Just before sunset in the ITCZ
|South Pacific Crossing||
Last night and this morning we had lots of strong rain as we sailed beneath towering thunderheads. Manjula woke me this morning as a squall about 4 miles wide hovered over us for almost an hour. It brought pouring rain and up to 30 knots of wind. It was Manjula's watch but she woke me just to be on the safe side. I was proud of Manjula as I lay on the couch in the cabin watching her trim the sails and steer the boat to best manage the strong winds. She ended up not needing me at all. She is becoming quite the sailor.
As the sun came up we emerged from the squalls and were taken by the sights. We were surrounded by clouds of all sorts. Big lumbering thunderheads, puffy white low clouds, high whispy clouds, and squalls with clearly defined rain touching the sea. We were sailing in bright sun and calm winds and seas through this strange world. We had arrived in the ITCZ. It was very hot and had been all night. None of us slept well in the heat and humidity and by late morning we decided to stop the boat and take a swim. The water was 84 degrees. By the afternoon the wind had stopped completely and we began what we expect will be two to three days of motoring.
We are finally getting the photo thing figured out, so we'll be sending a photo or two soon. In the mean time here's a photo of Endless Summer at the boat yard getting ready for this trip. She has her mast removed and is getting all new rigging and much more work done.
Best to all, Steve
|South Pacific Crossing||
04/15/2010, Nearing the Intertropical Convergence Zone
Greetings. We appreciate hearing from you. When we download email, we read your comments aloud. It's a little event here on Endless Summer, and it's nice to feel connected to everyone even when we feel fairly far from civilization, so thank you.
Wednesday marked our half way point on the trip in terms of miles as the crow flies. At about 3:00 in the afternoon we were 1,495 miles from Los Angeles and 1,495 miles from Hiva Oa on the Marquesas Islands. We were all happy about that, but also marveling that we had been going for so long and were only half way. We talked about how it has felt like a bit of a grind. We are all tired. We celebrated our accomplishment by having a little taste of some good rum and relaxing outside listening to music as we sailed under dramatic tropical thunderheads. The day seemed to understand that we needed a little break from the grinding pace, and the winds lightened and the seas became much calmer than they had been for some days.
ITCZ A word about the ITCZ or inter tropical convergence zone. In very basic terms this the area where the blowing down from the northern hemisphere meets the wind coming up from the southern hemisphere. The meeting results in an area from 0 to 300 miles across of calms, thunder and lightning, short violent wind and rain squalls, and hot humid windless nights and days. Basically a place you don't want to be in a sailboat. Once we encounter this area we plan to sail and motor directly south to get through it as quickly and directly as possible. It will probably take two to three days. In the pre dawn hours of my watch I spoke with an amateur weather forecaster from Oxnard California on my SSB radio about the ITCZ. I had listened to his weather reports on short wave all through Mexico and called him once or twice when making passages last year. I said" Summer Passage this is Endless Summer please come in". The radio crackled to life with Don's English school master's voice. "Endless Summer! What's your position?" "We are approaching zero nine degrees, three five minutes north. and one two two degrees, five one minutes west" which is how you talk on the radio to avoid any miss communication. Don said, "Fine fine. Head out as far as longitude 130 where it meets latitude 6. There you will encounter the ITCZ. Once you do head directly south to shorten your exposure to that zone. Once you come out the other side and encounter the south east trade winds about 2 degrees north of the equator, make a straight line for the Marquesas". Don encouraged us to sail west several hundred miles before crossing the equator because the north east trade winds were stronger than the south east trades and we would have a faster passage. So today we steered more west than we have before and are rapidly approaching the ITCZ. We may be as close as 120 miles from it's norther edge. Actually todays weather may have been associated with it.
Wednesday began with a dramatic cloud display approaching from the East. I was doing my first sunrise watch of the trip and had been hearing how nice it was to watch the first light eventually turn into day. As the first hint of light began to creep into the inky black night I could only see half the sky. Later I saw shapes of dark ominous looking clouds and thought it was do to the dim light. When the sun did come, it was clear that the darkness of the clouds belonged to them and could not be blamed on any lack of sunlight. In fact the clouds extended as far as the eye could see on the eastern side of the boat. We were sailing along a ridge line that started about six miles east of our course. The thing about these clouds that made them different from the many cloudy and overcast skies we have seen so far, is there hight. This whole dark line of thunder clouds seemed to stretch as high as the sky...and they were coming our way. It took an hour or two before the line overtook us. As we disappeared beneath the clouds we could still see the blue sky to our west. The wind that had been with us so consistently for the last three days and nights began to increase. We had already completed three 160 mile days in a row and were regularly sailing to 10 or 12 knots during daylight, but now we started to see some real surfing. Long surfs to 14, 15 and 17 knots! So Manjula and I rolled up the big head sail and waited for the rain. It was light at first and then came steady, cool, rain. This was our first tropical squall. Throughout the day the pattern repeated as the increase in wind would come and then the cloud and rain. Later at night I saw for the first time that you can actually see these rain cells on radar. After dinner we turned on the radar to see if we could see one of the squalls and there it was, right on top of us like a big black ink spot on our radar screen. Very defined, and about 4 miles across. Then it poured! So the midway point was spent sailing and motoring in lighter and stronger winds than we had experienced in the north east trades so far.
With the lighter winds that followed the passage of some of the squalls we were able to set up our somewhat complicated water maker work around. It looks kind of like a still, with hoses and tubes running every which way around the boat. We were able to supplement our bottled water supply with gallons of home brewed drinking water. The shower and dish water is still a bit salty however.
If you've made it this far and are still reading, here are a couple of thoughts on this strange form of travel. Sailboats are very slow. You can easily ride a bike twice as fast as a sailboat. An average jogger can keep pace with Endless Summer. But joggers and bikers can't keep moving 24 hours per day. That's one thing this kind of travel shows you. The tortoise knew what he was doing. We have been moving almost non stop since April 3rd, and even though it is slow, we have actually traveled a fair distance. We have burned about 30 gallons of fuel in that time. Most of that was just to charge our batteries so we can run our navigation equipment, water maker, computers, lights, etc... Endless Summer is fast among sailboats. We can easily sail at double the speed of most of the 200 other sailboats making this trip. So it has been interesting to see how tough it is to keep those speeds up 24 hours per day. It is fatiguing to run the boat hard. It is loud with the sound of the water rushing past the hulls. We have gotten into the habit of really slowing down at night. We usually try to keep sailing fast until after dinner, and then Kurt and I shorten the mainsail and switch from a spinnaker or screecher to a smaller head sail. Then we sail between 5 and 7 knots all night. It can still be very bouncy. Manjula and I were likening it to standing between two friends who would alternately push you one way, then the other push you back. That's fun for five minutes, but try cooking dinner with those friends pushing you back and forth and see how long that's fun. Then try sleeping! The last few days we've had great wind all day and more at night. The boat was moving around so much that none of us slept well. You have to sleep on your back or your front. If you try sleeping on your side you are constantly shaken awake. I think a good analogy for traveling in a boat is the covered wagon. You've got your whole house in that thing. Your pigs and goats are running along side. You don't go fast, but you just keep moving. You could make the horses gallop for a while, but everything would fly out of its place and everyone in the wagon would be miserable. That's like cruising. We love to sail fast, but we just can't handle the bumpy road.
SATPHONE - Just a note about our updates. Today I could not send email, or make phone calls on the ships satellite phone. My biggest fear is that people would worry if we were not heard from. I suspected it was the cradle that attaches the phone to it's antenna. So using the mobile antenna we are back on line. But please be advised that if for any reason we are unable to update our blog, that we have many ways of communicating our safety to our family. One way we might get a message out is by speaking to another boat with email capability on our long range radio. We have been chatting with other boats almost every day, and could request that a message be sent. We also have two satellite distress beacons so that in the event of an emergency the coast guard and our family would be alerted.
Alright, you have made it through another lengthy installment from the captain. Be well, and remember to pick the right things to be afraid of. Pirates, sharks, and storms should not be at the top of your list.
|South Pacific Crossing||
04/15/2010, Off of Mexico a few days back
We are experimenting with getting photos onto this blog. Please let us know if there is a photo with this email and if the quality is acceptable. Thank you!
|South Pacific Crossing||
04/14/2010, 2500 miles west of Venezuela
Confession: I, Manjula, in a post nap stupor, delirious from the tropical heat and stunned awake by a sudden lack of boat motion, stumbled into the salon and poured myself a refreshing cup of Capt May's twice-born water. Just previously, as I was un-lulled from my nap, the word "squall" had been uttered and as it wafted into my awakening consciousness, nervousness had overcome me. So when I climbed into the salon and saw Steve and Kurt about to jump in the ocean for a swim under clear skies, I was relieved, even joyful. It was an emotional moment. In such a state I forgot to put the water jug on the floor instead of the counter, one errant wave later, et voila. The Great Spill. Fortunately, I am the captain's favorite.
I almost feel like I should describe my 'three jibe night' last night as well. Perhaps not.
Here is an aviary update. We are now regularly accompanied by boobies. We are scaring up fish on the ocean's surface, and boobies are swooping and dive bombing around us from morning through evening. We have clearly been able to identify both Red-footed Boobies, and at least one Masked Booby- very handsome. We also have seen quite a few Wilson's Storm Petrels and possibly a White-tailed Tropicbird or Antartctic Tern migrating(?). This is a mostly snowy white bird with a couple of long, elegant tail feathers- a beauty. We had been given the impression that we would not see birds out here, and we are so happy that this is not the case. It is funny how exciting these birds are to us. We know there are fish all around us too, in spite of the first mate's inability to catch any, but we can't see them.
We are in the dark nights of the month now, as you may have noticed, and the stars are breathtaking out here. The Milky Way is glowing brightly and is very well defined. Plus the breeze is warm and the sea is full of phosphorescence; Endless Summer is leaving a trail of glowing, sparkling water. So the sensation while sitting outside during night watch is dreamy-- floating in the darkness yet seeing stars below and stars above.
|South Pacific Crossing||
04/13/2010, In the North East trade winds
We have definetly arrived in the "trades". Steady winds blowing east of north at over 10 knots. We have had up to 20+ knots of wind and it hasn't stopped since Sunday morning. We are averaging 7 knots and have been surfing at speeds into the low teens. Trade wind clouds are all around. they are low and fluffy and small, but everywhere. One would think it wouldn't be sunny , yet it is. The heat is becoming more intense with some very high humidity. We managed a swim this morning when we "hove to". It was still rough but endless summer sits quite still when hove to. The ocean temp was 82 and incredibly refreshing.
Our chief engineering officer and great leader has been in contact with the technician who helped him rebuild the water maker. Mike, the tech got info from Spectra, the water maker, on a work around and a fix. We tried the work around first as the other could make the water maker unusable. By running the water through the filter twice we were able to make water that tasted like "aire", essentially the same as distilled water. So our problem is solved. However we made only 3 gallons of this delicious elixir yesterday in several hours due to all the plumbing and experimentation. Also some seasickness working in the hot bowels of the boat with it pitching as we "haul ass" at 8 to 11 knots. We figured we would just make more today. This morning we had an instance where the 2.5 gallon jug of " aire" water so laboriously made was catapulted off the counter and spread all over the cabin floor. A few tears were shed but the bright side is the floor got a really nice fresh water mop and now feels great.
|South Pacific Crossing||