Leg 1 - 2013, Update 1
May 9, 2013
1030 hrs, 36.49 S, 174.46 E, Log: 161,979 miles
Baro: 1010.1, Cabin Temp: 65 F cockpit 67 F, sea water 65.8 F
Westhaven Marina, Auckland
NEARLY READY TO START OUR 23RD SEASON OF SAIL-TRAINING!
Our Leg 1, Auckland to Tahiti crew came aboard from 4-6 PM yesterday so that we could start our safety briefing and collect passports and in just two hours they’ll be back to come aboard for the expedition.
We have a real bonus awaiting them at 2PM, when Bob McDavitt, recently retired from MetService NZ will come aboard and personally give us all a weather briefing for the generally always challenging passage to Tahiti. Bob literally wrote the book (Mariner’s MetPak, SW Pacific) on regional marine weather, and we always learn from his briefings.
We’ve just received our passage forecast from www.commandersweather.com and CLICK HERE to view that.
May 13, 2013
2230 hrs, 31.02 S, 178. 15 W, Log: 162,504 miles
Baro: 990.0, Cabin Temp: 71F, cockpit: 65F, seawater: 71.8F
Close-reaching under triple-reefed main and headsail @ 6 kts in ESE winds 25-40 kts, confused seas
OFF TO A ROUGH START!
Leaving Auckland was a breeze. The friendly and efficient customs inspectors were aboard and cleared us out quickly at 0830 and we slipped our lines, hoisted sails and set a course down the Waitamata Harbour while Amanda covered hoisting and reefing the main. Bob P, our navigator had his hands full plotting courses and waypoints on the paper chart and then logging them into the GPS. The forecast called for moderate winds to start with, followed by a strong wind advisory for squally southerly winds in the afternoon. Sure enough, just before we reached Channel Island, between Great Barrier Island and the Coromandal Peninsula, we were overtaken by a squall with 47 knots and blinding rain.
The on watch crew must have missed the section in our previous day briefing on standing orders when we stressed the importance of alerting us if they observe ominous weather to windward. By the time they reported an approaching weather situation to us below, the rain and wind were nearly upon us. We tucked three reefs in the main and rolled half the headsail in quick succession as an ominous frontal squall struck and all seemed well under control. It was only later when starting to shake out a reef after the system passed that Geoff spotted a buckled section of our external Antal mainsail track, at head height above the gooseneck. Yikes! This would make reefing or unreefing the main impossible unless fixed.
Amanda tried unsuccessfully tapping the buckled section of track in with a hammer and mentioned that a screw in center of the now broken two sections of track had sheared off a few years back. We assume the loading and location of the slides on our new mainsail with its deeper third reef effectively caused the track to buckle at the sheared screw.
“We can’t make repairs in this seaway before dark so we can either return to Auckland or anchor at Great Barrier and see if we can make repairs with what’s onboard or ashore” was Amanda’s assessment. A quick look at the chart showed that Tryphena Harbour was seven miles away, and we’d be able to make the anchorage before dark. I got a relay from maritime radio to advise customs that we needed to stop for repairs, but did not plan on going ashore.
Out expeditious crew soon put on thinking caps. Geoff is a rigger and sailmaker from Hawaii and along with the help of Tom and Bill P we removed, drilled, tapped and screwed the two sections of track back in place. The anchorage was rolly and we were hit with numerous rain squalls. At times the repair zapped all my strength: sitting atop the mainsail, hanging on with my legs and forcing the drill through the thick mast section under headlight while shivering in the wind and rain.
It was midnight by the time the job was complete and dinner had eventually been made and served. We raised anchor with gale warnings posted for winds of 35, gusting 45 knots for the entire east coast of New Zealand. We very briefly considered waiting out the weather but remembered too many years past when departure windows often slam shut for weeks, so we held our breath for our repair, set a triple-reefed main and headed out.
That was Friday night. It’s now Monday night (Tuesday night if the dateline which we passed yesterday is counted) and we’ve been close hauled in gale to storm force winds much of the time. The most difficult time was the second night out when we spent 18 hours fore-reaching under triple-reefed mainsail alone in headwinds of 35-45 kt squally winds with closely spaced breaking seas on a dark and chilly night.
One glace at our frequently-printing weatherfax charts instantly tells the story. There was (and still is) a 934 low to the SE of us and a 1034 high to the NW, just N of Cook Strait. The isobars are stacked up like cordwood, and this is the perfect example of a powerful squash zone.
We did have a sunny warm break yesterday, and when winds lightened and the sun shone we shook out all the reefs for a few hours. Three of us enjoyed showers on the aft deck and Amanda even got the fishing lines out. We also had an excellent marine weather class and a tasty lunch before conditions slowly worsened.
Back on Thursday Bob McDavitt mentioned a low that might come down from Fiji, crossing our course, but it seemed a long way off. Now that low is bearing down on us, and has elongated into an E-W orientation with strong E winds on the S side of it and 25-35 kt W and SW winds on the N side. Commanders Weather did a great job of calling this system and came to the same conclusion we did from looking at the GRIB charts: we need to get N of the trough line axis and into the favorable winds as quickly as possible.
Click HERE to read Commanders’ Weather forecast.
Sounds simple, right? Just turn N (instead of ENE, the course to Rurutu) and pick up the following winds. Only problem is, the Kermadec Islands, a chain of mostly-uninhabited rocks and islands, lies directly in our course. All day long we sailed as closehauled as possible to clear one rock, only to decide to fall off and pass to leeward of it once our clearance looked to be less than six miles.
We are now heading due North and should clear Maculey Island sometime around dawn. The great news is that the winds are forecasted to clock around to the SE, SW, and W starting around dawn tomorrow, and we are no longer close hauled, so life is a little easier aboard all be it in 30 knot squalls.