Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Underway Day 14 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

July 10, 2014 @ 5:30pm or (UTC July 10 @ 0530)

Day 14 LightSpeed Sailing from Marshall Islands to North America

Underway position: 12 53N 170 02E

57nm day/417nm total

Wind 16 @065T
80 % Cloud cover
Air Temp 86F

Seas: inside lagoon nil
Sea temp 86

We finally got underway this morning around 9am and with some trepidation headed for Bikar pass to shoot the rapids. About half way across the lagoon we got a squall as a send off gift with blasting rain limiting visibility in the coral studded lagoon. Over the last week at Bikar atoll I can tell you more than once I woke up in the night worrying about getting LightSpeed back out Bikar pass in one piece. As we approached we couldn't spot our marker bouy that we'd placed on the most dangerous coral head at the lagoon side of the pass. It was surely lost in one of the 40+ knot squalls we've had the last few days. My primary point of reference then became the remains of the wrecked fishing boat, mostly just a jumble of parts surrounding the massive diesel engine block, the other remaining parts of the broken ship are deeper inside the pass. As we passed the wreck we had a solid 4 knots of current sucking us out and at least a knot cross current that increased to at least 2 knots of cross current in the vicinity of the "Y". I had LightSpeed crabbing sideways with my speed through water showing 8 plus knots. Going a bit sideways at 8 knots does NOT make the pass feel wider. Just past the 'Y' it seemed for a moment that we might overshoot and hit the far side, but that was short lived as just seconds later the sluicing and boiling cross current had me fully powered up and running at 20 degrees south of our course over ground. If there was an EKG connected to me in those last few moments as I goosed the throttles to full ahead, I'm sure it would have shown my heart rate and blood pressure going off the chart. As we rocketed to safety though the standing waves on the ocean side of Bikar pass I thought I might puke for a second.

My advice is don't even think about taking your boat into Bikar lagoon. Getting in is one thing, but coming out is 500 times riskier. Bikar pass might be 100 times more dangerous than other dangerous passes we've ran like Mopellia (6 times), Penrhyn (in close out conditions which required a huge surf to 14 or maybe 16 knots) and Aitutaki (more than 20 times including low water with a big breaking SW swell) and 1000 times more scary than anything we ever ran in the Tuamotus in 2006, 2011 or 2012. Yep, the place is pristine for a reason, it eats boats.

Once outside the pass Kathy deployed a fishing line and within minutes we had a LDR (long distance release). I updated the logbook and shut down and flushed the water maker and then opened the discharge valve for the head. The holding tank was 7/8 full, but refused to drain. The next hour involved way too much $h!t slopping all over me while I crammed myself into the anchor locker to remove hoses and clear the blocked line. It was a truly disgusting job requiring way too much close contact with fecal mater. Mid-way through the project and dripping with you know what, the fishing reel started to scream and we must have had something big as it took most of our line before it broke the leader. Unfortunately, it was back in the stinking locker for me as I still had to finish the job and then a shower and then a big clean up and then we finally got to set sail about 1.5 hours later.

I started with a single reefed main and storm jib and we were charging at 9 knots, so I dropped all the way down to 3 reefs which would only produce 4.5-5 knots and then about 15 minutes later decided 2 reefs would be best. We've been averaging 6.9 knots which is almost too fast for the sea state going close hauled. Occasionally we launch off a wave at 8-9 knots and crashing back down and into the next wave is not too pleasant. With like 4000-6000 miles to go in this trip we need to minimize the crashing for both our sanity and the sake of not breaking gear.

Based on the weather models we downloaded this morning, it looks like we'll sail a course of 355T until 20N then veer slightly to the east until 28N where I hope we will be sailing due east on the bottom edge of a low until about Midway island and from there who knows. Anyway that's my 10 day plan to be in the vicinity of Midway Island. Unfortunately, we can't rest at Midway or any of the other nice islands on the end of the Hawaiian chain as they are off limits to any stops.

That's it for now.

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