As I hinted earlier, King Neptune never lets anyone cross oceans without first paying him tribute, and we’ve certainly paid ours these past few days. After romping downwind in moderate breeze and sunny skies our first 10 days, then languishing in the doldrums for a couple more, winds shifted from the N/NE to the S/SW, which, coupled with a 2 knot current also running NE, was exactly opposite our intended course. We have spent the past 48 hours bashing into big seas with just the mainsail and motor, making at times just 3 knots over the bottom.
“EXcape” can motor in flat water at 9 knots, but with wind, waves, and current in her face, it’s slow going. The boat accelerates to around 5.5 knots, then hits a series of larger waves, riding up the face of the first, then crashing down the front of the next swell with a horrendous noise, sending shudders through the vessel. Speed drops to 3 knots, then slowly recovers a few minutes until the next wave set hits. But this is a strong boat, designed to easily handle whatever conditions it faces, so we just hang on and take our medicine, knowing that “this too shall pass.”
Additionally, squalls have been our constant companion, dumping copious amounts of rain, from which we cower under our dodger and bimini. In weather this rough, flying fish and squid often join us on board, but we try to get them back to sea before they die. Due to the adverse wind and current, we covered just 120 NM yesterday, down from nearly 200 earlier in our trip. Carl, the owner, who gets the best cabin in the bow, was bouncing around like a basketball in his berth last night. I could sympathize, having spent the entire “Nor’easter” circumnavigation domiciled forward of the mast. Although Carl and I are both are in our element with these conditions, every few hours we look at each other and agree, “our wives would HATE this stuff!”
As expected from the forecasts, when I relieved Travis from his watch at 0800 today, the wind had backed to SE, and increased to 20 knots. We cut the engine, our sole propulsion since day 11, double reefed the main, unfurled the jib, and are now hitting 6-8 knots as the current is now almost perpendicular to our course. “EXcape” has the proverbial “bone in her teeth,” having picked up the SE trade winds and making good time toward our landfall in Nuku Hiva. This is my kind of sailing. We expect to arrive Sunday or Monday, but one never knows….