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Calou's Blog
Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
Moving Right Along (Day 5)
John
03/30/2011

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: http://travel.reservationkey.com Latitude: 14.9382 Longitude: -112.26482

Here are a few photos of the day. Things are pretty much the same today. We are enjoying the warm seas sailing under spinnaker, moving along at around seven knots. The day started out cloudy but we out sailed the clouds after a few hours.

Last night we had very little wind and unfortunately did not have the spinnaker up so we averaged probably around two knots over the course of 12 hours. We raised the spinnaker first thing in the morning which really increased our speed. Besides not making good progress when going slowly, the boat also rocks back and forth like crazy which makes for uncomfortable sleeping conditions. It is always a risk running the spinnaker at night because if the wind gets too strong we have to go onto the foredeck to bring it down, and in the dark, and with a big spinnaker blowing all over, that is easier said than done. If conditions remain as mild as they are right now, however, we probably will take the gamble and keep the spinnaker up tonight. Sometimes steering by hand, instead of using the autopilot can make for a smoother ride, so I hand steered most of my watch last night. It also helps pass the time and builds skill at holding a course by following the compass heading. Our batteries have been running down faster than expected at night, so hand steering also helps conserve some battery power. When our batteries get too low we run the generator or engine for awhile. The last couple of nights we have had to run one or the other for about one or two hours in order to keep the batteries topped off.

Bruce continues working on diagnosing why the radar seems to operate intermittently. Today he called the company that made the radar unit, Raymarine, with the satellite phone. He said the phone connection was perfect with no delay and great audio quality. We also tried using our other satellite system, our Iridium 9555 phone, but every time we try to call it says the phone can only be used for emergency calls. We have emailed our satellite support team for help with that issue. Since the Inmarsat is working so well we don't need the Iridium right now, but it will be good to have it operational as a backup system. It is preferable to call with the Inmarsat anyway since we pay $1 per minute versus $2 per minute with the Iridium phone.

I've set up a fishing pole and have a nice pink squid lure on the line. We are hoping for a nice sushi dinner tonight. We just finished a nice lunch of avocado and crab salad, and radishes with butter and salt, followed by tangerines. Our fresh produce is quickly becoming not so fresh so we are starting to consumer it at a faster rate. So far one cantaloupe melon and several oranges have spoiled.

Now, I'm off to work. Hopefully the technical support load is light today.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Establishing a Routine (Day 4)
John
03/29/2011

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: http://travel.reservationkey.com Latitude: 16.22452 Longitude: -110.9875

Now that we are well into our fourth day at sea we seem to be settling into a bit of a routine. It also helps that we are getting used to our watch schedule. Basically everyone is up by around 9:00am. Bruce either makes breakfast for everyone, or sometimes each person gets his own breakfast. Today I made myself a nice bowl of oatmeal and raisins with sliced banana on top. After breakfast we have been doing boat projects and smallish tasks. Bruce worked on figuring out why the radar was working intermittently (turns out it needs a lot of power to operate, so when our batteries are a little low it cuts out) and I cleaned up the galley and dishes. Next comes lunch, usually prepared by Bruce (could be something like sandwiches, tacos, hot dogs, or hamburgers). After lunch is a good time to get some computer work done and get on the internet. Yesterday I answered a bunch of technical support emails and checked on a small bug in ReservationKey, in addition to updating the blog and checking weather.

By this time it is getting to be about 4 or 5pm which is a good time to take a shower. I have been pulling up buckets of salt water and dousing myself with that while sitting on the rail near the foredeck. Then I soap up and re-douse with salt water. The final step is a freshwater rinse with the shower nozzle on the swim step. I find it very refreshing to wash off after a day of being sticky and hot. Next up is dinner which we have been trying to get ready by 7:45p or so, just before the 8pm net. This timing also works well for me being able to get some solid sleep before my watch begins. Last night Bruce and I switched watches so that he is on watch from midnight to 3am and I am on watch from 3am to 6am. He prefers the midnight watch since he is a night owl and I found the 3am watch to be preferable as I was able to get almost seven hours of sleep before being on watch. Pascale and Francois have been covering 6p to midnight. Pascale comes up for watch again at 6am when I go off. Now repeat this schedule for about 20 more days and we will be there.

During my watch last night the autopilot went into standby due to low battery power. We ended up doing an accidental tack until I figured out what went on. To bring our batteries back up I ran the engine for about 30 minutes. I also hand steered for awhile just for the fun of it and to get better. It can be tough holding a course in the dark, relying primarily on the compass. There was a bright glow about 30 degrees to starboard and I was able to use that as a reference also. It looked surprisingly similar to what we previously though were the lights of Cabo San Lucas. After awhile the glow got stronger and I was easily able to make out the lights of what was probably a fishing boat. I tried raising them on the VHF radio, but no response. The boat passed us going the opposite direction on our starboard. The previous night what we thought were city lights probably actually were a fishing boat just over the horizon.

Our excitement for the afternoon was discovering some random wires sticking out of our mast. It turns out we found the rats nest of strings and cables that was giving us so much difficulty a few weeks ago when we were trying to run the cable for our mast head camera. I was able to pull out most of the string but discovered that the cable connected to our wind instruments was partially worn through, probably due to our struggle to run cables earlier. I taped it up with sail tape and hopefully the lines we have in there won't eat it up any further.

We continue to make good progress. The spinnaker helped keep our boat speed around 7 knots all day yesterday. Currently the wind is light and we are doing around 4 knots under main sail and full jib.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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03/29/2011 | Liz Wilder
I enjoy reading your daily blogs, and glad to know the sail is smoothly going. Catch some fish! I have been enjoying steamed fish here that I buy fresh from an International fish market who gets them from Sacramento 2x a week. Of course you have great chance of catching bing one!! Chow.
Day 3
Bruce
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
03/28/2011

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: http://travel.reservationkey.com 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
Bruce
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
03/27/2011

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: http://travel.reservationkey.com 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
Bruce
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
Bruce
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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