Monday 7th May 2012
Beautiful, calm, clear, moonlit night (full 'perigee' moon) - Stewart Island, and offlying Big South Cape Island slightly to the West, both clear in outline as we slowly changed course around the SW Cape to head towards Tahiti to get the required Easting before sailing to Hawai'i, before making for the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between the 'Pacific NW' of the USA and Vancouver Island...
While it was so calm, I took the opportunity of the bright moonlight to cable-tie some of the wires below the solar panels which I'd noticed earlier had come adrift - presumably when one set of panels had been sliding on its support a few days back. I suspect some of the wiring connections are damaged from being pulled on. since we don't seem to be putting in anything like what I've been used to seeing. A job for when it's really calm, one day!
Unfortunately, the autopilot motor stopped functioning as just as the wind died on approach to the Cape (luckily a good way off!) so, not seeing anything I could do about it, once the hydraulic fluid had been topped up, I switched to the back-up motor - no big crisis, but nice to have calm conditions to investigate and try to sort out the problem! It's certainly giving me the chance to find out a little about hydraulic motor systems..... Since the back-up ram is working but in need of refurbishing, I might yet have to switch its motor in place of the problem one at some point. In the meantime, it was good to have Fred, the Hydrovane windsteering unit, to fall back on.... the bonus being no use of battery power while he's hard at work!
I was well aware of needing to keep 'North Trap' (rocks awash) and 'Boomerang Breaker' (shallow spots to under 5m depth) well off to starboard (by 4 ml and 9 ml respectively) as I rounded Stewart Island 4-5 mls off. (There's also a 'South Trap' to avoid, with rocks just 1.8m above water, which is 17 mls offshore.) The names seemed very understandable... but later this morning I realised just how appropriate the names were when, with almost no wind and motor-sailing ENE, I found us in a strong SW-flowing current... Together with a strong NNE wind that suddenly came up, we were struggling against the headwind to pass the Trap safely & making only around 2 knots. In the end , the only way to avoid for sure from being taken onto the Trap was to change course completely and head SE to pass S of it - giving us much better speed under sail, into the bargain!
At which point, I realized we were heading into a fogbank over the shallow area... Oh, what fun...! The worry also was that the chart and GPS might not be in sync - I kept my eyes on the depth display and tried to spot the low-lying rocks - in the distance, I hoped! ... which I found was the case..... with relief, no depth less than nearly 50m was seen and all ended well...
In hindsight (how good that always is!), I should have continued ESE from the SW Cape a bit further before 'turning the corner' and that might have avoided the problem (although there was still the South Trap not so far away - ready for the unwary!)
At dawn, there was a simultaneous bright sun and bright moon! The sky was full of albatross all morning - lots of Shy albatross as well as Buller's, also maybe Savin's - plus the occasional Cape Petrel. just an amazing sight - it was difficult to keep my mind on sail trim with so many fabulous birds flying so close - I got my camera out again - we live in hope of the occasional bird in the frame!!
Eventually, the wind backed to N and we then made good speed (up to 7 kt) making 080T. Later the wind settled down nicely and we made around 060T at good speed.
I seem to have been busy talking to people a lot on the radio today - Stewart Island Maritime Radio (actually in Wellington, via repeaters) had a very friendly operator who gave me the up-to-date weather for my area and also suggested a twice-daily check-in with them - initially on VHF and then on HF. Later there was a long session after the Pacific Seafarers Net - with a great 'patch' from Tom, WA6TLL, who got my friend Barbara, from Sidney , B.C., to chat to me using his radio (in California) via her telephone... This evening, I chatted to hams in Belgium, Holland and S. Australia and also with Greg, Mary Kay (of Smithton Radio, Tasmania) and friendly Hobart Coast Radio . Then, after an email from Jeremy of Dover Radio (Tasmania), I unexpectedly spoke to Meri of Bluff (N.Z.) Fishermen's Radio who was expecting me, having just herself spoken to Jeremy! All very sociable - and people forever ask me, "Aren't you lonely out there by yourself?"!
With the light wind around dawn, not too surprising that our DMG today was only 112 n.ml.
Better 'post' this - my morning 'sched' starts with a check-in at 0700 with NZ Maritime Radio!