Sunday, 4 May 2014

Into the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ICTZ)

Much deliberation on the ITCZ crossing. We do a mini-net on the SSB daily with a boat about 120 nm away from us who has employed a weather router ashore. He forwards on the weather router's advice. However, we have been tracking the ICTZ with GRIBs, weather faxes and satellite pictures and our best estimate differed from the dated email from the weather router. So ... we gybed over to a mostly southerly course at about 11N 124W aiming for our expected ICTZ start of 7N 125W. As of writing this we are at 7 54'N 124 31W and no ITCZ yet but certainly the puffy little cumulus have more vertical development verging on squalls. They are causing lots of wind shifts but no squalliness yet. From the weather fax 24, 48 and 72 forecasts looks like the ICTZ will be moving north so hopefully with our southern course we will have a short passage from the convergence zone. Should know in a few days ...

Johnathan and I (Max) have been practicing our celestial navigation with daily sunsights with the awesome old sextant than Wendall (Liz's dad) has lent us. Johnathan has done a great job as the navigator's yeoman recording times and observed angles. Once through the ITCZ looking forward to trying some star and planet sights as well.

Our investments in energy management (wind, solar, Honda generator plus reducing demand with LED's, low power electronics, reefer insulation) seem to be paying off so far. We have run the engine for a few hours to charge the batteries and make hot water and then topped them off yesterday with the Honda. I have also been playing with the gain on the new autopilot to calm it down too. It was doing an excellent job of staying on the selected wind angle but it was trying too hard. Of course, with the Sun so high (83 degrees at meridian passage) in the sky we will get less solar once we get further south but it is sure nice seeing those free amps pouring in. So far no use of the engine for propulsion. Nice to have a lot of diesel onboard though in case we need it.

Despite the length of the passage there has been no time to get bored. As always with a boat there is no lack of maintenance. Fluenta has been good to us but we need to do our part. We are constantly on the lookout for new noises, chafe and the like. I emptied the big lazerette and took apart part of our bed to chase down noises from the new autopilot. The autopilot was fine but the autopilot mount was slowly working loose. I have tightened it and if necessary we can hove to and reinforce it with fiberglass. The bolts that hold the vang to the boom also were loosening off so I have tightened them and if they reoffend then locktight them in place. The sails are doing well so far with only one little hole in the main from chafe on the boom furler and that already has a temporary repair in place. The Automatic Identification System (AIS) has also died but all our troubleshooting from that has confirmed that the unit itself is dead and in emails with the company it is beyond repair onboard. Impressive turn around on emails from the manufacturer, Vesper, and they have said that if we ship it when we arrive they will have it shipped back in time to meet us in French Polynesia somewhere. The AIS is not mission critical and certainly not in such a low traffic density and good visibility area as here but we are missing having it keeping us company on watch. The new autopilot and chartplotter are working out well and reducing our workload. Also, the many hours on reworking much of our mainsail in-boom furler (Furlboom) has paid off as it has been cooperating with the frequent reef/unreefs we do each day. Glad we had a chance to do about 5000 nm in Fluenta last year to work out many of the bugs.

The sailing has mostly been broad reaching under main and genoa although we have had some good spinnaker runs during the day. Today with the winds from about 15 to 20 knots true wind speed it was a boisterous broad reach south.

Fishing: we enjoyed our fish so far. Some big fish down there. Twice our line have been violently snapped despite the bungee system and the 110 or 200 lb test line. Not sure how we would get a fish that big in anyway ...

That's all for now ...

Max

PS: As preparing to send this on the SSB/Pactor still with 18 to 22 kts TWS and a few squalls with lightening around. Now at 7 03N 124 31 W. We are doing good speed due south to get through this region as quickly as reasonable.
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At 5/3/2014 7:57 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 07°36.00'N 124°41.00'W

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