S/V Learnativity, voyage to Fiji
Thursday, May 8th, 5pm
Position 03.06S 177.05E Winds 05S, course 165, boat speed 5.5 knots motoring
As we have been traveling south across the equator and into the South Pacific, the weather has become more variable. During my night watches, I am constantly checking the radar to see what is likely to hit us next. Squalls show up on the radar and the advance warning lets us prepare by closing hatches and sometimes reducing sail. I think of my watch three nights ago not as a three-hour watch, but a three squall watch. Each one caused the wind to shift to a different direction and increase to 25 knots. We were carrying a double reefed main and our new 130 genoa, and I just rode it through the squalls with the boat heeled way over and charging through the waves – often in some crazy direction. But as long as it is gained us some south and some east, I was okay with it. It’s too much trouble to reset the sails for a 15 minute event.
Now, two days later, we find ourselves in a motoring marathon. We’ve encountered only one squall in the last 24 hours. Our friend Philip made it through these doldrums by sailing from squall to squall, but his is a lighter boat, while Learnativity is a heavy motorsailor with a huge fuel capacity. If we have to motor the remaining miles to Fiji, we can.
Squalls are a local phenomenon and the radar is great to warn of them (especially at night), but our greater weather concerns are with the long term weather outlook. With our Iridium GO satellite communicator, we bought a weather routing service through Predictwind.com. This is an automated service that the developer has created. His computer algorithms take in data from many different computer modeled weather forecasts, and then it produces several routes a sailboat might take to find the most wind or the least roll or whatever parameters you choose. It’s a great idea, and I loved using it over wifi, but I have not been successful in getting their Offshore App to download anything via the Iridium Go on this trip. I think I have to be doing something wrong, because I can get emails, and I’ve received some very large files (for satellite). I didn’t have enough time to get to know the program well before leaving Majuro, and I hope to get it working better for me in Fiji. Tech junkie that I am, I intend to write more about the program when I understand it better.
In the meantime, I am back to my standby program iNavx. It is a navigation app on my iPad, and I can use it to request GRIB files. These are files that show the forecasted winds, barometric pressure, precipitation, etc. over several upcoming days. I simply fill in the general parameters of what I want on their forecast page, and the app generates the email for me to send to saildocs based on my GPS location and places it in my outbox in the Iridium Go Mail app. Within a couple of minutes after I’ve sent it, I can check the mail again, and the computer on the other end has sent me a file that I can overlay over my iNavX charts. It shows the projected wind strength, direction, barometric pressure, rainfall, etc. for however many days I requested it. The problem is that the GRIBs for the 5 days don’t show any more wind than what we have right now. Actually, I don’t find motoring terribly uncomfortable, but it does use up lots of fuel. Some people object to the smell of exhaust and the noise and vibration, but I like making progress, and given the choice of sailing at 2-3 knots or motoring, I much prefer to crank it up. We still have about 800 miles to cover to get to the outside reefs of Fiji. Oddly enough, in the many times Wayne has made this trip between Majuro and Fiji, he has never had to motor for two whole days straight as we just have.`It would be astounding if we have to motor all the rest of the way as the forecast suggests.
Of course, on the plus side, I can always remind myself that weather forecasts are almost always wrong. Never has my sign-off been meant more sincerely.