Why I’m taking the long route to Los Angeles

John Davis, an Elizabethan sailor was said to have composed this prayer while being beaten back three times by gale headwinds back through the straits of Magellan with crew reduced from 73 to 15.

“May it please his Divine Majesty that we may rather proceed than otherwise; or, if it be his will, that our mortal being shall now take an end, I rather desire that it may be proceeding than in return”

John Davis would be jealous, as proceeding is the flavour of the week.

I’ve now had tail winds with a moderate sea for the last 48 hours. I lost out a bit yesterday morning, I slept in and the boat was on an unfavourable tack for a few too many hours.

I made the most of it today, it tended to swing a bit with some minor squally things, so I put in about 5 gybes today and as many reefs and unreefs. Lots of downwave surfing and such excitement.

A full day’s run of 135 miles!!

The nice part about heading north is that I can now gauge my distances by familiar landmarks! I passed parallel with Albury early this morning and I’ll go past Wollongong in a few hours.

You start to get an appreciation for the size of Australia, when you consider that from the deepest point of my trip at latitude 45 south, I had 80 degrees to make up before getting to Los Angeles at latitude 33 north. Of these, 35 will be parallel with Australia.

Once you’ve been out here long enough, you stop thinking about these distances in kilometres or miles. Degrees are really the only thing with solid meaning!

Some people have asked why I took the route I did.

Obviously the direct route to Los Angeles would involve going north east, bisecting New Caledonia and Fiji, and skirting past Hawaii.

Instead, I’ve headed south and east through Cook Strait, and then continued directly east for a total of 3000 miles before heading north.

The direct route is 6500 miles, whereas the route that I’m taking will be 7900 miles.

There are two reason for this diversion.

The first reason is that it was cyclone season in the South West Pacific until two weeks ago. By staying low I managed to circumvent all the effects of this, and in hindsight there were a few nasty systems that I was happy to be nowhere near. I’ll take a Southern Ocean force 10 storm over a tropical category 4 cyclone.

The second reason is this. There is an old adage that a gentleman should never sail to weather.

All the oceans are full of currents and prevailing winds. In the Pacific Ocean, the tendency is for the winds to come from the north east. The main currents also tend to follow this pattern. The pilot charts say you can expect to lose 10-20 miles day if you’re heading into these currents. They don’t call them trade winds for nothing, they are persistent and reliable.

Pushing upwind for 40 or 50 days is hard on the boat and hard on the crew, and on a journey like this, it is the wear and tear that will grind your boat down rather than the violent sudden storms. Much better to drift with the weather than to fight it.

In the south of the South Pacific, below the 40th latitude, the currents and prevailing winds run west to east. Then in the east South Pacific, I’ll get south easterly trade winds once I’m far enough. It’s a bit of a balance, because the doldrums get stronger in the east.

Once I’m through the doldrums, there will be north east headwinds, but at least I’ll be coming at them from the south instead of south east.

It’s interesting, the weather man is forecasting two low pressure systems with 50 knot winds, mid next week right where I am now in the middle of the 30th latitude. I don’t plan to be anywhere near here when it happens!!

Latitude: -34.710, Longitude: -140.478, Time: 05:13:24 16-05-2018 UTC