Friday, July 20, 2012

Day 3- Data versus Faith versus Luck

Time: 2200 Zulu (noon Hawaii time)
Position: 13-deg 45-min S 166-deg 37-min W
Wind: ESE 13 Seas: E 7-ft
Avg. Course: 267-deg T
Avg. Speed: 4.0-knots
Rig: 80% jib, whisker-poled out
24-hr distance noon to noon: 95.5-nm
Distance to Apia: 205-nm

Since we had only been slowly sailing through the morning, just after yesterday's noon point we raised the main to its triple reef. After being passed ahead by a squall we jibed back to port tack in its wake of very light winds to get back to our most efficient cruise track line. The afternoon saw lots of cloud building and mostly 12+ knots of wind, however as evening approached, when it peaked up to 20-knots, we dropped the main. In the twilight there was one small lone bird that circled us several times before bravely alighting on our forward pulpit. The boats roll soon had him in flight again, but he persevered and landed again- this time on our dodger mere feet from where Shawn stood watching. Chris' first instinct was, "You're going to let him land and poop all over?" Shawn said, "Yes, he must be tired. Any port in a storm, eh?" And Chris quickly relented feeling magnanimous toward the little guy when he saw him preening and immediately nodding off to sleep regardless of Tao's uncomfortable rolls. We named the lone black bird, "Twilight".

After an apple (still from Hawaii!) tuna and fresh alfalfa sprout dinner, all of which Twilight was uninterested, Chris headed to the bunk, darkness descended like a cloak, and the lightning began to our East. Luckily, it was far enough away that we could not hear thunder. But there was a ton of electrical activity with flashes every 10 seconds or so for nearly an hour and then less frequently but eerily closer for the hour following. Amid flashes of light, Twilight took off and was gone after a mere 3-hrs of rest (and yes, he did leave us a little splatter of bird poop). With him, the lightning and wind also disappeared. Small breaths of breeze came from the ENE and slowly moved us along, with our now whisker-poled out jib still flogging in the swells. The rest of the night continued light and variable with drier winds filling in lightly from the E, with a smidgeon of S in it as the sun rose. There was 100% cloud cover for over 10-hrs straight as we passed through the zone. Chris had downloaded more weather data around 0200 Hawaii time and Shawn awoke at 0700 to 2-hours of analyses of all the data sources. She scoured and plotted the information for where all the convergence zone, front, trough, ridge(s) had moved and where convection was forecast. At 0900, The Rag morning net came on and the weather guy David from Chameleon, gave us a fill that said we were "smack in the middle of heavy convective activity surrounding Samoa". However, he took some weight off our shoulders when he added that from his IR image the bulk of it looked to be East of us, now in our wake.

Through the morning, clouds disappeared, the sun shone through strongly, and between 14 and 18-knots of easterly winds pushed us along. As the noon point neared, we passed approximately 45-nm due north of Rose Atoll. We discussed weather and decided that there is an important time lag between what a forecaster sees and reports and when we get that data. By the time we get the data, that weather has moved on, we've already been through it, and there are few things that can accurately be forecast for the future. That said, our GFS model GRIBs were right on in their prediction- from that data source as well as hints from our NOAA spot reports, we went into last night knowing we were moving through moisture and convection and feel very lucky to have come through so unscathed. Before leaving on any passage, we collect as much data as is feasible in the time frame (of course one could spend a lifetime studying weather in any particular area) and make conservative choices about our weather windows. Shawn, not a gambler or much on faith (i.e. anything other than data and scientific law), is a strong proponent for as much data as possible, but at some point you just have to believe everything will be okay and along with all of our compiled data, Chris' faith that we would be fine along with a dash of luck were quite important in getting us through the convergence zone, trough, and convective activity that have "popped up" since leaving Suwarrow.

Our noon point showed that Day-3 was quite slow going, but also that we are within just about 48-hrs (assuming winds hold) of our Apia goal. Not a big deal, but our starboard water tank seems to have a small leak. Best case, we overfilled the tank and it ended up getting caught somewhere that has just finally made its way to the bilge. Hopeful case, one of the hoses is leaking. Worst case, one of the (very inaccessible) tanks welds is failing. Put it on the list to check when we make landfall... We are under the impression that Samoa (as was Suwarrow) is UTC minus 11-hrs, still in the same day as Hawaii time just one hour earlier. To keep with the sun, our watch schedules will definitely have to be shifted off of Hawaii time as we move west of Samoa. We will continue to download and analyze weather data, keep our fingers crossed that we do not come across any more unstable weather during this passage, and hope for a little faith and luck if we do as it seems that maybe a good dose of data, faith, and luck might be a winning combination.

No comments:

Post a Comment