Friday, April 15, 2016

Mexico-Marquesas Passage Update - Day 11 - ITCZ Survival

Greetings all from SS, BL, and TC, (TC)

Date/GMT: 2016/04/15 1952 hrs (local) - Tax Day!
Status: Enroute
Position: 02 42' N 129 41' W (1675 nm SSW of Cabo; 938 nm NNE of Finish/Nuku Hiva)
Winds (T): 075(ENE) @ 12-17 kts
Perf: Boat Speed Over Ground 6-7 kts COG 220 M

It's been a rough few past nights since we entered the infamous ITCZ, or Inter-tropical Convergence Zone, where the sun heats the ocean all day, causing massive evaporation (convection), resulting in puffy, towering cumulonimbus clouds, which after dark, transform into black stormy squalls with heavy rain, strong gusty winds, angry seas, lightening, and thunder. The forecast before we entered literally said there was "NO ITCZ" at the time, which means that there was generally none/minor/moderate convection, but not enough general weather energy to declare a proper ITCZ.

So, wanting to believe in an easy passage, I thought we'd scoot on through and dodge the real ITCZ. Well, ahh.....NOT! The ITCZ formed as we were entering 8N latitude and continued through 4N latitude. So, we got smacked by the legendary bad weather. The first night, we had 'dry squalls' which give lots of gusty wind from varying directions, making the boat go fast, easier to break, and harder to control. But no rain. The next night we only had one small sail up (jib) and fared moderate squally weather with rain, but we paid in slow performance, and, without a mains'l up, the boat was really, really rolly. The third night, we kept up more sail area, jib and double reefed main, and got hammered! The winds were stronger, the seas bigger, the rain torrential, the night blacker, and the squalls angrier than any other night. It was a challenge to keep the boat under control for the duration. At one point, I thought I completely spun a full 360 deg donut to stay ahead of the rotating winds, but later review shows it was 'only' a 270 deg turn. (see track pic).

There's nothing good about this - except that like pain, it makes one knows ones alive. It's just an endurance mission.

During the daytime, the squalls would retreat into hiding as the sun came up and we could recharge our bodies and regroup. The sailing was quite good then, if not rambunctious.

Last night, we retreated to the single sail (slow, conservative) configuration and low and behold, it was an easy night with moderate winds and no squalls. Sleep! We all got some glorious sleep!

I've gotta give credit to my shipmates too - Bruce and Sylvia are both real troopers.

In the end, we were fatigued from 4 nights of squall battling but the boat came out unscathed. We are now at 2 deg N (120 nm) of the equator, in flatter water and moderate winds, and think we are free of the rotten clutches of the ITCZ. So long, sucker!

With light winds forecast ahead, we rigged up the spinnaker gear today in anticipation of flying the colorful beast. If conditions are right, it will help us get to the finish faster, now less than 1000 nm away (931, actually). We'll see!

Pics, if they come through, should show:
A. 14 nm wide squall as seen from the radar screen
B. Boat track - 270 deg spin
C. SS and TC hunkering during a squall
D. Editor's choice TBD.

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