Days 8 through 14
13 April 2004
19 50'N 124 47'W
Big change in wind conditions. We have finally gotten far enough south to get some influence from the trades. Instead of struggling in 4-6 knot winds, we are getting steady 15-20 knot winds out of the northeast, good for 6+ knots of boat speed. This afternoon we took down the spinnaker for the first time in three days and switched to a port gybe, where I expect we will remain for the next week, until we reach the ITCZ (Doldrums). We had a 130nm day noon-to-noon and today looks like it will be even better (knock on wood).
Hard to believe, but today marks one week underway! The time has gone very quickly, yet very slowly. Watches can crawl by when conditions are frustrating, or they can end too quickly and you're tempted to tell your relief to go back to bed when things are going well.
We saw our second ship yesterday, a KC Maritime bulk freighter that passed within two miles off our bow, some of their crew lining the deck watching us cruise by under our colorful spinnaker.
We took solar showers this afternoon - one gallon each, naked in the cockpit.
Craig finally took the bait and we played our first cribbage game, which I won handily. Now I'm the cribbage champ in these parts!
15 April 2004
15 04'N 125 19'W
Yesterday was such a rough day with 20-25 knot winds and mixed seas, that none of us felt like doing much except managing the boat. I didn't do a log, nor did we check into the Pacific Seafarer's Net. At least all that wind gave us some good mileage days: 150 and 146. Today was a perfect sailing day with 15 knot winds on a beam reach most of the day.
It's also the first day where we felt like we were in the *tropics*. Until now, it's been surprisingly cool. We have gone on night watches bundled up, sometimes with fleece jackets and foul weather gear. But, last night I was out in shorts and light shirt for my midnight to 3am watch, enjoying the warm, balmy weather. During the day today, it was HOT! Everyone but the person on watch lazed around the cabin, trying to stay out of the sun. We put out a solar shower in the morning, but by noon the 110 degree hot water didn't sound very appealing, so we had to cool the bag back down again before taking showers! We spent part of the rest of the day restowing things that had shifted during last night's bouncy weather.
We've seen a lot of birds today. In the mid-afternoon we were visited by a very friendly Red-Footed Booby. He would circle the boat, think about landing on the rigging, go off and chase some flying fish, then come back to start the cycle again. This lasted for about an hour! Other birds seen today was either a Royal, Arctic, or Roseate Tern, and probably a Red-Tailed Tropicbird. Unfortunately, the bird book we are using (Peter Harrison's "Seabirds of the World") is pretty bad, making it difficult to positively ID the birds. Anybody have a suggestion for a better book of seabirds?
Pasta with broccoli and salad for dinner.
16 April 2004
12 27'N 125 20'W
Another hot and sultry day here in the tropics. According to my almanac, the sun is at about 10 degrees latitude right now, so it is just about directly overhead. In fact, we'll probably cross under it tomorrow. In the middle of the day, between the heat, humidity, and sun, it's all we can do to just loll around getting the minimum done. We're going to switch our cooking schedule and dine European style in the late evening.
Our route from San Diego to the Marquesas has not been the direct, rhumb line, but rather more of an "S" shape. First we headed out of San Diego west of the rhumb line on a starboard broad reach to take advantage of the prevailing northwest winds in that area. Later, once we hit the northeast trades about 4 days ago, we switched to a port broad reach heading south by southwest. We're trying to make sure we don't cross the equator too far west, so that when we hit the southeast trades, it will be yet another easy broad reach into the Marquesas. This route adds about 100 miles, but is much faster. So far, it's worked out well.
Last night, about 1am, we had a magical visit by about 20 energetic dolphins who played in the bow wave and ran circles around Cats Paw for about a half hour. They were difficult to pick out in the dark, but you could see their ghost-like comet trails from the bioluminescence.
We also had a visit by a pair of Brown Boobies in the afternoon. They would go off and forage, then return to the boat. This went on for a couple of hours. Our avian buds.
Dinner is rice and Tasty Bites.
17 April 2004
10 08'N 125 48'W
We had our first tropical squall, and it came in the middle of the night during Chris' watch. He first spotted it on the radar, and sure enough, it headed straight for the boat. Within minutes, it was pitch black, howling, and pounding rain. Very impressive! It only lasted a few minutes and then was gone, leaving the boat rinsed, and the air cooler.
Although we passed directly under the sun today, it was a much cooler day than yesterday. The humidity made things sticky, but temperatures never got over 85. But, it was very blustery with 30+ kn winds. Daily mileage, noon-to-noon, was 158nm.
Right now, Chris is learning how to hand steer in 30 knot winds! He's doing well, and has put us on our ear only once.
A word about email. Unfortunately, whenever we run the sideband to download our email, it interferes with the autopilot, so we have to hand steer the boat for the 10 minutes it takes. Because we can only do email during the middle of the night when reception is good this means someone has to stay up to hand steer in the pitch black --- not a fun task. Charlie has enthusiastically accepted this, so he and I generally get the mail around midnight when our watches overlap. So, if you send us something during the day, no one will see it until the next day, and you're unlikely to get a response until the following day. Patience!
18 April 2004
08 30'N 127 11'W
We have now passed the halfway mark. We have 1323 miles to go, San Diego is 1529nm away. Because of various zigs and zags, we have actually traveled 1644nm to get here. We eagerly look forward to crossing the equator, probably about 4 days from now.
We have had continued strong winds in the 20-30 knot range. Yesterday, we rigged our third reef just in case we needed it overnight. In the process, we discovered that a grommet used by the second reef had torn out. So, we put the third reef in and sailed under that all night. As of this afternoon, it's still in there. It hasn't hurt our boat speed. We did 153nm noon-to-noon.
We're still figuring out how we're going to repair the thing. We'll have to wait for less strong winds so we're not whipping around on the boom, trying to stitch through 4 layers of fabric. With the ITCZ coming up, I suspect we'll have ample opportunity very soon.
We also had a large boarding wave this morning. Chris had opened up the portlight over the stove to let in some air. Five minutes later, while scooping coffee into the carafe, he got hit in the chest by about 20 gallons of water, which then rolled over the cabin sole. We spent the next two hours hosing things down with fresh water and drying out the carpets. Fortunately, none of the upholstery got hit, so no sticky settees. Yet.
Latest: just before dark we had a chance to heave to and look at the second reef grommet. We convinced ourselves that it was not in a high-stress area, so we are going to let repairs wait until we get to Hiva Oa. In the meantime, we'll avoid using the second reef.
19 April 2004
05 58'N 128 28'W
We continue to have good winds, but have clearly entered the realm of the equatorial region. Squalls, often with 30+ knot winds, regularly cruise through, forcing us to shorten sail or heave to, waiting them out. Their intensity is impressive. Winds howl and the rain pours like it can only do in the tropics. Fortunately, they are rarely very long, usually only five minutes or so, and they always leave a cooler, refreshed boat.
The satellite photos we are getting via the single sideband weatherfax, show the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone, aka The Doldrums) just south of us, centered at about 2 degrees, so I am guessing we are in its edge right now. This explains the marauding squalls. But, our winds so far are quite reliable, unlikely the classical Doldrums. I suspect they will become more fluky in the next day or two.
Yesterday all of us except Craig took solar showers, so today he decided to take a shower in an afternoon squall. It was quite a sight watching him suds up on the foredeck, rinsing down with the streams of water pouring off the rigging. Hey, it's free water.
Chris and I spent an hour in the afternoon between showers repairing the cockpit canopy. The thread holding its bolt rope had disintegrated in the sun, allowing the canopy to come off the arch. We had a pleasant time sitting in the shade, stitching the bolt rope by hand, bearded, tanned, shirtless, a couple of old salts in the doldrums.
Daily mileage was 134 miles.