Lunarian Adoration (resend of 8 June post)

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 9 Jun 2011 02:05

Noon Position: 20 53.8 S 176 45.4 E
West sou' west, Speed: 2 knots
South sou' east, F1/2 light air/slight breeze
Sunny and warm
Day's run: 47 miles

The wind remains very light. The wind freshened a little around 10 last night and I optimistically hoisted the mainsail, poled the jib out to port, as well as having the drifter set to starboard. It was a beautiful night and as I stood under the stars and Sylph's small cloud of canvas I wondered what it must have been like to sail the clipper ships in light winds with all their light weather sails piled one on top of the other, stun'sails and royals reaching to the heavens. What a sight they must have made.

But by midnight my reveries came to an end as there was insufficient wind to hold the sails steady and I reverted back to just the drifter, which needs little more then a ghost of a breeze to keep it full. We drifted through the night, our day's run of 47 miles would owe about half its distance to a favourable current.  Earlier this forenoon there wasn't even a ghost of a breeze and I had to drop even this lightweight sail and simply drift for three hours.

At 7 I spoke with a yacht competing in the New Zealand to Fiji yacht race; the Vision, with six people on board. I did not see them but had heard them trying to call up a merchant ship on VHF radio, to which they received no reply. I held the ship concerned on Sylph's new AIS so I called them up to offer them some information if they needed it, but it seemed not, the ship had already hauled over the horizon from them, so presumably they were just looking for a chat. It sounds like they are having a bad run, having encountered 60 knot winds three days out from NZ which blew out their mainsail. They are in the cruising division which apparently allows a certain number of hours of motoring but now it seems they have dirty fuel and are having to rely on their headsail alone which in these light conditions must be slow going indeed. It occurs to me that maybe they wanted to ask the merchant ship for some clean fuel, if so rather a big ask. Anyway, they sounded happy enough having just caught a big fish as we spoke, and so I left them, a voice in the ether, never actually sighting them.

Meanwhile I continue to dig into some navigational archaeology, trying to produce something meaningful with my “lunar distances”. My first attempt yesterday was just a little out, suggesting that the ship's chronometer was in error by some 38 minutes and 43 seconds – not very likely. Actually after I had taken the necessary sights I realised I had taken them in the wrong order so was not going to get a valid result but decided to work it all out anyway just to get a better feel for the process. I have taken more sights today, five altitudes of the sun, five of the moon and five arc distances between the two, and I did it in the right order, namely a moon sight, an arc distance and then a sun sight, consecutively. The thing you have to work out is a simultaneous sight of all three, which is basically impossible so by interspersing them this way you can graph them out and then calculate a virtual simultaneous sight by interpolating between all the sights for the one point in time. The actual time is not important, but is needed only so as to provide a reference of one sight relative to the others so to be able to provide an accurate plot on the graphs. Why do I bother? I hear you ask. Well my guru, old Josh Slocum had this to say about lunar distances, “The work of the lunarian, though seldom practised in these days of chronometers, is beautifully edifying, and there is nothing in the realm of navigation that lifts one's heart up more in adoration.” I can't say it lifts me to the point of adoration but certainly it is interesting and keeps my mind active. Anyway back to it, maybe I will have more satisfactory results by this time tomorrow. 

All is well.

PS  This email was still sitting in my out tray when I opened my mail box; I am sure I sent it and suspect a computer glitch but resend just in case.