Building Seas, Hove-to

Date: July 29, 2016, 4 a.m. Position: 10 48.95 S, 107 7.65 E

Good thing we reefed early! The winds built to 25 knots and the seas are starting to stack up. The electric pilot is holding our course well and not too overworked yet, because our sails are well balanced. The boat is rolling again like a metronome, and we feel like we’re back on the Coral Sea passage. We could only fill Taz’s bathtub about 1/4 full as the water sloshed from side-to-side. He loves his sea baths and relaxed in the tub for hours and hours, becoming increasingly fascinated with his now-shriveled toes and fingers.

At sunset it was decision time. Even with our slower speeds with reefed sails, we still made 150 miles today, and our ETA at Chistmas Island is during the middle of the night. When you are passage-making and sailing to new lands, it is never a good idea to arrive somewhere new after dark. Even more so because our electronic charts on the GPS do not give any detail for Christmas Island (we’ve literally sailed off our charts). The winds were a comfortable 17 knots at the moment, but forecast to build to 25 knots after midnight with increasing seas from a system to our south. We had 2 choices: 1. Sail into the lee behind Christmas Island and heave-to around 2 AM and reach the anchorage at first light, or, 2. Heave-to after sunset and start sailing again at 2 AM, so that we could see the Island as we approached, but in higher winds.

We opted for the prudent approach, and hove-to shortly after sunset. The winds filled in and built right up to 30 knots with heavy squalls, but we were “parked” safely and relaxing as the squalls blew past. I can’t imagine the nightmare we would have faced if we had tried to fumble around with a radar approach to Christmas Island on this black night. We were so comfortable, in fact, that we stayed hove-to for the entire night, until after daybreak the next day. And so we spent our last night at sea, 30 NM from Christmas Island, with plenty of sea room to drift, and got a good rest before our final approach. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that Privateer heaves-to so nicely. When the weather goes sour we can just park the boat on the ocean and get a good sleep!

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