1. Hawaii to New Caledonia – dodging the hurricanes

Jul 23, 2009 to July 31, 2009:

On July 16, ADAGIO’s population increased again when we were joined by Leo Foley, Commodore of the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania (Hobart, Tasmania), and fellow OCC sailors Penelope and George Curtis (Oxfordshire, UK).

We’ve had eleven days in Hawaii to prepare for the passage to New Caledonia via Western Samoa. Admiral Dorothy has been performing actual miracles provisioning ADAGIO so we will have fresh and yummy food for five people for a passage that could easily take more than three weeks. As we did for the San Francisco to Hawaii passage, we have converted our freezer to function as a cool-store veggie box. The freezer function for meat has been reassigned to the bottom drawer of the fridge. So we have lots of cubics for fresh veggies. We shall keep you informed on whether we are digging out the tinned green beans as the passage is ending.

Isn’t passage-making mostly about good food? We think so, and from our time together here at Ko Olina, Oahu, it seems that George, Leo and Penelope agree. So we are all looking forward to more-cooks-in-the-galley (and Steve is looking forward to more-dishwashers-in-the-galley). The Bosch dishwasher has defied heroic efforts to restore it to full health — entirely due to the challenge of servicing 240VAC/50Hz appliances in the land of 120VAC/60Hz. Parts are non-obtanium and service techs are either much-too-busy or not-willing-to-work-on-boats or we-don’t-do-240-volt.

The mainsail batten pockets have been reworked by North Sails Hawaii, who somehow managed to get our main onto the loft floor in spite of Honolulu rapidly filling up with Transpac race boat arrivals. “THE LIST” of maintenance items that MUST BE DONE is done. All we need now is reasonable weather to sail the 3,400 rhumb line nautical miles to Noumea with a shot at a peaceable equator crossing and as little ungentlemanly upwind sailing as we can arrange. We expect to sail a good bit further than the rhumb line for the usual reasons, including a stopover at Apia in Western Samoa, managing the ocean currents and winds that don’t seem to have read our optimum routing plan, finding a narrowish waist in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), and missing a number of lovely tropical islands and rocky bits that clutter the ocean between here and there.

As we studied the patterns of tropical storms and cyclones heading our way, ADAGIO’s long-time weather router/consultant Rick Shema has been a big help. In July, the risk of these storms being dangerous (if they make it to Hawaii) is typically not very high. That said, if the Tropical Prediction Center (National Hurricane Center) is forecasting a named storm to intersect our planned track, then we prefer to sail into the not-yet-known risks. Recently the intensity of convection in the equatorial region west of us went from relatively quiet to relatively active/high. Which means more squalls, thunderstorms and just generally not-nice weather ahead. We are watching for predictions of a quieter convection phase on our planned route to Western Samoa.

cyclone dodging.jpg

We are also dealing with an intensifying El Nino, which is not what we want for the passage, but it is what we’ve got. As Rick noted via email:

El Nino implies higher that normal sea surface temps in equatorial EPAC and lighter trades there. Also, enhanced convection and precip in central North Pacific waters. There is a correlation with increased tropical cyclone activity in EPAC. About three times normal.

By July 21st the convection on our track is moderating a bit, and the approaching cyclones look to be offering us a “passing lane” to get out of Hawaii before the next TC gets organized. So we firm up the departure date/time with Rick so he has time to prepare a WX departure package for us.

On Thursday July 23rd we take on a full load diesel fuel at Ko Olina Marina, which with a full day tank, is almost 1,600 litres. It is impossible to predict on a long passage how much motorsailing we may want to do. So Skipper Steve reckons the least-worst-choice is to push the weight of maybe-not-needed fuel along, rather than get stuck in a hole sailing at 3 kn for a week because we don’t wish to risk our reserve fuel in order to scoot out of the hole. By 1000 we are underway into about 7kn of true wind from 150T — i.e., a light headwind. As we sail out of U.S. waters, we are motorsailing under full main and jib, easy sailing at 6 to 7kn into one meter seas.

With a few squalls and visiting boobies, these will be our conditions until around 0900 on the 24th, when the true wind has built to 17 kn and we are Rocketing along on a tight reach. Seas are down from the overnight light winds, but are building quickly now that we have steady 17-18kn TWS. With luck wind will starting backing soon so we’ll get aligned with the bumps. We’re starting to reach the upper wind limits of the reacher – will have to head off a bit if wind builds further.

Following are a few tidbits from ADAGIO’s log:

July 24, 2009

1039 This is good tradewind sailing. We furled the reacher and set the jib. Boat speed down a knot, but much more comfortable ride. Full main sail. Booby continues to circle the boat, landing on the eyebrow awnings occasionally. Outdoor temperature is 82 deg F. Blue sky with cumulus all around and some showers off in the distance. The deepwater buoy Y”51003” is due west of us at 34 nm distance. High cirrus clouds in the north astern of us. We need a diamond shaped yellow sign saying “Boobies aboard”.. Our booby has perched on the starboard bow pulpit and is preening its feathers, enduring occasional spray from the sea.

1350 Comfortable under jib and full main. Third boobie aboard, liking the spray on pulpit.

1444 Spoke to fishing boat passing close to starboard, heading to Hawaii with his catch. Booby departed.

1603 Change apparent wind angle ( AWA) from 70 down to 80 – noticeably better ride.

July 25, 2009

0924 Our red-footed booby has moved to the port stern pulpit. He/she preens feathers full-time. Seas are still a bit confused; sun is shining; mixed clouds of fair weather cumulus ahead; cumulus and stratus on our port side and astern. All crew members come up for breakfast and visiting. Two-hour long watches is certainly wonderful. We are all rested and enjoying the ride. Outdoor temperature is 81 deg F. We are passing through an area of many seamounts with names such as Hassayampa Seamount, Monsoon Seamount and Sea Dragon Ridge.

1950 We received an update from Rick Shema advising us to travel to longitude 175 W before turning south through the ITCZ. So we have furled the jib and unfurled the reacher to alter our course to more westerly. We changed the next two way points from 170 W to 175 W. New course to steer is 241 degrees.

2151 Quiet watch; smoother ride; reacher doing its work

July 26, 2009

0359 We are sailing under full main and reacher. TWS varies from 17 to 21 kts; boat speed varies from 9 to 12 kts. Our red-footed booby is sleeping on the port stern pulpit this evening. All is steady: wind speed, boat speed. Seas are not so rough as during the day. A little lightning in the sky off our port stern in the distance. It is a very black night. Radar is clear. 733 nm to our turnig point before we head south across the ITCZ.

0511 We just surfed at 16.5 kts. Not sure what the true wind speed (TWS) was, but as soon as we stopped surfing the TWS was 18 kts.

0925 With a steady TWS of 20 knots, and our boat speed 11+ knots, I came down 10 degrees to 150 degrees apparent wind speed (AWA) on the pilot.

1218 Put 4th reef into mainsail with boom 24” above the coach roof. Furled nicely all the way from full hoist to 4th reef. Overtrimmed reacher to partially backwind the main. Main traveler car at centerline. Set jib and reacher wing-on-wing. Very comfortable ride. I discovered that the fourth batten from the top of the mainsail has chaffed through the sail and the chafe tape, from the main sail bearing on the upper shrouds. I stuck on a long piece of Kevlar sticky back sail repair tape on top of the chafe guard tape already on the sail.

1748 Our red-footed booby whom we have named Albert, sat on its perch throughout the sail changes, tolerating noisy electric winches and our movements inside and outside of the cockpit. It’s a brave bird. Occasionally Albert will fly away for food, and then return after about 10 minutes absence. Following seas boost our speed every few minutes as we catch a surfing wave. 637 nm to our turning point when we will head south across the ITCZ.

1757 Under twin headsails, Adagio is enjoying a lovely downwind sail. Albert disgraced himself by chewing the line attaching the webbing to the aft steps and was chased away. He returned briefly whilst the webbing was taped but has now left us. We miss him!

2225 Chasin’ moonbeams (between clouds)

July 27, 2009

0011 Bright stars overhead. Radar is clear. Seas are from astern and regular. ADAGIO has found a comfortable groove with winged out reacher and jib and 4th reef in the mainsail. We are sleeping well. We are on course with 570 nm to go to our waypoint AP1, where we turn south. Still no sign of Albert.

0150 TWD has backed 15 degrees, from 71 deg to 60 deg, so our heading is slightly south of our course to steer. Stars are now covered by clouds.

0401 Quiet watch; stars shining

1041 Still a smooth roller coaster ride with occasional underwing slams. Steady trade winds with following seas. We could not ask for more.

1243 After analyzing the text weather forecast, we decided to head directly for AP2. This will let us avoid an area of thunderstorms that lay across our track to AP1. In addition, by heading SW now, we can make it through a gap in the ITCZ that is located south and southwest of us. I sent an email message to Rick S. describing our analysis. Steve sent a message to Rick describing our altered course. Rick agreed that a southwesterly course is good, and that we should make the best speed possible, within the bounds of comfort.

1303 Sailing under reacher and 4th reefed main.

July 28, 2009

0159 Phosphorescence – we haven’t see that for a while!

0258 TWS up to 25 knots. Rounding up on pilot = NORM, so fall off 10 deg; ease overtrimmed reacher.

0454 Squall overhead at 0440; wind up to 28 briefly, some rain. No problem really. Bear away 10 degrees.

0604 Sunrise just beginning as the clouds are clearing astern. TWS 16 to 23 kts. Boat speed 8 to 13 kts.

0704 How quickly things change. A band of rain clouds is approaching from our port quarter, a bright spot on the radar, bringing more showers, perhaps, or maybe not.

0748 We have entered the region of the ITCZ. The rain clouds passed overhead leaving a rainbow in their wake. No dramas this time.The radar shows more shower clouds coming towards us, but they have very little convection.

0849 Rain squall brought gust of 30 kts. I came down 10 deg AWA to 143.

0932 Sky has cleared. Convection clouds off to port are moving away.

1237 Dodged up to AWA 110 to miss two wet squalls, down to 120 which seems about the right course now.

1624 Wind speed is decreasing and backing. I decreased the AWA to 100, which brought us back on course, then beyond. So I increased the AWA to 105 and we are sailing close to our course. With the wind becoming lighter, the boat is moved around by the waves a bit more.

1730 Full main; fall off 5 deg; ease reacher.

1845 Mainsail first reef taken in and reacher furled to slow down as suggested by Rick.

2006 Steering to SHOAL Waypoint then to new AP2 latitude 00N longitude 169.5W.

July 29, 2009

0202 Tonight we have the brightest display of stars ever. A few lightning flashes off our starboard (stbd) stern in the distance. No threat to us. Sailing under jib and one reef in the main sail. Three more days sailing before we reach the equator, at the present speed.

0354 While watching the stars I saw a plane fly over, high in the sky, lights flashing. TWS from 10 kts to 14 kts.

0600 Stars still shining; quiet watch

0653 Wind headed. Squall 4 miles astern

0839 Set full main + reacher

0954 Huge wind veer

1036 TWS up to 25, furled reacher; set jib. Wind probably due to squall to port

1229 We were triming the reacher with the stbd tweaker, and the double turning block for tweakers on the stbd stern pulled out of the deck. The generator stopped running. Two unrelated events. We furled the reacher.

1442 Underway again, genset fixed, stbd reacher sheet block jury rigged.

1452 Reacher furled; port engine started; wind is dying.

1544 After a couple hours of frantic activity in the hot sun (89 deg F) we all tucked into banana icecream thanks to Dorothy’s gelato ice cream maker! Adagio is underway again all systems go!

1657 Furled main about 4nm before rain squall.

1811 George and Steve have cut out chafe from the port reacher tack line, rigged short piece of hose pipe and used a piece of line to tie off the stbd reacher tack line to prevent chafe.

2004 Port engine temp went to 90C so switched to stbd engine to see if it is the same in this 84F water.

2214 Mostly 5 kts true wind speed, except when a grey cloud passes over the boat and then the TWS increases to 15 – 16 kts. Six or more small cloud targets on the radar to port. Quiet evening. No sails set, motoring as we are expecting some turbulence during the night. Quarter moon and stars shine between the clouds.

2330 The biggest squall came upon us from port aft quarter and port side. Wind speed steady at 20-23 kts, on the nose, so boat speed down to 4 kts. Waves boisterious. Good thing that we have no sail up. No rain, just wind. Big clouds come out at night. Now it’s raining.

July 30, 2009

0030 Wind dropping all the time; no more squals visible on the radar for 20 miles.

0200 A few stars have appeared and the radar is still showing no squalls – a quiet watch

0440 Radar shows no rain. Bright light baring 61 deg and 5 deg above horizon. No radar return. Could it be the reflection of the sun on a sattelite? No. it is a planet; very bright when just above the horizon.

0538 Messages received from and sent to Rick.

1040 Full main and jib

1145 Full main and reacher are driving us smartly over the water at 8 to 9 ktsw.

1726 Squall at 1700 meant reacher furled, and motor sailing. Wind did not return to previous strength after the squall had passed.

1831 Line squall with heavy rain flattened seas, and crew happy to be motor sailing. After, put 1 reef in main. 30 minutes later, 12 kn true encouraged the reacher again. Nice! 7+ knots boat speed and feels good.

July 31, 2009

0034 Line of rain squalls 12 nm to starboard – about 8 squalls.

0114 Prepare for squalls – furl reacher, 1st-reefed main to centerline. Reefed upwind in about 10 AWS. Switch pilot to compass steering.

0135 Squalls petered out at our position. 35deg veer but TWS maxed at 16 for first squall. Now there is a line of squalls.

0319 Motor-sailing; Large squall passed across our bow. Now clear, but wind only 8-9 knots.

0400 Motorsailing under the Milky Way. First reef in the main sail. Headsails furled. There is a squall on the radar, 12 nm ahead off our port bow. I’ll keep an eye on it. We are still monitoring the genset every 30 minutes. . Urgent message on the Inmarsat C terminal: “TROPICAL STORM LANA NEAR 13.3N 144.6W AT 0900 UTC JUL 31 MOVING W OR 285 DEG AT 17 KT.” Our position is latitude 3 deg 53′ N longitude 170 deg 59.6 ‘ W.

0447 Squall 3 nm off our port bow. I have headed up 20 deg to try to miss it.

0746 Reacher set; speed increased to 9kts.

0833 Changed to jib.

1751 Conditions stable, no sail changes, beautiful afternoon excellent visibility. Two white morph boobies landed on the sea nearby and gave us a lovely aerial display before flying away. No squalls since dawn.

2121 No squalls on radar, wind has backed/lifted about 20° in last 2 hours – makes the ride noticeably better.

2334 Quiet watch under a (not quite) full moon.

More to follow, next we cross the Equator…

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