Feb 25-27, Westward Through the Squalls

Date: Feb. 27, 2017, noon Position: 15 52.05 N, 55 7.82 W

As we approached our 15N latitude level-off goal, the winds shifted more E-NE and intensified, as forecast. We are now racing off to the west. Our strategy to sail north of the rhumb line has paid off very well so far: for three days now we’ve just been able to hold a 120 degree sailing angle for wing-on-wing. Keeping the yankee poled out is helping to stabilize the boat, and gives us excellent boat speed. We’re making 150 NM-plus days, easy.

Along with the winds have come a thick series of very annoying squalls. Usually they form in the pre-dawn hours and last until noon. When a squall passes over us, me have to adjust steerage to run deeper downwind, as the wind speeds creep into the 30-35 knot range and the seas kick up. We’ve been slapped around by several dozen of these squalls now. At sea, they remind me of what an F-5 tornado looks like on the great plains. A massive dark and wide funnel on the horizon.

Last night we had a wonderful 100 NM squall-free run, Privateer tracking steady and straight as an arrow. Even better, I was off-watch for most of it, and got a good sleep! The squalls started up again and lasted my entire 0800-1400 watch today. I’m always glad when the squalls land on my watch. Most of the time it seems they happen during my off-watch, when I’ll have to jump out of bed and sit outside in the rain and spray…

Just as I wrote “spray” above, a rogue wave broke across the cockpit, sending water droplets down through the hatch and onto my computer! It’s the ocean’s way of talking to me…

My friend DanDan has a saying that there’s no “off” button at sea. I really like that expression. We take whatever comes our way, every hour of the day and night. We can’t turn down the wind or shut out the squalls. We turned the button “on” when we slipped the mooring lines in St. Helena, and it will stay on until the voyage end. It’s a good way to deal with these squalls that seem to go on endlessly. When the ocean gets in one of her moods, you tune in and pay alert attention. As we near the Caribbean, we are seeing many planes in the sky, bound of Europe. The passengers (“passive-gers”) inside are tuned out, sleeping, “off” buttons for all…

We’re sailing through vast schools of tuna, who are hunting the flying fish. At sunrise yesterday a tuna arced out of the water just underneath the sheeted-out boom. It looked like a shimmering war club, with its jagged toothy spikes along its tail. If I’d had a camera going it would have made a one-in-a-million shot! The same tuna happened again, right at sunset. This morning after a squall passed over us, a vivid miniature rainbow formed right off the bow. I’ve never seen such a “close” rainbow before. The two ends came down into the waves just off the bow and it was about 20 feet high, arcing right through the forestay.

It’s the big count-down for us now–as I write, we have just over 500 NM to go to Tortola. At 150 NM per day, we should cover the distance pretty quick! We are dreaming of the land and waking up to flat water.

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