14/12/2007 | by Mark Patterson
Words by Matt Delany
Lat: 32 deg. 25.037 South
Long: 175 deg. 51.680 East
From Day 1 of meeting up with the boys on Tongatapu the story of weather windows would dominate discussion among the local sailing community.
Is this it? Are you guys going for it? What about that circulating low pressure or that building high or did you see that squash zone? It seems to be an ongoing discussion that will inevitably bring you complete circle.
Slightly naive as to the magnitude of this Southern Pacific crossing it is now glaringly obvious that the weather window that you choose will have the ultimate effect as to you comfort over the next 8-10 days at sea. We are currently sailing within a network of boats that has followed the same reasoning as us in leaving Tonga on the 10th, sitting out a day or two at the idyllic reef chain known as Minerva and then taking the most direct shot down to New Zealand. With the sun shining and 20-25 knots of wind pushing our southern travels it appears as though we have gambled correctly. But, this could change just as fast as the wind just dropped down to 10 knots leaving us floundering to put up more sail.
Despite the endless hours of charts, faxes, skies and others interpretations we rest assured that we will make it, it’s just a matter of how many bruises each of us will have collected from sliding into all corners of the boat and the number of times a seemingly rogue wave will sweep the deck and drench you in the cockpit leaving you with a puzzled look on your face wondering “Where did that come from?”.
Aiding in the decision of choosing which window is going to be your window there are a number of weather gurus scattered across the globe. Names such as the Commander in the U.S., Bob McDavitt in New Zealand and Winfred from Germany, shed some additional light on when they would make the call to set sail. Due to the net of boats that we have been traveling in range of we’ve had the luxury of using all these resources and it seems to be paying off.
Lying in the starboard pipe birth trying to get some rest before my night shift I am constantly reminded that this truly is the open ocean. The constant THUD of the bow smashing through the next set of waves, the windows above are continually getting washed out by the surging waves and everything that is inside the boat that is not fixed to the wall swings back and forth without rest. All the sounds that represent being at sea seem to be amplified 10 fold while you are laying inside searching for some shut eye. Laying here listening to this orchestra I can’t help but think that if we got so lucky with this window it’s ugly to think of one that doesn’t quite go to plan.
Weather windows seem to come and go with some closing up on you and some remaining open until you reach your destination. Shooting for the latter, the discussion is starting to shift away from the weather and onto celebrating with the familiar faces that await in New Zealand.
On a side note I wanted to make quick mention of all those that have religiously been following Ryan, Bryson and Hugh’s adventure. Having been most fortunate in being able to make the jump from my computer screen to the boat it is clear at how impressive this undertaking is. The words from aboard Khulula seem to pull us into the adventure from our desk’s at work and make us feel that we are alongside them at sea. I know that so many of us share this sentiment, one being Mr. Mark Gaudet. Keep on reading.