Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fallen Angels

2011 07 03

37 55N
047 20W

For days now we have been trapped in a labyrinth of breathless anticipation. Sadly no breath comes.

Ours it is, we discover, to navigate a maze of low wind tunnels seeking passage to the east. Unlike those neat little pencil mazes printed with the colour comics each morning our little wind tunnels are endlessly opening and closing at the whim of spontaneously generating and collapsing high pressure areas. Science perceives the cause and development of the low pressure area and has been able to confine such meteorologic events to a set of rules. Having observed cause and effect scientists now control the event.

Not so with high pressure.

To a sailor there is little worse than a huge slow moving high pressure area. Clear skies and bright sun certainly accompany such atmospheric events but so too do low or non existent winds. Conventional wisdom is that one must keep two isobars away from the centre of a high pressure cell to have even a hope of winds sufficient to power one's sailboat.

The area of ocean which we currently inhabit and have inhabited for over a week is an area of constant high pressure cells, leaping into existence in a matter of hours and soon thereafter dissolving as a new unanticipated pressure ridge appears only itself to dissolve in a few hours.

The nonexistent winds accompany each high pressure cell however.

36 hours ago the wind blew up and we found ourselves delightfully sailing in 8 knot breezes. Quite a change from the 5 to 7 knot still born breath we normally find at our masthead. And if the wind is 5 at the masthead it is 2 or 3 on the surface. All one night we powered along on God's exhalation making steady velocities of the 5 knot sort.

Come morning and we found ourselves abandoned, standing alone in the rising sun, another fallen angel of the morning. It was a wonderful night but not what we were looking for. We wanted something more...lasting.

Over the past 36 hours the forecast data have firmed up. No more indecisive accounts showing adjacent wind barbs only one degree in separation, pointing in opposite direction. The pressure forecast and wind forecast begin to look like normal circular meteo.

It is enough for us to throw the dice. We motor today and tonight, burning precious fuel each minute, seeking promised higher wind speeds at 40 degrees north latitude, or maybe 42 degrees. Wind could be as high they say as ten knots as if such a thing were even possible.

Our venture will take us well out of our intended path but we have visited the horse latitudes and have seen all there is to see. And then some.

If we fail to find the wind we have spent most of our expendable fuel and will be left with but 20 gallons discretionary fuel in the tank. Our last attempt to motor overnight into the waiting arms of ten knots of wind proved to be the usual purchase of a lottery ticket.

If we fail today we will be at least seven more days with no wind. Seven days is as long as the forecast goes.

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