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13-14 May 04

Thursday, 13 May 2004

The Pacific just goes on and on...
The Pacific just goes on and on...

Dear Friends and Family,

Today has been yet another in a seemingly endless series of beautiful calm days in the middle of the South Pacific.  Yesterday about dusk a breeze finally came up, allowing us to shut down the engine and drift along quietly.  With only 4-9 knots of wind, we could only make 2-5 knots, but it was so nice to hear the water chuckling quietly against the hull.  The swells are very gentle, so we can have the hatches open, giving us air in the cabins when we sleep.

I (Jon) have the 10:30 and 4:30 watches now.  With the moon well into its last quarter, my 10:30 watch is a riot of stars.  No clouds or moon obstruct the stars as they blaze forth in all their glory, the Southern Cross drawing the rest of the Milky Way as it wheels across the sky.  We all saw several "shooting stars" last night.  My 4:30 watch starts with a sliver of moon but then I get to watch the sun rise slowly in the east, turning the sky gently through the darker blue and green pastels before lighting up those clouds that cling to our horizon with ever brightening shades of orange and gold.  The whole thing should really be orchestrated to some beautiful and ever growing music that crescendo's as the sun blazes forth over the horizon.

The Pacific produces some delightful sunrises & sunsets
The Pacific produces some delightful sunrises and sunsets

Today has been delightful, mainly because the breeze has stayed with us.  We got the 'chute up early and it's been wafting us along all day.  The wind started in the South last night, but has been gradually circling around behind us all day until now it's somewhat North of East.  We're heading basically west (very slowly) but veering a bit North of our track as we're expecting NW winds in a few days.  This also allows the possibility of going to American Samoa if we want to, NNE of Tonga.  There's a big low sitting over New Zealand, and that's messing with our normal trades.

Weather in the South Pacific is more complex than the Caribbean.  The trades are driven by Westward moving, counter-clockwise rotating high pressure systems down in the 40s.  Clockwise rotating lows often alternate with the highs, causing the trades to weaken.  The trade winds themselves (what we sail in) actually seem very thin, often going up only a few thousand feet.  Although they blow from the E or SE, the Weather (capital W, fronts and such) often comes from the west(!?).  Very strange.

Here are our noon stats so far:

May
2004
South
Latitude
West
Longitude
Day's
Run
Miles
to go
Wind
Speed and Dir
 Comments
Wed 5 16 27' 152 15' 0 1,248 8-17@140  Start in Maupiti
Thu 6 16 19' 154 38' 145 1,114 12-20@165  Nice sailing
Fri 7 16 38' 157 28' 166 950 20-35@165  25kt winds, surfing
Sat 8 16 41' 161 01' 145 805 20-55@165  55kt squalls in am, 30kts all day
Sun 9 17 22' 162 40' 160 647 5-15@150  Sunny, light winds
Mon 10 17 18' 164 16' 95 557 5-10@60-120  Sunny, hot, and light
Tue 11 17 10' 164 36' 33 539 4-7@60  Sunny, hot, FLAT
Wed 12 16 44' 165 42' 56 483 5-12@60-170  Sunny, hot, very light winds
Thu 13 16 20' 166 54' 80 424 5-10@135  Beautiful spinnaker run

We are all well.  Amanda is serenading us on her guitar as Chris prepares a Thai chicken curry over noodles and Ocelot sails gently into another stunning sunset.

Fair winds to all -- Jon, Sue, Chris and Amanda Hacking     s/v Ocelot


13-14 May 04

Friday, 14 May 2004

What wonderful, enthusiastic crew we have!
What wonderful, enthusiastic crew we have!

Dear Friends and Family,

Chris here.  Ah, the Pacific ocean...  It actually seems to be living up to its name.  The seas are calm and the swells are gentle.  We are taking no spray on deck, so all the hatches are open.  The sky is clear, and while the sun is hot, a nice breeze keeps the shady areas comfortable.  We are staying inside whenever possible, reading and working on school and e-mail.  The boat requires very little attention (thank you autopilot).  Overall, we are sailing quite comfortably!

Yes, we're sailing!  We started with a spinnaker run, making 3-4.5 knots in 5-8 knots of wind.  Nice to be making more than half wind speed.  However, around 11:00 or so the wind started to head us, forcing us to turn south if we wanted to use the chute.  Slightly before lunch we took down the spinnaker in favor of the jib.  We are now sailing with full main and jib, making about 3-3.5 knots in 6-7 knots of wind at 70 off our bow.

Night watch is calm and easy, with little to do and a clear starry sky for company.  The moon comes up in the early morning and provides a bright silvery light even though it is only about 1/8 full and waning.  Less moon means more stars.  Every night we can clearly see the Southern Cross, Big Dipper and Orion.  The Milky Way shows clearly, and sometimes it seems I might even be able to see other soft clusters of light...  Magellanic clouds?  I'm no astronomer, but it is lovely to look up at the beautiful sky.  There seems to be a bit of a meteor shower right now!  Early last night I was startled by a flash of green light, caused by an amazingly bright (copper?) meteor.  This morning, Amanda and Jon saw a green flash sunrise!  Like a green flash sunset (red light bent away by the atmosphere for a few instants) but much harder to catch.  I love green flashes at sunset, but have never seen one at sunrise.  Of course, I have the 3:00-4:30 watch and would be too groggy to appreciate one even if awake.

We've gotten pretty good at setting & dousing the spinnaker
We've gotten pretty good at
setting and dousing the spinnaker

We saw our first other vessel on this passage today!  A Cook Islands patrol boat was returning to Raratonga (capitol of the Cooks) from Samoa (we are guessing they were refueling there.)  It crossed less than a mile away and we chatted on the VHF radio.  Of course, they were making many times our speed and disappeared quickly.  It was good to know there are other people out here, especially since they showed up during the day.  Some passages, it seems we have spotted a ship on the horizon every night (not really, but it sure keeps us awake on watch.)  Strange how few other vessels we've seen here!

Concerning food, we have an inundation of ripe bananas (and are desperately trying to think of things to do with them) but are also working our way through a big tray of brownies Amanda and Sue made, brie and other cheeses from French Polynesia, and so forth.  I made a yellow Thai curry over chow-mein noodles for dinner last night (thanks very much to canned chicken and powdered coconut milk!) and am looking forward to Amanda's pasta casserole tonight.  Basically, life is enjoyable right now.  (Note that this does NOT mean that I have an desire to spend longer than needed out here.  I will be very happy to see Tonga and get the hook down!)

Here are our noon stats so far:

May
2004
South
Latitude
West
Longitude
Day's
Run
Miles
to go
Wind
Speed and Dir
 Comments
Wed 5 16 27' 152 15' 0 1,248 8-17@140  Start in Maupiti
Thu 6 16 19' 154 38' 145 1,114 12-20@165  Nice sailing
Fri 7 16 38' 157 28' 166 950 20-35@165  25kt winds, surfing
Sat 8 16 41' 161 01' 145 805 20-55@165  55kt squalls in am, 30kts all day
Sun 9 17 22' 162 40' 160 647 5-15@150  Sunny, light winds
Mon 10 17 18' 164 16' 95 557 5-10@60-120  Sunny, hot, and light
Tue 11 17 10' 164 36' 33 539 4-7@60  Sunny, hot, FLAT
Wed 12 16 44' 165 42' 56 483 5-12@60-170  Sunny, hot, very light winds
Thu 13 16 20' 166 54' 80 424 5-10@135  Beautiful spinnaker run
Fri 14 16 11' 168 00' 66 368 4-12@80-120  Green-flash sunrise!

Best wishes to everybody -- Chris, Jon, Sue, Amanda, and Arthur

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