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We left Gig Harbor, WA in 2009 and spent 3 winters in the Sea of Cortez then sailed to the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia up to Hawaii, then to San Francisco Bay. We are once again enjoying the Sea of Cortez as we plan our next adventure.
Ocean crossings, marathons and birthing babies
06/06/2012, Out on the open ocean

When asked what an ocean crossing is like I've often replied that I think it's a lot like running a marathon or giving birth -- they are all things that people purposefully set out to do and even dream, plan, prepare for and look forward to. And they all can be at times the hardest and the scariest thing you've ever done in your life too. Actually with giving birth the hardest, scariest times come about 13 to 20 years later.... just kidding Carly :)

As I said before, ocean passages are a real roller coaster of highs when the wind and seas are right and you've got dolphin playing off the bow or you catch a good fish, enjoy the beautiful nights and sunrises and sunsets or lows when the wind dies, comes from a bad direction or the seas get sloppy or uncomfortable making it hard to do normal tasks. And so the runner might "hit the wall" during their long awaited race, or the mother suddenly feels in the middle of labor that she just wants to quit and go home and the sailor will ask themselves "what the heck am I doing out here?" longing for a calm anchorage to retreat to even though there isn't one for hundreds or thousands of miles.

But once the big event is over, the race run, the baby born or the anchor down the feeling of accomplishment is so good and overwhelming that any negative feelings are soon forgotten and you think, "Wow! That was so cool, I want to do it again!"

And like all good sailors Terry and I seem to have short memories, so here we are out here again!

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End of week 1
06/03/2012, Out on the open ocean

At noon tomorrow we'll have been out 1 full week -- with about 3 more to go.

It's been a good passage so far as we've had wind to keep us sailing along at a good pace. The seas have been OK -- sometimes a little lumpier than we'd like, but we've had long periods where they were very comfortable. The weather has been very nice and we've only encountered a few rain clouds in the early morning hours and have just gotten light sprinkles. We've been surprised temperatures cool off at night to where we need light jackets.-- something we haven't had to do in a very long time -- in fact since we left La Paz in January.

We're both surprised it's already been a week -- seems more like 4 days because the days do go by very quickly. We just hope the next 3 weeks go by as quickly!

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Night Watch
06/02/2012, Out on the open ocean

2269 miles to go!

Night Watch can be the worst part of a passage -- especially with shorthanded crew (1 or 2 people) because to keep someone on watch through the night means short sleep periods for everyone. Wish two people aboard a boat most people chose either 3 or 4 hour shifts and Terry and I have found the 3 hour shifts work best for us.

It might seem like the 4 (or more) hour shift would be best, since you'd get a longer - more normal - sleep period, but for us waking up after 3 hours we feel more refreshed than if we stay down longer where we tend to feel very groggy and out of it for a while. Plus, for the person on watch 3 hours is easier to get through without getting too tired.

In good weather, like we've been having so far, the "watch" is pretty much just that -- you're not doing a lot of work other than keeping an eye on things to make sure there's no ships on the horizon and that the boat is keeping to it's course (steered by the trusty windvane) and no squalls are approaching. That can be accomplished in quick checks every 10 to 15 minutes (the time it takes a big ship to appear on the horizon before it would reach you on a direct course). In between you can entertain yourself doing whatever you enjoy be it reading, writing, listening to music or one of my favorites playing cards on my iPhone.

On this passage we've worked out a schedule that has been working well so far, but could change at anytime if conditions change. One thing that helps set our schedules are the radio skeds we have set up with Vicky on Inspiration at Sea and our nightly check in with the Pacific Seafarers Net. Right now our skeds with Vicky are during the daylight hours so don't effect our sleep schedules, but the Seafarers Net begins at 9:30 pm (our local time) and we are in the roll call at about 10 o'clock right now. We like to both be up for the radio so someone can be outside on watch while the other is downstairs on the radio.

What we've worked out is I will sleep from 6:30 to 9:30 then get up to do the net. After that's over Terry gets to sleep from 10:30 to 1:30 and my 2nd sleep period is 1:30 to 4:30. I love this schedule because my last on watch shift includes the sunrise and there's nothing better than a sunrise after a long dark night -- so far with the waxing moon and clear star filled shies the nights haven't been dark, but the sunrises are still a welcome treat. Terry's last sleep is from 4:30 until he feels fully rested anytime between 7:30 and 8:30.

As I said, even with the best laid plans it can be hard to keep to the planned schedule. If weather changes or a squall goes through the off watch person will often get up to help with a sail change. Then there is also the quality of the sleep you get. It can be very restful in smooth seas where the gentle rocking of the boat puts you right to sleep, but there are times the seas are choppy and rough and you get tossed and rolled and the noises the boat can make are unbelievable. Even when you get to sleep in bad conditions it makes for a fitful sleep laced with the weirdest dreams as your mind tries to incorporate all the strange sounds and movements into something in that dream.

So for those of you who have never been on an ocean passage in a small boat, that's a brief look into one of the major aspects of cruising -- the night watch.

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06/04/2012 | jack
Day 5: 2392 miles to go
06/01/2012, Out on the open ocean

A long ocean passage is much like a roller coaster ride --- you've got your ups and downs and it changes by the moment. Only out on the boat the changes are mostly dictated by the weather, not made by design.

We are lucky on this passage that for the most part the wind and sea direction will stay fairly constant with the prevailing trade winds coming from the SE and it seems the typical swell from the SW. But the strength of those winds and the height of the swell (and added wind waves) keep us always on our toes trying to balance maximum speed with maximum comfort.

Today we're back to some pretty nice seas -- not the short choppy ones that cropped up yesterday -- so its much more comfortable and I'm able to work on things downstairs much easier. Finally I can get some cooking and cleaning done again! Luckily I had several casserole dishes made before we left, so I was able to fix us a nice hot dinner each night just by heating it in the oven and only one pan and two plates to clean up afterward. It's not that conditions were so bad I couldn't cook -- it just was nice not to have to struggle with it.

And with the changing conditions come changing attitudes about being out here. Whenever it gets a little rough I find myself questioning my sanity asking why am I out here. But then I get a beautiful moonlit night with smooth seas, or a beautiful sunrise and some dolphin playing by the boat and I think that this is the best place in the world to be. But I still miss my penguins...

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Rocking and Rolling
05/31/2012, Out on the open ocean

We knew the great conditions we were having couldn't last forever, and they didn't. The winds picked up again early this morning and our sail change of taking down the main sail in favor of the storm trisail (like a small mainsail but it doesn't attach to the boom so you don't have that crashing around( and that worked out real well, but after a while the winds caused the seas to get lumpy. So we've still got good wind and are moving along just great, but it's just not the comfortable ride we were enjoying for about 36 hours. But the skies are clear so it's not too bad -- just need to fasten our seat belts

2500 miles to go!!

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06/02/2012 | jack
23hundred 92 miles to go..sounds like the old song..99 bottles of beer on the wall....Fair winds and smooth sailing...
06/23/2012 | R Blake
Enjoying your blog very much. I would beg for a picture or two while under sail :-)
Stay safe and know you have fans watching.
The First Three Days
05/30/2012, Out on the open ocean

Well the first days of adjustment are over and like magic last night when I went out for my 4:30 to 7:30 shift it finally felt comfortable. The boat is still a rockin' and a rollin' but we're moving along well and when I got out there the stars were out lighting up the world -- just beautiful. And it wasn't long until the sky started brightening from the approaching sunrise -- always my favorite part of that early morning shift.

So far the wind and seas have been pretty steady and we haven't had to change the sails since setting them when the wind first came up over 24 hours ago. The winds blow from 10 - 20 knots pushing us along between 5 - 6.5 Knots which is real comfortable on this old boat. Right now we're traveling with a double reeffed mainsail, a reefed Genoa and a storm staysail. We could have more sail area up and go a bit faster, but for us it's comfort over speed -- we're in no rush to get there so we might as well enjoy the ride. And it really is just like going for a ride, because the windvane is set and doing all the steering, so we just have to keep an eye on things to make sure there's nothing in our path and that all systems are working. We aren't slaves to the steering wheel, we can read or do anything else we'd like as long as the conditions stay constant.

Even Rosie is getting her sealegs and is a lot more lively this morning after doing a lot of sleeping for the first days. So so far, all is well on Cetus.

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Noon Report 5/29
05/29/2012, Out on the open ocean

One thing we always do on a passage is calculate how many miles made good to our destination in a 24 hour period. Since we left Puerto Villamil at noon yesterday I will be doing our position update at noon every day. We've traveled 120 miles since noon yesterday and just have 2769 to go!!

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Sailing, Sailing.....
05/29/2012, Out on the open ocean

The weather forecast showed very light winds for the first 24 hours of this passage and we were prepared to motor sail for most of the first day, but we were pleasantly surprised when the winds picked up last night so we've been able to sail steady at 5 plus knots. It would have made for better sleeping last night if we hadn't had to deal with sail changes at 2 am, but we're happy to be moving along without the engine and can catch up on the missed sleep today.

The seas are a little choppy, but not too bad so all and all we're pretty comfortable -- as comfortable as you can be in the first few days of a passage. Those first 3 days are always hard as your body and mind adjust to all the awkward movement. Simple tasks can be arduous, but after a few days you get in the groove and it doesn't seem so strange living on a slant and crashing through waves.

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Adios Galapagos!
05/28/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

Went in to town and got our departure papers from the port captain, picked up some fresh bread and fruits so now we're doing the final stowing away and then we'll be on our way!

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05/28/2012 | Carey Shine
Fair winds and following seas. My wife Heather and I are the new owners of hull #58 in Alameda CA and have been following you for awhile. We hope to follow your wake in a couple years after a refit. The Galapagoes has been at the top of my wifes short list forever and we have enjoyed your full account. Cetus is an inspiration for us, she looks well loved.
Leave Eve
05/27/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

It's been two months since we celebrated Leave Eve in Huatulco, Mexico to begin this adventure to the Galapagos -- a very quick two months -- we can't believe it's already time to leave.

This has been a wonderful adventure and we hate to leave this magical place -- it is at the very top of the list of our favorite places and we hope to come back again one day.

But our allotted time is over so now we'll begin a new adventure when we sail from here to the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia 2900 miles away from here. That voyage may take as long as 30 days, though we're optimistic that it will be a bit shorter than that.

So we celebrated Leave Eve with a nice dinner in town and tomorrow we'll go into the Port Captain's office and get our Zarpe -- our official clearance papers for leaving this port. Then we'll be on our way!

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Galapagos Green
05/26/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

We had a "water day" -- first we dinghied 10 5 gal jugs of water out to the boat to fill our tanks and then we spent the rest of the afternoon in the water. But we weren't playing in the water, we were working. We took advantage of the nice day to clean the Galapagos Green off the bottom of the dinghy and the anchor chain. While the water in the anchorage is clear and clean it is full of nutrients and some nice thick grass has been growing since we've been here and it was time to get it all cleaned up in preparation for our departure.

In the past we've taken the dinghy ashore and flipped it over for its bottom scrubbing, but we saw a guy from one of the tour boats clean an inflatable right out at anchor by taking the engine off and then just flipping it over -- looked like a lot more fun than the other way and it was. So once the dinghy was cleaned and floating upright again, we took a scrub brush to the anchor chain and got the green off of it so it won't be a big mess when we haul it up on Monday.

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7 days
05/20/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

With plans to set sail for the Gambiers on Monday, May 28th, we are down to our last week here in the Galapagos.

We took advantage of the overcast skies yesterday and did a long hike out to some nature sites that we saw on a taxi tour at the beginning of our stay and wanted to look at again. The best part of the hike was seeing a new flock of Flamingos in one of the ponds along the way. This group of 14 birds were larger in size than the ones we'd seen previously and more brightly colored.

Today we're topping off our diesel tanks and will pick up some more provisions in town. Even though we don't want to leave this lovely spot, we are getting excited about the up coming passage and seeing new sights.

We've seen some big changes in the temperatures here in the last 2 weeks. The heavy rains that we had when we first arrived have gone away and the outside temps are more moderate. The water is cooling by the day as the Humbolt current re establishes itself -- a welcome change to much of the sealife, especially the penguins which thrive in the cooler water.

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The Free Stuff
05/18/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

So I talked about all the costs associated with cruising in the Galapagos, but there is a lot you can do without spending a dime, too.

There are great nature trails that you can walk without a guide and even a nice snorkeling spot near our anchorage that you don't have to be accompanied to go to.

Our favorite trail here on Isabela starts right at the outskirts of town and it is a boardwalk over some ponds where you see marine iguana, ducks, wading birds and even Flamingos as well as all the interesting vegetation on the island. There is a prickly pear cactus that as it grows it forms a regular tree trunk to protect it from the tortoise that like to eat the cactus leaves.

At the end of the trail you come to the tortoise breeding center where you see the giant tortoise of all ages. They bring them there to breed and then return the young to their place of origin to help restore the populations that were destroyed through the years.

We've also enjoyed kayaking around the anchorage and walking the beautiful long white sand beach studded with black lava rocks and fascinating tide pools. And then there have been hours of entertainment right from the deck of our boat (or swimming in the waters around it) where we see everything from penguins, sea lions, sea turtles, pelicans, frigate birds and blue footed boobies.

Being able to live in this magical spot for the last couple months truly has been priceless.

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It's the Galapagos -- pull out your wallet!
05/18/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

That's a saying we've heard from other cruisers -- and it is true, in a way. Some say it in a rather disgruntled way and we can't tell if they regret coming here or if they are just grumbling. We have no regrets, and as I've said before we've found it an even better experience than we'd expected.

That may be partly because we had read about the costs involved so were mentally prepared for it to cost to visit here. And it was also because this was a dream of a lifetime for us and we'd decided that the cost was worth it to us. We really weren't sure how much it would be in the end -- there were a lot of unknowns such as the price of food or dining out, water, diesel, laundry and other services plus the tours we would take.

We were pleasantly surprised at the cost for our tours -- we thought they could be as high as $200 per person. But since we are only taking day tours our costs have ranged from $10 per person for taxi trips to the highlands and wetlands seeing things such as the farm, caves, tortoise and Flamingos in the wild and the Wall of Tears. Our two all day snorkeling trips to the Tunnels were $60 per person for a 5 hour trip where we snorkeled with sea turtles, white tipped shark, rays and lots of colorful fish in a beautiful setting formed by broken down lava tunnels that turned into a magical setting of caves and archways. The tour to the volcano Sierra Negra was also $60 per person and can only be done with an official National Parks guide. The only other tour we've paid for was to the islands that form the boundary to our anchorage and that was $40 per person for a guided tour on land and a short snorkel. We do have one more trip that we're hoping to take if the tour agency can get enough people and that would be an all day boat trip to another side of this island for snorkeling and seeing some wildlife we haven't seen yet such as the flightless Cormorant. That will be the most expensive of all if we get to do it at $165 per person.

Food has also been at a good price. You can have a great breakfast for $5 which includes juice and coffee and dinners at our favorite restaurant range from $10 to $15 per plate. We even had a very special dinner out with Vicky and Jeremy before they left and had lobster for $20 per person. Prices in the grocery stores seem reasonable, though more expensive than Mexico. And of course, the selection isn't very good compared to Mexico.

Diesel is another mater. We had to pay $6.50 per gallon to have it delivered to our boat in Santa Cruz. That wouldn't be so bad if we didn't know that it's subsidized for the locals and they get it for only $1 a gallon! It's very regulated and we had to purchase it through our agent and the port captain.

We can buy water to fill our tanks at either $1 for 5 gallons or $2 for 5 gallons depending on who you buy it from. Laundry is $1 per kilo.

So for those of you who have been wondering what it costs to cruise through the Galapagos on your own boat -- that will give you an idea. Right now we think we will have spent about $5000 on this trip including our agent, all of our entry fees, tours, food, water, boat supplies, diesel, dinners out taxi's etc by the time we leave. It may sound like a lot, but when you consider that that was our living expenses for the past 2 months it comes down to about $80 a day -- and we weren't just "living" we were enjoying the vacation of a lifetime and getting to sleep in our own bed every night. Priceless.

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Another Big Countdown
05/14/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

We have exactly 2 weeks left here in the Galapagos, so the big countdown has begun.

In the next two weeks we will complete all the boat projects we've listed, do our provisioning, top off fuel and water and prepare for the 2,800 mile trip to The Gambiers in French Polynesia.

But most important we will enjoy every minute of the time we have here in the Galapagos. We will hike, snorkel, kayak, walk the beach and just enjoy the beauty of this place and the unique animal life. We looked forward to going to the Galapagos for a very long time and we have not been disappointed, in fact, it has been even better than we anticipated and we really don't want to leave.


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Kayaking with the Sea Lions
05/09/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

We finally got the kayaks out and enjoyed an early morning paddle around the anchorage. We had several cute small Galapagos sea lions that had fun swimming around us jumping and playing. The penguins and pelicans were always nearby and I was able to get up close to a blue footed booby for a pretty good picture.

I've been waiting a long time to kayak in the Galapagos, so another dream fulfilled.

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Fair Winds Inspiration at Sea!
05/08/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

Vicky and her new crew Jeremy will hoist anchor today and set sail for French Polynesia where they have plans to meet up with her daughter - and his girlfriend - Melanie mid June. We are sad to see them go, but we are happy that we still have a few more weeks to enjoy this wonderful place and look forward to meeting back up with Inspiration at Sea in Tahiti in July. Vicky will be looking for new crew to sail through the Tuamotus and up to Hawaii once Jeremy and Melanie fly home, so if you're interested and have some time, drop me a line and I'll pass it on to her.

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Master and Commander

Hiking yesterday one of the guys mentioned the movie, Master and Commander, because in it they go to the Galapagos, so last night we pulled it out and watched it. It as great as usual and a lot of fun to see the sea lions and iguana of the Enchanted Isles. If you haven't watched it in a while, pick up a copy and enjoy!

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05/06/2012 | Jack and Joan
One of our favs on the boat.
Vulcan Sierra Negra
05/05/2012, Isla Isabela

Happy Cinco de Mayo!
We celebrated with a death march to the local volcano. It's one of the big tours on this island and everyone we talked to said it's worth it, so we gave it a try and it was great -- though sometimes painful. It was about 10 miles round trip -- you can do a shorter version where you only see the big caldera (2nd largest in the world) but Julio, our National Parks guide asked if we wanted to go on the other nearby peak, Volcan Chico. We were glad we did because the view and lava tunnels were just beautiful, but it did make for a longer hike with more up and downs, but since I survived it I would say it was worth it. We were very lucky as we had some overcast weather today, so we didn't suffer from the heat and we didn't even get rain.
So now that we're happily back home aboard Cetus, we'll have a Margarita to celebrate one of Terry's favorite holidays.

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More Galapagos Pics!
05/03/2012, Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz

My internet time here in Puerto Ayora went way too fast so I didn't accomplish all I wanted to -- but I have put together a few more albums in our gallery -- enjoy!

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The Cetus Crew
Who: Terry & Heidi Kotas and Street Cat Rosie
Port: Gig Harbor, WA
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