Day 280

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Day 280

You may have noticed my progress take a turn towards erratic and unpredictable.  I've left the comfort of steady trade winds and found a low pressure area with adverse conditions.  I just didn't expect the adverse conditions to continue for this long.  My 9th month at sea was the 2nd worst in terms of mileage.  I barely made 300 miles of progress, as compared to my best month, covering over 1000 miles.  I didn't expect these conditions to persist, mainly because historical weather patterns indicate entirely different conditions.  Perhaps El Niño had some influence.  Unfortunately, it's not looking much better anytime soon.  Despite not getting any closer to my destination, I've managed to arc around to the south, creating better approach angles to Australia, which will help tremendously later.  

I don't particularly mind the delay, with one exception - food.  I left with a 10 month supply, water intrusion ruined a few weeks worth, I'm 9 months in, and I most likely have another 2-3 months remaining.  I knew this was coming, so I cut back my consumption months ago.  Even with the cut back, my body measurements are still looking great.  I recently implemented the next round of cut backs.  I can feel this one much more, but my energy levels are still sufficient.  I still have plenty of food, there's nothing to be alarmed about, but continuing to persist in a black hole of progress does create some level of anxiety.  And yes, I'm fishing.  Since my goal is unsupported, I won't be getting a resupply.  I'll either stop early, go the distance, or get forced onto a different shore by the whims of nature.  

Speaking of nature, it seems birds of the sea like hunting in higher wind environments, or at least something greater than 5-10 knots.  When the winds calm and the seas die down, the birds disappear.  Except for one. There's this all-brown bird with a two foot wingspan that flies solo and loves the calms.  The cruising altitude for this guy is probably 6-12 inches.  It's right there in ground effect, the cushion of air created between his wings and the surface of the ocean.  I've seen one actually bounce its belly right on the surface and continue flying.  Whether it was on purpose or not, I don't know, but it looked hilarious.  It makes sense to avoid the bigger waves when cruising that low.  Unfortunately, no Boobies to speak of recently.  

The bioluminescence has behaved rather predictably lately, with the exception of occasional deeper amorphous blobs of illumination.  Maybe it's the surface waves causing the amorphous appearance, since they illuminate around 10 feet under the surface.  Instead of rapid flashes, these blobs illuminate suddenly and brightly, and maintain consistent brightness for upwards of 10 seconds.  They are 5-6 feet across and look like a giant shimmering green light bulb.  Eventually, it all extinguishes at once.  When rowing, you can definitely tell when you're in a higher density bioluminescence area by the reaction to the oars.  It can get so dense that green swirls around the oars are just the beginning.  It's really intense when the oars are lifted from the water to reset and the water dripping from the oars are nothing but splashing green dots, Avatar style.  

I had another encounter with a Sunfish, those goofy looking, docile creatures.  They are the largest fish in world and apparently have more bones than any other fish.  They'll swim right up to you, probably looking for an assist on parasite removal before swimming back into the depths for a jellyfish hunt.  It'll be a slow motion hunt, but a hunt nonetheless.  I also had a few days with Right Whales, also known as Black Whales of the Baleen variety, according to my Sister's research assist.  One calm morning I turned on my water maker and the humming vibration must've attracted a curious one because a few minutes later, I heard a loud exhalation right outside the cabin.  It was calm enough that I immediately went to stand on top of the boat for a clear view.  I stood to find a 20 foot creature circling my boat within 10 yards. It surfaced to spout several times, which is when I noticed two blow holes and a V-shaped spout, which was the identification giveaway.  I went to grab my dive mask for a closeup view, but it was gone before I got the chance.  Additional whale sightings were further in the distance, but still quite impressive.  

The days are now getting shorter.  Sunlight maxed out at 12 hours and 10 minutes near equator with the sun directly overhead.  I'm guessing it was greater than 12 hours because the earth is a little wider than tall due to rotational forces.  As the Southern Hemisphere approaches winter, historical weather trends become less favorable for my planned completion.  The winds become more predominantly out of the southeast, which will make continued progress south more and more difficult.  Once I'm established in the Coral Sea with steady winds, I'll have a much better idea of when I'll land where.  Until then, I'll keep after it.

Paddle On

P.S.  As a reminder, you can have an immersive tracking experience using Google Earth thanks to David Burch at Starpath School of Navigation.  For instructions, see