A walk around deck at first light reveals the treasures that Neptune has offered up during the night hours. For the first thousand or so miles we were given squid, silent visitors slipping in on a wave unnoticed. Then came the usual flying fish, launching themselves onboard in the darkness with a loud thwack against the cockpit enclosure followed by lots of thrashing. Thank God for the new enclosure which we shut on the windward side each night (we’ve become soft sailors) if the gate crashers end up on the aft deck they are easy to push off back to sea almost unharmed with the boat hook, if they land in the side deck then that’s their lot. They are impossible to get hold of to chuck over board as they thrash about shedding their slimey scales everywhere. We would have had half a dozen land not only in the cockpit but probably on our lap one night without the side panel closed. I brush the fish scales off the canvas most mornings.
Other than a wicked late evening encounter with a large pod of dolphins whizzing through the water lighting up like fluorescent torpedoes as they collide with phosphorescence in the water, sailing west underneath the ITCZ was pretty unremarkable. The sunsets and moon rises were spectacular though, must be an equator thing. When we reached 127° west it was time to start heading up closer to the ITCZ ready to cross it. For the first time since we have been watching its position which changes daily, there was an area of ‘moderate to strong convection’ 120 miles south and 90 miles north of 128°, just as we reached 128°, typical. The five days previous had shown this area to have slight convection and only a narrow passage across it, now quite the opposite, too late to change our minds though. So we encountered torrential rain for about 36 hours, periods of no wind which we motored through and then one enormous squall which lasted for hours but meant the sails could come out again and the engine off. For two soggy nights we had feathered friends take refuge, the first night was a small petrel who landed on the winch by the cockpit and nudged the plastic window looking a little peeved that we had shut him out. Good job we had the window shut, it wouldn’t have worked out well for either of us, we were just tucking in to mahi mahi and rice. He wobbled off the winch and went onto the foredeck looking rather bedraggled. The next night was a slightly bigger bird than the petrel, not as daring to try and get into the cockpit, he huddled on the foredeck right by the staysail sheeting track. Not a good place either as when the wind veered we had to roll it away, trying not to disturb him, then a squall about 3am meant a reef in the main and a change again in sail trim. Then a couple of hours later no wind with sails flogging, sails away and motor on, the steaming light giving away his position. The rain continued to bucket it down during all of this, and in a greater quantity than the spray hood and cockpit enclosure could cope with. It was one of those nights, and it wasn’t just the stowaway that didn’t get much sleep. The wind eventually settled from the NNE and the skies cleared early morning, we had come out the other side of the twilight, I mean convergence, zone and into the north east trades. Phew.
We have been keeping a close eye on the weather as always, in the last week two hurricanes, Aletta and Bud, have developed off of South America and there are numerous lows with gale force winds tracking relentlessly eastwards across the North Pacific. They shouldn’t directly affect us on this passage other than ‘mixed swell’ which we are experiencing now. That means it’s coming from more than one direction, not just the wind direction, making it feel at times like we are beating into a sea when we are on a broad reach. Not the most comfortable of seas, but with a steady 15-20 knots of wind we are back up to cracking off 170+ miles per day following a rhumb line to our stop over island of Maui…now only 1,000 miles away.
Only two things I would change right now, a larger selection of chocolate and perhaps a crossword book (I have almost been tempted to tuck into one of the sticker and colouring books I have in stock for the kids on the Pacific islands). My life would then be complete.