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Pacific Odyssey 2010/2011
Follow the Larsens from Seattle to Australia and back.
Sophie's update

After many games of solitaire and many weeks in port, we have reached the open ocean. The waves here are 8 feet high. The sea life is so beautiful! I have seen 3 porpoises and grandpa saw 1 sei whale. Everything is amazing. Sleeping with other people is hard, especially when we are moving. The only benefit of sleeping with Finn and Freya is that I get a quarter every time I go to sleep before them, which is almost every night. I miss school and everybody a lot, but I think I'm going to have a lot of great experiences. Bye For Now, Sophie

Motor sailing to Newport, OR

We have exited the Strait of Juan de Fuca and "turned left". We celebrated turning the corner with some champagne my friend Amy gave us to wish us well. While delicious, we sipped sparingly anticipating our night watches, and poured some for Neptune for good luck. We are not quite on our way to Hilo: our weather router has informed us that another bad system is coming in Monday evening, and has advised us to hole up along the Oregon Coast. We are targeting Newport, and expect to arrive tomorrow afternoon. There is a decent amount of wind but we have been mostly motor sailing, as the swell is inconsistent, and it is hard to sail the coarse we need without bouncing people around in the cabin. Freya has mild motion sickness, but everyone else is doing fairly well, but tired. It is going to take us some time to really adjust to the motion of the boat.

A stop in Newport will give us a chance to make some adjustments and fine tune/fix things - my inverter has stopped working, so we only have DC gear. This is not critical as our import gear is all 12 volt, but it would be nice to recharge the cameras. We are also getting a good sense of what is going to come loose in big swells - we have had eight feet or so most of the day. Not too bad, but the direction isn't that consistent, likely because we are only 15-20 miles out. We would have steadier seas and better currents farther out, but the weather would be worse and will deteriorate Monday.

The AIS system is great, allowing us to get data on ships near us, generally 15 - 20 miles away. We have not seen a lot of traffic, but a few fishing boats have not shown up on radar or AIS, a little concerning. We are keeping vigilant watches.

Housekeeping & Provisioning
05/20/2010, Port Angeles

I have some foodie-friends (check out who cook up incredible meals, know just where to buy the right cheeses, and entertain for many as if they were having a nice relaxing afternoon. Thank Goodness I have these friends because everyone once and a while I get to eat really well. As a bachelorette I usually had an empty freezer, with just butter and some lunch meat in the fridge and I ate a lot of ramen, rice and beans. As a mom with three kids and also a husband who now has the time to eat with us, coupled with the reality of living on a boat, I've had to get real about cooking and provisioning. I think we've been eating pretty well so far. Here is our meal plan for the next couple weeks:
Breakfasts rotate between: pancakes and sausage with fruit, quiche with left over sausage and toast, oatmeal with nuts and yoghurt, pancakes with chocolate chips in them, dried cereal with fruit and nuts, scrambled eggs with bacon and biscuits, hot cereal with an apple cooked in it with fruit and yoghurt.
Lunches look like this: cold cut sandwiches with cherry tomatoes and carrot slices, chicken chili verde on tortillas and cantaloupe, ground beef chili with crackers and fruit, black-eyed pea soup, French onion soup, grilled cheese and tomato soup, lentil stew over grains.
For Dinner we'll be having: Tortellini with red sauce and green salad, 15 bean soup, left over chili with Mac/Cheese, Narsi Goreng, Black bean burritos and/or quesadillas with salsa, chicken with lentils and spinach, pasta and porcupine meatballs, and hoping for fresh fish.
For fresh supplies I have stored roughly 75 onions, 15 lbs potatoes, 30 apples, 30 oranges, 10 limes, 10 lemons , 3 ginger roots, 12 garlic heads, 5 lbs carrots, 12 leaks, 3 red peppers, 3 green peppers, 2 jicamas, 3 cantaloupes, 10 pears, 3 butternut squash, 9 dozen eggs right from the farm, un-washed and un-refridgerated, 3 bunches of bananas in various stages of ripe. We have very little alcohol on board as we won't be drinking at all while at sea, but we do have a couple bottles of wine and one bottle of tequila stored in the bilge for when the time is right. We also have a bottle of fine champagne that we will use to toast Neptune/Triton/Poseidon as we head out of the Straight of Juan de Fuca someday very soon.

Sharing Knowledge
05/19/2010, Port Angeles

When someone offers to share their knowledge with you, well, that is the ultimate gift. We are very thankful to Gary, the captain of the W. C. Park Responder, an oil spill response ship currently docked here in Port Angeles. He spent a couple hours with Eric yesterday going over his years of experience as a captain up and down the West Coast. I am a bit chagrined that I was not invited along (I've done a great deal of research and investigation into our navigation plans and resources; I've inventoried all of our charts and passage making books, and I collected the various light lists, coastal pilots and sailing directions we need.) But we also have 3 young kids aboard and they can't be left alone at this stage so I couldn't do the usual and invite myself along. Alas, female captains are still few. An aside to any would-be female captains out there: one of the best days I spent in preparation for this trip was when I attended the one-day Women's Sailing Seminar in Seattle back in February ( I learned so much from the female captains who shared their knowledge of communications, docking, anchoring, sailing at night, provisioning, and the all important crew morale. In any case, when Eric returned to the boat, he debriefed me and my Dad. Main point: never cross a bar on the ebb, only during flood and even then make sure you understand the conditions. Otherwise, some top options for ducking into port and out of foul weather are: Grays Harbor, Columbia River, Newport and Coos Bay. I am so thankful we hired a weather router. Yesterday seemed like it would have been a fine day to head out, but by mid-day today we had 50-60 kts winds blowing. Those are mighty winds, Southern Ocean conditions. Good to be hunkered down with a meatloaf in the oven and a vanilla rum cake for desert.

Sill in Port Angeles
05/18/2010, Port Angeles

Who was that guy at the helm in our last posting? My Dad, Dale. He joined us in Port Townsend last Thursday. He'll make the passage to Hilo with us if he doesn't jump ship before we depart. He's very patient and easy going, but the kids have been putting that and all of us to the test. They miss the routine and predictability of school. They miss playing with their friends. However, I think we've found the magic formula for this leg of our journey: Grandpa tells stories. He has a handful of stories about my brother Jon and all his antics when he was little (overflowing toilets, beebee guns, neighborhood ruffians, stolen bikes, a popped water bed, a forgotten bathtub drawing water for hours.) He also tells stories about his grandfathers and his own high school English teaching days (streakers, our house getting teepee'd, senior pranks, administrative officials.) The kids are enthralled. As soon as he finishes one story, they beg to hear it again. Freya is now his sidekick and fills in critical pieces of dialog.

Our most recent lesson (we've known but have had to live it to recall) is that once you consult with the experts -- people who done this before, professional weather routers, authors who've made a living planning routes - ultimately you have to make your own journey. There is no exact way, just as there is no perfect boat. There are trade-offs and unknowns. Our latest news from the weather router is that there continue to be a series of lows offshore and the weather won't be clear for sailing for a few more days. We can wait in Port Angeles another week and maybe sail out and on to Hilo in one shot, or we can leave in a few days and motor sail down the coast until we reach the trades. If we wait, we make no progress at all. If we decide to motor down the coast (300-400miles), we'll have to pull in somewhere and refuel, paying close attention to bar conditions. When the rivers meet the sea there are sand bars that extend well beyond the coast. Seas sometimes break across the bars and the conditions are untenable, even for larger craft. We'll also have to contend with the fishing traffic, freighters, and choppy seas on the continental shelf. None of that sounds good to me and yet it lies directly in the path of my ultimate barefoot, sun-filled idyll.

We have a lifejacket policy on board: below decks no one needs to wear one, above decks everyone wears one. When underway, the kids also wear harnesses, clipped to the boat with a 6 foot tether. When underway at sea, even the adults wear harnesses, and clip in. A couple times they've attempted to go topsides without their lifejackets - just testing to see if our rules still hold. They do! Finn can tell his life jacket from the others once he finds the blood stains. Back in Port Townsend he was jumping in and out of the dinghy and knocked his nose on the oar. We look like a bunch of sea-hardies already. Our personal grooming standards have taken a bit of a turn. So tomorrow our "to do" list looks like this: Take showers, kids have school, make some phone calls that we forgot to make before leaving Seattle, buy detailed charts of the coastal route we hadn't intended to take, walk a mile or so to the grocery store for some bread and lunch meat, get the kids to the park.

Next stage
05/16/2010, Port Angeles

Our trip to Port Angeles was fairly smooth. Per Carol Hasse's suggestion we tried out storm trys'l as a steadying sail under power - fantastic. Dale took the helm for much of the trip, allowing Christine and I to shake out a couple of bugs in our running rigging and procedures.

Amenities are not as convenient here as in Port Townsend, but the people we have met are very nice. We met a live aboard family in the marina (with a hotub on their boat!???), so hopefully our kids will get some good social time.

Marv, who helped us dock when we arrived, stopped by tonight to ask again how long our boat was. Many other boaters are surprised we really are taking this sailboat so far. We also meet people who have done it on boats much smaller, such as 27 footers. While some may think we are crazy, I often see some longing in their eyes.

The kids had their best night so far for settling down and getting to sleep. The excitement, stress, and lack of routine has been hard for them. I think we will be taking it easy here for a couple of days, and resting up for the long leg to Hilo. We may skip a stop in Neah Bay and keep on going.

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Who: Eric, Christine and family
Port: Seattle, Washington
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