Perhaps the biggest mystery to me that still remains about open ocean sailing is proper route planning/tactics. It is like an art form that the creative side of my brain struggles to grasp. We have enough miles under our keels that I have a relatively good idea how Starry Horizons performs in a variety of conditions, and I think we’ve proven that we’re at least capable of sailing from Point A to Point B.
But getting there in the most efficient manner possible… That’s the real trick.
We chose to cut our time in the Galapagos a bit short because a fairly decent weather window seemed to be opening up for us. The forecasts were indicating that the trade winds could be found around 3 degrees South latitude, which is fairly high for the doldrums, and that there was some decent wind speed. Given that this is an El Nino year, characterized by fairly light trade winds, we figured this sounded pretty good, so we left.
Our plan was to head almost due south to find the trade winds around 3 degrees latitude, at which point the forecasts showed that the winds would be out of the south east, and we could point almost directly towards French Polynesia. Everything started out well, and we actually were able to sail much more than I thought coming out of the Galapagos. With a bit of motorsailing overnight and into Friday, we were exactly where I wanted to be, when I wanted to be there.
Except the wind wasn’t there to greet us.
Turns out, the forecast had changed. Now instead of the trade winds filling in at 3 deg South, they were supposed to fill in at 4 deg South.
Except they didn’t.
What we found instead was almost a day and a half of storms that ushered us through the convergence zone. We tried to make our way west as much as possible, but the winds didn’t really cooperate. Instead, we just had to bite the bullet and head further south until the trade winds finally filled in. It isn’t particularly fun watching your VMG (velocity made good) dip to less than 1 knot, but we didn’t really have much of any other choice.
Fortunately, I’m pleased to report that the trade winds eventually did fill in this morning around 4AM (famous last words I know) so we’re at least making good progress west now. I was slightly mollified to discover another sailboat on AIS, s/v Blue Raven, emerging into the trades about the same time we did. They left the Galapagos slightly before us, so at least I’m not the only one who chose this route.
Now I am just hoping that the winds stay with us for the rest of our passage and our route planning stays simple: sail straight to the Marquesas.