Day 13, Year 2: Fifth Day of Passage from New Zealand to Fiji
Date: Monday, May 7, 2007
Weather Today: Totally Overcast, Winds SE 33 Knots
Temperature: Air 76 degrees F
Latitude: 25 degrees 36 minutes S
Longitude: 175 degrees 00 minutes E
Miles to Go: 508
Location: Passage from New Zealand to Fiji

It was a challenging day on the high seas, and I literally mean high seas. Winds during the night were 25 to 30 and during the morning they started building slowly. By 2 PM, the predicted 20 to 25 knot winds were a consistent 33 knots with gusts to 38 and the seas had built to at least 12 feet. A weather map is a little like a topographic map. On a topographic map, when the lines are close together it indicates rising heights in the land. On a weather map, when those lines or isobars are close together, it means high winds. And when you get caught between a low and a high, the lines get close together. Some call this a squash zone, and I can tell you first hand that I definitely feel squashed. When you have heavy weather like this, you just can’t afford to make mistakes, but we did just that today. We are okay, although Mark’s arm is a little bruised, but Windbird sustained a little more damage. At 10 AM this morning, we were running with the double reefed mainsail and the staysail. The winds had not started to seriously build, and we decided to put out a bit of the headsail to give us a little more speed. That was the mistake. By 2 PM, we knew we needed to bring in the headsail, usually not a problem. So without thinking through the complications in such windy conditions, we started trying to bring it in. One thing led to another, and the sheet or line to the headsail started flogging wildly. There was so much force behind it that it bent one of the stanchions or stainless steel uprights that hold the life lines in place, it shattered the solar panel on the port side, and it destroyed the plastic and zippers in two of our cockpit enclosure panels.

While all of this was happening, we were continuing to try and pull the sail in. Mark’s arm got in the way a few times and he has some pretty ugly bruises on his right forearm. In addition, he lost both of our good wench handles overboard. We only have two more, one old stainless one that doesn’t lock in place, and the one we leave on the mast to use when raising the mainsail. I was protected by the plastic enclosure, so I didn’t get the damage, they did. For about half an hour, it wasn’t a pretty picture here on Windbird. And of all the luck, at this same time, another boat was hailing us as it passed by. After our ordeal was over, we called back. The boat’s name is Halo and the captain sounds British. We will be traveling close together tonight and have promised to hail each other if we have problems. We were close to Arctic Fox last night, but they dipped out of sight by 7 AM this morning. They have tried to call us this afternoon, but they are too far away and we can’t connect. We will talk on the 5:30 radio net.

Halo called a few minutes ago to inform us of their course for the night and to tell us that they took down their staysail and were much more comfortable. We did the same, and we are riding much smoother now. We are no longer going 8 and 9 knots, but we are moving at a comfortable 6.5 knots. So we will sail through the night with just the double reefed main up. Sometime tomorrow, we should be far enough north to be out of the squash zone. At that point, the winds should subside, but we still don’t know exactly what is going to happen with the low. At worst we will have more 30 knot winds, but at best, we will be far enough north and it will pass behind us. Right now, that sounds really good.

070507 Day 13–Passage to Fiji 5th Day