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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Day 13 to the Marquisas
Randy
06/20/2008, South Pacific

Day 12, for the second day in a row, saw a meager 160 miles under the keel. The two days with very light wind from the east impacted our VMG (velocity made good) heavily. Not only did we proceed slowly but we have had to jibe along the track line due to the wind angle. We sail nicely at 135 degrees off the wind. Anything much deeper and we lose too much boat speed to make up for with the better angle. The evening closed in with showers in the neighborhood. None hit us but they were playing with the wind in the area as the night went by.

Early in the morning the wind came up and we began to post hours in the high 8 knots. The average came down throughout the day but we are still turning out a good 7 knots in lighter winds at sunset. We have a mixed swell which makes things a little rolly in the boat but not too bad. The day was beautiful and we all enjoyed it. Blue sky with fair weather cumulus here and there.

I was determined to catch some dinner today. We were trawling at 8-9 knots and I hooked something big with a pink squid lure (famous for Mahi Mahi). In the excitement the instructions to the helm got confused and we sped up! Well the line broke in short order as we approached 10 knots. Undaunted we put out one of our last squid lures (we lost the other pink squid yesterday due to what appears to be a bad knot at the swivel). Within 30 minutes we had a strike. As I tried to reel it in I was constantly concerned that the line would break. It was a big sucker and he was pulling hard.

After a 20 minute fight we finally got him to the boat. Nobu snagged him with the boat hook and we had a flopping 30 pound tuna on the deck. This is our biggest fish yet. Probably about as big as we ever need to catch. It will take three days of tuna breakfast, lunch and dinner to finish this guy off.

Nobu and I shot two sun lines today as well as a noon sight. We're getting much more accurate with practice.

Nobu says: "Celestial navigation is complicated but very interesting"

Hideko says: "zzzz (sleeping before her watch)"

615 nm to go...

French Polynesia
Day 12 to the Marquisas
Randy
06/19/2008, South Pacific

Day 11 saw 160 miles under the keel. Still well off our prior average. We were a trawler for the better part of the day with winds as low as 2 knots apparent. It was a beautiful day though and everyone aboard had fun doing celestial navigation, napping, reading and studying French. We are back under full sail now with maybe 10 knots apparent, 7 knots of way and a COG that is 20 degrees south of the mark. We're all hoping the wind backs tomorrow as it is supposed to.

Nobu says: "I'm getting used to no wind..."

Hideko says: "The Marquesas are getting more beautiful in my mind every day"

780 nm to go...

French Polynesia
Day 11 to the Marquisas
Randy
06/18/2008, South Pacific

As expected day 10 ended at noon today and turned in only 150 miles, and we had to burn dinosaurs to make that. Shortly after sunset the weather went bad and we had squalls coming in from all quarters. Most missed us but we took glancing blows from three or four and at least two direct hits. They we not severe and had no more than 25 to 30 knots of wind in them at the edge and then gradually faded back to the obligatory light and variable. Hideko was very happy to have her new cockpit enclosure up.

We motored all night with the main, then the main and jib and then finally in the morning the wind became consistent enough to sail so we killed the Yanmar. After an hour or two working out way west on starboard tack with a little north in the heading the wind quit. We started up the diesel again and motor sailed for a bit, then put away the flogging jib, and finally dropped the flogging main it got so bad.

Normally we would leave the main up and just sheet it in tight to keep it from beating around too much. Unfortunately our rig check today (we do one every day with binoculars) turned up a problem. Our top two battens are broken on the main. At first it was hard to figure because these battens are above all of the shrouds and we've been very careful this trip to ensure the main stays off the shrouds. This hurts our performance of course because we're trying to sail a deep broad reach most of the time.

Of course the battens were broken when the first reef was in. We dropped the main and checked the alignment on the way down and it was a match. I think they may have been mostly broken some time ago and just finally came unhinged. Perhaps the 50 knot bit coming into Bonaire or the all day thrashing on the way to Baraquilla. The top batten is barely noticeable but if you look close when the sail is limp (plenty of opportunity for that today) you can tell it has a break. The second batten down is also hard to see a problem with when the wind is up but there is a tear in the batten pocket forming on the break which you can see and it flogs more noticeably than the top batten in flaky wind. Although something we will fix at first opportunity neither are immediate concerns. We will just be very careful about securing the main when there is not enough wind to keep it set.

This mornings net has had us rethinking our landfall plans. We have friends, Pablo and Louise, coming in to French Polynesia (with our new prop!) the 3rd of July. We need to be somewhere that they can fly to from Papeete and that means Nuku Hiva or Hiva Oa. Fatu Hiva is the closest landfall and a beautiful place from what we hear. Many cruisers have been targeting the Bay of Virgins as their first landfall. We were as well. However we are getting reports on the morning SSB nets that boats there are getting fined if they are not check in. In the past boats would arrive at Fatu Hiva, stay a couple days and then head to Hiva Oa to check in. This is because Fatu Hiva is closest to the Galapagos and also to windward (thus hard to sail back to once passed).

Well it seems the authorities are no longer welcoming this minor bending of the rules. Thus we have decided to revise our track to Nuku Hiva. Nuku Hiva is a beautiful island from all accounts, a check in destination, and complete with a few restaurants and shops as well as an airport. Our current thinking is that we will anchor here and await our friend and new prop. This does add 60 nautical miles or so to the journey (not to mention the poor tracking we've been keeping with the east wind).

While running the motor all day is noisy it does have some advantages. First you have all the power you need. Use computers, watch movies, heat up with the microwave, make espresso, whatever. Second if you are running the motor the seas are flat, nice for a break from the big days in week one. Perhaps best of all, critters come to see what the noise is about. For the first time since the Galapagos we had a big pack of Pacific White Sided dolphins come and play on the bow for an hour or two at sunset. We never get tired of laying on the trampoline watching the dolphins play.

Nobu says: "After our rig check today I realize how important it is to stay in touch with the boat"

Hideko says: "I saw the most amazing shooting stars last night, they were so big and brilliant crashing into the atmosphere they looked like fireworks"

923 nm to go... (less than 1,000, even with the new waypoints!!)

French Polynesia
Day 10 to the Marquisas
Randy
06/17/2008, South Pacific

After the most enjoyable 24 hours on the water, our 9th period turned in only 195 miles. I suppose the modest progress goes with the smooth sailing territory.

As the sailor's proverb goes, too much wind or not enough. Today we were in the latter category. Yesterday's mellow wind was followed by no wind. Today the wind turned east and light, making it impossible for us to sail the rhumb line to Fatu Hiva. Fatu Hiva bears 261 degrees true presently and the wind is coming just about due east. Sailing a deep broad reach (wind 135 degrees to port, traveler tight on the main and jib hooked to the rail with a 4 part purchase) we made 215 true. This not only ran us south of Fatu Hiva but the rest of French Polynesia as well. Pitcairn anyone? And not soon at 6-7 knots with 6 apparent.

We thought we had it in the bag. Two weeks under sail to the Marquesas. Two hundred mile days plus. All of that. At 13:00 local time we killed the dream and engaged the Auxiliary Apparent Wind Angle Improvement Device. We are now motor sailing dead down wind a bit high of the mark in hopes of sailing when the wind backs over the next day or so. Best guess is now 15 days at sea and arrival on the 23rd, six days from now. This will be our lowest mileage day yet. :-(

A few squalls in the area brought slight wind shifts and maybe 5 knots of additional breeze. We rode one lift for an hour and rinsed a little salt off of the decks. Nobu and I took noon sights. Longitude, good, latitude not so good. The sun was behind the clouds and we were riding a pretty sharp mixed SW/SE 3 meter swell, but hey if Shackelton's guy could get within a mile in a long boat during a gale in Antarctica, we can certainly do better.

Nobu says: "Randy is teaching me celestial navigation, I am confused"

Hideko says: "I wish we could have sailed the whole way"

1,020 nm to go...

French Polynesia
Day 9 to the Marquisas
Randy
06/16/2008, South Pacific

It was a wonderful 24 hours. We have enjoyed going fast for the first week but everyone was ready for the light airs last night and today. We ran the full main all night and the moon was almost bright enough to do log entries by. The seas were pleasant following swells that every once in a while would get us up to 10 knots.

Conditions persisted today with wind in the 8-12 apparent zone. Everyone enjoyed the tranquility. In the afternoon we set the spinnaker for the first time since we purchased the boat. We tested it in the Bahamas but our trip through the Caribbean was mostly to windward until crossing the north coast of South America, where it was Christmas winds 20 knots plus the whole way. It is a beautiful sail and gave us about a knot over the jib, giving us a boat speed of 8.5 to 9.5 knots with 7-12 apparent.

At noon today we completed our 8th 24 hour day with perhaps a few miles short of a 200 mile run.

Nobu says: "The Spinnaker is so cool, great design"

Hideko says: "I had the most comfortable sailing of my entire life today"

1,190 nm to go...

French Polynesia
Day 8 to the Marquisas
Randy
06/15/2008, South Pacific

It was the worst day and the best day all in one. This morning the 4 meter southeast swell was pumping with a bone in its teeth and a 9 second interval. Add to that some mix in from the southwest and 20-25 knots of wind kicking up a nasty chop. Bumpy would be a word. We put the whole main up about three times but each time took it back to reef one. With the whole main up the boat would run 9-11 knots in about as deep a broad reach as we could make. Shallower and we would miss Fatu Hiva, deeper and the wave action would harsh out the rig not to mention launching us down waves at 17 plus knots. Surfing in the high teens is fun, for an hour or so. For hours on end it gets tiring.

Late in the afternoon things started to calm down. Before long we were ghosting along at 8 knots with 12 knots apparent and following seas on reasonable proportions. It was a wonderful afternoon watching the little puffy clouds seemingly frozen in the blue sky. The day certainly holds our all time reef record with 4 reefings/shake-outs in one day. In fact the crew is so good at it that we're going to leave the full main up tonight. We almost always put in a reef at night just to slow things down and avoid having to reef in the dark should it be called for. Tonight there will be a brilliant moon and if things start to fall apart we'll reef early but not often...

At noon today we completed our 7th 24 hour day with a 200 mile run. We are now half way! Looks like it will be a two week crossing.

Nobu says: "I am totally relaxed, this afternoon's sailing is so peaceful I can meditate."

Hideko says: "I can't wait to see only three digit numbers in the miles to go..."

1,396 nm to go...

French Polynesia
Day 7 to the Marquisas
Randy
06/14/2008, South Pacific

Another great sailing day. We are sailing with the wind 135 to port and just managing to fetch Fatu Hiva. We closed out our 6th 24 hour period with another 200 mile day. The swell is quite large and it would be nice if the period were longer (3.5-4 meters at 9-10 seconds). You begin the trip looking at a 4 meter swell and say "yikes", but after a day or two it is "yawn", just a little too rolly for exotic cooking, that's all.

This deep into the wind the jib can give us problems if the breeze backs for a bit. We rigged up a preventer for the jib that has been working well, keeping the jib from collapsing. I have considered poles but unless I add a big screecher or the like I really don't think you need anything more that the setup we're using.

We had a birthday party for Nobu today. He is 26 today! Happy Birthday Nobu. I made a birthday breakfast with Lattes and French Toast and Hideko made a yummy birthday dinner with a brownie birthday cake.

Nobu says: "I'm a lucky man to be here, thanks for a memorable birthday!"

Hideko says: "Happy Birthday Nobu!!! We couldn't ask for a better crew!!"

1,586 nm to go...

French Polynesia

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