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Calou's Blog
Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
Day 8 at Sea

Today begins the 8th day at sea, we are about 800 some miles off shore. The day started out overcast, and as the day went on it became clear and sunny.

I have been struggling to understand our charging system. When we start the engine, it starts pumping 40 amps into the batteries. But this amerage drops withing 10 minutes to less than 10 amps. And the battery voltage, instead of increasing, declines. This is very worrisome since we need DC poer to run our instruments, watermaker, radio, etc.

Fortunately we have alternate sources of power. There are the solar panels, and the wind generator. But the solar panels do no good at night and the wind generator doesn't do anything when the wind is light. Then we have our Honda generator. This little gem produces 120V AC and sends it directly to our shore power inlet to charge our batteries and provide power to our appliances when needed.

To make a long story short, the DC charging system (alternator and regulator) are behaving mysteriously and basically not working. We have to rely on the Honda generator now to keep the batteries charged. At least until I figure out what's wrong with the alternator/regulator system.

Oh, we are carrying a backup alternator, and a backup regulator.

But tests I have done this far indicate normal alternator unregulated output. And I have already tried out the spare regulator (same result). There is something going on here that I don't understand. I think I'll have to call Balmar on the Sat Phone when they open on Monday to get their input.

Then there was the trouble with the holding tank. This 30 gallon tank holds our sewage, need I say more! We need to empty the tank when at sea, but it would not empty. This meant that the sewage was backing up into our head.

I had to go into the sail locker where the tank is located, disconnect it (very carefully because it was filled with 30 gallons of sewage) and clear the blockage which turned out to be due to mineral deposits using a wire "snake". All while we were under sail doing 8 knots with the spinnaker.

The hardest part was hoisting the full holding tank back into position (by my estimate it weighed 240 lbs). With myself hoisting it from below, we tied two ropes and had John and Francois hoist it from above. The three of us were just barely able to get it back into position.

Fortunately after this ordeal the holding tank is now working normally. I would recommend any boat owner to install a "cleanout" by their holding tank output drain so that this critical juncture can be cleared without disconnecting the holding tank. This is the second time we've had to do this unsavory operation so it's not an uncommon chore.

Besides the usual travails we saw a school of dolphins today. Antoine and John are pictured on the bow of Calou observing them.

Today is Saturday and we all previously agreed Saturday would be Pizza Day. We brought 3 frozen pizzas for the passage and cooked the second one today. It was just an appetizer but quite a treat. We also had apple slices served with blue cheese, and some nice red wine to go with it. Then the main course was arrachera steak cooked with garlic and onions, and steamed potatoes, carrots, and leeks.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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My First Dolphin Sighting (Day 8)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 13.10153 Longitude: -118.02161

We have occasionally been visited by dolphins, but today is the first time I have seen them. Today two swam with the boat for a few minutes and then disappeared.

Saturday morning was relaxing today. Bruce and Pascale watched a movie in their cabin and I practiced violin on deck. The sun has returned which helps to make things more cheery also. But it also makes things much hotter. I wonder how much warmer it will be at the equator compared to here. We will find out in about eight more days.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Day 7
04/01/2011, 800 nautical miles from Mexico

This marks our 7th day at sea, and we have completed about 1/3 of our passage. The winds have been mostly very light the last 24 hours, at times as little as 6 knots, other times as much as 10. We have managed to keep the speed between 6 and 8.5 knots with the spinnaker up. Still, there was a period during the afternoon when we struggled to keep the spinnaker filled.

The sky is overcast today which is a mixed blessing. For one it is cooler. But we hope to have more sunny skies in the forecast. Cloudiness and storminess is going to become more common, however, as we approach the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) at the equator.

With the cloudy skies, our solar panel output is reduced, which means we have had to run the engine or the generator more.

We ate the last of the celery sticks today with peanut butter, and had another tropical fruit salad for lunch to use up the avocados, tomatoes, and mangoes before they go bad. We have had to kersplash some rotten fruit that we didn't get to eat in time.

Dinner tonight will probably be some arrachera steak cooked in a stew with onions and leek, and some couscous on the side.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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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.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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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.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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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

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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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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