Starblazer - 19/06/2017 – The Highs and Lows of passage making.

19/06/2017 – The Highs and Lows of passage making.

This title can be taken two ways: meteorologically and in terms of our
feelings. I’ll start with the latter.

It’s not quite the extremes of mania and depression, rather more a question
of happiness or gloominess. What makes us happy? I’m sure just about every
sailor will agree that the sight of dolphins playing around the boat puts a
smile on the face and a sighting of whales is very special. Seeing the log
or GPS reach the heady heights of 6 knots is doing it for us on this
passage. In the past we have expected to achieve a 6.5 knot average, then
the happiness factor is reaching a 7 knot average over 3 hours or longer.
This passage has not been fast but I’ll deal with that when I consider
‘Gloominess’. Good food is a necessity, with pleasant surprises increasing
the happiness. Calm seas, offering a more stable platform for showering,
cooking and sleeping, also make us happy but not if they come with a dearth
of wind!

Gloominess is seeing the log (speed through the water – not working) or GPS
(speed across the ground a mile under the sea surface) announcing a boat
speed of less than 2 knots and we know we have to sail if possible because
we don’t carry enough fuel for the 705 nM remaining (as at 0900 yesterday
morning). 2 knots is 2 nautical miles per hour, if that is our average
speed then we won’t arrive for another 14 days! On the bright side, our
careful use of the engine does mean we can possibly motor almost all of the
now remaining 575 Nm (1800 today, Monday.) The cold and damp also makes us
gloomy, why are we returning to the UK? The South Pacific was much hotter!
The weather introduces the other meaning of the title.

When we left the Azores we steered a northerly course to try to keep the
wind. The Azores High was established between us and the European mainland,
a weak Low pressure system was making its way towards the Western Approaches
of the English Channel. The strength of the wind is determined by the
pressure gradient between the Low and the High, in this instance it was a
weak low and a weak high so the gradient wasn’t steep so there wasn’t a lot
of wind on our side of the Low. When we made the decision to aim for Camaret
on Friday afternoon the GRIB files showed that the High had expanded and the
Low was no longer producing useful winds unless we fancied heading towards
Iceland. We were pleasantly surprised when we managed to sail at least half
the time, though the average of between 3 and 4 knots was not so pleasing
but it was miles ticked off.

The High became a group of 3 or 4 weak Highs, think of a lumpy cushion
each lump represents the peak of a High, characterised by fickle ever
changing weak breezes! Over land the barometer would say ‘Fair weather’,
one day was quite sunny but the others have left a lot to be desired. Today
the GRIBs show a very different situation. We are now in an area controlled
by a group of poorly defined Lows which have replaced the Highs! It’s
colder, damper and mistier. We have difficulty seeing ships 3 miles away.
Fortunately, possibly, the Lows are not expected to develop any further. If
one was to deepen we could experience much stronger winds than we would be
happy with, though we should arrive sooner.

Sailors are never totally satisfied, there is either too much wind, too
little wind or it’s from the wrong direction. I think I should just
concentrate on what makes us happy. Sunday’s dinner was chicken curry
followed by oranges in spiced red wine syrup and yogurt; Monday started like
every day on this chilly passage, with porridge. John made bacon butties
mid-morning (using up the last of the bread) so I cooked a scallops and
spaghetti dish for lunch, dinner was cold roast pork with chilli apple
sauce, mashed potatoes and ratatouille. We continue to eat well though I
boobed on the provisioning as we are just about out of potatoes. We do,
however, have lots of two types of rice, several types of pasta, polenta and
some sweet potatoes plus instant mash and tinned potatoes. We won’t starve!

I (John) took a careful look at the fuel situation this afternoon (Monday).
As an Engineer I like spreadsheets. The present one analysing “the fuel
used/fuel remaining/miles motored/distance to go” unfortunately has the
accuracy of a financial profit and loss forecast for a new product in a new
market generated on the assumptions of the new Sales Director. (Cynical
Engineer may be detectable).

It confidently predicts that we have fuel for either:-
1 100 miles more than we need 30% of tank used
2 Exactly enough to get 5 miles from the marina 35% of tank used
3 We will run out 100 miles short. 40% of tank used

These are based on our reading of a fuel gauge that ignores the 25-50L
(estimated) above FULL and also ignores the knowledge that the tank is
rectangular at the top and a shallow V shape at the bottom. Have we used 30
or 35 or 40% of the tank?
Tomorrow I will transfer the deck mounted 20L cans into the tank and try to
reduce the inaccuracy!
For tonight we continue to motor. If Monday morning’s weather GRIB is
correct then on Tuesday or Wednesday we get some help from a sailing wind
for a while…….

Joyce & John