April 30, 2011

First Impressions of Nuka Hiva

But first, some thank-yous: Journeying across an ocean is one of the most lusciously solitary pursuits I’ve ever experienced. But it’s anything but lonely and we were never really alone. First off we were part of an amazing fleet of boats, which was glued together by two daily SSB nets (and most amazingly we all made landfall within 24hrs of each other).
 Then there were the legions of friends and family who sent weather updates, inspirational quotes (and prayers!), gossip, news, encouragement and some really terrible jokes. There were also the officials in French Polynesia who offered us any assistance they could when we lost our rudder. Then there are all our readers, so many of you! And from so many amazing places… Many of you we’ve never met but we hope you will start to say hello to us in the comments and come meet us if we are in your homeland.

So, thank-you. You all made our trip richer.
Four of the boats that crossed together (including us)
 We’ve been in Nuka Hiva for a day and a half and not wandered off the main road yet. But my impressions are of flowers, and fruit, and friendly smiles. And mud, and waterfalls, and a lush humid greenness. In the days to come we’ll share what we learn about the culture and the landscape, but for now we are simply looking around and drinking it all in
Maia and the girls from Phambili and Whatcha Gonna Do
 It is amazing to be here.

April 29, 2011

And still more passage pictures...

Maia's 'water park'
Equator Tattoo

Poseidon shows up at the equator to christen the Pollywogs
Equator swim

Land Ho!
It was good enough for Gauguin...

More Pictures

Tropical sunset
Boobies at dawn

One of the 59 flying fish that showed up on our boat
chatting with the kids on Watcha Gonna Do
School underway
Sailing toward our pot of gold...
Birthday Boy!!

Passage Pictures


dolphin fun

Landfall in Paradise

After 19 Days 12 hours we dropped our hook in the early morning hours. The moon lit up the anchorage enough at Nuka Hiva that we felt safe entering before dawn. In the silver light we could see peaks, and cliffs and we could smell the loamy earth.

We spoke to WGD over VHF as we entered. After 19 days we find ourselves entering harbour in the same order and with the same 1.5 hour spacing we had when we left La Cruz--and as I type I can see their sail as they approach. They without a main, we without our rudder...

Thanks for riding along for this part of our journey. After we get some sleep we'll get some pictures up. You can bet there will be just a teeny bit of celebrating done today!!

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April 28, 2011

Land Ho!!!!

A smudge on the horizon. That really is what land looks like when you first spot it from sea. A bit like a mirage at first. But over the course of an hour the smudge becomes more distinct. I watched the smudge--seeing its shape take form and hold--ruling out cloud, rainstorm and squall. When I was sure, I suggested Maia put her glasses on and follow me outside. But I put my finger to my lips and asked her to look quietly. Evan was napping after a long day and night.

I pointed to a patch of dark grey against a background of medium grey and held her finger as I traced the outline. "Land!?" she whispered.

Land. At 14 UTC after nearly 19 days at sea. 19 wonderful and frightening days. 19 days that were never boring. 19 days I'll never forget we spotted Ua Huka. Land.

We watched it grow more distinct then went inside. Whispering excitement. Planning how we'd share it with Evan. Music first. Jimmy Buffet, of course. Then we waited, giggling, for him to wake up. I worried a bit that the clouds would fill in before he could see it. And gauged how fast the sky was filling with squall clouds. I wasn't worried about the squalls though--just about Evan missing this glimpse.

But he woke up and we cranked the music. Maia led him outside by the hand and pointed. Drawing the shape with his finger. Then she let loose, "Land Ho!!" Then she looked at her dad, "Are you crying?" And we wiped away each other's tears. Land. Ho.

We should get in at sunrise. Although I'm afraid to say that out loud. I'm a bit nervous about tempting the fates...

62 miles to go.
2830 miles traveled
S 08 45
w 139 07

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South Pacific Day 19, Lost Rudder Day Two...

I probably should hold off calling this day two until the sun is up at least (and Day 19 doesn't really start until sunset). I'm on my second watch, the sunrise watch. But all I see now are the stars overhead, a slice of moon and the shadowy grey line of the horizon.
I can feel and hear that the seas have smoothed out a bit. I can tell they have changed from steely frothing peaks to long silver rows. It's still disconcerting to surf down nose into them and then feel the boat round into the trough, and then the autopilot's rasping effort as it tries to get us back on course.
I can't quite get my head around the physics (or is it fluid dynamics?) of the effort required for our one small rudder in one corner of our 40' x 23' boat to steer us in these conditions. But I know from the way my mechanical engineer husband wanders around the boat--tweaking our course, balancing our dagger boards, altering our speed--that my intuitive fear matches his educated one.

I am afraid.
It's no longer the deep smothering anxiety I felt last night-then simply looking at the towering seas made me cringe. It's now the fear that comes with accepting how vulnerable we currently are. We need the weather to stay calm, we need the forces on that rudder to stay low. We need a bit of good luck.
Fear--it seemed last night when I tried to numb it, hide from it, hate it away--has been my constant nemesis the past few years. I think it started with my cancer diagnosis, or maybe when I became a mother... But since we have been cruising I've grown to despise the moments when it overwhelms me. But, goes the argument I have time and again with myself, if I stop doing things I love simply because they sometimes make me vulnerable and afraid, my world will become very small.

Maia recently started to learn surf. Which she loved. Until she stayed out too long, became too tired and took a surf board in her face after being pummeled by a wave. After that she wanted to quit surfing. Yes she loved the sensation of surfing, yes she had fun when she was up, but she was so afraid to feel that much fear again.

I told her we'd always understand her deciding to stop activities that weren't right for her, or weren't fun to her, but quitting something out of fear was a bad precedent. Fear is a good emotion, I told her, it lets us know we need to be more cautious and pay more attention. But quitting something she enjoyed because the sensation of fear was so uncomfortable wasn't a choice.

But last night I told Evan I wanted to quit sailing. That I'm tired of just getting comfortable and developing confidence only to have something break. But really, the problem solving around breakdowns isn't the issue. In fact strategizing solutions is invigorating (in hind sight, from the safety of port...). But like Maia, it's the sensation of fear I can't stand.

But then, last night, as I did everything I could to avoid feeling anxious, I realized I have good reason to be afraid. Making Nuka Hiva on one rudder (which is likely under-strength to begin with) is going to take care and luck. We need to have a strong squall strategy (sails furled, hand steering, drifting with the squall to avoid strain), we need to choose our course thoughtfully, we need to balance time out and the risk of adverse weather, with our need to keep our speed low and rudder forces down.

Perhaps fear, I reasoned last night, isn't meant to be fed chocolate and a glass of wine while I hide in my bed and read... Maybe it is meant to be met head on and embraced.

The first boats we left La Cruz with will make landfall this am, as we had planned to do... But with our diversion to Nuka Hiva (bigger town, safer anchorage, more interesting location to wait for a rudder...) and slower speed our landfall won't happen until tomorrow morning. Between now and then I'll have lots of time to check out my new theories on fear, and see if being grateful for it really does help.

I do know that the world is wide and beautiful (and terrible and risky) and I want to see it. But first, Nuka Hiva...

Position as of 16:30 UTC
S 8 43
W 138 25
110 miles to Nuka Hiva
Motoring at 4 knots (surfing at 8...)
yesterday's run 148

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April 27, 2011

Rudderless in the South Pacific

Hey folks--it's a bit soon for an update but we wanted to stave the flow of concerned emails to our Sailmail address. At this point we need to hold that address clear for communication with Port Officials, weather (bring it on Jamie, please let us know we're going to see a reduction in these seas), or other specific advice or information. We have requested unlimited minutes with Sailmail--and when those come through we'll communicate further--but at this point well wishes are best shared on our blog...

As it stands we have lost our leeward rudder. It appears to have broken off at the repair point. I think I'd like a refund... Our windward rudder can hold a basic course but we are in >2m steep and somewhat confused beam seas. We've tried to balance things as best we can by motoring slowly and putting out a fraction of our jib, which slows our progress to about 6 knots, but our main goal is to minimize the pressure on our remaining rudder--it simply isn't designed to steer independently in these conditions.

We've had advice from fellow cruisers and the Marquesan port officials (who we are in regular contact with and who are fully informed of our situation) that we should change our destination goal and head instead to Nuka Hiva--the harbour there being much more open and better protected and our options for repair being a bit better (search away Jamie-but we are going to require stainless fabrication). The problem with our new destination is we can't make it by nightfall tomorrow, so we're looking at another night at sea. Which totally blows my guess of a passage of 18 days 14 hours from La Cruz...

We're all slowly getting our heads around the current scenario (I've developed a splitting headache, but I've also continued on with home schooling and helped Maia to make a pizza crust.) But it's really less than ideal. At least it didn't happen in a storm or at 3am, which is really a huge improvement over our normal emergencies. It also didn't happen last week when we were in some gnarly weather. We still have 180 miles to get through though--but our destination looks rather divine.

We'll do our best to update frequently until we are safely in port--but many things can keep us from communicating in a timely fashion.
Thanks for all the well wishes though. They mean a lot to us.

S 8 36
W 137
Steering 253m

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South Pacific- Day 18: Lost the Rudder

I had hoped to write a mundane post about all the things I'm looking forward to when we make landfall tomorrow (sleeping through the night, walking on land, shaving my legs (I don't think safety razors had boisterous sea conditions in mind...)). Instead, we're pondering if we can make landfall tomorrow, and if we do where we'll make it to.

When Evan transmits over the SSB the autopilot occasionally makes a hard right. Last night we ended up gybing. The technique is to hand steer through the remainder of the net, then restart the auto pilot. This morning when we did this the boat kept rounding up and wouldn't settle on a course. We tried numerous times to balance the rig--which is usually pretty simple--but no matter what we did, the boat would round up into the wind.

I suggested Ev have a good look at the rudders. He pondered one then the other, then commented that the port rudder looked fine, but for some reason, the starboard (recently repaired) rudder wasn't visible. So I hopped off the wheel and confirmed that the rudder wasn't visible because it wasn't there...

Fortunately we have two hulls and two rudders. And with a slow, carefully balanced boat we can manage with just one rudder for the 170 miles or so we have left of this journey. So we pulled down the main and reduced the genoa in an effort to keep our speed under 6 knots and the forces on our remaining rudder under control.

The next step is to see what course we can hold. It looks as though we can still make our way into Hiva Oa and because we've run the engine maybe 5 hours so far this trip, we have loads of fuel for motoring, which will reduce the strain on our rudder still further.

This sort of sucks though and if you want to send us some 'safe passage' vibes we'd be happy to take them. I was hoping we'd make it through the trip without a major incident, but it looks like we're not so lucky. It's also going to be a bit complex to get a new rudder. Our plan current plan is to have one made at a shipyard in Raitea, then shipped to the Marquesas, but we'll need to start researching our options...

S 8 17 W 136 33 making a course of 225 T roughly 170 miles out from Hiva Oa
Yesterday's run 171 miles

p.s. Note to Michael WGD: come up at 0:00 for the kid's net so we can touch base.

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April 26, 2011

Sailing the South Pacific-Day 17: No Permanent Harm

Sunrise on our 17th day at sea sees us moving along at 7.5 knots in about 15 knots of wind. The sea conditions and wind settled overnight and this morning is (dare I say it?) almost comfortable. The honeymoon though is over. My enchantment with the South Seas is now grounded in reality and my misguided assumption that this is a new more benign, peaceful ocean has been shattered. The South Pacific, with it's blue, blue water and a night sky where Orion is tipped over in a comical rather than fierce pose, can leave just as many bruises as those other oceans can.

We are getting close to landfall--and have about 300 miles to go. We've started to plan our time in the South Pacific, a little. But I think we're still too close to the effort to begin to dream yet. Last night when we were chatting about plans over the radio with Barb from WGD and she suggested visiting an UPWIND island. At the thought of another windward bash Evan reacted as though Barb suggested we all get together, shove bamboo splinters under each other's finger nails and sing Kumbaya...

I think that after a combination of a night or two at anchor, a few stiff drinks, and a good long walk on shore (which will follow the requisite kiss of the earth) we'll both be ready for the next part of this adventure. But right now we're still steeped in this one. And even though we only have 300 miles to go and should easily make landfall during daylight on Thursday, there are no guarantees.

Consider the fact that in our little fleet, which is now spread out by a few hundred miles, boats are experiencing everything from doldrums and glassy seas, to 40 knot squalls. Our weather report yesterday indicated we should have easy (light wind) conditions for the next 48-72 hours--but this morning there are lines of squalls all across the horizon, an indication that the restless (and deeply confused) ITCZ is roaming where it shouldn't be, again.

But if the predicted trades stay intact, and the squalls stay away, and nothing breaks, and no magic pixies suddenly speed us on our way we should see signs of land at sunrise on Thursday, and make landfall before dark. But before that can happen we have miles to go, meals to cook, sails to trim and watches to stand.

It's one heck of a ride though.
Yesterday's miles: 172
Average overall trip speed: 6.3 knots
Position: S 06 18 W 134 35
Notable incidents: Ev sighted a fishing boat in the early morning hours and we're seeing the first sea birds showing back up.
* Our sailmail reception is really slow now so we'll be holding off on personal emails for a day or so.

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April 25, 2011

Sailing the South Pacific-Day 16: Feeling the Fear

Last night was the first time this trip that I've really felt fearful. It wasn't that anything was wrong. But on a dark overcast night it's almost impossible to know when a wave is going to slam into the boat, and with each rising gust I had the worry that a squall might be close behind.

So I sat huddled and on high alert--feeling the boat jar and shake, wondering just how much force each wave packed, and how much wind was in that last gust, which pushed our upwind speed to 10 knots, despite the double reefed main and handkerchief of a jib. These are the moments when I count down the seconds to the end of my watch--waiting to hand over the responsibility for the boat to Ev. But even off watch I don't really sleep.

Fear is one of the toughest things about cruising for me. I'm fearful of big seas, high winds and crowded seaways. I'm fearful of docking in adverse wind and anchoring in crowded bays. I'm afraid of stuff breaking and equipment failing, and of slipping on deck in rough conditions, or of one of us being hurt, or lost overboard.

Mostly I try not to put a lot of energy into catastrophising. But when the wind is gusting to 35 and the seas are too big, too many, and coming from everywhere; and breakdowns are becoming more frequent as we all push our boats onward (WGD had their main's headboard separate from the sail last night)--I do feel afraid.

We have less than 500 miles to go. But then we'll have another huge expanse of ocean ahead of us, and another. And sometimes on dark nights, in squally weather another life beckons: one where I live in a peaceful snowy cabin, and sit in front of a roaring fire, sipping a glass of wine, while listening to peaceful music that sounds nothing like the incessant howl of wind and the insane percussion of unpredictable seas.

Years ago I was talking about fear with another cruiser. She was amassing strategies for coping with this darkest part of our seemingly carefree life (because like sea sickness, fear does rise up for almost all of us, at some point and to some degree). Her favourite strategy was to deconstruct the fear. To break down the elements and see if there was any real risk in that moment. So last night when fear overwhelmed me I went through the steps: The night is dark, but I'm not in danger in this moment. The sounds are loud, but nothing is breaking in this moment. The wind is strong, but right now it's propelling us safely.

Releasing each fear let me take in other experiences--instead of imagining my doom I noticed the way the stars shone through the clouds, rather than thinking the boat was about to break with each shuddering crash I concentrated on the way we surged so effortlessly forward toward our destination, rather than being swallowed up by the darkness I focused on the way our wake was alive with bioluminescence. And slowly gratitude overcame fear: I'm sailing to the South Pacific; I'm in the Southern Ocean; I'm able to do this.

Our Easter was more boisterous than we hoped. But somehow I braced myself in the galley, which was bucking and heaving like a commuter bus, and wedging a foot and a hip I chopped and diced, simmered and roasted. It was definitely a day for a one pot meal but I had my heart set on a proper Easter dinner. I came close with baked ham, sesame roasted potatoes, warm beet salad and coleslaw--but we skipped the appies, wine and and pear ginger cake I was going to make for dessert (now I have three very overripe guilt-inducing pears to find a use for...).

We had a nice day though--celebrating the holiday which is usually the start to spring and which this year marks our transition to autumn. We had moments of giddy excitement-planning hikes and meals on shore and thinking we'll need to have an arrival party with our little passage making fleet (I think Michael will need to pull out the karaoke machine and don his 'naughty sailor' outfit for this one...) And we had moments of gratitude--simple appreciation for where we find ourselves this Easter.

Yesterdays run: 156 miles (upwind, in miserable seas...)

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April 24, 2011

Sailing in the South Pacific-Day 15: Smooth Sailing No More

Remind me again why I wanted steady SE trades? They kicked in yesterday. But instead of providing a gentle downwind sleigh-ride the emergence of a mirror image ITCZ just to the south and west of us means the trades have strengthened and are more south than east--which means we are close on the wind in lumpy conditions.

Despite the weather (and the fact that Blue Moon publicly admitted to having rabbit (aka the Easter Bunny) for dinner last night) the bunny found our boat. And being a little kid, Maia woke at dawn to search for chocolate, which was pretty much the time when I wanted to be asleep. Easter eggs are kind of round--and round things on a rolly boat tend to roll. Which made the hunt a unique one. Maia stationed herself in the middle of the cabin and simply waited for eggs to pass by.

We'll have to see how our plans for Easter dinner work out. I got some nice ham from Carne del Mundo and we're planning a few special dishes. The seas and upcoming squalls may have their own opinion about our plans though.

The days continue to zoom past though. Mostly they have been problem free but yesterday Evan noticed the sumbrella cover on our Genoa was starting to come unstitched and after a hard night's sailing it's in even worse shape. So one of the first details of our day is to do some repairs on it.
I'll keep this brief for now. Lots to do today and it sounds like it might get exciting weather wise. I guess the whole trip couldn't be gentle and benign but hopefully it won't end with the same conditions we started with.
650 miles to go.
Yesterday's run 144 miles

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April 23, 2011

Sailing in the South Pacific-Day 14: Easter Equator

It was kind of like a daylight version of New Years. We gathered around the GPS and watched the minutes & seconds count down. But instead of counting time--we were counting distance, watching for the exact point when we sailed from the northern hemisphere and into the southern: Noon local time, on our 13th day of sailing, Good Friday April 22.

Once across Neptune showed up with his trident and made all the Pollywogs aboard take a sip of a disgusting mixture of sea water, Worsetshire sauce, rum, then we popped champagne, made a toast to Neptune and Poseidon and as newly christened (and freshly tattooed) Shellbacks we dove into the South Pacific and swam in water that is four miles deep.

As celebrations go it was a pretty special one--we had wonderful gifts (more on a lovely (and uniquely fitting!) one from Hotspur when I can post the pics), messages to open, chocolate to eat & bubbly to drink. And when we were done celebrating we decided it was time to give in and accept the light air and hoist our spinnaker. Which would have been perfect, except we had left our fishing lines out, which sunk straight down, and while drifting with no sails the boat turned around. So when we started the engine to set us on the right track...

You see where this is going, don't you?

Back into the ocean went Evan. But it's clear, and warm, and blue, and he has a sharp knife. Within a short time our rudder and prop were clear and he was back aboard. Not long after that the spinnaker cracked full and we were again underway.

It always seems that the wind is stronger and the seas are bigger at night. And during this part of the passage it's true. Every night as we speed along under a waning moon and bright-star night I think we've at last hit the steady trades and we're back to 160-170 mile days. But then the sun rises and the wind fades away.

We won't make Hiva Oa as soon as I had predicted (I was hoping for 18-19 days) but we will be faster than two boats that are out (Gigi hitting 35 days and Aeolus on day 26). But as Michael on WGD says, it's not a race (mainly I think he says this because our little 40' boat pulled ahead of his 46' one but if they keep making faster days my guess is the race will be back on...)

We're into the home stretch though and I'm trying to commit the wonders of this passage to memory.
We made it to the South Pacific Mum and Dad!!

As an aside, it's Easter this weekend and Maia is trying to get a message to the Bunny. She wanted to toss him a message in a bottle, but we've failed to drink enough underway to free up the required bottle. So she's hoping some of you who may have Bunny connections could pass this along.

Dear Easter Bunny,
How are you this year? I bet you are very busy getting ready. I thought I would write you to tell you where we are. We are right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But I know you'll find us. We are south of the equator and will be roughly 650 miles from Hiva Oa. Our boat is called Ceilydh. It is a Richard Woods design catamaran with blue and green stripes and a modified cabin.
I read in a book that there was not one but seven Easter Bunnys--so I hope one can be assigned to us. Remember when you gave me that huge chocolate rabbit? Please, please. please set up an Easter Egg hunt! They're so much fun.
I hope you are well.
Lots of love,

S 01 09 W 128 32
Yesterday's run 121 miles.
Last night we had the last of our fresh broccoli with our first non-fresh veg (corn), steaks from Carne del Mundo and homemade cookies for desert.
We still have plenty of fresh tomatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes and chayote but most of the other fresh veggies are used up or became overripe. For fruit we have a few last pears and mangoes plus loads of apples, oranges (amazingly the little mandarins kept better than regular oranges), grapefruit and limes. Eggs are still fresh.
Kelly M--I'm sending you a separate email but my file of gluten-free baking recipes disappeared. Can you email me one for scones (I have a premixed flour) and one for buns/bread of some sort?

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April 22, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 13: Crossing the Equator

Yesterday was our first irritable, grumpy, no good, very bad mood day. Actually beyond snapping at each other a few times and just generally each wanting a bit of peace, and maybe a long walk, it wasn't too bad. And mostly it illustrated how happy we've all been on the voyage.

The solution was to take a bit of time by ourselves and cool off. And by cool off, I mean physically-it's freaking hot out here (with morning air temps in the shade starting at 30 C and the water running at 27 C). Finding a cool space of your own isn't as tough as you might think--and didn't require anyone to go swimming. Generally we sit around the settee chatting, reading, eating or watching Maia play. Or we hangout in the cockpit chatting, reading, trimming sails or watching Maia play. But yesterday I hunkered down on the roof in the shade of a sail and then Maia headed up to the nets and played in her own personal water park for a while before returning to the cabin and asking for the 1000th time, "Are we at the Equator yet?"

We will cross the equator today (as will four of the boats we left with--which is super cool, sadly we'll all be 60+ miles apart so there won't be a big party, or yoga class...). But crossing the equator means we'll sail from the northern hemisphere into the southern (where maybe it will be cooler--seems how winter is coming down there...). I suggested Maia pump the head (toilet) as we cross, just to see if the coriolis effect is strong enough to set the water swirling the other way, but she's opted to plan a ceremony for Poseidon that includes stopping the boat for a swim (a slightly interesting prospect now that we're scooting along at 5-7 knots in a really large southern swell), dressing up, making an offering to Poseidon and drinking champagne.

Transitioning from Pollywog to Shellback at the equator is a pretty old tradition. And usually it's up to the Shellbacks aboard (experienced Ocean crossing sailors) to initiate the Pollywogs with tricks and torments. But seems how we're still a boat load of Pollywogs and we're all going to become Shellbacks together--we're opting for a friendlier initiation. One that includes gifts, a nice dinner and maybe something chocolate.

While we wait for the equator (we'll cross this afternoon)--we're taking advantage of the calmer seas (and power/water-making sunshine) to catch-up on laundry (we did one load last week). We don't wear much while out--Maia and I favour cotton PJ's while Ev leans towards his typical shorts and t-shirts. But daily showers mean our towels are piling up. So the 5-gallon buckets are full in the cockpit and I'm hoping some of the sloshing caused by the swell will do the work of scrubbing. It's the drying that's the trick though--we use lifelines as clotheslines but if we move faster than 7 knots things can get mighty wet out there--and dousing clean clothes in salt water sort of defeats the whole effort.

All is well aboard Ceilydh though. Maia's attention is equally split between our equator crossing celebration and getting the details out to the Easter Bunny about where to find her (she's hoping those who are further east might put in a word for her). Ev is enjoying a problem free sail and I'm turning my head back to work. It seems the assignment fairy can, and did, find me at sea and I have several deadlines waiting to greet me in Hiva Oa.

Yesterday was our slowest day yet: 126 miles. But we've come 1900 miles in <13 days, so we're not going to complain, especially because we just heard of someone who's been out for >30 days...
N 00 10 W 127 00
Update--couldn't get a connection this AM. but as of noon local time and 19:00 UTC our position was:
00 00 000 W 127 06
*note to Barb and Michael: Ev says that equator crossings are celebrated just like birthdays are. And be sure to pull in your fishing lines before stopping to celebrate. Just saying...

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April 21, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 12: Blue Water, Lazy Sailors

The SE trades aren't steady yet--they still come and go and last night we were becalmed for hours and decided to motor. When the wind does blow it comes at 10 knots from just forward of abeam--just enough to move us at 6-7 knots on a close reach along our rhumb line. The overcast that marked much of our trip (until it was replaced by squall lines) has been replaced again by a bright blue sky and lines of puffy white clouds. The seas are a bit of a jumble--swell from two directions with wind waves from a third--but the sailing is sublime.

We've finally tacked the sails and are on a port tack now. We haven't done much with the sails really--we've furled the Genoa now and again and reefed the main, but we've moved steadily and quickly enough that we've not bothered at all with the spinnaker. I think we're all embracing simplicity and sloth out here. After chores and school we spend the day reading, or reading to each other (I'm reading Maia the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Ev's reading her the Hobbit) and for a while yesterday we blasted music through the outside speakers and danced crazily in the bounce. Once we were spent we resumed staring at the sea (we recently saw a bottle with a message in it float by but couldn't quite pull it together quickly enough to rescue it).

Our fishing gear seems to also be taking it easy--we lost the gaff overboard and stopped throwing out lines until we came up with an improvise. But now they're back out, nothing has shown interest in biting. I have mixed feelings about this--I'd love some of the fresh tuna we've been hearing about (seared and crusted with sesame seeds...) but I sort of just want it to show up--filleted and ready to serve.

My Internet twitch is gone--I guess I'm through the throws of withdrawal. In fact I think my withdrawal now will come when we see land. I can almost understand the choice Bernard M. made when he sailed on, ignoring the finish line at the end of first round the world race. I think it must be something about the water--so blue I can lose myself in it, so remote I wonder if anyone ever before has been at this exact place on the earth, so deep it has room for all my thoughts.

In our turbulant wake I see flying fish skirting the blue waves before crashing into sunlit froth. And then our wakes settles and there is no one left so see or hear the ocean. We leave everything behind.

A third slow day--yesterday we came just 140 miles.
We're currently just over 1000 miles from land so if you haven't placed your bet on our arrival time in Hiva Oa--do it soon!
N 02 12
W 125 40

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April 20, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 11: The Family Edition

Well--it looks liked we punched through the ITCZ last night and this morning we're scooting along under a clear sky in the SE trades. The world looks like it's been through a good rain--which it has--and the humidity hasn't built yet so the morning feels fresh and clean.

Yesterday we had two reminders about how vulnerable we are out here. We had a line the holds our lazy jacks and stack pack up break at spreader level (this is the cover that holds our mainsail when we reef it). We were between squalls and it seemed calm enough at deck level so Ev decided to get it fixed and I hoisted him up the mast. Calm at deck level looks very different when you are 35' aloft, and as he tried to tie the broken line back to the assembly he began a free-swing--crashing him against the mast. We got him down with no more than a few bruises (& he managed the repair) but shortly later we heard from Blue Moon that Rob had been badly stung by a Portuguese Man of War jelly fish and had a severe reaction that they had difficulty getting under control. Rob too ended up fine. But these are the moments that can go any which way--and that remind us of the risks we take.

I was thinking you might be getting a bit sick of only hearing from me--so I asked both Maia and Evan to write something to celebrate our halfway day. So here you go:

Hi everybody! Maia here. We're half way there! Whoo hoo! I'm dancing with joy! We're half way across the biggest ocean known to mankind! THE SOUTH PACIFIC! Poseidon favors us. Not a sea monster in sight. Oh darn it all, a sea monster just poked it's big, ugly, head up. All right, all right, settle down, false alarm. I thought I'd take this as a opportunity to tell parents . . . IF YOU'RE DOING THIS, BUY GIFTS FOR YOUR CHILDREN! Buy 1 for your half way mark, 1 for equator and 1 for . . . LANDFALL IN PARADISE! I know, I know, I'm rather excited but . . . WE'RE CROSSING AN OCEAN PEOPLE IT'S A BIG DEAL! I know some of you have had questions about day to day life soooooo . . . . . HERE'S YOUR ANSWERS SO BE QUIET AND DON'T COMPLAIN! Here are some of my daily activities:

Taking a shower, discovering that the water's cold and then screaming.
Dreaming up new plots to get out of school work.
Trying to convince my dad to eat Play Do.
Dancing in the rain.
Now dear reader I think my dear mother is going to take over this blog post so . . . . . so long for now!

Hmm, go for a nap and this is what I wake to... You should see what we get when she gets a math assignment...

Maia's other activities include collecting up the morning's crop of suicidal flying fish and squid (she's returned 49 fish and 7 squid to the deep...)
Chatting on the kid's net first thing in the am...
Helping with chores and cooking—food is a highlight of our days.
Learning French by podcast with her parents
Listening to podcasts (Radiolab, Quirks and Quarks, The Vinyl Cafe and TED talks make for good family discussions)
Doing art

Evan here. Finally I get a chance to write. Here's my list of what broke so far:

- the "dripless" shaft seal leaked water in first 2 days seas. Maybe it needs to be re-broken in after our engine re-alignment. Hasn't leaked for days now however

- autopilot drive unit plastic end cap broke. Vince do you know anything about these? We have 2 spares from other pilots so don't need to fix just yet

- the U-bolt that secures the outboard motor lifting tackle fractured. Fixed with a Spectra lashing to nearby traveler track

- roller furler lower socket head cap screws nearly backed themselves out, even though riggers in SF had taped over them. Got to them in time so no drama.

- the extra long 1/4" bolt that secures the rudder head to the boat sheared off. Replaced with a spare I had just bought in PV :) I'll put in bigger bolts when we are not moving

- there was water in the engine crankcase. Probably from the exhaust system during our first 2 days of rough sailing. Changed the engine oil a few times and I hope no damage. I will have to fit an exhaust system shut off valve in F.Polynesia

- the rudder 'anti-clunk' fiberglass bracket popped off on one side. Other side had recently failed too but was re-glued in La Cruz. Again, it can wait for calm conditions to re-glue it on.

How about some lessons learned?
check weatherfax and saildocs forecasts beforehand when you have a fast internet connection, not at sea
hose test all hatches before leaving
have backups for your autopilot
pre-mark your reefing lines
have earplugs and sleeping mask for off watch
be flexible in your watch schedules if somebody is getting tired

We did all this; except hose testing a hatch which leaked a fair bit of seawater in rough seas (the hatch was under wave splashes a lot)

So yesterdays run was a slow one as well--150 miles with an hour or so of motoring through a calm. Now we're in the SE trades (which are fairly light still) we're making a good 7 knots.
N 03 46 W 124 38 heading 225-230T

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April 19, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 10: Halfway There

We're headed due south across the ITCZ. We hadn't expected to turn south yet--our plan had been to continue to skirt the edge of the zone, moving southwest, then make a dash across it when conditions looked good. But the ITCZ had a different plan and moved itself north over top us, so considering we were already in it, it made sense to start south.

Last night, as the sun set, and we finished up dinner (pasta with lots of fresh tomatoes that were well on their way to becoming overripe tomatoes) we were surrounded by squalls. It felt like a game of pig in the middle: we had clear circle of sky above us but grey storm clouds menaced us from 360 degrees. After putting all our electronics into the oven (a low-tech Faraday cage) I went to bed knowing we had a long night of dodge squall in our future.

I woke a few hours later and found Evan outside--simply standing in the breeze. Above us the moon was full and the sky was clear--ahead the Southern Cross burned clean and bright, astern the only constellation visible in the moon-bright sky was the Big Dipper. The waves were smooth and glowing, and the wind was warm when Evan slipped his arm around me. I stood for a bit, leaning against him, recalling other moonlit passages and other sightings of the Southern Cross. We whispered about the beauty as we sped along in flat seas and light wind, "But where did the ITCZ go?" I asked. Evan shrugged. It was enough that it was gone and we had the gorgeous night.

This morning we have squalls all around us again. It's as though the clear night never happened. But we're still sailing at over 6 knots in so little wind the waves barely ripple. It's lovely and gentle out here. I imagine we have a few more squalls in our future--the ITCZ tends to be a few hundred miles wide and we're clearly not done yet. But after yesterday's rains the boat is cleaner than it's been in a year. I'm glad I never bothered scrubbing it too much before we left.

We've come over 1480 miles now and are more than halfway. We gave Maia a little halfway gift of glitter and neon pens and she's busy making charts so the Easter Bunny can find her this weekend. our fruits and veggies are still going strong-but I tossed the last avocado and some of our oranges have gone bad. Yesterday's run (as we dodged squalls and went through calms) was only 140 miles.
N 6 14 W 124 08

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April 18, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 9: The Ocean is So Big

Last night Whatcha Gonna Do didn't check into the net. Kris on S/V Britannia called for them several times. When it came time to end the net and shut off the radio we were reluctant to do so. Not checking in is something like not showing up for a dinner party--there can be endless straightforward reasons for it to happen, but it's still a worry.

So all through the night I worried. As the wind rose and fell and thunder squalls moved toward us--dumping the most rain we've seen since...I'm not sure when we last saw rain--I pondered what might have kept them from checking in. I knew the weather was benign and assumed that like S/V Totem last year they simply had radio problems. I also know they have a SAT phone--so if they did have an emergency I knew they could call for help. So as the squalls moved away--sucking our wind and leaving us bobbing--I convinced myself all was fine and we'd just need to find a way to communicate. When my watches ended I slept--fitfully.

"The ocean is so big, my boat is so small." I've always loved this quote (or approximate quote...)--but as this passage continues the words shift and change meaning. This morning as we waited for the morning net--and tried unsuccessfully to download email (just incase WGD had sent us a message)--I realized that in many ways WGD's connection to the outside world is stronger than their connection to us. If you haven't been reading their blog you'll find it in the links at the side of ours--and if you read it, you'll know more about how their passage is progressing than we do--despite the fact we are in the same neighbourhood, so to speak.

The ocean between our boats is more vast than the hundred or so miles that separates us. And the life aboard each boat is a contained universe. We each have our routines: watches, school work, boat chores, meals... And the moments when we intersect are limited--occurring over scratchy radio nets where we give our positions, our weather and a brief description of how we are, before our voices are swallowed up by background noise.

But knowing that each boat is safe--and relatively near--is oddly reassuring. And when Michael's voice came over the radio this morning and he explained they had changed their clocks aboard and missed the net by an hour while changing headsails the ocean briefly grew smaller.

We are as far from land as we'll ever be right now. And the technology that keeps us connected is fragile. But this morning the sky is blue and the sun has the white tropical brightness to it that you only find as you near the equator. The seas are gentle and rolling, the thunderstorms have receded and all the boats in our little fleet are happy and well. We are turning childhood dreams and school geography lessons into life--an imperfect thing: filled with moments that scare us, ones that tire us and many that leave us in awe.

Yesterday's run was 150 miles and we've come over 1340 miles. We'll hit our halfway mark at some point tonight and turn south to cross the ITCZ and equator in the next few days.
N 8 36 W 124

Hi Folks, Evan the guest blogger here. First off, thanks to all who wrote with birthday greetings, letters, etc. I don't have enough email time to answer individually right away, but I appreciate each and every one. We ended the day with steak, sautéed shrooms (portobello mushrooms keep really well), salad, baked potatoes, red wine and Giardelli brownies. Mmm. My last memorable birthday at sea was my 30th, as we sailed past Acapulco on our last boat`in the moonlight. This one was better!

Here's a recap of the passage so far from my perspective: it's been going great. 1st 2 days were rough enough that I had to take seasickness meds (3rd time in 2 years) but after that the sailing has been easy. Our boat continues to impress me with how easy she is to keep speeding along. Even in the <10 knots wind we have today, we still see 5 or 6 knots downwind. That's good for a loaded cruising boat. I haven't been tempted to use a spinnaker because Ceilydh keeps on moving so well. Frankly I could push the boat faster and harder but why bother - it just gets noisy surfing at 10+ knots all the time when the wind is up. In the next day or 2 we will hit the ITCZ and it looks like`it might be fairly thin to get through. Our last time in the ITCZ was Panama/Costa Rica where it is much wider and parallels the coast more - the lightning went on for days and we even had water spouts.

I could get used to this passage making stuff. I think weather and sea condition wise we hit it good this year (though when boats nearby are complaining about the bumpiness that we don't feel we think some of it is because we're a cat).

Best to you all

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April 17, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 8: Evan's Birthday!

If we had left as planned back in March, Ev's 45th birthday would be celebrated on a South Pacific beach--fruity rum drink in hand--cake shared with a crowd. We have invited the other nearby boats over for cake tonight--but oddly enough I think we're on our own. Something about 8' seas, squally winds, and trying to get someplace were the excuses.

We're sailing toward a bank of dark clouds and during the night we saw our first lightening. We were hoping not to be seeing signs of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) so soon--but this squally patch of weather that distinguishes the change from the northern hemisphere to the southern pretty much does it's own thing. All we can do is watch the weather maps and do our best to pick our way through the squalls and doldrums (and hopefully come out on the other side in the Southern Trades...)

Unless of course the Southern Trades also went 'poof'...

Despite the change in the weather the boat is still moving quickly and comfortably. Yesterday much of the day was sunny and it actually started to feel like we were heading south (it's been almost too chilly to shower in the cockpit). I guess we're still in the honeymoon stage of our journey. None of us are bored. We're all getting lots of sleep. Our veggies are going strong--although we've eaten the last of the green beans and asparagus...

Evan's even started to research our destination. Yesterday he worked on a spreadsheet--trying to decide how many days and weeks we can spend in each location before the season will force us to move on. I'm not at that stage yet though. I'm still here--in the ocean, contemplating which meals to make, planning how to celebrate Ev's birthday, our halfway day, Easter, and the equator. There's still so far to go and so much to experience out here. I'm not ready for land yet.

As far as birthdays go I actually think celebrating a mid-life birthday halfway to the South Pacific might not be half bad. If a birthday is a chance to gage how life is going--ours is going well. The boat is performing better than Evan hoped (and is more comfortable than I had hoped). Maia is a wonderful crew and our family is a comfortable, happy team. There is part of me that would have loved to have thrown Evan a bigger birthday celebration--one that acknowledges all the years that went into getting us out here. Especially the ones when Maia was wee, and I was busy with her and my career and he put in so many long cold hours on the boat alone. But then again--maybe this is the best way to celebrate him, our family, and our goals--at least it should be memorable.

Tonight I'm planning special (aged!!) steaks (if you've ever bought meat in Mexico, you'll understand my glee) baked potatoes and our last big green salad. Depending on conditions we may even indulge in a glass of wine.
So I hope you'll join me in toasting him--out here in the ocean, living a dream.

N 9 39 W 122 03 Yesterday's run was 153 miles and we're averaging 6.6 knots

PS--we're over our transmission limit for email today--so while I'm longing to write personal responses to all the fantastic emails we're getting they will have to wait a day or two. Keep the emails coming though--we love them and they make our day.

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April 16, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 7: 1000+ miles...

Dawn was dreary. We haven't had a single spectacular sunset or sunrise since leaving--and certainly no green flash. And we've seen so little sun that our battery banks didn't have enough juice in them yesterday for Maia to participate in the kid's SSB net unless we charged them with the engine. So Evan tried to start the main engine.
Switched to the starting battery. More nothing.
We are a sailboat but our engine is pretty vital. It moves us, gives us power and adds a measure of safety. Having it not work is a bit of a worry. We have a secondary motor--but the outboard really is just for maneuvering. It has a really small alternator and it's pretty vulnerable in big seas. But we started it anyway--in the hope it would charge the batteries enough that we could start the main engine.
Meanwhile Evan started diagnosing the diesel. I stood ready--throttling up and down, starting and stopping while he did black magic stuff in the engine compartment. While he called out instructions I watched our progress--noticing the way the grey waves lifted us toward the grey sky, and the way they peaked to a brilliant, gleaming glacial-blue right before bubbling into snowy froth. I marvelled how we slipped down their face--at times disturbing huge flocks of iridescent flying fish into unlikely seeming flight. Then I would crank the engine again.
Eventually the engine caught--stayed caught--seemed all better--until alarms started to ring. It's been a few days since alarms rang. So we had to hunt down the source.
Oil pressure.
Evan had looked for water in the engine and hadn't seen signs, but now they were obvious. It must have come in through the exhaust during the rough first day. I switched off the engine and back into the engine compartment he went. Changing the oil, once then twice, with a third planned soon. Then we had the smooth rumble of a motor and together with the brief sun we charged our batteries.
We've turned south. The NE trades are too far west and we need to start toward the equator. The Genoa is poled out to one side. The main is prevented on the other. It's called wing-on-wing. If you were astern of us we'd look like an ungainly bird--hurtling down steep waves. Relying on our wide base to keep us straight. For four hours we averaged over 9 knots.
It's a comfortable motion--somewhere between a child's roller-coaster and a hilly country road. It sounds of surf. Spray soaks our decks.
We've come over 1000 miles and we're about as far from land as we'll ever get. It feels like I can go anywhere I've ever wanted to and I guess really, I am. I was five when I saw a boat that had recently arrived in Comox from Hawaii and I realized that little sailboats could cross oceans. I made a pledge then that someday I would cross an ocean of my own.

It's as magical as I ever dreamed.
N 11 35 W 120 22

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April 15, 2011

Sail to the south Pacific-Day 6: Safety Net

Last night Evan caught sight of a boat. It was lit up like a fishing boat but seemed to be drifting slowly along. Though the wind had dropped, the seas were still sub-alpine--but the bright moon made the whole scene seem friendly. He pondered the boat on radar and wondered if someone in our mini-fleet had pulled ahead during the day's high winds. When he called out on the VHF he discovered it was a sailboat on it's way to the South Pacific, but it was one we hadn't heard of yet. Passing within two-miles we wondered at the odds of encountering another boat out here...

One of the questions people (parents) frequently ask us is if we are buddy boating across the Pacific. 'Safety in numbers,' is the thought people have,'It's good to have someone nearby--just in case'.
The fact we left La Cruz with such a large fleet was a lovely fluke--it's an amazing thing to know that in our little 100-mile patch of the sea there are about seven boats, all heading the same direction. But we're all moving at different speeds and each handle the conditions in a different way and at this point we're probably a few hours sail from our closest neighbour.
We do still give each other an element of comfort--and our twice-daily informal radio nets (we haven't joined the main nets because the two-week gap in departures means there are no boats mid-fleet to pass on relays) give us the chance to give our positions, compare weather notes, ponder mechanical problems and crack a few jokes.
Essentially though we are on our own. And other than last night, we haven't had visual contact with another boat since the day after leaving. And even our VHF range (which allows us to talk when we like and not on a pre-arranged schedule) is only good up to 20-25 miles (at best).

The thing is--there really are no safety nets out here. It's up to each boat to plan for its own wellbeing. We have to assume that if something goes wrong there is no one who can come help. Every boat is its own little universe. And while we'd go help any boat that needs assistance--we really prefer knowing that we're out here with a bunch of smart, well-prepared people who won't need rescuing, because rescues can really mess up cruises.

But if you are our parents, and you're reading this, of course we're buddy boating.

Had a fantastically fast run of 178 miles yesterday--which is a new record for us. Won't be anywhere near that quick today because the wind dropped last night. Still haven't hit the NE trades and wondering if we ever will. We're not to concerned though. Conditions continue to be lovely.

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April 14, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 5: Internet Withdrawal

I'd like to google 'trade winds' right now. Just a general search to read about them. And I'd like to check everyone's facebook statuses, and see what's trending on twitter, and check the headlines at the NY Times, CBC and the Guardian, and do a search for a few new articles that should be out, and look for a few podcasts, and read all the blog posts of fellow cruising boats (even though I'm emailing several and talk with others on the SSB), and I'd like to read about Hiva Oa and see what other people did while there, and I'm clearly an addict in the throws of Internet withdrawal.
I believe I may be twitching.

Go ahead. Mock me. Point out that I'm sailing across a gorgeous ocean and had a pod of dolphins frolicking in our bow wave just a few short hours ago (okay--you don't actually know that part because I haven't written about how we first heard the squeals echoing in the hulls and then watched them leap through the waves to reach us. And OMG was the teeny, tiny baby cute...). And feel free to point out I was excessively stressed out before leaving and that a reading-break from civilization's imminent collapse is probably exactly what I need (have I mentioned the colour of the water out here? It's like looking into a velvet-blue night sky...).

When I calculate our daily miles I try not to think about the fact that yesterday we only sailed 148 miles closer to connectivity. Because that's not a healthy way to view life. Instead I should be pulling out the guide books we have aboard and dreaming about our destination. But clearly it's not the information I'm craving. It's the instant gratification of the click.

There is no instant gratification out here. Everything we have was planned carefully. Anything I want I need to make or prepare. Nothing is simple--but everything is oh, so simple.

We've stripped away details that once seemed so vital and are only working with the elements. The sun makes our power--which makes our water, which we heat for showers and cooking. The wind propels us, mostly in the direction we want to go, but we have no control over the speed with which we get there (although gliding along at 10 knots in these smooths seas is as close to heaven as I've ever been...). The only food we have is what we thought of and found before leaving or what we may catch (but do any lures work when we're going this quick?). The only contact we have with the outside world comes slowly through our radio and it's limited to prearranged nets--and 13 minutes a day is all I have for email.

But it is sublime, really. The sailing is dreamy. The seas are smooth, the wind is mostly steady. And maybe if we have a few more hours of this current version of our trip I will forget the Internet entirely and spend the rest of my life trying to recapture *this*.

The watch right before sunrise is my favourite. It's just me and the foredeck boobies. They brought a few new friends last night but Ev has decided to limit stowaways to three. They poop a lot. But I like the way their awkward red duck-feet clutch at the lifelines--I love it when they tip over. They seem to take it in stride though and right themselves then hunker back down to sleep. And poop.

We had hoped for a new speed record today and the first three hours saw us cover nearly 26 miles. But then we slowed back down to 6-ish knots during the night. We thought we'd have found the trades and turned south by now, but I guess they are further west again. I may regret our hurry to find them when the time comes though--this beam/broad reach in gentle swell seems to be what our boat was built for. We slip through the waves and make effortless progress--pulling ahead of all the much bigger boats. Not that it's a race;)

**Be sure to join our betting pool and try and predict when we will arrive in Hiva Oa. And keep in mind we can't read our comments until we get in (although we love getting them!!)
Position 1535UTC 15d05N 116d41W

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April 13, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 4: Betting Pool

The sun is rising through thick overcast. We've had the clouds almost since we left. They burn off enough that our solar panels can keep up with our needs--but not so much that it gets sunny. Our night time passengers have flown off. We carried three boobies through the moonlight and I think they ate all the flying fish and squid that landed on the deck. Yesterday we had seven flying fish and two squid, today I see none.

The wind is soft and shifting and cool on my skin. Right now it's strong enough we're moving at 7 knots in flattish swell. And waves slap and gurgle against our hulls and then roll out of sight.
The sea.

There's never been anything but the sea... It feels timeless out here. Like I should be notching the mast to count each sunrise and keep track of the days. It could be the way we sleep and wake many times through the day and night for our watches--is is a new day, the same day, some magically ancient day from the time of the explorers?

It's hard not to ponder those ancient sailors as we make our way to the trade winds. Part of it is the wonderful book Maia is using for home schooling on this passage, "Tools of Navigation" was not only written by a writing buddy (Rachel Dickinson) but it's filled with the history (and several great activities) from early navigation. So while we download our weather, and have friends using multiple sources routing us, a GPS keeping us on track, an auto pilot steering us and news from boats up ahead to guide us--we read about those who relied on simple mechanical tools and the stars to find their way...

We're still heading west in search of the trades. The wind is light but consistently present and the seas are beautifully smooth. It's truly gorgeous sailing and we're making 6-8 knots. But we had our taste of flying faster--of roaring along and chewing up the miles--and I think, despite the comfort of these conditions, we're eager to hit the trades and turn south.

Part of it is just for the magic. We sailed in the trade winds in the Atlantic and both recall the steady wind that made little Ceilydh come alive the way no wind had done before. But part of it is going West feels wrong--rather than a straight journey to the Marquesas we're doing a route that is more like an 's'. So rather than the nominal 2700 mile journey that I was certain we had already sailed through over 600 of, we still have over 2200 to go...

Which brings us to our audience participation question: "When will we arrive in Hiva Oa?" Because of the complexities of time zones we're going to calculate in days and hours (as an example our friends on a similar cat called Savannah made the journey in 21 days and (I think??) 12 hours. Typical passages can be anywhere from 19-25 days. And we'll call the trip done when our anchor is down. The winner (if you're a landlubber with an address) gets a t-shirt. If you are a fellow nomad we'll buy you a drink somewhere:)

So add your guesses to the comments.

Things are good aboard though. We're all settled in. I'm gradually fighting off a nasty cold. Our veggies are holding out fine. And we've made enough of a dent in our fridge that we're ready to start fishing today. Hopefully we'll avoid the seven foot sharks that WGD had to contend with...

position at 1500utc: 16d20N 114d08W

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April 12, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-day 3: water everywhere

It amazes me how land recedes to a dream-like memory when I'm at sea. 16 months in Mexico is reduced to memories I have to pull forward and examine one by one, while the ocean--as it grows alpine then later, as the wind drops, pastoral and shifts from deep midnight blue, to steely grey--is as real as anything I've ever known.

My presence is required out here. I need to be mindful of every step, every handhold. Every noise the boat makes, every shift in the wind hover at the edge of my awareness. "The boat seems happy out here. Doesn't it? The way it leaps from wave to wave." Maia said yesterday.

It seemed happy last night too--racing along in flatter seas under the moonlight. We had a boobie bird hitch a ride on our bow. I hoped it would be there in the morning--but then the seas rose and the wind followed and in the uproar of reefing sails and slapping waves our passenger flew off. Today the wind is gone again and I'm waiting for the lumpy seas to retreat. It will be slower today. I was enjoying our dash toward the trades. Watching the miles melt away. Dreaming about palm trees. But there were moments when I wanted it to last forever. When I found my rhythm so fully and felt so alive it seemed as if no life had come before and none could follow.

Seasickness still threatens for me--but day three has always been easiest for me. And we've never ventured on past day five--so we're sailing into new territory soon. I was able to cook yesterday and made lentil soup packed with fresh veggies. Today avocado is clearly going to be a big part of our diet as we have three that are way ripe. Maia will continue her start back to school today (yesterday she started a visual calendar and chart for our trip) and we'll look at establishing more of a routine.

We're still in contact with a few boats and were sad to hear Buena Vista is on their way back because of engine problems. Blue Moon is doing great though as is WGD, and all the other boats we've spoken with are enjoying our fast start (well maybe not this am's part as we all loaf along searching for wind...)

Position noon today: N 16d 50' W 111d 49'

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April 11, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific-Day 2: Sea Legs

N17 54' W109 24' at noon today.

Haven't got 'em yet.
Sea legs that is. It's the term that means I could prance about the boat as if it were shore--not stumble, rather than step up the stairs, or hurl water at Maia, rather than hand it to her.
My seasickness does seem to be moderating--I can almost imagine doing more than stare fixedly out the window for miles on end. Almost. The seas are still rough though. And I have to say it's impossible for me to reread what I write so bear with me if this stops being clear. We have a 2m of confused swell and a dropping wind--which is almost the same as 2m of confused swell and a rising wind, just we're slower.

But despite the fact we are now only making steady 6-7's (we'll shake out some of the reefs when Ev is up...) We passed a boat early this am. The cool thing about having left with so many boats is we still have several around us--although we are all spreading out. But apparently we trailed Zephyr for hours early this am, then passed close-by at dawn. A detail Ev missed. Which is sort of amusing and sort of worrying considering the main part of watch keeping (aside from attending to all the various alarms that keep going off--more on this shortly)is to WATCH for other boats...

I saw Zephyr behind us though when I started my watch and chatted with him a bit then touched base with WGD and caught up with Blue Moon--we expect to lose the precious VHF connection in the next day or so though and be down to the daily SSB nets and email for communication.
About those alarms: We love our AIS. We have it set to warn us if a ship is going to pass within five miles (most sailboats don't have transponders so thus no warning alarm). It's gone off a few times--letting us know the course, speed and name of the vessel. Something that came in handy for WGD last night, when they had a freighter on radar (and right freaking beside them) but couldn't reach them on VHF. Ev looked up the freighter's name for Michael and Michael was able to call and get a response.

Our autopilot has also been beeping and complaining about conditions and we realize our new bilge alarm is set too deeply in the bilge--when we pitch and roll, the little bit of water in the bilge splashes it--making it go off. A detail Ev will remedy when it's calmer.

Day two's sun is just rising though-so there may be more to say later on (I'll add a position before we send and aim for giving 24 hour totals each day). Yesterday's 24 hr was about 155n.m and we're going to be a bit higher than that today.

Brad, if you're reading this we would appreciate weather advice when you can and have a fleet of 8 or so of us that will be sharing.

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April 10, 2011

Sail to the South Pacific--Day 1 Gingerale and Crackers

This sucks.
I wrote a lovely blog entry in my head yesterday--about our fabulous send off (complete with air horns and kids cheering on the pier). And how it brought to mind the glamour of old-time travel--when going someplace was an event.
But then we hit the miserable freaking weather system we need for our ride out to the trade winds (which better be wonderful after this...) and it's all I can do to write a few pathetic whining words about how much I hate beating into these northers.

See--I thought we'd turn south right away (I should pay attention to routes...) but it seems the strategy is to get away from the coast and follow our rhumb line--a fancy way of saying we're beam to in this crap. The good news is I'm not the only one who's currently disillusioned by our passage. We spoke with Zephyr (who seems more put out than us) and Whatcha Gonna Do by VHF a few times today and all boats report sea sickness and minor teething issues.

But we're averaging 6.5 knots and as of 2pm we've already churned away 130 miles in big swell and nasty wind waves. Conditions are gradually beginning to moderate as we move away from the coast and should improve at some point enough that I can actually venture into the galley and get hot food. Until then though blog posts will be short and irritable.

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April 9, 2011

Departure Day!

Today's the day.
I hesitated to say anything until we were out past Punta Mita, or maybe just shy of the equator, for fear of jinxing things. But if Barb on Whatcha Gonna Do can come clean about what they are about to do--well, I guess we can too.
So we're topping up tanks, taking out the garbage, sobbing and saying goodbye and doing all those sudden last minute things that can only happen when you are about to leave. At some point today we'll untie the dock lines and store them away and then set off on a very long sailing trip.
I'll be blogging as we go--so feel free to leave encouraging comments:) We won't be able to read them until we arrive, but they are always appreciated and enjoyed.
Adios Mexico!!

April 8, 2011

The Weather is Here

 It almost seems anticlimactic. We rushed and rushed to get ready, then the weather refused to cooperate—in a big way. But over the over the next day, or so, the winds will fill back in and a flotilla of 8-10 boats will be pulling out of La Cruz.
And we’ll be one of them!

A few people asked how it is possible for a bad weather report to factor into a 2700-mile (18-24 day) journey. The issue is most boats only carry a few hundred miles of fuel. The strategy tends to be to save fuel for the ITC zone, emergencies and arrivals—so having a 300 mile region of no wind right at the beginning, coupled with unusually light and fluky trade winds is a recipe for a very long, very uncomfortable journey…

So we waited.

Waiting is a tough thing to do when you’re staring at a long intimidating journey. Sometimes you need the adrenaline and excitement just to carry you through the natural anxiety. But yesterday I noticed my apprehension had grown, my excitement had peaked and I just felt tired and grumpy. I didn’t really care if we went anywhere. I just wanted the uncertainty to end.

But after a good nights sleep I’m ready for the adventure again.
The weather is here—I think it’ll be a beautiful passage.

PS—if you haven’t been reading my friend Monica’s blog THEY ARRIVED!! Check out Savannah’s blog for her (very amusing) perspective.

April 7, 2011

The Waiting

As I write, we’re checking out of Mexico.
Over the past week we’ve had more than a few Bon Voyage dinners; worked at the to-do list until very little left uncrossed off; and filled the boat full of (now rapidly ripening) produce. But thanks to an anomaly in the weather pattern we’ve sat in La Cruz waiting.
Contrary to the song—once you get over the fact you are powerless over the weather—the waiting isn’t the hardest part. Saying goodbye over, and over, and over is… But the flip side is I’ll take the bonus days with good friends when I can get them.
 But it seems our bonus time is coming to a close. The trades are filling back in and the wind we need to carry us out of Mexico until we hit them should arrive tomorrow night or Saturday. Which means (dare I say it out loud??) we should be getting out of here soon. Ish.

April 4, 2011

Rudder Or Not, We’re Nearly Ready…

This could also have been the Sleepless in La Cruz post. Or the Damn Weather post...
The worst part of this getting ready thing is the stress. I’m not sure how many times I startled awake last night thinking of one little task or another that a) I’ve completed but had a bad dream about; b) never planned to do anyway; or c) already have scheduled on my list…

The best part of the process though is the knowledge that we’re not completely on our own. Yesterday we met with the 10 or so boats that plan to jump off this week (something that is suddenly looking like later this week considering the Pacific High just went poof in a weird way…) We compared notes, exchanged info and generally discovered there are many, many ways to prepare for this journey and none of us is ever going to get it all done. The trick is to decide what your boat and your crew needs to be happy, healthy, comfortable and safe. And after all the boat stuff is taken care of—this pretty much means food.
Barb-checking out the produce
 Last night (before the weather report changed and shifted departures to later in the week…) we focused on food.
 There is a little produce warehouse in town that supplies the local restaurants and tiendas. Every Sunday and Thursday the owners head up to Guadelajara to get fresh produce. They return in the evening with lots of unripe, unrefrigerated food—which is exactly what we want for long term storage.

Barb and I headed over at the end of the cruisers meeting—and before the little warehouse knew what hit them, a dozen or so cruisers were swarming the place: squeezing green tomatoes, sifting through firm onions and selecting rock hard mangoes.
Whatcha Gonna Do and us with a bucnh of food and friends
 $996 pesos later ($80 or so…) and we had more produce than a typical tienda… And more than we could carry. Happily we also have friends who never cease to amaze me and with a few extra hands we got stuff home in record time. Now we need to store it away (and potentially share it out,  considering the crazy weather patter which has suddenly developed!)…

April 3, 2011

Still Rudderless, But Not Without Direction

So what do you do when you’re days from leaving for the South Pacific but still don’t have a rudder? Karaoke of course. But rather than singing the blues—I think we all cut loose a bit. “Born in the USA” is now burned into my memory banks—and may give me mid-ocean nightmares…. Sadly, I’m failing to carry the camera most places these days (I think the spreadsheets are taking up the spot normally reserved for it…) So to get a glimpse of our seriously fun night check out Barb’s blog.
something many of you might never have expected--Ev doing Karaoke (courtesy Whatch Gonna Do)
 As far as boat stuff goes the rudder repair is well underway—and we hope to get it back Monday am. And our other tasks are rapidly being ticked off the list thanks to the endless and unflagging help from Stew and Wendy (not to mention all our boating friends here who have taken up the slack with Maia and supplied me with chocolate for the South Pacific—Tami! I love you!!).

Ev, checking the repair with the machine shop guys
 This week saw us buy a bunch of stuff and sew a bunch of stuff including a galerider type drogue. Evan also finished installing super strong pad eyes for the storm anchor, put in new bilge alarms, painted a few things and did a whole bunch of random little things.

our version of a galerider type drogue
 Next on the list is filling the ditch bag, shopping for our fresh fruits and veggies at the market tonight and picking our weather window. Wednesday is looking good—which happily seems to correspond with our timing for being done…