Mild Conditions and the Mid-Ocean Swim -Days 4 + 5

Trip Start Dec 09, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 4 – Monday, November 14, 2011

Noon AST position: 33* 17.01'N, 71* 13.85'W; approx 823 nm NNW of Jost Van Dyke, BVI.

We continue motoring in light SSE winds. After dark last evening, while motor sailing with the mainsail, the wind backed enough to allow Dave to try out the new genoa upwind and to shut down the engine.  This was the first opportunity he had to use the new sail upwind and it helped for about an hour until the wind returned to SSE, too far ahead on our course.  The genoa was furled and the main was reefed as we saw some squalls potentially in our path.  During this maneuver the port engine was started and some unusual vibration was noted.  Later, Bob reported he felt the vibration in his bunk (in the port aft hull, just forward of the port engine compartment).  The port engine was secured; we started the starboard engine instead for the rest of the night until we could investigate the port side vibration in daylight.
This morning's wind was still SSE less than 10 knots, but our morning coffee time included a visit by a pod of dolphins playing around the bows.  For days, the ocean water has been extremely calm with very small wave height—quite the difference from our prior two years of passage making with wave heights that could exceed 12 ft.  Around 0900 we went to work on the port engine vibration, suspecting something was fouled on the prop.  We stopped the boat in the calm conditions and Wally held his underwater camera under the transom and the fuzzy pictures seemed to show something wrapped on the prop, as well as a healthy collection of sargassum weeds on the saildrive.  

Concerned with what might be on the prop, Dave decided to go for a swim to hopefully resolve the issue.  Tethered to the transom, over he went into 2860 feet deep and 75.2 degree water of the Hatteras Abyssal Plain - and found nothing amiss.  But he also reported the water was very refreshing and neither Bob nor Wally could resist joining him.  Donna remained vigilant aboard— according to her, only Bob misbehaved but he was quickly reined in.  After their sea baths the port engine was restarted and the vibration was gone.  Whatever had appeared in the photo to foul the prop had apparently cleared itself.       

Fishing report: after yesterday's 1030 White Marlin, a Skipjack Tuna was landed right after sunset as Donna's famous yummy Passage Pepperoni Pizzas were about to go into the oven.  Wally cleaned the tuna as the first pizza baked.  The tuna meal can come later.....  There had been no 1030 fish this morning.
Despite the poor sailing conditions, the weather today has been stunningly beautiful and there are T shirts all around.  We are currently heading around 125* M to gain further easting in anticipation of the wind returning with strength from the east and allowing us to turn more directly towards the Virgin Islands with a good sailing angle for the rest of the passage.

Day 5 – Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Noon AST position: 30* 08.42'N, 68* 12.57'W; approx 723 nm NNW of Jost Van Dyke.

Keep your head down overnight

Sitting at the starboard helm on his 8-11 watch last night, Dave thought he saw something small and dark fly over his head in the moonlight, continuing diagonally over the stern of the boat into the darkness.  A while later he thought he saw the same thing fly high over the trampoline through the rigging.  He mused that we must have a small bird traveling with us and "living" on the boat as we've had before.  Certainly flying fish don't get THAT high, although it's common to find them on deck every morning.  We never see them flying higher than just above the tops of waves during the day.  He told this story to Bob when he relieved him at 11pm.  This morning Bob described being hit twice by flying fish while in the cockpit!  Apparently they fly a lot higher at night and we have no bird stowaway.   
We had motor sailed through the night on 130*M, directly into the light wind most of the time, getting in our last easting before turning SSE towards the Virgins.  We could have sailed on a tight angle that was getting gradually better, but chose to wait until daylight hoping for more wind velocity, as our weather router concurred during last evening's SSB broadcast.  At 0730 this morning we shook out the main reefs, turned to 177*M, rolled out the genoa, and shut down the engine.  Sailing at last!  The winds are still a bit light at 5-10, but we have a fat angle with true wind on the beam and expect the wind to build from here on out.  Boat speed is currently 5-7 kts.  This will improve as the wind is forecast to build, and build, and build and back some more to the ENE.  We should be flying in a day or so.  We just switched the genoa to the Code 0, hoping for the wind to back a bit more.  We are currently on a direct line to the Virgin Islands with a Saturday arrival possible, wind speed dependent.  Through the first five days of this passage, we estimate we’ve burned nearly as much diesel fuel as during the first 5 months of last winter’s cruise!  We’ll set no fuel economy record this winter….
The weather today again is stunningly beautiful.  Today's "1030 fish" arrived at 0900 and was a much bigger bull head dolphin (mahi) that should provide several meals.
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