Yesterday went well. The wind stayed SSE or thereabouts and around 14 knots, occasionally more sometimes less and we sailed at around 6 knots most of the time on a low swell with not much chop, my first landmark being Motu One ( pronouned Motu "On-eh') a sometimes inhabited tiny atoll with no passages through the reef for anything other than dinghies or canoes. The atoll is also known as Bellingshausen. No Google here so cant tell you what thats about! The sky was mostly cloudless.
Ive been learning about the amazing ability of yachts to sail themselves, once youve worked out the correct balance of sail and helm. Such is the cunning of yacht design, once correctly balanced out one simply locks off the helm and sits back for the ride, much as one does with whichever self steering gear you may already have, such as the now non-functional Hydrovane precariously and unattractively still attached at a bizarre angle to the stern of Sapphire. I had heard and read about this self steering capacity of yachts before but somehow imagined it would require close monitoring and adjustment, that the vessel would gradually wander off track and need to be corrected quite frequently - in fact Sapphire would track along and require no assistance for many hours at a time, bringing herself back to course if there was a deviation. I did discover however that if the wind fluctuated too much, the balance that worked at one strength wouldnt be so good at another and then adjustment would need to be made but as long as the wind and sea state were reasonably constant adjustments werent needed. I also discovered nevertheless that a Helmsperson isn't entirely superfluous as when I took over the helm, for the pleasure of sailing, I noticed average speed improved and the time calculated by my handheld GPS to reach Raiatea improved by up to 12 hours.
So that was how I amused myself yesterday as we continued on a direct course to Raiatea, and I even managed to do a little reading. AT about 9pm Motu One was 15nm in front and I was tired, I wanted to sleep but knew I should stay awake till we had cleared the atoll, which on the present course we were going to miss by only 3 or 4 miles round midnight. In retrospect I probably should have watched and waited but I was worried about falling asleep - and there are many sad stories of solo yachties falling asleep and coming to grief - such as Jean Socrates who beached her yacht within a days sail of completing a circumnavigation - so decided to tack away and gain more space, which I did , and then tacked back again to continue on course. However, in the dark getting the sails rebalanced and the helm just so seemed to be impossible and I spent the rest of the night popping up and down trying to get it right and trying desperately to get some sleep.
So this morning I am tired, and I seem to have pulled a muscle in my shoulder but all is well and the wind and sea are as yesterday so I am hoping for another good days sailing. In the last 24 hours we have closed the gap by nearly 100 miles, and right now the GPS says theres 148 left. Two more days I suppose...Right now my position is 16 degrees 4 South, 154.03 West.
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