The Slog Begins

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Fri 10 Jan 2014 04:49
Noon Position: 20 30.0 N 140 04.5 E
Course: West nor' west Speed: 4.5 knots
Wind: North nor' east, F5 fresh breeze
Sea: moderate Swell: north 3 meters
Weather: mostly sunny, mild
Day's run: 80 nm sailed, 60 nm made good

We are starting to approach the boundary between the north east trade winds and the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, feeling the effect of the pressure systems as they spin off from mainland Asia. I am now picking up weather faxes from Tokyo, and they are showing large high pressure systems passing just to the south of the main islands of Japan. Yesterday we were effectively in between two of them, in the area that is known as the col. In this region winds are generally light and variable which is what we we experienced. I took the opportunity to go over Sylph's gear including checking the wind vane struts. As I peered out over the transom I was chagrined to see that the bolts holding them to the transom were both loose. Needless to say this was very frustrating. I had done them both up tight, including a second locking nut, as this has been a problem in the past. Fortunately conditions were calm enough that I could empty most of the lazarette out, crawl inside it (one has to be a it of a contortionist to do this), set a pair of vice grips on the nuts, and then crawl out of the lazarette and lean over the transom to tighten the bolts. Both bolts are now as tight as I can make them. Hopefully they will not come loose again before Japan.
Come sunset I could see a long line of cumulus clouds on the western horizon. I thought this is likely to be the edge of a change in weather conditions, so before dark I put a precautionary reef in the mainsail. A little after nine the wind started to freshen slightly out of the north west, so I dropped the staysail while the decks were still relatively dry and put a tack in to the north east, so as not to lose the valuable ground we had made to the north over the last few days.
In the small hours the wind veered a little into the north, which meant now we were going entirely in the wrong direction, so we tacked back onto the starboard tack, which has been the dominant tack for over ninety per cent of this passage thus far, and will likely remain so. We were in fact somewhat under-canvased for the wind we had but with leaky foul weather gear I did not wish to be caught out with having to do a lot of foredeck work in heavy spray. I knew the wind would come as all the forecasts I have been receiving from various sources were in agreement, and sure enough at five the wind started to freshen some more. I put a second reef in the mainsail.
Now we are close reaching, barging to windward with waves breaking regularly over the bows, sending screeds of heavy spray over the boat, and making the cockpit a very wet place to be. Conditions are forecast to remain much the same for the next several days. Hopefully we might get some relief as the high pressure cell moves further to the east, but I am not holding my breath. They seem to move very slowly and once one moves off another one seems to be queuing up right behind it. So for time being it is batten down the hatches and hang on.
All is well.