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Slow Sailing
Day 8
04/28/2012, Passage to Marquesas

Today was a stellar sailing day. It was sunny with calmish seas & good wind for a pretty smooth ride all day. We caught a small mahi which will make a great dinner for tomorrow night. I made a batch of granola since getting cereal down here is practically impossible- it's better to carry the fixings to make your own.  On the morning rounds of the deck, the kill for today was 18 flying fish (they are very small) and 3 squid. You could tell it was windy last night! Jon finished yet another book and I made some progress on planning our stops in the coming weeks. We'll have 90 days for French Polynesia which is a shame since it covers a huge area and there is lots to see. There are also lots of miles to sail to move between the islands. Once we check in to the Marquesas, we'll have 30 days to get to Tahiti and check in again to get another 60 days. But it is several hundred miles to get there so we'll have to factor in that passage making time. We tried to get  a visa extension while in Panama but they said we needed to have at least 2 months to get it done so it was impossible to get one. Oh well.

I've gotten in the habit of reading the travel logs from our friends Mark &Judy who completed their circumnavigation this year. Judy diligently kept a daily blog for every day of their 5 ½ year journey and Judy was  kind enough to give me a copy of all those logs. Now I have my own special cruising guide to refer to and it even includes all of their experiences on passages too. It is really interesting to read and helps me anticipate what lies ahead too!

Yesterday was a mixed bag. It was another fluffy white cloud beautiful day with nice wind. We rummaged around for our old fishing stuff and found some really yummy lures we'd forgotten we had. Mind you, these were dragged all over the NW Caribbean with no luck but put this baby in the water here and voila, not one, not two, but 3 fish! Two nice sized mahi and one small tuna which came just in time for lunch so I made fish tacos. We're really getting in to the wasabi mayo I got at Trader Joe's. I have the makings for sushi rolls but would need more time, not on a rolling boat to make that. The lure is a blue chugger for all you fish enthusiasts. After the 3rd fish, we were pretty tired of fishing for the day! You see,  when the reel starts whirring, we have to rush to pull in the jib to slow the boat down, then I dig out the gaff, knife, cutting board, alcohol, bucket,etc. while Jon goes up on deck to reel the fish in. Then I hold the reel and do the final pulling in while he readies the gaff and pulls it on deck. Then he cleans it, the deck, I go below and take care of the fish, we put all the stuff away, pull out the jib gain, put out the line again and then a little while later the process starts all over again. During the day, we don't really have that much free time with all of our chores to keep this boat rolling and ourselves tended to so it does put a din our routine after awhile! Anyway, I made a broiled Mediterranean fish recipe for dinner, served it over polenta with coleslaw and it was really good.  While we're talking dinners, I took out some salisbury steak that I'd frozen a while back for an easy dinner on passage and we had that the night before w/mashed potatoes & an eggplant side dish that my mom gave me the recipe for. So the grub on Evergreen is still good!

So around 5:30 pm, the wind shifted more out of the east and we had to steer more south which we didn't want to do because we don't have many degrees of southing to do compared to the westing we need to do and also because we've been riding a fair current. And then the autopilot broke. No surprise there. You'd never know that Jon spent innumerable hours putting this thing together hoping it would be more robust than our previous one & therefore up to the task of steering this boat trouble free but it hasn't worked out that way at all. Anyway, we engaged the windvane and tried to refresh our memory on how to use it properly and it is steering us now. It really is a miraculous instrument but it is definitely more hands on. It steers to the wind so you are not just punching in a compass heading and it doesn't work if there is no wind. So if it gets real light, we'll have to use the other backup autopilot which is really hands on too since it uses the windvane's paddle in the stern and it isn't set up like a regular autopilot with a correct compass. Anyway, will cross that bridge a little later, but probably not that much later. The southing we've had to do could have affected our fair current or the lighter wind, or something- but whatever the case, our speed has gone down by about a half knot too so that is annoying.  For the windvane, the boat has to be really well balanced under sail so that it practically sails itself except for minor corrections from the windvane. Well this presents a challenge in seas and also since our boat has a barn door rudder with a fair amount of resistance at the help to begin with. Anyway, it is going OK and although we're bummed about the pilot, we knew it would happen and now we just have to figure out if we can get the parts we need brought in to Tahiti or not. We'll still have 4,000 more miles to cover to get to NZ since you add miles when you move between French Polynesia to Samoa, to Tonga, etc so we will want to get this pilot going again. Our friend Tim on Slick has his brother coming to visit him sometime in June in possibly Tahiti, so maybe that could work.

So we are doing the Coconut Milk Run as it is called and it's a popular way to explore the South Pacific in what is usually downwind, good sailing. It allows you to stay in the tropics and explore those islands with names like Tahiti, Bora Bora, Moorea, Samoa, Tonga- all of those places we've been dreaming about seeing. Plus you do it in the company of many other boats. We should be able to sail to all of them  in the coming months before we need to head out of the tropics to New Zealand for cyclone season.

Well, will send this off for Charlie to post. I've heard that once we get in the vicinity of the Marquesas, the distances to transmit emails are really huge so we may have trouble connecting. That might mean we send less emails so for anyone who equates these postings with our well being, fear not, this might be the reason!

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Day 6
04/26/2012, Passage to Marquesas

Things have been going pretty well so far on this constantly moving platform that we call home, the only thing around for as far as we can see except for flying fish & the occasional dolphin or fish that jumps. Oh and I saw a turtle today. He looked up at us like we were a UFO. No question we are intruders in this landscape. Yesterday we had 3 flying fish on deck and today it was a combination of flying fish & squid. It reminds me of road kill, the needless loss of life but we're just passing by and these things are jumping on to the boat so what are we supposed to do? Jon got all excited this morning because we had a big fish on- but that was right before it took the lure, leader wire and everything. I wonder how much the fish we get actually cost us?

We're working our way west trying not to make much south progress so that we can save those degrees for later when we'll likely have more of an easterly wind rather than southeast. The Marquesas sit at something like 138 degrees west and 10.5 degrees south. We're hoping that we can smooth the motion later on by having the freedom to turn south. I'm also trying not to really focus on our progress or miles to go since there is too much that can happen between now and our hopeful arrival. But we did pack on the miles today and not all of them were comfortable miles!

The past 2 days have seemed sort of unsettled in the weather dept. It was overcast with a few squalls but no real wind gusts. Now we definitely seem to have reached the tradewinds since we have had plenty of consistent SE winds- like its always blowing, sometimes more than we want. Today it dawned clear and breezy and we were already making really good time when I woke up at 7:30. I generally feel pretty rested in the morning especially with these 6 hour watches. You actually have time to get some sleep! I had plans to make some nut bread for watches and do some reading up on where we're headed. But then the wind picked up along with the seas, combined with a moderate swell and we were going too fast. We had the jib poled out and a double reefed mainsail. We decided to get rid of the pole and then we could reef the jib more and we'd take the mainsail down altogether. As Jon was pulling the mainsail down, I went up briefly to help but meanwhile the sail plan had changed so the autopilot hadn't "learned" our new sail arrangement so it let us get too far into the wind while I was up there. A wave caught our stern and pushed us further around and we basically slid down a wave nearly broadside taking blue water over the leeward sidedeck. Fortunately we were both hanging on and Jon was clipped in but I wasn't, intending to only be up there for a few seconds. These things happen so fast. There was a lot of water rushing by me and I was basically soaked from the chest down. Meanwhile, the water came sluicing down the deck and through the side of the cockpit getting our cushions all wet. I hate that! Anyway, we got the sails changed and for the rest of the day we could make our adjustments from the cockpit. We also reaffirmed our agreement that at any given time, only one person is up on deck. It has remained pretty windy and we continue to barrel along although the seas have settled some. We have what Jon calls "sissy bars" at the mast which are bars that curve around it that you can brace against when making sail adjustments. They are so great and most boats don't have them. I stand on top of one of them when we're entering reefy anchorages so I can get high and see the water better and of course when we're underway, these bars really add to the safety aspect of working on a heaving boat. We're definitely not a racing boat but we exchanged some speed for other boat characteristics that seemed important to us.

The stars & planets have been so bright and we've really been enjoying them. We also busy ourselves on watch by reading, watching movies, snacking, writing emails, reading cruising guides and watching how the boat is doing. The conditions seem to constantly change and so sail & course adjustments make a big difference in how the boat feels. I spend a fair amount of time worrying aobut the autopilot breaking since I know it will burn through the rest of these brushes on this passage and leave us getting the back-up steering options going. So far we seem to just want to use the pilot rather than the windvane since we're making so many course adjustments. We definitely lean toard whatever is easiest.

During the day, we don't keep a formal watch schedule, but we do have a routine. The days fly by and you don't have much time to do extra stuff. Between radio nets, emails, getting weather, prepping meals, cleaning, charging the batteries, making water, doing periodic bucket laundry, changing sails and making rounds looking for problems or chafe, there is a little time left for just hanging in the cockpit relaxing but not a lot. Plus, we're supposed to be studying French!

Right now we're a long way from anything. You can tell because our charting software just has a big blank screen for much of this passage- there aren't any soundings or chart details at all until we approach the islands, just a little boat moving across the screen.

I made shrimp w/ basmati rice last night & salad (yucky iceberg). Tonight I made one pot spaghetti which Jon loves since he says it's one of those dishes you can "just shovel in", with fresh-ish broccoli. And brownies. Well, my watch is done for tonight. It'll be good to put my head down for a bit.

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04/28/2012 | Mom
Your writing is beautifully evocative and helps me feel like I'm sailing that blue ocean with you. Good thing I'm not or you'd hear me saying never, NEVER, not even for 2 seconds, go up on deck without your safety belts! Only takes 2 seconds... Love...

04/28/2012 | Mom again
Fascinating to look at you on the blog "where are we?" map. You're WAY out there now!
Day Four
04/24/2012, Passage to The Marquesas

I'm writing this on my watch at the end of day 3 of our passage.  Nothing major to report. Today dawned mostly overcast and we had a few rainshowers over the course of the day but lighter winds than yesterday so we ended up motoring off & on for 7 hours to keep our speed up. It makes the motion more comfortable, helps to charge the batteries and is easier on the autopilot. The rain cleaned all the salt off the deck so now the boat is all spiffy again- on deck anyway! Now the wind is back and the sailing is great, hope it holds. Yesterday we got another mahi while I was in the shower again but today, nothing.  Each morning I go forward on deck to scan for chafe or any problems and I also pick up whatever carcasses there are of things that jumped on board during the night. The first morning was 2 little squid, this morning was 3 squid- we use these for bait. No flying fish have landed yet but if the waves get bigger I'm sure they'll start flying onto the deck too. People say they're good eating but since we don't find them until morning, they're not exactly fresh.
We've lost radio contact with Slick since they have a Beneteau & are therefore faster than us so now we have to keep track of the fishing tournament by email. It's not as much fun that way! There are many boats checking in on the radio nets but none in sight today; you can't see more than a few miles to the horizon. Two catamarans passed us yesterday. They are pretty commonplace now as a cruising boat. One thing about cruising the Pacific is that the average boat size is around 40 feet, like our boat. In the Caribbean, it seemed we were on the smaller side.  The majority of boats are from Europe, NZ, Australia & Canada. Not too many from the USA. Fortunately, most non-Americans do speak English unlike us who don't really know a second language, so we can communicate.
I forgot to mention that as we were pulling the anchor up to leave, a little penguin was swimming all around the boat fishing. We got great views of that little guy, darting around- cute! Not much for sealife viewing today other than tuna jumping & teasing Jon, I saw a whale spout but nothing more and the seabirds are few & far between. There's not much of a moon right now of course but the nutty thing to consider is that we'll still be out here when it becomes full again! Brother, I'm not going to think about that. We've knocked off a few hundred miles but are headed more south now to try to reach more consistent winds so it is not a direct course.  The latest weather says to head southwest to 6 degrees then turn west for a direct course so that's what we're doing. No more fishing lines seen, no ships.
Some months ago, I was surfing the net looking for an idea of how long I could expect to have fresh produce last for such a long passage & I stumbled upon someone's  old blog post for this very trip.  I noted that they posted a log of what they ate over the course of the 3 weeks. It started out rather gourmet & then ended kindof, well, unappetizing! It could well have been a result of heavier weather conditions or just getting seriously burned out by the length of the passage but I was a little surprised just the same. Jon & I do separate out some of the roles when underway to even out the chores and of course, I do most of the cooking. He's more of the “brains” of the operation, I'm not shy to say it. So I do most of the meal planning & prep. So anyway, for the record (since there isn't a whole lot of important stuff to report on here!) the past 2 nights of dinners were: honey glazed chix w/ mashed potatoes & broccoli and then baked mahi w/ leftover mashed potatoes & cardamom carrots for tonight. The fish was in a swiss cheese/ mushroom sauce out of this cookbook I bought in Florida. It was really good.  Lunches are usually leftovers from the night before, like yesterday I made fish tacos with wasabi mayo- yum!  So we'll see how bad it gets over the coming weeks. Hopefully it doesn't!

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