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Pacific Odyssey 2010/2011
Follow the Larsens from Seattle to Australia and back.
Samoa Within the Week
Christine
07/18/2010

It is the middle of the night - my watch, about 2am. So dang-blasted hot, that is the only way to describe it. The kids wake up a couple times a night to ask for water. The sea water temp is 86 and the air temp is 80 and we are quite definitely becalmed. We are moving under power of the engine and have been for 9 hours already. This is a sailboat but we are not averse to using our auxillary engine when the going isn't going. We have about 100 hours of diesel in the tanks and 10 more gallons in jerry cans just in case. We've used about 60 hours so far on the trip and we have less than ¼ of the way to go. Seems like a good use of resources. Hoping to catch up with some new wind at a favorable angle as the sun rises.

According to our ship's log, we have travelled over 5,000 miles since leaving Seattle on May 9th. We are closer to New Zealand than we are to California. We are about 500 miles out from Samoa (our passage is a total of 2300 miles from Hilo) and we just passed a fishing ship 1 and ½ miles to port. Eric hailed them on the radio and did make contact but we couldn't understand their English and we didn't speak whatever it was they were speaking, but at least we alerted them to our presence in case they hadn't noticed before. It is a big ocean, but ships do often pass in the night.

We haven't seen much wildlife on this passage, just tonight as we are getting closer to land we had some dolphin visitors. At least, that is what we think they were. Just a couple of them, black and larger than the grey bottlenose we've seen before. They were less playful than others, preferring to glide alongside our stern for a few minutes before heading off somewhere. Lots of flying fish - in schools they leap through the air and fly with their little fins an amazing distance before diving in again. A couple of frigate birds again and not much else.

Eric caught us another Mahi yesterday. We had Mahi filets for dinner and the rest he made into Ceviche for tomorrow's lunch. The kids aren't so keen on the fish meals yet; hoping that will change, expecting that it won't.

Kid update: Sophie is busy designing her ideal boat to live on. She has catalogued the shortcomings of her environment and is keen to make a difference 'the next time we take one of these trips.' She has also been busy created a new language. Finn is still busy doing Dinosaur research using a couple books we have on board. He is also usually the first one up in the morning, shortly before 6am. He sits on the bench and reads his books until the rest of the crew begins to stir. He is really enjoying the Secrets of Droon series as well as the Akimbo series by Alexander McCall Smith. Freya is working hard on her reading skills, going through the Bob Books with Eric. When she has trouble sounding out a word, brother Finn offers some great advice he learned from his teacher Linda and Freya seems to respond quickly to that kind of help. As heartbroken as we are that Freya will miss an incredible Kindergarten year with such a special teacher, it is so good to know that Finn has so much of that year fresh in his mind. He is eager to share. Finn and Freya have also been busy painting flags from different countries. We have a maritime flags of the world book on board and they are making sure we are ready to fly the courtesy flag wherever we might land (Peru and Norway included.)

For the folks who read these blogs to get info for their own planning efforts, we will be doing a "Gear Issue" once we have some time in port. However, I must put in a word for the following items: Bottomsiders - these are the cushions we bought for the cockpit. We thought they were a luxury item; absolutely essential. 5,000 miles of sitting can hurt if you don't have some squish. Also, we are still thankful for our self-steering device the Monitor Windvane from Scanmar. It just keeps on going and lets us get some sleep and some very very important shelter from the sun. If we had to hand steer in this direct sun for any length of time we'd be toasted, literally. We also have had great service from our Spectra watermaker. For years Katadyn was the leading brand, and we do have their portable, handheld water maker in our ditch kit, but for serious fill-the-tank water making, the Spectra puts out about 6 gallons and hour drawing less power from our batteries than the Katadyn would. We are quite pleased.

Speaking of water, we haven't seen rain since the downpour in the ITCZ last week. Our boat is completely salt-encrusted topsides and our bodies are quite salty now too. Everything is. It comes through the port lights on the breeze (when there is a breeze, when we can have the windows open without fear of waves caused water to gush in like they did earlier today)

So that's the update. Not much else to add except that everyday something either breaks or shows its weakness. Eric continues to rise to the challenge. The moon is now down and the air is very still and thick. The clouds have dissipated and I can some stars, but otherwise it is a very dark black night on the unusually calm water.

Safely in Fiji
Eric
07/15/2010, Savusavu, Fiji

We are safely in Fiji after a quick passage with strong winds. More to come as we explore this town. (We are starting to see a lot of the familiar faces and boats form Tonga and Samoa.)

Rhumb line to Samoa
Christine
07/13/2010

You can't always sail the rhumb line to your next destination. Some passages are so long (example Hilo to Samoa 2200 miles) they pass through a few different weather systems. Keeping the wind at the right angle for sailing toward the goal sometimes means sailing in a different direction for a bit. That was the case for us as we traveled South these past few days to get through the ITCZ as efficiently as possible. We finally broke through yesterday morning; the sky had cleared, the wind shifted to a nice 10-15 kts from SE, and the swells began appearing from the SE as well.. thank heavens for the trade winds again. We had to continue South in order to squeak between Fanning Atoll to starboard and Christmas Island to port (both part of the Line Islands group of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas). Now that we are through the gauntlet, we have altered course on a final rhumbline to Samoa. Just 1245 miles to go in a more or less straight line.

We did not stop to chat with the good folks of Fanning and Christmas largely because we do not have the proper paper charts for those islands and navigating the entrance to their lagoons is tricky. We sail with a Garmin Chartplotter which gives us electronic versions of the places we want to go, and then we have back up paper charts for desk reference, safety and sometimes more info. I am very disappointed to find that our electronic descriptions of the features of these two islands is very sparce, indeed not adequate for navigation purposes. I hope that is not the case for the rest of the Pacific we intend to visit.

I have paper charts to carry us from here to Samoa in general, but I wasn't able to collect every chart for the region. We had to make some guesses as to which harbors and anchorages we would visit. Charts cost approximately $20-25/per and one can easily spend $3,000 on charts for a relatively small area of this vast ocean. Had to draw the line somewhere. But speaking of charts, the US governmental agency that currently manages the data collection and printing of the US nautical charts is closing shop. This has been happening for sometime now, but they are clearly shutting down operations. Any chart supplier doing less than $5,000 per year in chart business can no longer obtain new charts to sell. Armchair Sailor in Seattle is able to sell reproductions of charts because they thought ahead and scanned most of them. They can't get original charts for some parts of the world anymore. That is why we were unable to purchase a Palmyra chart from anywhere in the entire Hawaiian Islands.

Charts can still be obtained from the British Admiralty, New Zealand, Australia and France, but the cost is much higher per chart (sometimes double.) For much of the South Pacific I ordered directly from a chart dealer in NZ (Boatbooks in Auckland) and for the Australian Coast I also bought directly from a dealer in Sydney (Boatbooks in Sydney). I also had trouble in the US buying courtesy flags for the countries we intend to visit. Boats must fly the country ensign off the starboard spreader as it enters a country's waters, meanwhile the home port flag ("Old Glory" for us) flies off the stern rail. These days, some people find the notion quaint and don't take the trouble, but we have heard that a few countries will fine you if you do not fly their flag. I had to order the flags from Boatbooks, NZ as well.

Not sure what the future of US charts is; I've been told the government is looking for a private buyer to take over the printing and distribution, but whether they'll be able to keep up the data collection is another story. Meanwhile, if you are planning a trip anytime soon, buy your charts now.

If you've been following our points on the map, it looks like we are halfway there - miles wise we are close, speed wise is always another matter. However, we estimate that we'll be in port another 10 days from now. We can see the finish line.

Rhumb line to Samoa
Christine
07/13/2010

You can't always sail the rhumb line to your next destination. Some passages are so long (example Hilo to Samoa 2200 miles) they pass through a few different weather systems. Keeping the wind at the right angle for sailing toward the goal sometimes means sailing in a different direction for a bit. That was the case for us as we traveled South these past few days to get through the ITCZ as efficiently as possible. We finally broke through yesterday morning; the sky had cleared, the wind shifted to a nice 10-15 kts from SE, and the swells began appearing from the SE as well.. thank heavens for the trade winds again. We had to continue South in order to squeak between Fanning Atoll to starboard and Christmas Island to port (both part of the Line Islands group of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas). Now that we are through the gauntlet, we have altered course on a final rhumbline to Samoa. Just 1245 miles to go in a more or less straight line.

We did not stop to chat with the good folks of Fanning and Christmas largely because we do not have the proper paper charts for those islands and navigating the entrance to their lagoons is tricky. We sail with a Garmin Chartplotter which gives us electronic versions of the places we want to go, and then we have back up paper charts for desk reference, safety and sometimes more info. I am very disappointed to find that our electronic descriptions of the features of these two islands is very sparce, indeed not adequate for navigation purposes. I hope that is not the case for the rest of the Pacific we intend to visit.

I have paper charts to carry us from here to Samoa in general, but I wasn't able to collect every chart for the region. We had to make some guesses as to which harbors and anchorages we would visit. Charts cost approximately $20-25/per and one can easily spend $3,000 on charts for a relatively small area of this vast ocean. Had to draw the line somewhere. But speaking of charts, the US governmental agency that currently manages the data collection and printing of the US nautical charts is closing shop. This has been happening for sometime now, but they are clearly shutting down operations. Any chart supplier doing less than $5,000 per year in chart business can no longer obtain new charts to sell. Armchair Sailor in Seattle is able to sell reproductions of charts because they thought ahead and scanned most of them. They can't get original charts for some parts of the world anymore. That is why we were unable to purchase a Palmyra chart from anywhere in the entire Hawaiian Islands.

Charts can still be obtained from the British Admiralty, New Zealand, Australia and France, but the cost is much higher per chart (sometimes double.) For much of the South Pacific I ordered directly from a chart dealer in NZ (Boatbooks in Auckland) and for the Australian Coast I also bought directly from a dealer in Sydney (Boatbooks in Sydney). I also had trouble in the US buying courtesy flags for the countries we intend to visit. Boats must fly the country ensign off the starboard spreader as it enters a country's waters, meanwhile the home port flag ("Old Glory" for us) flies off the stern rail. These days, some people find the notion quaint and don't take the trouble, but we have heard that a few countries will fine you if you do not fly their flag. I had to order the flags from Boatbooks, NZ as well.

Not sure what the future of US charts is; I've been told the government is looking for a private buyer to take over the printing and distribution, but whether they'll be able to keep up the data collection is another story. Meanwhile, if you are planning a trip anytime soon, buy your charts now.

If you've been following our points on the map, it looks like we are halfway there - miles wise we are close, speed wise is always another matter. However, we estimate that we'll be in port another 10 days from now. We can see the finish line.

Rhumb line to Samoa
Christine
07/13/2010

You can't always sail the rhumb line to your next destination. Some passages are so long (example Hilo to Samoa 2200 miles) they pass through a few different weather systems. Keeping the wind at the right angle for sailing toward the goal sometimes means sailing in a different direction for a bit. That was the case for us as we traveled South these past few days to get through the ITCZ as efficiently as possible. We finally broke through yesterday morning; the sky had cleared, the wind shifted to a nice 10-15 kts from SE, and the swells began appearing from the SE as well.. thank heavens for the trade winds again. We had to continue South in order to squeak between Fanning Atoll to starboard and Christmas Island to port (both part of the Line Islands group of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas). Now that we are through the gauntlet, we have altered course on a final rhumbline to Samoa. Just 1245 miles to go in a more or less straight line.

We did not stop to chat with the good folks of Fanning and Christmas largely because we do not have the proper paper charts for those islands and navigating the entrance to their lagoons is tricky. We sail with a Garmin Chartplotter which gives us electronic versions of the places we want to go, and then we have back up paper charts for desk reference, safety and sometimes more info. I am very disappointed to find that our electronic descriptions of the features of these two islands is very sparce, indeed not adequate for navigation purposes. I hope that is not the case for the rest of the Pacific we intend to visit.

I have paper charts to carry us from here to Samoa in general, but I wasn't able to collect every chart for the region. We had to make some guesses as to which harbors and anchorages we would visit. Charts cost approximately $20-25/per and one can easily spend $3,000 on charts for a relatively small area of this vast ocean. Had to draw the line somewhere. But speaking of charts, the US governmental agency that currently manages the data collection and printing of the US nautical charts is closing shop. This has been happening for sometime now, but they are clearly shutting down operations. Any chart supplier doing less than $5,000 per year in chart business can no longer obtain new charts to sell. Armchair Sailor in Seattle is able to sell reproductions of charts because they thought ahead and scanned most of them. They can't get original charts for some parts of the world anymore. That is why we were unable to purchase a Palmyra chart from anywhere in the entire Hawaiian Islands.

Charts can still be obtained from the British Admiralty, New Zealand, Australia and France, but the cost is much higher per chart (sometimes double.) For much of the South Pacific I ordered directly from a chart dealer in NZ (Boatbooks in Auckland) and for the Australian Coast I also bought directly from a dealer in Sydney (Boatbooks in Sydney). I also had trouble in the US buying courtesy flags for the countries we intend to visit. Boats must fly the country ensign off the starboard spreader as it enters a country's waters, meanwhile the home port flag ("Old Glory" for us) flies off the stern rail. These days, some people find the notion quaint and don't take the trouble, but we have heard that a few countries will fine you if you do not fly their flag. I had to order the flags from Boatbooks, NZ as well.

Not sure what the future of US charts is; I've been told the government is looking for a private buyer to take over the printing and distribution, but whether they'll be able to keep up the data collection is another story. Meanwhile, if you are planning a trip anytime soon, buy your charts now.

If you've been following our points on the map, it looks like we are halfway there - miles wise we are close, speed wise is always another matter. However, we estimate that we'll be in port another 10 days from now. We can see the finish line.

Crossing the Equator
Eric
07/12/2010

We crossed the equator this morning, and the Southern Cross was clearly visible this evening. We had a small celebration marking our crossing and being over halfway to Samoa. The kids were excited! Sophie has been conducting coriolis effect experiments with a funnel - within half a degree of the equator there was no perceptible spinning as the water drained. Finn was a little disappointed that the chart plotter didn't have a bright line on it, but this provided a chance to explain the difference between theoretical and physical landmarks. Freya was excited to get a doll and guava juice. With the Equator and the doldrums behind us, we expect steady trade winds into Samoa.

Last night we raced along with 14 kt of steady wind on the beam, flat seas, and a favorable current. We often exceeded 7 kt over ground and were looking to set trip record for our daily run. I spent much of my watch in the cockpit feeling the wind in my face, admiring the stars, and re-estimating our arrival in Samoa.

It didn't last though: around 2 AM the wind dropped, shifted and became unsettled. By 4 AM we were motor sailing to keep up speed and save the sails from flogging. At 7 AM a belt broke on the electronic Autohelm autopilot, the second of the trip. The device provided great service over the last ten years in the San Juans and Puget Sound, but is just not up to the stresses of open ocean sailing. I have one belt remaining. Fortunately my friend Kevin has tracked down a replacement motor for my system, and is finding spare belts as well. Hopefully these parts will meet us in Samoa, if not, then Tonga. We shouldn't have to motor too much and I will have to save the Autohelm for periods of critical need. We can always hand steer, but hand steering is tiring and precludes any other activity, such as child care. The short episode this morning highlighted how dependant we are on steering systems to keep up with running the boat, taking care of the kids, and sleeping. While we could manually steer to Samoa it would be grueling. Fortunately we are primarily sailing with the Monitor, which is definitely up to ocean sailing.

The morning mishap delayed our celebration somewhat, but conditions quickly improved. By 10 AM we were sailing with the Monitor again, and we watched the skies completely clear. For most of the day it was hard to find wisps of clouds in the sky. Such a clear sky promised a night free from squalls, and so far it has not disappointed. We had a spectacular red sunset and the sailing is smooth. ("Red sky at night, sailors delight" does have meteorological basis.)

Tonight is glorious again. When I came on watch there was so much luminescence in the water lighting up our wake I thought our stern light was on. While some nights I spend the bulk of my time below, tonight I have been spending a lot of time with my star guide, learning to identify more constellations to point out to the kids. The sky here is very different from the Midwest and Northwest skies I am accustomed to. So many more stars are visible, even familiar constellations look different and shooting stars are visible most nights.

When my 9 -12:00 AM watch is over tonight, I will not rush to wake Christine. I do like the passagemaking.

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