As we approach the two-thirds marker on our Pacific Ocean crossing we are reminded about how unpredictable things are on these oceans. Whereas we had near perfect trade wind sailing conditions for our first thousand miles, the second thousand has been filled with squalls, bigger seas, and very variable winds. The moments we dread the most, by far, are the occasional sudden calms, which wreak havoc on our sails, halyards, and rigging. Winds can die in a matter of seconds, whereas the seas take hours to calm down. The combination of little or no wind plus the residual big sea state causes the boat to rock back and forth with empty sails, which leads to violent slamming of the boom and slapping back and forth of the sails. We’ve snapped two halyards, put a 20 foot tear in our screecher (big lightwind sail), and ripped a critical grommet out of our mainsail, almost all of it, surprisingly, thanks to the absence of wind and the flapping sails that go along with it. We’ve fortunately been able to repair all of these problems without material delay… a skill we’ve worked hard to develop over the past 18 months, and which we’ll continue trying to perfect until the day we give up on the sailboat thing (meaning probably never).
Unfazed by our routine mechanical problems and less predictable weather conditions, we’ve continued plowing forward at a 175 mile per day average. Our speeds are noticeably faster than they were on our Atlantic crossing and we’re taking a more direct route to our destination thanks partially to better conditions and partially to improved sail management. We are running more sails in more advanced configurations, running deeper on the wind (wind further behind), and being more aggressive with our sail area in heavier winds, all of which is helping us achieve speeds that are 20-40 miles faster per day than we could previously. The people we owe a thank-you to for our progress lately are Steve and Linda Dashew (well respected authors and designer of our boat)…. their books are letting us take Panama Canal sized shortcuts in our learning curve and shouldn’t be missed by anyone new to the hobby of sailing across the world’s big oceans (see e.g. Practical Seamanship…. although we think a better title would have been “The Holy Grail”).
With a few nights of clear skies we’ve been taking advantage of our extreme remoteness and doing things impossible in a city, like staring deep into the Milky Way, finding the constellations and planets, and watching the phosphorescent bulbs that light up as we carve through the sea, leaving an incredible visible trail of light behind (similar in appearance to the Milky Way above). In the process of our stargazing we’ve gained a new appreciation for the pre-GPS sailors who managed to navigate to all corners of the Earth using only the sun, the stars, and celestial measurement tools…. we have a book on the subject and will hopefully be diving into it before the distraction known as “land” once again appears in our lives.
We’ve been lucky on the fishing front, with excessive amounts of fresh Mahi Mahi, an all-you-can-eat supply of suicidal calamari squids that land on our deck each night, and now our first Wahoo, which is officially our new favorite fish! Forecast is calling for some sunny and slightly calmer weather, meaning we’ll be digging even further into the sail locker for our biggest sails as we try to keep our speeds up during our final week of this crossing.