Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Its getting cold out here

Things are still going well on the SV Moments.  We are dried out, aired out and still making good progress.  We were becalmed for the first time yesterday and had to motor for a while.  Now the wind has picked back up and we are again headed north.

One of the biggest challenges of this particular voyage is the weather.  Although Adam and I are far from experts, we have learned quite a bit about marine weather systems and weather predicting this year.  From Hawaii to Seattle we head through what sailors used to call the horse latitudes.  This area of relatively light winds earned its name when sailing vessels in the past got stuck here, ran out of water, and had to throw the horses overboard because they had died or in an attempt to lighten the load and sail faster.  Although we do have plenty of bacon and cold cuts aboard we decided to shy away from livestock so lightening our load is not possible unless our crew member decides he would like to go for an extended swim :) 

Unlike the sailors of yesteryear, we also have the advantage of a diesel engine which we have run for a total of 15 hours since leaving Kauai.  To put this in perspective, we only motored about 20 hours total on our way from Mexico to Hawaii; today, we have almost reached that mark and are not even 1/3 of the way to Seattle.  We have heard from a number of boats making this same trip and they have all motored more than expected.  It seems like in this year of extreme weather (remember that cold winter you had? It is all, most likely, connected) and el nino conditions the northern Pacific weather systems are not behaving as they typically do.

I have mentioned this before, but sitting in the middle of the northern Pacific, right on the rhumb line between Hawaii and Seattle, is a cold mass of air called the Great Pacific High.  The name is a little misleading because often there can be more than one high, but every year from June to September the High condenses, stabilizes, and moves south.  This enables us to get up and around it on our trip to Seattle.  Why do we have to go around it?  Well, not only is it cold inside the High, but there is no wind.  As a sailboat, no wind is a big problem.  There is no way we can carry enough fuel to motor through the High, the main body of which is well over 600 miles in diameter.  I say the main body because, surprise, surprise, this year there are multiple highs and they keep moving around! 

Using our SSB radio we download weather information at least twice a day and try to make course decisions to the best of our ability.  NOAA supplies all of this information for free and we use antiquated technology (basically a slow fax machine) to receive the charts via transmissions from Honolulu, Kodiak and Pt. Reyes.  Much to our chagrin, in the last few days a new high has formed and is moving towards us from the west as we try to avoid the even larger high to the east.  Over the next few hours/days we will be trying to thread the needle, praying that we can get north of the primary high and finally start to turn towards Seattle.  However, if we get stuck I don't think we will starve as yesterday we caught so many mahi-mahi that we ended up throwing most of them back!