04/19/2012, 13 15.67'N:116 27.32'W, 2355 nautical miles from Hiva Oa!
. . . and "All is well on board!"
Are we there yet? Yesterday we marked a milestone, of sorts - the GPS said we were only 2000 nautical miles from Hiva Oa along the rhumb line (a straight line from start to finish) - meaning we had sailed nearly 650 nautical miles since leaving Banderas Bay. The spirit of celebration was muted somewhat with the realization of just how much further that means we have to go - that translates into about 2300 statute miles, or about the distance from Seattle to New Orleans - at less than 10 mph!
Perhaps we need to find something else to celebrate just now - like, we are making progress (sometimes more, sometimes less) in generally the right direction! Everything depends on the winds, of course, and they have not been what we had hoped for or anticipated - those fabled 15-25 knot NE trade winds have evaded us! For the past couple of days we have been dealing with light to moderate NNE winds that have not allowed us to sail much below about 240M - and the rhumb line is about 218M, so we keep going further west than we should without going as far south as we should. The day before yesterday we gibed over onto the other tack to get further south, but the winds would not allow us to sail deeper than about 150M - which meant we were back tracking to the east! So, after several hours (during which time we made some southerly headway) we gibed back onto a starboard tack to keep going WSW. And now it looks like the weather (wind) is going to deteriorate even further t hrough the weekend, because of a cold front that is moving onto the Pacific coast of the US that will break down the high pressure system that has been providing us with what little NE wind we have had, and that has, up until now, fueled stronger NE winds further out west. And did I mention the NW swell that keeps the boat rocking side to side; every sailor knows that scenario - light winds, the boat rolls, and dumps the wind from the sails!
But what am I complaining about - we are out here living the dream, right? We doubt people who dream of sailing away to the South Pacific actually contemplate the passage-making, but focus instead on visions of lush tropical islands, palm-fringed sandy beaches, and the beautiful island natives (we are trying to keep this gender neutral here for everyone's benefit). However, even with what little off-shore experience we had before starting this voyage we did do much more than just contemplate the passage; we planned and worked for years, really, and then right up until the morning of our departure, getting ourselves, our boat, and our provisions ready for this trip. And much to our satisfaction, most everything we have done to get ready has worked out well; we have what we need to be safe, efficient, and as comfortable as we can be under the circumstances. So we are meeting what we knew would be the "challenge" of the passage, and we look forward to its ultimate reward -the "dream" of exploring and enjoying those lush tropical islands, palm-fringed beaches, and beautiful island people! Are we there yet? "NO!"
A good friend of ours from Port Townsend, Gary Jonientz, who himself has a few thousand ocean miles under the keel of Harlekin, his classic Swan 47, told us that on passage your world focuses on daylight and darkness, daylight and darkness, ad infinitum. After some experimentation early on, we have finally settled into a daylight/darkness routine that works well for us. We have divided the darkness into two 6-hour (more or less) watches. Linda comes "on watch" around 9 pm, I relieve her at 3 am, and she is back on deck around 9 am. This allows each of us to get about 5+ hours of sleep a night. During the day, we are both "on-watch" and we alternate taking naps as necessary, tending to the boat, and tending to the myriad other tasks aboard - such as preparing meals (Linda's job, because she won't let me in the galley), navigating, checking weather data, submitting Yotrep position reports, etc. We also find time for reading, and occasionally writing up a blog post! Some times we just sit, watch the waves roll by, and contemplate - it is tough work trying to become a Type B personality, but I'm making progress!
Thanks for checking in! We'll post again soon.
04/14/2012, 17 57.030'N:109 49.625'W, 2355 nautical miles from Hiva Oa!
Hurray! We are finally underway to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas, and "All is well on board." That is what we report (assuming its true) when we check in with the Pacific Puddle Jump high frequency radio net every evening at 0200 UTC (Universal Coordinated Time or Greenwich Mean Time - which is used because it makes no difference what local time zone you might be in). But just what does it mean that "all is well on board?" Well, it certainly does mean that everything is perfect; but it does mean there are no medical or other emergencies, or even gear failures, that could ruin your entire day!
The weather, for example, has not been perfect. All you landlubbers out there might take issue with that - there have been a few clouds around, but the sun has been out all day, every day, and the moon and a few bazillion stars are out at night, there has been no rain and daytime temperatures have been in the mid-80's and in the 60's at night. But sailors think of weather in terms of wind and sea state - which has so far been a mixed bag. Our first night was so calm that we did motor a few hours to get past the Tres Marietas Islands at the entrance to Banderas Bay and to get away from land where we hoped to find some breeze. We did find some wind around midnight, so we turned off the "iron main" and it has not been on since; on a 2700 nautical mile voyage with limited fuel on board - in our case, 180 gallons - you must be fairly judicious on the use of fuel, and we are saving ours primarily to power through the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone - or Doldrums - if necessary.
And the sea state has also been less than ideal - very lumpy, with a large swell running from a cold front up near California. But that has settled down now, so moving around is a bit easier, and the queasiness - not seasickness, mind you, just a queasy feeling, mostly below decks - is staring to go away (it usually does after about three days at sea).
We left La Cuz just before noon on Wednesday, 4/11, and went over to Nuevo Vallarta to clear out of Mexico. After about 2 ½ hours of dealing with the Port Captain, Customs and Immigration officials (most of that time was waiting for Customs and Immigration to come over from the airport in Puerto Vallarta - which certainly beat the alternative!), we collected our Zarpe (clearance papers) and made straight for the open sea. There were lots of tankers and cargo ships to dodge as we moved the first 100 miles offshore, but we have not seen one, even on AIS, now for over 24 hours, and we have not seen another small boat since leaving Banderas Bay.
It is hard to describe the vastness and solitude of being out on the ocean in a small boat - there is nothing but blue, blue and more blue; and, of course, while we are still "near" land, the ubiquitous boobies (a type of sea bird, about the size of a sea gull). We used to love to watch them swoop around the boat - until last evening, that is - when first one, then the entire flock (about twelve in all) decided to land and "hitch a ride" on the bow pulpit and lifelines leading aft. Now, it's not that we mind giving them a ride - it's just their white wash on the deck that we take issue with! And getting them to leave is not all that easy - you have to go up to the bow and in some cases physically help them off - and then you have to stand there as a deterrent, or they will simply circle around and land again. After about half an hour of "deterring" they finally got the message and flew off.
The boat and all its systems are performing well - so far, that is (we expect something to break - it is a boat!). The Monitor wind vane (self-steering) is truly amazing, and when there is enough wind (around 10 knots or more) and the sails are set and balanced properly, the Monitor works flawlessly and steers a course as well or better than we can hand steer! And thank goodness we do not have to hand steer often - we did the entire first night when the winds we so light, and for hours on end it was tiring, to say the least!
The solar panels we installed in La Cruz are also working very well, and so far have keep up every day with our energy consumption. The biggest draw is at night, when we transmit (some) on the single side band radio, run refrigeration, freezer, and radar - although we have been using a timed transmit "sentry" function on the radar to cut down on electrical use; the radar comes on every 25 minutes, runs for 5 minutes (and sets off an alarm if anything is detected in the "guard zone" we set - in our case, 16 miles) and then it goes back into standby mode. During the day, when the solar panels are producing, they "top off" the batteries, and keep up with the day time power usage, as well. More fuel savings in not having to run the generator so often - maybe only to make water, if ther solar panels keep up the good work!
And Linda has been turning out some great meals, too - there is nothing quite like sitting in the cockpit out on the ocean at sun up, drinking hot coffee with a plate of fresh eggs, hash browns and bacon!
Tonight, as we come to the close of our third full day at sea, we are at 17 57.030' N latitude, 109 49.625' W longitude, steering a course of 210?M and making 5.6 - 6.1 knots in 17 knots of breeze out of the NW - and we are a mere 2355 nautical miles from landfall on Hiva Oa - are we there yet?
Well, that about it for now. More to come when I get around to it! Thanks for checking in with us.
04/07/2012, 20 44.918'N:105 22.768'W, La Cruz, Banderas Bay, Mexico
After seemingly endless boat projects that have consumed the last seveal months, and provisioning that has involved numerous trips to Costco, Mega and the local tiendas (where does Linda find places to put all that stuff?) we are just about ready to say "Adios" to Mexico and "jump" to the South Pacific. We leave Mexico with much left to be explored, but secure in the knowledge that we will be back someday to pick up where we left off. We are anxious to start this next chapter in our "Grand Adventure" and look forward to seeing new sights, meeting new people, and the challenge of crossing an ocean in a small boat! In preparing to make this crossing, we have strengthened many old friendships and made many new friends among our fellow "Puddle Jumpers" and look forward to our seeing them again at the Latitude 38 rally in Tahiti in June, and elsewhere down the line. Stay tuned for further updates as we cruise to and through the South Pacific!