Friday, April 8, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 9 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 8, 2016
05 deg. 13.9 min. North
123 degrees 55.9 min. West
Wind ENE at 10 knots
Sea conditions ENE swell 5'
Sky condition 100% overcast

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 144.5 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 1420 nautical miles*
Total distance remaining: 1267 nautical miles*

Last night was fine until we caught up to a line of squalls with imbedded thunderstorms that was ahead of Moonshadow as we sailed on an almost due south heading. The line ran 45 miles from East to West, and our course intersected the dead center. These storms have none of the ferocity of the squalls we saw in Panama, but after those experiences, we have no interest in deliberately sailing under clouds with lightning above. So, we first tried to out run this mess by sailing 20 miles west but watched as the bulk of the storms were traveling west along with us. Rather than attempt an upwind detour 20 miles to the East, we hove to (basically, we stopped) and watched a movie for two hours while the weather continued to the west.

Welcome to the Doldrums! What the above position report does not say is we started the engine at 2000 zulu today, an hour after the data was taken, because the wind completely went dead calm. It has stayed that way for the last 8 hours, 6 of which have also featured constant rain. Before the rain we had time to repair a batten (a fiberglass stiffener that lives inside the mainsail) that had worked it's way out of the car that slides up the mast. At 20 feet long and bearing the weight of the sail on top of it, this is a bit of work, but now it's all fixed. The effort used up the last of John's energy after being up most of the night with the squalls etc. so he took a long nap today and is back in full form. That's why this report is late though.

Another movie tonight. We thought Nicholas Cage in "Bad Lieutenant" would be a good pick when we saw the film at the Wednesday Market in La Cruz, but came away with nothing but the following advice for our friends: Don't watch it! Ugh.

Each morning, at 1400 zulu, we report Moonshadow's position and copy the locations of about a dozen other boats on the Pacific Puddle Jump SSB Radio Net. This is an informal session on HF radios where we all check in and share weather etc. Some days we hear nothing but static, and others, like the last two days, we have much better reception. The boats participating are mostly those who've left from Mexico, but today we learned of a boat that will be leaving from San Diego tomorrow. Some of the boats on the net are those that left a week before Moonshadow and are now getting close to landfall. A few have arrived there which is exciting to hear and realize this all comes to an end one day.

That is not meant to imply that we aren't enjoying this experience, we really are. Many times we've had to pinch ourselves in the realization that we are really here executing the central part of a plan we've dreamed of for over 40 years. In fact, while this passage is the longest single passage most cruisers will ever do, it is broken into distinct phases which helps mark the time: The breakaway from Mexico can be difficult if the departure doesn't coincide with good wind along Mexico's mainland coast. Before our departure, we listened on the morning radio net to boats that left before and were stuck for days in very light wind there. We had some of the best sailing of the trip in that phase, zooming along watching the knot meter read 9, 10, 11, & 12 knots. Next is the trade winds phase. This is the part where the wind is well established and affected more by the Pacific High Pressure centered between Honolulu and the mainland, than by local weather along the Central American coast. The trade winds blow day and night with little change in direction or velocity, and as the name applies trade winds were exploited by the old merchant sailing ships. This is the phase that had Moonshadow rolling so much. The trades eventually are replaced by Easterly winds that become more variable. The next phase is the ITCZ or Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, which features the squalls we've seen. Then there is the Doldrums where we are now and will be for who knows how long. It remains something of a guessing game to know how wide the doldrums will be. Our weather router, Bob Cook has picked the spot for us to enter and exit the doldrums which has the best chances for a fast crossing. Finally there will be the phase where we break out of the Doldrums and sail straight to the Islands with SE trade winds driven by a South Pacific High Pressure centered off of South America. Then one day, looming in the distant horizon will be an island right on Moonshadow's bow: Landfall! Can't wait to see which island that is…

Along the way, we get to celebrate personal milestones like the halfway point, crossing the equator, and eventually landfall! Moonshadow and crew are doing fine and all is well here!


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