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s/v Sand Dollar
Day 22 - Chicken of the Sea
04/25/2007, 2558 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 07deg 38'S 136deg 18'W

Just when I was about to open a package of Trader Joe's green curry chicken, BINGO, I landed a nice tuna just in time for dinner. He was caught on a reel mounted to the stern rail; no rod but very heavy line (100 lb test). The reel provides adjustable drag but essentially I just winch the fish in. Now I will have fish for the next several days. Unfortunately, that means I will have stop fishing until I get closer to the Marquesas where I will be able to share any catch and make new friends.

Yesterday's progress was slow because of fickle winds and many rain squalls. One minute the wind would be 5 kts and the next it would be 25. There were a lot of sail changes but no motoring. My noon-to-noon distance was 100 miles for an average speed of 4.2 kts. This morning the wind has been blowing consistently at 15-20 kts and I am making 6.5 kts on a beam reach. If this continues there is no doubt that I will make landfall on Friday. Otherwise it will be Saturday.

All else is well onboard.

Day 21 - Slow Day
04/24/2007, 2458 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 06deg 19'S 135deg 13'W

Yesterday was my slowest day so far. My noon-to-noon distance was only 85 miles for an average speed of 3.5 kts. The southeast trades have been very fickle so far, bringing calms and more squalls. I have decided to conserve diesel and use it for charging the batteries, if necessary, and maintaining a reserve for maneuvering near the coastline. Seven gallons, or about 12 hours running time, remains. I am in good shape and could even motor in a dead calm for 8 hours if I had to. As long as there is some wind, though, I prefer to sail. Besides, what's the hurry? I am now 330 miles from landfall so if I can manage to average 110 miles/day I will be there on Friday the 27th. in the morning. Even if I screamed along at 6 kts. I still would not make it in less than 3 days because I want to arrive in daylight.

This morning I saw a dolphin near the boat. That is the first sea life I have seen, aside from the odd flying fish and storm-petrel, for a week. Despite dragging 3 lures of various sizes and colors I am still eating chicken. The water temperature is 82 while the cabin is 85, not much change. Fortunately, it cools off at night and I sleep in the cockpit quite comfortably.

All else is well onboard.

Day 20 - Southeast Trade Winds
04/23/2007, 2373 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 05deg 14'S 134deg 24'W

I finally got out of those nasty squalls and found the southeast trades. They are not as strong as the northeast trades but I am not complaining, the boat is moving along quite nicely at 5.2 knots and the swell is comfortable. Last night the wind went flat so I had to motor for 12 hours. Let's hope it keeps blowing all the way to the Marquesas, another 390 miles.

Landfall is likely on Friday April 27 in the morning, either at Hiva Oa or Fatu Hiva. I will decide as I get closer. The fishing has been lousy and I do not see many birds. I think it will improve as I get closer to shallow water. All else onboard is well. The frozen food is gone so now I am eating canned stuff. Could use a nice tuna about now. I think I'll put out another line.

Day 14 - The Doldrums
04/17/2007, 1717 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas at 04deg 15'N 129deg 24'W

Progress has slowed considerably. I am now motoring when the wind drops below 7 knots. Every few hours there is a rain squall which washes the boat and gives me a shower. The water temperature is 83 and the air in the cabin is 86. The relative humidity is 79% - very muggy! My noon-to-noon distance for today is 109 mi. at an average speed of 4.5 kts. There is not much to see here in the doldrums, no birds, and no flying fish. I'll be glad when I get through this.

Day 13 - Strategy for Crossing the Doldrums
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.

Day 10 - White-tailed Tropicbirds
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.

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Sand Dollar
Who: Don Pratten
Port: Beaux Arts, WA
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