June 1, 2011

Beat the Clock and Dodge Squall--game day on Ceilydh

I was semi-reclined on the settee, blanket over my shoulders, ipod on (listening to the Decemberists, The King is Dead my new fav album...), staring into the starry darkness. Wait. Where did the stars just go?
Our sudden acceleration from a sedate 6 to 8, 10, 12 knots was the clue. And before discovering if there was enough wind in the squall to push us up to 14 knots I was outside--blowing the mainsheet and then the Genoa sheet then bearing off for good measure. Looking up, I noticed a postage-stamp sized cloud squatting over us--blowing its own personal gale then offering up enough rain to float an ark. It hadn't been anywhere on the radar when I checked 10 minutes ago--but now as I checked again I saw a large C-shaped menace curving across our path.

"How do they do that?" I asked Evan who had been roused by the commotion. How do those little tiny clouds materialize out of nowhere then grow into big 'ol squalls, right over our heads... Twenty minutes later, on the other side of the squall, we unfurled the Genoa and were on our way, heading right direction again. But the squall, which had disappeared again, had sucked up all the wind and we were left loafing at 4 knots.

The problem is four knots isn't gonna cut it. We're in a race to get through the pass at Makemo during slack current (or at least slow current) and before the sun is too low. If we don't hold at least 6.5 knots for the next 80, 70 now 60 miles, we're going to find ourselves heaving to just off a coral atoll in squally weather. And squalls, as I've noted, are a lot more work than a peaceful night's sleep at anchor. And we're ready for a peaceful night's sleep.

Timing landfall is always a tricky thing. Once you're sailing than a couple of day's distance the variables stack up and all you can do is guess. We try to base landfall on our average speed--but if we're well over or under our average, or if we need to arrive during a small window it all becomes more complex. Add the fact that we don't really have any sort of back-up harbour to go to and you can see the problem.

So we're playing Beat the Clock--the prize is a cozy night in bed...

S 15 44
W 143 08
57 miles to go (sung to the tune of Old Bus Driver Speed up a Little Bit)

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