Thursday, 19 May 2016

NZ to Fiji - Day 5 - Shifty winds

Hello,

0500L 19 May 2016

I will keep this short, as Victoria is on watch with/for me. We woke her at 0400 to stand watch with me so that I have an extra set of hands if/when Benjamin wakes up. Yesterday, he woke as I went on watch at this time and stayed awake! It is nice that Victoria and Johnathan have different rhythms: depending on when we need the extra help, we can call on the one who likes to be awake in the late evening or the one who likes early mornings :) Victoria is keeping a close eye on the wind, as we are motoring, and if it comes back up with any strength we will sail again.

It has been that kind of day - the wind was forecast to drop off around noon, but we still had 6-16 kts until well after midnight. Each time it dipped, we wondered if *this* was the end and we would have to start the engine, then a few minutes later, it would build back up to well over 10 kts. We have generally had the wind behind us (and in fact, we used the poled-out genoa for much of the day) but it came forward in the evening (causing us to stow the pole before dark), then fell back behind us again overnight (causing us to wish that we still had it out). If we have any wind in the morning, I suspect we will raise it again, but we decided to "make do" without it overnight, as it is heavy and awkward to maneuver... Miriam stayed up for both of our overnight watches: she came on with me in the late evening, then stayed up through Max's midnight-4am watch. It was good to have an extra pair of eyes/hands, as we were "hand steering with the autopilot". In other words, we were keeping the autopilot on wind-hold, but then we were tweaking the direction in order to keep ourselves on course as the wind shifted. Why didn't we use "auto" to keep it on one course? The winds were so shifty that we couldn't always hold our desired course, so the boat sailed better when we kept it on wind-hold. It kept us on our toes to continually calculate between the true wind direction, the apparent wind direction and the course over ground to keep ourselves on the fastest course towards our way-point. Although the seas got a bit lumpy and confused by midnight (in time for Max to come on watch), we had pretty settled conditions, and at times were charging/surfing down our rhumb line with 15 kts of wind, and the swell, behind us. Hand steering would also have been an option, but in the fluky winds, it seemed more prudent to let "Sammy" drive.

Why all this effort to steer a fast course? We are hoping to get to Minerva Reef ahead of some heavy (or at least heavier) weather and big swells. This means that we need to get to the reef entrance when the light is high (ie approx mid-day) as we are back into waters with lagoon entrances, bombies, and sketchy charts. We will have a person standing at the bow as we enter the reef and cross to the anchorage. If we miss our window, it is likely that we would have to keep heading straight for Fiji. We are all pretty motivated to make the window!!

That's about all the news for tonight. Everyone is in good spirits, but we will be glad to get there!

Good timing, as Benjamin is calling me ... it's 5:30 and he is ready to go on-watch for the day!

Love,
Elizabeth
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At 2016-05-14 4:23 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 27°45.98'S 179°09.43'E
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At 2016-05-14 10:26 PM (utc) SV Fluenta's position was 27°14.24'S 179°22.85'E

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