Speed and Shooting in Bad Weather

9 Jun

Day 167/46

Noon Position: 15 06N 151 58W

Course/Speed: NNW7+

Wind: E20+

Bar: 1017, steady

Sea: E8+

Sky: Clear, a few inconsequential cumulus, so thin as to be translucent

Cabin Temperature: 88

Water Temperature: 85

Sail: #1 and Main, one reef each

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 161

Miles this leg: 5928

Avg. Miles this leg: 129

Miles since departure: 23,033

Speed. The last 24-hours have been NE trades at their finest; that is fresh and fast and at an angle that Mo adores. Yesterday we flew the big genoa while winds slowly built, and Mo slid along at 7 and 8 knots with apparent wind dead abeam.

Overnight, squalls–the last of them (fingers crossed)–slowed us for a time. Lightening to windward at one point, bright and often and close enough that I gathered the loose electronics–laptop, InReach, vhf radio–and put them in the oven for safe keeping.

By midnight we were back to working canvas and reefed down. Dawn came on clear and the wind roared in the rigging at a steady 20 – 25, dead abeam again. Seas have built and are now big blue buffalo charging east. Mo creams along, up, over and through, up, over, and through.

At this rate we may better yesterday’s mileage.

Yesterday was a poor day for position finding, the sky, flat and gray. But being the dutiful navigator, I went on deck at 10, noon, and 2, and, to my amazement, came back with an altitude each time, altitudes that worked up to my most precise running fix yet (likely blind luck, that). What was gratifying was that with a little patience and the right set of shades, the sun can be shot in what appears to the naked eye to be hopeless cloud cover.

To my amusement, I am proud of this developing skill. I am right to be proud of course, like a child is right to be proud when he learns to tie his shoe laces. An accomplishment for sure, a good place to start, but not the accomplished accomplishment.

What is ironic is that part of my pride is due to how rarely this skill is practiced by contemporary sailors. I like to think it connects me in some small way to greats like Captain Cook and the explorers of his era. In fact, it connects me more directly to ocean sailors from just ONE generation back, who had to know celestial navigation in order to get found.

One generation. That’s all it has taken for this method to be almost entirely supplanted by the admittedly infinitely easier and more accurate GPS.

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage

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