Motor? What Motor?
Our great Marquesas Motorsail Adventure ended around 10:00 PM last night. During that time we covered 586 nautical miles over a 78 hour period for an average speed of 7.5 knots (otherwise known as 180 mile days), motorsailing with one engine at a time through an equatorial zone with 2-8 knots of wind. Our Yanmar diesel engines ran smoothly the whole time without burning any oil, and we still have a little less than half of our diesel fuel left.
Why did we turn the engines off at 10:00 PM last night? It turns out that we finally found the southeast trade winds! At the time I was on watch with Rich after a rain squall had come through, and we saw that we had a true wind speed of 12 knots. We turned off the motor to see what would happen, and we started to sail under jib and full main at at a speed of 7 knots. Since we were under beautiful moonlight with no waves, we decided to fly the code zero. For the next 2 hours we had a remarkable, memorable night sail: calm, flat, warm and fast. I then went off watch and immediately fell sound asleep. Three and a half hours later I awoke to some loud banging and a lot of wind. Another rain squall had come through, the halyard for the code zero slipped a foot or two in its stopper, and the strength of the 20 knot squally gusts caused the bow sprit –the 3 foot long piece of aluminum that holds down the code zero and is attached to the spar that connects Sophie’s bows together — popped out of it’s socket. I’ve never seen that happen before! Rich, Dan and I dropped the sail, saw that nothing was broken, and rerigged the sprit. While we did all of this work, the squall passed and the true wind dropped to 6 knots. We put the code zero back up and resumed our 8-10 knot speed over the ground.
While doing all of this, we somehow managed to wrap the remaining meat line around the port propeller. We were subsequently able to salvage most of the line along with the “Four Hook Surprise”, and we will see how much is still on the prop or skeg after things calm down a bit.
Anyway, for the next 2 hours I took the helm with a keen eye on my Speed Over Ground, Average Wind Speed and True Wind Speed. As these numbers began to consistently hit 10, 19, and 16 respectively, I began to think we needed to drop the code zero. At that moment Rich popped his head up and said “Do you think we should drop the code zero?” We dropped that sail, replaced it with the jib, and my three numbers switched to 9, 16, and 14 with a much smoother motion. The wind and seas continued to build, and those numbers rose to 9, 22, and 17, so for the next few hours we sailed under jib and a reefed main. In the last hour the wind has calmed down, so we shook out the reef and are now cruising along at 8+, 12, and 9 on a course of 214 magnetic with the trade wind blowing 70 degrees off Sophie’s port bow.
What does all this mean? Sophie smells the barn. Our 24 hour total is 189 miles, a new record for us. Our speed remained basically the same with motor on vs. motor off throughout the day, and we hope to make the rest of the trip without needing the motors. Hiva Oa, which given our recent burst of speed is now our destination, is only 486 miles away. At our current course and speed we will arrive there sometime Friday night. This would mean an 18 and a half day passage, much faster than any of us expected! It also means we are plugging in the icemaker at noon Friday. 🙂 If we actually pull this off, we would celebrate Rich’s birthday in style at anchor in Hiva Oa ove rthe weekend and then sail up to Nuku Hiva on Monday night, giving the boys plenty of time to catch their Wednesday flight. We’ll see if we can keep this speed up without breaking anything.
Other than that, there is not much to report. Dan is rigging another meat line. Jenna and Leo are up top taking in some air. Hazel is lying on the floor under the salon table doing … something. I finished “Robinson Crusoe” and have moved on to “The Iliad.” Rich has a Euro sunburn which he plans to show off when he shovels snow in Rodental in 10 days.
Last night we dined another Richy creation: seared yellowfin tuna fillets complemented by a cold penne salad with pesto, sun dried tomatoes, and greek olives along with a side of steamed organic baby carrots. It was delicious.