Pacific Crossing – Day 22 – Are We There Yet??

The Princess would like to know if we are there yet.  She asks me this multiple times a day…

The answer is that we are just over 600 miles from Hiva Oa.  We are tearing along, averaging 6 knots.  We are enjoying the best sailing conditions we have had so far.  We have 15 knots of steady breeze out of the SE, the swell is minimal AND FROM ONE DIRECTION! :-)  The skies are beautifully clear and the the water is a sparkling vivid sapphire blue.

Ellie is flying jib and main with the wind 70 degrees off her port bow.  Now THIS is what I imagined the crossing to be like the entire time!  Loving it.

I saw the southern cross last night.  Definitely in the southern hemisphere now.

Last night, against my will, I was subjected to the cold wrath of the sea.  I had just turned in for the night and was excited to be tucked snugly in my bunk for my sleep shift.  I was just dozing off when Ellie’s bow dug into a particularly large wave.  The wave came over the entire boat and water immediately came flooding into the center hatch and ports on the leeward side!  We had left them open for ventilation and because we hadn’t shipped a drop of water on the cabin top all day.  Well, big mistake.  I was a bit in shock as the seawater continued to pour onto the bunk and all over the bookshelf.  I yelled for Alyssa “Lyss come quick, I’m drenched!!”  We quickly closed the hatches and cursed ourselves for leaving them open.  We then went to work quickly drying any electronics that got wet, taking out batteries, etc.  Half the cushions were soaked and the sheets were toast.  Such is life on the high seas.

Trailing lures again.  Would be nice to catch some more fresh tuna or mahi mahi before arriving in port.  We have some space in the freezer just begging to be filled.

Current position:

Time: 19:19z

Lat: 03 02 S
Long: 131 05 N

Course: 220t

SOG: 6.0 knots

Wind: 15 knots from the SE

Seas: 2-4ft swell

Bar: 1008

Pacific Crossing – Day 21

We’re in the southern hemisphere!

We are 21 days out of Zihuatanejo, Mexico bound for Hiva Oa, a mere 775 miles SW.  We have caught the SE trades and are making good way under full sail, clear skies and signature puffy trade wind clouds.  There is a fresh breeze out of the SE driving us forward at 5 knots.  Once again Ellie has caught her stride and seems determined to reach Hiva Oa and take a rest.  The crew is dreaming of towering green spires, tranquil anchorages and baguettes.

The trades have brought much needed reprieve from the heat.  The breeze is very welcome and the humidity has dropped markedly.  We both even felt cold for the first time last night and even sought out blankets.

We crossed the equator yesterday and I transitioned from a ‘Pollywog’ to a ‘Shellback’.  Alyssa presided over the ceremony as she was already a Shellback, class of 2009.  We had a great day.  Alyssa cooked up an awesome country breakfast, complete with hash browns, bacon and eggs.  We enjoyed bloody mary’s while Ellie gracefully cut through the new-to-us SE swell.  We hove-to for a swim and so I could scrape off the surprising amount of barnacles that had accumulated on the waterline over the past few weeks.  We couldn’t stand being dead in the water with 10 knots of wind beckoning from the SE, so we raised full sail, set the windvane and continued to drive towards paradise.  We watched an incredible sunset while sipping boat drinks and listening to Jimmy Buffet, while the hint of fresh-baked pizza wafted up the companionway and into the cockpit.  We ended the night by finishing the movie Dead Calm.  It was a great day at sea.

I’ve put the alternator issue on the backburner for now.  We have great wind so we don’t need the motor and the solar panels are producing ample power to charge the battery bank.  I’ll troubleshoot the issue when we get into port in a week.

Gotta run – time to tuck in a reef.

Current Position:

3/30/14
23:30z

01 29 SOUTH!
130 12 WEST

210t

5.0 knots

Wind 13-15 SE

Seas: 3-4 feet with 2 foot wind chop

Bar: 1006

Pacific Crossing – Day 20 – At the Equator!!

We are 4 miles from the equator!  We have caught the SE trade winds and are cruising along nicely at 4 knots under full sail.  The wind is on the port bow, the skies are clear and the engine is OFF!

We are excited to be crossing the equator in an hour.  We will stop the boat, heave-to and go for a swim and celebrate.  Spirits are high.

We had our first real mechanical issue last night.  The alternator stopped putting out power.  Luckily a few hours later, the wind filled in and we sailed all night.  I thought it stopped because of an overheating sensor.  But this morning after the engine and alternator were cool I started it up and still no output.  Annoying.  Looks like I get to troubleshoot this thing once we get in to port.

John – Any ideas?  Did the alternator ever cease voltage output?  The external regulator seems to be functioning..  Email our sailmail address if you think of anything.

Luckily we caught the SE trades already.  We should be able to point the bow towards Hiva Oa and hopefully make landfall on one tack.

Cheers from the Equator!!!

Lewis and Alyssa

Equator

21:45z

00 03 N
129 26 W

193t

4.0 knots

Wind: 11 knots SE

Seas: 3-5 feet long period swell

Bar: 1008

Pacific Crossing – Day 19

We’re at 1 degree north and only one day away from crossing the equator.  We are on a heading of 200 but our course over ground is 180!  We are fighting a strong equatorial counter-current that runs from west to east along these latitudes.  My book says we should have left this current when we crossed 2 N but it is just getting stronger.  The current is making westing extremely difficult.  We will have to settle for due south until we are out of the grips of this mid-ocean river.

Still motor-sailing.  Will need to fill the main tank today.  Last night I added one jerry can (5.5 gallons) which was enough to motor all morning but this afternoon I will have to top it off.

I will also run the watermaker today to fill the starboard tank.  We are still keeping the port tank full as reserve.

We came up on the sailboat Discovery last night.  They were hove-to with a white light showing.  I picked them up from a visual scan at a range of 6nm.  At 4nm I got them on radar and hailed them.  No answer.  Once we were only 2nm distant they raised us on the VHF and we had a nice chat.  They were catching up on sleep before pushing on.  I asked about their inoperable engine (I heard of their engine trouble on the SSB Pacific Puddle Jump Net); Andy replied they fixed it.  They had a clogged fuel line before the racor fuel filter so they were working to clear it for a couple days.  I was glad to hear they were well and was ready to help if they needed anything.  I carry a whole diesel fuel polishing unit that would be a life saver out here!

I am in dire need of aerobic exercise.  It’s killing me.  A run, a swim, a dive, a hike, anything.  My half-a** attempt at exercise on the boat has been running up and down the companionway stairs but it’s just too hot on the equator for that nonsense.  After 5 minutes I am sweating profusely and it takes me an hour for my body to cool back down.  Hopefully I can go for a swim tomorrow on the equator.  I also have to clean the gooseneck barnacles off the bottom.  I can see them on the waterline.

Well, happy Friday everyone!  Look forward to hearing from you.

Lewis and Alyssa

Pacific Ocean

19:19Z

01 32 N

129 09 W

180 T

3.5 knots

Wind: less than 5 knots from the SSE

Seas: 4 ft smooth rollers from a few directions

Bar: 1010

Pacific Crossing – Day 18

We are slowly clawing our way towards paradise.  We just crossed 3 degrees north and are 175 miles away from the equator.  That’s two days away at 4.0 knots.

I’m pretty sure we crossed the heart of the ITCZ last night at 03 20 N.  At about 0200 we went from becalmed to being hit with 15-18 knots out of the SSE.  It blew hard all morning and we even raised sails and turned the engine off for a while.  We sailed close-hauled on a heading of 220 with the apparent wind 40 degrees on the port bow.  Eventually the wind died to less than 6 knots out of the S, so we fired up the diesel and have been motoring all day.  We want to put as much distance between us and the ITCZ as possible.

There was no moon last night due to the cloud cover and the bright bioluminescence was incredible.  The bow wave was scattering twinkling bright blue foam on each side of the boat and there was a bright wake behind the boat trailing for 50 yards or so from the prop wash.  I sat on the edge of the stern rail and just watched in awe at the magic of it all.  My favorite is when the dolphins show up and you can see them twisting and twirling under the boat trailing streamers of bright bioluminescence; it’s absolutely breathtaking.

When I was trimming the jib last night, I heard something near the helm.  It was pitch black so I got a little closer to find what I assumed was a flying fish.  It wasn’t a fish but a bird!  I went below to grab a flashlight and came back up.  It appeared injured and it was looking at me.  I tried to scare him away so he would take flight but it seemed he couldn’t figure out how to fly out of the cockpit.  So I grabbed the edge of his wing and threw him out.  He took flight and disappeared.  It was a strange encounter.  Hope the poor guy got his bearings back.

I think 18 days at sea is starting to get to me.  Last night I hailed a squall on the VHF! haha  I was monitoring the radar and I saw what I was sure was a container ship about 6 miles off the starboard beam.  I went topside to try and see his lights but it was so cloudy and overcast I couldn’t see anything.  It wasn’t on AIS so I tried to hail what I thought was a ship.  No answer.  Hmm.  It got within 4 miles and I was sure now it was a ship.  Usually the squalls are spread out on the radar and they have multiple signatures.  This one was a small solid block like a ship.  I tried hailing again.  Nothing.  Just before I initiated a course change, the ‘ship’ broke apart into what is clearly an incoming squall.  I laughed and felt pretty silly for hailing a squall.  But hey, better safe than sorry right?  And a squall can’t call you out, but Alyssa can!  In the morning she asked, “How close did that ship get that you hailed last night?”  I laughed and confessed that I hailed a squall.  We both had a good laugh.

One big benefit of running the engine is unlimited power from the alternator.  We have been living it up.  We run the inverter to power the big screen TV for movie night.  We can use the microwave to make popcorn.  Keep the radar and laptop on 24 hours a day.  Put the huge pitcher of ice tea in the fridge to chill.  Everything is fully charged.  Alyssa is really enjoying the piping hot water from the water heater.

It’s pizza night tonight.  I think I’ll hide on the bow while the oven is on.  Should bring the temp in the cabin up to a balmy 120 degrees.  Alyssa has some kind of disorder because she relishes extreme heat.  I on the other hand am dying and dreaming of cruising places like Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Back to my watch while the Princess gets her beauty rest.

Current position:

3/27/14

22:30 Z

02 54 N

128 54 W

180 T

4.0 knots

Wind: 5 knots SSW

Seas: 3-4 ft

Pacific Crossing – Day 17

We have been at sea for 2 1/2 weeks now.  We are 1,800 miles from Zihua and 1,060 miles from Hiva Oa.

Still motoring across the doldrums.  Wind is usually less than 4 knots, but right now it clocked around to the SSW ahead of a squall line and it’s currently blowing 10 on the nose, which greatly helps our fuel economy of course ;-)

We are on a course of 180 true, making an average of 4.0 knots under power.  The equator is 260 miles to the south.  That is 65 hours away at this speed, or just under three days.

A couple days ago I received a weather fax with location of the ITCZ and it was stationed from 5N to 2N.  Unfortunately, due to poor radio propagation, I can’t receive faxes right now.  I will request the text version of the weather synopsis instead, which will have the location as well.

Looking ahead at weather south of the equator, it’s not looking that great.  Unfortunately they are forecasting the SE trades to move south of 5S and the area between the equator and 5S is forecast to be squalls and calms for a few days after we cross the equator.  Bummer.  We may be heaving-to once we get south of the equator, because we aren’t carrying enough fuel to motor through all those squalls and calms…  Maybe the forecast will change and we’ll get lucky.

Our main fuel tank still holds approximately 30 gallons and we have an additional 40 gallons of fuel in jerry jugs.  The wind is not helping us so I estimate our burn rate at a conservative 0.60 gallons per hour at 4.0 knots.  This equates to a theoretical range remaining of 117 hours or 470 miles.

I think the bottom is getting fouled.  We should be able to make more way at this RPM.  Once the swell subsides, I will dive on the bottom and clean any barnacles off.  Still a relatively large cross swell running.

If anyone is bored at work (that never happens right?) send us your best prediction of when we will be out of the ITCZ.  We’ll get a pool going.

Current position:

21:44 Z

04 16 N

128 23 W

180 True

4.0 knots

Wind: 8 knots SSW

Seas: 4-7ft swell from the N and NE

Day 16 – The Floating Sweat Box

Welcome to our floating sauna!  Where you can sweat for free, everything is damp, and you’ll never have to worry about dry skin again, because there is no evaporation in 100% humidity.  We are conveniently located at 5 N Equator Way, right under the blaring hot sun.  haha

Seriously though, it’s freaking HOT and very HUMID.  Unbearable to sleep during daylight, even under two fans.  It’s 90 degrees in the cabin right now with about 4,000% humidity.  I may need an emergency haircut and shave because my hair is so long it feels like I am wearing a motorcycle helmet and wool scarf that I can’t remove.  I keep saying the line from Anchorman: “It’s soooooo hot!  Milk was a bad choice!” haha

You can probably guess.  We are now in the ITCZ, the hottest place we will be during the crossing.  The ITCZ is where the sun is closest to the earth, and where the trades are blowing towards, which results in heating, updrafts and convection in the form of huge towering cumulus, strong squalls and thunderstorms.

We pointed the bow south and will cross the equator on or before 129 West.  The equator is 350 miles south, or 3.5 – 4 days at our turtle speed.

We lost our wind and have the engine on.  Our main fuel tank is 2/3 full and we haven’t touched our jerry jugs yet.  At this point range does not seem like it will be a problem.

Last night was spent weaving through several powerful squalls with lightning.  We put essential electronics in the oven, reduced sail and motored through most of the night.  The wind was all over the place in both speed and direction.  We would see 6 knots on the nose, then 20 from behind, then 9, then 3.  The day brought some stability to the skies but I’m sure we’ll be threading our way through more thunder boomers tonight.

Thankfully, we are able to make ice in the freezer.  It’s the equivalent of gold out here.  Yes, the ice cubes melt in about 0.5 seconds, but it’s REALLY nice to have ice water.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Life in a Floating Sauna.  Only here on EBC (Equator Broadcasting Co.).

Current Position:

Directly under the sun at:

21:18 Z

05 51 N

128 05 W

185 True

4.0 knots

Wind: 5-7 knots variable

Seas: 4-6 feet mixed swell from the NNE and E

Barometer: 1009

Pacific Crossing – Day 15

We have sailed approximately 1,600 nautical miles since leaving Zihuatanejo and we are 1,250 miles from our destination of Hiva Oa.  We are making 5.5 knots on a course of 210 true with the wind on our port quarter and the seas just abaft the port beam.

All is well onboard.  We have been reading, sleeping and relaxing.  Alyssa is almost finished with the book Storm Tactics by Lin and Larry Pardey.  I have been making my way through a few books, one of which is on celestial navigation with the goal of eventually being able to navigate via the stars and heavenly bodies.  Lofty goal, we’ll see how it goes.

We have begun our preparations for the official ceremony at the equator.  Allan sent us the history and authentic ceremony that has been performed on the old tall ships since about the 16th century.  Since I have not sailed across the equator yet I am considered a ‘Pollywog’ but once we sail across the equator and the obligatory dunking is performed I will become a ‘Shellback.’  As you recall, Alyssa is already a Shellback from her crossing with her parents in 2009.  Stay tuned for more on the upcoming festivities.

We have started learning French. It is slowly coming back to me; I took two years in high school.  Seems it will be harder to try and learn than Spanish was, but I’m sure the longer we are exposed to the language, the more we will pick up.

We are also going through all of our cruising guides and planning our attack on the islands.  We are getting very excited to be sailing around the most beautiful group of islands in the world.  For those who are not familiar with the Marquesas, punch it into google image search, the islands are breathtaking and awesomely impressive.  Think: Jurassic Park.

I will be making more water today so princess can shower.  It is getting extremely hot and humid and there is no reprieve from the sweltering heat during the day.

We are getting very close to the ITCZ.  According to yesterday’s forecast, we should enter the ITCZ somewhere around 5.5 N and it currently extends to 1 N.  We still have ample fuel reserves so when the wind dies our plan is to point 190 south and motor until we are clear of the calms and strong squalls.

Have to go trim the sails.  Adios!

Current position:

20:00 Z

07 08 N

127 00 W

210 True

5.5 knots

Wind: 10 knots from the NE

Seas: 5-7ft from the E and 2 foot wind chop from the NE

Day 14 – Halfway Mark!

We are over halfway across the Pacific Ocean!  Currently 1,380 nm from Hiva Oa and 1,500 nm from Zihua.

We continue to ride the NE trade winds, which have consistently filled our sails for over a week now.  This morning we jibed onto port tack and are now flying the jib poled out to starboard.  Still making good way, 6.0 knots, on a course of 210 true.  We are headed for a waypoint at 06-06 N, 128-00 W, approximately 220 nm from our current position.  Once we reach the mark we will turn almost due south until we cross the equator in search of the SE trades.

All is well onboard.  We are almost caught up on sleep from our exciting squally night.  Last night was not nearly as bad and we had consistent wind, which was nice.

Alyssa made up some delicious sushi rolls last night with our fresh mahi mahi. We had all the right ingredients: sushi nori, sticky sushi rice, pickled ginger, wasabi, soy, cucumber, paper-thin lemon slices, cream cheese and of course the fresh chilled mahi!  It was amazing.

The monitor windvane continues to steer a perfect course day and night. It never veers off course, doesn’t get hungry, never needs sleep and loves heavy weather.  We couldn’t imagine crossing an ocean without it.  The only time we are at the helm is when we are jibing or turning on the electronic autopilot, when the wind dies completely.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Cheers from Ellie and crew

Current Position:

The middle of the Pacific Ocean!  1,400 miles from land!

19:00 Z

08 39 N

125 20 W

6.0 knots

210 true

Wind: 17 knots from the NE

Seas: 7-9 feet from the NNE and E with 2-3ft wind waves on top

Barometer: 1011

Day 13 – Squalls

We are 1,360 nm from Zihua and 1,490 nm from Hiva Oa.  We are still on a run, making 6 knots on a course of 249 true.

Last night was rough.  We were sailing through squalls with driving rain.  The winds were variable and we saw everything from 6 to 26 knots.  The seas were steep and confused which threw Ellie around and really tested her construction.

We also had another boat on the puddle jump come within one mile of us.  Crazy that out in the middle of the Pacific that you would see another boat, let alone have to actively monitor and dodge them all night.  They kept altering course because of the squalls and we ended up parallelling them through the squalls about 2nm apart for most of the night.  They had AIS and we spoke via VHF, the boat name is True Blue 5.

We didn’t get much sleep and are both very tired.  We will be catching up on sleep today.  Although the weather is getting very hot, humid and it is becoming more and more difficult to sleep comfortably during the day.

I caught a dorado (mahi mahi) yesterday.  Alyssa filleted it up and it’s chilling in the fridge.  What is mahi called in a sushi restaurant?  Send us some good recipes for sushi rolls.

We are heading more west than south for today.  Want to try and stay above the ITCZ as much as possible before heading south.  I think we are right on the edge.  Looks like the ITCZ will be migrating back south so hopefully that will allow us to sail further south in relatively stable weather over the next few days.

Hope all are having a great weekend.

Lewis and Alyssa

Current Position:

20:07 Z

09 20 N

123 18 W

240 True

6.0 knots

Wind: 13 knots from the NNE

Seas: 6-8ft NNE with 3-5ft wind waves

Barometer: 1010