Zero Winds, Squalls & The Purple Ape

We left our fearless captain and crew slowly inching their way across the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) in the Coral Sea looking for the ever elusive wind to sail by. The hero Grape Ape saddled on his perch at the spreaders suddenly shouted out “Wind Ho”. I’m not sure what he meant because I heard his fart vibrating the mast. Even over the noise of the engine rumbling at 1800 RPMs. I yelled out, “Get down here you purple ape and help me with the sails and sheets.” Kids! You have to monitor them all the time if you want them to grow up right.

“Grape Ape pull on that line would ya? Stop trying to Vogue while taking selfies and start helping.” Then I woke up from my off watch nap, dawned my life vest and crawled into the cockpit to relieve Jilly and Grape Ape. They do watches together because Jilly shares her Coke and granola bars with him. Okay back to the SPCZ.

Day Five

Day five finds us entering a new day for adventure with little or no wind similar to most of the night. The mighty Yanmar is still turning away at 1800 RPMs pushing us ever closer to our destination. Our fuel supplies are at a good level. I’m not a math wizard, but if my calculations are correct we might be getting somewhere between .6 and .7 gallons per hour with the reduced RPMs. That is good news as the weather reports are not giving us a lot of promising wind conditions. Luckily for us the different weather models I’m pouring over seem to be changing slightly every twelve hours so we are anxiously awaiting the next update.

The anxiousness factor about the SPCZ is that many a cyclone has been born in this region and if not born here it has certainly gained strength here. The CAPE reports a low possibility of lightening for the next several days and the BAR is wavering its pressure up to 1010-1012 during the day and drops back down between 1008-1009 during the evenings.

Influence from high and low pressure systems from Australia to New Zealand have a huge impact here as does the area just south of the equator and to our north. Let’s not forget the influence from the Solomon Sea, the Torres Strait, Azure Sea, Tasman Sea, the Indian Ocean, La Ninā and El Ninō. They all have their hand in the birth of cyclones during the season. Suffice it to say we’d rather not be here for that stork delivery.

For most of the day we have had 8-10 knots of wind 20° off the port bow. The sea state remained very calm despite any influence from the wind. At about 1330 hours the winds started to clock to the south from 220°T. With a few calculations and slight change to our waypoint. We were able to stop our faithful engine and switch to sails. We were back sailing and listening to life pass by at 5.5-6 knots. There really isn’t anything quite like the sound of the wind moving over the sails, rigging, lines and other equipment. A virtual symphony of sounds from the different pieces of boat equipment. A stark contrast to having to talk over and listen to our wonderful Yanmar while underway.

Time For A Change

Today we set our chronographs to +10 GMT to align our current time with our destination on the east coast of Australia. This means that the sun goes down an hour earlier now. Currently our night sky is void of any light from the moon as it is 0.0% waxing. I didn’t even know that the moon had hair that needed waxing. Why didn’t Neal Armstrong provide us with information of the hairy forest on the moon? Is it a conspiracy? What is hiding in it? Does the moon have fleas? Inquiring minds want to know. “Don’t worry Grape Ape. I’m sure that the moon fleas are not interested in you.” The stars however are so vivid and clear tonight. There are not too many clouds and the vista from horizon to horizon is incredible.

We’ve sailed all afternoon clicking off nautical miles and getting just a bit closer to our destination. We are now about sixty miles from our waypoint and our next turn. We will be turning a bit more southerly starting our descent in latitudes toward Australia. Tonight brings us continued 8-10 knots of wind on our port beam. Who doesn’t like calm seas and steady ocean breezes on the beam?

Chasing Boobies

Get your mind out of the gutter. We’re talking seabirds here. At dusk we manned our stations on deck to fend off the unwanted nighttime visitors. Apparently Boobies (a type of sea bird) like to attempt landing on boats for the night. Ordinarily I like the natural wildlife. However, once they land on solar panels, mastheads or other rails they are there for the night and tomorrow the only thing left will be all the poop they shat out from all the fish they ate the day before. “Hey guys! You got it from the ocean and you need to give it back where you got it. Not on my boat or on my watch this evening!”

Tomorrow is predicted to be a light wind on the nose day. Not quite sure what will actually happen. With an open mind and stingy attitude for managing our fuel reserves we will hope for the best. I’d like us to get at least 24 more hours of sailing in order to know we can make it if we had to switch on our auxiliary engine for the rest of the trip.

The weather gods have suddenly been favorable for our passage. After almost 48 hours of listening to the diesel Yanmar churn under our feet the winds returned. This time from the west northwest. The seas however are rolling from the west southwest combined with a nice little .5-1.2 knot current on the nose. Slowing us down just a bit. Jilly shut down our engine about 0300 hours this morning and we’ve been sailing nicely in lumpy seas abated by a little nose current.

Getting Closer To Oz

We are now about 235 NM from or destination. Some open sea and at least one large storm cell to traverse through. It looks like we should arrive early Monday morning local time. That should make all the government officials happy that our arrival is during regular business hours.

Regarding our fuel situation, we had enough onboard to have motored the rest of our passage. But, with the winds so favorable, why? The comfort level of our trip has taken a down turn with the lumpy seas and sleeping is difficult to do when you are trying to be a magician and levitate yourself off the bunk while trying to sleep.

Grape Ape and I have gotten it down really well by putting a couple extra dive weights in our pockets. It keeps us more stable and allows us more head contact with the pillow. Unfortunately Jilly is still struggling with finding a way to get comfortable which tends to make her a little less than pleasant. Apparently a lack of sleep is something that gets the nag cycle fired up.

The winds are beginning to change yet again as we approach the storm cell. They are clocking around to our nose. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get some squall type downdraft from the cell. “Grape Ape! We are not going to fly a kite like Benjamin Franklin to charge our batteries. Dude! Go count the popcorn kernels again.”

Now south of the storm cell by a few miles we are back to scattered clouds and large patches of blue sky. The wind has been about 7 knots on the nose for a few hours now. But, as predicted it is starting to clock to our port side. We wait for it to clock a bit more to the northeast so we can switch back to sailing without motor assistance. Patience is a virtue they say. Who are these they people anyway? And why are we always listening to them?

The weather for the remainder of our passage looks to be uneventful. So, I will leave you with this thought. If your imaginary Purple Ape has to take off his shoes to count popcorn kernels, is that okay or do you teach him to use a calculator?

Our next post will be from the land down under. G’day mate! We’ll throw another shrimp on the barbie for ya.


Captain Dan

Author: Dan & Jilly

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