04/16/2007, 1608 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 05°52'N 128°45'W
The doldrums is an area around the equator characterized by calms, thunderstorms, and variable winds. It is a region to be avoided or transited quickly. This time of year the doldrums lies north of the equator and may be anywhere from 150-600 miles wide. On the north edge of the doldrums is a zone of very unsettled conditions with squalls, torrential rain and thunder. This is where Sand Dollar finds herself today.
The normal strategy for transiting the doldrums consists of arriving at about 5°north 130°west and then heading due south to get through it quickly as possible. Once the southeast trade winds are found a direct course for the Marquesas may be made.
My daily mileage has decreased because of the changing conditions. My distance for today is 140 mi for an average speed of 5.8 kts. The next few days are hard to predict but will be interesting. I anticipate running the engine for a few days.
04/15/2007, 1468 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 07=B049'N 127=B054'W
Sand Dollar ran 151 miles since this time yesterday making this the best daily run. The wind has been a consistent 20 kts the past 24 hours so I am averaging 6.3 kts. The sky is overcast and I can see squall lines to the southwest The air temperature is 80=B0 and the water is 81=B0. The relative humidity is 77%, quite a change from Mexico. I expect the northeast trades to last for another day or two before I encounter the unsettled weather of the doldrums.
There are two boats 70-100 miles ahead of me, 3 or 4 that are 500 miles ahead and several 800 miles behind. We share weather information on the radio nets and make route decisions accordingly. Each evening I have been reporting to a ham radio net called the Pacific Seafarers who have a website where they post the locations of and weather conditions for those vessels that report. Only those with ham radio licenses can report their position.
The whole ham radio thing has been interesting. The sailors use it for reporting positions, sending messages, obtaining weather reports, ordering spare parts, etc. The "hamsters" use it as a hobby and try to make as many contacts as possible, however brief, all over the world when propagation conditions are good. They are a very friendly and helpful group and, during times of emergency, essential.
All is well onboard, although I am now out of fresh vegetables except the cabbage.
04/14/2007, 1317 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 09deg 31'N 126deg 05'W
Sand Dollar has not seen rain since leaving the Pacific Northwest 20 months ago. Early this morning we got a nice shower while passing through a small rain squall, just enough to wash the salt off the rigging and deck but not enough to collect any worthwhile quantity. The water supply is in excellent shape. I left Mexico with 75 gallons plus a watermaker and anticipate arriving in the Marquesas with half of that. Still, fresh water conservation at sea is always prudent and any time salt water can be used for a job, all the better. For example, dishwashing, bathing, laundry and general cleaning are usually always done with salt water. When rainwater has been collected, however, I think one can splurge.
During the rain squall there were quite a few birds hunting near the boat. Some, I believe, were storm petrals. They are very acrobatic, like little fighter planes, flying just above the wave tops and touching the water with their wing tips. Perhaps they are looking for flying fish which are trying to get out of the way of the boat.
The trade wind continues to blow and the miles pass. Today's noon-to-noon distance is 147 mi. for an average speed of 6.1 kts, about the same as for the past three days. The air and water are both a comfortable 80 deg. Did I understand correctly that the Mariners were snowed out in Cleveland a couple of days ago? My regrets.
All else is well. I think I will wet a line today.
04/13/2007, 1170 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 10deg 37'N 123deg 56'W
The miles continue to peel off in these great trade winds. My noon-to-noon distance for today is 147 mi. for an average speed of 6.1 kts. The air temperature is 81 and the water is 80. Each day brings warmer temperatures. The weather chart indicates that this wind should continue for another four days. At that point I will re-evaluate the course and determine how to best negotiate the doldrums.
There is not much to see out here except water and lots of it. The sky is 95% clear with patches of small cumulus clouds. At night there are more stars out than I ever thought possible. I will look tonight for the Southern Cross.
This morning I saw three white-tailed tropicbirds circling the boat and occasionally screaming as they are known to do. They were with me for several hours before finally giving up any hope of receiving offerings. Now and then I see small swallow-like birds flying just above the wave tops. It is very difficult to get a good look at them so I am unable to identify. Flying fish are almost always visible as they apparently try to get out of the way of the boat. Small schools of them will go airborne two feet above the water for perhaps 100 feet. Each morning I usually find half a dozen on deck but not enough large ones to justify a meal.
All is well onboard. I feel great and am getting enough sleep. By the way, I thoroughly enjoy the comments but I am not able to read them remotely. My nephew Troy bundles them and sends them each week. Feel free to email me if you wish.
04/12/2007, 1023 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 12deg 08'N 122deg 03'W
For the past 8 days since leaving Cabo San Lucas I have been on starboard tack which means the boat was always leaning predominantly to the port side (left for landlubbers). Yesterday I decided to get back a little closer to the intended course so I had to turn the stern of the boat through the direction of the wind (jibe) and get on a port tack. No big deal but I was a little off-balance for a couple hours until I relearned how to walk in the cabin with it leaning the other way. The boat does not sail well, or particularly fast, dead downwind and the course is now just about dead downwind so that is why I tack back and forth. This may be noticable on the map.
The trade winds provide great sailing and I am making excellent time. Today's noon-to-noon distance is 149 mi., my best time yet. That comes out to be an average of 6.2 knots. This will probably continue for the next five days until I get closer to the doldrums. Then it is a crap shoot. The air temperature is 76 and the water is 78. The sky is partly cloudy with large cumulus and the sea state is 4-5 ft.
04/11/2007, 874 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 14deg 20'N 121deg 14'W
The wind is very steady now, NE at 15-18 knots and I am moving along nicely. My noon-to-noon distance is 131 miles for an average speed of 5.4 kts. The sea state is 4-5 ft. waves and a low NE swell. The air temp. is 74 deg. while the water is 76 deg.
There is not much need to trim the sails or adjust the autopilot at this point. Sand Dollar just racks up the miles. Because of this, I have gotten into a, more or less, daily routine. The first thing I do upon waking is pop my head outside and check the sails and sea state, then I check course, boat speed, and battery condition. Changes are then made if necessary. Coffee goes on the stove while I dial up the 6:30 AM Picante net, give my position, and chat with some other boats. There is another net I check in with at 8 AM which consists mostly of Europeans going to the Marquesas.
After breakfast I go for a walk on deck to check all sails and rigging for chafe. For the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon I work on various maintenance or repair projects. For example, today I will wash the deck (found six dead flying fish on deck from last night), attempt to eliminate some creaking in the cabin, repair a door latch, and troubleshoot the alternator which is not putting out a full charge to the batteries. In between projects I nap and listen to my French language tapes. Before dinner I send and receive emails. At 5:45 PM there is a weather briefing by the weather guru followed by questions and answers. Boats call in from the entire Eastern Pacific, from Hawaii to San Diego to Ecuador to French Polynesia. After dinner I read and sleep on and off for the next 12 hours while looking outside from time-to- time.
There you have my life at sea. It's not for everyone but it suits me fine for now.