04/29/2010, Underway from Mexico to Marquesas
Day 13 Wed 28 April
Sometimes I write to you as it is happening, sometimes after the event. Or both. Day 13 is behind us, like the swirling miles left in the wake, like all things that are past, and gone. What memories of it do I retain?
Fast! We were moving fast. On the port tack, heading just west of south, bustling along, fussing with self importance our bow wave was, saying: here we come, sssstand aside please! The sound of it at speed is like a wave breaking on a beach, or like the roar of the crowd from a stadium half a mile away ("The crowd goes wild!").A Beautiful sunrise, and later the sun shone warmly, before it clouded over dropping the watts inputting the batteries from the solar panels. As fast as 7 ½ knots we went, quite often. At 7.9 knots I call out to the boat "you can DO it, Richard!" (a line from Mel Brooks' comedy movie high Anxiety)craving that extra one-tenth of a knot! I want 8.(At the time of writing this, I got it!)
Cutting a zigzag track downwind, we now gybe the boat once more onto the starboard tack, planning to go all day and all night on this westerly course. Keeping within a corridor 50 miles either side of the rhumb line (course to waypoint), and also avoiding a hazard - a 200 yard long piece of 2" thick rope reported floating at a position touching our corridor.
So all day the boat steers herself, her motion (if you can imagine!) like being on a train with soft rubbery springs - swaying, leaping, ceaseless. Sometimes we catch up on sleep, sometimes read, or discuss whether it is time for lunch yet, or report our position or chat on the SSB radio, keep a look out, talk, plot our position on the chart, write emails, send and receive emails, receive weather forecasts, sleep, read, and so on. I finished Johnny Cash The Autobiography, enjoyed it very much; I was tearily moved at times, he tells a good story.
And, at evening time, a moonrise that fooled Adrienne; she goes up the companionway, looks out, and cries "OOH!! -A CRUISE SHIP!!" It was actually the moon rising, made to look rectangular by being sandwiched between the horizon and low cloud. I could see it that way too.
No flying fish on deck this morning, after 10 of them were discovered on deck the day before. They must have found out what was causing it!
Stay safe. Stay happy!
PS By the way, neither of us gets seasick. Very grateful for that, I am. It wasn't always that way, at least for me.
04/28/2010, Underway from Mexico to Marquesas
We are flying. 1,200 miles behind us now. The screen says 6.5 knots speed over ground, but it feels like 7 or 8. Who cares? We are flying along. The foaming wake rushes by our side like city traffic, the huge swoosh of it gushing behind us like storm water,the bows pushing white water out of the way, fussing, as we bowl along in the moonlight. I'm below typing at the computer and still I hear it - a bush stream after rains, a waterfall, and now the boomph!! of a wave hitting the side. Twenty two-thirty California time zero six three zero in Greenwich, Adrienne asleep, off-watch, and I drink hot tea and nibble on fresh baked cookies. Adrienne wakes and speaks in gibberish: finstikuffs! - Glin my hoogle my fren! OOSH OOSH Baggoogle! I reply. It is a brief exchange - -- she enters sleep again. Baking cookies (earlier this evening)as the boat gallops along swaying and stumbling, is a delicate and even dangerous art. The gimbaled stove has a heavy oven door which, when opened, changes the balance and the stove rolls forward, spilling the tray of whatever cook is baking. What a marvel when finished! Cooling on a tea towel.
I ate three cookies.
We are on a port tack now, wind NNE on the port quarter, bow heading due South. Funny isn't it, you can go due North, due West, DUE East - but do you go due Southeast? No. We are "tacking downwind". As I explained yesterday, the wind - being directly in line with the desired course - doesn't work, yachts don't sail well dead downwind - so we go zig-zagging away from it, and the motion is more comfortable, the speed greater and the sails stay full. Wind blowing about 18 knots, all day and night for a couple of days now (I lose track of time) except when it rests, slows down to 8 or 10, then we get boistered by boisterous waves and the sails flap irritably, not liking it at all.
Today (remember we tore the main?) we hoisted the spare mainsail. It is very difficult to raise a mainsail while the boat is running with the wind (picture us running now for days on end) so we bring her on the wind, which increases wind velocity as we do so, and each slug goes into the mast track and the halyard lifts the sail higher into the wind. May have taken an hour, maybe two, or more, I really don't know, but it's done! Put two reefs in it (to reef is to reduce the area of the sail) so it won't blanket the big jib, and now we go back on course, the autopilot steering the whole time while we work. Chinese stir-fry chicken for lunch, regulation issue single bottle of beer each, and we have a ketch under full sail - jib, main and mizzen.
A good day.
04/27/2010, Underway from Mexico to Marquesas
Last night spoke on the VHF with a ship that was getting close fast, and had the experience of speaking with a woman with an American accent, on watch, who responded, yes, they had me on their radar, and had been tracking me since I was 14 miles away. They passed close astern of us. So helpful.
Started the engine this morning to charge the batteries and the wind had fallen light, so furled the jib and engaged the propeller and autopilot. Motored/sailed (mizzen still up) for 4 ½ hours.
While this was happening, watched for ships and repaired the spare mainsail, which had a little wear and tear along the leech. Chicken Chinese style with steamed rice for lunch, plus ship's ration of one cold beer each.
S/V Tomboy, husband and wife crew, broke a lower shroud - pin came loose. They will go to Sicorro Island, about 300 miles offshore, where the Mexican Navy has a base, for repairs, rather than continue their voyage to the Marquesas with rigging weakened. We passed Sicorro Is. 6 days ago.
Been struggling with an either/or the last 2 days. Either the boat goes on course to waypoint 05 deg N, 130 deg W (turn to port, head south across the ITCZ)in which case it rolls horribly, plates crash and the headsail flaps and flogs OR - it steers to West of the rumb line in which case it sails faster, more comfortable motion, and the headsail stays full and happy. Guess which one I chose. This waypoint is still 580 miles away. Wind is just not quite the right angle, and when it falls light the boat wallows and the headsail is made noisy and crumpled, by the jostling waves. I want the wind to stay strong, and to back into the NNW.
I write this on watch at 20 to 4 in the morning. The full moon backlights the clouds and also lights up the path ahead. How is it things so beautiful resist description? The same eyes with which I appreciate such loveliness search the horizon, for ships.
Leave you with a laugh.
This particular Sunday sermon....'Dear Lord,' the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. 'Without you, we are but dust...' He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter who was listening leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little four year old girl voice, 'Mom, what is butt dust?'
04/26/2010, Underway from Mexico to Marquesas
Day 10 ANZAC DAY
We have passed the point of one thousand nautical miles from our start point in Bahia de Banderras, Mexico. That means that on a passage of a touch under three thousand miles, we have a third of it behind us. Remember though the two thousand miles that are ahead include the doldrums, a belt of light and variable winds that lie between the two biggest wind systems on the planet, the Pacific Northeast Trades and the Pacific Southeast Trades. This band of thunderstorms, rain and calms barred the way for the early sailing ships, before the time of engines, and still is a problem for us "Pacific Puddle Jumpers" - the scatter of boats heading for the Marquesas - because we can't carry large amounts of diesel fuel.
Using fuel - on days 2,3,4 and 5 - to get out to the wind which we now gratefully have, and keeping some in hand for landfall and for helping others out in an emergency, leaves us a calculated amount for crossing the Intertropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ, as the doldrums are now known. The ITCZ can be 240 miles wide or more, sometimes twice that. To cross it you go due South. Our friend Sea Flyer received a gift of fuel in the middle of the night from a Cuban tanker - "I tried to tie alongside the ship, it was dark and the ship was painted black! Couldn't see it!" Said Gary. "The captain ended up dumping 12 jerrycans in the sea, with a light attached. He wouldn't leave until I had it onboard" - is cautiously motoring in the ITCZ right now at 3 or 4 knots. He will need to sail part of the 1,000 miles he has to go to Hiva Oa, and sail it with a jury rig.
Today we tried out a new sail combination - genoa and mizzen, or "jib and jigger" as sailors call it. I was hoping it would save us from the slow speed and painful rolling we have had since we took the wind on the quarter, changing course yesterday for the waypoint 6 degrees North, 130 degrees West (where the boat turns left to cross the ITCZ). Also we had torn the mainsail and the genoa wouldn't stay full, the waves rolling us - often violently - knocking the wind out of the sail. Sail cracked like a whip. Really hard on the sail and on us, hanging on! The spare mainsail needs a little work before raising it (it's on the dining table) so we raised the mizzen and - WOW! The difference was obvious - we were going faster and, as I tuned the angle to the wind and waves, the boat got in the groove! The motion changed from heavy rolling to riding on rails! It took a while to adjust the wind- vane self-steering to get it to hold a course. But, jib and jigger -I love you!
Last night Adrienne could not cook dinner, it was too dangerous to put pots and pans on a rolling stove. Oh yes! Last night too while she was on watch a flying fish came right down the hatch behind her as she typed emails at the chart table! Got him back in the water before he knew what was happening.
PS It being Anzac day, as I was reminded by fellow Aussie on the yacht Piewacket, I pulled out my battered horn, the top bit of an old cornet, tightened the mouthpiece, and played the Last Post. Badly. Lest we forget - to have a beer. Mate!
04/24/2010, Underway from Mexico to Marquesas
Day 9, Saturday April 24. If it weren't for the ships log I would not know how many days we had been at sea, nor the date. We have logs for everything, finding memory unreliable. Every time the engine is used a log entry tells for how many hours it was run, fuel used, purpose. Fuel usage is logged, like a bank account for each of the tanks, with fuel in, fuel out, and fuel remaining. Engine maintenance, batteries, watermaker usage and maintenance, rust and general maintenance are logged too. Every entry dated.
For year and a half I used to keep a journal, in which EVERYTHING was recorded, but it took so long to find when I last changed the gearbox oil, for instance, that I dropped that in favour of categorized logs. All logs in a 200 "paginas" school exercise book, bought in Panama.
The waves are like adolescents. Friday afternoon schoolboys. We are jostled, sometimes violently, rolling rail to rail, throwing anything not securely stowed below across the cabin, onto the floor. They don't mean it. I sit with small limes nudging my bare feet, like kittens below the table. They were in a bowl ON the table. They will be tidied up eventually, but for now the limes just add to the surrealism of it all. Adrienne made a cup of coffee, ship lurched, coffee now a cleanup job. I set my beer down to get something - gone.
Spoke with Gary on Sea Flyer before the Amigo net. One more lower shroud broken, total 3 out of 4, and one more chain plate. Ham (licensed amateur radio operator) on the PacSea net admitted he had been "too pragmatic" with Sea Flyer the night before, denying him access because he did not have a ham call sign. Gary said to me in an email: "I knew those guys on the Pac Sea net where not sailors. If they think 3 out of 4 lower shrouds broken and a chain plate pulled out when 1200 miles from shore is not an emergency." I reported his position and gave an update on his condition to the PacSea net.