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Calou's Blog
Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
April First (Day 7)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 13.49823 Longitude: -116.15942

The first day of April has arrived. It is weird to be at sea while the months go by.

{{90}} Today has mostly been an uneventful day so far. Bruce changed our battery regulator to a cheap car regulator instead of the fancy marine regulator and now we are getting a lot more amps out of the alternator and the batteries are charging up to 14 volts instead of stopping charging at 12.5 volt. This will help our batteries last longer, especially at night. Night time is the only time we have needed to charge the batteries since during the day our solar panels are doing a good job at keeping things topped off. The last few days have been mostly cloudy, but still the solar cells seem to be doing a decent job. Bruce installed a volt meter in the cockpit yesterday so that helps quite a bit with being able to monitor our battery usage.

I have over a thousand movies with me, but so far I have only watched two. I thought I would have time to watch lots of movies, but it turns out we are pretty busy sailing and sleeping so a lot less time for movies than planned. Oh well, better to enjoy the experience of being here instead of letting it all go by watching movies. I did play a little violin yesterday afternoon which was fun. I worked on my improvising skills by trying to play along with the music on the stereo. Caribbean style island music might not be my best choice for learning to improvise since it was pretty tough.

Our topics of conversation continue to be the weather and anticipation about conditions we might find near the equator. That area is known to be somewhat more unsettled with short intense storms, squalls. I have been downloading weather information every day and in the short term things seem pretty consistent. Mostly 8 to 12 knots of wind and 7-8 foot swells. Weather for a long passage doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

The thought also crossed our minds that we hope the South Pacific lives up to its reputation. While making a passage like this is fun, it also is a really long trip and can get a bit monotonous. So we hope we are not disappointed when we get there. The likelihood of that seems pretty slim, but still, these are the things you think about when you have lots of time for thinking.

PS: Note to Dennis Dorch and other people that want to comment on Facebook. It seems I can reply via email to comments left on the photos, but not directly to comments on my wall. Facebook has a nice feature that lets me reply via email to posts, but I think that only is working to comments left on photos. Even though I have a satellite connection, I am not loading FB because it takes a lot of bandwidth and that could get expensive in a hurry. Dennis, if you send me an email, [email protected] , I want to reply to your last message. I don't have your email address.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Day 5
03/31/2011, One Big Ocean

we had a good run today, flying the spinnaker at 8 knots most of the day until the winds started to pick up so we packed it away and flew with the jib at 6.5 knots. The seas were fairly comfortable.

We have an abundance of fruit that is all ripening at once: oranges, melons, avocados, tomatos, mangos, pinapples... so I made a tropical salad with fresh romaine lettuce, chopped tomato, diced mango, and a creamy cilantro salad dressing. This was topped off with salmon cakes (canned salmon mixed with egg and pan fried).

Meanwhile John prepared a pineapple Thai style--with the dark spots cut out spiral style around the pineapple, and the stalk where the leaves are serving as a sort of handle. It was a refreshing dessert after the salad.

Tonight, I'll be preparing barbequed rib-eye steaks for dinner, with a raspberry-chipotle sauce and garnished with fresh chopped pineapple chunks. We'll have sweet potatoes and butter to go with it as a side dish.

It's important to have good, fresh (when possible) and varied food for a long passage like this.

I did a boat project today. I ran a cable to the cockpit so that we can display the battery voltage on a digital display in the cockpit. For the digital display I used my backup digital VOM. This turns out to be information that is of vital information on a minute by minute basis. The battery voltage needs constant monitoring to be sure that it doesn't drop too low before starting up the genset or the engine to recharge the house bank.

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04/01/2011 | Blair Hunt
WOW! the daily menu's sound fantastic! Are you taking reservations?? LOL
Happy to hear your passage has been great, continued Fair Winds & Seas!
We're all jealous here on S/V Sabrina Faire, Semiahmoo Marina, Pacific NW.
Having Fun (Day 6)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 14.23157 Longitude: -114.12309

Watching the sun rise, with the rays piercing down through the clouds, was a nice way to start the day. Bruce stayed on watch longer than usual so I started at 4:00 am instead of 3.

Since I had been sleeping since 8:30pm I was feeling pretty awake and stayed on watch until the sun rose, my first sunrise since we started. Antoine woke up early and we filled out the log book together, which was also a good way to help him figure out how to read the instruments.

Since the wind was starting to pick up we launched the spinnaker and kept it up until about 1pm. It is really fun to drive the boat with the spinnaker up and a good wind. We averaged about 7,5 knots , with a top speed of 8.7 knots while I was driving. I've been thinking about how I am not able to play in today and tomorrow's Bohemian Club Orchestra concerts, with great comradeship and the oyster appetizers and bottomless wine, and as much as I miss that, driving a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is a pretty unique and amazing experience. I've played in probably hundreds of concerts over the years, but being out here like this is something that is probably not very likely to happen again, or if so, not for many, many years. In addition to looking forward to reaching French Polynesia I am also realizing that the trip across the Pacific is just as much a part of the adventure as arriving at our destinations.

Our lunch today was a lot of fun. Bruce made a delicious salad garnished with mango, avocado and tomatoes, topped with tune/salmon cakes. I enjoyed cutting one of our pineapples, in the style of a Thai beach vendor, which I learned about during my first trip to Thailand in 2001.

There were lots of fish jumping and chasing other fish all over around the boat earlier so I put out a line. Maybe we will have fresh sushi for dinner. Otherwise we will have to settle for barbeque steaks and potatoes.

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Day 5
03/30/2011, out in the middle of an ocean

Last night (nearly 24 hrs ago now) was very slow. There was only a miniscule amount of wind which left us slogging and the sails and boom slapping all night. It was tough to get to sleep. Finally I got up in the early morning and turned the boat 90 to southward, to at least keep the little wind there was filling the sails. We weren't going the right direction, but at least we were moving.

We logged about 140 to 150 nm each night since we left Vallarta, except last night we only managed 91 nm.

Today will be much better as we had excellent 8 to 9 knot sailing with the spinnaker and 6 to 8 knots with the jib in the evening.

(We log our runs from 11 am to 11 am each day).

If this keeps up we'll be in the Marquesas in 19 to 21 days.

It looks more and more like our radar scanner is dead. I did an ohms check of the cable (with radar scanner connected) and two pins that should read 160 ohms +/- 5 percent instead read 112 ohms.

A bad connection (loose, or corroded) would have given us a high ohms reading, so it doesn't look like that.

But I guess we'll manage to get by without the radar. At least we have AIS (which identifies nearby ships' position and course).

We had a nice lunch today, I had to use up the ripening avocados so we had salad with avocado tomatoes and crab meat.

Dinner this evening was guacamole and chips, then penne pasta with chili con carne and tomato sauce.

We are now at 14* 41.5 N, 112* 41.23 W

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Moving Right Along (Day 5)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: 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's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: 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
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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