7 Days Until Blast Off
15 March 2016 | 20 45'N:105 22.1'W, La Cruz, Banderas Bay, Mexico
From the look of the food stored everywhere we are ready to head to the South Pacific. However, the weather gods have decided, by delivering a near total lack of wind, that we should enjoy another week here in Mexico. A few of our friends have already left, and a few more are leaving today, but instead of "blast off" it is more life "drift off" for them. Do you know that joke about how on the prairies you can watch your dog run away from three days? Well, it's a bit like that right now for our friends heading off to the South Pacific. If they don't want to motor, they are sailing VERY slowly.
As I write this, there is absolutely zero wind. We will see 10 knots later this afternoon, but it is just a thermal wind here in the bay, with less offshore. Hopefully by next week things will change and let us at least make 100 miles per day.
Other than watching the weather, I have been fiddling around with different home-made antennas for our HF radio receiver. An HF radio uses single-sideband or HAM frequencies to communicate over very long distances. Depending on conditions, HF radio users can talk over thousands of miles. Before the advent of satellite communications, this was the only way that cruisers kept in touch and received weather while offshore. Although very fiddly, these radios are still popular among cruisers as their use is low cost and lets them have a daily chat session.
We had an HF radio on the last boat but decided to go all satellite this time for obvious reasons of reliability and speed. In short, our high speed Iridium Pilot satellite-based internet & phone system cost the same to install as a good quality HF radio. However, while all I hear from HF radio users are endless troubles getting it all to work property, our satellite system works as easily as your home email & internet. It does cost more to use than an HF radio, and we can't chat with other cruisers hundreds or thousands of miles away, but I am happy to trade all of that for reliable, high-speed communications and weather.
Having said that, it still is nice to listen in to the daily net chat sessions where our friends on passage will report their own position and weather. Hence, my efforts to build a good antenna. Based on today's net, it looks like I now have a great antenna! I could hear everyone that the other boats with full HF radios could hear, and I had a better reception than some. Pretty good for a $100 radio with a $2 antenna. Of course, I can receive only and not transmit, so I will be updating my position with my friends, and with this blog, via satellite email.
On the upper left part of the picture is my tracking chart. All of our navigation is electonic, but as I receive positions via radio and email from friends, we will keep track of them on this paper chart. It will be interesting to see how their reported weather correlates with the professional weather reports that I receive. It will also be very useful to hear where they cross the unstable ITCZ area near the equator. Since many boats are leaving before us, their experience will hopefully help me pick the best area to cross.
The other two pics are just some of our AMPLE food stores. It is only a 18-25 day passage to the Marquesas, but there really isn't much to buy there once we arrive. And, if we could find something to buy, it will be extremely expensive due to the remote location of these lightly inhabited islands. Even once we get to the "big city" of Papeete on Tahiti where will will first encounter grocery stores, prices are astronomical. So, we have tried to buy staples that will last us many months. So far, we have spend over $2000 and stuffed hundreds of pounds of food in the freezer, fridge, etc. Our entire spare aft cabin is now a food locker with white laundry baskets full of food. Next weekend we will buy fresh vegetables and then we will go - weather permitting!