End of week two

Sailing upwind, fishing, and low pressure systems

All cruisers know there is an old adage “Gentlemen do not sail to weather” that we all like to repeat when someone is planning to go somewhere upwind. We also know quite a few cruisers who have lamented their boats do not sail to weather very well, so all their destinations are downwind. Definitely limits ones options when deciding where to go.

We expected some upwind work on this passage, just not as much as we have had. The first two days were fine, beating into light winds. 10 knots does not create much wave action so we actually travel faster sailing into 10 knots than away from it, as long as the seas are commensurate with the wind. The light winds during the middle part of the passage were frustrating. Nothing is worse than hours of sailing at 2 knots. We starting looking forward to seeing some wind in a forecasted low that was traveling east ahead of us.

We caught one fish, a mackerel which fed us for two days and Maya for a week. Unfortunately, trolling while sailing at 2 knots isn’t productive, so we didn’t fish for most of the passage. We so wanted one last Mahi before leaving warm water…

With two days warning of inclement weather we probably over analyzed the coming low. Since we were out of the tropics and there were two highs above the approaching low to keep it from heading north, we decided to make all possible speed north so we we would be on the north side of it. Because the winds were still in the 4-6 knot range making all possible speed required running our engine, burning precious diesel.

It worked, when the winds came they were just south of east, telling us we were in the right place north of the low. We sailed with the increasing winds until it turned northeast. At this point we were 347 miles south of Osaka and 20 miles east of our route, with about 200 miles of sea room to the west before we’d smack into the southern islands of Japan. We ‘hove to’, stopping most boat movement, in order to preserve both the sea room to the west and our progress to the north. We were ‘stopped’ for 12 hours and lost 2 miles south and 17 miles west. Not bad. Once we started sailing again the seas and wind forced us another 10 miles west before they rotated around and allowed us to sail north again. 300 miles to go, 64 gallons (out of 140) of diesel left on board.

Who would have thought we would hit more stormy weather a day or so later? The winds built into the high 20’s with gust over 30. We are on the western edge of our weather charts and wouldn’t necessarily see a new low approaching. The winds were easterly, telling us there must be another low south of us. Given the wind strength it felt bigger than the one we had already weathered. Teresa found a surface analysis weather fax to receive via the SSB and sure enough, there was a giant low below us. Because the winds were more easterly we were able to continue sailing north, albeit slowly with only a reefed main. We later added the engine and increased our speed to 5 knots, believing there was lighter winds further north.

The winds above the low were more variable than the first, giving multiple wave trains from a couple of different directions. When two waves cross each other their height is the height of both waves added together. We were taking salt water spray as high as the wind generator and the occasional wave crashing into the boat sounded like a Buick smashing into us. At one point I was sitting in the companionway watching the waves and looked up in time to see water 10 feet above the side of the boat, and we weren’t rolling with it. It was the first time we’ve taken a wave through the dodger and into the companionway. The dishes in the cabinets behind the stove had sea water in them!

We managed to get far enough north to lose the effects of this second low and managed a couple days of pretty decent sailing. We’re now approaching Osaka Bay as the wind goes lighter and lighter. Good news is we have enough diesel to motor the rest of the way if necessary. Bad news is the ship traffic we are seeing over a hundred miles away seems busier than any we’ve seen before. Never been so happy to have AIS.

Today on Yohelah we’re preparing for landfall in Japan.