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Anthem Adrift
The World Rejoices
03/31/2010, Day Four

Happy SSB

March 31

Again, opportunity to make bread didn't rise. Spent most of day up close and personal with assorted bits of single side band radio. Began by checking and cleaning connections to radio, then tuner. Latter involved filling cockpit with contents of aft lazarette then mashing svelte 169 pound form into resultant hole to gain access. De-mounted unit and opened it up, during which 27 individual pieces of hardware were removed (difficulty of ingress is probably a message), to see what's what (key phrase of naughty joke that will not be divulged) and to increase likelihood of irreparable damage. Discovered lots of pretty lights that changed pattern when tiny switch was exercised. It's OK, I'm sure it's OK, it looks OK, it's probably OK, you think it's OK?. Won't have chance to check ops until 1645, but email still works.

- Later

SSB has regained its former radiant elan. The pure euphonious sound of my voice again graces the marine and ham radio bands over a significant percentage of the inhabited universe, creating euphoria and rejoicing in even the smallest hamlet and in all the ships at sea (*Warning* preceding may contain a smattering of subjective judgment and/or hyperbole - some of reaction may be accounted to Easter).

At 0200 local, wind sprang up from south at useable velocity. Cool! Sailed from then, with blue sky, lower humidity and easy sea, until 1600. Had gone below for necessary duty when rain shower that had been gaining all day got close enough to switch wind 180 degrees. Obedient Voyager followed it around, aiming toward Equador (the big part) with an alacrity that was gratifying, if somewhat misguided and inconvenient. After return to more agreeable course, subsequent broad starboard tack lasted a few minutes until arrival of complete calm. Furled the one non-self-tacking sail and trimmed the others to await pleasure of conditions from approaching clear sky aft. Clear sky was pleased to offer more of same and then more. Now motoring SE to find wind. Forecast from weather guy not reassuring. Have kept bad news from horses, but, knowing something is amiss, they are becoming restive.


It Was This Big
03/30/2010, Day Three

March 30

Tortilla sandwich for lunch. That's right, no bread making today. Maybe tomorrow. Had "The Tailor of Panama" by John le Carre to attend to plus a few other odds and ends.

After doing a little sleuthing of poor SSB transmissions with Whoosh, discovered poor sound on all bands except 12 meg. Hmmmmm. Robert on Bristol Rose suggested it sounded like tuner trouble. Hmmmmm. It's pure arrogance to explain a technical problem for which there is no knowledge, so here goes. (Warning!!! Simplistic and likely incorrect technological bullsh... ummm, information to follow). Frequency is a function of antenna length. For example, 10 MHz is the 30 meter band so those waves are 90 odd feet wide and ideally would require a 90 odd foot antenna. Anthem's insulated backstay comes up short, so to speak, so a tuner is lashed into the system to fool all those little electron thingies (little used scientific term) into seeing the correct size (in other words size only matters if you don't lie). Shut down all noisy stuff to listen and... no tuning! Hark, I thought I heard a pistol shot... No wait, that's part of a naughty joke. Anyway, may have found problem. Will begin, tomorrow, with two favorite repair techniques, hammer method and bigger hammer method.

Mostly had decent wind helped by rain showers west. Boat speed varied from 7 knots to zero. Higher end of range preferable, although a quarter ton of provisions should hold off emaciation until west flowing current would eventually float the boat close enough to motor in, probably.


Water, Water Everywhere
03/29/2010, Day Two

Spiffy New VHF

March 29

Hello doldrums. Wind began exhibiting signs of ennui just before daybreak, but, of course, didn't vanish entirely until after drifter went up. Began motoring SSW at 6 kts, accompanied toward Isla Mapelo by slower breeze and faster swell. Course is south of rhumb for quicker passage through to southeast trades (possibly by tomorrow midday) before fuel runs out and horses go over the side. Just for the record, I have always spoken fondly of albatrosses. Headway-induced zephyr is providing limited relief from water saturated atmosphere.

Oddly enough, meal preparation has occurred and frig is jammed with pre-cooked, edible (open to interpretation) food. Exhaustion of last few slices of four-week old bread (should have bought more of it because preservative that good could keep you spry to a hundred and twenty) will soon require attempt at baking. Expectations are low; tortillas standing for backup.

Little luck contacting amigos 150 odd miles ahead. Propagation blows, plus radio isn't transmitting properly on 8 meg. VHF, which had worked well enough since hiccups in Bonaire, finally crapped out and has been replaced by spiffy new unit. Otherwise, except for a surprising number of passing ships, slide through oil- smooth sea has been uneventful.


Itcz the Doldrums
03/28/2010, Day One

March 28

Left anchorage with zero wind, but it picked up, wandering around through 10 to 18 knots on the beam, and has remained thus all day. Would that it maintain its thusness for next six days. Confidence low. ITCZ, Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, is a band of low pressure and high temperature that lies just north of the equator in these longitudes and is a no man's land between two weather patterns. Lots of heat, moisture and convection, not much wind. It's like when you want steak and your wife wants Chinese. Nobody wants to give, so you have a fight and don't go anywhere. Galapagos is on the other side.

Sorted out wind vane binding problem mid-morning and it has rendered yeoman service (this is generally considered to be a good thing, but what about yeomen who perform poorly? In fact, that one guy who inspired the catchphrase screwed it up for all the slackers. Everyone expecting excellent work is probably highly disappointed with your average person of yeo) since. Huh? OK sure, you forgot what the first part of the sentence was about, so just leave out the parenthesis (has anyone noticed it is formed by the words 'parent' and 'thesis' minus the superfluous 't'?) and all will be clear. Or not.

14 down, 192 to go. Daddy, daddy, daddy how much longer are we there yet when will we be there so now are we there how 'bout now are we there yet huh are we huh are we huh are - whack! OK, never mind.


Storm Before the Calm
03/27/2010, Rio Cacique, Isla Del Rey, Las Perlas, Panama

March 27

Enthusiastic current made cleaning bottom a challenge this morning, although, on horizontal strings of barnacles along the keel, it swept scraper along from bow to stern like a conveyor belt. Got big chunks and prop, but not the slime. Also filled exercise quota for a few days, but wasn't done yet.

Sail to Rio Cacique (ca-SEA-kay) allowed time to sort out drifter. Sheet leads were changed three times, finally, to non-optimum location due to interference with solar panels. Should be a huge help for downwind to beam reach in light winds. As wind increased to 18 knots boat made hull speed before discretion reasserted for furling it and sailing on yankee and staysail into anchorage.

Observed no Cayman in Rio. Nor boas, opossums or land critters of any kind. Could have been due noise of outboard although I drifted for awhile. There was something dead along the bank as buzzards were buzzing through shoreline trees, low over river and over dinghy. Initial concern was partially relieved after discovering personal life-signs, but aggressive behavior was feared to indicate a new preference for fresh kill. Those guys are more agile than one might expect.

Returned to boat through surf-sized standing wave, caused by 15 foot tide rushing off the island, prefatory to putting engine on transom and deflated dink on bow. Had thoughts of taking off for Galapagos this afternoon, but circumspection followed realization of deficiency in wanna. Too bad as wind is 12 to 15 from the north. Alarm will perform its function at 0 dark hundred after ibuprofen and a nice nap.


Cruising With Canons
03/26/2010, Isla Mogo Mogo, Panama

March 26

Running engine using each filter for 20 minutes after replumbing fuel system did not preclude obstreperous Westerbeke from taking a nap while maneuvering through anchorage this morning during departure. Restarting for temporary bursts of power allowed raising sails for control in minimal breeze until air sucking hose was clamped into submission. For the uninitiated this illustrates cruising rule #47 which states that no level of preventative effort will be effective, 33.3% of the time. This is an average and will, of course, be higher in more critical situations.

There are, I am told, otherwise intelligent people who watch the euphemistically referred to 'reality' series "Survivor". You know who you are. Please let me remain ignorant of any such little peccadillos as respect is such a difficult thing to regain. It is filmed right here on Isla Mogo Mogo and Isla Chapera. Pleased to report that there is no sign of such activity at present.

On the way across from Isla Taboga, which consisted, primarily, in motoring over glassy seas, finally got around to checking operation of tiller pilot, installed something over a year ago. What! He has a tiller, you query? No, a Voyager wind vane. Uh huh, uh huh. Doesn't that steer by the wind, you persist? Well, yes, sometimes. It requires wind. If there is none, the little electronic rascal can use mechanical fella to hold a heading or course. Cool! Deal is, this Rube Goldberg arrangement uses scads fewer electrons than big honkin' unit below deck and serves as a backup. Way cool! Discovered, given the two possible configurations of port or starboard steering, it was set on the wrong one. This illustrates cruising rule #32 stating that given two equally likely choices, the option selected will be wrong 66.7% of the time.


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