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Calou's Blog
Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
Day 3
03/28/2011, Pacific Ocean

Today was our third day on the Pacific Ocean; we are now as I write, about 334 miles from our starting point. At this rate we are averaging about 137 nm per day. If (and that's a very BIG if) we kept up this rate we theoretically would get to the Marquesas in 19 days. Probably it will take longer.

Early this morning, I did the 3 am to 6 am watch. To our right side, and slightly behind us, was a bright glow on the horizon. Looking at the charts, it points directly to Cabo San Lucas. We could see the night time urban glow of Cabo from 320 nautical miles away! There was nothing else but sea in that direction so it had to be Cabo. John saw it too, on his watch.

We made very good time last night, averaging about 8 knots boat speed with the jib up in a 10 knot breeze. I was in the cockpit at 4 a.m. when something hit me in the leg. It was a squid. Those things get around. By morning we had several on deck.

We have been having a strange problem with the radar recently. The display says "no scanner", which is the dome shaped rotating antenna. Each time I turned the display unit off, and turned it on again, the radar would work again. Then a little while later, again, "no scanner".

Finally this morning, Pascale reported there was no radar scanner on her watch. I turned off the display unit, and turned it on again. No good, it still didn't work.

I'm fairly sure it's a problem with the electrical connection between the scanner and the display unit. A loose or corroded electrical connection, or a broken wire, probably.

We enlisted our friend and neighbor Judy to try to contact Raymarine for us. The stupid company only provides technical support via telephone or the web. No email!! What are sailors out in the middle of the ocean, with only email, supposed to do??

Thankfully, Judy pulled through. She got a very detailed troubleshooting procedure for us from Raymarine. We'll get into that tomorrow.

It will involve my getting into a bosun's chair and being hoisted up the rigging along the backstay to get to the scanner (radar dome). I'm not looking forward to that.

If we had to, we could live without radar. There are very few ships this far offshore, we probably won't see one until we get near Nuku Hiva. But the radar is also very good at observing squalls, which the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone) along the equator is famous for.

This afternoon, the wind died out and we were sailing at a leisurely 2 or 3 knots. So we hoisted our new spinnaker for the first time. The thing is a beauty and it had us moving at 8 knots in no time. We ran the spinnaker all afternoon until it started to get dark, not wanting to have to take a new, unfamiliar spinnaker down shorthanded in the dark when a sudden blow comes up.

We have been eating well. We had pancakes and syrup for breakfast. I barbecued hamburgers on the gas grill for lunch. For dinner I made Rock Cornish hens roasted with onions and squash, served with couscous. For now, I'm doing the cooking since the other crew members have yet to get their sea legs.

We adjusted our course to our ICTZ waypoint: 10 degrees latitude, 128 degrees longitude. This is supposed to be the point where the dreaded ICTZ is the narrowest. Our course is now 243 degrees magnetic.

All is well on board sailing vessel Calou.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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The Spinnaker Is Flying (Day 3)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 17.2235 Longitude: -109.13862

Another pleasant day has passed, with each hour we slowly gain our sea legs and become more comfortable In our water world. We are now just over 300 miles out from La Cruz. During our first 24 hours we covered 145 miles.

The big event today was unpacking and launching our brand new spinnaker for the first time. Besides being a momentous occasion in itself, it also indicates that the wind is slowly making its way around behind us which means we are closer to getting into the trade winds. Launching the spinnaker went smoothly, especially thanks to a net Bruce hung in the foredeck to prevent the spinnaker from getting caught around the jib. We have had the spinnaker up all afternoon and we are making good time with it, even in light winds.

Lunch was a delicious meal of barbequed hamburgers and fresh mango. So far none of our fresh items have spoiled, but we are closely monitoring everything and eating the fruit as it ripens. We fished all afternoon yesterday but no bites so far.

The night watches have been going smoothly. Francois is now taking a watch which means we are sharing three hour shifts between four people which allows for nice stretches of uninterrupted sleep. During my watch I noticed some bright lights on the distant horizon but could not figure out what they were since we are rather far from any land. Bruce concluded later that the lights were from Cabo San Lucas, which was directly north of us by 320 nautical miles. I also had fun trying to see if I could pick up any radio stations from America on my little AM radio. Amazingly, I could just barely make out KCBS 740 from San Francisco. I will keep trying because the skip signal can vary from night to night. Pascale has the 6am watch and she said that at sunrise she noticed lots of birds circling our boat. It turned out that they were hungrily eyeing the many small squid covering our decks which had landed there during the night.

We have been very happy with the performance of our satellite modem. Bruce is now all set up on it and has been using it to manage his rental properties, and also to get tech support via email on an issue we are having with our radar system (no data is getting to the chart plotter). And I've been getting online keeping up with my Reservation Key tech support and downloading the latest weather.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Day 2 at sea
03/27/2011, Pacific Ocean west of Puerto Vallarta

We departed Saturday at 1145 am from La Cruz and sailed South West, course 230 degrees magnetic. Banderas Bay had very light winds so we had to motor an hour, but as we approached Cabo Corrientes, the winds built slowly from 4 knots, to 5, to 6, to 7.... as the sun was setting we had 12 knots of breeze and were making 8 knots speed towards our destination. We managed 7 to 8, even 9 knots boat speed the entire night and most of today, though our speed was reduced to about 6 knots mid afternoon, and then in increased again to the 7 knots we're doing now. We covered 140 nautical miles in our first 24 hours, not bad considering we spent many hours in Banderas Bay waiting for the wind to fill in.

Our first evening I made dinner, as an appetizer: a frozen mini-pizza (one tiny slice per person) and freshly made guacamole and tortilla chips (because we have a ton of quickly ripening avocados), then for the main course: chicken and onions in a garlic herb sauce over couscous for dinner. Everyone was pleased.

We sorted out a watch schedule: Francois early evening, Pascale late evening, John midnight to 3 a.m., and my shift from 3 to 7 a.m. The captain always takes the least desirable shift.

When the sun rose this morning, there was no longer any sight of land. We are on our way.

We are monitoring many things aboard: so many things are scarce and must be rationed. Electrical power is a primary concern, relying on our solar panels and wind generator some times isn't enough to keep up with our inverter, refrigeration, and watermaker. We must turn off our inverter (which converts 12 V DC to 120 V AC) at night if we wish to have any battery power in the morning. Fresh water is scarce, even though we have a watermaker, it takes electrical power to make it. Every gallon requires 72 watt-hours of power to produce. We have a sea water tap in the galley and use it to pre-wash everything, with a final rinse in a tiny amount of fresh water. Even our showers involve sea water first, then a rinse with miniscule amounts of fresh water.

Despite our conservation efforts, we are running the water maker 2 or 3 hours per day, which produces 12 to 18 gallons. Divided by a crew of 5, that's about 3 gallons of water per person per day, for drinking, cooking, dishwashing, personal hygiene, and laundry. Fresh water is a precious resource.

Our first night aboard was not very restful; it takes a lot of getting used to sleeping aboard a sailing boat. It's nothing like sleeping in a boat at anchor or in a marina. There's the constant sound of water rushing past the hull. There's the constant rocking from port to starboard as swell of wave approaches on our beam reach. There's the sound of the wind moaning in the rigging. And there's the sound of the boat's wood and fiberglass structure creaking and groaning with every shift in position. It's kind of trying to sleep in the middle of a construction zone. One eventually can tune it out. I'm going to try earplugs this evening.

This second evening, I made another guacamole (those avocados are ripening quickly), which we enjoyed as the sun set with a glass of red wine. As we toasted, we drank in the realization that, by God, we really are on our way to the South Pacific! Then we had pasta with grilled chicken pieces, onions, peppers, and tomato sauce.

We are making way rapidly to our destination, hopefully we can keep this good pace up.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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03/27/2011 | Dave Benjamin
Glad you guys made it out. Have a great passage.
03/28/2011 | Blair Hunt
I also have been following your blog for a few years, I googled your lat/long yesterday and had a look at Islands ahead, how fascinating!
I wish you all fair winds & seas Calou!
All the best from the Pacific Northwest.
Settling Into Life at Sea (Day 2)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 19.31742 Longitude: -107.32718

We are well underway, currently about 140 nautical miles from La Cruz, after 23 hours of sailing. Our departure from Banderas Bay was smooth enough, and the winds started increasing to 10 to 15 knots on our beam during the evening and night. Our top speed last night was 8.5 knots, which is really good. Currently we are gliding along at 5.7 knots in fairly smooth seas.

Our first dinner underway started with a slice of frozen pizza as an appetizer which was followed up with chicken and couscous. All of us other than Bruce have been taking Sturgeon to combat sea-sickness and it actually seems to be working. This is the first time I have tried Sturgeon, and it is really nice to not feel terribly seasick.

We actually made a first attempt at leaving Puerto Vallarta on Friday, March 25, 2011, but after getting about three hours out into the bay, we had to turn back when we were unable to unroll our main sail from the mast. The sail roll inside the mast had become loose and the sail was bunching up when we tried to pull it out. Mike, the rigger, met us at the dock that evening and was able to get everything fixed for us. I had worried it was going to be another few days delay, but luckily the fix was pretty easy and we got underway on Saturday, March 26, 2011 at about 1pm.

It looks like we hit the weather window as we are having perfect wind speeds which are quickly pushing us into the trade winds. For now we are just taking it easy and getting used to life at sea.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Francois in the rigging
03/25/2011, Banderas Bay, Mexico

Here's a photo of Francois sitting on the boom as we returned to La Cruz.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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A False Start
03/25/2011, Banderas Bay, Mexico

We made final preparations and finally left the dock this afternoon at 1:00 PM. Heading out into Banderas Bay, the wind was on the nose so we decided to motor until we would be sufficiently offshore to get the northerlies which would carry us to the Marquesas.

Alas, as we approached Cabo Corrientes, about 23 miles from our starting point, when we tried to unfurl the main sail it would not go. It was stuck near the top.

We sent John up in the bosun's chair to try to unstick it. That's John, in the photo, trying to pull the sail fabric out of the mast where it was bunched up.

The boat rocking back and forth is amplified when you're 50 feet in the air, so John was starting to get seasick in his lofty perch. So I decided we would motor back to the marina, still a short distance away, so that we could get the mainsail sorted out in the still waters of the marina.

We made it back to the marina just after sunset, and our rigger, Mike, showed up. He explained that, because we had the boom removed for about 3 weeks while we were having the gooseneck (the hinge that attaches the boom to the mast) repaired, that the mainsail was sitting loose inside the mast without the usual tension on it. This caused the mainsail to loosen sufficiently so that it would not exit the mast.

We got the mainsail out in about a half hour, so now we're looking at another departure tomorrow morning (Saturday, March 26).

In working with the main sail, I noticed that the clutch holding the main halyard was not holding the line. We have a spare, so I'll mount that new clutch in the morning.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Zarpe Dinner
03/25/2011, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

This is our last evening on land in Mexico. Having completed our provisioning, I think we will still have enough food upon our arrival in Hiva Oa to start a small supermarket.

The credit card bills have been alarming. It seems we have been spending a couple thousand dollars per day on provisioning, and paying various bills for the marina, the welder, the rigger, etc. The good news is that there is no place to use our credit cards when we'll be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The last spare part we got for the boat was a spare alternator. I've heard about many boats losing their alternator. If that happened to us in the middle of the Pacific, we would no longer be able to make ice cubes for our rum & cokes. Now THAT would be a crisis! So we now have a spare alternator, for the sake of our rum & cokes.

We have more spares than you can shake a stick at. Spare autopilot. Spare chartplotter. Spare rudder. Spare VHF radio. Spare antenna. Spare water pump impellers. Spare fan belts. Spare sails. Spare medicines. Spare tire (that one is on my waist).

Crossing an ocean is kind of like being is a space capsule. If there's a problem, you're on your own, and you must have everything you need to deal with any situation, as it may be weeks before external help may be available.

It was interesting visiting with the doctor. We made an appointment and asked him, "make a list of all the medicines and equipment (syringes, sutures, etc.) that would let us treat most medical problems at sea. We have quite a medical kit now, let's hope we won't need it.

Yesterday, we got our Zarpe. It is our exit visa out of Mexico. Once it is issued, we have 48 hours to leave the country. We will miss Mexico. We love to speak Spanish (we are all getting very good at it). We love the warm, generous Mexican people. We can't wait to get back to Mexico someday soon. Hasta Luego!!

(The photo above is us, celebrating our imminent departure, on board our dear friend Jack's boat, Ventanna.)

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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03/25/2011 | Dale
I have enjoyed you blog for several years. I have learned so much from your travels. Be safe and I wish you all the very best.

Last Major Provisioning Trip Completed
03/24/2011, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

We did our third, and last, major provisioning today. We purchased a gigantic amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as more canned veggies, and more meat for the freezer, only because we still have room. So we stocked up on some rib eye steaks and cornish hens. As small as it seems, it amazes us how much food we can fit into our little bitty freezer!!!!

Following Tommy's hint (on Phambili), we got 2 flats of Coke Light (for Rum and Cokes), plus about 12 liters of grapefruit juice (our favorite).

On the hardware side, we got a spare alternator yesterday. Very happy to have that, just in case.

It looks like a departure very soon. We got our Zarpe (exit visa from Mexico) today.

We saw the crew of Evergreen today....they're departing also. We'll be a day or two behind them but will probably catch up.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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03/24/2011 | Jan Koehler
Hi Calou crew - I will be following your blog posts throughout your journey. Aloha!
03/24/2011 | Lou & Marge on Seabird
We hope you have a great passage and thanks again for the bolt. It still is keeping our OB together. I will follow your blog when I finish this Bash to SD

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