours or days off the journey.

After working up a sweat rigging the lines and hoisting the small spinnaker I was ready for a quick shower and on my way aft I grabbed the lower shroud and whoa it was waaaayyy too lose. The toggle was busted and was just barely holding the turnbuckle. Yikes 2500+ miles remaining and I have a key element of my rigging busted! I replaced every last bit of the rigging in Mexico in 2011 to avoid this exact problem and a broken toggle is a major disappointment.

I dig through my spares and find a spare turnbuckle, but it has aircraft eyes for ends and no toggle. So, I find a couple of large shackles and swap in an aircraft eye ended stud into the existing turnbuckle and shackle it to the chain plate. So, the rig isn't going to come down, but I'm pissed that a part that should have never failed failed. Luckily, I found the problem quickly and had the luxury of making the repair in calm'ish daylight conditions. That was news item #1.

The second most exciting thing was we almost rammed a HUGE sleeping Sperm whale. Kathy gave a shout that there was a blow just ahead. We scrambled on deck and sure enough we sailed right by a HUGE Sperm whale whom apparently was not too stressed by a close encounter with a sailing catamaran sluicing past at 7+ knots. I can only imagine what would have happened if we would have tickled his back with a keel or rudder. Either of which would surely be ripped off at that speed or if the whale would have woken and thrashed the boat with a quick move of the tail. Yikes.

This trip has provided far more drama than needed. Dragging anchor in the night at Erikub, shooting the river rapids at Bikar pass, broken rigging and now a close call with a whale. Hopefully, the next 2500 nautical miles to Kodiak, AK will be less exciting.

I mention Kodiak as that's where were aiming at the moment. Dutch Harbor is many hundred of miles closer, but it's already really late in the far north sailing season, making landfall in Kodiak or maybe Sitka seems a good tradeoff as we'll have more time to enjoy Alaska without rushing so much.

That's it for now.

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