30 April 2012 | Passage to The Marquesas
Well here I am again back on watch, safety harness on, clipped in to the cockpit ready for another 6 hours of solitude while Jon sleeps. I feel like I was just here; the hours of the day go so fast it seems like a blur. But I'm not saying that I feel like this passage just began- it is just that the daylight hours seem to go fast and before I know it I'm watching another sunset getting ready for another night of trying to keep busy to stay awake! None of the sunsets have had a green flash and I think it's definitely related to the fact that I haven't had any gin to spark my imagination! I've got 2 bottles of champagne ready to go once we reach the Marquesas to help replenish what alcohol we'll have been missing for these 3 weeks.
Jon says he really notices the sliding of the days as we head west. It's light until 7:30 and then the sun doesn't rise until 7a or so on his watch. What I think is interesting is how the moon is basically going backwards across the sky- every night it starts out a little farther east and then sets later. So since we'll be out here for the full moon, I'll watch it all the way to the horizon in the east and then it'll start going back west again. Since our longest previous passage was 9 days, I haven't had an opportunity to experience this before.
We didn't fish today since our freezer is full and we don't want to be gluttons. I took out some cauliflower to go along with a repeat of last night's dinner since there were enough leftovers and we both got a chuckle as I trimmed off all the bad spots just like we saw the ladies doing in the produce markets- pare it down until there's no bad spots left but also no definition of it as any vegetable you'd recognize. And for the record, the new Ziploc produce bags I bought don't seem to make a lick of difference over any other bag I've used. We made popcorn for tonight's watch along with a chocolate nut bread.
Today was another pretty day and the wind got better. Jon spotted a ship, but other than that, we are all we saw all day. We're back to making 6.5+ knots and can steer a little more west, still not enough. The windvane steered us all night & day and the best part is it uses no amps. We're so glad to have it. Many people come to respect this extra “crew member” (who doesn't require sleep) so much that they name their windvane. We haven't done this yet but I can see it coming. Tim & Nathan bought 2 large plastic drums to hold extra fuel and when they put them in the cockpit, it was like having 2 extra people in there so they named them Shirley & Sheila. In case anyone is wondering, Tim & Nathan are our friends on Slick who we've been cruising with and we knew Tim from our old marina in Boston. He & Nathan met in the Navy. After Tim got his PhD this year in nuclear something or other from MIT, he decided to fulfill his dream of making a circumnavigation and since Nathan was just getting out of school with his marine geology degree, he was up for the trip. We'll probably part ways in the next month or two since they don't plan to head to New Zealand and it'll be sad to lose their company. They are a little further ahead of us right now but we email daily. So far we're winning the fishing tournament! We heard on the radio net tonight that boats well ahead have no wind so the windvane may get a break after a few days. Right now we have plenty. Meanwhile, Jon did some troubleshooting with the autopilot today and found that the wires to the rudder follower had become really tight & so perhaps a connection was loosened; whatever the case it seems to work now but we didn't want to disengage the windvane to check for sure since it took forever to get the vane adjusted right. This doesn't change the fact that the motor's brushes are mostly worn down so once those lose their connection the autopilot would be broken anyway so we don't have a lot of faith in it right now. We have another whole motor but would need to be in port to install it.
I can see that these passage notes are becoming lengthy. Sorry, but they help me stay awake and I have no one else to talk to! I was reading the manual for the Monitor windvane last night to brush up on how to set it and they have this picture of the world's major cruising routes. Underneath it there is this quote that is not credited to anyone but says “ Now is all the time you won, the past a golden link, go cruising now my brother, it is later than you think!”
4/29 Sunday 8pm Day 9
Well what do you know, I'm back at my post. It was a sleigh ride today and most of last night. We've had 20 kts of wind with disproportionately large seas this afternoon. Other boats in this vicinity are reporting same. We've had three splashes into the “sanctuary” of the cockpit which is irritating because we don't like to be salty. Last night was a little hectic because we were going faster than we wanted but didn't want to make a sail change at night unless we had to and then we had to change course and sail around this ship that was directly in our path & not responding on the radio. We passed them less than a mile off their stern as they ghosted along at about 2kts. Who knows who they were or what they were doing. We lost our fair current but are still making the speed with the extra wind. Should reach the halfway point tomorrow, Monday, late in the day- 1500 miles down. That would mean a little less than 9.5 days underway to get to this point. I think the second half may be a little slower as boats are reporting light winds.
The Monitor windvane continues to work wonderfully even in these confused seas. Jon affectionately named it Monty today & he is an official member of our crew. We've bonded. It took the autopilot breaking to make us put forth the extra effort and stop the button pushing, but we're glad we did. The funny thing is, the autopilot wants a well balanced sail plan just as much as the windvane but you don't HAVE to do it to get it to work. When it doesn't steer a good course you can always blame the autopilot “this stupid piece of junk can't steer for anything!” whereas with the windvane you are responsible for how well it steers; no one to blame but yourself dummy. We used the windvane successfully on the Eastern Caribbean trip but ha really gotten lazy about it these past few years.
Once we get into port, Jon is going to take apart the autopilot and inspect everything again. It may be that we have a faulty rudder follower or it may be something he can fix. The worn brushes may have been an adjustment issue and recent changes may have helped that. Another inspection will be telling.
We had a lazy Sunday and didn't fish or do any projects. Just one sail reduction and the basic requirements to keep this show going. Jon asked me to cook today's mahi dinner with the apple, mushroom & caper sauce recipe he likes, so I did and put it over israeli cous cous w/ beets (canned). It was really good but interrupted by a splash into the cockpit.
Today we reflected on what a project it was to get fuel in the Galapagos and for Slick, who doesn't have a watermaker, to get water. For water, you have to go to the Casa Del Agua, which is this little shed sized building on the edge of town. This is where you arrange to get water. Then they deliver it to your boat in huge jugs via the water taxi, which you have to offload onto your boat. Then transfer all the water to your tanks, get the water taxi back and return the jugs. It cost Tim like $84 for the water he got. Then it rained the same day and we collected enough on deck to fill all our tanks & then some. Too funny.
Then for fuel, it is very serious business since fuel is subsidized for Ecuadorians by the government but not for sailors. So you have to make a request through your agent who gets permission from the port captain for you to get a precise amount of fuel, in one shot. You get a cab to the one gas station on the island with your jerry cans and you get escorted upstairs to the office where you hand in your permission slip. The gas stations have armed guards since they're government run and want to have that presence. Diesel was $1.04/gallon US if you are a citizen but $5.36/gall if you're not. In both Ecuador & Panama, the currency is the US dollar. Since these countries like to use coins, the US dollar coin that no one likes in America is very popular in these countries. Anyway, then you get a cab back, haul it into the water taxi, heave it on to the boat and then transfer it into your tanks, trying not to spill a precious drop! Plus, we had to do it twice in a row since we could only get 30 gallons at a time with our jugs! And people wonder what we do all day when cruising.
Well, I guess I'll watch a movie now. I've gotten a good abdominal workout typing while trying to keep my balance in the companionway. But I probably should get the keyboard inside before another wave breaches the sanctuary!