After our spinnaker wrap a little while ago and the acrobatics of two crew members up the rigging and the rest of us twisting and pulling and tugging down below, we managed to free it after nine grueling hours. Unfortunately, that cost us dearly in the race standings as we quickly fell to ninth position. Although that was at first disheartening, we remembered that this is an ocean race with thousands of miles yet to sail. And, as we leave Baha California behind us, it will be, to a large extent, a game of luck.
The wind has died down considerably and is expected to be very light to calm as we sail down the remaining coast of Mexico and Central America. I wish I could say that there is some strategy to finding the stronger wind patches, but in reality the GRIB (weather data) files shows a very large area of calm conditions for the next 96 hours. It will likely be a matter of luck as to which boats have some semblance of wind and which could end up being becalmed for hours if not days at a time. If we are fortunate in keeping our wind while others lose theirs, then we could move relatively quickly up the race standings. Here’s keeping my fingers crossed.
Although we haven’t seen as much wildlife as I had hoped for, we were treated to a special treat the other day as a pod of perhaps six pilot whales leisurely passed within 30 feet of our boat. It was another reminder of the beauty that can be found out in and on the ocean hundreds of miles from land. It is for us to see and appreciate. In addition to the pod, I also spotted a large whale about a hundred yards away as it cruised along the surface occasionally sending jets of water up in the air from its breathing hole. I wasn’t sure the type of whale, but the visible part of its back was 30-40 ft long.
The other common sighting of late has been rather comical. We have been seeing quite a few birds seemingly standing on the water. As we draw closer, they mystery was clarified. The birds were standing on the back of turtles with seemingly not a care in the world (for both). An interesting relationship 🙂
Today is April 25th and the past few days have been ones of baking heat and at times becalmed conditions with the ocean looking like a large pond with nary a ripple on it. There is even little relief at night as the ocean temperature is 34 degrees Celsius, providing little cooling at night. And, with no wind even having the hatches open does little to cool the sleeping area down below.
Trying to sail in these light conditions can be extremely challenging. On one watch, we raised our yankee, dropped our light-weight spinnaker, raised the wind seeker, dropped the yankee, raised the yankee, dropped the windseeker, and changed the yankee to another one. All to little avail.
Looking over the side, the squids were swimming faster than we were.
Our hopes did finally pick up last night as the wind filled in moderately (8-11 knots) enabling us to make 7-9 knots towards the first finishing gate with the lightweight spinnaker flying as a large code zero (light-weight reaching sail).
Initially, the race committee had set three finishing gates beginning from off of Acapulco down to Panama in case the wind does not cooperate. At this point, it looks like the race may be called soon as we have a deadline to transit the Panama Canal and it is still a good 1,500 miles away. But, we are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping we can move up more in the race standings before the race ends. As I write this, we are currently in 7th now and we hope to move up into 5th or better on this portion of the race. Time will tell…