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Wind, clouds, squalls and a great day of sailing

Crossing paths with a Low Pressure System.  

Already from yesterday afternoon, we had to shake off the laziness and calm of a flat windless sea and start sailing on the increasing winds. Now they blow between the North and Northeast, as we steer on a West-Southwest course. 

More wind blows, the seas grow and the sky is overcast, with just a few sunny spells during the day. And again showers and squalls keep passing by now and then. Today most of them brought more rain than anything else, others make the wind shift and gust. When one of them approaches you better keep an eye on it, you never know what it is carrying within.  

With the general today’s wind veering and backing just a bit around a North-Northeastterly and Northerly, a couple of times hands are called on deck to pull a bit on the braces, now sharper, now squarer, keeping the sails pulling us at a good 8 to 9kn of speed. 

In the afternoon, and for the first time in the trip, safety lines are rigged on deck. The ship now heels to Portside and sometimes the swell breaks on the bulwarks and washes over the main deck. It was also the time for preparing the rig for the worsening seas and weather. Upper staysails and Gaff topsails are doused and furled, followed by packing away the royals as well. 

Busy as we were on deck, pulling ropes, safety lines, bracing, and rearranging sheets and tacks, we almost missed what some already call “The most charismatic wildlife sighting of the trip” especially on this voyage where we put effort into studying the plastic distribution in the ocean. Suddenly, while many have their heads down coiling a rope or their attention is fixed on pulling a line, some loud voices can be heard… they are cheering a Masked booby in its surfer attitude riding the high swell atop what seems to be a plastic bucket! 

None of us on deck got a photo camera at hand, but it’s an image to remember. One of the most elegant seabirds, Pantropical in all the oceans, takes a rest on a piece of plastic debris floating on its ocean home. 

Europa is sailing at about 70nm from the small island of Salas y Gomez, the easternmost of the Polynesian islands. With an area of 0.15 square kilometers, 770 meters in length, and with its highest point being 30 meters above sea level, it represents an important nesting site for several species of seabirds, including a couple of thousand couples of Masked booby. 

It floats away passing next to us, probably taking a break from the squalls and the windy conditions during a foraging trip flying from the island. 

By the evening still the wind slowly picks up, but its general northerly flow often gets disturbed by numerous squalls. Dinner is finished and before we can meet on our daily informative session with the captain it is the time to deal with two large showers. First, they pop up on the radar screen, two big elongated clouds crossing our way. Then comes the heavy rain. The wind jumps and backs becoming a NW. 30,40 degrees wind shifts follow when at the downdraft of the cloud. It gusts 30, 32kn. The ship bears away from it until it quickly passes. Then it is time to come back to our original westwards course. A typical situation that has been repeated several times during the journey. 

Winds and showers and clouds and squalls have been pulling us for 195nm during the last full day, back to a good average speed of over 8kn, which positions us barely over 300nm from Easter Island on the new plotted route over the chart, having in mind the forecasted changes in the wind, the Low Pressure passing over us and the light headwinds that we may encounter behind it. 

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