04/25/2012, 6 Degrees North of Equator
We've missed the last few days to blog, as the weather deteriorated rather quickly. what we thought was the beginning of the ITCZ, was a trough of low pressure that brought lightning, winds to 35 knots, seas to 12 feet, and sleepless nights for all. The mainsail was dropped and the headsail was reefed to barely the size of a handkerchief to slow the boat down. The boat still managed to clock strong 7 and 8's throughout the day and night. The morning brought less winds, but the seas were still tossing Sherpa around pretty good.
Luckily, Passpartout, continues to steer us on course, but below decks through the night, gear was being tossed from one side of the boat to another. Those of us not on watch slept with one eye open, for a missile in the shape of a duffel bag or backpack.
The upside of our 36 hours of "weather", is we may miss the ITCZ entirely (which is a good thing), as the trough may just connect the NE trade directly to the SE trades, with no convection, lightning or unstable air. The ITCZ generally meanders around between 3N and 10N, but can't be predicted, especially for a slow moving sailboat.
You would think it would be pretty empty out here in this part of the Pacific, but we've spotted 2 ships, one looked to be a rusty old fishing boat about 75 feet or so, maybe from Mexico or some other Central American country. This morning Pete spotted another vessel, with all her lights on. I think it may have been a fish processing ship, but am only guessing.
Sea life has been plentiful, we have several birds that have been around for a 1000 miles, they feed on the flying fish that shoot out from the front of our bow. We think they are terns, albatross's and boobies. The booby has tried numerous times to hitch a ride on the top of the mast, but we have made it an undesirable spot, blowing the air horn. He got back at us though, a nice surprise he left on the canvas below. We've also spotted a sea turtle, long, long way from home.
We're about 400 miles or so from the equator and expect to cross it over the next few days. It should be a beam reach after that right into Hiva Oa, but we'll see, as other boats have reported light SE trades.
04/23/2012, 9 Degrees North of Equator
This last 24 hours has been like a ride at Disneyland, thank goodness not a coaster at Magic Mountain. The big headsail was pulled down as the squall lines appeared on the eastern horizon. NOAA weather had called for a trough of unstable air between 10-12 degrees N, and East of 125, which should have put us out of range, but these forecasts are like any other weather forecast, not perfect. So batten down the hatches, put on the foulies and bring it on!
Winds built to a steady 20-25 knots out of the NE, luckily we are on a broad reach, so the wind is at our stern, making for a fast downhill run. We clocked wind gusts of about 40, but didn't last long. These occurred as the squall lines moved through. Needless to say, nobody got a good nights rest, as we reefed down, let em out, and then did it all over again a few times. At one point the boat was sailing over 9 knots, which is way above its theoretical hull speed of about 7.5, definitely, surfing down the swells, Paul has that record, but Pete is right behind sailing at about 8.75 knots. I'm sure this will be our fastest 24 hour run to date, we've had one of 152, but this one could be closer to 160.
The decks finally got the bath they needed to wash all the salt that had accumulated since leaving Ventura. The rains went off and on through most of the night, down below has been dry for the most part, except for a few spots here and there. Now we just need some warm tropical sun to dry out our rain gear and towels.
Tomorrow we do the ITCZ dance. John
04/22/2012, 13 Degrees North of Equator
Just like at home, the chores never end. Maybe even more so on a cruising boat. Winds are light and seas are flat all day today, which is ideal to catch up on spiffing the boat up. The weather has turned to shorts and t-shirts weather from here on out, so all the warmer clothes and foul weather gear is packed away for the passage back north sometime in the future.
The water tanks were all topped off with the watermaker, produced about 50 gallons today. I guess since we can make water, with no issues to date, we continue our liberal use. That would all change if an issue arose with the system. For those considering a WM, my decision to go with 110V rather than DC I believe was a better choice. We make about 20 GPH, and a DC would be down around 7 GPH, and we still would need to run some form of engine, diesel/Honda. The Honda is definitely worth it's weight.
The stores are starting to recede a bit, we provisioned well, with the intent of possibly not being able to resupply until Papeete. After nearly two weeks of consumption, it is a little easier to find stuff, rather than rummaging around a locker for that missing box of rice or candy bar. Some previous cruisers have had issues with their reefer, we seem to have the opposite, everything is frozen. Not a bad problem to have, Maybe the thermo stat just isn't working proper;y, we have solved that by just manually tuning the thing off periodically.
Time to go, I'm on the midnight watch, so need to get back to my star gazing.
04/20/2012, Below latittude of Big Island--15N
The cloud cover broke this morning to the sound of the Penn reel buzzing with a fish strike (Thanks Chris C.). Quickly we slowed the boat down and proceeded to bring in our gift from the sea, a beautiful Bluefin tuna. Not too big, maybe 7-8 pounds which was a nice way to start, rather than hooking a billfish that we would have to let go along with the gear. We grilled up our prize for our daily sunset dinner, luckily Pete found the wasabi before we left, so we all had some sashimi for apps. The sunset this evening was the clearest we've had so far, not a cloud in the sky, and were even fortunate to see the green flash as the sun sunk into the western sky.
The passage is in a smooth routine now, 4 on, 8 off through the night, sunset dinners in the cockpit. Pete does the 8:30pm check in for Seafarers Net, updating our position and weather..........The water is now above 80 degrees, which has allowed the pants to come off and just shorts, tees, sunglasses and hats. I'm sure as we approach the equator, we will be wishing for some cloud cover and at least a cool evening.
The smaller working jib was switched out to the 135 now that the trades winds are a consistent 10-20, except for when the winds stay under 15, then the big Code Zero does all the work.
Passpartout, our tireless helmsman, continues to steer a steady course to our next waypoint, no complaints, no tiring, the perfect crew for that job. I don't think anyone would be up for steering a boat 24/7 on these long ocean passages.
Boat systems all seem to be running well, it'll be nice to have full days of sun in order for the solar to keep up with our energy consumption alone. Otherwise, we will either need to run the diesel or the generator to keep our batteries full. The wind generator isn't much use on the current point of sail, as the apparent wind is less than 10 knots, she needs that to really start producing anything.
Got go now, want to take in the the clear starry night.
04/18/2012, In the inky dink Blue Pacific
Crossed the 1000 mile mark today, not quite a 1/3 of the way, as winds haven't allowed us to sail on the Rhumbline, but that was expected. Today was a pretty lazy day, I think everybody got caught up on their sleep and reading, as the boat has been running itself. Passpartout has been steering the course, and very little has been needed in terms of sail change or adjustment--Ahh, gotta love trade wind sailing!!
Got the stereo all hooked up to the laptop today, so now we have a 1000+ song library interfaced right into the stereo, one more of my list items that didn't quite get finished before we left, not too many left.
We are currently running the watermaker, but this time on the little Honda generator, I think this is definitely more efficient and economical, unless we are motoring, then the diesel and the inverter makes sense.
As we have been trying to eat all the fresh provisions first, I haven't dropped a line in the water yet, sorry Chris C.(who helped rig over 25 lures), I know if you were aboard we'd have all 4 lines in the water, and fresh Mahi every night. That said, tomorrow is the day to put on my fishing hat and bring in some Sashimi for the crew.
Weather is great, puffy clouds, blue skies and a really deep blue ocean. Temp was about 76 today, though still cool in the evenings.
We made it through the Tropic of Cancer into the tropics, next stop intermediate waypoint at 7 North, 130 West, where we will dive due south through the ITCZ into the southern trades, still about 5-7 days out, wind permitting.
04/17/2012, Just entered the Tropics
They say cruising on a sailboat is just fixing it in exotic places, well I'm fixing, but we are in the middle of the ocean, nothing exotic yet, but I know we are heading there. We had a little issue with our solar array, blew a fuse and just the one I didn't have a spare, got one of every other. Luckily Paul and I found a solution, we just ran it to another fuse block, and got em going again. Need the solar to power all our navigation, communications and electronic gadgets......
We made it into the tropics last night, water temp 72 degrees, warmer winds. Nice to be in the trades. We are ticking off 140+ days, which is what I had hoped for, 150's are a bonus. We've only had 2 under 125 and those were in the first few days, when we were fighting the weather early on.
Everyone is in there routine, we've been doing 4 on, 8 off watch system, but really only from 8pm to 8am, then we all sort of watch the horizon and the boat. So once every 3 days someone gets the dog watch, 12-4am. Really not that bad, as the stars are much brighter in the middle of the ocean w/ no light pollution.
The boat has been running with a double reefed main and either the 110 jib or the big code zero, we usually pull the big sail at night for safety, but she really gives you a push when flying it.
Next stop Equator