Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 9 - Sextants and Stars

One unusual feature of this placid passage has been our continued proximity to another boat. 'Melody', with Holger and Roz on board have been within sight for several days, as other boats motor past us. As I mentioned in an earlier post, these immensely experienced sailors enjoy longer passages (Holger sailed for 60 straight days from New Zealand to Victoria, BC this year). This gives them a different perspective from most of us and they have encouraged us to slow down and enjoy the mild conditions, rather than turning on the motor. Most of our friends are now more than 100 miles to the south, having overtaken us during the calms, but some have motored for 36 hours or more. However we have been enjoying the placid days and good conversations with our neighbors via VHF - exchanging recipes, comparing sun sights, and chatting about the stars that are new to us in the southern sky.

It has been frustrating at times, trying to keep the sails filled in 1-4 knots from behind us. There is a ridge of high pressure that often blocks the passage between the tropics and New Zealand. This area is, I believe, called the 'Horse Latitudes' (you can do a Google search to see the various theories why) and was famed in the days of sail, for it's light airs that would have stopped a large vessel in its tracks. However, the pay back comes when you cross over the ridge and slide down the south side towards the lower pressure that is currently sitting off New Zealand. We now have consistent NE winds and light seas under partly cloudy skies.

Rani took a noon site yesterday and was within a couple of miles of her latitude and 4 miles in her longitude - very respectable results for her first solo attempt at this. Holger's had similar results, but told us that his GPS was only 'off' by two miles when verified by his sextant.

At night we have watched 'Te Ra' O Tainui' rise in the northeast. This is a Maori constellation, which translates as 'The Sail of Tainui' - a sailing canoe that brought the Maori's ancestors to New Zealand from Hawaii. 'Matariki' or the Pleiades forms the raised prow, 'Te Kokota' (the Hyades) outlines a triangular sail, and 'Pewa A Tautoru' (Orion's belt) makes up the stern. Incidentally Orion's sword sticks upwards down here, rather than hanging from the belt and this constellation is known 'Te Manu Rore' or the Bird Snare, with the belt as a perch, the bright star, Rigel, as the fruit bait, and the Orion nebulae as the snare. This information was drawn from a little star-gazing booklet that our friend Marcelle on 'Adventure Bound' gave us, entitled "Naked Eye Wonders". Our own guide is limited to the Northern Hemisphere and no use down here.

It was so calm yesterday that we baked pizzas for lunch and the first loaf of bread of this passage. We have been careful with our oven use, but with only a week or so to go to New Zealand, we can now afford to be profligate.

Our position at 7:45 am was 27 51 S 177 24 E and we were making 4-5 knots dues south in about 7-9 knots of NNE breeze.

No comments: