Monday, April 28, 2014

Are we on a boat or a roller coaster?

Despite our toasts to Poseidon both when we left Ixtapa and when we could no longer see land I think I pissed him off with that last blog post.  Poseidon, I am sorry, you are all powerful.  The sea can be fierce and we have unfortunately seen a little bit of that over the last few days. 

Although, what we have seen is nowhere near true storm conditions, for the last 72 hours we have been getting winds approaching or above 20kts and seas of 8-10+ feet.  The worst part is that the swell period is extremely short.  The measurement "period" is akin to the wavelength if you have ever taken a physics course -- it is the distance from the top of one wave to the top of the next.  When the period is short by the time you come down off of one wave there is very little time, if any, for you and the boat to recover before you begin your ascent again.  I do not want to worry everyone, Moments has done very well and we are safe.  

The major problem has been that the waves, combined with the higher force winds have been too much for the Monitor windvane and we have had to hand steer.  Hand steering, especially through waves like that, is exhausting.  The first day we got into a routine of one hour shifts which was about as long as I could manage to keep the boat pointed in the right direction.  Luckily, the previous day I had made a huge pot of vegetable soup and baked some bread so we at least didn't have to spend our precious sleeping time cooking meals.  

We have experienced similar conditions before coming down the Baja peninsula, but for those shorter trips of 2-3 days there was a light at the end of the tunnel; we just exhausted ourselves hand steering and then slept soundly at anchor.  This time, after one whole day of one hour hand steering shifts we knew that there was no way we were going to be able to sustain that pattern through the night and the next day, after which it looked like the weather was going to change. 

Lets just say that I now know how Popeye got such big biceps, and trust me it wasn't the spinach.  So, what did we do?  We hove to.  Heaving to is a magical sailing technique that allows you to essentially park the boat at a "comfortable" angle to the wind and the waves.  Once you achieve the correct angle and lock down the wheel all you need to do is keep a watch to make sure you don't get run down by a tanker.  Yes, you do drift a little but we actually drifted directly towards Hawaii, making progress when we weren't even intending to move!  

Adam and I both got a good night's rest and we were back to sailing this morning under much more favorable conditions.  We have actually passed the half way mark today so it is all down hill from here.  Or should I say down wind? (Corny, I know, maybe the sleep has gone to my head.)

1500 miles to go!