04/18/2011, Out on the ocean
We've made it 111 miles in the last 24 hours and all because of our Spinnaker. We hoisted it yesterday late morning and left it up all night. It's the first time we have ever flown a Spinnaker at night and it was a blessing. With the winds so light(6 to 8 knots) and coming from a different location than where our conventional sails(main and forestaysail) would have allowed us to go, it shoved us along just fine. Now we may have been going only 4.5 to 6 knots but at least it was faster than the other sails would have allowed us and we were in the right direction. It pushed us a bit too far West,so this morning, we moved the Spinnaker from the port(left) to the starboard(right)side of Zephyr and let her fly. The winds were such that it made us go farther South and back toward the way points our weather router recommended. We should get an update from him sometime today with new forecasts of what is coming down the road.
Not much happening out here today. We got an email from our friends(Paul & Karen) on GiGi that were supposed to be our buddy boat when we left La Cruz. We, unfortunately got delayed by two weeks so they have a good head start. Sort of glad we didn't leave with them as their average speed for the trip has been only 3.9 knots. We've done 4.9 so we're just a bit faster. It was the first two days that made the difference. They have had to motor for two full days to get past the equator due to lack of winds at some times. At other times, they faced 44 knot winds and some strong rain storms. I'll guarantee you their boat is much cleaner than ours. Being an Island Packet 45, they are a faster boat than ours anyway so if we had left the same time they did, we would have been lucky to do 3 knots. They think their crossing will take them a good 30 days. With luck, we might make it in 26. Guess time will tell.
The kids are adapting well. Blue came up in the cockpit again last night and took a walk forward before settling in on the stern deck for a snooze. Didn't last long as Zephyr is in a continual state of making noise as her fiberglass shifts and hardware goes bang in the night. There is no where you can go to for a quiet night sleep. It's just a bit less noisy in some places. This morning during my AM nap(got off watch at 0800), I kept hearing this light bang and then the clunk of something hitting metal. It ended up being the metal rod that's a handle for our Milwaukee drill rolling around in one of the storage spaces in the stern of the boat(right beside the berth. I dug it out and it was quiet(sort of) again. I actually had a decent 4 hours of sleep last night(0000 to 0400) before coming back on watch. With the Spinnaker up, there were far fewer bangs as the boom is lashed down.
We're now at 13 03.714N 120 18.983W and doing a course of 188T at about 5 knots with the wind from the North at about 10 knots. It's partly cloudy and getting hotter. It's 85 in the cabin and the water is now up to 79 degrees. It gets more swimmable every day.
Tracy's two cents:
Well, here we are on day 10 of our epic adventure. We decided to opt out of the morning net...we couldn't hear them, it is frustrating, so who needs extra aggravation? Not us. The spinnaker sail gives us a more side to side roll as we are going more down wind. Nothing ever sits still out here, not the boat, not the water, not the clouds. I zoomed our chartplotter out to the east and we are even with the north side of Nicaragua and up to the north we are even with Point Conception, north west of Santa Barbara, CA. It blows me away that we haven't cleared the west coast of the United States. It seems like we have been traveling forever.
For the next day or so we will be traveling toward the south then we will turn again to the west then make a left turn to cross the ITCZ. Ah, the ITCZ...the InterTropical Convergence Zone. They used to call it the Doldrums in years of old, it is were storms are born and veer up north. It is an area of convection, sometimes mild and sometimes moderate. Lots of lightening, lots of rain, then nothing....no wind, no clouds. It's a crap shoot. It moves constantly, moves to the north, then broadens out, then just the opposite. We are depending on our weather router to let us know when and where to cross with a minimum of yuk weather. We still have to fix the bearing at the top of the mast and we are counting on calm water to do so.
I think we have about two weeks more travel to get to the Marquesas.
04/17/2011, Out on the ocean
It's been another 24 hours of fight, fight, fight for the winds. it's been about 10 knots, maybe if you're lucky. This has been our slowest day at only 85 miles and that includes moving the clock back to Pacific Daylight time but at the slow speeds we are going, it makes little difference. We have the spinnaker up and even it has trouble figuring out the winds. Billowing out then collapsing over and over and over again. We're trying to maintain a course of about 240T but it's far more important to try and get as much wind and you can in the sails. We can course correct later if need be. These are the things they don't tell you at the seminars before the jump. "Oh, it's all down wind sailing. Set your sails and go read a book". Poppycock I say, poppycock. The miles we have made have been for the most part hard fought with great days of 150 for the first two days but you felt like crap since there was no time to adjust to having your body get thrown all over the place and the waiting for something else to break in it's new environment.
OK, off the soapbox. We're currently located at 14 12.496N 118 59.881W as of 1310PDT. If you look at it on a map, that puts us due south from the Channel Islands off the California coast. About 1200 miles south of there. We've gone 950 miles since we left Mexico and we are still south of the California coast. Go figure.
We started out the day with light winds and the main and forestaysail up and barely drawing. We started the engine(just to see if it would and motored for about two hours to recharge the batteries and to allow me to make some water for our tanks. Our Spectra 200T has to be run about every 5-6 days to keep the membrane running right. The salinity count for our water was about 335 parts per million so it was just fine for drinking. Anything over 700ppm is too salty to add to the tanks. I checked ours several times over the hour or so it ran. We have plenty of water so that's not a problem. We just need to make sure it gets run regularly. It's one of the last things I want to see break our here. Since we can't go into any marinas(two cats on board) we are forced to make our own water.
Once we were done with the engine, down came the main and forestaysail and up went the spinnaker. It's the biggest thing we have on board and with a bit of playing will allow us to make some kind of headway. We expect a new weather update tomorrow sometime. All the boats that left with us are several hundred miles ahead of us so radio contact is getting harder and harder each day. I might have a clear contact with one of them and he has to relay what I say to the main net controller. I'd volunteered to be one of the net controllers but the power of my radio doesn't appear to be there to pull in other nor broadcast out to them. We had it checked before we left La Cruz and it was fine then so who knows.
Tracy made BLT sandwiches for lunch so that was a bit of a treat along with our once daily allowance of a coke or pepsi. I figure by the time we get to Tahiti, we will have lost a good 15 pounds. We're n longer eating like we did when we were at the marina. It's much simpler out here. Tonight is left over Mac & Cheese(homemade too). YUM!!!
Tracy's two cents:
As we glide along slowly I have lots of time just staring out over the water. Beautiful dark blue, no whitecaps (no wind) and an occasional flying fish. The fish usually start their migration around 5:00 p.m. I'm not sure if they are flying to avoid being eaten by some bigger fish or if they is simply how they get around and they are snoozing until happy hour. Who knows. Well, anyway, this morning, I'm staring out over the water and start to see evidence that there was another boat somewhere in front of us. I think it must be a "kid boat" because there are floating cut out flowers floating by. Then there is a whole paper plate , then ten minutes later cut up lime halves. A half hour goes by and then an over the hill orange. You get the picture. This is the first trash we have seem this whole week. I know what I have seen will biodegrade, but it is sad to see just the same. I'm hoping the food scraps that I've sent over the lifelines has sunk, so the boats behind us don't have to see MY trash...
It is getting warmer and more difficult to sleep. Cabin temp is 88.1 degrees, water temp is 78.6 degrees. Thank Goodness we have some fans to help circulate the air, it's not great, but it is better than nothing.
Blue kept coming up to the cockpit last night, then a sail would snap and she would head back to her perch in the foc'sle (room in the front of the boat). Snowshoe looks hot and is still shedding like crazy, I'm going to have to shave him down soon I think. I've already cut off about 4" of fur and he still has 4" to go. I'd take it down to 1", but no shorter, he needs some sun protection too.
04/16/2011, Out on the ocean
Well, it's been seven days since we left La Cruz and are still going. Not strong, but still going. We're at 14 46.378N 117 48.815W for you google earth fans. Doing only 2.3 knots with the spinnaker up as the winds are so light(maybe 5 knots). We only did 99 miles in the last 24 as winds last night were fine until this morning and then just about died off. We took down the mainsail and the forestaysail and popped the spinnaker. At least we are going where we need to be going(course 235 degrees.
Tracy made egg salad for lunch. I had it on tortilla chips and Tracy had it on crackers with our once daily allowance of either a Coke Zero or a Pepsi. If you want anything else to drink, it comes from a mix(Sugar free Tang, Raspberry Ice from Crystal Light or maybe Lemonade from the same people. I'll be starting up the water maker either this afternoon or tomorrow morning as it has to be run about every 6 days to keep it properly maintained. We want to make sure we have plenty of water as we continue toward Tahiti.
We fired up the Honda generator this morning after getting advise from our son, Xander as well as a mechanic(Butch) in La Cruz that the voltage reading for the start batteries was just too low to have the juice to start the engine. After an hour of charging(as well as heating water for a shower) the batteries started the engine at first crank. A great relief for the two of us. We may only need the engine to get us through the ITCZ and into the harbors when we arrive but it's nice to know they will start the engine even if I have to start the generator before we need them.
We both got a shower today after the generator made nice warm water for us. It's my second since we left La Cruz a week ago. It's not like I'm out in public and my deodorant is doing just fine. We use sponges regularly to get the bad stuff off, but to have an actual shower out here can be a luxury depending on the sea conditions. You enter the shower holding on to something and adjust the water to your liking and then rinse your body(start at your head as the water flows downward-covers more area) and turn off the water(switch on the handle of the wand). You always have to hold on with one hand and soap up with the other(it gets rocky out here). Then grab the shower wand(turn it on with the switch on the handle--don't waste water) and rinse off the soap. If you're really lucky, wash your hair twice. Keep in mind that the stall you are in is normally smaller than one of the old phone booths so while you may fall, you won't fall far. Picking up the soap if you drop it gets a bit tough in such a close space. Yoga helps. Drying off becomes a chore as again, you are in a small environment and you still have to hang on. Once dry(sort off since you will immediately start to sweat again) sit down if possible to get dressed. Oh, don't forget to turn on the sump pump to get rid of the soapy water under the floor grate and towel down the walls and floor of the stall. Keeps the mold down. About once a week(of you have the luxury of taking showers often), lift up the shower floor grate and clean the gunk out of there. It can get pretty yucky down there. Hey, sailing is fun remember. Don't even think of using a hair dryer as there isn't enough juice in the batteries to make it even try and start.
Tracy's two cents:
Has it really been a week since we left? In some ways, it seems much longer and in some ways it only seems like it's been about 3 days. One day blends into another seamlessly and your routines of sleep and waking are now not so rude. Do I miss sleeping more than 4 to 4 1/2 hours at a shot? Absolutely!!! But so far so good, I've been sleeping on the port side settee, it has a higher part of the cushion toward the outside (to support your knees when sitting) so it seems to gently hold me in place while trying to catch some zzzs. Around 4:30 am Snowshoe seems to think it's his scratch my chin time and tries to balance on my side and lean his face over mine for his attention. Last night, Blue was flaked out on the forward portion of this same settee and Snowshoe was on the stern section of the settee, so I opted to wedge myself lengthwise on the portside of our bed in the stern. I'm not used to such a cushy bed anymore, but it did lull me to sleep and I came to around 0745 to start the day.
Last night I made Mac and Cheese (no, not from a box). I think that it will be the last time I crank up the oven to 400 degrees to bake anything for a while. I cooked the macaroni in the pressure cooker, but not under pressure, so boiling water was contained if it decided to leap off the stove top that was gimbaled . It takes twice as long to make anything. Pouring the boiling water out of the pressure cooker was a two person job. It is strange to have the water not come out of the pan in a vertical downward way, more of a 30 degree flow. The oven heated the cabin up to an intolerable temperature, something close to a blast furnace, so top of the stove meals are going to be really popular on Zephyr. We try to have on hot meal a day and some cool fruit in the afternoon. So far so good.
Emotionally, today we are better...life is fine on Zephyr at the moment. I even told Bill that with our speed so slow it would be fun to drag behind the boat to cool off, except for the sharks. Nice thought though.
04/15/2011, Out on the ocean
A tough 24 hours for the two of us. The forward head was still not functioning(fixed it just a few minutes ago-I hope), the Genoa bearing is still out(to rough to go up the mast) and the engine doesn't want to start when the key is turned. As you can see, it's not all sweet smelling and rosey out here. From what we can figure out, the start batteries(2) are both just about shot and should have been replaced when we were land based. Unfortunately, they never passed through my radar as they always worked fine. At close to 7 years old, they should have been replaced a good year ago. I took off all the wires to the starter as well as the solenoid and got them all nice and cleaned up and shiny. Once bolted back on, I checked the start batteries and they showed 12.5 volts but still didn't have the umpf to do the job. After a crank or two, they only showed 12.1 volts. No where near enough to do what they are made to do--start the engine. We were both feeling quite low at the time after a rotten night aboard with the wind for all intense and purposes dying off to just about nothing while the waters swell action made poor Zephyr tumble through the night as did we who live aboard. By this morning, both of us were grumpy to the MAX. One saving grace is that we have out little Honda generator to supply us all the power we need as well as our DuoGen(still doing a great job). When we need the engine, I can just fire up the generator and let it charge up the batteries and then the engine "should" start. Now it's nice to have an engine but it's not a life threatening curse is it doesn't work. We need our to get through the doldrums of the ITCZ(Inter Tropical Convergence Zone). This is an area about 5 degrees North of the Equator to about 4 degrees South of it. It can be either rough or flat calm. Our weather router told us yesterday not to hurry down there as it's currently in a state of unrest and not a pleasant place to be right now. With luck, we'll have a better time when we get there. The only other time we will need the engine is when we need to enter the harbor at the end of the voyage(where I can get new batteries). The rest of the time, we will just continue sailing as best we can. We still need a few hours of calm seas so I can get up the mast and fix the genoa roller furling that broke on day 3.
I fixed the forward head this afternoon by installing another "joker" valve. This is a small rubber device that opens only one way--to get what is in the bowl out and not let it come back. Ours let it come back(not a good thing--smells).
Each day, we check and recheck all the systems to make sure all is doing as it should. From the rigging to the screws that hold things together, it all needs to be check and checked regularly. The screws that hold the ends of our mainsail reefing system decided to come loose after 2.5 years of use. One popped right out of the boom and landed on deck. One of the screws that holds the binnacle(holds the wheel, compass, autopilot and chart plotter in the cockpit) was about half way out. It's not like a house out here. Everything is in a constant state of flux as we move through the water. You can hear the creaking and groaning as we slide through the water. It's anything but quiet out here. I got about 4 hours of sleep in the last 24 due to the noise and anxiety of things happening on board and Tracy didn't get that much(light sleeper).
The last 24 hours, we've made 120 miles(I'll take that after last night) and have now gone 766 miles of the 3,000 mile trip. We're at Latitude 15 36.524N 116 27.668W on a course of about 230degrees True(no magnetic compass adjustment allowed) with high fluffy clouds with winds of about 12 knots out of the Northwest and sea swells of 5 to 7 feet.
My cuts and bruises are healing just fine but I still keep bandaids on them to make sure they stay nice and clean. Oh--for dinner last night, Tracy made sweet and sour shrimp. Sure was good and lots of leftovers for another night(yeah). Tracy's two cents:
Hi all, last night was the pits! I absolutely hate having the sails slat back and forth, bang, bang, bang and on and on. I tried different tacks, different sail shapes. Nothing worked, there just wasn't enough wind to override the swell. Slop, slop, all night long, when I finally did come down for a rest, the "car" that the jib sheet runs through kept banging right over my head. All in all it makes me a cranky broad.
For a time we discussed turning back and going to Cabo San Lucas to get new batteries, fix the roller furling and do the head, then common sense or lack there of took over and we got things into perspective. There really is only two places that an engine would be nice, but still not critical. Crossing the ITCZ, just to get through it faster, and anchoring with two anchors. Atuona, Hiva Oa requires two anchors front and back because of the swell in the harbor and how many boats are occupying the space. I think we'll look at our charts and Goggle Earth cache pictures and see if Nuka Hiva would be easier to get into and anchor. I know fewer are arriving at Nuka Hiva, the Northern most check in island in the Marquesas. That may be a better choice.
Blue is begging for attention from Bill and is currently getting needed scratches and pets.
Tomorrow will be a better day, won't it???!
04/14/2011, Out on the ocean
It's the end of day 5 and all is well. We spent the last night with one reef in the main and the forestaysail doing a great job. Winds were in the high teens and we just flew along at a good 6 knots. We've left the reef in the main all day as the winds have stayed the same. It's a bit slower than having the Genoa out(currently broken) but a very comfortable ride though a bit rolly from time to time.
We're now at 16 00.266 N 114 45.150W for those of you Google Earth fans. We made 125 miles in the last 24 hours and I'll take that any time. We're on a course of 250 true with winds out of the north at about 15-18 knots.
I installed some more tv shows and movies on both our IPods so we have some entertainment in the cockpit as we cruise through the night. It gets a bit lonely out there after an hour or two. Tracy stays asleep till about 0030 and I slept in till 0600. I just didn't hear the alarm or the clock was not functioning right. But 5.5 hours of sleep is great out here.
So far, our Hydrovane(James) is doing a great job at steering Zephyr. Not a complaint and it doesn't use any electricity nor want any food for doing it's job. It may not be a perfectly straight course as an electric autopilot steers, but with no demand on our limited power, he's a champ as far as the two of us are concerned. The biggest surprise for me was our DuoGen. This is our drag behind power generator. Check out DuoGen on Google and see what it looks like. It goes into the water with a big bracket attached to the stern and just drifts along behind the boat with a small propeller that as it spins in the water make all the power we have needed so far. As a boater with limited sources of power available, one becomes quite (how should I say this)paranoid about the power consumption as we go on or trip. The DuoGen has made it much easier than I had ever expected it to be.
The Genoa sail is still out of action. It will have to wait till the seas are calmer as I felt like a YoYo being mistreated by some small child having a temper tantrum yesterday. I got slapped around the mast quite well during my time up there. I did make it to the second spreader but that was as far as I felt I could go at the time.
Blue came off her throne yesterday afternoon and cuddled in with me on the port side settee. With Zephyr tilted to the port side, it's one of the best place to sit or lie down on where you won't get thrown off. She was quite the contented kitty and purred and purred. Nice to see her adapting to the new environment. Snowshoe tends to cuddle in with Tracy in the same place while she catches some ZZZZs.
We're expecting a weather update later today when I get on the SSB radio. I've been chastised by Sailmail as being on line too long while sending and receiving messages. The stations I can log onto to get my messages have really bad propagation and that tends to slow down the message transfer a bunch. A 256K modem of old would b e much faster than what we have here to use. Oh well. Not a tremendous amount I can do about it other then try and find a better connection. Time will tell. If you happen to know how to contact Sailmail, let them know that we are crossing the Pacific and will try and do our best. Heck, we haven't used it hardly at all for the last 6 months. They allow you 90 minutes of on line time each week. Sometimes, it take a good 20+ minutes to get my messages in and out each day.
Tracy's two cents:
Not much going on. I honestly can't tell you what day it is. Time in that respect doesn't mean much out here. It hasn't been calm enough for me to stitch or read, it's that seasick thing. I had to go back on the navy cocktail when the sea state picked up to waves in the 8 foot range. They are not on top of each other, rather long period swells, but the wind waves are about 3 to 5 feet high and it is quite choppy. I asked Bill to make lunch today...I think dinner will be a very abbreviated affair.
I'm so glad we put in all the Hella Turbo fans in the main cabin, it make life tolerable. The cabin temp right now is 82.7 degrees and it is overcast today, when the sun comes out, it gets really hot. So far the humidity is fine at 63%. Around the equator the cabin temp will be around 96 and the humidity about the same. I think I'll be shaving Snowshoe whether or not he likes it.
Both pusses have stopped drooling and have adapted well, they don't seem to want dry food and hold out for canned...that's fine we bought plenty to last for this passage.
We checked into the Pacific Puddle Jump net for the "social" checkin where we discuss any mechanical issues, the weather and how the previous night went. If you have a HF radio the frequency is 8 bravo or 8297.0 upper side band at 1500 Zulu, then the evening formal check in is at 0130Zulu same frequency.
I have a pineapple that we bought at the Mega in Bucerias green as green could be and it is now ripe, so before it goes over the hill I need to cut it up. Fresh fruit becomes really special. By the end of next week we won't have any fresh fruit left.
04/13/2011, Out on the ocean
Yesterday evening, we had a bird fest at Zephyrs mast head. Brown Boobies were vying for the space at the top. We ended up with three very determined birds not only on the top of the mast but out along our wind vane that tells us wind speed as well as direction. An important instrument for a sailor. No amount of shaking of the lines that go to the mast nor pounding on the rigging did any good. They were in for the night. By morning, they are gone but we expect another crew out this evening. About 8 birds in all were vying for the top space. None wanted the previous evening birds place on the stern rail. Go figure.
The night was very bouncy with disorganized waves and swells from primarily north but they came in bunches instead of the 10 to 12 second intervals that is the norm. We rocked and rolled all night long with poor Zephyr grunting and groaning all through the night. Tracy came up on watch at midnight and I took her place at 0400. With it being so rocky, she went to bed(if you can call it that) with a headache.
It's not safe to just stand in our boat any more. You have to either hold on to something or sit down to do any thing. That even includes getting dressed or undressed. You slide your shorts on and then sit down. On for the socks and shoes(still sitting). You even put on your shirt while seated. Once you get that far, you judge the speed of the rocking and then stand quickly and fasten and zip your pants. Every movement on board takes forethought. You can't just get up and go. The bruises, cuts and scrapes on my body attest to that-- and never, not ever stand on one of the plexy glass hatches on deck. Those suckers are slick when salt covers them.
With the failure of the bearing at the top of our roller furler, I had planed to go up the mast today to fix it. We dug out the parts from under the stern bunk and then made plans as to what else needed to be taken up with me. Heck, I even did the unmanly thing of actually reading the instruction manual on how to fix it. We played with putting Zephyr in a "heave to" position. This is where you adjust your sails so that the boat no longer has any forward momentum. It simply sits in the water and slowly moves down wind. We'd never done it before. After some adjustments, Zephyr slid right into the heave to position with just a bit of forward momentum. With Tracys help, I put on the bosuns chair and attached lines to it and started up the mast. The winds were lite and the swells were not too bad. As I started up, --up came the winds and out came the waves. They had been hiding all along. After getting bounced around the mast from the back side of it to the front side of it and pushed around the shrouds that support the mast, I decided it was no longer calm enough to allow me to get to the top of the mast. We'll try again tomorrow with the mainsail down so I can use the steps I put on the mast while we were in Paradise Village. I'll have more traction doing it that way.
We got a message from our weather router that we should head more westerly to catch better winds so after all the mast equipment was put away, we hoisted the sails again to the top of the mast and took off. OK, no genoa sail to really give us power, but we are still doing 5+ knots most of the time and I'm happy with that. We'd be in the 7 range with the genoa out. But tomorrow is another day. Most of the other boats that left with us all took a more westerly course while we headed more southwest to hit the ITCZ as soon as we could. Our new course will allow us a bit faster speed as the wind will be on our beam.
The skies are now just partly cloud which is an improvement over yesterday 80% cloud cover. It's a beautiful shade of blue out there. The kids are coming out more and more but if looks could kill, Blue would have us all walking the plank. They're adjusting quite well considering what the weather and seas were the first few days out here.
Tracy's two cents:
Bill really covered yesterday fairly well, so I don't have a lot to add. The seasickness is getting better, I haven't taken meds since last night and I feel okay. When we had to take everything out from under the stern berth, that normally would have put me out for the count and writing this blog would be unthinkable, so I must be getting better!
Oh, about the spare parts box under the berth. We couldn't have put it on the top layer, oh no, it was under EVERYTHING. So out everything came and the parts were retrieved and then all the stuff (great ballast) went back in with my box of cross stitch supplies down in the bottom and the spare parts box at the top along with the medicine box. Trying to think ahead...
Bill is right about the bruises and scrapes. We are really black and blue, some scrapes I don't even remember what happened.
The skies are nice and blue this afternoon after lots of cloud cover, so moods are better. We just finished lunch of smoked gouda, crackers and grapes and an ice cold soft drink. Wow, what heaven. I have a fresh pineapple that we are going to have to eat soon. Things ripen awfully fast , I'm surprised how much I've had to pitch overboard because it had gone over the hill...several oranges, a lemon and an apple as well as a cabbage that was a victim of the overflowing head. Euuuu. Uck.
Last night, about 0245, I saw a LARGE ship on the horizon and tried to raise it on the VHF radio. No response. I tried looking for it on our Nobeltec program that shows the AIS (Automatic Identification system) but it wasn't listed there either. I raised Bill and he tried the same thing and then turned on all the outside lights on Zephyr. Eventually we saw the ship turn to their port and slowly pass us in the night. That's only the second ship we have seen out here other than one or two of the other sail boats headed for the Marquesas. It's quite the deserted ocean out here.
Flying fish/ squid suicide report: 3 flying fish one squid. More in twenty four.