In the Florida Keys, at least during the winter months, when the trades are strongest, there were a lot of boats stuck in Marathon and other locations waiting for a good weather window to cross to the Bahamas. The weather opportunities were quite rare, IMO, about two days a month at best. The remainder of January, February and March were too windy to make a safe crossing in boats less than 40 feet. There were many, many days when I wanted to just go offshore, slip into the nearby Gulf Stream and cruise around, but those 25 to 35-knot winds and 8 to 10-foot seas kept me in the sheltered waters on the Gulf side of 7-Mile Bridge. That was OK, though - I had a ball sailing through the shallows where depths ranged just 7 to 10 feet and you could see thousands of fish skittering beneath the boat.
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Arduous voyage enriched by following variable wind
Monday June 10, 2013
Arduous voyage enriched
by following variable wind
PAPEETE, Tahiti » The first leg of my South Pacific voyage is over. It took me three months to outfit the boat in Mexico, sail to the Marquesas, explore the Tua*motu Archipelago and get Honu put up in a Tahiti marina. Now I'm going home.
As in all outdoor adventures, the trip had its ups and downs. Some days I wondered what I had been thinking to take this on. This is too hard, I would grumble, wishing I was in Kailua eating takeout and reading Jack Reacher novels.
Other days, as Honu surfed up and down the Pacific Ocean's giant blue swells, every cell in my body glowed with pleasure.
"Thank you!" I'd call to the wind.
I talked to the wind because on a sailboat, wind is everything. It's the engine of the ocean, driving not just sailboats and occupants, but the wildlife that lives in, on and above the water.
Some sailors discuss wind and sea conditions in terms of a system that puts numbers to wind and waves. Called the Beauford Scale, it ranges from Force 0 (no wind) to Force 17 (the strongest hurricane).
I don't use the Beauford Scale because, in recalling my voyages, there seem to be only two conditions: too little wind or too much wind. Of course, there were plenty of perfectly lovely sailing days, but like most trips, in recalling the details, the extremes stand out.
On the passage from Mexico to the Marquesas, I mostly had too little wind. That may sound relaxing but it is not. The sails slap with annoying bangs, the boat pitches and rolls to no rhythm and the skipper and crew get cranky in a hurry.
At those times I used what sailors jokingly call the iron genny (genny is the nickname for a big sail called a genoa), meaning the diesel engine. It's loud, hot and smelly, but it moved the boat forward. While motoring, however, I had to worry about fuel.
During most of my time in the Marquesas and the Tua*mo*tos, I had the opposite problem: too much wind. The southeast tradewinds were so strong for such prolonged periods that in one month I visited only two islands and two atolls.
But staying at anchor for longer than I planned turned out to be a bonus. In Nuku Hiva while waiting for a wind break, I hiked to one of that island's (and the world's) most stunning waterfalls. In a memorable wade in the pool below, freshwater shrimp climbed onto my feet and up my legs.
Spending a week each in the Tua*moto lagoons of Kau*ehi and Faka*rava atolls, I enjoyed snorkeling in crystal water washed in by wind-driven waves that crashed over the fringing reefs.
The lagoon water was so clear and the marine life so stunning that I snorkeled until my fingers wrinkled and my toes got cold.
I also got to see the seabirds swooping and diving in all their glory.
My 37-foot ketch will stay in Tahiti for a couple of months while Craig and I go home to Oahu the easy way, on a plane. We won't have to worry about how hard or from what direction the wind blows. As sailors like to say, nothing goes to weather (upwind) like a 747.
Once home, I'll read a Reacher, eat some salad and start planning the next leg of my South Pacific voyage."