16 April 2012 11:37:00 AM AEST

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Today has been a frustrating day of drifting. Where are the winds? After sunup, a flurry of rain clouds caught up with us, bringing some wind with them, but that soon passed, and the wind vanished. Now there is a hint of a breeze, from the southwest no less. Must be a side effect of the low pressure system building south ot Tahiti?? This is the doldrums all right. Yesterday's French chart shows a series of barbed lines, now the ITCZ, as that shows in a line at the top left.. I wonder what these lines mean? Not good for me I guess.

15 April 2012 11:40:00 AM AEST

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Problems seem to come in bunches. Two days ago Clinton sent me a chart from French Meteorology that covers Polynesia and west, that is better than the one we were using from the national weather service. It showed the ITCZ just on or above the equator, but the next one, for today, showed the ITCZ dipping down to about 12 degrees south from 148 west. I was merrily sailing at 149 and 12 south, and it looked like I was going to sail straight into it. I thought that if I was lucky, their chart would be effective from noon or later, giving me a bit of time to sail farther. But no luck. After making 120 miles, about midnight last night as I was about to get up to check things out, I noticed a different sound. The wind has veered to come from the north, and had backed the main, and we were stalled. After starting the engine to power us around to try and use the wind to sail west, the wind died. Then a heavy rain chased me below, and after it was gone, so was the wind. Over the night, the wind came from just about every direction, and it frustration, I dropped the main, rolled up the genoa, and went to sleep, just drifting. Then my problems began. Ir rolling up the genoa, the lines on the winch , in the dark, got tangled like spaghetti, and it took a hell of a time to get it loose. Then when I would furl, it would get so tight I couldn't move it, and I discovered that there was still six feet of sail not furled. I guess the line stretched. So, again in the dark, it was sit on the bow, secure the furled up sail, loosen the line, untie the knot, pull a few feet more of line, and wrap it inside the drum, making about six wraps, and retying the knot. Back and forth a half dozen times to fix it. Same with the port nav light that had burned out. Below, my cooler box had burst open and dumped 6 bottles of water all around. All in all, little sleep, lots of frustration, and few miles. While I sat waiting for dawn so I could see to raise the main, I had a lot of time to think. About things like how when things go wrong, these is no one to call. You have to fix it yourself. And how far away I am from everywhere, 3500 miles from Sydney, and 3500 miles from Mazatlan. Just thinking about what really serious things that could go wrong would mean, makes me wonder about going solo. I have a great boat, and good systems, but there is always something cropping up to make the day a bit stressful. Now after the ITCZ has snuck up again, we are poking along, with just enough breeze to keep moving, and enough to feel it cool on the face every once in a while, but not real sailing like the past few days. Those were 6 plus knots, in fairly rough seas, but satisfying because we were moving. Now it is awful close to the ITCZ torture of a week or two ago. I look forward to Clint's French chart today, to see what they forecast for the ITCZ tomorrow. It sure seems to be a huge ocean. Tonga is still 10 or 11 days away, maybe more, and after that it is a long way to Sydney. More later.

14 April 2012 1:01:00 PM AEST

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A good day, 120 miles, makes three days over 100. About 300 miles north of Tahiti, 1500 east of Tonga. Will
go through the Cook Islands from about 4 days from now for a week or more.

13 April 2012 7:53:00 AM AEST

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Well now, I can say with reasonable certainty that the southeast trades are working. After saying yesterday that the nights were the best, with the boat just sailing on as set, it didn't happen that way. The wind seemed to veer every hour, and I was up adjusting the course each time to keep the sails pulling and not flapping. Despite this, we have been making more than a hundred miles a day now for about three days, and today looks even better. During the night I gradually swung the boat due west with the wind right up our tail. After sunup, I eased it back a degree to the south, and we are on the exact course I want through the Cook Islands and Tonga. And today the speed is great, with fifteen knot winds forecast tonight from due east.
Some of you are asking why I don't stop somewhere..'for some fresh vegetables at least?' I don't stop for a number of reasons. First I have all the food and drinks I need for the trip. Second, these are not just simple 'on-the-way' islands to stop at. The Cooks are 15 small islands, totalling 93 square miles, spread across 750,000 square miles of ocean. There are 4 allowable entry points, and to change from my course to go to any of them would entail a deviation and extra miles, perhaps 500, and the time, at least a day there. 500 miles is 5 days sailing, just for a few veggies. And the cruising guide tells the story..Rarotonga can be a dangerous harbour, with fishing boats hitting yachts as they turn. Other places have reefs, and lagoons, and wrecks. Lots of wrecks. And I am singlehanding and don't know these places. And then there are the formalities. Customs, immigration, agriculture, fees, passports held until you pay all the fees, etc. In some islands they charge 25 dollars a day just to anchor. To anchor I would have to blow up the inflatable, and leave the boat, not a good idea in some places. And while I walk around the town, the nice looking inflatable with its' electric motor is a good target as well. If there were more people on the boat, perhaps. But to look for a speck of an island and waste the time for what I consider no reason, is not on. Look at the map of this area. A hell of a lot of water, and few dots of land. If it were you here, counting the days, I think you would agree, let's get there, and get it done. It's an experience. But it can be a bit much after a month or two.

12 April 2012 10:02:00 AM AEST

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After sitting so long going nowhere, when a little bit of wind finally came up and we started moving, I hesitated to call it 'wind', or southeast trades. But it was from the southeast, and just 5 knots, but it got us going southwest again at 3 to 4 knots. That day we made 53 miles. Big deal, but at least it was moving, not staring at bubbles. The next day the breeze freshened a bit, and it stayed from the southeast, and away we went., making 99 miles to this morning. I feel like I have been born again. But today, at 2:30 it died a bit. It doesn't feel like much, but we are still making 4 knots, so perhaps by morning, if it holds, we might have made more than a hundred miles. Tahiti is south south-west of here, about 500 miles, and on the course we have with this wind, we are not going to have to feel our way through the Tuamotas liked I feared. The father south we get, it seems that the "wind" is steadier and stronger., (except for right now when it is a breeze again). I expect, (I do not plan) to hit 15 degrees south and reach the Cook Islands in about a week.. roughly 600 miles, then take another week, again 650 miles, to get through the territory, then another week 637 miles, to get to Tonga. Hopefully at 15 south the southeast trades should give us a good run.
Someone emailed me to ask why no blog. Because it is hard to write about sitting bobbing about. The net controller recommended I make a sacrifice to the gods of the winds, or I could stay there forever. Something happened, and we have gone a hundred and fifty miles or more, and we are still moving. On the other side of the coin, if you have no blog to read, then send me some news about you and your family. Just because I am out here in the middle of the Pacific doesn't mean that you have to stop telling me news. I'll make you a deal. I'll blog, and you mail me news from your place, okay?
Today I did my routine housekeeping, setting a few goals to achieve, and tasks to finish. Like topping up the water in the batteries, on this boat a real task because of the difficulty in getting at them. You need to be a contortionist to get water into these babies. Because we have not been making speed, the generator has not been generating, so each morning the power deficit gets bigger. Today it was at -186 amphours, but that was down from yesterday morning at -190, because we had made some miles, and that meant generating some electricity. Today it is creeping back to normal. If we have a night of 4 or 5 knots and a good day tomorrow, then it will come right down. I am down to my last 5 eggs, after making pancakes this morning. I started with 78 eggs. I am out of apples, oranges and all veggies, but I sure have lots of pasta, 9 packets or so, good for 54 days. I probably don't have 9 bottles of sauce though. And unless I catch a tuna, it would be all canned tuna. I mentioned that I hurt my back a few weeks ago. It gradually got better, but even now, I can only sleep in one position, and when I get up from sitting, I have to think first, and then move slowly, or else I get a stab in the back. I reckon I must have cracked a lower rib at the back. I sure hope so, I would hate to think that it is some other kind of damage. When I am not topside, the sound of the generator spinning, and occasionally really winding up tells me how fast we are going. That and the sound of the swishing from the waves as we push through the water. And just rambling, evenings are the best. Once I get the sails set for the wind about 5 or 6 or so, then each time I get up in the night to check, the boat is moving like it is on rails, the same speed, the same course, and it is comforting to be so reliable. That happens all day long too, but at night time, it is reassuring. I seem to get up an hour before sunrise, and sit and watch the sky in the east lighten, then get rosy, and finally the great yellow orb of the sun lifts above the horizon, and it is another day.
In two or three days, I will be half way. Today there are still 3700 miles to go. At 3500 it will be half way home. I am sure this is a major psychological point for me. Then it will be counting the miles and the days down to Oz.

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