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Slow Sailing
Passage Thoughts
05/02/2012, Underway Toward The Marquesas

4/30 Monday 8pm Day 10
Today was another beautiful blue over blue day with good winds & a fair amount of roll. We didn't fish on account of it. Nothing sighted except a pod of dolphin this morning. They weren't interested in playing with us. No sail changes needed; we continue with a double reefed main & a poled out reefed jib making 6.5kts and the windvane seems happy with this arrangement. Boats ahead are reporting lighter winds, different directions, one was in a counter current- all kinds of good stuff lies ahead. But so far we've really had a nice time. And since we're halfway, we hope that the second half will be as pleasant as the first.

Thanks for all the emails you've been sending- it really helps us feel connected despite the distance. Your thoughts give us things to think about and we find ourselves not only looking forward to these next 6 months of touring the Pacific islands, but also for our plans to home for a couple months this November. We hope to cram in as much time visiting friends & family as we can. Hoping it'll feel like it did when we stored Evergreen in Guatemala for a summer and came home. Being boatless meant we couldn't do any boat projects or feel like we should be sailing rather than doing something else. It was very liberating. We wish we could make some money during this time as well but it doesn't seem possible to fit that in, especially at that time of year. I guess our income will be from Ebaying some of our junk in storage! And retirement? Forget it!

I was thinking that you might wonder about how we live & deal with practical issues on a long passage so thought I would mention a couple things. Garbage: We stick to US laws of no plastic of any sort at any time goes over as well as nothing containing petroleum. All cans, bottles, produce scraps and light paper go over the side- filled with water so they sink immediately. When we're at sea we normally go days without seeing a speck of trash until we get closer to populated islands; then we start seeing their refuse. So even though you could toss cardboard or thicker paper over without hurting anything, we don't because we don't want to see it ourselves. Trash is definitely an issue on most islands and the cruiser trash just adds to their burden but it is something that is inevitable and has to be dealt with. Most islands burn it. With this method though, we don't make much trash on a passage.

Our water situation is pretty good as far as we see it. We use about 15 gallons/day, more when we're in port and diving since we need to rinse our gear each day. Our tanks hold 170 gallons & the watermaker makes 8.5gph. So we run the watermaker every couple of days when we run the generator to charge our batteries. We're addicted to a shower every day & clean clothes to maintain some standard of comfort & joke that we're beyond roughing it at this point in our lives, even though washing our clothes in a bucket isn't a bit luxurious. When we're in port and get a good rain shower, we can catch a huge amount of water once the decks are clean, which saves watermaker run time. My two favorite times of day on a passage are first thing in the morning when we sit outside & have our coffee and then in the evening right after we've showered- that little window of clean before the salt air & warm temps get you feeling sticky again. The running joke is who is cleaner than who-  who has scrubbed harder to be the squeakiest clean. Either way, it is the coolest we feel all day. As long as the watermaker works, we're happy with our water capacity and don't feel like we're skimping.

5/1 Tuesday, Day 11
Is it the Law of Conservation that says that a body in motion wants to stay in motion? Well not these bodies! We've been in constant motion for 11 days now, holding on even when resting and even before we left there was never a calm moment on the boat since the anchorage was in perpetual swell. Sometimes you just want to be at rest for a little bit. That's the best part of making landfall, the hope that the motion will cease. Whenever I go up to the forward cabin I look longingly at our bed which is off limits till we reach port. There's even more motion up forward and no lee cloth to keep you in place on the bed which with the waves, you really need. Our sea berth is in the main cabin on the starboard side cushions and it has a lee cloth that goes up about 3 feet & ties to the ceiling to secure you in the bed so there's no way to fall out. It's plenty comfortable but not like your own bed. Oh well, it's not so bad. We've had great conditions really.

Although today the seas were a little unfriendly & we've gotten tossed around a bit. We had 20-25kts of wind most of the day & biggish, confused seas that would occasionally slap the hull or make the boat roll as they slid under us. In the troughs of the waves the wind gets blocked and makes it harder for Monty to know what to do. The saving grace is that we're going downwind- looking behind us and considering having to head the other way is quite scary.

On the way to the Galapagos we figured out the new magic dose of meclizine to avoid sea sickness. In other years we'd taken 25mg/day but nowadays that seems to make us feel drugged but 12.5 mg/day seems to do the trick. So we take a half a pill each day for prevention. This way, I can do anything I want down below despite the motion. I like to cook things since it beats sitting and there aren't many other things I can do underway that don't involve sitting. It can be a real challenge to brace yourself in the galley with the movement and we often witness one another go flying past the companionway trying to regain balance. Jon will exclaim, “just another day in paradise” and widen his stance. It's a pathetic existence I tell you!

So yesterday I made BLT's for lunch which made me think I was in a diner and beef stroganoff w/ fresh carrots for dinner. Tonight I made my friend Cindy's parmesan herb baked fish with a brown rice kit & sauteed cabbage, which might not sound appetizing but we actually can't get enough of it. And I made chocolate chip bars for dessert. We shouldn't lose any weight on this passage!

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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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