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Enroute Tuamotus: How Charming

July 14, 2011

Last night’s report below.

Position as of this morning, 0630, July 14: 15.28.297S by 143.22.026 Course: 212t
Speed: 6 knots
Wind: 14 – 16 ESE

July 13
Noon Position: 14.13.503S by 142.39.889W*
Course: 215t
Speed: 4.6 knots
Wind: 9 knots SSE
Sea: 2 ft chop, no apparent swell
Sky: 50% occluded, full cloud cover dead ahead–large convection cell Bar: 1013, falling

20 miles since last noon, all after seven in the morning.

Answer: Anchor light. Not sure that’s technically the right answer, but that’s what I lit last night as we drifted, instead of running lights.

We were not sailing by midnight. The breeze that came up as I finished writing whispered softly of promises to keep and then departed.

In the night Murre contrived to turn cross to the swell such that we rolled and rolled, and I wore out both shoulders and both hips holding myself in my single-wide bunk.

I woke (for the last time) with the sun, made coffee, and said out loud “I’m ready for wind now.” The previous day had been charming, exactly what I had hoped for, but another might be worrisome and several, unnatural. A windship requires wind, without which she might as well be planted in concrete and on display in a museum.

Orange and vibrant, but only for a moment, the sun quickly squeezed up and behind a layer of light, cottony cloud that stretched from the eastern horizon all the way to where we sat admiring the day. It wasn’t yet awake, this cloud, its dull color blending with the slate as the sky, but then suddenly the sun achieved a magical altitude and in a single moment the entire sky of cloud lit as if switched on. From slate it went immediately to the soft white of eggshells.

An hour later a light breeze of five knots from the ESE as if by order, and with that we were underway, all plain sail, close hauled and making three easy knots in the right direction. The sea was flat and I made breakfast and tidied up and answered email in a cabin with so little movement I didn’t have to hold on. This was far better than Nuku Hiva where even at anchor it was “one had for you and one for the ship.”

How charming, I thought. The sea is such a lovely place.

But in the afternoon a dark cell of cloud directly ahead grew until it covered our way like a great lead wall. It did not move off with the wind, but sat there, and we sailed under its covering and it folded in behind us until the sky was all dark cloud. Rain to the west. Rain behind. The wind increased and backed into the south, and a chop rose up quickly that often took the bow and sometimes the sprit and stopped Murre cold.

Close hauled is not a ketch’s favorite point of sail. At least that’s the case with a particular ketch named Murre. Close hauled and the flow of wind from a tightened main sail no longer flows clear but presses against the back of the mizzen sail, turning the mizzen into a brake. The easy solution is to reef the mizzen. This flattens its luff, pulling it out of the draft from the main. Because the sail is small, the sail area lost in the reef is negligible. But the mizzen creates a flow of wind that presses against the wind vane, reducing its ability to steer the boat. All afternoon I experimented, and finally figured out that if the vane’s range of motion was moved off center and to windward, it could steer a close hauled Murre. It helps that close hauled, she needs almost no wheel.

Later, while on the sprit securing the plow of the anchor, which had come adrift, this due to a recent improvement I made to the chock that holds the shank, Murre rose high and dropped me up to my waist in froth. Even dry clothes didn’t warm me. The thermometer had dropped to 72 degrees. Downright cold. I put on a long sleeve shirt that it took some effort to find.

Wind continues to back until it is almost due south, making our southwesterly heading untenable. At a heading of 240 true, we lose about a mile an hour to our true course.

I have since put on a sweater. And wool socks. I made a pot of lentil stew. It is raining hard now, and the boat pounds away, close hauled for the Tuamotus, in Pacific Northwest weather.

How charming!

*Noon ship’s time is now Noon Tahiti, same as Hawaii. I know you’ve been worried about this.


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