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Calou's Blog
Cruising with the crew of CALOU on the Baja Ha-ha and Pacific Puddle Jump
In the Zone, and Eggs Again
Bruce
04/10/2011, Inter Tropical Convergence Zone

We are right smack in the middle of the ITCZ, a.k.a. the Zone, weaving our way between squalls which look like black masses of clouds clinging to the water. There are squalls everywhere, to our left, to our right, and behind us. The trick is to steer the course so there isn't one in front of us. That's easy enough to do in the daytime, but at night we will just have to cross our fingers and keep a double reef in the sails.

Recall, we had to throw out our entire egg supply because the place where they were stored was too hot and humid so they got moldy. I had a dream last night, that I discovered a few dozen eggs in the storage space under our bed. I was thrilled! This is unfortunately impossible since we store tools and materials, not eggs, under our bed, which I realized with deep disappointment as I started to awaken. It was just a dream, alas.

Today we tackled the problem of our forward holding tank which would not empty. This would be the third time I have had to remove that holding tank and clear the blockage. This time we did it a little smarter, by rigging a block suspended over the open sail locker hatch where the tank is located, and using a winch to hoist the (very heavy) half full holding tank onto the deck without spilling its contents on the boat or ourselves. (See the photo that John has posted of this operation)

We managed to get the tank emptied and discovered that the blockage was in the 1-1/2 inch outlet hose. It was blocked with minerals that accumulate due to the chemical interaction of the waste with sea water.

In order to gain access to the holding tank, located in the sail locker at the bow of the boat, it was necessary to completely empty the sail locker of all our other stuff. The sail locker is where we store everything that's bulky. I passed boxes and items aft to John and Pascale who placed the items in our cabin (temporarily). Well guess what I found in one of the boxes I removed from the sail locker....

Two dozen eggs (and not moldy, either)!!!

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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04/11/2011 | Dave Benjamin
I'm enjoying following your blog. Jean and I are glad the spinnaker is serving you well and that we got it down there in time so we didn't hold up your departure. Fair winds!
Rock and Roll Time
Bruce
04/10/2011, in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone

We are in the Zone, a.k.a. the Doldrums. As darkness fell so did the winds, to less than 6 knots, so we were obliged to motorsail from about 9 PM until Midnight during Francois' watch. There was a light rain. At midnight Francois handed the helm over to me for my Midnight to 3 a.m. watch, saying, "I don't think you'll be needing the foulies, the rain is petering out".

No sooner than Francois had gone down to his cabin than I noticed that the wind was picking up, since I could hear, for the first time this evening, the wind generator running. We had about 12 knots of wind and the rain was starting again. I shut down the engine since it was no longer needed.

By the time I got my foul weather gear on the wind had increased to 20 knots. I watched the knot meter as it rose steadily in just a few minutes, to 25, 30, 35 knots. The boat was screaming along at 8 knots with a double reefed mainsail and jib, making great time. The seas were relatively flat. I steered a southwesterly course that kept the boat on a downwind run with the wind 120 degrees off the bow for the most comfortable ride possible.

Meanwhile visibility was reduced to zero as a huge cloud passed overhead blocking out the starlight and moonlight. I could see nothing but our own bow wave and its phosphorescent trail. We were in one of the ITCZ's famous squalls, known for going from a flat calm to 40 knots in a few minutes. This is exactly what happened.

The squall lasted about an hour. Finally around 1:20 a.m., the winds calmed down to about 16 knots. I could see a patch of stars ahead. As we entered the clear sky area, I looked back, and all you could see was a huge blackness which was the squall we had just been through.

Fortunately, as the sun set earlier in the evening and we doused the spinnaker, we could see some weather systems on the horizon, so we set a double reef in both the mainsail and the jib. If we had not done so I might have had difficulty dealing with those winds and would have needed help to get the sails reefed.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Storm (Day 16)
John
04/10/2011

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: http://travel.reservationkey.com Latitude: 2.3941 Longitude: -128.15114

Last night we experienced our first real storm at sea. We could see the clouds building in front of us all afternoon, and by sunset we were just entering into the thick of it. The clouds were dark, and spread for miles on either side of us. Just as we started eating dinner the rain began falling. The boat was drenched by about 10:00pm and the rain stopped. We thought that was all the rain, but things really started picking up when Bruce started his watch at midnight. Within about 10 minutes we went from motoring in calm seas to over 30 knots of wind with pounding rain. The strong wind lasted for about an hour, and slowly settled back down over the following six hours.

Now that we are in latitude two degrees north, the only wind we see is when we are near or in a squall, most of which are quite small. Since there is no wind we have started burning our diesel supply to get us through the equatorial zone. We will probably need to motor for about three days which will take us far enough south so that we pick up the southern Pacific trade winds. Those should start kicking in around two or three degrees south. Here, there is so little wind that the water becomes shiny and oily looking.

Our project for today was clearing a clogged line in the forward head's holding tank. This meant mostly a repeat of what we did a few weeks ago. The tank was about half full this time, so slightly less heavy, but still too heavy for one person to lift. Bruce rigged a lifting line so that Francois and I were able to raise the tank out of the sail locker, onto the deck. Then came the messy job of emptying the tank overboard. This turned out to be less messy than expected since we hose clamped a plastic Zip-Loc back over the outlet, and when the tank was on its side, we just punctured the bag with a screwdriver. The bag was ripped off by the pressure and everything drained pretty quickly. It turns out there were hard deposits built up in the drain hose, and after removing those, everything flowed smoothly. Bruce has now reworked the drain system so that the holding tank is now bypassed. He can pretty easily re-connect to the tank when needed. He also has ordered spare parts so that he can rebuild the hose configurations to make things easier to clean out in the future. These are just some of a bunch of parts which will hopefully be waiting for us when we arrive in Hiva Oa.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Day 15
Bruce
04/09/2011

Today marks the second week since we left Mexico. We are doing fine, sailing under clear skies with the spinnaker at 4 deg 12 min N, 127 deg 05 min W. We have not hit the doldrums yet, though we had a brief period of rain last night.

We are getting used to not having refrigeration, in fact it has some merits. We have a surplus of electric power in the afternoons now thanks to the solar panels, so we run the watermaker and the inverter all day. Afternoons are now "movie time".

I have ordered a new refrigeration evaporator to be delivered by US Mail to Hiva Oa. Working on the same for the radar.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Two Weeks At Sea (Day 15)
John
04/09/2011

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: http://travel.reservationkey.com Latitude: 4.08345 Longitude: -127.34277

We ended up spotting the Japanese fishing vessel just at sunset last night. We tried talking to them on the radio, but no response unfortunately. It would have been nice to talk with them and learn more about their activities. Still, it was nice seeing them, knowing we are not completely alone out here.

We just finished a delicious coleslaw salad lunch. The cabbage has held up very nicely. Our apple supply is also doing well. We moved almost all the apples into our outdoor nets which should help prolong their freshness even more. And we still have a nice supply of fresh tomatoes. Buying them completely green was a smart move as now they are just about ripe.

Today marks our two week anniversary of being at sea. It seems the second week went by faster than the first. Hopefully the third week will also go by fast enough. We are definitely looking forward to making landfall. Our friends on another boat who arrived about a month ago are waiting for us and keep emailing with tantalizing information about the islands.

Pacific Puddle Jump 2011
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Approaching the ICTZ
Bruce
04/08/2011

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
04/08/2011

John's Blog Updated. Original post with photos: http://travel.reservationkey.com 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
Bruce
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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