Saturday, April 10, 2010
Greetings from the Fly Aweigh Pizza Kitchen, conveniently located 510 miles NE of Hiva Oa.
That's right, home made pizza, and I mean real dough and creative toppings and all that. I haven't had much luck in my life with yeast breads, in fact making bread is one of my greater fears -- my dough always seems to fall flat and weigh 100 pounds. Bread making in our family has always fallen to the capable hands of my sister Susy. But they say the heat of the tropics is perfect for rising bread dough, so I decided to try.
I'm only going on and on about the pizza because there really isn't much else to say. Another eventless day. We are finally in the trades and have had a very solid day of sailing with the wind on our port beam. (News Flash!! Allan just announced a boat speed of 9.04 knots! Screaming, we are, this boat is anxious to get there. We rarely see over 8 knots, and 6 is average.)
We did see a huge school of dolphin, and massive schools of flying fish. I did a little repair work on the line bag that hangs off the bow pulpit, seems the bottom of the genoa sail rubs on it and had abraded a hole through the top.
But that sort of stuff pales in comparison to the pizza. Let me tell you just a little about it: It took me all day. I spent an hour after my morning watch perusing cookbooks to pick just the right dough recipe. At 10am I started rehydrating the red peppers and mushrooms. Chopped red onions, salami and black olives around noon, then grated the cheese. I was in deep thought about the dough making from noon to 4pm. By 5pm the risen dough looked terrific, and by 7 we were eating pizza.
Pizza... What more can I say?
Friday, April 9, 2010
As a result of making a fabulous stir fry dinner and going to bed (or is that "going to bunk"?) early, Alison was unable to do the blurb this evening. She left me with the very difficult task of creating witty descriptions of the day's events. Difficult in that basically nothing happened! We didn't even get wet today. Early this morning I made a command decision and declared it a no-rain day. Given how nature was not so impressed with my authority, we spent the rest of the day conducting Rain Avoidance Ops.
We were honored by our buddy boat, Proximity, with a anniversary song that Rod wrote in Polynesian, Pigeon, and as he put it, Engrish, for a ukulele, so Greg could play it for us, and sent by email over the HF radio. Amazing what artist types will come up with. It was all very fun.
Other than that it was just another day of mild sailing with a little motoring, a little bobbing around at 2.5 knots, and some brief periods of screaming along at 8 knots. But the miles are counting down and we are getting down to a matter of days....
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Today, at 11am PST, we crossed the equator! We are now Trusty Shellbacks, according to nautical tradition. If we had crossed the International Dateline, which we will later in the summer, we'd be in The Empire of the Golden Dragon, and if we'd crossed the dateline and the equator at the same time, we'd be Golden Shellbacks. Nautical Tradition also dictates that some sort of ceremony take place on such occasions, and in the cruising world, as well as we can figure, the ceremony is open to loose interpretation. Some drink champagne, some say you have to flog each other with rubber hoses, there's something about hazing, (more a military tradition) which we're not into on our boat, some just have a nice meal, but regardless of your choice, it's highly recommended that you make an offering to King Neptune as you cross. Our ceremony consisted of a swim across the equator, a bottle of wine (we are otherwise a "dry" boat on this passage), foil crowns, scepters, eye patches and other head gear, and ice cream bars.
We started with the offering to Neptune, who received a Kiwi Popsicle and some glugs of wine, while Captain Allan made a short speech. Then, a swim across the equator. I stayed on board and the 3 of them jumped in. As they were drying off the current pushed us back north over the equator again, so I jumped in and swam back south. Then, we ate our ice cream bars, which we'd been saving at the bottom of the freezer. They were a little icy but tasted spectacular, how can you beat ice cream at the equator?! The weather was wonderful -- later in the day we sailed under a huge gray sky and it's been raining now for hours, but the first half of the day was perfect.
A few hours after our equator swim we saw a shark go by ... and a huge purple jellyfish. But it was very cool to say we swam across the equator and we are especially glad we didn't see the shark earlier ...
Allan decided to get serious about the fishing, and put out his heavy duty pole and line, as well as a new lure. Sure enough, just after lunch we got a bite, and Greg fought it for over 20 minutes. We saw it leap out of the water once revealing it to be a big Marlin, maybe over 100 lbs. It was a valiant battle, but ultimately the fish won. He would have won anyhow, Allan and Greg would have let him go -- we can't deal with a fish that big on this boat -- my freezer is only a little larger than a shoe box. But it was sporty entertainment.
Another exciting moment came a few minutes before the equator crossing. Allan, Tiff and I were in the cockpit talking, and heard a strange hissing sound coming from the vicinity of one of the scuba tanks. Tiff suspiciously backed away, and then we heard a huge POP like a champagne cork. Very festively, our bright yellow Auto Inflating Life Sling flew out of it's plastic box like a Screaming Yellow Zonker and into the water, fully inflated, taking the lid to the box with it. This is the thing you throw when you have a man overboard, and this auto inflate thingy is all the rage nowadays, smaller and easier to throw. But it's not supposed to arbitrarily blow on it's own, and the recharge cannister is over $80.00. Of course, the recharge cannister is one of the things we opted not to get when we spent $500,000 million dollars on spare parts.
So we reeled it in, went back for the lid, deflated it, packed it away, and now it's a manual inflate. I can't help but wonder if Neptune wasn't a little perturbed that we didn't plan a champagne ceremony for the crossing rather than the un-bubbly wine we'd chilled? The pop was ceremony enough, and we're just glad it wasn't the scuba tank that blew. Also on the Casualty List for the last few days is one of our big winch handles and the metal tool thing that opens the dryer vent. Earlier we lost our mop and a beach towel. We've donated a few books, and lots of rotten potatoes, so I think Neptune should be well satisfied. We'll find out in the remainder of our journey.
We're in the last portion of the crossing, and are at the whim of the wind (and Neptune) to carry us the last 800 miles to Atuona on Hiva Oa. We estimate another week, and still have a good amount of fuel to get us through the slow spots. We're getting excited, starting to review some of the more critical French sentences we'll need to talk to the Gendarme in Hiva Oa, and trying to glean where we might re-provision and get some laundry done. I have a feeling the laundry thing is a fantasy -- the fabulous Mexican laundries we left behind will be a fond memory, while we contend with stiff beach towels and sheets and clothing on the life lines.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Today is our 5th wedding anniversary. One of the fun things we decided to try and do when we got married was to spend every anniversary on an island of some sort, which sometimes requires creative thought. Last year, for example, we were very busy on something I can't even recall now, and couldn't get away to an island, or even take the boat out to one of the Channel Islands offshore, so we drove to Disneyland and spent the day, which included a visit to Tom Sawyers Island.
So the question is, can a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean be considered an island? We decided yes, of course, and have spent a very nice day on our own little private island.
As usual, we had our fishing pole in the water all day, hoping for something good for our anniversary dinner. But alas, nothing. So far on this passage, even though Allan has had a line in the water almost every day, we have not caught one fish. Here we are, with a galley stocked to the teeth with wasabi, ginger, and even dried seaweed nori for sushi rolls, and nary a pelagic nibble. So for dinner I defrosted the tuna that was given to us by Salty, the fishing boat next door to us in La Cruz.
Marinated in ginger, garlic and soy, seared on the grill and served with steamed brown rice and edamame, our favorite meal. Just as dinner went on the table, and just as Allan uttered the words "thank you for this fish ..." Vzzzzzzzz! we caught a fish! How phenomenally ironic. What utterly bad timing. So Allan and Greg and Tiffany are thrilled -- (remember -- I'm the hypocrite who can't deal with the catching part but is just fine with the eating part) -- Allan turns the boat and heaves to and everyone suddenly realizes the duplicity of the situation: A fish! We caught a fish! But dinner, Alison just made us dinner ... but a fish! Their eyes go from the fishing pole straining with it's catch to the plates of hot food before them to the fishing pole, to the plates. Frozen in action poses, Greg and Tiff wait for a sign. So Allan makes a command decision: leave the fish at the end of the line, let's eat. Sadly, as the boat turned when we hove-to, the line snagged on something and broke, so he got away. Good eats anyhow, followed by a wonderful homemade key lime pie that Tiff labored over under awkward conditions this afternoon. And then, as if it wasn't already a wonderful anniversary, Greg and Tiffany surprised us with a very generous gift -- they have offered to stand our watches tonight giving us the night off, a chance to watch a movie, sleep in, etc. Quite the offer, hard to turn down, and we are once again reminded of how lucky we are to have them aboard.
And to have each other, very grateful. It's a good life.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The headlining topic of today's blurb is Food Storage Techniques. For starters, we discovered that eggs, which are rumored to stay fresh up to 6 weeks un-refridgerated, get a little fuzzy green layer of mold all over them after 2 weeks in those hard plastic cases you can buy at Wal Mart. So we spent some time today de-molding 5 dozen eggs and coating them in Vaseline. I know, petroleum jelly isn't one of the 4 Basic Food Groups, it's not in the New and Updated FDA-Approved Food Pyramid, and to my knowledge it's not even digestible. But apparently it keeps the eggs fresh even longer.
We now know that a grapefruit smashed under a lot of other grapefruit and in full-peel contact with the Formica floor of the storage bin will mold after 1 week. Jicama gets slimy in the fridge. Potatoes smell like old gym sox when they go bad and rot.
So the thing to do when provisioning for up to two months is buy a boat with tons of "well-ventilated storage" which doesn't actually exist.
Moving on to the next topic, Cockpit Cleanliness. Thanks to the ITCZ, we have the cleanest cockpit in the world, even cleaner than when it was new. Every time a rainstorm passes by we recommend wiping the whole thing down, especially the floor. This way you can sit and walk around without getting wet, and your feet won't start to mold and smell like old potatoes.
Next, I'd like to share with you how to Pack for a Pacific Crossing: Don't take flannel, UGG boots, or heavy sweaters. Take only things that dry in about 10 minutes, so they won't get hit by the next rainstorm while they're drying on the lifelines. It helps if you have clothing with little rust-colored spots on them already, so the new spots from the rusting lifeline fittings won't mar their appearance. Naked is also good, takes up less storage space in the closet, and dries very quickly. But frankly I think it's over rated, and not so good with crew that is not either from a nudist colony or directly related to you.
Finally, let's close today's Cruising Tips with this little gem: try to find portable drink cups with built-in gimbaled holders that adhere to any surface to minimize those pesky spills all over the boat. After the 4th coffee spill in the cockpit I gave up caffeine. In fact, while underway with ocean swells coming from both the NE and the SW it's hard to hydrate at all.
There's more to share, and with any luck, by the time we get to Tahiti I'll have a full cruiser's guide to what NOT to do when provisioning your boat for ocean cruising.
Monday April 5, 2010
Busy day our here in the ITCZ. Busy thunderstorms off and on all day, busy people aboard Fly Aweigh. I spent most of my 4 - 7am watch dodging thunderstorms, which was really fun. First time I've had some good weather targets on the radar, it does an impressive job. But I had to realign my brain from fast and high to low and slow when it came to avoidance; I would see a storm 3 miles dead ahead and another 5 miles to the East, and try to strategize. Now, on a 747, we'd hit the one dead ahead in less time that it would take to say "Lookout!" but on a boat, a storm moving west will be long gone by the time I get to it. The one to the east, however, the one to ignore in an airplane was the one to contend with on the boat. So I had fun playing games, and we continued those games all day long, with nary a drop on our clean boat or all the clean laundry hanging on the rails.
Then, I was the morning Net Controller for the Pacific Puddle Jump Net, the radio net we check into daily. First time as Net Controller and I had so much interference I could only get 6 check-ins and had to cede net control to another boat who had a better copy on other boats, dang. Later we thought we'd put our spinnaker up to give us a little extra push, and had just sat back to pat ourselves on the back as the speed picked up and the water made those pleasing splashy noises on the hull, when the halyard shackle let loose for the second time, even though it was reinforced with tape. Down went the sail, dragging off the port side in the water. Greg is really good at shouting out reports of things gone amiss, and was right on it with the "SPINNAKER IN THE WATER!" call. We all hopped to and got it back up on deck yadda yadda, and guess who got to go up the mast to retrieve the wayward halyard this time? (Greg's mom, skip this part.) Greg did a valiant job of scaling the 65 foot mast in a slightly confused sea with swells coming from 2 different directions. We had him tied and safetied six ways from Sunday and it all went fine. Allan put on a new shackle -- this won't happen a third time, we hauled the sail to give it a little drying time, and packed it away until the next time we get the bright idea to add 2 knots of speed to our progress.
We all took the second shower of the day after all that tropical excitement, then Greg was the evening Net Controller which went much better than this morning. Dinner was leftovers, and that brings us to now, which is, for me, bedtime.
BTW we're about 1100 miles from Hiva Oa, maybe another week to go.