Land Lubbing

While Captain Chris & Crew get their land legs back, maybe you are wondering what I am doing, other than transmitting their adventures (or maybe not, in which case, you can wait till tomorrow).

La Cruz is a sleepy little town that has a few unique things going for it. There is a fairly large Gringo community, at least in the high season, but that is because there is a marina here. This is not a tourist town – no little shops full of chotchki souvenirs. The marina has lots to offer. There is an organized kid’s club that has lots of activities, including some to benefit local charities. They hold yoga & Spanish classes, and special speakers give presentations on a variety of subjects – like how to take the bus. There is a free movie at an amphitheater on Thursdays, where they sell wood-fired pizzas and beer. On Sundays, there is a Pike Place-type market where you can get food, artisanal cheese, crafts, clothes, flowers, etc.

Speaking of food, the restaurants in La Cruz are great! Along with some of the best tacos and guacamole (and Margaritas) I’ve ever had, there is great Italian, German, Japanese, Mediterranean, British, and Organic food. Tacos on the Street makes all their tacos using rib-eye! Diez Langosta makes Nitro ice cream! Cafe Shule’l makes me a green juice smoothie every morning (celery, nopales, parsley, pineapple, and fresh-squeezed orange juice – yum!!). Masala has a lovely wine selection. Ceviche is everywhere, and amazing. Several places make exceptional espresso drinks. A place called My Cakes makes the most indulgent chocolate cake you can imagine. Everything is fresh, home-made, and delicious.

There is the live music. Yes, there are traditional Mexican bands., but what I like is all the great Rock & Roll. There are a lot of musicians around here who play all over. There is an open mic night where they all just show up, group & re-group into various bands & play all evening. Notable are Leon, who plays the washboard, and Eddie, who plays the spoons!

Saturday nights, there are usually celebrations for the locals in the town square. That always includes music, but lately also rides & games for the kids, more food, dancing horses, and fireworks. The last few weeks have been a non-stop celebration of Pasqua (Easter), Semana Santo (holy week),and now La Cruz days. There are parades every night, and M-80s that explode every morning around 5:30. I guess it really doesn’t sound so sleepy.

There is, of course, a lovely beach. And there are very lovely people. Everyone greets you on the street. I make a point to greet all the dogs & cats (of course). And I’ve made friends. I’ve been lucky enough to have friends from “home” visit me while I’ve been here, too. It has made it easier while Chris is so far away.

Now I am counting the days before I fly out to meet him in the Tuamotus (look them up).

Land Ho

4/29/17

Today was lazy.  We figured out that our course and speed would have us arriving Hiva Oa  in the middle of the night.  So we just floated for a bit killing time and sleeping. It was another perfect day at sea.  Enough wind.  We timed our rest period for a moment when the wind died down anyway.  Now we are under a small jib and making our way to Hiva Oa.  About 30 miles out just now.

A chart plotter is a machine that helps us figure out where on earth we are.  It is quite similar to a plotter you might find in a car.  This was a convenient time for ours to die so it did.  Just before we make landfall.  Good news is we have an extra one.  We installed that after the evening net.  It seems to work but does not recognize the chart card for the South Pacific we have been using.  Bummer.  Something else to work on.   I love mysterious electronics!

Customs and immigration will be our task of Saturday.  We’ll find out shortly how much of that can be done on a Saturday.  Find a bank machine and and some land food.  See how much French I can remember.  And good luck stopping speaking Spanish already!

It was a dark & stormy night

4/28/17

Today the seas were lumpy again but the boat’s motion pretty smooth.. some reading some napping.  A good day.   We are about 150 miles out from Marquesas now..  Mr Christian sends us a message that pretty much says hold on tight.  Good advice.

After dark the winds piped up to 20, 30, gusting to 40 knots.  Scuse me Ms Southern Pacific Ocean, you have our attention.  This ramps up and down for hours.  Kinda fatiguing. Running a small bit of jib.  And the cockpit canvas.  I suppose that’s a bit of a sail.

The net tonight was interesting: any boat near us reported similar conditions to ours.  But they whined about it.  We didn’t  –  somehow reassuring to know we were not the only ones getting clobbered.

We are at risk of reaching Hiva Oa tomorrow night.  Which will mean floating around near the island until dawn.  Night approach to an unfamiliar Harbor is a great way to find rocks. Not that I’d know anything about that personally…. 🙂  Maybe we’ll just go slow tomorrow.  Be an interesting change from tonight!

Not there yet …

4/27/17

So early morning just after my last report was an interesting one. We were sailing along on my watch on jib only.  About 12 kts on port quarter.  Wind begins to build as my watch closes about 2 am.  So furl the jib and motor to keep things simple for the next on watch.  Expected the wind to continue to build.  Well it did.  And rain came with.  Horizontal gusting to 35 kts.  Still motoring along.  Rebecca is on watch. Lynn is sleeping and I go down too.  An hour or so later Rebecca gets me up because the motor died.  Same issue.  Some debris from the tank has clogged the hose. Thank you John Davis for the tour of the repair.   Blowing it out as before works.  I have to do this again a bit later.  And the seas are big.  The boat is flying in all directions at once defying all laws of physics.

Really the boat was moving along as if it was built for this. The humans were the ones coping.  We did what we could.   And no one wants to go to bed.  This is bad.  Keeping everybody up all night makes for everybody worthless and cranky tomorrow.  And no number of people staying up will change the weather.  Its getting near dawn anyway.  We start rotating thru sleepers.

I expected the rest of Wednesday to be easier.  It was.  Some squalls tried to get us.  But were not very successful.  Wind wound down later in the day.  Late evening we are probably getting 2 kts wind.  And we motored in seas that remained lumpy from the winds of the afternoon.  Dinner was the last green thing we had on board.  Mashed potatoes and chili rellenos.  Fantastic. About midnight the wind filled in 13 kts SE.  Sea state much smoother making it easier to keep the sails filled.  We are a sailboat again!

On this heading to the West lie the Marquesas

4/26/17

Dawn breaks with high expectations of vast amounts of Solar Power pouring into the battery.  But no.  Color the sky cloudy.   Sailed in and amongst many squalls all day.

Lynn took the morning watch.  Rebecca made bread in the pressure cooker and stew after that.  I tore up the bilge pump because while it made encouraging noises, it had ceased functioning beyond that.

Lynn’s watch was more than a little rainy.  Winds remained moderate however.  Rebecca had great success with galley art.  I found a piece of fiberglass debris that had choked the bilge pump.  Upon removal the bilge pump was so happy it resumed removing water from the bilge.  If you can keep all the residents of your boat happy, both human and machine, good things happen.

After a day of squall avoidance it got dark.  Who would have predicted that?  And it got harder to avoid squalls.  I predicted that.  One was quite dramatic.  Gusting to 35kts.  And raining sideways.  We’d seen this coming and we’re motoring with the sails furled.  Less surprises that way.

We motored until midnight or so.   Not enough wind to keep the sails full in the face of pretty significant swell on the beam.  It’s OK, we  are charging batteries.  And we still have about half of the 90 gallons of diesel we left Mexico with three weeks ago.  Expect to arrive Marquesas in just over two days.   That would be Friday morning.  350 miles left and we make about 120 per day.  Making 5.5 kts just now.  Probably midnight Marquesa time.  No stars.  NW style overcast.   Nice 12 kts wind on our port quarter.  Temp 79 but with the wind I’m wearing a jacket.  A beautiful night.  No squalls in sight.

Back to our regularly scheduled program

4/25/17

Rebecca took over the sewing machine this morning and resewed the seams that had failed due to UV damage to the thread.  Just in time for Shade! Gotta have mid day.  Thank you Rebecca!

The search continues for the missing charge controller.  Has it been swallowed up into the charge controller protection program?    I’m finally defeated.  Just can’t find the darn thing.  Which means burning more diesel.  I’m starting to wonder if we have enough.    More coffee.  Must think!  Maybe I’ll look one more place….   oh,  there is!

Now to install the charge controller.  I look at the old unit.  Mark some wires.  Take some photos.  Then I have to cover the panels.  If they see any sun at all they create voltage and make amps available.  To charge your batteries or to shock you.  They’re not picky.  We use the cockpit cover to shade the panels.  Not quite completely but it won’t be too shocking I’m thinking.  Back down into the zone of electrics.   Did I mention that it was kinda warm and kinda humid?  I try not to sweat on the wiring.  It wires up fine and seems to work.  We uncover the panels and some charging is happening.  I check temperature of the connections to make sure none are getting hot.  That appears to be what killed the last unit.  All terminals 90 degrees. Good.  We sail into another squall patch.  Radar shows the storms pretty nicely.  We pick our way through the storm cells with very little drama.   As it gets dark the storm zone appears to be finished.  Perfect timing.  Success rate dodging storms in the dark is not so good.

Sea state is creating a lot of roll to the boat.  Even with 10 knots wind I can’t keep the sails full.  Rig is really getting beat up.  Good time to motor and finish charging the batteries.

No flying fish tonite.  So Lonely!  🙂  Maybe tomorrow I can get some reading in.

Inevitable drama

4/24/17

Yesterday was a pleasant enough day at sea but the post generated by pleasant enough is boring enough. Today will be different.

Nice wind all day.  The equator is long behind us.  We have made about 25% of the southing below the equator we need to reach the Marquesas.  Just need to work on getting our westing.  Our average is probably 120 miles a day.

There is still water in the bilge.  Is it old water?  Is the repair holding?  Is it from somewhere else?  I spent a hot hour looking into that.  Conclusion.  Repair holds.  It’s old water.  But I’m staying tuned…

The solar array is off line. It just was not obvious at first.  Early in the trip we were running the motor to make water.   Now we are running the  motor to charge batteries.  We have plenty water.   If I ever wondered how useful the solar was, now I know.  I put a meter on each panel.  No output on any of them..  seems odd that they would all break at once.   We’ll they didn’t.  I looked at the charge controller and one of the two panel terminals is cooked.  Must have had resistance there? Anyway toasted.  To bad.  But good news is I have a spare.  Somewhere…  Spent some time looking for it with no luck.  Then it was time for dinner.  My luck improves!

After dinner we sailed into a squall line.  it was between us and the Marquesas, so not much choice. We have full main and jib out.  Kind of a lot of sail at 25+ knots of wind..  Plus Mr. Sulu has allowed us to head more into the wind.  This is not just off course, upwind like this a lot wilder way to sail.  So we are in the process of fixing all that.  Motorsailing for best control during the adjustments.  The adjustments being let’s reduce our sail area.  Less sail area means less horsepower when you have too much.  Good Idea!  Oh but then the motor decides to stop running.  We finish getting the sails reduced and then we get to work on the motor.  The vacuum gauge on the fuel line reads 3x what it should.  Ok.   Filters all new.  Switching from filter 1 to filter 2 no help. Secondary filter full of fuel, not air.   Hmmm.   Yes this has happened before.  So part of the fix was to blow backwards on the fuel line between the filters and the tank.  I remove the hose from the filters. Remember I’m crawling around in the bilge on a boat on really lumpy seas in the middle of a drenching dumping bunch of rain in 25 knots of wind.  Almost perfect.  The cockpit has a canvas cover to protect from sun and rain.  How about we have a zipper let go on that sucker.  OK.  Now we have a Trifecta.  I never wanted anything like this!  Or did I…. I certainly choose to be here.  And none of this is a surprise.  It is an interesting bunch of challenges.  Anyway we remove the canvas in the maelstrom and get it stowed.

Meanwhile, back in the bilge…  Lynn had suggested blowing backwards on the fuel line when we had our first motor failure.  And now I’m trying that again.  I remove the hose like I mentioned before.   And I hear “pffft”.  The hose was under vacuum.  And that hose  should never be under vacuum.  And I blow backwards through the hose again and that’s that, it all starts to work.

Now the sails are shortened, the motor works, the canvas is stowed.   Back to sailing as usual.  I have to say I recommend going to sea with an unflappable crew.  We did and it makes challenges way more fun.  We review the situation.  It’s starting to look like there is a strainer in the tank.  Check this rig.  Secondary filter at the motor.  Change that on a schedule.  Primary filter.  There are two of these.  You can use one or the other.  Slick.  If one gets clogged you can switch to the other without even turning the motor off!  How to make this all perfect?  Add a strainer in the tank that you can’t get at to inspect or clean without a bunch of dismantling.  Nice!  And the canvas guy gets credit too.  There are two kinds of thread.  One lasts 10 years in the sun.  One lasts two years.  What to choose.  Canvas genius can’t decide so uses some of each.  Have I ever done stupid stuff like this? Probably.  🙂  Let’s just move on then.

Time for night watches.  Mine is 1 to 4.  I’m getting settled and note that another squall is steaming our way in the darkness.  When the stars start to go away that’s your clue.   So I shorten sail again.  Jib and main.  This is done from the cockpit. I do this by myself because that is how it is all set up to work.  Lynn and Rebecca are trying to sleep.  No leaving the cockpit. Convenient and safe.  Really appreciate the furling jib and main

We escape the squall with no further drama.  But then I have not run the motor yet….!   As l am getting settled I hear something behind me in the cockpit.   Another flying fish.  This one didn’t poke me in the eye and won’t end up dried out on the deck.  Back to the sea my brother!

We were making for the Trades on the outside …

4/23/17

Today we were beat.  Getting everybody up for the equator crossing is subtracting from sleep. I did some electrical investigation.  Seems like the solar array is not delivering much power.  Or maybe we are consuming a lot.  Trying to sort that out. We had decent wind and Mr. Sulu did a good job keeping us on course.

Interestingly here we are on the equator and the temp is pretty mild.  85 max.  It was hotter off the coast of Mexico.  Not complaining.

Just about …

NOTE from Nancy: I did not mean to mislead anyone into believing that photo of the green flash was taken from STW. It was “borrowed,” in case people have not seen one.

4/22/17

Today we enjoyed our last Sunset in the northern hemisphere.   It was a good one.  Really curious what the sunset will look like upside down tomorrow.

Good time to thank my onboard crew Lynn and Rebecca for signing on to this campaign.  And my shoreside crew Nancy, Mr Christian, and Relaena.  To make a trip like this happen, it takes an asylum…. VILLAGE damn it VILLAGE!   🙂

Today’s wind was pretty steady but not generous. Mr Christian told us to expect just this.  Nearly flat seas as a,result.  But there was swell.  Maybe 30 secs peak to.peak.  it’s like sailing over rolling hills all day. Beautiful.  Pretty lazy day.  I spent today reading a book about crossing the Pacific Ocean as we crossed the Pacific Ocean.   Kinda weird.  I had ambitions of looking at electrical questions today.  But tomorrow will have to do.

We are preparing to cross the equator. Should be about dawn. An event to be celebrated indeed!  There are two kinds of people in the world.  Those that have Not crossed the equator in a boat (“squid” or “polywogs”) and those that Have (“shellbacks”).  Remember that traditions like this were invented by people that were at sea for a long time.  So reasonable questions like “WTF is a shellback?” or “polywogs don’t live in salt water” are pointless and will get you a quick flogging on the Lido deck at happy hour.  Or maybe a Plank walking.  Still trying remember where I stowed the Plank….

I have certainly enjoyed the Northern Hemisphere.  Let’s see how the Southern half lives.

4/22/17  6:30 am PST

0 deg 0″ 0′, with Venus & Mars as our witnesses.

A Cool Sunset and some Really Old Stars

4/21/17

I was right.  And I was wrong.  About so many things.  Lynn prepared a lovely salad for dinner.  That included lettuce.  Which I  thought had expired.  Wrong.  And there were bell peppers and cukes and carrots and radishes.  I was wrong about those things too.   Those canned beans I was imagining for the future were further into the future than I thought.  Don’t know when I was so happy about being wrong!

Sea temp is 84.  Air is 82.  We enjoyed our second to last Sunset in the Northern hemisphere. And it was a great one complete with green flash.  Followed by another brilliant star night.  Moon still not up and is getting skinny so not much light there.  No sign of rain at all.

We did not get swimming today, wind discouraged that and strangely enough it was really not that hot.

4/20 & 2 Degrees To Go

4/20/17

I want to be sure to mention that my wife Nancy Patterson is keeping the blog postings current now that I am off shore with skinny communications.  Thank you Nancy!  The whole blog was set up by Relaena Sindelar.  Thank you Relaena!

Something about 4/20/17 just cheers me up. Shortly after dawn this morning we were making 5.5 kts on gentle swell and perfect 12 kts of wind.   ICTZ behind us and 217 miles to equator.  Mr Christian tells us winds will drop significantly between one degree N and one degree S.  For now we are doing fine.

Dolphins greeted Lynn this morning as Rebecca and I were sleeping.  We are running the motor this morning not for thrust, just water and charge batteries.

We have three eggs left.  I see Granola and pancakes in our future.  Lettuce consumed.  Spinach lasted only a few days strangely enough.  Usually does better than lettuce, but not this time.  Some fresh green beans are still with us.  And some squash.  Canned beans on the horizon too I’m thinking.  Haven’t run out of chocolate although it is kinda melty… 🙂  The sky is populated with benign little fluffy clouds.  My dad grew up on a farm in Iowa and would call those “sheep in the meadow” clouds.  Sea temp is 84.  Air is… 84!  Voodoo!

Spa day was yesterday.  Sandpaper and lotion can change your feet.  Who knew?  Rebecca fixed mine so they grip the deck better.  Cost extra but the marketing was irresistible!  Something about sipeing.

Should be another brilliant day on a big Pacific Ocean.  A thousand miles from nowhere is exactly the place to be.

4/17/17

We are 1/2 way to the Marquesas.  Yay!

Today nothing broke.  No projects.  Read.  Sail.  Pretty easy day.  Wind behaved.  Mr. Christian continues to track us for best wind/weather.  For now we are heading south along the 125 degree 30 minute longitude. We are as,far south as 8 degrees 25 minutes.  Advice is that we continue to 7 degrees North then either continue strait south or maybe bear off SW.  Depends on which way the wind blows at that time.

For now it’s dark. The moon comes up later every day. Bioluminescence is brilliant in this kind of dark.  And it’s warm. Jackets at night are history.  That we needed them at all surprised me.

Tomorrow let’s plan on nothing to fix again.  Worked out well today!

Smooth Sailing

4/17/17  **DELAYED POST** because scribe Nancy has been entertaining guests from Seattle 🙂

Today nothing broke. No projects. Read. Sail pretty easy day. Wind behaved. Mr Christian continues to track us for best wind/weather.

For now we are heading south along the 125 degree 30 minute longitude. We are as,far south as 8 degrees 25 minutes. Advice is that we continue to 7 degrees North then either continue strait south or maybe bear off SW. Depends on which way the wind blows at that time.

For now it’s dark. The moon comes up later every day. Bioluminescence is brilliant in this kind of dark. And it’s warm. Jackets at night are history. That we needed them at all surprised me.

Tomorrow let’s plan on nothing to fix again. Worked out well today!

4/17/17 – Later

We are beyond halfway.  Mr Christian reports we are dodging lots of storms on the course he has recommended.  I believe it.  I looked out at sunset and there were rain squalls to east and west and largely clear to the south.  We’ll get our share, and no more I’m hoping.

Day in the Bilge

4/16/17

All of the first 1000 miles were done on starboard tack.  Which means the boat is tilted to the port or left side.  And the bilge pump does not run and the bilge is pretty dry.  Then we change to port tack.  Things change.  Bilge pump starts to run hourly.  Big plastic bins live in the bilge spaces.  Largely filled with food.  We note that some of the food is getting wet.  Bummer.

So we start looking for the leak. First I taste the water. Salty.  Then I check the actual salinity with a tool I have for that.  Same salinity as the ocean.  So now I know I’m not looking for a fresh water leak.   From there the search doesn’t take long.  The hose that drains the galley sink into the sea has a perforation.  And leaks a trickle.  And this adds up to a problem.  Note that this hose is on the starboard or right side of the boat.  So if the boat is tilted to the left side – and it was for all of the trip so far, – the damaged hose is out of the water, no leaks.  But when we went to port tack, the starboard side is more under water.  So there is the leak opportunity and the intermittent behavior is explained.  If you listen closely, problems are frequently trying to reveal their nature to you.

The damaged hose lives behind the hot water heater.  Repair accomplished with 5200 caulking and silicon self stick tape.  You might think of 5200 as duct tape in caulk form.  The Silicon self stick is interesting.  You cut off 7 inches or so..  Strip off the backing, and in this case stretch it out and wrap it around the hose with the perforation pre-treated  with 5200.  The tape is elastic and seals that way.  Also sticks to itself so it quickly becomes a sleeve.  Replace the hose clamps and we’re back in business.  Note that this fix worked with this drain hose which sees no pressure.  A repair like this would not likely succeed for a pressure bearing hose.

But of course the bilge spaces still carry too much water.  We remove the bilge contents and chase out as much water as we can.  Refill the bilge with grub and we are Really back on business.

We dine and listen to the radio net and that is the day.  The sun goes down as we note clouds on most of the southern horizon.  Wind still blowing 20 NE.  Flying a fraction of the jib and we are making 6.5 knots downwind into the night heading SW.  And on this heading to the west lie the Marquesas.  At least Steven Stills says so.  The Southern Cross is in the south where it belongs.  Peeks through the clouds from time to time.  The whitecaps wink at me in the dark.  The moon is just coming up and peak star gazing is over for tonight.   Tomorrow I’ve scheduled a day where nothing breaks or needs to be worked on.  I’ll let you know how that turns out…   🙂

Flying Fish in your Eye

I’m not in the habit of making much of my birthday. Back in Seattle I would sometimes throw a tax day party to keep my birthday in disguise.  I mean if I have a birthday and nobody knows I did, do I still get older?

Anyway that is different at sea.  One day melts into the next unless Something Happens.  Like crossing the equator. Or marking the halfway point on a long crossing. Or a birthday.  We ate well, and yes there was chocolate. Almost worth another year!

The wind continues to blow reliably from the NE.  Are these trade winds?  Big swells still rolling under our stern.  Glad the boat floats!

Tonight’s watch was unusual.  There have been flying fish throughout.  Sometimes flying squid.   But now instead of traveling in schools the flying fish are traveling in flocks.  One flew in and landed on my lap.  These are greasy beasts with serious skin slime and a very convincing fish smell.  Then another flew into my left eye.  OW!  Then he released himself back into the sea.  Now my left eye smells fishy.  Humph!

Weather Christian tells us that we are on track to make the doldrums minimally lame.  We’ll see in  few days if that plan can be made to fly.  In the meantime it’s getting warmer.  Who’d have thought we’d be wearing fleece jackets at 13 degrees North of the equator?  Should soon be the end of that.