Early this morning, at about 4am, we decided we just weren't making any
progress at 3.5k so we began motoring. Motor sailing really, since the
sails were up (ha ha). Our fuel situation is not great, but better to burn
what we have now while there is no wind then hoard it for some future time
which hasn't come yet. We will, of course, keep a healthy amount in
reserve for entering port, but for now we have no choice.
At 9am there seemed to be a bit of a breeze coming from the Northeast, so
we hoisted the chute (spinnaker) and for a short while were making 5.5k in
about 10-13k True wind. Alas, by 10:30am it had decreased to about 7k and
we were barely making 3k. We struck the chute and began motoring again.
It is now 1:45pm and we have been motoring steadily since 11am making
about 5.2k over ground. The sun is, of course, shining (if only we had
this weather while we were in Vanuatu or Fiji!) and it is stifling hot
outside. Our latitude is about 21 degrees which is about the same as the
Turks and Caicos and the Southern Bahamas in the Caribbean. This being
Spring in these parts, you can imagine how warm it is. The sky is also
lovely with small, white puffy clouds neatly spaced across the sky. None
of them seem to be moving anywhere. The wind is a nominal 5k from the NE
or North and seems to box the compass randomly.
Due to our fuel situation (we don't have enough) we have reluctantly
decided to make our first port of entry in Australia the town of
Bundaberg, about 220 miles North of Brisbane. Bundaberg has 2 things going
for it in our case - first, we can almost certainly reach it under power
with the fuel we have aboard, and second, the port can be easily entered
without any gyrations or complex navigation as are required when entering
Moreton Bay (Brisbane). This means we can enter at ay time of the day or
night with ease. Right now, assuming we continue motoring, we expect to
arrive at Bundaberg on the evening of the 19th, sometime between 5 and
10pm. In other words, we have about 53 hours to go.
It is now 7:15pm and the sun has set. There is still no wind of any kind.
The instruments record 5k of wind from the NNE, but it has been clocking
around from anywhere between NNW, West and East all day in strengths
anywhere from 2 to 7k. Unfortunately, as our desired course is still 219M
anything from the North is a downwind run for us and thus requires a great
deal more wind than this to move us. Our apparent wind, as we motor at 5k,
is less then 1k on the instruments.
This afternoon the captain has been conducting a fuel consumption analysis
and the results have been quite encouraging and surprising. Running at
only 1500rpm, which in calm seas like this gives us a 5.5k boat speed
(speed over ground varies as currents mitigate or enhance this speed), we
have used in a 4 hour test period only 3.75 gallons of fuel. This is about
half of what I had expected. My guess, based on mfgr info, was that at
this speed (ie. low rpms) we would still burn close to 1.25gph. The mfgr
data suggests a consumption rate of 2.25gph at WOT which is close to
2400rpm, an engine speed we never even approach. Our "top" cruising speed
is usually 2200rpm which gives us close to 7k of boat speed in calm seas.
The upshot of all this is that I have been overestimating consumption and
underestimating our potential range, at low rpms. Given this data it is no
longer a question whether we have enough fuel to reach Australia. For
caution though, I am conducting a duplicate analysis over the next 4 hour
period and assuming the results match we will open her up tomorrow and
increase our speed. Furthermore, it does seem clear now that we can easily
reach Brisbane instead of Bundaberg (Brisbane being about 100nm further,
from our current position, then Bundaberg). However, after considering the
issue of the tricky entrance and the requirement to make our arrival time
at Moreton bay at least 5 hours before sunset we are not anxious to head
for Brisbane. Further, this afternoon we spent a few minutes examining the
Lonely Planet guide to the Gt. Barrier Reef and have discovered there are
several idyllic islands at the Southern end of the Reef's islands which
are just 40nm NE of Bundaberg. We are now planning to spend some time
exploring these islands before settling in at Brisbane. This is especially
attractive considering the aborted season we experienced in the tropics
this year (due to equipment failures and poor weather conditions).
After Bundaberg we will visit either one or both of two islands which look
particularly interesting - Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrove islands.
According to Lonely Planet they have excellent diving and beautiful
beaches (photos of the islands seem to support the second claim).
Oh, I almost forgot. At about 6pm while sitting in the cockpit Kate
noticed a group of birds circling about a half mile ahead of us. I changed
course about 10 degrees to port so we would pass right through them and
dropped the hook in the water. I will also admit to being so cocky I put
on the fighting belt right away (a harness with a socket where the rod can
be supported while fighting a fish). Within 3 minutes we had a fish on the
line. It was a lovely Yellowfin Tuna of about 20-25lbs, our first and only
tuna of this season. After a 10 or 15 minute fight we had her on board and
she was soon filleted and stowed in the reefer for tomorrow (tuna needs to
cool down before being cooked for maximum flavor). Sometimes everything
just works our right.
Well, it is now about midnight and at 11pm the captain (ahem, myself) woke
to take over the watch only to find a wind had sprung up from the NE at,
according to our instruments, about 13-14k. This prompted the immediate
raising of the mainsail, followed by the unfurling of the genoa. Of
course, once the wind gods noticed this activity the wind dropped back to
about 7k. It seems to be fluctuating between 8 and 11k and we are hopeful
it will inch back up closer to 14.
Meanwhile, at 11pm I re-checked the fuel gauge (on take #5, the tank we
have been running on while doing the fuel consumption analysis described
above) to find it below the predicted level of ¼, closer to 1/8 in fact.
This has led us to conclude that the earlier test results are in fact
in-conclusive. Therefore, we are going to sail as much as possible
regardless of the speed we can achieve, even if that be 3k, usually well
below our slowness threshold. I don't think the results we got on the
first test are way, way off, but I now suspect the reality is closer to
1.25gph then 1gph as our results initially showed. Of course, I am kicking
myself hourly for the fact that I am sitting here (after almost 2 ½ years
of living aboard) for not knowing our true consumption rate. Any power
boat owners are probably reading this now and snickering, as they of
course live and die by this type of information. But I wonder if I am
alone among sailors or if it is a common deficiency considering motoring
is not something we (sailors) do readily or with great joy. Better to
ignore it as much as possible and just sail the damn boat.