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Calou's Blog
Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
Night Watch in the Pacific
04/06/2011, middle of nowhere

The night watch is one of my favorite times. Here we are, sailing at 7 knots, the wind is howling in the wind generator, the sideways equatorial crescent moon is smiling at us. I can hear the water shooshing past the hull, as it leaves bursts of luminescence in its wake.

The luminescence of the water has to be seen, to be believed. It's not just whitish spray; it's brilliant bluish-white neon flashes from a million underwater glow-bugs.

We have been at sea for... what?... 12 days now. We are at about the halfway point in this passage. We are more than 1000 nautical miles to the nearest land in any direction. I have heard it said, that this point is the greatest distance you can possibly be from land anywhere on the planet. I don't quite believe it, but it might be true. If I had internet right now I'd check it out.

We haven't seen another boat, ship, or even airplane, in the last 10 days. This ocean is so big! Doing a watch amounts to making sure your sail trim is correct. There is no worry about running into anything. At least not until we get closer to land.

I always thought single handers were nuts because they'd have to sleep some time. One could sleep out here for several hours and not miss anything. They may be nuts, but for different reasons.

As the sun set this evening, we spotted a long series of clouds on the horizon that had peculiar shapes. They looked like handwriting, slanting to the right. One looked like a hungry turtle, with one claw putting food in its mouth. Right behind it was a stegosaurus, which soon morphed into a Labrador retriever. Pascale, the boys, and I excitedly called out shapes as we perceived them.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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04/07/2011 | R & S Welburn
Reading your blog and in awe at your great adventure. Keep writing, we'll read! Wishing you safe sailing and a great trip! All is well here. sheryn
House Arrest (Day 12)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 8.38386 Longitude: -124.44688

Antoine has been commenting that it feels like we are under house arrest, being confined to the boat like we are. That certainly is one way to put it, and not too far off from what it is like to sail on a boat for three weeks straight. While the time is getting long, it still is not too bad. And once we are there I am sure we will look back on this as being a great experience. I keep telling myself to enjoy the experience of being out here, since this big of an ocean passage is not something I will likely do again for a long time. Of course the trip from Tahiti to Hawaii is a pretty big ocean passage, and not too far off. Although, because of commitments at home, it is uncertain if I will be on board for that leg of the trip.

We are well into the trade winds now. We have had consistent winds of 15 to 22 knots for the past 24 hours and these conditions are predicted to stay with us for the next few days. At about 2.5 degrees north, the wind really starts dying off, and I am thinking we likely will have dead flat seas at the equator. Which is why it is good we have lots of fuel on board, so we can motor through that 300 mile wide equatorial no-man's zone.

Yesterday Bruce figured out why our batteries were not properly charging. It turns out to be neither the alternator or the regulator, but a slipping drive belt. The heavy load on the belt combined with hot weather probably caused it to wear out sooner than it ordinarily would have. Luckily we have spare belts and once a new one was installed, the batteries are charged to a much higher voltage than before. Without refrigeration, our drain on the batteries is much less. With solar and wind power we are able to maintain our battery levels, even while watching movies on two flat screen televisions, and charging three laptop computers. Maybe we should have turned the refrigerator off earlier. After all, computers and movies rank pretty highly in our lives here.

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Violins and A Big Pot of Stew
04/05/2011, location

After the realization that we had permanently lost our refrigeration set in, we drank our last cold beers and got to work. I removed 13 kilos of meet from our freezer, cut it up, and made two big pots of stew. One pot in the pressure cooker, the other in a regular pot. By reheating them to boiling temperature a few times a day, we can keep them sterile for several days. Of course, we may tire of eating beef stew before it runs out.

We dined on some of the camembert and Roquefort cheese that we had brought, and barbequed six rib-eye steaks which we ate for dinner.

We still have several pounds of sausages and cold cuts. I'm hoping the sausages will keep a while longer since they're precooked and cured. Ditto the cold cuts.

The weather is beautiful today, bright blue skies and pleasant sailing conditions.

John plays his violin (beautifully) in the cockpit.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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04/06/2011 | Anita and John
Greetings....wanted to make sure you know that Kim and Sharon are on their way!! sorry you lost your fridge!! bummer
Heading South (Day 11)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 10.92644 Longitude: -123.94073

This morning we've made a big turn to the south and are now on a heading of 190 degrees. If we can hold this course all the way to the equator we will cross over right around 128 degrees west longitude. Only about 700 miles to the equator.

Last night we emptied the refrigerator and cooked most of the meat into a big stew. For dinner we had lots of steak. For appetizers we finished off a few hunks of cheese.

Today has been fine sailing weather. The sky is mostly clear, just with a few big tropical looking clouds hanging around. We are doing 6.6 knots on beam reach. This morning I played some Bach and Mozart in the cockpit.

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Lost Refrigeration
04/04/2011, north of the equator

It is day 10, we are about 1/2 way through our voyage and about 1000 miles from land in any direction. We lost our refrigeration today, Antoine (12) was trying to get something unstuck from the freezer using a knife (without our knowledge) and he pierced the evaporator. He came up to the cockpit to announce that there was a hissing sound coming from the refrigerator. Freon was escaping in a rush.

We have plenty of food in cans and dry form (canned meat, veggies, pasta, rice, etc) so there's no danger of starvation.

We also have several pounds of meats (rib eye steaks, arrachera steaks, sausages) which we'll have to either consume immediately, or put into a pressure cooker to make a stew that we can keep under pressure and sterile for several days.

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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.

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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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