Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 19 1/2 -- Anchored!

We are safely anchored in Nuku Hiva! Have spent the morning off the boat walking around and checking into the country. Its great to be on land again. More later!

Maeva Maeva e

At 4/29/2011 18:23 (utc) our position was 08°54.94'S 140°05.97'W

Day 19 - Stats and Thank You

Thank you for putting up with our daily blogs. In your busy lives, it may have felt to be too much. We did it for two reasons. First, we have a Sail Plan which indicates our route, ETA, emergency contacts, and what those contacts should do if they don't hear from us for more than 2 days. Just to be on the safe side, we tried to be in contact in under two day increments. Second, it helped us feel connected and supported along the way. Plus, what else was there to do but contemplate life and spew it to the world? We'll likely slow it down a bit as we begin our explorations, but then pick it up to daily posts once again whenever we do our various open ocean passages.

As per Michael's Day 19 blog post, here are our Day 19 Stats:

Distance: 142 miles; Total trip: 2895 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 152 miles (Note that the daily stats were taken off our GPS since the instrument reading our speed through the water (its name eludes me) has stopped working).
Average Speed: 5.9 knots; Average overall speed: 6.3 knots
Sea Conditions: Seas still somewhat choppy but the 5-8 foot swells have become further apart, making it somewhat more comfortable. Winds today were mainly from the E at 16-20 knots.
Incident Report: Nothing much to report except that WE SEE LAND ON OUR RADAR SCREEN!
Fish caught: Looks like our total will remain at one.
Total Kitchen Garbage Bags Generated: Three - We'll have one large green garbage bag to deposit on land after 20 days at sea. We'll have to try that one at home.
Produce Inventory: Here's what we're left with: About 16 onions, 8 potatoes, 6 carrots, 4 jicama, 10 jalapeno, 4 radishes, 4 stalks of celery, half a cabbage, a couple of inches of ginger root, 2 dozen limes, 2 oranges, 2 pears, 14 apples, one sprig of basil, 3 garlic heads, 3 dozen eggs - and yes, one avocado.
Meals/Snacks: I baked fresh rye bread for breakfast, with cheese, as well as some cereal. Lunch was curried lentil soup with the second loaf of rye bread, carrot sticks, and leftovers of turkey slices and spaghetti bolognese (sounds disgusting all together, I know). Dinner was a treat for our last night at sea: Steak (!) although we needed to sautee it in a pan rather than BBQ it. Sides were rosemary potatoes and coleslaw with carrots. Perhaps we'll have a meal ON LAND tomorrow?

We are able to make out land, even the in the dark, with the naken eye. We are oh-so-close. We'll be sure to provide you with our final Stats for the Pacific Puddle Jump within a day or two of our arrival. After some much needed sleep and some steps upon some terra firma.

At 4/29/2011 13:21 (utc) our position was 08°54.49'S 139°55.19'W

Day 19 -- There Should Be Land Out There

We have just completed Day 19 and are now 70 miles from Nuku Hiva. I expect that we will be anchored in the morning, check into the country and then sleep. We should be seeing the first sights of land but there are a lot of clouds out in front of us so we have not yet been able to see the islands. That said, we will begin picking up land on our radar in the next hour or two which is very exciting. By the end of this trip we will have traveled nearly 3,000 miles. We have been through calms and squalls, sunny and cloudy days and big and small swell. Out of all those, I can't say we will miss the swell. When it is short period big swell and particularly when it is coming on our beam it can be a very uncomfortable ride. However, when it is long period and from behind it makes for a great, fast, fun trip.

Interestingly, we will be arriving into Nuku Hiva on the same day as another 3 or 4 other boats (in addition to one that arrived there today) and all of which left La Cruz Mexico on the same day. I expect we will spend some time celebrating with them. Then the clean up and boat repairs/maintenance will begin. As they say, cruising is all about doing boat maintenance in exotic locals.

We are also looking forward to getting on land. That will actually be quite weird. Nearly 20 days living on a boat at sea will surely make walking on land an adjustment. Will we get land sick and is there any medication for that?

Also, after 20 days it is interesting to note that until today we have not had any of that "Are we there yet Dad?" questions. Other than the last few days of swell (and a mainsail that needs repairing) its been a very cool and memorable experience. Ironically, there has been very little down time. Originally, I would have thought we all would have gotten bored, but quite the opposite. We've been very busy on board tending to boat life living and the kids have kept busy with home schooling and the odd projects. I've only read one book (Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener)and even Danielle has ONLY read two Harry Potter novels. And, we have only had three game nights. We also have a 1000 piece puzzle that needs to be done, but I guess we can save that for another passage. We still have many more passages (fortunately none more that six or seven days) as we island hop our way approximately 4,500 miles MORE to Australia.

More stats on the trip (including Barb's synopsis of what is left in the food department) in the next day or so.

Michael (70 miles from Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia)
At 4/29/2011 08:28 (utc) our position was 08°40.98'S 139°29.32'W

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 18 - How far have we come?

As if someone is playing a cruel practical joke on us, one half hour after recording our Day 18 stats with only a day and a half to go (approx.), our 'speedo', or instrument that measures our speed through the water, has stopped working. This means that we can no longer track how many miles we've come. We think it stopped working after a particularly large jolt from a wave, but we're not sure. We do know that the instrument is still there, as you can check that from under the port forward berth - in fact there's a way from that vantage point to pull it out of the water and stop up the hole where it goes, but Michael wasn't about to try that now and I'm thankful for that. I don't think I am ready to deal with the little bit of sea water that pours in as you take out the speedo and quickly replace it with the stopper. It'll wait until we make landfall. This speedo thing is not new to us: Whenever we've been at an anchorage or a dock for a long time and sea growth has been allowed to build up, the speedo is no longer able to turn freely. A little cleaning always solves the trick. I don't think it's possible that there is growth on there this time, though, given that we've been moving non-stop for the last 18+ days. We are wondering if the jolt just locked the spinning part.

We shouldn't complain, however. Our friends on s/v Ceilydh lost a rudder yesterday. Luckily, being a catamaran, they have a second one on the other hull, so they haven't lost complete control of their boat. However, maneuvering with only one rudder on a catamaran can be tricky, and while they are using their autopilot, it too has been acting up on them. They have now decided to skip Hiva Oa and make landfall on an island that is about 40 miles north west of Hiva Oa called Nuka Hiva, because the anchorage is larger and therefore easier to maneuver in with only one rudder. Added to this is the fact that it is a more comfortable anchorage in which they will need to spend upwards of two weeks until they get their replacement rudder sent in from Papeete in Tahiti. The South Pacific makes Mexico look like a cake walk for getting parts. Once again, however, it goes to show you: It ain't over 'til it's over.

In the meantime, we've decided to change course as well. This is partially due to Ceilydh's change in plans, but also because the point of sail to Nuka Hiva is a much more comfortable one and we have had enough of the jolting and tossing that getting us to Hiva Oa was dealing us and our boat. This also means we will likely not get to Hiva Oa at all, which is a bit disappointing as there are perhaps some of the best archeological sites in French Polynesia located on this quaint island. This is the life of the cruising sailor, however, and we are being dealt with these types of routing decisions early on.

7 degrees 52.148 minutes South
137 degrees 37.538 minutes West

Day 18 Stats:
Distance: 138 miles; Total trip: 2753 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 153 miles
Average Speed: 5.6 knots; Average overall speed: 6.4 knots
Sea Conditions: Morning light brought a squall with rain and 25-30 knot winds and heavy seas for about an hour, and then the heavy grey cloud cover remained until about 4 p.m. with occasional drizzles. Seas have calmed a bit but still fairly choppy and confused and still uncomfortable, even with our new course heading further away from the wind toward Nuka Hiva. Winds today were mainly from the ESE in the 14-18 knot range. Because of the weather conditions, we've pulled in our jib part way so there is less stress on our rig, and that has us moving slightly slower than yesterday.
Incident Report: (1) Our speedo stopped working. Therefore this will be the last day for accurate distance stats. (2) We changed our course and are currently heading to Nuka Hiva instead of Hiva Oa. Better ride for the boat, better ride for us. (3) We threw about 8 pounds of matzah overboard. With this trail of crumbs, we'll never get lost. (4) Our long life hamburger buns have molded, but we are still left with 8 loaves of long life Bimbo flaxseed bread. I'll never know what possessed me to buy so much given that Passover took up 8 days of this voyage, plus there are warm baguettes everywhere in French Poly. Those might be going overboard pretty soon too.
Fish caught: It's still too choppy to try landing a fish if we caught one so the lines were not put in today. Our total remains one.
Total Kitchen Garbage Bags Generated: Three - still have not filled one large green garbage bag yet.
Produce Inventory: Lost one carrot to mold. Otherwise, we've done remarkably well. Ate our last tomato today and wish I had bought more. We had guacamole today and incredulously the avocado we used was still good. We used the last 2 zucchini. We'll use our last two oranges in the morning. We are now living on cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery, jicama, onions, apples and pears. We also still have basil, jalapenos and garlic.
Meals/Snacks: I was not around to cook any of the meals today, nor was I around for any of the snacks, as I tried to sleep (unsuccessfully). Here's what I think happened: Breakfast was banana, nut and flaxseed pancakes with maple syrup, apples and oranges. Lunch was bean tacos with guacamole, tomatoes, and cabbage. Dinner was Ichiban Ramen soup with tofu, zucchini and jicama for Michael and the kids, while I had the leftover spaghetti and bolognese sauce. Conditions for cooking are such that we need to make things as easy as possible. Plus we're just tired of the whole thing.
At 4/28/2011 03:26 (utc) our position was 07°23.77'S 136°56.04'W

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 17 - Almost There but Not Almost Done

It appears that we'll be making landfall sometime on Friday, notwithstanding we are without a mainsail (my sister Deb wins the bet! Assuming we don't lose our wind...). This will be one day short of average crossing times for the Puddle Jump. As I write this, in fact, our navigation instruments tell me that we are exactly 297.5 miles from the anchorage on the island of Hiva Oa. We can now even see the Marquesas Islands on our 100 mile scale e-chart. My friend Michelle suggested that we start sending out the doves to see if they'll return with - hmmm - a palm frond? Either way, this all means that we have under 300 miles to go for a total journey of nearly 3000 miles.

My friend Behan, who did this crossing last year and is currently living aboard s/v Totem with her family in Sydney, Australia, recently wrote a blog about how the crossing is like a pregnancy. In the first trimester you are very uncomfortable getting used to this new life condition. The second trimester has you feeling really really good and excited and fulfilled. By the third trimester you're practically screaming, "LET'S GET ON WITH THIS". We have clearly reached the third trimester.

And yet I am almost sad that this stage of the journey is almost over, given that we expect to make landfall on Friday. I am sad not only for the reason I noted in yesterday's blog, but also somewhat disappointed because there was so much I wanted to do during this crossing. As I had mentioned a few blog posts ago, I had even made a list of all those things - and I promised I'd provide them.

So what were some of the things I planned for my down time? Briefly:

Self Pampering: Okay, I did give myself a mani on the first day but it's long been stale and in need of a lift. I could use a pedi also. In addition, Danielle and I printed out recipes for home-made facials that include oatmeal, honey and lemon juice. We've tried a few before (including using cucumber circles over our eyes) but haven't done one on this voyage yet. I don't think we'll be getting to this category on this leg of our journey.

Reading, reading, reading: This one is an obvious one. While the kids have been reading voraciously, you'd think I'd also have the time to do it. However, when I'm on my midnight to 5 or 6 a.m. watch it will put me to sleep, so I can only read here and there during the day. I'm only about 150 pages into my book Blue Latitudes by Tony Hurwitz about the author's attempt to retrace Captain James Cook's voyages to the South Pacific in the late 1700's. Perhaps more than any other explorer, Captain Cook left his mark by charting the South Pacific waters with amazing accuracy - some of his charts were being used into the 1990's. His and some of his crew's accounts of what he saw are fascinating, enlightening and entertaining. The author then humorously compares his own modern day experiences when he makes landfall in the same locations although in most cases it's not flattering and is to a degree shattering my images of what's to come. I'm hoping my encounters with the natives will be somewhat more positive.

Audio books: We now have several on our hard drives but I'm afraid that just listening without doing anything else puts me to sleep, while doing something else does not allow me to hear what I'm listening to. I'll have to wait until I'm better rested for this category, although the kids have been enjoying listening. My friend Diane on S/v Ceilydh downloaded a bunch of podcasts to listen to, like the TED series or NPR. Now that's something I could get excited about. I'll have to get some when we next have an internet connection.

Movies: I'm not much of a feature film movie watcher as I've always preferred to go to a movie theater than watch at home - other than some documentary types. So far, in my limited down time, I've only gotten through Freakonomics (some of which I've watched with Harrison who, surprisingly, enjoyed it). I've also started watching Great Global Warming Swindle, which Danielle will also watch for her homeschooling project on Global Warming and its Effects on Our Oceans (together with An Inconvenient Truth). Michael's had some luck in getting through some of the hundreds of movies we now have on hard drives while he's on his watches.

Art projects: We have friendship bracelets, beading, and gluing projects that we have not even cracked open. And I was concerned that we wouldn't have enough and had hoped to get painting and felt and embroidery projects as well. I got several more ideas from my talented and creative friend Nancy on s/v Eyoni. These missing art projects have certainly not been missed but I do still dream about creativity.

Games: We have a brand new challenging 1000 piece puzzle, not to mention the other regulars like Rummikub, Monopoly, Mexican Train (dominos), Boggle, Scattergories, Pictionary, Battleship, cards, backgammon, and others I'm sure I've forgotten. We've managed to fit a few of these in along the way. We love playing as a family and tend to get to that giddy uncontrollable laughter at some stage of the play.

Now for more 'project'-type items:

Goal Setting: Every year I've set my goals for the various areas of my life that I want to work on. Given that I've been out of the loop for a while, I have been worried that I'll feel like I'm starting from scratch (or close to it) with no direction when I return. A great anxiety-quelling technique for me is to address the anxiety so I know it's handled and then be able to go on my merry way until I need to bring the issue up again. So I'm wanting to set my goals and then file them away until I return, knowing that I have a plan when I'm back.

Filing: There is no escape from those piles of mail, even at sea. As for mail, we use a Mail Counter type of service which lets us know weekly (or at least that's the premise) what mail has come in so that we can request selected pieces to be scanned and emailed to us. We've had batches brought to us via visitors to Mexico from Canada or the States after the mail service forwards it to them. All our bills and banking are done on-line. For now, the piles are still sitting on our desks waiting to be put away.

Photo Organization: We have hundreds if not thousands of photos from the last year and a half of cruising through Mexico that are in desperate need of organizing, before we add thousands more. We are months behind. This line item may perhaps be the most important on our list.

Clearly we won't be making much progress on this list now that we have only another two days at sea, but there are still another 4000 miles - yes, you read that right - to Australia. Many of the passages between the islands we'll be visiting will be 4-7 days long. In fact, we expect to be at sea for approximately 25% of this eight-month leg of our trip. That's a total of about 2 months - at sea. I'm sure my list will come in handy.


Day 17 Stats:

Distance: 148 miles; Total trip: 2615 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 154 miles
Average Speed: 6.2 knots; Average overall speed: 6.4 knots
Sea Conditions: Seas have calmed a bit but still fairly choppy and confused and still uncomfortable. Clear skies today, with some scattered clouds. Winds today were from the ESE 12-16 knots. It's very humid at 80% humidity with temps reaching to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. It's tough to dry anything out in these conditions.
Incident Report: (1) We changed our clocks back again so that we are UTC -8 hours now. We have another 1.5 hours back to get to Marquesas time. Clearly, though, this extra time has not helped us with our to-do lists. (2) Today while preparing Matzah pizzas for lunch, the full jar of tomato sauce went sliding across the counter and emptied into my clean dish well. Lots of swearing ensued. (3) The bracket holding our BBQ onto the rail snapped. Why we didn't take the BBQ off for this passage, especially given this recent constant pounding, is a mystery to both me and Michael. Thankfully it's an easy fix with a little welding. Do you think there are welders on Hiva Oa? (4) One of our toilet hoses was leaking - easy fix again by tightening the connections. It seems that the pounding loosened more than just the BBQ bracket. (5) When we went to turn on our generator today to bring up our battery power, the generator turned itself off with the warning light indicating that is wasn't getting raw water flow. Again it appears it was an easy fix (thank God on this one as it's our power source...): Michael simply opened the door on the engine to the raw water exchange, took out the filter (which was clean), popped it back in, closed the raw water exchange door, and voila - as good as new. We're thinking that again it was the pounding that simply knocked it out of place.
Fish caught: It's still too choppy to try landing a fish if we caught one so the lines were not put in today. Our total remains One.
Total Kitchen Garbage Bags Generated: Three - we gave out on that third one due to its smell even though it wasn't completely full.
Produce Inventory: We finally gave out on those avos and threw out three today. The real news, however, is how much Matzah we still have, now that Passover is over: about 8 pounds (close to 4 kilos). It seems we ate only about 5-6 pounds (3.5 kilos). This year it's going overboard - we're having a matzah throwing party in the morning.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was matzah with cheeses, jams, peanut butter,etc. plus kiwi and oranges. Was supposed to be egg omelettes (spinach and feta, or lox and onions) but Michael was busy with the BBQ (see incident report #3). Lunch was matzah pizzas for the kids (see incident report #2 above) and Michael and I had turkey and sauerkraut on matzah with a tomato and avocado salad for all. Dinner now that Passover is over was PASTA (!!) with bolognese sauce. Passover mandel cuts and macaroons for desert (we need to get rid of them!).


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 16 - When Do We Get Off This Thing? or I Don't Want This To End...

I'm a little tired of the jostling in these rough conditions. Over the last two days, the seas have gotten so choppy that all the boats out here have been complaining on the morning and evening nets. I wish that gave me some comfort, especially given that it's likely way worse on a traditional mono hull, which most of the boats in the Puddle Jump fleet are. My muscles are aching because of the constant jarring. And I'm not sleeping much. Who can, when you're being shaken violently first from head to toe and then from side to side and then when a big wave comes along and slaps the inside of the hull close to where I'm sleeping it sends me airborne? The cycle then begins again. I actually look forward to my watches as it means that I no longer have to try to sleep. For me that's saying an awful lot, given how much I love my sleep.

I've been trying to come up with comparatives so land lubbers can get an idea of what it's like. I figure this is what a really really bad earthquake feels like but it never stops. It feels like, with some waves, this 24,000 lb. fiberglass boat is being picked up and rung out in opposite directions (like when I washed my 52 rags of last week -- see blog of last week) and then just dropped. I'm amazed that the boat is still holding together (other than the mainsail and its headboard, of course). You can actually feel the shape of the boat change at times, but of course it's meant to do that. It feels like being on a perpetual Shake Shack (remember the one from the movie Grease?). Or I can compare it, like I have in past blog posts, to a high speed moving train when you try to move between cars. All day long. Try doing everything, and I mean everything, with only one hand. It's most challenging when showering: one hand is needed to hold on and the other to hold the shower head. Or drying off after a shower using a heavy towel and only one hand. Getting dressed is another challenge. Cooking? Forget about yoga. The list goes on. Oh, how I can't wait to be free again to move when and how I choose.

But, on the otherhand, tonight, when I went outside at the start of my midnight to 6 a.m. watch and saw the stars sparkling in a clear sky and felt the warm breeze in my face, I can't help but marvel at where I am and what I'm doing right now. There's an exercise I do with my coaching clients to figure out what energizes them, what fulfills them. It involves thinking of a snapshot in their lives where they felt completely at peace, completely fulfilled. The idea is to use what creates those states and find them elsewhere in order to keep yourself motivated or just generally maintain a feeling of fulfillment. One of the examples of such a snapshot that I give is when I was traveling through Europe right after law school. I had just said goodbye to a travel companion I had met along the way to go off on my own again and I was walking with my heavy backpack on my back through the streets of Athens, Greece. I remember thinking to myself: "Wow. This is awesome. No one I know knows where I am at this very moment, yet I'm here, happy, and really doing this." For me this was about self-sufficiency, but also about accomplishment. And here I am today, with that same feeling. We are self sufficient and still flourishing. And we are accomplishing this great crossing, this amazing travel, this incredible experience. We are really doing this.

04 degrees 11.400 minutes South
134 degrees 29.959 minutes West

Day 16 Stats:
Distance: 151 miles; Total trip: 2467 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 154 miles
Average Speed: 6.3 knots; Average overall speed: 6.4 knots
Sea Conditions: Seas have been c-h-o-p-p-y and confused. Very uncomfortable (see above). Mostly clear skies today, with no squalls to dodge. Winds today were from the ESE to the SE 15-18 knots.
Incident Report: Truthfully, losing the use of our mainsail was enough for the entire trip. Loads of spills, things falling etc. Michael dried out the bilges today. Hopefully we're through with squalls for a while. Really really really need to get some laundry done.
Fish caught: It's too choppy to try landing a fish if we caught one so the lines were not put in today. Our total remains One.
Total Kitchen Garbage Bags Generated: Two. A third is really starting to stink although I can't figure out why since all food stuffs go overboard.
Produce Inventory: Can't believe we still have firm tomatoes. Finished our last cucumber today. Still enjoying lots of fruits and veggies.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was matzah with cheeses, jams, peanut butter,etc. Was supposed to make matzah granola but just couldn't do it in this uncomfortable jostle. Morning snack was banana strawberry smoothies. Lunch was pastrami and sauerkraut on matzah, cucumbers and jicama. Dinner tonight was leftover spinach and mushroom quiche (a 'remake' according to Danielle, and even Michael - could it have been the soggy whole wheat matzah I used instead of slices of bread?!) and baked potatoes, with macaroons for desert.

Turning Toilets and Shellbacks

Have you ever noticed which way your toilet water turns as it goes down? If you are in the Northern Hemisphere your toilet water will turn clockwise. In the Southern Hemisphere the toilet water will turn counter-clockwise.

On our voyage now from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to the Marquises Islands in the South Pacific, we had to cross the equator or the latitude 0 degrees (the line that separates the Northern and Southern Hemispheres). If you swim across the equator or cross by boat you are called a Shellback or a son/daughter of Neptune, the god of the oceans. When naval ships or a ship with ranks crosses the equator, the men dress up as women and do crazy things like drink potions with sea water, milk and other gross things.

When I crossed the equator on our boat I swam across it. We celebrated it with champagne and orange juice and M&Ms. Later, my dad gave all of us certificates that certify that we are now Shellbacks. Meanwhile me and my dad dressed up as girls and my sister and mom dressed up as boys. I will always remember this silly but fun day.

-Harrison from somewhere in the Pacific Ocean across the equator
At 4/26/2011 10:07 (utc) our position was 04°03.96'S 134°23.89'W

Life on the Crossing

Some people may think that a three week long voyage would be boring because of the length, shortage of materials, lack of friends, and the same view every time you look outside. I certainly did. But it's actually sort of fun. I've been learning about weather and I'm working on identifying clouds. The last week we've been dodging squalls so half the time it's raining. The seas change constantly and today, since they're confused, we're working on balance. If I'd had the hatch above my bed open last night, I would've been swimming.

Our daily routine goes some what like this: Chores, breakfast, school, morning snack, more school, lunch, finish school, play a game, afternoon snack, read, dinner, bedtime. So we've been spending a lot of time together, but I'm not that sick of it yet.

We've had a few different days too. We didn't do school on the first two days of Passover, so I had a lot of down time. Also, on the day we crossed the equator (which was a Saturday when we don't do school anyway), everyone swam across. We put out a throw line which floats and held onto it. This rope is yellow so it acted as the "yellow line over the equator". Going only 1 knot, we were surprisingly still being pulled really hard. We also had a cross dress, drank a special drink, and blared music.

And now we're in the Southern Hemisphere; it feels no different.

-Danielle from somewhere in the Pacific Ocean on the south side of the equator
At 4/26/2011 09:57 (utc) our position was 04°03.11'S 134°23.17'W

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 15 -- The Hangover After the Crossing Party!

Well, the celebrations after crossing the equator did not continue on Day 15. Home school was a major challenge, we had very sloppy seas pounding on the boat, and Barb was very grumpy (perhaps because of the first two). We got caught in a squall that punched a ton of rain and sloppy seas as well as upwards of 33 knots of wind. We managed through that fine given that we were reefed (shortened sail) on our main as well as on our jib. We turned away from the wind, moved to a deep broad reach which reduced pressure on the sails and boat, and worked our way through the squall. While a bit unnerving as it lasted for 45 minutes while I hand steered out in the storm to take some pressure off the autopilot, all was fine and the boat got a nice wash down. It is amazing how calm the winds become following a squall. For about an hour afterwards we had approximately 5-10 knots of breeze. Then another squall came on the horizon. We were able to maneuver around this one and avoid any of its wind or rain.

For the rest of the day, we were under 100% cloud coverage and took a beating with continued pounding from the waves coming from all different directions and in very short periods. For a catamaran, this means that sometimes one hull is lifted up and then the boat is literally tossed down hard. The sound is deafening, and things inside the boat do get thrown around, which, once again, is very rare for a cat. Sometimes the slap of large swells underneath the boat between the hulls is so intense that it literally throws things into the air - from the sink, the table, or while you're lying in bed.

Then, just after dinner, with the strain from the continued pounding and up and down tossing, our mainsail simply collapsed! Here's what happened: I had gone out to do my check and noticed the reefing lines lying on the deck. I thought somehow maybe one of those lines had torn, although this would be very unlikely. I looked up and saw that the mainsail had fallen down. We hadn't even heard it drop. It turns out the head board (the piece that reinforces the top of the sail where it attaches to the halyard) completely tore away from the sail. This means that the headboard and halyard are at the top of our mast. For Barb the good news is that I don't have any plans at this point to go up the mast to get the halyard or headboard until we are safely anchored in Hiva Oa. More good news is that, even with our mainsail now packed away in the boom, we are still making fair progress, but now only with our jib.

Not sure how the headboard could have torn, especially since it showed no signs of wear when I last examined it yesterday before hoisting the mainsail after our equator crossing. The only thing I can think of is that with the continued impact from these cross seas on the boat, the headboard/mainsail are what gave way. And, while I am confident this can and will get repaired, I am not yet sure how that will happen. Its a project and a half just removing the mainsail from the boom and mast (it weighs a ton and is huge in size) so hopefully we can find a way to repair it without removing the whole sail.

It is always something that catches you by surprise on a boat and while you can plan for all sorts of situations, you just never know what can happen. I can honestly say that I would never have expected that this would be the type of thing that would have broken. Its like our friends on another catamaran that had a spare autopilot (costly) and even picked up a spare batten (fiberglass rod that goes into the mainsail to help provide shape) (cumbersome) in case either of those broke, yet they lost a blade on one of their propellers and of course, did not have a spare for that! You just never know!

Anyhow, the sailing continues and we are now about 575 miles from making landfall. Looking forward to sleeping at anchor.


Day 15 Stats:
Distance: 168 miles; Total trip: 2316 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 154.4 miles
Average Speed: 7.0 knots; Average overall speed: 6.4 knots
Sea Conditions: Seas have been sloppy with 5-10 foot short period swells coming from all directions, making for a very uncomfortable ride -it's just plain jarring to the body. Cloudy all day with some squalls. Winds today were 10-15 knots from the ESE to SE, and then gusting up to 30 knots from the NE during the squall noted above.
Incident Report: (1) A couple of times a large wave would come over our bow and through the forward hatches in the salon, sending buckets of sea water into our 'snack well' (a well we use to store snacks and alcohol). As soon as we had it dried out, another wave would come. We finally learned our lesson after dousing #3 and closed the hatch. We do like the breeze that the open hatch gives us but for now we'll have to wait until the seas calm down to reopen them. (2) Squall (see above), with some water in bilges that will be drained out in the morning. (3) Mainsail SNAFU (see above).
Total fish caught: One fish.
Total Kitchen Garbage Bags Generated: Two.
Produce Inventory: Lost another orange.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was matzah with toppings plus hot apple cranberry farfel muffins (Danielle exclaimed, "Mom, they don't even taste like Passover!"), with cut up apples, pears and kiwis. Lunch was leftover cabbage rolls. Afternoon snack was more muffins. Dinner was vegetable soup (onions, potatoes, celery, carrots, cabbage)and spinach mushroom quiche (frozen spinach, canned mushrooms, plus onions and the last of our bell peppers).

P.S. Good thing you didn't place your bet for when we make landfall before the mainsail collapsed as we've now slowed down somewhat (by about a knot). As this blog is written, we have about 560 miles until landfall on Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands. It's now an even better time to place your bets on when we get there. Price Is Right Rules: The one who gets closest to the day and time without going over wins...
At 4/25/2011 10:13 (utc) our position was 02°36.08'S 132°42.23'W

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 14 - And What A Party It Was

At 11:49 a.m. our time (18:49 UTC), the crew of Whatcha Gonna Do crossed the line from the Northern Hemisphere to the southern part of our earth. The festivities surrounding our crossing, however, began about an hour earlier.

I was woken at about 11 a.m. from my morning recovery sleep to shoves by a man dressed in a Sexy Sailor outfit, the one that some of my girlfriends presented to me when I was departing on this voyage for some naughty evenings at sea. Thank goodness for lycra - it fit Michael beautifully. I then adorned my King Neptune outfit of a sarong, Michael's board shorts, a turban and the deck scrubber as my sceptre, and ordered the kids to re-dress. Danielle was to wear Harrison's swim suit and swim shirt, Harrison was to wear a cover up dress. The dancing music was blaring (thanks to "Lauren's Bat Mitzvah Tunes") and we all got on deck to dance our hearts out. We opened up some champagne and offered some to King Neptune, and then partook ourselves with fresh squeezed orange juice. Many line crossing ceremonies include drinking awful concoctions of things like sea water mixed with milk, peanut butter, ketchup and the like, but if the truth be known, I hate champagne so the mimosas were a bit of torture for me anyway. The kids agreed. And what a waste of good fresh squeezed OJ. But I digress.

It is customary as well to offer up some kind of a sacrifice to the sea gods. In due course, we all plucked a hair out of our heads and presented it to the sea. Then, the real chaos began. We were getting very close to the equator and traveling at speeds of 6-7 knots. We'd never be able to survive getting pulled across the equator (we did consider water skiing or boogie boarding), let alone swim at those speeds. So Michael, donned in his low plunging halter dress which was constantly being blown up in Marilyn Monroe style, and turban-headed King Neptune (me), proceeded to take down our perfectly trimmed sails. Just in time too. We had to change our outfits yet again to plunge into the seas. Party or no party, we weren't about to chance the sting of a Portuguese Man-o-War like our friend Rob on s/v Blue Moon experienced. Jelly-suits donned, we jumped into the warm and beautifully deep blue water, hanging on to the throw rope - all four of us - for the official line crossing at 0 degrees 0 minutes latitude, 130 degrees West 26.731 minutes longitude. Yes, all four of us in the water and no one to take our photo!! [I did get the photo of our navigation instruments showing 0 degrees, 0 minutes - that was mid-ship so that by the time that I hopped in I was likely right on the line]. Danielle says the ocean depth at that point was almost 3 miles. No sea life in sight, other than four tellytubby-looking creatures kicking about.

Following our dip, we presented ourselves with Equator Crossing certificates that officially initiated us from Pollywogs to Shellbacks. Parts of the certificates read:

"We do hereby declare to all whom it may concern that it is Our Royal Will and Pleasure to confer upon her the Freedom of the Seas without undue ceremony. Should she fall overboard, we do command that Sharks, Dolphins, Whales, Mermaids and other dwellers in the Deep are to abstain from maltreating this person. And we further direct all Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and others who have not crossed Our Royal Domain, to treat her with respect due to One of Us." The certificate is signed Neptune - Rex.

More loud music and heavy dancing for much of the day ensued. And what would a party be without a little chocolate?

Day 14 Stats:
Distance: 167 miles; Total trip: 2148 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 153 miles
Average Speed: 7.0 knots; Average overall speed: 6.4 knots
Sea Conditions: Seas have been relatively gentle though for our equator crossing there were about 5 foot swells which made it tricky to get back on the boat, even with our step ladder. We've had a clear sky all day with a hot and humid 80 degrees. Winds today were from the E to ESE to SE, varying from 6-12 knots though mostly in the 10-12 knot range. The wind almost completely died after the equator crossing for about 3 hours, when we bobbed around a bit going about 3 knots, but then it picked up nicely again. Our boat has otherwise been gliding through the water.
Incident Report: Equator Crossing Party. See above.
Total fish caught: One fish.
Produce Inventory: Lost a jicama today. Go figure. They're usually quite hardy. I'm so done with avocados that I've stopped checking them in the fridge - they are likely avocado soup at this point.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was Fresh OJ with Champagne to begin, and Passover rolls (aka stones) with cheese, plus kiwi and the last of our plums. Lunch was fresh tuna ceviche on matzah with salad using the last of our lettuce, as well as a cucumber, tomato, radishes, bell pepper, mint, carrots and celery. Afternoon snack was baked potatoes. Dinner was cabbage rolls.
New stat: We are now up to two bags of garbage (small white ones)

-Barb (now in the southern hemisphere)

P.S. As I post this, we are now about 675 miles from landfall on Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands. Anyone want to make bets on when we get there? Price Is Right Rules: The one who gets closest to day and time without going over wins...
At 4/24/2011 15:18 (utc) our position was 01°17.76'S 131°31.90'W

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 13 - Great Day and More Tomorrow

Day 13 saw us having a very smooth sail. No more squalls and I don't think we needed to adjust our sails once. Pretty awesome and as such, we were able to catch up on rest, have some awesome yellow fin tuna for dinner and even play a game of cards.

As I write this blog at 12:15 am on our 14th day at sea we are scooting along at about 8.0 knots in 11 knots of breeze. And, the night sky is spectacular and includes a beautiful view of the Southern Cross. We have now logged over 2000 nautical miles and are in the final leg of our trip to the Marqueses Islands in French Polynesia. The boat just seems to glide through the water.

We are also now less than one degree north of the Equator and sometime in the morning we will be crossing it. We will celebrate this milestone with a special ceremony known as "The Line Crossing Ceremony". This ceremony is an initiation rite in the Royal Navy, U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, other navies and on other sailing vessels, which commemorates a sailor's first crossing of the Equator. Originally, the tradition was created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea. Sailors who have already crossed the Equator are nicknamed Shellbacks, often referred to as Sons of Neptune; those who have not are nicknamed Pollywogs.

Equator-crossing ceremonies feature Pollywogs receiving a subpoena to appear before King Neptune after crossing the line. King Neptune then officiates at the ceremony, which is often preceded by a beauty contest of men dressing up as women, and each department of the ship being required to introduce one contestant in swimsuit drag. Having no Shellbacks on board to take the lead on this ceremony, we Pollywogs have to be a bit creative.

We will celebrate dressing up (I guess I know what my costume will be) as well as swimming across the equator, toasting some champagne and offering gifts (likely most of the champagne) to King Neptune. Should be a fun day. And, we all look forward to becoming Shellbacks!

Day 13 Stats
Distance: 172 miles; Total trip: 1981 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 152 miles
Average Speed: 7.2 knots; Average overall speed: 6.3 knots
Sea Conditions: Seas have been beautifully gentle. We've had a clear sky with some scattered high altitude clouds. Hot and humid, around 80 degrees. Winds today were from the E to the ESE varying mostly from 8-13 knots. This wind angle has us sailing close reach which our boat loves.
Incident Report: Nothing at all to report. A fairly lazy day.
Total fish caught: One fish.
Produce Inventory: Lost a mini watermelon today - sadly, as we were holding it out for our equator party.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was Matzah Fry (can't have Passover without at least one morning of Matzah Fry - it's like French Toast but with broken up pieces of soggy matzah). Snack was matzah with our friend Daniel's homemade peach jam (thanks Daniel!). Leftovers for lunch which we knew would draw complaints from our younger crew: Brisket and carrots, plus lettuce salad with hearts of palm and mandarin oranges. Afternoon snack was Matzah Pizzas, a favorite around here. Shabbat Dinner was tomato, pepper and feta salad, rosemary potatoes, and Seared Tuna Balsamico.

-Michael (just north of 0.0 degrees north!)

At 4/23/2011 07:41 (utc) our position was 00°55.84'N 129°43.62'W

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 12 - Was THAT the ITCZ?

It seems that we're through the Intertropical Convergence Zone without really having realized that we were in it. Sure we had a couple of days of squalls that we dodged, but nothing too terrible and certainly none of the lightning storms that we had feared. And sure we had a few hours here and there of slower wind speeds but nothing like the complete lack of wind that is characteristic of sections of the Doldrums. We haven't turned on our motors once. And so here we are, on the other side of it, no worse for the wear. It was actually quite fascinating to look back and see the band of clouds that IS characteristic of the ITCZ (Have a look at a photo of the earth from space and you'll see the band of clouds around the equator). And now we're enjoying the southern trade winds, making great time.

This blog can also be titled: FISH ON! Yes, we finally caught a beautiful yellowfin tuna. Truth be known I wouldn't know what it looked like whole, as I like it - the cleaning gets too messy for my stomach to handle. I had just begun my morning sleep when the fish gods offered him up but awoke 4 hours later to see the thing filleted beautifully and waiting to be eaten. Sushi for lunch! This raised an ethical issue for us aboard however.

For those familiar with the rules of Passover, you'd know that rice is on the taboo list for Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews - read: us). Those of Western European descent (Sephardis) apparently never got the memo from the rabbis indicating that "kitniot", comprised of foods like beans, corn, peanuts, and rice, were not permitted to be eaten on Passover. To complicate things (or simplify them, depending on your perspective), the Conservative movement, with which we associate, came out with a ruling in the past year that we can now eat kitniot, and gave an in-depth explanation of the why's (none of which I can recall). My local rabbi agrees that we can have all the corn tortillas, rice and beans we want during Passover.

Believe it or not, I am not good with change. Shocking, I know, given the current situation of our lives. However, the change to eating rice during Passover is just too much for me to handle right now - perhaps given the current situation of our lives. And so I opted to eat sushi sans rice. Michael and the kids, however, were quick to embrace the new rules, so they heartily partook of the traditional sushi rolls. My seaweed wrapped raw yellowfin tuna packed with all kinds of veggies and spicey mayo was just delicious.

Day 12 Stats:
Distance: 142 miles; Total trip: 1809 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 151 miles
Average Speed: 5.9 knots; Average overall speed: 6.3 knots
Sea Conditions: Seas have been relatively gentle. Fairly significant cloud cover again for much of the day, and then skies cleared into the night, although still a few squalls. Hot and humid, around 80 degrees. Winds today were from the ENE varying mostly from 6-10 knots but as high as 10-15 knots.
Incident Report: Could we be in the ITCZ? Winds have shifted to the E and SE, plus skies are clearing, and we're even seeing stars at night, including the Southern Cross. When water is permitted to pool around the base of the mast, it leaks into one of our food lockers and down into one of our clothing lockers. Nothing serious, but we're keeping an eye on it. All is dried out now.
Fish caught: A yellowfin tuna!! SUSHI! Total: one lousy fish.
Produce Inventory: All holding up nicely. Still lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, celery, plums and yes, avocadoes that are on the verge of non-edibility. One small watermelon that we are saving for the equator crossing. And the usual suspects still include potatoes, onions, carrots, jicama, apples, pears, and limes. I had saved about a dozen oranges that are still holding out after unwrapping them, and one juicy grafefruit.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was banana pecan pancakes (Passover pancakes are a bit gloopy); plums for snack; Sushi for lunch with seaweed, orange bell pepper, cucumber, avocado, jalapeno, lettuce, and rice for some; Afternoon snack included celery sticks with almond butter; Dinner was leftover sweet and sour meatballs with quinoa and broccoli.

At 4/23/2011 02:19 (utc) our position was 01°29.37'N 129°28.40'W

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 11 - Down Time At Last

You'd be surprised to know that Michael and I have had very little down time over the last 11 days at sea. This is certainly not what I'd expected. In fact I had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish during this time at sea, in addition to having great family time playing games, listening to audio books together, reading together or just hanging. Today for the first time we played a game together. It was really fun, fulfilling and relaxing, and I'm hoping for much more of the same kind of together time. But why has it taken 11 days to get there?

From emails with other boats out here as well as from conversations over the daily SSB nets, it seems that most have had the down time. My friend Diane writes that she is in a state of complete contentment, staring at the horizon, listening to podcasts, doing her own thing. And not feeling guilty about it. She says part of it is that she can't go into the hulls of her catamaran because she gets seasick so there's nothing much else to do but sit outside and contemplate life when she's not sleeping. On the other hand, we've heard reports of couples going stir crazy trying to fill the time that they are not asleep. So what's up with us?

I think it's partially that we are a full house. Homeschooling has taken up a huge chunk of our waking hours. Our kids have been getting the down time after they are done with school, but that's when Michael and I either take our naps or get to the things that must be done: cooking, repairs, sail changes, running the generator, making water, downloading and reading the weather and so on. For me, Passover prep has been a big time consumer with the cleaning and cooking. I have also spent a fair chunk of my overnight watches collecting and preparing produce for the next day's use, and writing out what's on for meals and snacks so that I don't have to be woken if I'm sleeping. Plus I spend a fair bit of time checking produce daily, but now that at least half of it is gone, there's less to check. For better or for worse.

I spent a fair amount of time early on in this voyage acquainting myself with the places we'll be visiting. We spent so much time preparing to go that it stopped at the cutting of the dock lines. I had only a faint clue of what I'd be seeing and doing once we made landfall in the South Pacific. I've now skimmed through all the countries up to but not including Australia and have reviewed the Marquesas and the Tuamotus in greater detail. I'm set for at least a couple of months, except that there is so much to see, I don't know how to choose one island over another.

With Passover prep behind us, less food to sort through and a more settled schedule, I am hopeful that more down time will open up to allow us more fun family together time and I'll be able to address more of the things on my Hope To Do list.

Stay tuned for the next blog: My List of Things To Do During Down Time on a Passage.

Day 11 Stats:
Distance: 148 miles; Total trip: 1667 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 152 miles
Average Speed: 6.2 knots; Average overall speed: 6.3 knots
Sea Conditions: Seas have been relatively gentle. Fairly significant cloud cover for much of the day, although between 4 and 7 p.m. (our own local time, which is PST at present) it was mostly mostly sunny hot and humid. This is when we tried to dry out our shower towels that have been drenched over the last two days, as well as our clean laundry. Winds today were from the ENE varying from 10-15 knots.
Incident Report: Still dodging squalls and getting drenched every few hours. Nothing else to report, except our friend who got stung by a Man-O-War is recovering nicely, another boat just crossed the equator, and another boat has been out for 30 days already (!). And we have no clue if we've hit the ITCZ yet or not. When the wind allows us, we head straight south to try to get across the ITCZ if we aren't in it already.
Fish caught: One line was in today but still nothing. Which puts our number still at zero.
Produce Inventory: Everything holding nicely although haven't checked the avocados today. Surprisingly, our basil and mint bunches are still flourishing - we've kept the ends in water. Also, we haven't refrigerated cucumbers, carrots or kiwi but instead have them in special green produce bags and they've also held out nicely.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was matzah with cheese, jam and/or almond butter with mango, kiwi, apples and pears. Lunch was chicken salad on lettuce with cucumber (we added pickles - yum!). Afternoon snack was virgin strawberry margaritas and banana strawberry mango smoothies made with fresh OJ (which is tasting a bit off!); we also cracked open our first can of toffee crunch macaroons. Dinner was gefilte fish (sorry, not homemade but what's Passover without it?) and quinoa waldorf salad that was excellent - with raisins, cranberries, celery, green apple, pecans and fresh mint. Happy to share the recipe from my sister-in-law Bronna.

4 degrees 32.479 minutes North (we're getting closer to the equator!)
127 degrees 11.410 minutes West

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 10 - Catching up on Sleep

Day 10 saw us catching up on much needed sleep. I think I slept three straight hours and off-and-on for another two and Barb managed a sleep-in (that's from about 5 am after her watch) until about 11:30 am. We also had a great second seder with lots of singing and with the kids performing our annual play (which usually has 4-6 kids in it) with just the two of them acting in seven different roles requiring costume changes in between.

A friend of ours, Rob, on another boat had to go into the water to check/repair something on their rudder. Turns out he got stung by a Portuguese Man-Of-War. Did you know that the Portuguese Man-Of-War is a free floating colony which is free-swimming and umbrella-shaped and has a gas-filled float and some polyps delivering a potent sting, some digesting food and others reproducing. These jellyfish are quite poisonous also to humans. It turns out that he was not wearing a wet suit or jellyfish suit. These generally provide the barrier of protection to avoid getting stung. Fortunately our friends were able to get the stingers out by scraping it off with a credit card and ingesting a high dosage of antihistamines and lots of rest. As of this morning it sounds like he is doing fine.

Eighteen boats checked into the net last night which is actually quite amazing. That's a lot of boats all heading (generally) together from Mexico to the South Pacific. All are doing well even though things always seem to break -- be it water in the engine, a torn sail, chafe, a problem with a VHF radio or SSB. These repairs tend to keep everyone active and busy through the day. Fortunately there have not been any major mechanical problems other than our friends on another catamaran that, when leaving Puerto Vallarta, one of the blades on one of their propellers fell off. With a catamaran they were able to use the other engine to return to the marina. They were hoping to get it repaired quickly and start again. The problem is that by the time they can get it repaired their window for crossing the Pacific narrows. As a result, they have taken the prudent route of deciding to push off their crossing until next year. While I am sure it is disappointing, itt has some real pros for them as they will get to spend more time in Mexico and then their plan is now to head south into Central America and cross to the Galapagos and then the South Pacific. So all in all they will end up seeing a lot more rather than being rushed through the South Pacific this year. We will miss hanging out with them though.

We've also been spending a lot of time as we get closer to the equator and beginning to cross the ITCZ dodging squalls. These tend to pack a lot of rain and sometimes gusty wind conditions and thunder/lightening (the latter we fortunately have not seen). They are something we try to avoid but they form and dissipate relatively quickly so they can come up on us rather quickly (like the one right now!). They do show up on the radar (because of all the rain) so when we see them on our track we do our best to adjust course and skirt around them. Usually works. Other times the boat gets a good wash down!


Michael (somewhere in the Pacific)

Day 10 Stats:
Distance: 132 miles; Total trip: 1519 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 152 miles
Average Speed: 5.5 knots -- slow day as winds have lightened as we have begun to enter the ITCZ; Average overall speed: 6.3 knots
Sea Conditions: Morning saw 100% cloud cover, and squally, and then in the afternoon it was beautiful, hot and humid with clear sunny skies. Seas have been 3-4 foot long period swells. Winds have been much lighter today from the E to the NE varying from 10-15 knots.
Incident Report: Dodging squalls as we go. We went through two bigger ones but they served nothing more than to wash down the boat. Still haven't seen any lightning. Some water in the bilges - not sure where it's coming from but nothing to worry about at this point as it could be from the rain showers.
Fish caught: Didn't put lines in the water yet again today. Which puts our number still at zero.
Produce Inventory: Everything else holding nicely. Can't believe I still have lettuce!
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was matzah with cheese, jam and/or almond butter. Morning snack was kiwi and plums. Lunch was chicken matzah ball soup. Dinner (2nd seder) was egg in salt water, chicken soup with matzah balls, sweet and sour chicken meatballs, kugel, salad and apple peach cake for desert.
At 4/20/2011 05:01 (utc) our position was 07°00.96'N 125°54.39'W

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 9 - Happy Passover




Happy Passover to all. We had a lovely day of sailing today with some sun! For perhaps the first time in my life I was ready for the seder with several hours to spare. The kids and I actually spent them reading and listening to Passover songs on a CD while Michael slept. We later discovered that the 2-3 hour wait in this humidity creates soggy matzah. Note to self: Take matzah out of sealed container at last minute only. The seder was fun, the kids taught us some new things from their learning this year, and the evening ended with that giddy laughter that accompanies sheer exhaustion, while singing the silly songs that close the meal. I immediately went to sleep and Michael and the kids cleaned up. The seder had extended into my much needed pre-watch 8-to-midnight sleep - if I don't get the full 4 hours, taking my entire midnight to 6 a.m. watch is a bit more challenging and I can't usually get through it without falling asleep and therefore needing to wake Michael. Tonight it is squally once again so will need to focus my attention on avoiding these blobs on the radar screen. Am feeling peaceful and fulfilled.

Day 9 Stats:
Distance: 158 miles; Total trip: 1387 miles; Average daily distance traveled: 154 miles
Average Speed: 6.6 knots; Average overall speed: 6.4 knots
Sea Conditions: Half the day had 100% cloud cover, then in the afternoon there was some sun. The day has been quite pleasant with temperatures of about 80 degrees and somewhat humid but the wind cools things off. Seas have been 4-6 foot long period swells coming from behind which means we are riding them nicely. Winds have been from the NE varying from 15-18 knots.
Incident Report: Dodging squalls as we go. There have not been many during the day, and these are easy to spot in daylight. There are many more at night and they show up on the radar screen as clumps. We've only gone through one heavy rain shower, and have not seen any lightning like other boats have reported.
Fish caught: Zero still -- would help if we put our lines in the water. One boat reported to be catching tuna, and another hooked a marlin.
Produce Inventory: Not even worrying about avocados but will soon be playing baseball with them. I lost my dill - just before needing to make chicken soup - but had some frozen so used it instead. Everything else holding nicely.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was regular cereal and toast - the last before Passover began. Lunch was salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, radishes and feta, together with my mother's 'potato and egg machel' (mixture) with fried onions. Afternoon snack was yogurt and grapefruit. Seder Dinner was egg in salt water, chicken soup with matzah balls, brisket with carrots, onions and celery, kugel, and apple peach cake for desert.

Some additional stats:
1. We've only generated about one small white kitchen bag worth of garbage in the 9 days at sea. All food stuff and paper products go overboard, as do glass bottles and tin/aluminum after being filled with water and sunk.
2. We've now changed our clocks back twice - approx. every 750 miles. It helps to sync the daylight hours to our schedules. There are no hard and fast rules about this, so we just make them as we go. Unfortunately for me, this means that I have not had a sunrise or a sunset on my watches. In any case, all radio nets are based on UTC, also known as Zulu time or GMT. I know I read somewhere what the time zone is in the Marquesas Islands, but I can't seem to find it now. I believe we still have a few more time changes to make before we get there.

At 4/19/2011 10:20 (utc) our position was 08°29.08'N 125°03.39'W

Monday, April 18, 2011

Passover Prep At Sea

As many of you know, the eight-day holiday of Passover begins at sundown tonight with a full moon and the first of the two ceremonial meals called 'seders'. Passover commemorates the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, and more than any other holiday requires the most preparation and attention to detail. While many complain that they cannot eat any 'chametz' or leaven (which includes flour products like bread and pasta) or other beans, legumes, rice, corn, barley, etc. for the eight days, I love the holiday. It's always felt very festive for me, and I do love the food. I have fond childhood memories of it, and I hope that my kids will as well. The leading up to the holiday is slavery in and of itself, if you follow the rules to a T. At home, I change all my dishes to ones used only for Passover, and have only kosher for Passover foods available. However, given the size of our boat and this year where we physically are, these details were not an option. Our dishes were prepared for Passover by Harrison who cleaned them with a toothbrush no less, in a bucket of bleach water. We were due for a good cleaning in any case.

The full steam ahead intense non-stop preparation began for me last night on my midnight to 6 a.m. watch. Given the details required for the seders as well as the holiday itself, one cannot do this all in one night under normal circumstances. But this year we are a much smaller group (only the 4 of us compared to last year's 8 with my sister and her family, and compared to upwards of 25 people at home). Still there was lots to be made. On my watch last night I made my chicken soup (see last blog post about chiseling the chicken out of the freezer, a project unto itself), matzah balls, and prepared the veggies for the seder plate and meal. This morning we all got on our hands and knees and did a big Passover cleaning of the boat, while tossing our symbolic 'chametz' (leaven in the form of bread) overboard. No, I'm not getting rid of it all - we still have a week after Passover at sea and nowhere to buy more, so the bread, flour and other leaven are just stowed away. Today Michael and the kids made the charoset (a mixture of apples, nuts and wine that looks like brown guck and is supposed to resemble the mortar that the Jews used to make bricks while slaves in Egypt but tastes a whole lot better). I made a kosher for Passover wheatless apple and peach cake (my peaches were going bad so it was timely). Two days ago I made a potato kugel and before we left Mexico I made a brisket and froze it, ready to fire up in the pressure cooker later today with onions, carrots and celery for our seder tonight.

That's not to say I hadn't addressed any details at all before last night. In fact, the real preparation began over a month ago when we were in California. At that time I had to make sure I had a lot of what I needed for Passover to take back with me. Then in early March I made my kosher meat order from Mexico City, which included other Passover items as well. Interestingly, I did not order matzah, since, if you were reading last year at this time, I still have loads leftover from 2010. I added to my year-old matzah stores a few boxes of whole wheat matzah that I bought in California. The kosher butcher in Mexico City must have been alarmed, however, that I did not have matzah on my list for him. I had matzah meal, cake meal, Passover macaroons, Passover wine, Passover mandelbroit, Passover crackers, and the list goes on, but no matzah. He must have thought this to be an oversight, and worried that I would not fulfill the commandment to eat matzah on Passover, so he sent me - yes - another kilo of matzah. We are now at about 12 lbs of matzah.

Even with our miniscule four participants in our seder, for certain, this night will be different than all other nights. Seder at Sea. My mother once commented that it's worse than being in the desert. It's certainly similar, and I can see what she's getting at: there's nowhere to go and you're in constant motion. I've likened it to being on one of those really high speed trains where you get jostled all the time, except that we're actually going much slower. And we're here for 3 weeks. Without. Getting. Off. This is when I'm especially thankful for being on a catamaran which sails fairly flat. If we were on a monohull, we'd be heeled over and likely not able to even cook underway. On a catamaran, we pretty much carry on normal activity, with the salon and galley being bright as well as high up out of the water. And we hold on while doing everything.

As is usual, we'll still be following the order for the meal ('seder' means order) with all the symbols on the seder plate, Elijah's cup (not sure how to open the door for him though), three matzot, reading from the 'hagadah' (which literally means the 'telling' since it contains the service that you follow for the meal which in turn contains the telling of the story of the Jews leaving Egypt), the hiding of the afikomen (a piece of matzah that the Michael hides and the kids must find for a prize). The kids will be putting on the usually 5 to 10 character play of the story of Passover in a two person performance using only hats as props. That should be interesting. We'll have the symbols for the 10 plagues scattered on our table. [As an aside, you may be wondering how we have all this 'stuff' aboard? When we first moved onto the boat, we were sure to have a Holiday Box that contains all the items we'd need for the various holidays throughout the calendar year as well as special birthday items.]

The difference from any other year though is obvious. We'll be surrounded only by water. And we'll be pulled forward by a sail. And we'll be hearing the sound of the waves and the howl of the wind. This may perhaps be the most spiritually meaningful Passover yet.

Just beyond our Half-way Mark to Landfall in the South Pacific at 1350 miles
9 degrees 38.268 minutes North
124 degrees 32.795 minutes West
At 4/18/2011 21:50 (utc) our position was 09°35.98'N 124°34.59'W

Day 8 - Sails, Sails, Sails

We haven't done this much sailing since...ever. Even sailing down from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas we motored for part of the way so it is such a great change just sailing. That's why we bought a boat with a mast! The only time we now hear a motor is when we put the generator on for a couple of ours a day. Otherwise, its just the sound of the waves and the creaks of the boat.

Because we are using our sails more they are getting more of a workout. We have to watch for chafe such as when the sail might rub up against part of the rigging for extended periods of time and begin to wear. This requires putting chafe protection (usually some type of sailors leather) on the chafing culprit and some extra material on the part of the sail that is also rubbing. Because we are sailing so much more we are also having the opportunity to use our screecher and spinnaker so much more which is great fun. They allow us to sail either almost (screecher) or dead (spinnaker) downwind. They are much bigger and lighter weight sails and as such can be exciting to handle and are fun to sail. The screecher is on a rolling furler so that means that we just hoist it, unroll it to use it and roll it up when we are done. But a few nights ago, when rolling it up the wind caught it and twisted it so that we could not unfurl it or roll it up all the way. Fortunately we were able to get it mostly rolled up and took it down. The next day we tried to unfurl it by hoisting it and working out the twist in lighter winds to no avail. So yesterday morning, sitting on the trampoline, I spent most of the morning manually unrolling it to get the twist out. That's a lot of canvas to handle! All done and we've been using it pretty much ever since -- and have even successfully furled it a few times.

The other sail fun we had was hoisting our spinnaker. Spinnakers (particularly racing spinnakers (which we don't have; we have a cruising spinnaker)) can be be a lot to handle. They catch the wind and then boom they are out of control blowing in the wind. Ours comes in a sock (or sleeve). You hoist the spinnaker in the sock and once up, using a line attached to the top of the spinnaker and the bottom of the sock you hoist the sock and perfecto the spinnaker is flying. Yesterday, as we hoisted the spinnaker and had it about have way up, the wind caught the bottom of the spinnaker that was not in the sock and caused the sock to go up (taking the line that controls the sock with it!) and open the spinnaker. $*(#@&@^! Now, how to get it down? Can't reach the line that controls the sock to pull it down and its a huge sail pulling the boat forward at 6-7 knots. Can't leave it for later (I could have gotten the sail all the way up but still no way to get it down) since if we needed to get it down in a hurry that would be a problem. So, we pulled out the jib which helped to blanket the spinnaker and take some of the wind out of it released one of the spinnaker sheets grabbed the other sheet and quickly released the halyard. Releasing the halyard and one of the sheets basically released all the wind from the sail and we quickly pulled all the sail on deck (like 5 seconds quick) so that none would fall in the water. It all worked as planned and is pretty much standard operating procedure for dousing a racing spinnaker, but my kids thought it was totally cool!

Interestingly, with all this downwind sailing we have not used our mainsail much. It tends to flop around a lot because it is so heavy and also blankets our downwind sails. Plus we've generally been making good speed without it.

Day 8 also found us getting ready for Passover. And as such, Barb wanted to make chicken soup! Simple right? But everything on a boat can expand into a big project. And this was just one such case. You see, the chicken we needed was at the bottom of our freezer. The freezer has no shelves so everything is stacked in tight. When we bought all our meat it was not fully frozen so we packed it in the freezer very efficiently (not one spare space was leftover) with the cut chicken at the bottom. Since the freezer has been working real well (thankfully) everything was totally frozen solid to each other which made getting that chicken out next to impossible. It was frozen to the sides and to the meat around it. So, this project required us to come close to nearly defrosting the entire freezer (in the middle of the ocean) and stowing meet as we pulled it out into cooler bags to finally pry that chicken out. And we did! I am looking forward to some great chicken soup after that exercise!

Happy Passover,

Michael (somewhere in the middle of the Pacific near the halfway point)

Day 8 Stats (by Barb):
Distance: 105 miles (slow day); Total trip: 1229 miles; Average daily: 154 miles
Average Speed: 4.4 knots; Average overall speed: 6.4 knots
Sea Conditions: Pleasant; 4-6 foot long period swells coming from behind which means we are riding them nicely; some sun, some overcast; NNE winds about 10-12 knots
Incident Report: Waged war on the freezer to try to extract a cut up chicken. It took all afternoon. Thank goodness for a couple of large cooler bags which held all the meat that could be removed from the freezer while we waited for the chickens to thaw slightly so they could be removed. Then, once extracted thanks to my hero Michael, we had a tough time fitting everything back in. You see, everything was packed in there when they were raw, so fit in nicely, but now that it's all frozen solid, it's hard to get everything to fit back in. Also, Michael untangled the asymmetrical sail and it is working nicely. Finally, when we were hoisting the spinnaker sail, the wind caught the 'sock' so that the sail filled with wind but we lost the line that controls when the sock gets dropped again. We had to figure out how to bring it back in, and eventually succeeded.
Fish caught: Zero still -- not trying at this point.
Produce Inventory: Still way too many avocados. Peaches are getting overripe just in time for an apple peach cake for the seder tonight. Everything else holding nicely - still 11 firm tomatoes, an orange pepper, two green peppers, plenty of lettuce, 8 cucumbers, half a head of broccoli, 6 plums, 2 mangoes, 12 kiwi, 1 small watermelon (for our equator party!), not to mention lots of carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, jicama, 2 cabbages.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was regular cereal and toast (it's getting close to Passover). Morning snack was a banana and strawberry smoothie with fresh squeezed OJ. Lunch was leftover curry chicken and veggies for Michael while the rest had nachos with cheese, beans and guacamole. Dinner was Ichiban (Ramen) noodle soup with tofu and broccoli. This is a favorite around here - and perfect for the night before Passvoer!!
At 4/18/2011 13:27 (utc) our position was 10°12.40'N 123°57.59'W

Water Water Everywhere

Can you imagine looking in every which way and only seeing water? On our voyage this sight may last for 21 days. When you're under way it is a bit rocky and a little weird. Some time it is amusing to watch the waves push you and splash up against the transom. On catamarans you can look under the boat by looking through the escape hatches. You can watch the waves splash up and then you can see under the crystal clear baby blue water!

Outside is a different experience: Tall navy blue waves surround you and at the top of them they are practically clear. As the waves circle you, you sit and you get tired because you are getting rocked like a little baby. When you stand you wake up. I haven't seen another vessel whether it's a plane or boat since the first day. As you hear the waves crashing and stirring, there's a sudden boom and then a crack, but don't fear because it's only the waves crashing into the boat. It's very hot and humid because of the water and heat.

On the boat it is half exciting seeing the interesting water and sky and half boring not being able to play with other kids.

At 4/18/2011 12:49 (utc) our position was 10°14.45'N 123°54.33'W

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 7 - One Week Down

We're past the one week at sea mark, and the one-third distance mark with having traveled over 1145 miles. At times when the wind is blowing in the right direction and we're 'sailing along', so to speak, a sense of elation sweeps the boat and we feel like we could keep going forever. Then at times like this moment, when the wind is light and directly behind us and we are bobbing along at 3 knots, I wonder how long this journey is going to take. The weather reports this morning advised of light winds over the next 2 days, so we may be bobbing for a while yet. And as was to be expected, we had our first 'weather to be watched' warning with some potential cyclonic activity (far) to the southeast. We watched the southeast horizon for several hours today until we knew we were out of recommended range and could breathe a bit easier. In the meantime, we keep re-evaluating our course (SW) to make sure we cross the equator at the most favorable spot where there is little unfavorable weather for the shortest distance. I've alluded before to this strategy. The ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) is the band of opposing currents and winds on either side of the equator with either thunderstorms or no wind whatsoever (also called the doldrums) - and it changes daily. So for now we're heading more west again and hope to turn south at around 7 degrees north by about 127 degrees west or more to cross the ITCZ and the equator - but we'll keep our eye on the weather and the changing ITCZ as we go. The crossing is likely another 5 days away or more. And in the meantime I've been enjoying the navigation part.

While enjoying the charting and navigation, I do sometimes wonder when and if this sailing thing will ever become second nature to me. There are times when I'm at the helm and Michael tells me to turn upwind and I go the wrong direction, or I'm trying to figure out which way to point to get us heading on a certain course, or I need to figure out what line to loosen or tighten or leave alone. There's so much to think about at one time and I can't even follow a recipe and carry on a conversation at the same time. I try to ask questions as we go, and Michael is very good at explaining why he's doing something, but there's only so much he can do to have it make sense to me. This only gets magnified when, like this evening, we wage war on a sail. Michael was trying to raise the screecher, an asymmetrical sail which is good for downwind sailing, and it got so tangled to the point that we couldn't pull it out. After two hours of tense attempts in the pitch black of night, completely disoriented as to where the boat was pointing, literally spinning in circles to try to use the wind to unwind it, we finally gave up and are flying the jib instead. In any case, it has me wondering whether one is born a sailor. Can one learn to love it to the point that you live to breathe it? That's not to say I don't enjoy it. I do love all the things that go with it (the travel, the compactness of towing your life with you as you go, the precious togetherness of your family, to name a few), but I can't say that I'm a proficient and passionate sailor. For now I'm content to go along for the ride. And I'll keep trying to learn.

Speaking of learning, I've learned a few other things over the last day:
1. You can get blisters from doing laundry. True. I rung out 52 rags today - twice. Once washing and once rinsing. My blisters had popped by the end of it. Here's a tip: one can never have enough rags living on a boat. Why so many rags? Our one week delayed departure meant that we left with one week's worth of laundry. With several spills along the way due to the motion of the ocean, we ran out of rags. And on a catamaran we don't even heel over like on a monohull where there would likely be many more spills. In the meantime, my kids are complaining that they are running out of clothes. I'll have to wait until my hands heal before the next round.

2. Don't wrap your citrus in tin foil. Contrary to what I said before, don't do it. Yesterday, while choosing oranges for fresh squeezing, I had to toss out about 4 or 5 due to major mold. I then went through all of the oranges and realized several were on the cusp. The problem is that the tinfoil traps the moisture leading to mold. The temperature changes several times during the day so that the fruit sweats but needs to be able to breathe. I have never wrapped them in tinfoil before and they've lasted a long time, especially the thicker skinned ones. And here I was hoping that the oranges would be our saviors when we ran out of everything else. Now I'm hoping they'll last for the next few days while I squeeze orange juice that doesn't taste rancid.

3. The single sideband radio takes up a lot of battery power when you are actually using it. Michael's been running the adjunct morning Puddle Jump net (for the boats that left approximately one week ago - we cannot hear the official net so we created our own to keep in touch and share weather information). We've found that because of this, with everything else including our navigation instruments, we use up about 25% of our battery power in a 24 hour period. With a lot of cloud cover, we haven't been making much solar power so we've been running our generator at least 2 hours every morning to bring the batteries back up to 100%. This is the time of day when we all scramble to plug in computers and ipods to charge, we make toast in the toaster and I use the food processor if I am planning to make anything that day that requires it (today: Passover potato kugel!). Maybe I'll use the time to run the washer next time?

Day 7 Stats:
Distance: 154 miles; Total trip: 1124 miles; Average daily: 160 miles
Average Speed: 6.4 knots; Average overall speed: 6.7 knots
Sea Conditions: Pleasant; 4-6 foot long period swells coming from behind which means we are riding them nicely; some sun, some overcast; NNE winds about 10-14 knots
Incident Report: Waged war on the asymmetrical sail and lost. Will need to untangle sail by hand in the a.m. Chafing on the jib; attended to by sewing patch where it hits the seagull striker. Screecher/spinnaker halyard chafing right near top; Michael cut it away and will have to keep an eye on halyard going forward to see if this is a new issue or an old one that we think we've addressed.
Fish caught: zero (why are we bothering?)
Produce Inventory: Still way too many avocados. We're so sick of them that we didn't even eat one today. We lost close to a dozen oranges and 2 grapefruits to mold (see my comment re wrapping in tin foil). About another dozen are smelling awfully ripe.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was Challah French toast with maple syrup and cut up kiwi, mango and apples with fresh squeezed OJ; Lunch was leftover Vietnamese salad rolls without the rolls (i.e. bean threads with lettuce, carrots, peppers, spinach, zucchini and chicken in peanut sauce). Afternoon snack was tomato and artichoke bruschetta on crackers (way to use those tomatoes!). Dinner was curry chicken and vegetables over brown rice. We celebrated our one week at sea with some licorice!!

We cannot thank you enough for your encouraging comments - they help us feel supported and connected.

11 degrees 36.238 minutes North
121 degrees 31.589 minutes West
At 4/17/2011 09:06 (utc) our position was 11°35.58'N 121°32.50'W

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 6 -- Finally Some Sun

We saw sun! Since leaving Mexico, it has been surprisingly cloudy everyday. I never thought it would be this cloudy in the Pacific at these latitudes. Because we've had such cloud cover its been much cooler than expected but now with the sun out it warmed up nicely. Today we also saw more front, behind and to our sides. Its pretty cool how big this ocean is! No fish, but that is probably a good thing since (a) traveling 8 - 10 knots under sail and trying to slow the boat down to bring a fish in would be awfully challenging and (b) we have lots of chicken to eat. In fact instead of sushi rolls (if we had fish), tonight, along with excellent challah, we had chicken satay with veggies in rice rolls. (I am beginning to talk like Barb regarding our meals)!

Today we had some of the best sailing ever. These must be the trade winds! We are sailing downwind with our blue & white spinnaker up in front of the boat (no main sail) doing 8 - 10 knots. We actually saw 14 knots at one point! The swell is about 8 - 10 feet but it is long period and we are going with it so it is actually a very comfortable ride. Some of the best sailing in a very long (if ever) time.

For me, today's activity included stitching some leather onto the rigging at our seagull striker (the forward triangle that supports and hold the bows of both hulls together) as it has been causing some chafe on our jib. I never knew I'd become good with a needle and thread, but it came out looking pretty good, if I may say so. Still need to put a small patch on our sail.

We are now gradually getting into our routine -- its amazing that it takes 6 days to get there. The kids are even watching a movie now! Barb is sleeping as she is on the 12:30 am watch (she likes those overnight watches) and I am blogging and keeping watch.

Our stats for Day Six:
Distance: 159 miles -- we took it slow last night; Total trip: 970 miles
Average Speed: 6.6 knots; Average overall speed: 6.74 knots
Sea Conditions: Long period 8- 10 foot swells; sun finally came out; N winds about 15-20 knots; almost a full moon
Incident Report: None that I can think of
Fish caught: zero (except for two little ones that flew onto the boat)
Produce Inventory: Barb will have to provide this
Meals/Snacks: Plain old cereal with milk or toast with almond butter for breakfast. Yogurt avocado soup with salad for lunch and awesome challah and chicken satay with veggies in rice rolls for dinner.

Michael -- somewhere (see below and track us on the track link on our blog) in the Pacific Ocean
At 4/16/2011 03:46 (utc) our position was 13°27.07'N 119°38.99'W

Surprise Catch

On our second day out at sea, once everyone was beginning to get adjusted, we put a fishing line in the water. We were about to sit down for dinner when we heard the clicking noise indicating that a fish was on the line. After thirty minutes of my dad reeling it in, we finally caught sight of it. It was a shark!! It had a dorsal fin and pectoral fins, a gray backside and a white belly and was six or seven feet long. My mom looked in all the fish books we have on board but was unable to identify it for sure. We think it could have been a blue shark. Determined to get the lure out of its mouth, my dad kept the shark close to the transom for awhile and I took pictures. It stayed there for about ten minutes and then fought to swim away so quickly that it snapped the line. It took our lure with it. Now I'm more reluctant to swim across the equator, as I was planning to do.


PS. There was a great picture of the shark I was going to post but apparently we can't send it as it makes the email from our boat to big.
At 4/13/2011 02:04 (utc) our position was 16°32.92'N 112°34.24'W

Day 5 - Learning as we go

We've realized today that not all our blog posts were posting. We learn as we go, and this one we did because we hadn't heard anything from anybody for a couple of days. It's rather isolating out here, as you can imagine, so not hearing from anyone had us feeling a bit lonely. Our email gets sent over a very slow radio link and delivered by a High Frequency private coast station in the Maritime Mobile Radio Service, operated by the SailMail Association, a non-profit association of yacht owners ( Emails must be less than 5 kBytes (2 text pages) with no attachments. We had tried to post some photos (the shark that hooked our line, a sunset, Ruby the Booby sleeping on our solar panel), but unfortunately these files were too big to go. So we apologize in advance that from now on, you'll have to leave the scenes to your imaginations (think: water, water, water). Text only from now on. In addition, sending a file with a photo takes about 25 minutes to transmit and we are only assigned a total of 90 minutes per week of air time.

Today saw a bit of a rough day for me, although everyone else seemed to have been doing okay. I'm not sure if my nausea and headache were related to the sloppy sea conditions, falling barometer, lack of sleep or having the heavy refrigerator door fall on my head. Either way, I slept it off and am feeling much better now on my midnight watch. Daytime hours saw 15 to sometimes 25 knots of wind and our boat performs beautifully in these conditions. Today was our best day yet in terms of distance with 190 miles in 24 hours. Michael has been teaching me a bit about sail trim as we go, and I'm learning that it can be the subtlest tweaks that can make the difference between a choppy uncomfortable ride and smooth sailing.

It's been overcast almost the entire time since we left the Mexican coast, and this evening we experienced a little drizzle. The cooler temperatures are better for the produce and for the crew, so we're not complaining.

In the last 4 hours our wind has died to less than 10 knots and is clocking around behind us, so we are now bobbing around, going anywhere from 2-4 knots. We're pointing more toward Hawaii than the Marquesas. It's excruciating. The weather reports are still telling us to head more west than south to catch the trade winds earlier, so we are following this advice. Another learning-as-we-go: I thought the trade winds were 400 miles off shore and then we'd be sailing, so-to-speak, to the finish line. Not so. Looks like we need to chase those trades, and more than 800 miles later, they're nowhere in sight. Plus, you do the math: Heading more west and then turning south, as opposed to heading southwest, puts a lot more mileage onto this trip. I sit here watching the wind direction on our instruments and when it changes to a more favorable position, I change the boat's course to one that's more favorable. When the wind changes back behind us, I move the boat back upwind (towards Hawaii - sigh). And on it goes. You ask what keeps me awake at night? As tedious as this may sound, I am hopeful that after a few hours it will in fact make a difference. I don't know, but I'm learning as I go.

Our stats for Day Five:
Distance: 190 miles; Total trip: 811 miles
Average Speed: 7.9 knots; Average overall speed: 6.75 knots
Sea Conditions: Somewhat sloppy for part of the day; 6-8 foot swells; overcast most of the day; NNE winds about 15-20 knots
Incident Report: Barb got bonked in the head by the refrigerator door. It goes to show you that anything can happen anytime, so you must be alert at all times. Jib sail showing a bit of chafe from the seagull striker - will need to address in the a.m. A flying fish came flying through the small galley hatch and landed in the sink on Michael's night watch last night, then jumped onto the floor. Michael had to spend some time getting rid of all the scales that flew everywhere, as well as the stink!
Fish caught: zero
Produce Inventory: Way too many avocados. Michael made his famous guacamole today using 5 avocados and we'll freeze a couple of bags of it and see what happens. In the meantime, still way too many avocados left.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was veggie omelettes (onion, broccoli, zuchini, pepper) with toast; we ate late so our morning snack and lunch got kind of lost in the day with bagels and cheese and pears. Dinner was an easy bean taco and quesadillas with, you guessed it, guacamole, tomatoes and cabbage. Not a very exciting day as far as meals were concerned. I'm hoping to improve on the menu for tomorrow and throw in something special for my crew.

14 degrees 51.933 minutes North
118 degrees 05.663 minutes West
At 4/15/2011 08:08 (utc) our position was 14°51.74'N 118°06.23'W

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 3 & Our New Crew Member

The seas have definitely settled down, as has the wind, although we're still making pretty good time with 157 miles today. That puts our average speed at approximately 6.5 knots. The kids did some homeschooling. Danielle's completely into her Harry Potter books and Harrison built a motor that should work in water. We pulled out our Passover CD and a Hagadah (the book you follow for the Passover Seder on the first two nights of Passover) to start preparing for Passover which begins next Monday night. Michael and I slept for much of the day when not on watch. You'd think that living in such close quarters 24/7 would have us chatting, but we are like two ships passing in the night. We quickly communicate what's going on as we pass the baton back and forth, but that seems to be about it. We had also hoped to begin doing some yoga today now that we have our sea legs, but we were both feeling a bit tired and I had a headache. Tomorrow is a new day.

We've been followed by what we think is a red-footed booby or some kind of a frigate bird although our bird book hasn't made it certain. It's actually amazing that 500 miles off shore there are still birds. I wonder if he knows he's going to the South Pacific? I wonder if that will mess up the ecosystem there? I've named him Ruby (as in Ruby the Booby). A bit corny, yes. But what else is there to do but be silly. He's pretty cute, except that he hangs out and sleeps at the edge of our solar panel which is just above our dinghy raised on the davits; in other words, he's pooping all over the dinghy chaps.

We are not alone out here. Fifteen boats checked into the Puddle Jump Net this evening, sharing lat/long locations and weather and sea conditions. One boat has decided to turn back due to engine troubles but is hopeful to come back out within the week to try again.

The weather reports have never meant so much. A friend on land sent us weather reports he's found and interpreted to add to our own grib files and forecasts (thanks Ethan!). Our routing as we set out was to follow the rhumbline in a southwest direction to 5 degrees north 125 degrees west and then turn south to head across the ITCZ at it's narrowest point. From the weather reports, it now appears that we should be westing a lot more at first to catch up to the trade winds sooner, and then go south. We've since changed our course to coincide with this new information. The next few days will show lighter winds but some confused seas.

Our stats from the last 2 days:
Day 2:
Distance: 159 miles; Total trip: 319 miles
Average Speed: 6.6 knots; Average overall speed: 6.6 knots
Sea Conditions: Calmer; 4-6 foot waves; overcast most of the day; NNW winds about 10-15 knots
Incident Report: Michael had rigged up a cable to the lazy shroud to take some of the pressure off the mast but it snapped. No big deal; he fixed it on Day 3. We hooked a shark who ran off with our good lure. No wonder our next stat is zero.
Fish caught: zero
Produce Inventory: We lost one mango to spoilage.
Meals/Snacks: Breakfast was fresh squeezed orange juice and sauteed soyrizo, onion, green pepper and potatoes; morning snack was mango; Lunch was leftover chicken stirfry and lemon lentil soup; Dinner was pasta with sauteed tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, capers and olives with ceasar salad.

Day 3:
Distance: 157 miles; Total trip: 476 miles
Average speed: 6.5 knots; Average overall speed: 6.6 knots
Sea conditions: pleasant seas; sun coming out and feeling a bit warmer; NNW to NNE winds 10-15 knots.
Incident Report: Electric winch decided to go on on its own. Michael turned off the circuits and cleaned them out. It looks like there was a short due to moisture inside. He also re-rigged the cable supporting the port side shroud. I got doused by a wave through a side hatch as I was admiring the beauty of the sea and getting some air down below. Rude awakening.
Fish caught: Zero
Produce inventory: All still fine. I spend part of my overnight watches going through each piece. What else is there to do? Looks like I may have overstocked on avocados as they are all going ripe at the same time.
Meals/Snacks: Sauteed peppers and onions in tortillas with beans and guacamole for breakfast; Banana muffins and grapes for morning snack; Feta and tomato salad over spinach for lunch; banana & strawberry smoothie for PM snack; Pre-made chicken chili with steamed broccoli and whole wheat couscous for dinner.

At 4/13/2011 02:04 (utc) our position was 16°32.92'N 112°34.24'W

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