the longest haul
Life aboard the Cal 40 Nozomi coming back from Hawaii…
Position: 35 42N by 141 42W, wind speed 10kts, direction 004M
Yesterday (12 August) we tacked to port at approximately 0200 HST and entered phase III of the long trip home. Initially we were sailing 110-120M as expected, but have gradually been lifted up to the rhumbline course of 077M over the past 24 hours. We also celebrated reaching the halfway point (based on actual distance sailing, not great circle distance or time). Today is our 14th day at sea, with about 8 days to go.
It’s been a slow and challenging, but interesting, trip home so far. Generally slow going with lots of motorsailing upwind in light airs. We have been unable to take the traditional route "over" (north of) the Pacific High pressure cell as it has stretched north all the way to the Gulf of Alaska, essentially covering the entire North Pacific, and therefore have had to work our way upwind in light airs along the southern boundary of the high, generally staying between 33 and 36N latitude.
The trip has essentially broken down into 3 phases: 1) Windy reach north from Hawaii to 35N latitude (about 700 miles, 2)Working our way eastward below the high, upwind in light airs (about 600 miles), and 3) the reach towards home, about 1200 miles.
Phase I consisted of a close reach (about 50 degrees apparent wind angle) in fairly rough seas and winds of 18-25kts. It was not a comfortable ride and all of us shared many second thoughts about our decision to sail the boat home. While moving north we attempt to get as much easting (progress eastward) as we could, however we generally could not sail much east of north due to wind and sea conditions, and sometimes (unfortunately) a bit west of north. Speeds were pretty good however and we made it to 35 38N in 5 days. Unfortunately we were only able to move eastward about 2 degrees longitude in that time.
Once we tacked to port at 35 38N by 157 50W we were faced with a beat of about 600 miles tacking dead upwind in order to escape the influences of the high pressure and position ourselves to head for home. Generally we motorsailed most of this leg, raising some serious concerns regarding fuel reserves (more on that later). At one point we experimented with working a bit further south to about 32N into more wind, however the wind direction and sea state were such that we spent a miserable night beating ourselves up going upwind in 12-15 kts breeze before tacking back north into lighter airs were we could motorsail more comfortably.
We have been delighted with the extremely low fuel consumption of our Yanmar diesel when motorsailing (less than half of what I had estimated) however we essentially needed to motor 24 hours a day to make any significant progress at all, so fuel reserves began to become a major concern! It appeared that we had just enough reserves to escape the high, however we also needed to reserve about 15 gals for daily battery charging once we reached the wind and began sailing again (phase III). In an emergency we could reduce our electrical consumption significantly by hand steering and turning off all the electronics, however the idea of sailing for even a few days without electricity was not appealing, to say the least!
ON the morning of 11 August I happened to check our AIS display and noted a US Navy warship passing within 20 miles of our position, also headed east. I contacted them to inquire if they carried #2 diesel aboard, to which they immediately replied "yes, are you in need of assistance?". We told them that we were experiencing a very slow passage and that we could really use 20 gals of diesel and 5 gals of water, to which they replied that they were immediately altering course to our position and increasing speed to 25kts, and would reach our position in 30 minutes! 15 minutes later we spotted them on the horizon and 30 minutes later the USS Ford, a fast frigate, pulled up an stopped a couple of hundred yards to leeward and sent a small boat (RIB) over with fuel and water, along with a personal hand written message from the Commanding Officer and a USS FORD ship’s cap (very cool!) It looked like the ship’s full complement of crew was on deck to watch the operation! The USS Ford was so happy to assist and would no doubt have given us anything we requested (there was some talk of asking for ice cream, however I found it difficult enough to ask for assistance in the first place and did not want to ask for anything other than the absolute essentials!) In the end I am very glad that we did as it was a wonderful experience having a Navy vessel pull up beside us and send over a small boat team mid-ocean, and the extra fuel and water have, of course, given us great peace of mind for the remainder of the trip. The friendliness, courtesy and professionalism of the crew are something that I will never forget and it is wonderful to see that the spirit and traditions of friendship, concern for fellow seafarers, and willingness to assist are still shared by sailors everywhere.
Phase III,the reach home, finally began on the early morning of 11 August when we again tacked to port at 36 49N by 145 01W. We had established this waypoint previously and had been aiming towards it for about 36 hours, however when we reached it at midnight we were on such a lifted heading (stbd tack) that we really couldn’t tack without heading nearly due south on port. We decided to continue on stbd until the next watch change (2 hours at night) and reassess the situation at that point. At this point it was quite tempting to continue north in order to get a better angle on San Diego, however our weather data also indicated that the high would be expanding again and that light air would be catching up with us from the west, so it was important to attempt to move east as fast as possible to avoid (to the greatest extent possible) being "swallowed" again by light air.
Two hours later at 0200 we found ourselves on a nice header and were able to tack to port and enter phase III of the trip. At this point the great circle course to San Diego was 077M and we initially expected to be sailing a quite low heading (110-120M) in light airs for 24-36 hours before getting lifted back to course, however since tacking we have generally been sailing a higher course in more winds that the GRIB files indicated and are making excellent progress towards San Diego. The GRIBs indicate that it will continue to be fairly light over the next two days or so and that we may get lifted significantly before reaching the steady synoptic winds that will take us home at about 135W longitude.
At this point it looks like phase III will not be super fast but will certainly be easier and faster than phase II (at least we will be pointing at and sailing towards the mark!) We’re looking forward to getting back to So Cal and find that we are dreaming of sitting on a mooring at Catalina Isthmus and enjoying California summer (close to the bar and restaurant of course!) We have been eating well and enjoying lots of freshly caught fish, but I think that if you ask anyone on the crew they will tell you that what we miss most are restaurants!
Robb, Rowena and Tommy