Jumping the Puddle
21 March 2008 | 15? 58'N, 107? 44'W
Departure Day! 17? 40'N, 101? 37'W The day finally came for us to slip the docklines, say goodbye to Mexico and head across the Pacific Ocean.
Our enthusiasm (and trepidation!) was tempered by the fact that our friends on Tin Soldier wouldn't be sailing out with us after all. Unfortunately while preparing their windvane self-steering mechanism the rudder for it was dropped into the marina's water. Retrieving it proved not only difficult, but dangerous. The 20 foot depth is not only quite murky but you may recall from our previous blog that it is also home to at least one very large crocodile. As a testament to just how key this piece of equipment is, Glen immediately jumped in to try and retrieve it. His first attempt was unsuccessful so he went back in with his scuba gear and searched along the bottom while the rest of us maintained a sharp-eyed "croc-watch" from strategic positions on the dock. He still was having "no joy" and his wife Marilyn was getting mighty stressed by the whole crocodile thing so they decided to hire a professional local diver to continue the search. The diver searched but the water was too churned up by previous attempts to locate the rudder. He decided to come back later in the day in the hopes that the water's visibility would improve.
Meanwhile we needed to get going or the tide would be too low for us to get out of the marina. We considered staying so that we could sail out with our friends but we weren't sure how long they would be delayed (if the diver couldn't find it they would need to source another rudder somehow) and we knew we had a weather window we needed to take advantage of. We said our goodbyes and headed out.
We motored out into open water and had 7+ knots of winds straight out of the west- the direction we wanted to go, of course. (John says we have the ability to affect worldwide weather patterns simply by raising our sails.) By evening the wind was consistently 17-20 knots from the west and the mixed swell gave us large, steep, bumpy, confused seas. Very uncomfortable for a crew trying to get their sea legs! Our poor boat was like an overmatched prize fighter- she'd surge up one steep wave and launch right into the face of the next one, then shudder as a third wave would knock her from the side. In order to minimize the beating our rig was taking (not to mention the crew) we reefed down the sails in order to slow the boat to a more comfortable ride. The swell was so close together that the slower speed meant she could ride up and over each one without being slammed into the next one. This also meant that we were only doing 2-3 knots but the trade-off of speed for comfort and safety is a no-brainer.
Day 2 16? 47N, 102 37'W The ride was still pretty rough today. The girls and I are working hard to keep the Mal de Mer at bay. so far with success. Of course that means that I can't do much more than eat and sleep and lay around- preferably up top. I'm able to take watch, though so that's something. Lucky John seems to not get seasick. That means he gets the below decks jobs like food prep and galley clean-up. What a trouper! Fortunately I'd made a big mac salad and a casserole before we left on yesterday so lunch and dinner was a bit easier on him.
We did hear good news- the diver found Tin Soldier's rudder this morning and they left Ixtapa this afternoon, roughly 24 hours behind us. That's nothing when you're talking 3,000 miles.
Day 3 16? 03N, 103? 42W We woke up to a glorious morning: calm seas, gentle 7 knot breeze, and a beautiful sunrise. The four of us relaxed in the cockpit listening to "Enya" and enjoying ourselves and the beautiful day beginning.
Of course, that was not to last. Late in the morning the wind died and the swell came back. As we sat there rolling back and forth in the swell we realized we'd have to motor- something we're loathe to do, especially this early in the game. We only have enough fuel for about 120 hours- more if we push it- but we don't want to arrive in the Marquesas with nothing but vapor in our tank.
Day 4 16? 05N, 105? 37W We motored through the night until about 8:00. 22 hours. Ouch. The wind finally picked up a bit until we had a nice light breeze out of the NE. We even put the gennaker (an asymmetrical spinnaker) up.Twice. And it blew out. Twice. Fortunately the sail didn't rip. Instead the line that runs from the tack to the bow broke- first at the bow end and then at the sail end. It was originally rigged with the line running around a thimble at each end and then whipped in place. It looks like the whipping gave way. John repaired the first break with a simple bowline. After the second break the wind was starting to build so we bagged the gennaker and went back to a poled-out jib and main.
It's such a smooth ride that tonight we're planning a "drive-in movie night" in the cockpit. We'll eat popcorn and watch "Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit" on the laptop. See? It can be fun out here, too.
Also newsworthy: After 3 days at sea the girls and I have found our "sea legs" and aren't as fragile in the tummy as we were. Of course the more mellow sea state helps a LOT!