Day 553 [April 8/10] -- A more direct run to the Equator

Today's Report
April 8/10 0800 JST

14°06'S, 78°50'W (South Pacific Ocean, 1,586 nm from Valdivia / 914 nm to Equator)

A bit slower day of 92 nm under sail. Saito-san has adjusted his route to make a more direct run to the Equator, reaching it sooner by about 900 nm (from our estimate of an obliquely westward 1,829 nm to an adjusted northerly 914 nm). At roughly 100 nm a day, that will get him there in 9 days.

Yesterday we mentioned the Andes Mountains, and would be remiss to not make a special comment. 

This massive mountain range runs down the western edge of the continent, extending over seven countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. The range is over 7,000 km (4,300 mi) long, 200 km (120 mi) to 700 km (430 mi) wide and has an average height of about 4,000 m (13,000 ft). [By comparison, Mt. Fuji in Japan is a comparable 3,777 m, while Mt. Everest in Nepal is more than double at 8,480 m.]

To a sailor, the presence of mountains along a coast can have several consequences. To vessels close in, fierce winds called "williwaws" can produce sudden, near-hurricane force local gusts that can slam a sailboat on its beam ends and keep it pressed down until the vessel founders or the winds finally relent with an equal suddenness. Early accounts of explorers, including the captain of the British ship "Beagle" carrying evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin, recorded encounters with the highly dangerous winds while charting the Strait of Magellan and Cape Horn.

To ships well off the coast, weather "trapped" by the mountains can causes conditions such as Saito-san has seen for the past week of unrelenting overcast skies. There's been little or no rain, but also almost no sun, just continuous and monotonous gray skies. 

Saito-san today sounded a bit weary of the virtually non-stop "sameness" of the past 12 days since departing Valdivia, marked by winds of 6 to 12 kts mainly from the SSE. Due to their following nature he's had to be careful to avoid accidental jibes so has relied more recently on just the self-jibing staysail. Being smaller, boat speed is down about 1.5 kts, compared to when the genoa is in use. He says the much-larger genoa is difficult to move from port to starboard (or vice versa) when the stern goes through the eye of the wind. This is what led to the tangled genoa sheet earlier, as it is easy for the sail or a sheet to be caught on the forward stays.

Here's what can happen in such a situation on a smaller boat: Video

On a crewed vessel, a controlled jibe is normal and usually quickly corrected if anything goes wrong; to a solo sailor, a difficult or unexpected jibe can be fatiguing, dangerous, and potentially sail- or rigging-damaging.

Until Saito-san can put the wind more on either side of the vessel while maintaining the route he wants, the compromise is to rely on the smaller, more manageable staysail while accepting reduced DMG. 

In the meantime he is getting close to the intertropical convergence zone characterized by inconsistent, fickle winds. So he may be about to leave that somewhat wearying "sameness" well behind.   

Distance in last 24 hours: 92 nm
Distance completed: 19,113 nm
To Yokohama: 9,157 nm (distance remaining: 32.4%)
Heading: 305
Reported boat speed: 4.8 kt (day's average: 3.8 kt)
Weather: Overcast 
Temperature: 20.0° C
Barometer: 1007 hPa (steady)
Wind (from): Favorable 10-12 kt SSE -- expected to stay 10 - 14 kt mostly out of SSE
Waves: 1.5 -2.0 m
Current (from): 0.2 kt S
Engine rpms: 0 hrs
Generator: 10.0 hrs
Sails: Genoa 0%, staysail 100%, mainsail 1-pt reef

Position Map (click to enlarge)