Slowing her down

Written by David Townsend

13, May 2007

Position 08°27’894S 098°17’194W

Pacific Ocean.

Hi dear friends, thank you for following my journey. Here is this week’s update.

The first few days out from the Galapagos Islands were as expected, very light, flaky winds. This meant a lot of hand steering and the use of the autopilot, which in turn would mean very little sleep for the first 36hrs or so.

Life Onboard:
An amazing feeling to pick up the trade winds, to think I am following in the wake of sailors of time’s gone bye, like Captain Wallis (RN) in 1767 while searching for the great Southern Continent, followed shortly thereafter by Captain Cook on an expedition to observe the sun’s eclipse by Venus. Next came Captain Bligh on the ‘Bounty’ in 1788. It was the charms of Tahiti that were among the causes of the mutiny. I will check the latter out for myself and let you know about that when I get there, should be around middle of June.

When we reached 1 degree 6 minutes South the winds steadied to a reasonable 10 – 12kn, as my plan was to sail South this would be ideal for I could use the wind vane. The wind vane likes 12kts at around 60 degrees off the wind, increasing the further off the wind you go especially abaft the beam. At 120 degrees she likes 16kts plus to hold a good course.

At 2 degrees 50 minutes South the winds came round and increased to 25kn gusting 29kn, not the normal strength of the trades, that being around 17kts. In these conditions Pinta is at home however I had to slow her down for we were doing over 9kn.

Here there is the Pacific swell runs from the ESE with a 2 metre in height swell, the frequency (distance between a two waves) is around 100 metres. With winds of around 25kn a short two metre swell running from the SE had developed. The Pacific swell being on the beam, often they would meet, hitting me on either the beam or forwards / aft of the beam depending how the wind vane was doing at that time. This causes either the bow or stern to be swing off course by around 25 degrees, the bow’s okay because she can only luff up, then bare away back down however the stern is a different story for this could cause Pinta to becoming close to a gybe, the wind vane dose not have enough time to recover at these speeds.

By slowing her down to around 7.5kn not only did the wind vane have enough time to bring her back but also the amount spray caused by waves hitting Pinta’s beam was reduced. I could not believe how wet she was, I think for the first time I can remember I spent more time below decks than topside during this ‘interesting’ weather period.

The ideal sailing position would be a broad reach but I cannot hold this because of the above so I have been on a reach for two days, well during the nights really, during the day I keep a careful eye on the sea and when possible come around to a broad reach.

For those sailors among you I am sailing more Southerly than Westerly, the South Equatorial Current first flows NW around the Galapagos area then Westerly. I hope by sailing this course the current, wind permitting me to hold this course will bring Pinta around by the time we reach there.

Covered 168.2Nm in the past 24hrs.

It was, I believe during the interesting weather mentioned above that the Norwegian sailing vessel ‘Sailabout’, a thirty plus footer got in to difficulties. The crew abandoned ship at approx 05°56s 100°49w after loosing its mast. It is now adrift and a hazard to navigation.

Obviously I do not know the full facts behind the events and every such event is different, to me losing your mast does not warrant an abandoning of the vessel however in saying that, the state of ones mind at that time, the state of the sea at that time, there may have been other issues. Only the person with the responsibility to make that decision, at that time can judge.

This is always a frustrating time for any vessel in the vicinity for they would offer assistance, why frustrating, well;

You need to have your marine SSB radio on all the time so to be able to hear the call for help, that, onboard the average sailing vessel is impractical because of the power it uses. That is if indeed you have such a radio onboard, Pinta at this time does not, although I can monitor the marine frequency I cannot talk on them.

I hear that one of the manufactures, Icom have brought out the FT 800 series, which can also be modified to be used as a Amateur radio as well. If this is so I shall look into the possibility of acquiring a ‘used’ unit. I can then remove my current Amateur radio and use that radio for both jobs. Live onboard is always a balance either space, which is my problem, and, or power requirements.

I was, I believe around 100Nm on a bearing of 10 degrees true from them, at the speed I was doing at that time I could been there in a little over 10hrs (9.4kn), at least I could have, well who knows!

This vessel is known to me, my thoughts are with them. I hope by now they all safe and well out of harms way.

On a lighter note (Jeremy) the fishing, so far had been excellent, a nice 30 – 40lb yellow fin Tuna, which unfortunately I lost just metres away from the stern, In retrospect this probably was a good thing for I would be having tuna for breakfast, lunch and evening meal for the next three weeks (laugh). The following day a much prized Mahi Mahi (that is correct), or also know as a Dolphin fish or Dorado of around 10lb in weight was landed. Within ten minutes it was gutted, filleted and in the freezer section of my little fridge.

That evening (Friday) I dinned on a lightly grilled Mahi Mahi fillet, sprinkled with a few delicate herbs, served with good old English style chips, a light sprinkling of salt, a dash of Balsamic vinegar, shortly followed by a chilled fruit salad, okay so that came out of a tin, wow was that the finishing touch, em or perhaps it was the cold beer, either way a very pleasant evening was had.

I find so far the ‘Cedar plug’ to most effective, I have two sizes onboard. The small one around 14cm in length has so many teeth marks in it, it works well however when you have enough of playing at fishing, you want to get serious, just bring the BIG one, a nice 22cm version.

The Boat:
No problems to report other than I have tried to keep busy by cleaning one teak panel a day then oiling it however that was short lived for the cockpit is now constantly under heavy spray from waves crashing on the beam.

Whoops, last quick update the fishing line going again, another Mahi Mahi this time around 8lb, a fish everyday since I started fishing some three days ago.

Fair winds and calm seas.