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Calou's Blog
Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
An interesting Evening
04/04/2011, 1000 miles west of Mexico

We have been watching the GRIB file forecasts that indicate increasing winds tonight and the next few days. In anticipation of that, we decided to put a reef in both the roller furling mainsail and jib, while it was still daylight.

The Jib, however, would not cooperate, as there was an override on the roller furling drum. This would be the result of unrolling the jib without maintaining sufficient tension on the furling line.

So we had to remove the headsail the old fashioned way - dropping it to the deck - while I tried, and eventually succeeded, in untangling the line on the furling drum.

The lesson learned is this: always reef with plenty of extra time before you HAVE to. We were fortunate to have 2 hours to drop the sail, sort out the problem, and rehoist the sail, before it got dark and windy.

It is now night time, and we have been sailing with a double reef in both the jib and the mainsail, yet we are nevertheless maintaining 6 knots speed.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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A Numbers Game (Day 10)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 11.40837 Longitude: -121.89375

If things really do happen in threes, then we should be all settled up for a while. Over the last three days we have had three fairly major equipment issues. First, our holding tank would not drain so we spent an afternoon on fixing that. Late yesterday afternoon our jib sail would not furl due to an override with the furling line inside the furling drum. As the wind was predicted to increase to around 22 knots after dark, we decided to reef early, a few hours before sunset. Good thing we decided to reef then since we found the problem before dark. Fixing it meant lowering the sail onto the deck, not exactly an easy task in stiff winds. As we turned into the wind in order to slacken the sail, the waves started pounding over our bowsprit onto the deck. I was sitting on deck, with my feet in the anchor locker, wishing I was wearing a swim mask getting pounded by the waves while loosening the shackle between the furling drum and the sail. With Bruce and Francois and myself helping, however, we were able to get the sail on board without too much trouble. As we brought the last part of the sail on deck we were shocked to see that the shackle holding the top of the sail to the halyard had become almost completely unscrewed. If it has opened while the jib was raised there would have been no way to pull the halyard down and re-raise the jib. The only option would have been a trip up the mast to retrieve the halyard. So, finding this when we did was a real stroke of luck. Next we had to figure out how to untangle the furling line from the drum. I thought we would have to take the furler apart, so I loosened a few screws, but that caused the entire sail track to slide down about ten inches, further into the drum. Reposition the track required attaching hose clamps to the track and then hoisting it back up with the halyard. It was a dumb move on my part to loosen the screws without a really good plan of what to do. But, it turned out ok as we were able to put it back together without losing any parts or breaking anything. By this time I was soaking wet and pretty cold, so Bruce took over and went to work on straightening the furling line. He found that the end stopper knot of the line had slipped out the bottom of the drum and through the housing. This was causing the drum to not spin properly. He was able to pull it up and also straighten the override. I thought we would have to remove the line completely, but luckily we did not need to do so. Raising the sail was much easier than lowering it since we did not need to turn upwind thankfully. We finished this project just as the sun set and the wind started howling even stronger.

As far as things happening in threes, our third incident happened this morning, shortly after breakfast. I was watching an episode of The Wire in my bunk with my big headphones on when I heard a loud commotion in the salon. It turned out that Antoine, in the freezer, using a steak knife to chip out his ice enclosed water bottle gel pack, had accidentally punctured the refrigeration element releasing all of the Freon. Although we have lots of spare parts on board, we do not have a spare refrigerator and a hole in the refrigeration is fatal to a refrigerator. What this means, is that for the duration of our crossing we will no longer have refrigerated food. Refrigeration is not exactly critical for our passage, but it was a nice convenience. We had a nice supply of frozen meat that now we have to use or loose. Our plan is to make a large pot of stew in the pressure cooker and repressurize it after every use. As long as the pot is repressurized, the contents will stay fresh. Since some of the meat is still frozen we can probably stretch our refrigeration about one more day before we have to cook everything. We also might try drying some of the meat in the sun and making beef jerky. This should be easy, since the sun is really hot here. As we get close in on the equator, I am definitely noticing a temperature increase. My cabin now rarely is below 30C, whereas in PV it was often in the low 20's.

Weatherwise, we are still moving along at a decent clip. We saw some of our first squalls today which we were able to easily avoid. We also continue to find lots of flying fish and squid on deck every morning.

While we are now in double digits, at day 10 of our passage, I predict we will soon be back in single digits as far as days remaining go. At our current rate we have approximately 12 days left before we make landfall in the Marquesas. We will be ordering repair parts in advance (so far a new radar unit, and now, items for the refrigerator) and hopefully they will be waiting for us when we arrive. After all, it is said cruising on a small sailboat is all about fixing your boat in exotic locations.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Day 9
04/03/2011, Pacific Ocean

I woke up today to overcast skies and somewhat squally conditions. We could see storm clouds and rainfall on the horizon to the south of us. We are approaching the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone), the zone just north of the equator, where such weather is the norm.

Wind has increased to about 18 knots, we have been making 7 to 8 knots most of the day with just the mainsail and the jib.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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A Quiet Sunday (Day 9)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 12.38482 Longitude: -120.22643

Not much is happening today. Just lying on my bunk reading on my Kindle for most of the day so far. I'm reading Catch Me If You Can, which is a great book as well as a great movie. I really enjoyed the movie, but never read the book. So far, it seems that the movie follows the story in the book very closely. I've also gotten hooked on the HBO series, The Wire. I never saw any episodes before, and have five seasons stored on my computer to make my way through. It is about criminal detectives fighting drug dealers in Baltimore. Some of the criminal law elements in the show remind me of my days as a prosecutor in the tough and criminally active town of Modesto, which is kind of fun.

Yesterday afternoon our forward head (toilet) would not drain so Bruce had to undertake the messy job of disconnecting the hoses and tank and snake out the hoses. It looks like mineral deposits had built up inside the discharge hose to the point where the tank would not drain. Since the tank was almost full, it weighed around 300 pounds. Bruce tied ropes to it and Francois and I helped lift it into position by pulling on the ropes up on deck while Bruce pushed the tank back into its shelf from inside the sail locker. We plan on emptying the tank more often now, which will help avoid these issues.

Today brought with it the heaviest weather of the trip so far. We have winds gusting to around 20 knots and rougher seas plus a little rain. The GRIB weather files I have been downloading predicted this exactly right and show similar weather for the next four days. The good news is that we are able to make really good time. We were doing around 8 knots for a good number of hours and hit a top speed of 10.2 knots momentarily.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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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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