The first reason is that our useful progress to the south slowed to a crawl from the early afternoon onward. We have been dealing with light and variable winds from the SE, just where we want to go. Tacking in these winds has been an illusion: making 2 or 3 knots through the water but basically heading sideways, east or west, with each tack. Pachuca's tacking spread in light winds with a lumpy ocean is pretty dismal: maybe 120 degrees. Worse, the wind direction is not stable so that for example we'll find ourselves heading north of west then tack and find ourselves heading ESE. But soon the wind backs 10 or 15 degrees to put us once again on an East heading. If this was a young gun crew of ocean racers an expert helmsman would steer the boat perfectly to achieve maximum pointing, the sail trimmer would fuss around making adjustments to obtain maximum drive from the sails, and very importantly this hypothetical crew would tack frequently and smoothly to take advantage the slightest wind shifts.
But Pachuca is a cruising boat with a total crew age of 132 years which is unfortunately divided by only 2. And Jeff, reliable and uncomplaining as he is, cannot point to the wind like a human - in light airs anyway.
The second reason is that the impending bad weather will be exerting its influence farther south than I had expected. The GRIB files indicate that we will be hit with southerly winds of 30 kt before the end of the day, then after a lull we can expect another dose of southerlies of up to 40 knots.
The batteries need charging so the plan now, at 8 AM, is to start motoring south for 5 or 6 hours unless a decent wind arises. The further south we get the less-bad the winds that we can expect. - And it Will be to the south. We are 63 miles NW of Pt Conception and I don't want to get any closer because I figure that those headlands will focus the southerly winds and make things rougher. Last night I received a message from Christopher who is now at Ala Wai boat harbor in which he gives his opinion of Pt Conception: "Pt Conception can be a nasty place of confluence. We steered several hundred miles clear of there."
We started the engine at 8.45 AM and set a course for SSW. We were within 10 miles of the continental shelf and figured that we may as well take advantage of the opportunity to go to waters that may have less swell. At 11 AM we were still plodding along against the southerly breeze at 2-3 kt.
I made some preparations for the blow. The first thing I did was to zip up the mainsail to protect it and minimize windage. We took the air vane off Jeff, lifted the paddle out of the water, and disconnected the control lines. We then snugged up the running backstays to brace the mast. After some indecision I decided to bend on the staysail. What sealed the decision was memories of the damage that the original forestay had taken, largely from agitation associated with loose rigging, but perhaps from the stresses from using it when heaving to. It seems better to have the staysail and inner forestay take the loads from heavy weather. I will set up a downhaul for it using a snatch block that I will put at the bottom of the stay.
This raises the question of how we are going to heave to with the mainsail zipped up. I considered hoisting the storm trysail, which would give me experience in using it in realistic conditions. But after the first blow there will be a lull in which we may be able to use the mainsail, and I didn't want to have mess around swapping between trysail and mainsail. I haven't made the final decision on this one.
The boat and crew are well prepared for the difficulties of the next few days. All major boat systems are working and there are plenty of provisions on board. Arnold and I are rested up, particularly myself because I was able to sleep during my watch when the boat lay ahull.
From what we've heard on the VHF weather report the rough weather will begin late tonight (Sunday) and will last at least through Thursday. As bad luck would have it the strong winds will come from the south which is why we must heave to and try to hold our ground. There is no question of beating into that weather.
At 1130 AM we noticed good wind from the SW. We rolled out the jib, shut down the engine, and found ourselves hiking south at over 5 knots, just skirting the outside of the continental shelf. We then set Jeff back up again and were able to enjoy lunch knowing that we were racing (relatively speaking) south. We left the mainsail zipped up. This boat amazes me at times. It seems to do as well going up wind with jib only as when the mainsail is also up.
The weather faxes were too fuzzy to read. I'll try again at the midnight session.
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