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Slow Sailing
Halfway There
04/30/2012, 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!

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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!

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