Running Away from a Storm – Now Trying to Make Penrhyn

We have sailed 650 miles since leaving Fanning 5 days ago and are 425 miles NE of Suwarrow. A storm system called the SPCZ (South Pacific Convergence Zone) has decided to park itself right over Suwarrow and prevent us from sailing directly there unless we have some sick desire to play chicken with thunder and lightning…which we don’t. The SPCZ is similar to the ITCZ on the equator – lot’s of heavy up-drafting and convection with thunder and lightning, confused seas and big wind. In short, everything we try to avoid.

We find ourselves in a predicament. We can’t continue on to Suwarrow or we’ll enter the SPCZ. We could stall in place here or sail back north to kill a day or two and then continue on once the SPCZ dissipates, but it’s painful to sail the wrong direction or bob around in these seas with little to no wind. Manihiki is 230 miles south but we can’t go there in unsettled weather because you are forced to anchor on a coral shelf and if a squall hits and brings N or NW wind you are on the reef. That leaves Penrhyn atoll, 215 miles SE of our position; problem is that we would need to motor up-wind and up-current to get there. We haven’t taken on diesel since Hawaii so we are down to about 20 gallons in the main tank and only 10 in jugs, 30 total. That is enough fuel to reach Penrhyn but if we can’t buy fuel in Penrhyn (an atoll of less than 200 people) then we’ll be dry all the way to Samoa, 800 miles downwind.

Given the considerations above, we have decided to try and make Penrhyn and wait out the SPCZ. If we can’t get fuel…well it’s all downwind to Samoa anyway and we should be able to wait for good wind and sail. So tonight we are motoring SE towards Penrhyn, directly into the light wind. There are also huge squalls tonight with intimidating lightning all around. Sure makes me wish my mast wasn’t the tallest thing around for over 1,000 miles. I just knocked on wood and would appreciate if you all could do the same.

I pulled a muscle or something in my back a couple days ago. I was pulling in the jib right before a squall hit and tore it pretty bad. It was excruciating and debilitating. I could barely move and it took a while for me to loosen it up enough to get out of bed. It started getting better over the past couple days but today when Alyssa was sleeping I had to reef the main. When I was pulling the reefing point down I tore the same muscle again and this time the pain was much worse. I could barely get back into the cockpit. Alyssa heard my yelps and came up to finish reefing the sail. I was so pissed it tore again. I was being careful and barely put any strain on it. It was more the way I was pulling with my left arm then how much force. I’m now in a lot of pain and have been finding very creative ways of running blocks so I don’t have to use my left arm. I’m sure the medical advice is to rest and not exert any pressure on the back muscles – well, that’s just not an option on a short-handed sail boat 200+ miles from land. Every movement the boat makes hurts my back, even the simple task of keeping my head steady is painful.

Here comes another heavy squall. Have to pull in sail. The last one hit 36 knots and I can already feel the seas kicking up from the one approaching, still 8 miles to windward.

L&A

06 30 S
160 31 W
100 T
4.5 KTS

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