We’re in the trade winds now, complete with big nasty squalls and and big puffy nice squalls. Today was spent mostly fending off the nasty type that come in long trains and carry winds of 30 knots. Squalls are one of the not-so-pleasant features of the TransPac race, mostly because they appear and disappear unexpectedly, they change the wind directions which means you have to go on deck and make adjustments, and they change wind strength, which means you have to go on deck and alter sails. As as result you spend a lot of time running up and down between the bunk and cockpit, back to the bunk, then back up to the cockpit again later on. Bleah! I wish squalls would go somewhere else, preferably where I am not. But they aren’t listening as currently there is a nice healthy squall behind and to weather (it will pass by no problem), and another abeam to leeward – it should pass ahead and be no problem either. It’s the sneaky squall that appears on the aft quarter that you have to watch out for, as that squall may indeed march right up and over you.
Squalls typically travel in pairs, or longer trains of 5-8 vertical clouds billowing up from the lower 3000 foot clouds; the bit sticking up much higher is the heat engine that results in extra wind down at surface level, so one can look around and count parts sticking up and be reasonably certain where the squalls are. I’ve also got the radar tuned to where it will see water as well as ships, which makes it easier to sleep as the alarm will go off when a squall gets within 6 miles of Beetle.
One nifty feature of Your Friend the Squall is they travel at a slight angle northwards relative to the prevailing wind, something like 15 degrees, and I believe this is the Coriolis effect and preserving angular momentum. Either way, the fact that there is a general behavior to squalls makes it possible to figure out which ones are potential problems, and how to maneuver to avoid them.
Today Beetle had the first gear breakage of the race – the connector between the main track car and the batten end fitting snapped off, raining down little bits of metal into the cockpit, one of which actually bounced off my head! Fortunately this is a straightforward fix and I have two spares on board, so I dropped the main, replaced the fitting, rehoisted the main and we keep on heading for the beach.
I need to go upstairs and discuss squall strategy with the boat. So far we have reefed the main and the butterfly is half-furled, winds are 20k and we’re bopping along between 6 and 9 knots on the swell. Port pole will probably be better than starboard, there will be gying shortly.
Hope everyone else has a fine night sans squalls.