30 March 2012

10 days of under 10 knots

The wind left us on March 20 and returned today March 30.

We had under 10 knots of true wind, aft of the beam, usually on a run, for 10 days with the exceptions of a few squalls that boosted the wind and a few glorious 30 minute sections of more than 10.

This means that we had between 6-8 knots of apparent wind most of the time, with mostly 6-8 foot swells, usually coming from two directions but sometimes three. Carol and I watched a wave go one direction, hit a second and turn, and then hit a third and turn again, essentially making a u-turn. No wonder it is a weird motion in the boat.

We were becalmed at least twice that I can remember for periods of 5 or so hours each. We have had only one night of being surrounded by lightening which we used .6 engine hours to get out of. Most of the squalls have had rain only or maybe a bit of wind.

We have tried almost every combination of sails we own in our attempts to keep the boat moving in light air and changeable medium seas. The only things I can say we have learned are:

- Reefing is not just for strong wind. It reduces the load on the rig when the swells cause the sails to pop in light air.
- Our pole is our friend. We have our spinnaker pole up most of the time and we need to get our used whisker pole operational so we can have two.
- Our preventer is our friend. We switched from the midships preventer to the foreward block and it makes a big difference.
- A triple reefed main and a poled out asymm spinnaker is a great thing to try when we know the sails are going to pop. The triple reefed main doesn't shock load the rigging and ditto on the spinnaker as compared to a white sail. It doesn't stop the popping, just the sanity disturbing, gear beating jolting that goes with it.
- Keep trying different things. There is often something that will work at least reasonably well for the odd combination of swells and wind we are in. Our sails will still pop, but they will pop less, and we will move enough to retain steerage with the windvane.

We are about 400 miles from landfall. We have had only minor gear failures (more on that later) that we were able to fix or temporarily fix at sea. We're eating very well (fresh bread and lasagna yesterday) and resting well. Our watermaker is granting us daily showers. The landfall is starting to feel real and we are allowing ourselves the emotional luxury of starting to think about it - not yet allowing ourselves to count days, but we are counting down the miles.

27 March 2012

Greetings from Down Under

The Southern Hemisphere is totally different. Fish swim upside down. I'm sure that the water in our Lavac is swirling the other way except that we have to shut the lid to pump water through it so I can't tell for sure. And Carol and I both feel like we might fall off the boat now that gravity has reversed.

OK, so, in reality this patch of ocean looks, not surprisingly, exactly like the patch of ocean before it.

For the non-boaters, there is a maritime tradition that until you cross the equator (in a boat) you are a pollywog/tadpole who is dirty and not worthy of Neptune and must be cleansed (read: hazed) in some manner prior to crossing after which you become a shellback.

Carol was already a shellback having crossed in a motor vessel many times. He also crossed many times while piloting an aircraft which, although cool, doesn't count for the maritime tradition.

I was a pollywog and as we approached the equator, Davy Jones boarded our vessel. You might be surprised to learn that Davy Jones looks suspiciously like my husband with a tropical print shirt on his head and an eye patch. Who knew?

The ceremony, with parts redacted for National Security, went something like this:
1) ----------------- (redacted because of pact with Neptune)
2) ----------------- (redacted because not PG-13)
3) We climbed down the swim ladder steps, with a rope tied to our wrist, and took turns letting the movement of our boat drag us through the water as we held onto the swim ladder, racing back on deck when our fear of shark bites overcame us.
4) Finally, we opened a bottle of Driftwood Ale we have carried with us from Victoria, some canned smoked salmon that was caught and canned by our friends aboard SV Shannon, a celebratory email from SV Eagle, and opened an extremely touching care package created by my parents which included a certificate for our equator crossing to be filled out, tasty treats and notes from my family.

The equator is just over 2/3 of the way between Baja Mexico and the Marquesas. All is well aboard.

24 March 2012

In which the wind machine shuts down

I thought I would tell you a story with numbers -- a story about our progress toward the Marquesas.

When someone gives you their daily mileage you have to ask what exactly they are measuring. On this trip we have been dropping a waypoint every day at about 2pm and measuring the direct distance between waypoints. This means we overestimate compared to a miles-made-good measurement and underestimate compared to a distance-sailed measurement.

We just finished our 17th (!) 24 hour run and the story of the wind on this passage so far goes like this:
130nm
112
112
99
103
112
137
119
130
126
115
118
110
86
75
68
51 (00 50N, 129 09W)

The last 51nm is an average of 2.1 knots SOG over a 24 hour period. There is a radio net for the Pacific Puddle Jump and there are reports of light wind from boats just off the coast of Mexico all of the way to a boat ahead of us at 5S, 132W.

Will we ever cross the equator? Stay tuned...

23 March 2012

FAQ: Naked yet?

There is a direct relationship between our proximity to the equator and the nudity references in emails we are receiving from friends.

They started popping up occasionally, usually obliquely in emails even before we left, surged as we crossed below 10N into single digits of latitude and now that we are at 1N have reached new records.

The references range from sly comments about the likelihood of decreased laundry and increased sex therapy, to people expressing their own fervent desires to be naked in the middle of the ocean, to good friends asking us point blank "Are you naked all of the time now?".

*Clearly* - yes. Well, at least mostly.

Issues one might fail to consider in one's idealized visions of bluewater sailing are: tropical sunshine reflected off the sea, salty cockpit induced chafe and trying to wear a PFD naked if you have boobs.

(This one is for you Marv. We love you.)

19 March 2012

Suck it up buttercup

As Carol and I were sitting in the cockpit in the sun, nearing the half way point in our mileage, I was imagining hearing myself complain about the uncomfortable sea state we are experiencing and how I would respond to myself. Don't worry - no inanimate objects are talking back to me (yet).

Grumpy Me: I'm tired of it being lumpy. Where are the gentle long period ocean swells supposed to be? We never seem to find them, just confused lumpy weirdness or steep beam-to swells. I keep banging myself on crap and it's difficult to sleep.
Devil's Advocate: If I may summarize, you are complaining that there is some discomfort to your ocean crossing?
Grumpy Me: Rrrright.

Suck. It. Up.

18 March 2012

The fleet

As of our 11th day, there are 8 boats who have left for the Marquesas that we know about because they are checking into the Pacific Seafarer and/or Puddle Jump radio nets.

In order of departure, they are: Estrellita, Pandeon, Sockdolager, Zulu, MOMO, Cheers, Music and Wondertime. This means that the boats closest to us geographically are a 24 foot boat (Sockdolager) and a 68 foot boat (Pandeon). Quite a range! Pandeon left after us but will likely arrive in Hiva Oa prior. If we don't beat Sockdolager after having a 6 day head start, we are required by the secret but very strict Wauquiez owner rules to turn in our Pretorien badges, skip go and not collect $200.

If you aren't already reading their blog, for an alternate perspective you should check out Karen and Jim's reports from sea on Sockdolager:
http://karenandjimsexcellentadventure.blogspot.com

We met Karen and Jim while we were anchored at Treasure Island in San Francisco. Carol and I enjoy playing guessing games about boats coming into the harbors we occupy and one thing that we noticed while at Treasure Island was that almost no boats in California flew the American flag. If a US boat in CA was flying their flag, they were most likely from WA/OR or a CA boat that had returned from voyaging further a field. When we saw Sockdolager come in with a US flag flying on the stern, I rowed over to say "hi" and in true cruiser tradition we were enjoying sundowners together later that evening. We did not see them again until La Paz where, toward the end, we were next to each other in a marina, both furiously enveloped in our own preparation bubbles, taking turns going up and down our respective masts and scurrying around for specific foods, gear and spares. Hopefully our next meeting will be more relaxed, and more tropical.

17 March 2012

Why are we doing this again?

In my limited experience with endurance activities, there is always at least one point, usually several, in which I ask myself:

Why am I doing this again?
Is this supposed to be fun?
Can I find an honorable way to quit?

I am spared any exhausted thoughts regarding the last question because there is no way (honorable or otherwise) to quit this 20-something day endurance activity.

We've been tired but enjoying the passage so far, but a series of grey days and a second night in a row of confused seas large enough to toss us about in our bed and prevent sleep, have brought these questions to the forefront.

We knew there would be times during this passage when we didn't want to still be doing it. We knew it would be, in part, a mental game and we have been doing a good job of segmenting the trip into parts and celebrating as many milestones as we can manufacture. As people like to say, if it were that easy, everyone would do it and we know that the struggle is a big part of why the end result is so satisfying.

Right now though, all I want are some solid hours (linked together) of sleep.

15 March 2012

Our Rhythms at Sea

We started this passage with the plan of no set watches which had worked well in the past but we've settled on a fixed night watch that so far works even better for us. 8 days into this passage, the schedule goes something like this:

- 08:30 or so Livia wakes up and gets coffee in bed. If Carol hasn't eaten, we have breakfast together. Often eggs with diced veggies and bacon, or rolled oats, or cereal.
- Between breakfast and lunch, we do small chores and download and evaluate weather files. We get several graphical analyses including the location of the ITCZ. We download a grib file and open it in OpenCPN so it is overlaid onto our position and track. Chores have included things like hand washing small batches of clothing, checking lines on deck for chafe, checking on the produce in the v-berth and turning the egg flats over so the eggs stay good. This is also a good time to jibe if we are planning to do so that day. Usually one or the other of us naps.
- Livia cooks lunch and we eat it in the cockpit. In fact, Livia does most of the cooking because Carol, although feeling well most of the time, can get quickly seasick in the galley. While we have a lot of produce, lunch is often salad with or without sandwiches, or leftovers from dinner.
- Between lunch and dinner we run the watermaker. The watermaker interferes with our SSB radio reception so afternoon is a good time of day to run it. We try to keep the port tank between 5-10 gallons from full. We have two tanks of 33 gallons plus some extra portable "just in case" water in jugs for this passage. We take showers in the sunny afternoon, read books, have interesting discussions, and nap. Sometimes there are more chores but usually only if one of us napped away the morning and is using the afternoon for their planned chores instead. Afternoon is time to enjoy the glorious weather and soak in the experience of passage.
- Dinner is a hot meal every night thus far. Obviously this will change if conditions get too lumpy. Tonight Carol cut fresh Dorado fillets (first fish!) into chunks in the cockpit. I dipped them in eggs and cornmeal, pan fried them and served them with tortillas and leeks sautéed in butter. Not our most heart healthy moment but delicious.
- After dinner, before the two nets we are checking into, we discuss whether we want to make any sail plan and/or course changes for the night. If so, we do that before dark. Carol gets a (collapsible) bucket of salt water and does a days worth of dishes in the cockpit. He hands the dishes down to me. I fresh water rinse, hand dry and put them away.
- Net time consists of the Pacific Puddle Jump Net at 0200Z and then the Pacific Seafarers Net at 0300 (warmup)/0330 (roll call). We keep a waypoint for each boat that we want to track and as the roll calls progress we update their position so that our electronic charting shows the fleet. Livia or Carol takes the Puddle Jump Net and then Carol preps the Pacific Seafarer Net while Livia starts getting ready for bed.
- From 9pm to midnight, Carol stands watch. We both spend a fair amount of each watch just staring at the sky and ocean now that the weather is warm and being outside is more pleasant. The cockpit is still very damp and salty at night but no longer cold, even in the wind. Normal watch activities include logging our position, adjusting the windvane and (rarely) the sails, using the flashlight to check lines on deck and of course, keeping a regular scan of the horizon and doing radar and AIS scans as warranted by the conditions. Carol also likes to listen to whatever he can find on the SSB and play solitaire
- From midnight until 5am, Livia stands watch. In addition to normal watch activities, I write email, blog, read and if I'm desperate to stay awake, I play hearts on the computer.
- From 5 am until Livia wakes up, Carol stands watch again.

14 March 2012

Longest passage

Our longest passage to date was our Tofino to San Francisco run which took 6 days and 5 hours. Yesterday around sunset was 6 days and 5 hours into this passage, after which we officially crossed the line into our longest passage ever. We joked that we would also get to celebrate 2x our longest (12 days) and 3x (18 days) but hopefully not our 4x (24 days). We decided to recreate our SF arrival at the Sausalito YC and we took a special beer* given to us by Tom & Jeanne on Eagle to the foredeck and sat in the sun savoring it.

While on the Pacific Seafarer Net, another boat (Stardust) celebrated their circumnavigation which they completed over 21 years. We chatted off frequency with them and gave them our heartfelt congratulations. Someday?

The wind has come up and we are flying. The weather has been picture perfect every day since we left. We've had whales, dolphins, flying fish, and, of course, boobies. To top it off, today we caught our first fish of the passage - a small but big enough to keep dorado which we will eat tomorrow. And we are most of the way through a pan of tasty brownies. A very good day.

*No drinking underway rule bent.

12 March 2012

Images from La Ventana

(a bit of a back post)

I’ll write a longer post about kiteboarding someday but in the meantime…

The kites:The kites of La Ventana 

The elementary school kids:

P1030576 (1280x960) P1030577 (1280x960) 

Teens are teens everywhere:

P1030579 (1280x960) P1030580 (1280x960)

SUP and Lucha Libre SUP:

P1030585 (960x1280) P1030589 (1280x960)

How many kiteboarders does it take to climb a greased pole (for a prize)?P1030591 (960x1280)

Chasing Boobies

I just spent the last hour of my night watch waving my zebra striped birthday Type IV flotation device at boobies who were trying to land on our solar panels by moonlight.

The first booby that I noticed had already landed. When I came up to scan the horizon, it made a noise and scared the bajeezus out of me. I grabbed the first thing at hand (the cushion) and batted at it. After whacking that booby off the boat, I watched their flight pattern, realized that they were coming in only from the port side, into the wind, and flaring up at the last minute to try to land on the rolling boat, and stood there watching the port side and swatting at them.

I am a vicious booby deflector. My arms are actually sore from holding the flotation cushion over my head. The next time someone asks what I do on night watch, this is the story that I'll tell.

10 March 2012

Day 3: Du Mexique aux Iles Marquises

The wind, for once, has been as forecast. We've been watching the potential weather window for more than a week and we pushed to get ready and get down the inside of the Baja peninsula for a Wednesday March 7 departure.

Also as forecast, we had a wind shadow off the tip of Cabo San Lucas and had to power past it (engine hours = 3, Livia & Carol motoring to start their crossing = sad). Once past Cabo, we promptly picked up 12-20 knots of W to N wind for the next 48 hours. Mission 1 accomplished: get off the coast with a good breeze. Now we are in lighter air with 9 knots of true wind, running, in 2 meter swells. We're moving slowly but steadily in these conditions and after trying every trick we know, we're learning to ignore the popping of the sails. These conditions should continue for at least another day and then we expect more wind.

We are officially off the coast but not yet clear of land. You might think that after sailing 300 or so miles offshore you would be able to relax about hitting crunchies but we are now in the middle of the Islas Revillagigedo, 4 bits of land belonging to Mexico. Of course, dodging these crunchies (Mission 2) isn't exactly a navigational feat. As long as we keep Roca Partida to port and Clarion to starboard, and there is almost 160nm between the two, we're good.

Marge (our Hydrovane) has been steering the boat since we turned off the engine and she is doing an excellent job of it. This frees up my hands for such important things as trying to chase food across the kitchen counter as we roll, bracing myself so I stay on top of the toilette rather than sliding into the hallway, and of course, blogging.

I am updating our position once a day as long as the amps and radio hold out. These position reports appear on our map (upper right link on blog to "where are we now"). We are checking into both the Pacific Seafarers Net (14300USB at 0330Z) and, when it starts, the loosely organized Puddle Jumpers Net which we believe commences March 11 and will be held at 0200Z on 8294USB.

Fun fact: Marquises (en Francais) is pronounced mar-KEYS. Marquesas (mar-KAY-sis) is the English version of the same name.

07 March 2012

Ready. Set. JUMP!

Dear North America,

It's been real. See you on the flip side.

Livia & Carol

06 March 2012

Ode to the Launderia

P1030750 (1280x960) O ladies of the launderia.
Accepting our bag of salty, musky fabric,
returning it folded so neatly,
smelling of chemical flowers,
against wetness carefully bagged.
Cheap laundry we will miss thee.

05 March 2012

Birthday in Mexico

Tequilas in La PazWe originally thought it would be fun to leave for the Pacific on my birthday because it is a Friday (violating superstition) but it was a bit too early for departure. On a side note, we had also really hoped for a Friday the 13th for either our Southbound departure or the Pacific departure but no dice yet.

Instead, I was able to celebrate my birthday in La Paz, surprise party style thanks to Carol, with SVs Eagle, Pyxis and Celestial and Marcelle. Note: All group shots courtesy of Tom on SV Eagle.

There were beers. More beers and Italian food. A serenade at the bar and to end things off, most excellent ice cream.

Serenade at TequilasIce cream at La Fuente

Everyone brought sweet gifts but I had to highlight the life preserver that I was given by Eva and James on Pyxis. Not only is it an actual Type IV flotation device, decorated with zebra print, it had a number of excellent abandon ship items sewn to and the lat/long of a number of important ports written on the side. Which abandon ship item is your favorite?

Birthday Flotation device

Birthday floatation device

Thank you everyone for making another birthday on the road a special day!

04 March 2012

French Immersion

What little Spanish I have accumulated since our entry into Mexico in mid-October has disappeared with the arrival of our latest fly-in guest, Carol's mother Marcelle.

On the road to French enlightenment For those of you who haven't met us, Carol is French-Canadian, a native French speaker, and began learning English in his late teens. His mother is a francophone and since Carol and I met I have been sporadically working on my French. With each visit to Quebec to see his family, my French comprehension surges and then subsides when I return home and get lazy about practicing. I spent a month in Paris (thanks Christine!) which helped and I took 2 years of high school French which I have mostly forgotten but which must have helped somehow.

This past week, with Marcelle visiting and dreams of French Polynesia and meeting French cruisers in mind, I have been doing my best to be brave and speak, speak, speak rather than relying on Carol for partial translations. We met a French couple who had chartered a boat and, while the mix of Quebec and French accents was confusing to me, I had a chance to practice with new speakers.

Us with some Frenchies we know (and wine of course)I feel like I've had a bit of a language break-through in the sense that I finally have enough French to hold conversations on a variety of topics and I understand most of what people are saying to me. Of course, when two Francophones speak to each other very quickly, or when the wine starts flowing, I start to lose the thread of conversation, but even those situations are becoming easier for me.

I have made some spectacular mistakes such as telling Carol's mother that there was a giant cat with no teeth that ate very small shrimp in the area of La Paz (I was trying to describe whale sharks). I also like to confuse the words for eggs and eyes and also the words for ears and toes. Nothing like offering your mother-in-law scrambled eyes for breakfast.

But I'm improving and looking forward to visiting a country where I can have meaningful conversations with the local residents.

03 March 2012

Southbound milestones (so far)

These are mostly from our trip down the outside – documenting how the temperature and water gradually changed as we headed from Tofino to Cabo San Lucas.

First kiteboarding (in wetsuits): San Francisco (California)

P1020890 (1280x960)First place Carol dove off of the boat before coffee: Catalina Island (California)

First foreign port:  Ensenada, Mexico. Because Livia is American, the US doesn’t count.

First sail off and onto anchor: From one side of the bay in San Quintin (Pacific side of Baja) to the other (hey – it counts). We’ve sailed off before and sailed on before, but never both in one run.

First “tropical” fish catch: Bonito – on passage to Bahia Tortugas (Pacific side of Baja)

Livia threw away her tattered fleece lined mittens: Bahia Tortugas

First passage where Livia did not wear a hat on night watch: On passage to Bahia Santa Maria (Pacific side of Baja)

First Dorado (a.k.a. Mahi Mahi): On passage to Bahia Santa Maria

First shirtless/bikini sailing day: On passage to Cabo San Lucas (Southern tip of Baja)

First time we thought “holy crap we need to finish installing those extra fans”: On passage to Cabo San Lucas

First place where we kayaked to a snorkel spot and snorkeled: Cabo San Lucas

Livia’s first free dive attempts: Cabo San Lucas

First margaritas at a beach bar (which we kayaked to): Cabo San Lucas

First time we realized that WE are that boat anchored in front of the tropical vacation spot: Cabo San Lucas

02 March 2012

2012 Carnaval in La Paz

Tail (Hunters)Better late than never, eh?

Carnaval in La Paz was a family friendly affair. A few nekkid butt cheeks aside, it was mostly a parade for the entire family, as evidenced by the large number of grandparents and children in evidence.

The floats were inventive. The mood was festive. And there were these fantastic blown out eggs with confetti that one could crack on one’s spouse’s head.

Confetti CarolWe had been warned not to stand on the street (*sigh*) during the parade but we still can’t figure out why. It was tame. Fun, but tame.

We went one night with SVs Pyxis and Calypso. On the night of the first parade we went with our “fancy camera” and took pictures and then on the night of the last parade we took Carol’s Mom with us and our smaller camera.

I took a lot of photos and I uploaded a few to this album. Enjoy!

01 March 2012

Images from last week in Espiritu Santo

Anchored in San Gabriel  Ensenada La Grande  Just S of Puerto BallenaCrystal clear water at Ensenada La Grande