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Fighting Light Airs

October 19, 2011

Day 21

Local Noon Position (1153):
By GPS: 18.27.45N by 152.13.11W
By Sextant: 18.28.2N by 152.17.0W
NOTE: Took a moon shot as well, but was ten miles out. Can’t seem to get the moon.

Course: 300 degrees true
Speed: 3 knots
Wind: 7 knots E, down to 4 knots later
Sea: 0 – 6 feet NE
Sky: 10% occluded. Mostly clear.
Bar: 1014
Temp: 77 degrees

Since last noon: 108
Total for passage: 2391
Daily average: 120
Miles to Hilo: 163


Fighting light airs is like shadow boxing with intent to kill. The intent has no impact on the outcome because there’s no there there. Or in my case, there’s been no air there most of the day, and I fought like mad. Yes, seven knots is a fine velocity of wind if on the beam or forward. If seven knots is on the quarter and trending toward four knots dead astern, no one aboard is having fun.

The slapping of sails and banging of blocks, a wicked sound to a sailor, got me up earlier than usual. Besides being sky-is-falling loud from inside the cabin, the pressure of a slam could split a sail, could spring a mast. It’s like nails on a chalk board only it could actually do damage.

But balance as I may, nothing worked until I lowered the main and poled out the jib. That had the blessed effect of quieting the boat. It also slowed us to a crawl, specifically to four and then three and then two knots. Every cruiser has his lower limit, the speed below which firing up the engine is the obvious choice, is honorable, is not a sign of giving up. Mine is three knots. At three knots we make 75 miles a day, a respectable number, but a half knot less (only fifteen fewer miles in twenty-four) and I begin to fret and do fuel to range computations over and over.

I fretted for hours, but at 1300 wind moved more NE and picked up a tad such that we’ve been averaging five knots. The sun is setting. We’ll have to see if this holds; it’s not promising at present.

Sadly, this also means the island of Hawaii will come up above the horizon after dark. I had wanted to see Mauna Kea, the island’s tallest peak at 13,795 feet, rise out of the ocean. It’s a strange effect of sailing on a round planet–it doesn’t matter how grand is your landfall, if it’s a clear day, it will start as a bump no bigger than a rock island. In fact, you’ll be amazed that a bump no bigger than a rock island can become, for example, Tahiti several hours later.

In Mauna Kea’s case, it would have materialized as a bump no bigger than a rock island around 140 miles out.

Figuring the greatest distance the curvature of the earth allows an object at the horizon to be seen is fun and easy: it’s just the square root of the object’s height times 1.17.

Mauna Kea Height
Square root of 13,795 feet = 117 x 1.17 = 137 miles

Randall’s Height on Murre (when he’s not pouting below)
Square root of 8 feet = 2.83 x 1.17 = 3 miles

Total = 140 miles.

Wind is easing off. I’ve reefed the main simply to flatten it and keep it quiet.

I must admit I’m disappointed this cruise is ending with such a whimper.


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