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Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
Approaching the ICTZ

We have made our final turn to cross the ICTZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone). We have gone out to this position to make the crossing because this is where it is supposed to be the narrowest. The ICTZ, a.k.a. The Doldrums, is notorious for its utter lack of wind punctuated by 40 knot squalls and electrical storms. We hope to get across quickly and not see too much bad stuff. We are carrying enough fuel so that we can motor if the winds die.

Today has been fairly moderate winds in the 16 knot range.

We saw a ship on the chartplotter AIS for the first time since we left Mexico. It's about 8 nautical miles away, too far to get a visual. We have yet to actually see a single boat or ship on our passage. The AIS tells us it's a Japanese fishing vessel. I fantasized about asking them to give us some ice to chill our beer .

We had a bad surprise this morning. I went to get some more eggs from storage in the sail locker, and all the remaining eggs were covered in mold. We had to toss out 4 dozen eggs and now have no more. We made two mistakes: the eggs were stored in the sail locker, which is like a greenhouse with its large plexiglass hatch, and they were stored in a covered plastic storage container. Moral to the story: store eggs in a cool, well ventilated place.

Though we won't have eggs for breakfast anymore, we have plenty of pancake mix (of the "just add water" variety). We'll get by.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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A Ship Almost Sighted (Day 14)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 5.40205 Longitude: -126.88912

After days and days of seeing no other traffic whatsoever out here, our AIS system has alerted us to a 140 foot long Japanese fishing boat, Matsuhiro Maru, about 7 miles ahead of us. The AIS system shows the location of commercial ships on our chartplotter. I was hoping to get a nice close up photo for this blog posting, but so far no sign of it. If we do end up seeing it, I will post the photo tomorrow. Regardless, maybe this is an indication that we are getting closer to civilization.

Yesterday we spent most of the day going more west than south, but today we are back headed almost directly south and should be at the equator by Monday. As we continue south the wind strength will continue to weaken until at the equator we will have almost no wind. That actually will be something of a nice break as we have had some fairly good sized seas the last few days. Everything is harder to do and takes more energy when the seas are rough. The sky is mostly clear, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that we won't have many squalls around the equator.

Since leaving Mexico we have sailed over 1500 miles. This is roughly the same distance from San Francisco to Chicago. Only about 1100 miles left to go. Roughly, San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Southern Cross
04/07/2011, Pacific Ocean near the equator

My three hour watch ended at 3 a.m. this morning. Looking to the south I could see, for the first time, the Southern Cross above the horizon. It's a four pointed pattern resembling a kite shape and marks the direction of the South Pole for sailors south of the equator. The night sky, by the way, more than 1200 miles from the nearest land and therefore uncolored by terrestrial illumination, is really something to behold. Even before the moon rises, the sky is bursting with light. The Milky Way glows in a way I have never seen before.

The winds held steady around 18 to 20 knots through the night and we made good progress, 143 nautical miles in the last 24 hours. We have continued to have 16 to 20 knot winds from the North East throughout the day.

We gybed today to head in a Westerly direction, since the ideal point to cross the Equator and the ITCZ is still somewhat west of us. When we get to around longitude 127 or 128 some time tomorrow, then we'll turn left and head south.

For lunch today we used up the last of the grilled Costco chicken strips, making burritos with the hot chicken, cheese, lettuce, diced tomato and caramelized red onion. I washed mine down with a room temperature Tecate beer. When that's all you have, it's not all that bad.

Nearly two weeks since we've left Mexico, it is amazing how well some of our fruit and vegetables have held up -- and others, not. We bought under-ripe tomatoes in Mexico and store them in the sail locker in a paper bag. Ditto for apples. They still look fresh. The mangoes, we hand from a net under the solar panels. They are all as good as new. The grapefruit are holding up extremely well, though we've had to toss a few of them. Avocados, stored outdoors in a hammock, were good for 10 days. Limes are still good as new. Onions and potatoes, still good as new. Iceberg lettuce was holding up very well until the refrigeration went out but even now without refrigeration we manage to get some fresh lettuce by cutting out the wilted parts.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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In The Trades (Day 13)

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: Latitude: 6.40744 Longitude: -125.11987

The wind continues to blow us right along, having made good speed with 144 miles yesterday. Today we gibed and are now heading more west than south again. After looking at the GRIB forecast it looks like there is more wind on this side of the equator so we are taking advantage of that to make our way a bit farther west before we make the leap into the southern hemisphere. We certainly are close those, which is apparent by looking at the stars in the sky. The night sky is now mostly unfamiliar, although I am easily able to pick out the Southern Cross, which I remember from my last sailing adventures in these latitudes. Too bad the star map program on my phone does not work here since I would really like to identify a very bright object due east us which has been rising about 5:30am every morning.

Now that we have an excess of power we have been watching movies in the afternoons, when our power making capacity is at the maximum. I have now finished Season 1 of The Wire and have to make the big decision of whether to start the next season, or whether to move back into a season of the show 24. Or maybe just watch a few movies first before getting addicted to a whole season of something. The problem with these shows, once you start, it is hard to stop watching until the whole season is finished.

Sleeping was a little cooler last night as I figured out a way to tie my port window completely open. The hinge normally is stiff enough to keep it open, but on this one the hinge is broken so the window kept flopping mostly closed. Now that it is wide open I am getting a little more of a breeze. The air temperature is pretty constant between day and night. Somewhere in the mid 80s all the time. The water temperature is now 31.8C. At night the humidity really increases, without the sun to dry things out. So everything is always extra damp and sticky at night. Especially challenging is getting used to having a constantly sticky and moist face and hands.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Arrival at Ua Huka
04/06/2011, South Pacific

We left Hanamenu Bay on Hiva Oa at 0630 this morning to make the short hop to the next island, Ua Huka, a mere 54 nautical miles. We left at daybreak so we could make an early arrival. The winds were mostly 12 to 16 knots on the beam, so we were able to maintain more than 7 knots boat speed under sail nearly the entire way. We arrived at Ua Huka at 14:30 and set anchor in the tiny Baie d'Hane. We traveled 54 miles, divided by 8 hours equals 6.7 knots average boat speed. Not bad.

Dropping the anchor in 30 feet of water, we were surrounded by huge breakers on both sides of us and right behind us, towards shore. We let out 180 feet of chain to make sure we had good holding.

After anchoring, John and Francois got out the boogie boards to go surfing with the locals at the big breakers that were just a hundred yards from our stern. Francois spoke French with the locals and found out that today was the first day in months that the waves were big enough to surf from. Lucky us (not!)

About an hour after we arrived, s/v Evergreen arrived and dropped anchor very close to us. There was not much choice since the tiny bay is no more than a few hundred yards (meters) from one side to the other.

The waves crashing onshore are huge, and there is no way any of us would attempt a dinghy landing in these conditions. We are hoping that tomorrow morning we will find calmer waters so that we can visit this interesting island.

After that, we are headed tomorrow to somewhat civilized Nuku Hiva.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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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.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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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

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