Day after Day, Where’s the Wind?

It’s the beginning of our 7th day at sea.  Perhaps it’s just me but it seems that going south is a lot more complex than heading north.  In the spring you sort of point the boat north and can generally hold a fairly direct course most of the way.  I guess that makes sense as the prevailing winds are from the east offshore and from the SW onshore which is about right for the run north.

So, what about fall?  With the cold fronts coming off of the coast in the fall and winter months, you’d expect that the northerlies would help us along heading south.  However, that’s not the case because those northerlies are driven by a succession of lows that roll off of the east coast, one after another.

Of course, between those lows the winds go all over the place so heading south becomes a cat and mouse game with shifting winds.   I am beginning to see why many folks opt to keep their boats in Trinidad or Grenada and avoid the 1500 mile slog each spring and fall.   Think I have had enough?  Actually, I really enjoy the trip when we are sailing but day after day of motoring and hoping that we can pick up a little bit more wind to sail, can get somewhat wearing.   (As I finish up this post, we are sailing again, for the moment at least)

Twice each day I listen to Chris Parker, in the morning and evening, to see what the latest “new”, “flavor of the day”, waypoint will be.   What is today’s best guess as to where we will finally reach the trade winds and be able to turn south toward Antigua?  As I write this we are, as the crow flies, and Pandora isn’t flying right now,  about 600 miles from Antigua.  However, we still have to continue to head to the SE, not directly to Antigua, to get enough easting to catch favorable winds for the rest of the run.  Well, that’s at least what Chris said this morning…

Unfortunately, we are currently to the north of a ridge that is suppressing the wind to 10kts or less in our area.   As Pandora needs about 12kts to sail comfortably on a close reach, the winds just aren’t strong or consistent enough to sail.  While I might be able to sail easily in light winds in say, the protected waters of Long Island Sound, in the more choppy conditions of the ocean, it takes a few knots more wind to keep our speed up.
Generally, it’s pretty comfortable moving along right now but I’d feel a lot better if the engine weren’t on most of the time.  We have plenty of fuel, I think, to make the run assuming that my consumption per hour assumptions are right and that the remaining two tanks have at least 40 gallons, each, of usable fuel.  The builder’s specs call for three tanks of 50 gallons each for a total of 150 gallons.  However, we have used up the first tank and based on historical usage per hour, I estimate that the useable fuel in that tank was about 40 gallons, not 50.   If that is correct and the other tanks are similar, then I have ten gallons less per tank than I thought and that translates to something like 40 to 45 hours less fuel under power, nearly two days.

However, in spite of all that, I calculated this morning that I should have somewhere around 5.5 days more motoring with the fuel that I have left.   So, with perhaps 650 miles to go and an assumed average speed of 6.5kts,  I would need a maximum of four days of motoring if I were to use the engine 100% of the time, which isn’t likely to happen.

Well, I say “not likely” with the belief that the rest of the trip will be better than the first half and I remain hopeful, that once we hit the trades we will be able to turn off the engine and once again enjoy the sounds of the wind and water rushing past Pandora as we close in on Antigua.  Ever hopeful you say?  Yes, that’s me and the dog, ever hopeful?  Can I have a cookie?

Actually, I’d like some of the banana, squash, raisin bread that just came out of the oven and that’s way better than a cookie.   As good as it smells, and it does smell great, I’d trade it for favorable winds in a minute.

Yes, I’m plenty hopeful but the wind, such as it is, is what it is, so I’ll just eat that banana, yellow squash, raisin bread and take what the sea tosses our way.
And later I’ll call Chris Parker and see if he can tell me, for sure and exactly where some favorable winds are anyway.

Oh yeah, about that banana, yellow squash, raisin bread, it was awesome and I didn’t even use a recipe or mix.  Besides, who would combine that weird mix if they weren’t on a boat and didn’t have to anyway?

2 responses to “Day after Day, Where’s the Wind?

  1. Bob, I guess you should be happy that you have an engine to keep you going. Many in the past made such voyages without engines, or without the fuel capacity you have, and had to endure those lulls because sailing was all they had to get them there. 🙂
    Bill

  2. Another option for your potential fuel problem, and I’m sure you have thought about it (and it is subject to the availability of fuel there, which someone could check out for you) is a short fuel stop in PR or the Virgins or even St. Martin.
    I lost the shackle at the aft end of the boom two summers ago in Cape Cod Bay. It just opened up flat and I had to wrestle the clew in with non-spectra cordage for the 1/2 hour back to Hyanisport.
    Keep enjoying!

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