Monday, July 26, 2010

Distance (lance)

7/27 0430Z 41.54N, 149.36W - 90T@6kts (motor sailing). No ships to report. Not sure what beans are in the pot. Adrien thinks he knows where the fire extinguisher pin is - mystery solved.

There's an old puzzler for kids that goes, "How far can a dog run into the woods?" The pat answer is "Halfway, after that it's running out of the woods." Today we met Steve's definition of halfway, where the distance from Hawaii equals the distance to San Francisco - about 1320nm to either. (A piece of the Alaska peninsula is only 900nm distant, but Kodiak isn't on the cruise itinerary according to the director.)

It was a huge celebration for the Three Quarks (for Muster Mark). Party hats, a live band, several kegs, the works. Hula girls did the limbo. The police broke it up about 2am 'cause the neighbors complained about the noise. Then Steve and I finished the two beers we had on board (Adrien shot-gunned a Coca Cola) and went back to the important tasks of the day, like drying the cushions. Steve did a great job and they're really, really dry, especially the ones he put in the sun. Adrien performed additional water maker surgery removing its appendix and bypassing the spleen. He just took a shower (thank god) so it must have been successful. The patient is still producing half a gallon a minute with salt at only 300ppm; very drinkable.

Distance is measured out here in Nautical Miles which are defined more-or-less as follows - at the equator there are 360 degrees around the earth. You start at Greenwich, England (five or six stops on the DLR from Canary Wharf) and can go 180 degrees of "longitude" east or west. Each degree is split up into 60 "minutes", each is a nautical mile. Same thing north and south of the equator, except north and south are "latitude". Lines of latitude are parallel so each degree is always 60nm apart, but longitude gets closer as one approaches the poles, so there's a correction factor depending on how far you are from the equator - here it's about .75. So we're at 150W and need to get to 140W before there's good sailing wind. This is 10 degrees, or .75x600 = 450nm. I'm spending a lot of time multiplying by 60 and .75 in my head right now. Stretching muscles I haven't used since Mitch Kapor came up with VisiCalc (precursor to Excel for you youngsters). (Seventeen years of math and I can still add - boy, they try to beat that out of you once you're in college.) On a related note, time is measured in Zulu, which is also known as Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) which is darn close to Greenwich time (GMT) except for some leap seconds. I have lots of time to think about things like this. And we're only half way.

Steve worked out this analogy: Hawaii to San Francisco is similar in distance and direction to Los Angeles to Chicago. So imagine that trip, but because of construction you go via Portland or Seattle - and never exceed 10mph. Cyclists competing in RAAM make better progress.

The sailing this morning was glorious. Light favorable breeze, calm seas, and wonderful sunshine. Then we got close enough to the center of Pacific High to lose useful wind. In the old days this meant throwing the livestock overboard, but in this modern age of steam (or diesel) you turn the key and just thrum along. The noise should last for three days when we'll pick up favorable northerlies and sail home. We're now following the great circle route, the shortest path to our next beer. That's a GREAT circle worth following.

Good thing we've discussed the weather 'cause it's too loud for anything deep or meaningful unless you like conversations that go mostly, Steve: "Huh? (he's slightly deaf), Adrien: "What?" Steve: "What?", Adrien: "Eh?" I miss most of the scintillating debate because I'm asleep all the time, usually with headphones on. Or so I'm told.

I really miss the spinnaker.

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