Calmer weather – for now
20th May 2010
Jewel’s crew is relieved to get some calmer weather
After five days of high winds, rain and frequent squalls, the crew of the Jewel of Muscat awoke to clear skies, calm seas, and gentle winds today. Wet bedding and clothes were hung on deck to dry and everyone enjoyed a respite from the intensity of fast sailing in rough weather.
Additional joy came with the news that our small generator was finally repaired after three days of effort by Mylai Prabhakar, Alesandro Ghidoni, and Ayaz Al Zadjali. We use the generator to charge a series of car batteries which power our computers, satellite telephone, VHF radio, and navigational instruments. When the generator broke down, we were forced to reduce our use of electricity to an absolute minimum to conserve battery power. Regrettably, this meant that we were unable to transmit web logs or photos for the past two days. Now that the generator is working again and all batteries are fully charged, we should be able to resume normal communication with the outside world.
Given today’s diminution in wind intensity, the crew lowered the storm sail and raised the larger main sail on the main mast. We also raised a new trapezoidal sail on the mizzen mast. The shape of this sail is based on a number of drawings of Arab ships dating from the 10th through 12th centuries. In the present conditions, it is proving to be quite effective. The shorter lower yard is more manageable than the larger yard we used for the regular mizzen sail, and the gradual narrowing of the sail means that it blocks less wind from the main sail when sailing before the wind. Right now the wind is between 9 and 12 knots and our sail configuration is giving us a speed of just under 3 knots.
At about mid- day we witnessed a halo form around the sun. This beautiful phenomenon is caused by sunlight passing through high Cirrostratus clouds which consist of ice crystals. Such solar halos indicate that rain will come within three days, so we need to enjoy the dry weather while we can.
Currently the skies are clear, affording us an excellent–and much welcomed–opportunity to use the kamal to take star readings. The Southern Cross, Alpha and Beta Centauri, and Antares (meaning rival of Mars) were especially important for traditional Arab navigators, so it is good to have night such as this when those stars are unobscured by clouds.