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[ THE WIRE ] The 5% that makes it worthwhile

There’s a big angles game going on here in the Pacific, and it will be the theme of this trip I imagine. Having spent so long gaining the north we wanted, it is slowly bleeding away again on our new tack. This is the unfortunate reality of beating, with our boat speed no longer an indication of actual progress towards our final destination. The only number of interest is our velocity made good (VMG), which tells us what our overall progress towards the end point is, taking into account our relative speed and angles. The aim of the game is to try and keep this number above 5kts; a fairly respectable number considering our end goal currently lies directly to windward. We really want to be going due east right now, but as that can’t happen, it’s going to be a slow and painful zig-zag down that ideal line, until we find the fabled seas of fine and beam reaching, promised later in the trip.

I plan our passages based on average VMGs, that dictating all the calculations from water consumption, to food plans, fuel requirements, and the hardest of all; ETAs. I dream of 7kts, wish for 6kts, hope for 5kts, plan for 4.5kts, and make contingencies for 3-4kts.

With port tack living in full swing, the debate has already begun. Ty has decided that he in fact prefers sleeping on the other tack, and I’ve realised I forgot to include my own bunk in the previous comparison, as it is so rarely frequented. Having used it for the second time since leaving Hawaii earlier today, I can confirm that it is a most unsatisfactory place to be on a port tack.

The yankee 1 has spent the day proving its colours as the versatile bit of canvas we remember it to be, due to the propensity of the wind to provide a highly variable and unpredictable range, as usual. Half the time I’m left wanting a slightly bigger sail, half the time I need a significantly smaller sail, and there’s a sweet spot somewhere in the middle where the yankee 1 is the perfect solution. Seeing as we don’t have a ‘slightly’ bigger sail, changing to the yankee 2 is probably a hour long affair all in, and all this variability does a full cycle in less time than this, the yankee 1 is stoically seeing us through the lot. Just like riding a motorbike really; either too hot, too cold, or too wet, with the occasional ride where it happens to be perfect for the kit you’re wearing at the time. With both contexts, the occasional 5 percent does tend to make the other 95 percent worthwhile, but it can take some mental perseverance to remember it.

Henry and I have thrown a few reefs in and out of the main to keep up with some of the longer lasting changes, and to keep up our daily quota of flat-out winch grinding at uncomfortable angles. He’s enjoying being back, and we’re enjoying having him back. I’m never taking a big, labour intensive boat such as this anywhere again without a 20 year old for whom the novelty of such things takes longer to wear off than for I. A vital component of all my future passage planning.

The galley is continuing to produce good food, and a thorough test for all those preparing it. Ty was on the receiving end of a big fridge ejection episode earlier. I heard some choice Aussie language like we never normally hear on this boat when it happened, almost testing my knowledge of the vocabulary that I became so familiar with during the 10 months I spent with a few Western Australians on a little round the world excursion, that feels like a long time ago now. Ty did recover enough humour to produce a top class salad for lunch though.

Cooking while sailing to windward has nothing to do with cooking really; it’s purely your ability to push on through what it is a miserable experience, with everything possible conspiring against you. A war of mental attrition, you versus the boat, and seeing as the boat won’t give up (or at least you hope it won’t), the only thing to do is knuckle down and crack on with it, taking solace that you’ve made 4 other people lives better in sparing them the experience, for that occasion at least.

The dizzy heights of 26°N have already made a marked difference in temperature, which is most welcome. Jumpers and jackets now feature during the day for the first time in a long while, and below decks is now one small step closer to being officially classed as fit for human habitation. We’re all pretty over sailing in the tropics, and want some nice, dry, cold for change. A fresh cold walk, followed by a nice warm pub would go down incredibly well right now.

Since writing the first paragraph of this, the requirement to make ≥5kts VMG has taken on a new significance. We’re on the last two bags of coffee. Serious business this. Our stocks of wonderful Mercator blend from The Coffee Mongers of Lymington has lasted us all the way from the UK, seeing us through the best and worst of times throughout. The question is, will upping the consumption now make us sail faster, and therefore less likely to run out, or should we ration. Possibly the most serious decision-making I’ve had to do since having a naked German on the saloon table covered in burns and a wrapped spinnaker in 30kts of breeze on an oh so dark night off the Columbian coastline. Exciting evening that. They both survived.


NAV STATION

Date: 24th June 2017
Time: 2131z
Position: 26°27.0N 152°52.5W
COG: 035°T
SOG: 6.5kts
Wind: ENE 4
Swell: NE 3-5ft
Sky: Stratocumulus 4/8
Weather: Fair, with much less significant squall activity last night

With the support of our partner Weather Routing Inc. 

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