18 June 2022

Day 15 - New ideas

Today I woke up determined to use this period of good weather, no matter how long it lasts, to our best advantage. As I said yesterday, it seems we've spent most of our time dodging storms, maneuvering around the Gulf Stream, or fixing things, including some pretty major issues like climbing the main mast!

Enough of all that! If we could now manage it, I wanted to sail Petronella actively, getting the most possible out of her, and steering the optimum route.

That hasn't been possible up to now, but today it seems like it is, so I'm going to give it my best shot.

Despite the forecast, we managed to sail all night, averaging probably 3 knots, which was okay considering I thought we'd be becalmed all night. With first light, the wind picked up and we were soon making 5 knots due east.

In the meantime, I got busy downloading all the weather info possible, including weather charts, and the GFS and ECMWF GRIB data. These are the US and European weather models.

I'd gotten a bit cynical about these weather models, because they naturally have a hard time predicting the exact locations of local storms and squalls. Often their predictions had seemingly nothing to do with the real weather all around us. But in these more settled conditions, I was hoping they could provide some useful guidance.

I loaded them both into my favorite weather routing program, LuckGrib, and asked it to create two routes - one using the US data, and one using the European data. Naturally, the routes were quite different. This disagreement was one of the things that had caused me to throw up my hands in frustration for the last week. If they couldn't forecast the same weather, and neither one seemed very accurate, when what was the point? Why not just sail the Great Circle route and be done with it?

Then I noticed that the routes generated from the two models were roughly identical for the first two days. They diverged after that, but that made sense. The weather services do a pretty good job of predicting the weather for a couple of days, but after that, chaos reigns and of course they come up it's different solutions.

But I could follow the agreed course for 2 days, and then recompute. Probably they would agree on another day or two or three.

This seemed sensible, and better than sailing blind (perhaps!), so that's what we are doing.

One excellent result is that as soon as we turned onto the course recommended by the router, we started sailing 7-8 knots. Well, of course! I thought. The computer has Petronella's polar diagram, and knows her fastest point of sail, which is a beam reach. Maybe this routing thing will work after all. At least in reasonable weather.

It's nearly 14:00 and we are still blasting along at 7-8 knots and the sun is still shining brightly over the deep blue sea. Life is good.

For now!

Lunch time was interesting. First, we had a mystery sailboat creeping up behind us on our port quarter. It didn't appear on our AIS, so we don't know it's name. It must be a big boat because it's doing about 9 knots. When it catches up to us, I will give them a call on the VHF. (Edit: they were a French catermeran headed straight for northern France.)

And we got a little inventive with lunch today. I was in the mood for pasta, so we cooked some in sea water, Helena wanted canned peas, so we added some of those to the cooking water for the last minute, drained all, then tossed in a goodly portion of green pesto, and for protein, some of our homemade canned chicken breast, along with a splash of broth. The chicken is fully cooked during the canning process, so we just tossed the lot to warm up the chicken a bit, then served with some freshly ground pepper. A complete meal in one pot in about the time it takes to cook pasta. Love our home-canned food. Best idea ever.

The afternoon and evening continued with the same conditions. At 2200, we are still plowing a watery furrow at 6-7 knots, even with our nighttime reef in the main. We could have our best 24 hour run, ever. Check back tomorrow and see how we do!

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