25:38.00S 126:39.00W – 200 Miles East of Pitcairn Island.
A week of trade wind sailing at last. We have had only one slow day during the last week and even then we made 100 Miles otherwise we have been averaging somewhere around 120 Miles a day. Today we have under 200 Miles to run to Pitcairn although we haven’t decided whether to stop there or not yet.
Last Sunday was witness to the end of an era for the Patagonia Cruisers radio net. Wolfgang Karsten who has been running the net for the last 10 years whistled his familiar opening notes for the last time. He is returning home to his native Germany after many years in South America. He told us that over the 10 years that he has run the net he has spoken to over 250 boats from countries all over the world. He has provided a daily link, vital for some, social for others, to cruisers who are mainly making the trip North or South through the Chilean Channels but his net reaches West to Easter Island and East to the Falklands.
Since a couple of days before we reached Easter Island we hadn’t been able to hear much of the net and had emailed Wolfgang to tell him that we would be signing off. He emailed back and told us that Sunday was to be his last day so we decided to try and tune in one last time. As chance would have it propagation was good and we could hear him clearly make his roll call and log the positions of the various boat. When he finished and asked for any other traffic we called in to say a final goodbye and thank him for running the net; we were not alone as a few others did the same and heard Wolfgang’s Chau Chau for the last time.
Life has been quite routine aboard. We have made several 1-hour steps back in time to get ourselves into the correct local time zone. Chile is about 2 hours out as they prefer their evening to their mornings it seems; therefore we have had to make extra adjustments to get into the correct zone so that we avoid jet-lag when we arrive in French Polynesia.
In these mild conditions we have taken to splitting the night into just two watches. I take the first from supper time until I get tired when I wake Paula who keeps an eye on things until about first light. We find that we are more rested that way than doing more traditional 3 or 4 hour watches. The nights are warm so usually we just sit in the cockpit and read keeping one eye on the course and the horizon. The Aries wind-vane does most of the steering so occasionally we tug one of the snaffle lines to make a small course adjustment but that’s about it.
Each evening we fire up the computer (we have been running with all but essential electronics off so that the solar panel keeps up with the battery charging), receive weather satellite images from the evening passes of the NOAA satellites, send and receive emails, get weather forecast (GRIB files), and participate in the Pacific Seafarers radio net. Once we have the forecasts we have a look at the information that we have either together or individually and then decided what the plan for the next 12, 24, 48 hours will be. On this leg it has mostly been just a case of pointing the bow at Pitcairn although we did stay south of the latitude of the island for the first half of the leg so that we could turn onto a reach when the winds backed and lightened.
Adjusting to the sub-tropical weather has been a learning curve even though I have done several trips across the South Atlantic as similar latitudes there seems to be more going on in the Pacific weather systems. 99% of my life and sailing has been in what most people consider high-latitudes and here in mid to low latitudes some things change, air is warmer and less dense, the Coriolis force is weaker, for a given isobar spacing on the weather maps the wind strength is more or less doubled here, high pressures dominate rather than the lows that dominate our weather planning in the South. Of course we are now getting into the area where there is a threat of severe tropical storms and I have been swatting up on tropical weather and in particular South Pacific tropical weather for some time now.
The longitude of 120 West marks the division of weather forecasting responsibilities between Chile and New Zealand so learning the new sources of weather forecasts and getting used their time of issue, presentation and relative reliability have been part of the learning curve.
Crossing that virtual mark on the earth’s surface was our symbolic exit from the sphere of Chilean influenced Pacific into the Polynesian part of this great ocean.
Finally I am starting to get a feel for it – I think.
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