Tuesday, March 30, 2010
807 miles from La Cruz now, with lots and lots of water all around. Really, lots. Still fabulous weather, we feel amazingly blessed to have had such a perfect first week. Up ahead we're expecting squalls near and in the ITCZ, so we'll get a boat wash or two and will have to move meals inside, but for now we're enjoying al fresco meals with a superb view. The full moon doesn't hurt matters, either, and we're relishing the beauty of our night watches.
Today Greg sewed zippers and sewed more zippers and decided he was a "sewing machine." Zipping all those cargo shorts' pockets, by hand, very impressive. Tiffany polished off her stint in the kitchen with quesadillas for lunch made from home-made flour wraps she and I made, which were quick and easy, and a great alternative to bread, which we're running out of. For dinner, bacon bleu cheese burgers and salad, followed by oatmeal blueberry cookies. I have KP again tomorrow and she'll be a tough act to follow.
With the avocados gone, as well as the fresh greens, plums, tangerines, bell peppers and tomatoes, from now on it looks like an exercise in disguising cabbage. The cruising cookbooks on board all have extensive recipe collections using the durable veggie, from Russian soups to Chinese chicken salads to cabbage wraps.
Sunset tonight was enhanced by a huge school of dolphin that surrounded the boat and swam alongside for quite awhile. They were smaller than those we're familiar with in Southern California, with funny-looking tail fins and shorter dorsals. They're gone as soon as they come, like elves in the woods, though I've never met an elf. That I know of.
And so we begin Week Two at sea. We're really falling into our routines and into the rhythm of the boat. There's lots of time for group hangout time and personal time, we're all getting enough sleep, and as you can tell there's no lack of good food aboard Fly Aweigh.
As my sister-in-law Sophie says, Bon Ap!
Monday, March 29, 2010
Bird Poop Report: Yes. But not so bad. Our avian attacker did return; when I took over the watch at 4am Greg threw his thumb over his shoulder indicating the sleeping boobie, settled contentedly on the oar of the dingy with his hind quarters facing aft, off the back of the boat if you get my drift, so overall, it wasn't such a bad arrangement. He was far better behaved this morning, although as soon as the sun came up the other boobies started circling the boat, and I could hear them saying, "Hey! Good idea!" At one point I was swooshing 4 of them off the dingy and Allan's windsurfer. It was another few hours of attempted bird hitch hiking and constant repelling, and finally by mid morning they'd gone off, presumably, to fish.
The rest of the day has been industrious. I did more laundry, this time the bed sheets, which have their own challenges. Tiffany worked on her French, Greg downloaded a few weather faxes, and now is listening to his Audio Bible and giving us regular Old Testament updates and commentary from the cockpit. Allan fixed this and that on the boat, analyzed the weather fax downloads, wrote some emails and bam! another day is winding down with Eggplant Parmesan in the oven.
Tomorrow at 10am marks one week at sea, and it's really gone by fast. We feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to do something that, as Tiffany points out, not many people do. It's an adventure in more ways than just the boat and the sea.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
We've been moving along pretty well today, still a lot of rocking side-to-side at times but we're happy to have decent wind. We're aiming for a somewhat arbitrary spot on the north side of the ITCZ which is where we'll turn left to cross that area straight to the south, then we'll bear SW again toward the Marquesas. The exact spot will be refined as we get closer and have a better idea of the weather.
We're over 600 miles from La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. The last sign of anything besides flying fish, booby birds, dolphin and an occasional floating turtle was a helicopter 2 days ago that flew right overhead. We surmised he was fish spotting for a tuna boat that was behind him by 10 miles or so. A very odd sight.
Tiffany is the chef for the next few days, nice to have someone else's cooking besides mine. Tonight we're anticipating an aromatic coconut curry that has been simmering all afternoon. Allan has been dutifully dragging a fishing line, but so far no bites, other than a hunk of plastic we snagged a few days ago. We have a no-canned-tuna rule on this boat, since it might be bad juju for the fishing, but so far it's not working.
Our main excitement tonight came in the form of a pair of stubborn boobies who selected our solar panels and spreaders to rest for awhile. In general, we are not opposed to bird hitch hikers, but bird poop on our precious solar panels, not to mention the deck, with no hose nearby for weeks inspires us to use any measures to scare them away: air horn, LED power torch, yelling, boat-hook-jabbing, name calling, and rigging-shaking.
One has been fairly cooperative, but the other is as stubborn as me when I want an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, and honks loudly at us as we try to push him off the solar panels with the boat hook. He is growing more bold each time, and I say this in the present tense because the battle is continuing. As I was writing the last paragraph, he returned for the 6th or 7th time and this time landed in the cockpit, rushing the cabin door and honking angrily. Boobies are surprisingly large birds, especially when they're in your cockpit at night being loud and aggressive. We all tried to scare him off but he kept coming at us, heading into the cabin even though we were yelling and waving our arms furiously. I had the brilliant idea to throw the entire fruit basket at him, with tangerines flying everywhere. He backed up, giving Allan a chance to gently toss the cockpit rug over him to calm him down, and we only sacrificed one banana. Finally Allan was able to grab the bundle and toss him overboard where he flew away. It was actually quite alarming, the Attack of the Brown Boobie. (Let me assure those of you who are from, or know someone from the SPCA -- we were humane in our self defense, but if he keeps coming back we cannot guarantee his longevity ..) ("Lunch." Greg mutters.)
I must say, we were ready for the possibility of huge seas and storms and other scary things on this trip but never thought we'd be shaking in our boots from a bird attack. At first I was advocating a Peace on Earth position, Live and Let Live, etc. now I'm okay with convincing this bird that we are not a Motel 6, and the light is NOT on. Whew!
(Argh. Just as I am about to post this, Allan informs us from the cockpit ... "He's baaaaack...")
Bird poop report tomorrow.
Saturday March 27, 2010
I guess I wrote about the lack of temperamental boat tantrums a bit too soon yesterday; a few hours later we heard a crash on deck and there was the whisker pole, having tried, for the second time since we left San Diego, to throw itself into the water. We all raced to the scene like paramedics at an accident to survey the situation. Nothing broken, no missing parts.
The water is still fabulously blue, like a gemstone I once saw in Thailand. The sky is clear and the air temperature is sublime. But the winds have slacked off and we spent a very slow afternoon and night moving in the wrong direction. Picked up around lunchtime today, and we've been slipping happily along in the right direction for the last 4 hours.
Laundry is fun: Put on PFD (personal flotation device) and safety tether. Get Home Depot Orange 5 gallon bucket out of bilge. Go to back of boat with orange bucket, soap, dirty clothes, smaller bucket. Attach safety tether to boat so you don't fall overboard while doing laundry. Dip small bucket into water off stern and fill orange bucket with salt water. Add soap, wash clothes. Dump soapy saltwater, add fresh saltwater, rinse. Dump rinse water, add fresh water, do final rinse. Ring out, hang on lifelines. Clean cock pit and swab deck with remaining rinse water. Get all sweaty swabbing deck and generate more dirty clothes. Repeat.
Friday March 26th, 2010 Well, the boat seems to be, at least for now, over it's temperamental tantrums of yesterday and is obediently humming along with a 15 kt. wind from the starboard stern quarter. No spinnaker today, we've been working with the genoa jib and the whisker pole, averaging about 5-7 kts of boat speed. It's a very slow way to get to the South Pacific. Whose idea was this, anyway? No matter, we're have fun.
The ocean is a beautiful deep blue, with schools of flying fish everywhere. (Allan wonders if, once airborne, a group of flying fish are no longer a school but rather a flock?) The boat scares up the fish, who soar and skip just above the water. The flying fish attract the boobies, who circle the boat and swoop down on the fish. We feel a bit like an international airport with all this activity ...
Not really much else to report, except the avocados are almost all gone and now the baby bananas are ripening at a dizzying pace.
Sailing on, Gabels & Nortes
03/25/2010, 265 nm out of La Cruz
A bit of excitement today, starting at 6am when a loud irregular banging noise started somewhere in the vicinity of the boom or the mast. Sailors are always on high alert for sounds that aren't normal on their boats, and the bonking sound awoke Allan from his sleep just as I had grabbed the flashlight to search out the source. He clambered around in the dim light of morning trying to figure it out, and ultimately surmised it might be the mandrel, the thing the sail rolls around when furled in the boom, and we're still investigating that as a possibility.
Hours later, when flying the spinnaker for a little better speed and stability in the light winds we're experiencing today, we heard a sudden loud snap and a flurry of whooshing, and in a flash the spinnaker was over the side of the boat in the water, released somehow from the top of the mast. We hauled the sail onto the deck and Allan went up the mast (no small feat at sea) expecting to find that the halyard had chafed at the top of the mast and worn through. But once up there he was relieved to discover that the fitting had only released and let the head of the sail fly free.
No damage done, so we repacked the sail and put it back up to dry while we had a late lunch. A little later, when continuing to investigate the bonking mandrel sound, Allan discovered numerous loose screws in the boom vang mount as well the boom mount itself. A call to Alan Massey at Forespar on the Sat Phone gave us some good guidance, and as a crew we discussed our options, backups, and possible preventative measures, and decided to continue. We have a very good team on this boat. Tiffany's sailing knowledge and technical capabilities are excellent, and she and Allan can really put their heads together to solve problems. Greg and I round out the team by suggesting off-the-wall alternatives and keeping the big picture in perspective. Also, I make brownies. Nothing makes things better than a fresh batch of fudge brownies, except maybe some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
As I write we're about 265 miles offshore, roughly due south of Cabo San Lucas. The sun is setting, the gang is pulling the spinnaker down and putting the jib up, we're having leftovers for dinner, and getting ready for the night watch rotation. All is well.
Cheers -- A & A & G & T