Days 1 through 7

During April 2004 three friends (Chris Janowski (CJ), Craig Lacy, and Charlie Stillman) and I took Cats Paw from San Diego to Hiva Oa, in the Marquesas Islands. This is the daily log that I sent out over HF radio, with a few pictures added once I got home.

Here's the track from San Diego to Hiva Oa, using Google Maps.

Most pictures are by Charlie Stillman --- that's why there are so few pictures of him!

4 April 2004

Friends and Family!

Well, we had hoped to get away today, but things are taking longer than expected. The boat is ready, but provisioning is taking far longer than we had hoped. I had visions of walking down the aisles of a grocery store, sweeping stuff off the shelves and into a cart, then we're done. Craig heard this plan, nodded politely, then fortunately took over. He has organized things, taking into account how long various ingredients are likely to last, then consolidated the lists. He and Chris have been out every day from 4 to 8 hours, buying stuff — a tough job on the mean streets of San Diego. Meanwhile, all these provisions have to be stowed somewhere. The Malö has a lot of storage space, but we are having to get more and more creative as the stuff pours in.

Salon chaos
The stuff just kept pouring in!

The boat has slowly settled down to its waterline, with just a hint of bottom paint showing. I think once fuel and water are on board, we will be right at the top of the paint. Once we get to the Marquesas, we're going to have a girdle of barnacles just above the paint, eking out a living from the spray!

We did some sea trials on Friday, practicing man overboard drills, reefing, and putting up the storm sails. Despite the weight, the boat handled surprisingly well and was good for 5 knots in the 10 knot thermal breeze, so I'm confident even with everything on board, we'll do just fine, even though we have yet to add a few hundred pounds of fuel and water.

We'll keep you posted!


Day 1
7 April 2004

The Crew at start
The crew, just before leaving San Diego. From left to right, Chris Janowski, Tom Keffer, Charlie Stillman, and Craig Lacy.

Getting away from the docks is the hardest part, both in the logistical sense, and in the mental sense. There are countless details that have to be attended to: provisioning, spare parts, refueling, organizing --- running through countless lists, checking things off. Meanwhile, entropy grinds away relentlessly, breaking things as fast as you can put them back together. At some point, you just have to say "Screw it! Let's go!," throw the docklines on board and shove off. We finally reached that point yesterday afternoon. Left undone was dealing with the freshwater system: we get very poor flow when the inline filter is attached, very good when it's bypassed. So, we are living with unfiltered freshwater for now.

Getting away is a mental effort as well. Genetically, we are wired as land creatures. Our instincts say "Stay! Hang out under a kabob tree and enjoy the sun!" Fortunately, in our case, the San Diego landscape says "Go! Enjoy the biggest wilderness in the world!"

We had light winds of 10 knots or so our first day, although they were directly out of the southwest, where we wanted to go, for the first six hours. Eventually, they veered enough that we could close haul our way south. With night, they became very fluky. First 3 knots, then 15 knots. We fiddled with sails all night, but eked out some decent mileage. Looks like our first day will be about 120 nm. Cats Paw, with her new Maxprop, is turning out to be a good light air boat, despite being loaded to the waterline!

The Fruit and Veggie Department
The fruit and veggie department on board S/V Cats Paw.

I should describe the boat. Nearly every nook and cranny has something stashed in it. The forward cabin is our fruit, vegetables, and egg department. There are four hammocks slung across the forward berth, each crammed with grapefruits, apples, carrots, brussel sprouts, bell peppers, etc., each individually wrapped in a sheet of newspaper. The forward hatch has been shaded with a piece of Sunbrella to keep the temperatures down. It will be an interesting experiment to see how long they last when the weather gets hot. A trip forward is a trip into an exotic food store and smells delicious!

It is also our egg department. We bought 10 dozen eggs, and stuffed them into a drawer with CJ's clothes. When he gets a change of clothes in the morning, he pulls open the drawer and says in that sunny CJ voice: "Hello, eggs! How was your night?"



Day 3
8 April 2004
27 56'N 119 50'W

Hello, all!

Hoisting the spinnaker
Hoisting the spinnaker.

We've had a great couple of days. After a slow start, the winds have been just perfect: 10 to 15 knots abeam. Noon-to-noon, we did 156 nm yesterday. I've been very pleased with CATS PAW's performance, despite every crevice being jammed with food and drink!

Weather has been mostly overcast. We were treated to a brief patch of sun earlier today, but most of the time it has been cloudy and surprisingly cold. It got down into the high 40s last night — mighty chilly for this far south. Night watches huddled in the cockpit with polypro, fleece, and foul weather gear. I'm sure that when we get to the tropics and start baking under a hot, muggy sun, we'll look back at these days fondly!

CJ tried to tough it out sans sea sickness medication, but after spending a night making friends with the toilet, he put a patch on. Now he's his normal bouncy self, unable to pass up a meal. Good thing, because we dine well tonight: lasagna and broccoli.

Saw a Laysan Albatross earlier in the day.


Day 5
10 April 2004
25 02'N 121 38'W

Hello, all!

Unfortunately, the great winds of our first few days have gone wherever winds go. The last 24 hours we have had winds around 4-5 knots, sometimes even less. During the day, we have been flying the spinnaker, eeking out 2 knots of boat speed. But, during the night, there's not much we can do besides roll around in the swell. Or motor. Early this morning we turned the engine on for a couple hours just to change the view and to heat the hot water. Spirits were high after everyone took a hot shower — our first in five days. It's also true that while we are not going anywhere fast, the swells are minimal so the boat is not rolling very much, making it easy to do boat chores. Overall, we made 106nm noon-to-noon.

CJ the Video Man
A common sight, just when you least expected it!

We had a boarder last night: our first flying fish. About 10 inches long, he was a sleek, blue beauty with big eyes. He probably was attracted by the lights of the boat and slammed into the coachroof.

Just before we left San Diego, CJ bought a new video camera. Now we have to be careful when we do something foolish — you never know, Chris may be lurking in a corner, camera in hand, ready to record our stupid moments for posterity.

Big day today: we turned the eggs, all 120 of them.


Day 6
11 April 2004
23 15'N 122 25'W

Hello, all!

Another very light wind day: about 4-8 knots most of the time. Still, we managed to do 101nm noon-to-noon. Well, we cheated a bit: we motored about 20nm. Weather forecasts show more of same, with some possible stronger winds 3 days from now. We are now 630 miles from San Diego, with about 2200 to go! Man, is this a big ocean!

Craig on watch
Craig on watch

But, the pleasures have been sublime. Last night was one of the most enjoyable watches I've ever done. Light breeze of about 8 knots, the boat moving easily at 4 knots, flat ocean, the wind warm and gentle. It was magical standing out there by myself, watching the bioluminescent wake and enjoying the silence and space.

We have flown the spinnaker almost exclusively, even at night, the conditions being so benign. The one exception is when we used the main and genoa while repairing the spinnaker snuffer. It got a long five foot tear because we hoisted it on the wrong side of the foretriangle, and left it to chafe all night against the forestay. Fortunately, no harm done and 60 minutes later we had it stitched up and good as new.

We saw our first ship in five days: a Panamanian registered freighter. We exchanged pleasantries and weather info, then moved on.

We have joined the Pacific Seafarer's Net, on every night at 14.313MHz; roll call at about 0330Z. There are about 20 boats on the roll call, almost all of them bound for the Marquesas! We have had trouble hearing them, so we don't always report in.

Other big news around here. We've declared Sundays to be "Talk Like a Parrot Day," so we've been walking around the boat saying "Arrrgg, Matey" to each other. Sunday is also "wind the clock" day.

Dinner is curried stir fry with tofu and rice.

Miss you all! Feel free to send email!


Day 7
12 April 2004
21 58'N 123 25'W

Hello, all!

Yesterday was a slow sailing day. We spent long frustrating hours trying to eek out a knot or two in zephyr breezes of 3 or 4 knots using the spinnaker. Twice we gave up and motored for an hour or two. Even so, we did only 85nm point-to-point, only slightly more than half what we were doing last week.

Tom and Craig on watch
Tom and Craig while gybing the spinnaker.

But, almost as if on cue, at noon the breezes picked up to 10-15 knots and we started moving along at 5-6 knots. Downloaded weather data predict 10-15 knots for the next three days. We're hopeful for tomorrow's mileage!

Craig and CJ have been fishing on and off. Shortly after dawn we heard the Zing! of the reel as a fish hit the lure. It was quickly pulled on board and turned out to be a 5lb bluefin tuna, a beautiful fish of dark luminescent blue, with some silvery striations. Despite its small size, it was impressive the way it is obviously built for speed, with a very slender, powerful tail.

We spent a couple hours this afternoon practicing celestial navigation. We got our Line Of Position (LOP) within a couple miles of what the GPS told us. This is the first chance we've had to try it --- until now the skies have been a solid deck of stratocumulus clouds, without a break. Right now, the sun is out, temperatures are a perfect mid-60s and we're zipping along under spinnaker alone at about 6 knots.

Forgot to mention that yesterday we entered the tropics, passing the Tropic of Cancer line.

Gotta go — cribbage starts in 5 minutes.


On to Days 8 through 14>