Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dodging ships and drilling platforms

So far, we've had a lot of variety on this leg of our voyage: from Isla Mujeres to Galveston. We started out sailing along nicely and averaging 5.5 knots. One night the wind and waves kicked up, and we had to put in a couple of reefs in the dark, very dark. The next day the wind dropped off, and we found ourselves motor-sailing at faster than 8 knots for several hours thanks to a strong current in our favor. Until yesterday evening we saw few ships. About the time we saw our first off-shore oil platform, the shipping traffic increased dramatically. I had four on my 6 to 9 p.m. watch. John had eight from 9 to midnight, and I had four again from midnight to 3 a.m. Thanks to AIS, we can tell how close they're going to get, and when they're close enough, we can see their names. I sometimes call them; John doesn't. Last night I called when I had one coming from in front and one from behind. I just tell them that we're a sailing yacht under sail, that I intend to hold our course, and confirm that they see us. They take care of the rest. Last night the two ships worked it out between themselves in Spanish. Muchas gracias, senors!

We're using both electronic and paper charts (thanks to Cindy and Dick Metler), and we need the combination. Neither is exactly right as far as where there are platforms, so the radar is always on too. For weather forecasts we're using National Weather Service forecasts and grib files. Neither of these is exactly right either, but we had to give up on Herb because we couldn't hear him any longer. Once you're out here, the weather is what it is, but it's nice to have something to look forward to. As it turned out, we had a good window, and we've had the engine off most of the time. It's on again now because it looks like we'll make it to Seabrook tomorrow (Thursday) if we keep our speed up.

We've seen lots of dolphins and seaweed, but no oil spills (in case you were wondering about that).

All is well aboard Solstice.

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