Archive for 'Galapagos to French Polynesia'

Lat: 4 40.984′ S
Lon: 109 44.970′ W

1770 miles to go…

We’re now more than 1000 miles from the Galapagos to the east, Easter Island to the south, the Marquesas to the west, and Mexico to the north. There is Clipperton Island, a small, uninhabited atoll owned by France just under 1000 miles to the north, but another day or two and it will be outside the 1000 mile radius as well. The Pacific is massive. It covers nearly a third of the Earth’s surface — more than all of the lands masses combined. We’ve just barely started our trek across it.

We have had some boat adventures since the last blog. The sat phone is still acting up. The main halyard chafed through again, this time at the external block I added. Going up the stick at sea is really not fun, and I think we’ll be fine without it the rest of the way so it will probably stay like that. We shouldn’t have wind forward of the beam (wind will always be from the side to dead behind us), so we should do just fine with the spinnaker. When we get to the Marquesas I think I’m going to try my hand at splicing a wire rope into the halyard so that the last few feet of the halyard will be wire and much more protected from chafe. Calder’s book says to leave this to professionals, but Don Casey’s book has great instructions on how to do it and a halyard isn’t a safety-related item as long as you aren’t using it to go up the stick, which brings me to another digression. After seeing the condition of some of the halyards after several thousand sea miles and having a couple of them chafe through, I think I’m going to start using a “known good halyard” for going up the stick. This is something our rigger in Ft. Pierce often did and I have a brand new backup halyard as well as some older ones that are in good shape. We’ll see.

Our next adventure was having the dinghy come loose on my watch at 6am. The shackle holding the bow to the davits wore and then broke through, dragging the dinghy at 7+ knots though the wake, with only the stern attached to the boat. Without stopping the boat, this was a two-person job so I woke Wes up. He used a boat hook to grab the dinghy and hold the bow clear of the water while i secured the bow to the davits with a temporary line. He went back to make use of his last 30 minutes of sleep before taking over and I rigged a new shackle and eventually got things back to normal.

And our final adventure: The smell of fiberglassing resin leads to a sticky afternoon. Wes picked up a gallon of resin in Key West to glass a patch of the keel, and the smell of it in the tool berth had gotten even stronger than usual the last couple of days. This afternoon, Lauren noticed that it had started leaking and had gotten onto a number of things. Luckily, we keep a tarp down under the tools and spare parts, so the cushions in the berth weren’t ruined, but we went through a fair amount of acetone cleaning things up and ended up tossing a couple of things. Anybody who’s worked with fiberglass resin knows how much fun that is.

Aside from these few minor adventures, however, the sailing has been great. We’re averaging 6-7+ knots with just the spinnaker up and things are very comfortable. The days are mostly sunny to party cloudy and the temperature is nice, with a slight warming trend lately. Virtually all of our logs since we left the Galapagos have recorded between 77 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit, but the last couple days it has gotten into the mid-80’s inside the salon (though it’s still very nice outside). The weather reminds me of the great fall days back on Galveston Bay where we learned to sail.

Our celebration of the local holiday yesterday was great. We had our now-traditional passage celebration meal: breaded & fried veggie scallops, rosemary & garlic potatoes roasted in olive oil, and green beans. MMMMmmmm. I don’t think we mentioned it before, but you can buy 1 liter boxes of “Clos” wine in Panama for $2 and it’s actually workable for a table wine. Boxes are better than bottles on a boat anyway. More than one boat we know left Panama with caches of Clos measured by the case.

We’ve fallen into a bit of a routine when things aren’t breaking — sleeping, eating, reading, dishes, boat projects, conversation, etc. but we do find ourselves looking forward to the blog & e-mail portions of our day.

As we approach the middle of what should be our longest passage, I’m trying to get the whole crew to take a crack at writing a little bit on “What’s it like to be on a small boat in the middle of the ocean?” We will post the submissions if they appear, so stay tuned…

Lat: 4 00.295′ S
Lon: 103 24.213′ W

2151 miles to go…

Well, hard as it may be to comprehend, there’s not a lot to report from the middle of the ocean. After the Halyard Incident, things have been a bit hum-drum. We changed course to the SW for a day or so to try to find stronger winds and that worked out well, so we’re back on course and averaging close to 6 kts.

Tomorrow is a local holiday — 1000 Miles Down / 1/3 Of The Way To The Marquesas Day. There will be a special meal, possibly a brief speech (toast) by each of the four dignitaries (imbibers) present, and then we’ll be back to the slave-like task of being disturbed from our reading or conversation every 15 minutes to look around.

We’re definitely in a friendly current, which is a welcome change, and are slowly increasing our average speed for the trip on just the main and jib.

We’ve learned a bit about cooking with salt water to conserve fresh water in the last couple days. As Lauren mentioned, the first thing we attempted with good success was steaming potatoes with salt water in a pressure cooker. Next, we looked up the salinity of salt water (an average of 35 ppt) and calculated the conversion into cooking units — 1.6 teaspoons of salt per cup of salt water. We guessed that a 4:1 mixture of fresh to salt water for cooking would taste just fine and Lauren used it to good effect with the rice for a great Cuban lunch (black bean soup over rice and plantains in rum caramel). For dinner we had some tasty quesadillas using homemade tortillas and Tiffany added her first loaf of homemade bread, which was excellent; I finished it off for breakfast this morning.

It takes about 3 days to get “into the groove” of a passage and by now we’re all well adjusted; it seems to get easier as we go along. There are still a few small birds around occasionally of the same type that we saw in the Galapagos, there are always flying fish, and we’re still getting a few squid on deck every night, but other than that there’s not a lot besides sky and ocean. We haven’t seen any sign of human existence since we were out of sight of the Galapagos.

Lat: 2 48.011′ S
Lon: 99 41.247′ W

We are continuing to make westerly progress through the South Pacific with not another soul in sight. Even the birds are few and far between out here. Since we are in the southern hemisphere, it is getting dark fairly early (around 6 pm), which is strange since you are having the longest days of the year in the U.S. The trade winds have been light to moderate at around 10-20 knots from the south/southeast. All of this would seem to create conditions for a nice, peaceful passage, but that would be just too easy, wouldn’t it?

On Sunday we were sailing on a broad reach (wind coming from the aft quarter) using the mainsail and spinnaker when things got a little more interesting. I was doing dishes in the cockpit during my watch just before sunset when all of the sudden I heard a noise, looked up, and saw the mainsail drooped down over the bimini. Apparently the halyard that holds it up chafed completely through on metal at the top of the mast. Since night was approaching, Dallas and I quickly stowed the main in its cover and called it a day, but not before Dallas used the binoculars to take a look at the others halyards and noticed that the spinakker halyard appeared to be seriously chafing at the masthead as well. Needless to say, Dallas spent some time that evening contemplating how he was going to address these problems at the top of the mast. He mentioned that the author of a book he was reading suggested that when selecting a crew member, one should consider candidates’ abilities to go up the stick when out at sea. Dallas realized apprehensively that he was about to demonstrate his ability to do just that.

There was more work to be done before that could occur, though. Once again, it was on my watch, this time at 4:00 a.m. on Monday. I was reading just inside the cabin and noticed that Jupiter was no longer in sight and we appeared to be veering off course. I stepped into the cockpit, looked up, and sure enough, we had no sails up and were dead in the water! Fortunately Dallas had warned that the spinnaker might fall during the night (as a result of chafing), so I wasn’t surprised. I just woke Dallas up, and he and I got to the business of dragging the spinnaker out of the water. We then put the jib out and got right back on course.

I managed to get a few hours of sleep before Dallas woke me up on Monday morning so that I could assist with his first trip up the mast. Wes winched him up, Tiff tailed the line, and I kept tension on the two lines that Dallas took up with him (as well as keeping an eye on Dallas!). Fortunately the wind was light and the seas calm, but Dallas reported that it felt as though the boat was pitching considerably as he straddled the top of the 49′ stick. After 10 minutes or so, he had managed to move a block from the port to the starboard side (since we will most likely fly the spinnaker on a port tack all the way to the Marquesas) and had run the new spinnaker halyard up the outside of the mast (rather than the inside) to prevent chafe. He came down queasy and with more chafe to speak of–this time on the inside of his legs (ouch!). After a brief rest and some lunch, he was back at it again. He had me roll in the jib while he put the spinnaker up. At that point, I went for a rest of my own and got up to hear the crew taking the spinnaker down again! Apparently the wind clocked around to forward of the beam, so what we really needed was the mainsail…

Since all of the other halyards were in use or chafed through, Dallas ran a line up the mast on his first trip up that served as a temporary topping lift so that he could use the regular topping lift (the line that extends from the end of the boom to the top of the mast and back that holds the boom up) to get him up the mast for yet a second time on Monday. Once again the winds were light, and I was able to winch him up with only a little bit of miscommunication. Within an hour or so he had added a block to the masthead, used it to run the main halyard, come down from the mast in one piece, and put the mainsail back up. I’m getting tired just thinking about it!

Today has been much more relaxed and care-free by comparison. We aren’t quite going fast enough to make up for the lack of progress yesterday, but we are currently sailing at about 5 knots on a broad reach using the main and jib. It is comforting to know that we have full use of our sails again, especially since we are ever so reluctant to use the motors. I did turn on an engine for an hour this morning only because our battery capacity was at an all-time low.

Speaking of battery capacity, it seems that we are officially without refrigeration for the rest of this passage. We just don’t have the juice, although at this point, it is not a major loss since we have eaten up all our fresh produce and have only a bit of cheese and some condiments to chill. (Incidentally, many items such as condiments do not HAVE to be refrigerated. Surprisingly even mayo will keep at room temperature as long as you don’t put bacteria-laden utensils in the jar.) We will miss having ice as well. Oh, and we ate up the last of the bread from the Galapagos today. Do you feel sorry for us yet? Ha ha. Never fear. We are still eating well and even had some assistance from the guys in getting supper ready tonight. Wes and Tiff did the dishes, while I assisted Dallas with a potato dish that he came up with. We steamed the potatoes in salt water to conserve fresh water, and they turned out really well, as did the dish in general. Hopefully the limited resources in the galley will continue to elicit creativity.

Making Way

Lat: 1 44.585′ S
Lon: 94 26.957′ W

2701 miles to go…

To begin, we have to give a word of warning. The sat phone wasn’t working yesterday and my computer died yesterday as well. Charging the sat phone seemed to help even though one of its battery indicators said it was fine. After a bit of effort, I was finally able to get the sat phone e-mail software installed on Tiffany’s computer. We just wanted to let you know that we are having some communication problems just in case we’re not able to post blogs until we get to the Marquesas.

The blog we posted earlier today was actually written Friday morning. Today, there were only 20 squid on deck, although I found 2 or 3 more on the anchor which could have come either day. Even though we’re a couple hundred miles from the Galapagos, we’re still seeing birds frequently of a couple different varieties. As usual, they like to fly close to the green starboard navigation light at night.

I tried my second noon sight today, and even though some thick clouds kept getting in the way, the latitude was off by less than a mile. That’s two good sights in a row, so I feel a little more confident that even if all four or so of our independent GPS systems were to fail, we’d still make it in.

Food has been great as usual. We’ve taken advantage of the recent provisioning to have things like salad every day before the lettuce goes bad. Yesterday we also had haystacks, a sort of taco salad with chili that is one of my favorites. This morning before dawn, as I was taking over for Lauren, she baked a papaya crisp for breakfast that is basically the same as apple crisp but with a fresh papaya that we picked up in Puerto Ayora instead of
apple. It was tasty.

The frig/freezer has been running a lot lately and our batteries got so low yesterday that we had to turn it off (we could have run an engine for an hour or two, but who wants to do that). It seems like we’ve either lost half of our battery capacity or the battery monitor is confused about how much we’ve been drawing from the batteries. We’re hoping it’s the latter, especially since the battery monitor has made some odd claims in the last week or two. The solar panels have been doing as well as they can, but in the afternoon, with the sun in the northern hemisphere and us on a port tack, they’re shaded by the mainsail and can’t deliver much power.

The wind generators haven’t generated much electricity since we left, especially with fairly light winds the last day or so. Our speed had slowed to between 3 and 4 knots, so we finally put up the spinnaker. We’ve had so much fun learning to raise and lower it, that we’re a little slow on the draw in terms of putting it up. This time, except for one minor hitch, we raised it without any problems. We even have both corners of the sail tied to sheets that run through blocks to winches so that we can adjust both corners. Hopefully, we’ll be able to leave it up for a while. While the boat was slowed and we were getting the spinnaker ready to hoist, we spotted a 3-foot Mahi Mahi checking out the boat. He cruised around the boat several times while we were getting things setup. Their colors are really amazing.

True to form, now that we have the spinnaker up, the wind has freshened enough that there are numerous small whitecaps and we’re consistently at 7-8 knots with bursts of speed over 9 knots. Hopefully the wind follows the pattern it has the last couple of days in blowing the hardest in the afternoon and then easing off the rest of the day. The spinnaker and mainsail together is way too much sail to have up in a blow and they spinnaker is not easy to drop.

We’re off

Lat: 1 29.594′ S
Lon: 92 11.843′ W

2836 nm to go…

After 10 great days in the Galapagos, it was time to get moving again. Wes, Tiff, & Lauren
had done the final provisioning and I’d completed the items on the repair and maintenance
list. Because of the distance of this passage, we made sure all our water jugs tanks,
jerries, jugs, bottles, etc. were full before leaving. This required several trips to the
water store to fill our five 6-gallon jugs. In total we are setting off with 140+ gallons
of water, which should be plenty given the good sailing conditions we’re expecting and the
water conservation abilities we’ve developed. We pulled the anchor at 3:30pm yesterday with
Lauren at the helm and the GPS reading 2957 nautical miles to the waypoint we set just south
of Hiva Oa.

Here’s a bit of arithmetic on the passage distance, time, etc. On our previous passages,
4.5 knots was a good average speed for us. At that rate, the 2957 nm would take us 29.4
days (a nautical mile is 1.15 land/statute miles and knot is one nautical mile per hour).
At 5.75 kts, the passage takes 21.4 days, and at 6 kts it takes 20.5 days. Every quarter
knot of speed is about a day difference in our passage time. Our goal is to stay above 6
kts and make it in three weeks. Because of this arithmetic, I spent about 2 hours yesterday
morning in the water cleaning the bottom. The water here in the Galapagos is great for
marine life, including several varieties that grow on the hull of a boat — brown gunk,
green algae/weeds, etc. It’s not perfect, but it’s two hours of cleaning better, our
rudders are now blue again instead of brown, and I had a rag on almost every square inch of
the bottom, so I hope it gives us the extra quarter knot or so.

The waves were a bit steep as we were leaving, but they are much better now that we’ve
sailed out into deep water. Last night was one of the more beautiful nights on our trip.
The clouds were fairly minimal, allowing us to see lots and lots of stars. Lauren mentioned
that we should be able to see the Southern cross from here, I looked up, and there it was
off to port! To starboard we could still see the big dipper, although I think part of it
will be gone over the horizon by time we reach Hiva Oa. We pulled out our star charts and
found several stars, including Spica, which is the name of a boat we met in Shelter Bay.
I’ve been reading Bowditch and the looking over the Nautical Almanac the last few days and
finally got to try a noon sight with the sextant today. I was pretty happy when it turned
out to be fairly straightforward and the result came out within 3 miles or so of our actual
latitude. We’ll see how I do tomorrow. Just as the almanac showed, we also saw Jupiter
rise about 10pm and begin climbing quickly through the sky.

This morning when I came on deck for morning watch, Lauren asked me to toss over a squid
that had found its way on deck. “I think I saw another one somewhere else as well,” she
said. A few minutes later, after making my way all around the deck, I had tossed 58 squid
back into the water! They ranged in size from just over a couple inches to about 6 inches
or so.

We’re no longer within sight of the Galapagos, so I pulled down the Ecuadorian courtesy
flag. Next stop Marquesas.