On Passage, Boring Days Are The Best

Day 13: 460 Miles From Salalah, Oman

15 N, 66 E

We had a visitor yesterday. A unmarked patrol plane buzzed us at tree-top level, providing excitement to an otherwise quiet day. We snapped on the VHF, and he called, as they tend to do after providing such a wakeup call, and he identified himself as “Maritime Air Patrol.” What’s that, in the middle of the Arabian Sea? The “NATO” Maritime Air Patrol? “EUNAVFOR.” Or maybe a “Coalition” Maritime Air Patrol? He wasn’t saying.

(We write “he,” but this thing was a veritable Spruce Goose, and probably had more than a handful of personnel aboard. Or maybe it wasn’t that big, but just felt that way as it roared by at what felt like a couple of feet above the mast.)

They wanted our particulars, which we provided on the radio as they soared away.

We had been worried about wind and fuel reserves, and it looks like we have planned things right. We had chosen to motor through much of the middle of the trip, which found us crossing through the innards of a giant high pressure system that blankets most of the Arabian Sea, with the weather system’s center matching the sea’s center. The calculated risk we took in motoring so much was that we would have enough wind to sail again after we came to the far side of the high, and approached the Omani coast. The weather charts said that this would be the case, but of course it’s hard to predict whether the high will have shifted to somewhere else by the time we were supposed to be through it, keeping the windless center right over us for the duration of our trip or, even worse, setting adverse winds against us. The other option would have been to meander through the middle of the high very slowly, relying on the tiniest breath of wind to push us along at a knot or two. But this seemed nonsensical, since it would likely have doubled the duration of our trip. As it was, we had enough fuel to motor about nine days, or 1000 miles, meaning we’d have to sail about 500. We watched things closely, but felt a little anxious as we motored for our fourth, fifth, and sixth straight days. But the weather charts stayed the same, and so on we motored.

Each night, we get the weather by radio email, and wait with baited breath to see what will be in store for us.

The news has mostly been good, and last night it was excellent. The charts confirm what we feel on the sails we’ve now passed through the gigantic middle of this stationary high. The winds will stay strong for the next several days, and slowly back from westerly to more southerly as we pass through the top end of the high, and give us an easy pass down the chute for our last few days.

These last 24 hours have been a bit bumpy, as we’ve been trying to beat west with the winds still coming from that direction. The seas have been bumpy, and Leander has been healed over, sails filled, with waves pounding at her bow as she claws to get as much good ground as possible. We had to tack today, meaning that we sailed about 100 miles but made only about 50 miles toward our destination, but, if we’ve done things right, should have to do that only once or twice more for the duration of the trip.

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