05/05/2012, 250 miles NE of Hiva Oa
The winds down below the equator definitely are more temperamental than their northern counter-parts. We have experienced long hours of calms, then a lightning filled squall pushes the wind gauge to over thirty knots, and we quick;y race on deck to shorten sail before anything breaks or worse, we get knocked down or blow a sail out. These squalls generally don't last more than 20-30 minutes, but last night it seemed the we traveled in it for a couple of hours. I think we were both just heading the same direction at the same pace.
The calms seem to be consistent, right around 2-3 in the afternoon, wind lightens down to below 5 knots, which makes it difficult to keep wind in the sail and Passpartout complains it is so low he can't feel it over the deck to make any adjustments. We would normally motor, but with the raw water pump leaking at the seal, I would rather save our motoring for around the island. We have already ordered a replacement pump and should arrive shortly after we arrive in Hiva Oa, ahhh! email technology and fedex, well and Christina and Jason (my mechanic) helped also--thanks!!
We have not been immune to other breakage. On my dog watch, with a full moon, I watched as the spinnaker halyard snapped at the top of the sail, sending the code zero helplessly into the water, dragged at the bow. We quickly got her back on the boat and lashed on the deck. We'll go aloft when we get to the islands to re-run the halyard through the block at the top of the mast. Paul has volunteered to go up the stick, we'll wait until we are in a safe, smooth anchorage.
We have been getting our share of chafe on the running rigging. On a long passage like this, the consistent motion of of lines, going through blocks or rubbing against stuff, slowly starts to fray. You need to be diligent and keep an eye on things.
During the morning watch after the squalls, with a near full moon overhead, we were escorted by a pod of dolphins, that seemed to stay with us for about an hour, showing us the way. Must be a good sign we are nearing our first landfall.
05/04/2012, 400 miles from Hiva Oa
It feels good to be moving again with the hope of arriving on Monday. Along the way we have established a few daily routines. A favorite is our sunset dinners. First we have social hour and watch the unique clouds at these latitudes. Hard to describe as they roam around the 360 horizon puffing and towering skyward with long interesting streams and flows like a volcano. As dinner is served the sunsets which many times is a 120* arch with the sky and streaking clouds turning orange and red. The sun sets in the west but the red many night remains in the South for an hour or so. Then there is the lone sunset bird that visits each night to circle the boat and mark its territory with droppings. Another routine is the morning round table discussions. We have solved most of the world problems out here. Since we are without Wikipedia we have established our own set of facts and truths.
05/02/2012, 500 miles from Hiva Oa
After a consistent run thru the N Hemisphere, we found the light variable southern tradewinds. The general recommendation was to get most of your westing North of the equator, as the winds are much lighter down here. I am sitting in the cockpit, 9:00 at night, all sails furled, and coasting at one knot with the current. At this rate we should be there in another 22 days. Luckily winds come and go, and I'm sure sometime through the night the winds will return, sails will be unfurled, and we will be underway again. The days have been quite hot, so the breeze through the cabin and cockpit is minimal. We rigged up some sun shades around the bimini, I call it the "little cabana". Still pretty hot out here.
Yesterday, we pulled sail, and took a swim w/ the mermaids, yea we are already seeing things. It is really quite a feeling to dive in the ocean a 1000 miles from anywhere. Nobody swam to far away form Sherpa, though we trailed a rope just in case a puff came up. (someone always stayed aboard) Pete got two 8's and a 9 to lead the diving competition off the dinghy on the foredeck. I thought the hull would have some growth on it, as we were heeled over on one side most of the way, but not too many barnacles.
We are expecting to make landfall probably this weekend at the earliest, but looking closer to monday if we keep experiencing these flukey winds. Most of the other boats still out here on there way are coming form the Galapagos Islands, and listening to the evening net, they are experiencing much of the same winds and weather. There are a couple of boats behind us. I think there were probably about 100-150 boats making the passage this year form points along the Americas, not sure how many were coming the thru Canal from Europe.
05/01/2012, Southern Hemisphere
Crossed the equator at 2:15am on Monday morning April 30. King Neptune put on quite the party for us to turn us from mere Pollywogs into infamous Shellbacks!
Pete woke us all up for the party. Dressed up with our crowns and scepters, we toasted the crossing with the aged Pusser's rum Ken on Varnebank had given the crew prior to shoving off--Thanks Ken for the good stuff, ain'yt much left!! That King Neptune liked the good stuff!
Needless to say the party continued into the morning. We couldn't have asked for nicer weather, the moon was out, a nice breeze out of the NE at about 10 knots made for a smooth sailing party. Quite the scene.
I'm not sure who was steering the boat during all the activity, Pete, Paul or Poseidon.
We are experiencing lighter than normal winds, I think, probably do to the light La Nina, which is why CA has had a cool winter. The equatorial waters are a bit warmer, but not the full El Nino.
We are bout 600 miles NE of Hiva Oa and expect to make land fall sometime over this next weekend, weather and seas permitting--but looks good on the Grib weather files for some clocking of the winds to the east, which should help us make on the current tack.
04/29/2012, 25 miles North of Equator
We are getting close, King Neptune is awaiting to make us Shellbacks, lowly Pollywogs no more!
Watchkeeping/Keep the boat moving
Our watch system from the start has been 4 on/ 8 off, but we only start our watch at 8pm. So, formally, only really responsible for four hours every 24 hours. During the day everyone just keeps an eye on the boat or whoever is not cat napping during the day. This has worked out very well, as no one has had any issues, no complaining......I personally found the 8pm to midnight the hardest, as I'm really not a catnap kind of person, so by 11pm, fading pretty fast. Besides that, they are all sleeping, so they'll never know I'm sleeping on watch.
The watch routine has been pretty simple, as trade wind sailing doesn't require a lot of sail change or course corrections. In fact we have been on the port tack for at least the past 2 weeks or so, even during the blow we had to 30 knots, just rolled in some sail and reefed down deep. Everyone seems to occupy their watch time differently. Paul is a voracious reader, seems like every time I look up he is reading something under the light of his headlamp. Pete, thank goodness is our sail trimmer, he tends to really get the most out of the point of sail day or night. I on the other hand, listen to music and gaze at the stars, oh and take a few catnaps :)
Keeping the boat moving requires changing the headsail back and forth from the 135 to the big code zero, and any reefing of the main. Surprisingly, Sherpa really sails nice in the trades with no main up at, she balances better and we see no real loss of boat speed. The other part of keeping us moving is doing a routine check of all the systems onboard, rigging, sails, mechanical, engine, thru-hulls.....
Knock on wood, we've had just a few items that needed fixed or attended to. We had a little problem, that could have been a big problem, with the holding tank overboard pump. Nothing a piece of bicycle tube couldn't fix. We blew the solar panel fuse, but were able to reroute it through another fuse block, all running fine now, making power to keep those beers frosty cold!! The last few items we'll have to wait, the engine room blower is on its last legs (makes a lot of racket, just turn it off), and we seem to have a leaking raw water pump on the engine, which I'm hoping will hold up until we get to Hiva Oa, and find a replacement or have one shipped. Wouldn't you know I have 4 spare pumps, but didn't get a spare for that one--probably the most important one. I guess we could rout the flow through one of the other spares we have on board in a pinch.
All in all the boat has been "Moving" just fine, about 750 miles to go to the first landfall. Let's hope all stays status quo.
04/28/2012, 1 Degrees North of Equator
Sleep, Eat, Watches/Keep Boat Moving, Reading, and Much Lively Conversation.
That's basically all there is to a day in the life on a small cruising boat. That's the blog for today :)
I put sleep first, as it seems you never can get enough, even though most nights you get 8 hours, except for the dog watch between midnight to 4am, the motion of the boat always has your body searching to find equalibrium, even as you sleep. It seems like when you get up, it felt like you just had fallen asleep--Nope, Hey Pete, it's your watch!! We've found to sneak in cat naps as much as possible, because you never know when you are going to be awoken in the night, that the boat needs a sail change, all hands on deck. Actually, nobody seems to be having any problems with getting up when it's their watch. The boat is big enough were there is plenty of room to catch some zzz's and catch up.
Eat. Should we BBQ steak with a red potato salad and a peach cobbler, or should we have Salmon on bed of couscous and brownies? We provisioned for 45+ days, not knowing what would be available in the Marquesas. The majority of the food in these islands comes in by ship maybe once a month, so you could get lucky, or that can of Spam may be it on the shelves when you arrive. We have heard that baquettes are available daily, but they go fast--Viva La France! Can't wait, as we are down to Tortillas with our peanut butter and jelly. after that, I guess a spoonful of each. The boat has a reefer, that is a combination fridge/freezer, but about total size of the freezer side of a double fridge. We have it packed to the brim, but are able to have most everything you would normally have at home. The jury is still out if you drop weight or gain it on passage, I'm going with the drop! We'll see. Pete has done a great job in the kitchen, making tasty meals and side dishes. Nobody has to worry, we ain't starvin out here, just the dilemma of what to have at the next meal, goat cheese omelette or French Toast from freshly baked raisin bread---Mmmm good!
Time for my watch, I'll continue the "daily life on passage" tomorrow John