Feb 23-24, Making Northing

Date: Feb. 22, 2017, noon Position: 9 52.82 N, 44 15.75 W

The isobars have angled off to the NW for the past few days, and we are taking advantage of the wind direction to sail north. This will allow us to crack off and sail more downwind when the trade-winds start piping out of the NE in a few days. Forecast is for 20-22 knots NE from 65 degrees true. We’re going to try and sail right up to latitude 15N and then drive down on the Caribbean island chain, approaching from the east. While adding a half-day or so to our overall passage time, we hope that this dog-leg strategy will provide for all downwind sailing, and that our week of windward work just north of the equator will be our last.

We’ve had a very good few days of sailing now, with moderate winds. We’ve been alternating between deep reaching on starboard tack and sailing wing-on-wing. We’ve also picked up quite a good current and are making 150 NM days in light winds with ease. It’s nice to have the boat riding on an even keel again, with dry decks and cockpit. Next week will probably get a bit bumpy again…although I keep telling myself that we just got soft in the South Atlantic ocean! This would be an excellent forecast in the Indian Ocean.

The nights are dark and starry due to the new moon approaching, and much more pleasant than the days. Perfect temperatures and steady breezes have been prevailing at night. Globs of phosphorescence boil off the rudder and leave a galaxy of temporary and comets in our wake. The days are cooler now that we are sailing up and away from the oppressive heat of the equator, but it still gets quite hot down below.

We’ve been catching these weird purple things in the waves out of the corners of our eyes. One morning I got a good look as we sailed through another patch of them. They are a sailing type of jellyfish like the Velella-velellas, but much larger–about the size of a shower cap above the surface. Each balloon sail looks like crinkled purple and pink cling-wrap. And they definitely look like they’d give you a nasty sting! Animals have certainly adapted to take advantage of the furthest reaches of the planet, in the strangest ways…

Today we are sailing through thick carpets of Sargasso again. The yellowy-brown plants gather in endless streaks and strands across the horizon. Below water, filtered through the blue lens of clear ocean water, they appear a bright algae-green color. Our world is filled with every color of the rainbow: the ever-present crystal blue ocean, strings of green & yellow Sargasso, rafts of pink and purple jellyfish, tribes of iridescent flying fish, orange sunrises, red sunsets.

We just passed our 1,000 miles left to go to BVI now! It was extremely satisfying to watch the clicker turn to 999–triple digits! We are 39 days and about 4,800 NM out of Cape Town, Africa. Aside from climbing the 700 stairs of Jakob’s Ladder a few times on St. Helena, our legs have gotten little-to-no exercise. My upper body is doing well with all the sail changes & boat chores, but my legs are starting to feel cramped, sore, and soft. I am looking forward to walking around in the BVI! Some sort of electricity-generating bike pedal system at the helm would be a great asset for long-distance voyagers.

Walking the decks tonight I put a double-reef in the main and set the running back-stay in preparation for our stronger trades to come. I’ve just noticed an alarming amount of chafe at the jib sheet at the clew, where it’s been rubbing against the end of the downwind pole. The sheet is cow-hitched to the clew ring, and I am afraid that if one sheet side parts, the other will go with it, and we’d lose control of rolling up the jib. It’s a high-cut Yankee so the clew is way up off deck level. The sail will have to be lowered to tie new sheets on. In the meantime, I’m hoping we will make it to BVI without an issue with this. Any sailing friends out there who can think of a temporary solution, send me a sailmail! Ideally I could fix this at sea without lowering the furling jib…

Our diesel fuel consumption has been so low, and the sailing forecast looking so great, that it looks like we’ll be arriving in BVI with basically full fuel tanks–whoo-hoo! I always scratch my head when other sailboats need 50, 70, 100 gallons in seemingly every port. Where does it all go? It’s very cool that we can hoist a few rags up on a pole in Africa and blow 1/4 of the way around the world–pretty good gas mileage I’d say. I’ve also been thinking that on this passage–from an outer-space perspective–Privateer will begin at Cape Town and plan to finish in the Caribbean at a right angle to herself, fore and aft. Pretty weird, gravity. Ah well, such are the thoughts we think about over the long ocean miles…

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