Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pacific Puddle Jump Recap

I wanted to take a few moments to pass along some interesting facts and figures from our Pacific Puddle Jump, so that future jumpers might be able to have some idea of what worked for us... your mileage will vary.
  • Start Point: Punta de Mita, Mexico - 3/24
  • End Point: Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia - 4/16
  • Distance (Nautical Miles): 2890
  • Equator Crossing Point: 127∘ 50.745' W

  • Days to Cross: 24
  • Best 24 Hours (Nautical Miles): 158
  • Worst 24 Hours (Nautical Miles): 67
  • High Wind Speed (Knots): 30
  • Engine Hours: 8.5
  • Fuel Consumed (Gallons): 4.5
Wind wise we had a great crossing! There were a few light wind days towards the beginning, but still enough wind to sail along in the right direction. This was mostly luck, as people who left a week later than us experienced up to 5 days of dead calm!! The highest wind we experienced on the whole crossing was about 30 knots during a squall. Otherwise the average was probably around 15 knots.

Our engine hours were so low as a result of the great wind, and the fact that we did not need to run the engine for recharging our batteries. On top of the great wind, we had a lot of sunshine which allowed our 270 watts of solar panels to keep us charged up! We were very pleased with this, since our fuel capacity is only 50 gallons. Keeping the battery charged was a concern of ours initially, since I wasn't sure how much our sails would cast shadows on the solar panels. Since we are so close to the equator it worked out that the solar panels were unobstructed most of the time, and even with Anne-Marie being net control for the Puddle Jump radio net (a power consuming ordeal) we were able to keep well charged.
  • Water Consumed (Gallons): 45 (of 156 Gallons carried ~ 56 of which was in Jerry cans)
We were astonished by our low rate of water consumption! It became somewhat of a legend in Hiva Oa, with people coming up to us and asking "Did you really only use 45 gallons of water on the crossing??". That works out to about 0.6 Gallons per person per day for drinking and cooking. Here are the main factors which allowed us to achieve such a low consumption rate:
  • Salt water faucets in the head and galley
    • Hands & dishes washed completely in salt water.
  • Teeth brushing using a shot glass to minimize wasted water
    • 2-3 shots of fresh water per person teeth brushing.
  • Salt water showers
    • Using a bucket in the cockpit with no fresh water rinse. This is how we always shower anyway, usually by diving in instead of the bucket.
  • Salt water laundry
    • Hand washed our laundry in the bucket with salt water only, no fresh rinse. We were very pleasantly surprised how well that worked out, we could hardly tell the difference compared to fresh water cleaned laundry.
  • Creative use of canned juices
    • Jonathan would put the juices from canned goods (like corn for example) to other uses such as boiling pasta, which also helped a lot.
Other than the above means to save water, there were no restrictions on how much people drank.

Next onto the fun stuff, what broke on our crossing:
  • Bimini Hand Rail
    • One of the two bolts on the starboard side snapped, leaving the hand rail and solar panels drooping precariously. Luckily no one was hanging on for dear life when it happened, and it was quickly repaired. The bolt that broke is right where we always get on/off the boat, so it was probably overworked for years.

  • Bow Running Light
    • It has always been precariously mounted on the bow pulpit, and a sail knocked it off.
  • Spinnaker
    • Totally shredded in a squall at night. We are probably just going to throw it out, as the cost of repair will likely be prohibitively expensive, and it is a "luxury" sail.
  • Mast Collar
    • Our mast collar sheared off the deck during the squall which shredded the spinnaker. We believe it was a result of using our whisker pole as the spinnaker tack point, putting undue stresses onto the bottom of the mast.  This has since been repaired.
  • Stereo
    • We had a standard car stereo which finally gave up the ghost. Luckily I was right beside it when it started to smoke!
  • Roller Furling
    • Our Harken Cruising I Roller Furling broke while trying to bring in the 155% jib (perhaps a bit too much sail for it). Luckily it was easy to repair and I believe stronger than before.

That wraps up the Captain's log for our Pacific Puddle Jump

Monday, April 29, 2013

Ma Tortue

We've moved to the beautiful island of Tahuata, just 10 miles south of Hiva Oa. It is a more remote island with no airstrip and a population of about 600.

The first bay (Hanamoenoa) we anchored in is one of the most beautiful bays I've ever seen. We were treated to turquoise water, a white sand beach, a forest of palm trees and even acrobatic manta rays that seemed to enjoy our company in the water. We would get up early (~6 am) to play with the manta rays, do boat chores in the afternoon and be in bed exhausted and happy by 8 pm. Our cruising mode had begun again!

We traveled next a few miles south to the village of Vaitahu. Our days here have been so jam packed full of experiences, it's hard to digest all of the impressions. I've finally started to automatically say "Bonjour" instead of "Hola"... and the French I've learned in high school is coming back slowly.

Tattoo artistry has a long tradition in the South Pacific and the Marquesans are famous for their intricate and elaborate designs. I can come up with a lot of meanings and metaphors behind why I wanted another tattoo. But the main reason is because the Marquesan tattoos just look *really* super cool and I thought it would be a great memento from this trip.

One of the guide books mentions a famous tattoo artist in the village of Vaitahu, so we started asking around and learned that his name is Felix. It was interesting to see all the beautiful tattoos on the locals and learn that Felix was the artist behind them. Apparently the mayor's name is also Felix, where we were first directed to...oooops. Once that confusion was sorted out, the mayor's wife pointed to the top of the mountain and said Felix lived there. I guess you have the whole sweaty walk up to contemplate your tattoo and see if you're really serious. Luckily Felix didn't quite live at the top of the mountain, so the walk was somewhat shorter than expected.

I think we must have disturbed him from something because he did not seem super pleased to see us. I was a bit intimidated by his size, posture and heavily tattooed body. The questions Busby was translating for me like "is your process clean?", were perhaps not the most tactful either. Oh well...He said we could meet him at his studio at 8 am for an appointment the next day. I was in a bit of predicament because I didn't feel 100% committed by this encounter and wanted to see his set-up first. I said "yes" and figured I could always say "no" the next day if I felt uncomfortable. The mood became lighter, Felix was smiling and I felt more at ease. My guess for his initial mood is that a lot of
curious cruisers come knocking, but few are serious. Who knows?

I spent the evening finalizing my rough design and determining the size and placement. It was hard for me to sleep with the excitement building.

The next morning, Felix was at the dock to pick us up and drove us to his studio, his old parent's house. His studio looked like a very rustic abandoned shed, not your usual downtown tattoo parlor, but I wasn't deterred, for whatever reason. He has many pictures of cruisers he has tattooed, his machine looked modern enough and his practice seemed clean, from what I could tell. So...I went for it and I'm so glad that I did!

Here's what I went in and what I came out with.

I am totally in love with my Marquesan turtle!

I hope that it's a reminder for me
... of the joy and wonder of the ocean,
... that any dream dreamt is possible and
... to slow down and keep the "cruising spirit" always with me

Thank you Felix!

To make the day even better, the guys went spear fishing with a local (Jean) after lunch, so I had the boat totally to myself for 3 hours. My soul was screaming for joy and I loved every minute of my alone time. They came back with 3 fish, which made for a great meal on board.

After Felix was done the tattoo, he said I was part of his "tattoo family" and invited us for a meal at this house. We ate delicious BBQ chicken surrounded by the lush hillside of his home. What a special experience!

Thanks to Busby's French and social skills, we've had so many unique experiences on this island that I'll never forget.

Chris and Busby also got tattoos. Chris designed the outline with inspiration from the manta rays we saw and Felix filled in the motif.

What a week! [English]

It’s good to travel to a place where I can speak French. I’m speaking to everybody and it’s so easy. We’re meeting all kinds of people and I also met a gang of boys who are doing canoeing and we went to play soccer together. I can tell you that running at the same rhythm as them after being stuck on a boat for 24 days is almost impossible. I was already out of breath at the start, so imagine how I was after the game. It was very cool and we were the best team. I did block a shot and made a pass. The experience was good for my mood. The guys were running barefoot on the concrete without complaint and sometimes with flip flops on.  Marquesan guys are really tough!

I went for a hike in the jungle with some friends from another boat (Morigan) and we were looking for petroglyphs, waterfalls and some fruit. We found the petroglyphs, but not the waterfall. Concerning fruit, we picked oranges, limes, mangos and star fruit. Bees also chased us, but I was lucky because they didn’t get me.

I’m still waiting for my tattoo guy. I went there to present Renaldo my drawing and give him some space to put his touch on it too. It’s not confirmed and official, because it will depend on if I like his hand drawing or not. But there is another guy on Tahuata that also does tattoos. The tattoo will be a compass rose, but I don’t’ know where I’m going to put it. Maybe on the forehead? It will be my third eye!

Now we are on Tahuata island, in the Bay of Hanamoena. It’s a little bay known for their manta rays. They come in to feed on plankton. We saw 4 of them and were right in the middle. They were about 6 feet wide and they were circling around us curiously. It was really impressive to be so close. I got a photo of a manta ray that is facing me, which did surprise me when I turned around. But the ray was not bothered. She was there doing backflips.

After swimming with the rays, I went for a little nap because I could still feel the soccer game in my muscles. I am sore, like I’ve never been, from my fingers to my toes. All that I want to do is sleep like a baby. After a nap, it was the time to clean the bottom of the boat. We scrubbed the whole bottom to remove all the attached sea creatures. After that a double nap was needed, followed by an excursion on the island. I rowed there, explored the island, picked some limes and gave some time to the two lovers.

It’s not even 9 pm, but I’m completely wiped out! I think I’m going to have nice dreams.

It’s not easy to live the boat life…

Toute une semaine [French]

Ca fait du bien de voyager la ou ca parle français. Je jase à tout le monde. C'est tellement facile  d'approcher les jeans ici.  On rencontre tout sorte de monde.  J'ai même rencontrer une gang de gars qui font de l'aviron et on est aller jouer au soccer intérieur. Je vous dis que courir au même rythme  qu'eux après 24 jours pogner sur un voilier c'est quasiment impossible. J’étais déjà essoufflé d'être en vie avant la partie, imaginer après. C'était vraiment cool car on était  les meilleurs. J'ai bloquer des buts et fait une passe. Ca ma vraiment changer les idées. Les mecs courraient pied nue sur le béton sans broncher et parfois en gougounes. Sont faite tuff les marquisiens.

Je suis allé me promener dans la jungle avec des amis d'un autre bateau (le Morigane) et on est allé à la recherche de pétroglyphe, de la chute et de fruits. On a trouvé les pétroglyphes mais pas la chute. Pour se qui est des fruits on a cueillit des oranges, des limes, des citrons, des poires de rupere, des mangues et des caramboles. on s'est aussi fait pourchasser par de grosses guêpes orange. J'ai été chanceux de pas m'avoir fais piquer.

 Je suis toujours en attente de mon nouveau tatou. J’ai présenté mon dessin a Renaldo et il travail dessus tout en laissant ca touche personnel indigène. C'est pas confirmer et officielle encore. ca va dépendre de si j'aime sont croquis ou non et de si je ne me fais pas faire le tatou sur une autre ile (Tahuata). Ca devrait être une rose des vents inspirer a la marquisienne pas trop grosse et je sais pas ou encore. Peut etre dans le front? lol... ha ha... le troisième oeil. Bien non franchement.  

La, nous somme a une ile qui se nome Tahuata et dans la baie de Hanamoenoa. C'est une petite baie reconnue pour ses raies Mantas qui y viennent se nourrir de plancton le matin. J'en es vue 4 juste en revenant de notre session matinale d’apnée. Je les ai filmées et j'étais en plein milieu. Elles mesuraient environ 6 pieds d'envergure et elles tournaient en rond au dessus d'un band de poisson. C'était vraiment impressionnant d'être si proche. Elles étaient curieuses. J’ai une photo d'une raie qui est carrément face à moi. ca m'a surpris sur le coup, quand je me suis retourné. Mais la raie à pas broncher d'un poile. Elles étaient la a se nourrir en fessant des back flips et est doucement repartie vers le grand bleu.

Par la suite je suis aller me coucher car ma partie de soccer se fessait encore ressentir dans mes jambes. Je suis raqué comme ca ne se peux pas, des doigts jusqu’aux orteils. Tout se que je veux c'est temps si c'est de dormir comme un bébé. Après la sieste c'était le temps de nettoyer le dessous du bateau donc j'ai refais une session de palme et tuba et je suis aller gratter tout le dessous du bateau pour enlever la couche de crasse qui s'y étais accumuler depuis notre traverser.

Après tout ca une double sieste s'imposait et une petite excursion en annexe sur l'ile, a la rame, juste avant le coucher du soleil. Question de ramasser quelques limes dans les arbres, de prendre quelques photos et de laisser du temps a nos 2 amoureux.

Il n'est même pas 9 heures pm et je suis complètement claqué. Je crois que je vais faire de beaux rêves.

Pas facile la vie de bateau!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Hiva Oa - A Sight for Sore Eyes!

What a landfall Hiva Oa has been for us!

The scenery is totally amazing, we have to pinch ourselves sometimes to realize we are looking at a real landscape!

So far we have just been recovering, repairing, and a little bit of exploring.

I just wanted to share a few pictures of our adventures here so far, before we find ourselves in places without ANY internet until Tahiti in a couple of months.


Puddle Jump Pictures & Videos

What a journey it was to get here! It has "almost" already been worthwhile just from the scenery alone in Hiva Oa!
Hiva Oa on approach

At anchor in Traitor's Bay Hiva Oa!
Thanks so much to everyone who sent along words of encouragement while we were underway. It was great reading them all on our arrival here.

Checkout the photo albums and videos we have uploaded which detail our journey below:

Our friend Nick suggested we take a photo each day of the crossing.
It wasn't always easy, but we are happy to have them and here is the result!
Picture of the Day - Pacific Puddle Jump 2013

Starship Puddle Jump Video (only on the blog or youtube)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

You Won't Believe It - Day 24

You won't believe it!

We've arrived in paradise :)

I have no idea how to put all of our emotions into words. We still can't quite believe that we're here.

It really is as beautiful here as people described and as I had imagined. There are huge towering mountains covered in lush green. Palm trees everywhere. Birds chirping. Rooster coo-cooing. New boats arriving constantly with people on board that look like they've won the lottery....we have! The last 24 days of "hardship" have already ebbed from our minds and become a lovely souvenir. The crew of Starship are on a huge high!

We're going to go back to our regular schedule of a blog post every few weeks or so. We're looking forward to writing less and doing more.

Thanks for all the support and encouragement everyone.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Still Eating like Kings - Day 23

The wind has diminished, so we've slowed down a bit, but we're still hopeful to make landfall tomorrow! Only 105 nautical miles to go!

I'm amazed at how well we've eaten and how much good food we've got left. In terms of fresh stuff we have carrots, apples, grapefruit, onion, potatoes, cabbage and chayotte. Not too shabby after 23 days at sea. We've hardly made a dent into all of our canned meats and vegetables. I know a fridge is a luxury on a sailboat, but I'm really happy to have this luxury on board. Today I made a traditional German meal where you roll spinach in crepes with onion and bacon. It was delicious! It's amazing how much a good meal can lift the moral onboard, as often demonstrated by Busby's cooking magic during our extreme sailing days.

Not too much else to report. We think we saw killer whales yesterday. They were big large black fins, but we didn't get a good luck.

Sending a big hug to all our landlubber family and friends!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Anticipation is Building- Day 22

Excitement is building aboard Starship as our destination nears. Our estimated time of arrival is April 16th before noon if current conditions persist!!

Meanwhile we have been trying to keep ourselves occupied onboard to kill time these last few days.

Anne-Marie has been working on organizing our photos, making a video of our crossing and sleeping. Busby has been listening to music, baking bread and sleeping. I have been doing some sewing projects and sleeping.

It's not the most comfortable final leg, with large swells on the beam, but we are happy that it is going so fast! It is hard to imagine a world without constant motion and night watches, but I believe we will adapt.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reflections - Day 21

Now that we're a few days aways from Hiva Oa, I find my self in a very reflective mood about our trip. I have to laugh when I think of what I thought this journey would be like. I envisioned myself meditating and doing yoga on the bow, doing sit ups and push ups in the cockpit, reading at least a book a week and learning how to use the sextant. I have done little to none of the items on the list. I greatly (let me stress GREATLY) underestimated the effect of living on a rocking and rolling boat for 3 weeks. It's mentally and physically exhausting to have to calculate each step and movement aboard. Successfully making a meal, putting on a pair of underwear, or drinking hot tea from a mug without dropping something or injuring yourself is a huge accomplishment.

I also wasn't prepared for the fear I sometimes felt. The boat would make new creaking noises, we would surf at 9 knots down waves or I would imagine hitting a whale/container. For the most part I could keep this anxiety in check...but I have had a few sleepless nights that I wasn't expecting.

I am an introvert who can usually always find a way to recharge my batteries alone...long runs, yoga, reading by myself in a room etc... I (and Chris) tried very hard to find some way to find alone time for me, but it really is impossible on this boat. The only room with a door we have is the bathroom, which isn't an ideal location. I never knew how devastating it is for my soul if I cannot find a place of solitude. This aspect of the trip was definitely the hardest for me.

Those were the unexpected challenges that I faced, but I've had some amazing highs as well. I never knew the colour blue could be so well...blue. The water is most magnificent crystal blue and no pictures will ever do it justice. Swimming in the middle of the great blue was also a highlight! The sunsets and sunrises have been breathtaking. I never knew there were so many stars in the sky or that the moon could shine so brightly. I take it for granted that I will see shooting stars every night. Our animal visitors were always welcomed (except maybe the flying fish)...dolphins and turtles are magical creatures.

I'm happy with how much I like myself without any distractions around. I probably sit for hours every day just thinking and I haven't gotten bored with myself. It's nice to know that when I strip off all the layers, I'm content with the girl underneath.

This has been a struggle and a beautiful experience.

I'm not sure I ever want to do this journey again, but I am super happy to have done it once in my lifetime.

Just the thought of land brings tears to my eyes. I am so very excited to get there...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rolling Like a Freight Train - Day 20

Well, so much for the southern ITCZ mostly dissipating. We spent much of today on squall alert, with cloudy skies and some rain.

The wind however has been great for the past 24 hours. 20-25 knots from the south east, pushing us along between 6-7 knots. We are getting excited to see the distance to destination steadily shrink on the chart plotter, down to about 520 nautical miles now.

If these winds/seas continue it will be a bumpy 520 miles, since we are taking the waves on the side of the boat causing a lot of rolling. At least it is going by fast though.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What a Difference a Day Makes - Day 19

Wow, what a beautiful day we had on the ocean today!

Blue skies, smooth seas, and a nice breeze pushing us along on a beam reach. Amazing the difference a day can make in the conditions out here.

From the weather forecast it seems the southern ITCZ has mostly dissipated, so hopefully we'll have a clear shot to Hiva Oa.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

When it Rains, it Pours! - Day 18

Well after a couple of really great days near the equator, we seem to have started to enter the southern hemisphere ITCZ. I'm not sure if we did something incorrectly in paying homage to Neptune or what, but it hasn't been the best 24 hours since then.

Things started off fine last night, but then on Anne-Marie's watch in the middle of the night a squall hit us and ripped the spinnaker. Luckily it was easily and safely taken down, and we were able to proceed under our jib and main. I believe I should be able to make the repairs myself to the spinnaker, if I can get my hands on a sewing machine. Several of our friends on the way to French Polynesia have one so that shouldn't be a problem.

The rest of the day proceeded to be mostly dreary with on and off rain, luckily not any big winds with the rain though. At one point, Anne-Marie noticed a leak where the mast goes through the top deck! Water was running down the headliner to the sides of the boat. Not a lot, just enough to be annoying.

Then at pretty well the same time the wind totally died. We decided to motor as we could use the power anyway due to the lack of solar. After getting the engine running and up to 2000RPM, I noticed the boat felt sluggish, much like that time we tried to leave Punta de Mita and had too much growth on the bottom of the boat. I quickly checked the exhaust output for cooling water and there was none! Quickly I shut of the engine and Anne-Marie checked the salt water strainer and the through hull valve position. All seemed to be in order, so I theorized there was too much growth on the bottom of the boat clogging the intake. Busby had been bugging me about going for a swim and now he was going to get his chance... on a rainy cloudy day with lumpy seas.

Busby and I both dawned our full body leotards, snorkel gear, gloves and even kite surfing helmets. Anne-Marie dangled long lines from the bow and stern of the boat so we could hang on to them to rest. We jumped in with our tools to give the bottom a quick cleaning. Moments after getting in the water and looking at the bottom my suspicions were confirmed, gooseneck barnacles all around the cooling water intake! Those suckers are a lot harder to get off than the growth we experienced at Punta de Mita! Luckily our boat "flossing" technique had limited the growth of the gooseneck barnacles to primarily the stern end of the boat. Even still it was quite a workout! As it turned out there was about a 1 knot current, and a little pit of wind pushing the boat. Busby and I had to really swim to get to the area of the bottom to clean. An hour later the bottom was looking good, we were exhausted, and the engine started up with lots of cooling water output.

Despite all the stress and annoyance of these issues, it was really amazing to be in the deep blue water. Looking down several 1000 feet to who knows what below, seeing super far in the crystal clear water, it was a little reminder of why we put ourselves through all this. Anne-Marie even came in after the cleaning was done for a quick swim, it was a much needed break for us all.

P.S. On top of all of the above, we couldn't even connect to our winlink system to post this yesterday! Even that atmosphere was against us!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Crossed the Equator - Day 17

We have officially crossed the equator! We celebrated by eating our most luxurious food....canned brie and pate (thanks Mom & Dad) and dark Ghirardelli chocolates and sparkling wine (thanks everyone from the HPC)! What delicious treats that meant the world to us out here :) We really appreciate your thoughtfulness. Thank you so much!

We also underwent a time honoured tradition of paying respect to Neptune and Davey Jones by making them offerings to the sea. We gave them a little of our best rum and a Polynesian Franc. Chris played the part of Neptune with a grey wig and sparkling crown and officially declared all of us Pollywogs on board Shellbacks! Lou & Patrice, thank you for the wig, crown, certificates, Polynesian franc and ceremony details. You made this day for us very special and fun.

It was really nice to have a milestone to celebrate and an occasion to break our rule of no drinking while underway.

We look forward to posting pictures when we reach land.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What a Beautiful Day! - Day 16

Wow! What a beautiful sail we have been having since we exited the ITCZ!

There has been a gentle 10 knot breeze pulling us along at 4-5 knots with the spinnaker, in large gentle swell. Sometimes one can forget that the boat is sailing the motion has been so comfortable! These are the seas I have been waiting for on this passage, large long period swell, with nice clean faces like a ever changing rolling hillside.

We have been taking this opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep. It has been the closest to sleeping at anchor we have had on this trip and it is great!

Tomorrow we will reach the equator! We look forward to opening our equator crossing gifts from Lou & Patrice and Anne-Marie's friends from UCSF.

Monday, April 8, 2013

15 Days, 2 Weeks and 3 Sundays [English] - Day 15

It has been 15 days, 2 weeks and 3 Sundays.

We are more than half way done. It is official that we cannot return. We are closer to our destination than our departure point of Mexico. We have crossed the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone), a zone more or less hostile, where the wind from the north and south meet. It was in this zone that one can be surprised by wind and a tropical downpour (squall). It was in this zone where you have to watch your back, so the wind does not break your equipment. The kind of zone where you wake up in the middle of the day from a light snooze in the cockpit, and scream "Chris! There is a wall coming!". Very quickly you realize that there is a squall approaching at 25 knots, and there is no time to waste in preparing the boat for the rain and wind.

You see clearly the wall of water coming in at full speed. The wind starts to freshen... 30 meters, 20 meters, 10 meters and BOOM! The sky is grey, the wind is picking up. The sea transforms as the rain pounds down the swell, and it doesn't care whether you are ready or not. Suddenly the sails are flapping in the wind, the boat is heeled over and everything becomes wet, all that in 45 seconds. Action, reaction under way. Chris and I are working at rolling in the jib, and doing some corrections and adjustments to the main sail. We almost got caught by surprise. Chris said to me, "That is the kind of action you where looking for eh?", with a smile on his face. I was sleeping in the cockpit just before that squall approached, but it was only the beginning.

To the horizon we could see that more squalls were in store for that day. A squall to the left, to the right, behind us. We were definitely in the ITCZ zone. Every time we saw rain far away, we would check the radar to see the size, speed and distance of the squall. We often got lucky as they would pass before us, behind us, on the side or were not too large. They did allow us the luxury of our first fresh water shower in 2 weeks! That put a smile on our faces, and we got back into a bit of a better mood and fresher smell. The scenery is really beautiful, there are clouds all around us, but not overhead. The rain releasing from the clouds around us falling in a sheet. It makes a grey zone with rays of sunshine shooting through.

4:30PM Oh! It looks like there is a squall approaching from 7 o'clock. Chris turns on the radar and checks. Without enough time to verify, it was clearly heading our way as fast as a horse. Chris and I look at each other with a smile, and BOOM!! the wind hits us, the rain falls, the sea becomes flat and the sky is grey. Anne-Marie woke up and appeared in the companionway hatch with a suspicious and confused face. No time to play around, we put our harnesses on and start our trained sequence of operations to prepare the boat for the wind. Anne-Marie took control of the helm and Chris was coordinating the operation. We are working fast as the wind is already too much for our large jib. As we were rolling the jib, half way through it got stuck. The sail was still too big for the squall. The sail is flapping in the wind, and both Chris and I tried to pull the furling line more, but it was at the end of it's rope. We are a little concerned about the size of the jib, but it's not too late. I jumped on the bow to check things out. The waves are splashing me and soaking me to the bone. The water is warm and beautiful, and adds some excitement to our life. Anne-Marie was trying to sheet in the exposed jib, when suddenly it unfurls itself totally and starts flapping. Chris came up to the bow and decided we need to take the jib down. Anne-Marie headed down wind to blanket the jib with main sail so we could bring it down and secure it to the toe rail. It came down easily, but the roller furling was broken! We can now check sailing through squalls off our bucket list.

Such a long time on the water, it is not for the faint of heart, but it gives me goose bumps. I find it strange that I enjoy it out here so much. I needed this to set back my clock, recharge my batteries. I learn, I discover, I think, I feel, I sleep and we keep moving bit by bit towards our destination.

[NOTE: The roller furling has since been repaired]

15 jours 2 semaines et 3 dimanches [French] - Day 15

Ca fait 15 jours 2 semaines et 3 dimanches.

On a plus de la moitié de fait. C?est officielle on peut plus rebrousser chemin. On est plus près de notre destination que de notre terre de départ. On a franchie la zone I.T.C.Z. (la zone de conversion inter tropical). Une zone plus ou moins hostile ou les vents du sud et du nord se rencontrent. C'est dans cette zone que tu peux te faire surprendre par des vents et des averses surprises et de tout directions (squall). Genre de zone ou il faut se watcher les arrières pour pas se faire arracher une voile ou briser de l'équipement. Genre de zone ou tu réveils le tout le monde (en plein jours) et que tu crie" calisse Chris! check le mure de pluies..." et qu'en 2 temps 3 mouvements tu réalises qu'un "squall" approche de derrière a 25 noeuds et que c'est pas le temps de se mettre les doigts dans le nez pour voir si la pèche est bonne.

Tu vois très bien le mure de pluie tropicale avancer a tout vitesse, l'aire deviens frais... 30 mètres, 20 mètres, 10 mètres et BOOM! Le ciel devient gris. Le vent se lève et se transforme en je me crisse bien de si t'es prête ou pas pour t'en foutre une...
Soudainement les voiles battes au vents, le bateau penche d'un coter et tout deviens mouiller. Tout ca en 45 secondes. Action réaction on enchaine les opérations. Chris et moi somme déjà en train de rouler le génois et on poursuit avec quelques corrections et ajustement... ouf!
échapper belle. That's the kind of action you were looking for hein! dit Chris avec un sourire au lèvre.
Surtout que moi aussi je dormais dans le cockpit au moment ou le squall approchait.
Ce n'était que le début...

A l'horizon on voyait bien que la journée n?était pas terminée et que tout ca allait recommencer. Un squall a gauche, un squall droite et un autre au loin. On était définitivement dans la zone surprise. A chaque fois qu'on apercevais de la pluies au loin on regardais sur notre encrant radar pour vérifier ca vitesse de déplacement, sa grosseur et ca distance. Chanceux comme on était ils passaient toujours près ou pas trop violent. On a même pris notre première douche d'eau douce en 2 semaines. Allez Hope sur le pont à la grande pluie tropicale. Tout va bien on as le sourire fendus j'jusqu?aux oreilles et on redeviens pénard. Le paysage est grandiose. Il y a des nuages tout autour de nous mais pas au dessus de nos tètes. On vois la pluie qui se décrocher des nuages par si par la. ca forme de grande zone grise foncer et les rayons de soleil qui plombent juste a cote.

4:30 pm ho! Il y a l'aire d'avoir un beau gros squall direction 7 heures. Chris ouvre le radar et vérifie. Pas trop le temps de vérifier quoi que se sois qu'il est déjà clairement sur notre trajectoire et pas mal gros. Il avance a vitesse de Chaval. Chris et moi se regardons avec un sourire et boom ! Le vent souffle déjà a tout allure, la pluie se met a tomber, la surface de l'eau s'aplatie et tout est gris...Anne marie se réveille et apparait dans le portique du cockpit avec un aire inquiète. Pas le temps de niaiser on met nos harnais de sécurité et enchainons les opérations. Anne marie prend le contrôle de la barre, Chris dirige les opérations et Hop! Au travail au plus sacrant ca souffle déjà trop pour nos voiles. Réduction du génois on tire pour l'enrouler mais ca coince a mis chemin. La voile est encore trop grande pour le squall "ca sonne comme saskwash" ca va pas bien la voile bat au grand vent on se met a 2 pour tirer sur le génois mais sa fonctionne pas c'est vraiment coincer. On commence à être nerveux. Ya plus vraiment de sourire dans nos visages mais il est pas trop tard. Je saute sur le pont pour aller voir la voile dans le feu de l?action. Les vagues m'éclabousse et me mouille jusqu?aux oreilles mais c'est chaud, c'est beau et ca fait du bien un peux d'action dans nos vie.
Chris continue de tirer, Annie l'aide et vlan, craque! shlaque! ... le génois se déroule subitement au grand complet. La voile bat au grand vent et se secoue à en être inquiétant. Chris vient me rejoindre et on décide de abaisser le tout et de décrocher la voile pour la sécuriser sur le pont. Par la suite on réduit la grande voile et on retourne au cockpit. ouff ! ca va mieux. Mais il y a quand même une pièce de briser.
le tout s'est finalement calmer après quelques minutes et notre première expérience de squall is check on the liste.

Si longtemps sur l'eau! ca fait trembler les plus innocents. Ca me donne des frissons. Je me trouve presque étrange d'aimer t'en mon tripe.
Mais c'est ce que j'avais besoin pour remettre les pendules a l'heure. Je pense, j'écris, j'observe, je dores, j'apprends, je découvre, je ressent et j'avance encore un peux plus loin ...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Anne-Marie Got Her Wish - Day 14

Clark Straw our weather forecaster warned me to be careful what I wished for, and he was right!

Today we have a had a lot of squall activity, and Anne-Marie (as well as the rest of the crew) got the fresh water shower she wanted.

Not much else exciting has happened today. Just a routine of spotting a squall. Closing all the port holes and hatches. Taking the cockpit cushions down below. Bracing for possible wind from the squall, which luckily so far has only been up to 20-25 knots. Then once the squall passes and things look good again, we reverse the procedure until another squall is spotted an hour or two later.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Friday the 13th Day in the Middle of Nowhere - Day 13

Well it is official! We have made it to the middle of nowhere!

We are a little over half way to French Polynesia and as far away from land as one can get.

Last night we experienced our first squall, which was quite exiting. It started to rain and the wind picked up to 20 knots or so. We believe we are officially in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), as we have experienced several squalls today as well.

The ITCZ is basically a constantly moving band of weather around the equator which is created by the intersection of the northern and southern hemisphere weather patterns. Generally the weather is quite unpredictable in the ITCZ, it is often dead calm, or extremely windy with rain and thunderstorms. So far we have been sailing quite well in it on a dead south course to try and get through as soon as possible. It seems like we might have a unusually good weather window to cross so we are trying to take advantage of that.

Anne-Marie has been a little disappointed with the amount of rain we received out of the squalls so far. She has been ready with her bathing suite and a bar of soap all day waiting to take a fresh water shower, but the rain has only lasted a few minutes at a time. I'm sure she will get her opportunity for a prolonged shower sooner or later.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Fish are Flying - Day 12

I've got my night watch routine pretty well down. I spend the first half an hour usually just waking up, brushing my teeth, checking on the boat's heading and looking around to make sure that all is in order. For the next hour, I drink a thermos full of tea very slowly as I eat a treat (usually something Busby has baked or a cookie) and listen to a podcast (usually Radiolab). For the next hour, I usually respond to emails and write in my diary. The final hour usually consists of another podcast and eating some more food slowly. I have found that it's very hard to fall asleep while eating. This all sounds dandy...but night watch is always a struggle and a bit eerie. It's a struggle to stay awake and find tasks to do that keep you awake. The world is cloaked in red, due to our red lights and sometimes I mistake shadows for other people on our boat or weird noises as people's voices. So...I'm usually just a bit jumpy and on edge during my night watch.

Last night's watch was particularly eventful. I was responding to emails in the cabin, when I started to hear a flapping noise. This flapping sounded different. I immediately put the computer away, sprung to action and looked at the sails from the cabin. Hmmm... they looked ok and weren't flapping. "Flap, flap, flap" again. Where is this coming from? Am I losing it? I started frantically looking in all directions...up, down, port, starboard, for, aft. Then it started to smell REALLY fishy on board. Oh, maybe it's a flying fish that landed on deck. Just as I was putting on my life jacket to go on deck, I saw two beady eyes starring at me from the stove. "AHHHH" I screamed! "Flap flap flap" it replied. Then I heard a calm voice behind me, " Just get a bowl Annie". I didn't realize that the flapping had woken Busby up too. I fumbled around, handed Busby a bowl and he quickly transported the fish back to the ocean. We had a good laugh about the whole thing at 4 am in the morning and were amazed by this flying fish's trajectory. It made it all the way through the cockpit, through the companion way hatch and landed right on the stove. Must have been quite a night for this little guy too.

I still had an hour left of my watch, so I went into the cockpit and listened to a podcast. In the back of my mind I was thinking that I was right in the middle of the flying fish's trajectory. But what are the odds really? And I pushed the thought from my mind. Half hour later I was hit with a projectile from the darkness of the ocean. "AHHHH" I screamed! "Flap flap flap" it responded. Just as I was about to toss the flying fish back into the ocean, it managed to flap it's way to freedom. "Flying fish?" Busby shouted from down below. "Yep" I responded... and we both had another good laugh.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

We are Flying Now! - Day 11

We have been in some great winds for sailing the past couple of days! Today we just recorded a 158nm 24 hour run! That's a whopping 6.58nm/hour, or to put it into perspective, a light jogging speed.

There is a downside to going so fast though, Anne-Marie's sanity.

Once we hit 6 knots, the propeller starts to spin and makes a distinctive wurring noise which fluctuates in pitch based on our speed. Anne-Marie was sleeping (or attempting to sleep) in the quarter berth which is right beside the propeller. She wasn't really enjoying the frequency of the wurring sound as the boat approached 8 and 9 knots surfing down waves, which kept her up all night :(

We even reefed the sails down to keep the boat at a comfortable 6-7 knots, but Annie was already on edge. Hopefully a good sleep (away from the propeller) tonight will get her groove back.

On another note, today I noticed one of the bolts supporting our bimini hand rail/solar panel supports had sheered off! Luckily we caught the problem early, and were able to affect repairs by tapping the hole for a larger bolt size. It was the bolt right beside where we always enter/exit Starship, so I'm sure it just had a lot of extra abuse.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

1000 Nautical Miles Down! - Day 10

1000nm down, about 1800nm to go!

Hard to believe it has been 10 days already! I think we have been doing quite well progress wise, especially with our slow 3-4 days getting off the coast, to pull off a little over 100nm per day. Hopefully now that we are in the trade winds we will be able to routinely knock out 125+nm days. Alas it looks like I have lost the bet with my guess of us completing the crossing in 21 days.

One piece of equipment we have been exceptionally happy about has been our Hydrovane (www.hydrovane.com)! There is no doubt it would be a totally different experience out here had we been relying solely on our electronic autopilot as initially planned. To the best of my knowledge no one has hand steered since we shut off the engine just outside of Banderas Bay. The Hydrovane has been doing all the tough work of keeping us on course, while we enjoy the scenery and tend to other tasks onboard.

Here is a brief rundown of why we like the Hydrovane so much:

What sold us on it:

- Could be installed off center, since our transom had a lot of stuff already on it

- Only 4 bolts to install the unit on the transom

- Emergency totally independent rudder

- No power drain when compared to using the electric autopilot

From our experience with it:

- Works as advertised (or better)! We used the Hydrovane running down wind in 35kt winds crossing to Banderas Bay from the East Cape of Baja, and it only seemed to work better the windier it got! On this crossing we were using it to keep us heading in the right direction with only 2kt of apparent wind!

- No steering lines enter the cockpit as on some other windvane self steering systems. The Hydrovane is totally independent on the transom of the boat. No connections to the main wheel or rudder post. Simple, clutter free and redundancy.

- Quiet! It just does it thing back there and you'd never even know it was there until you look. In comparison with our electric autopilot which is always making noise as it alters the course....sqeekkk...sqeeekkkk..sqeekk... I'm sure we would have went insane by now listening to that!

- The wheel is stationary! With the electric autopilot (and some other windvanes), the main wheel spins as the course is adjusted. This makes the wheel a dangerous thing to be around. It is so nice to have the wheel locked down, and not to worry about it when relaxing in the cockpit.

- Huge power savings! There is no power draw whatsoever with the Hydrovane. Compared to possibly as high as 50Ah/day with our electric autopilot. This has allowed us to keep fully charged under solar power alone for our first 10 days. That is with running computers, the fridge, checking emails/weather 2x a day, and Anne-Marie being net controller for the puddle jump fleet (30-45 minutes of talking on the SSB radio, ~12Ah of battery).

If you are in the market for a windvane, give the Hydrovane a good look. Somehow I didn't consider them when looking at windvanes before leaving the US, and only after meeting Will & Sarah of Hydroquest, who work for Hydrovane did we consider it an option. Will was super helpful in checking out all the stuff on our transom to ensure the Hydrovane would work, which made it a lot easier for us to make the decision. Full Disclosure: Although we are friends with Will & Sarah, we are not associated with the Hydrovane company and they have no idea I'm writing this post.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Black Night - Day 9 [English]

So, it's the night. It's all dark, but very dark. We have difficultly seeing the horizon. There's no moon, no stars, only the deep black of the ocean and a dark grey from the clouds that cover the sky. No reflections in the water. No colour anywhere. There's only faint red light from inside of the boat. The red light we use at night to keep our night vision intact.

The wind is blowing between 20 and 25 knots, the waves are present and they sometimes make us travel at more than 7 knots. We surf down the face of the waves, and the boat reminds me of a little rubber ducky in a bathtub. The boat is moving uncomfortably for her inhabitants. The jib is a bit too big for the night's condition and our heading is slightly off. After a few operations with all the crew, the jib is reefed and the mainsail is jibed. After the action, we all go back to our tasks. Everything is back to normal, but the waves and wind are still there.

I am on the first night shift between 9 pm and midnight. Chris and Anne-Marie are doing the dishes and I observe and listen to the world around. There is noise everywhere. The waves are at the tempo and there are creaking noises everywhere...the walls, the ceiling, the doors, the cabinets. The items in the cabinets are banging together. The propeller of the boat is spinning when we go faster than 7 knots, when we are surfing waves. There is always something falling from somewhere. One night, I even received bananas on my balls and Anne-Marie received a fruit hammock on her body.

There is always a muscle being used to keep you in position. Even lying down, it never stops. You have your head moving from side to side, your hips shacking and legs wobbling and being used to stabilize yourself. The stomach is working on bringing the supper down, but the motion of the boat makes everything want to go up. My head is drowsy but not enough to get seasick. It's a constant combat and the only solution possible is to accept it. Live in this moment 100%, so everything can become an unforgettable souvenir.

More to follow...


Black Night - Jours 9 [French]

C'est la nuit, il fait noir. Mais vraiment noir. On as peine a voir le ligne de l'horizon. Il n y a pas de lune, pas d'étoiles que le noir profond de l'océan et un gris foncer des nuages qui couvre le ciel, pas de reflet dans l'eau, pas de couleurs nul part. Que du rouge a l'intérieur du bateau. Rouge infra rouge pour garder notre vision de nuit en cas où on en aurait besoin si on croise un autre bateau.

Le vent souffle a plus de 20 25 noeuds, les vagues sont très bonnes et tout ca nous fais avancer a plus de 7 noeuds. On surf les vagues et le bateau me fait penser a un petit canard dans une baignoire au point que ca commence a être inconfortable. Le génois est un peut trop grand pour la navigation de nuit. Donc on enchaine les manoeuvres pour ajuster le tout et On retourne la grande voile pour corriger notre direction. Après l'action, on retourne à nos occupations. Le tout reprend sa normal mais les vagues et le vent sont toujours présents.

Je suis sur le premier chiffre de nuit entre 9 et minuit. Chris et Anne Marie s'occupent et moi j'observe et écoute. Il y a des bruits de partout, les vagues a leur tempos, des craquements de partout, des mures, du plafond, des portes, des trucs ranger dans les armoires qui se cogne les un contre les autres, l'élise du bateau qui ronronne quand on dépasse 7 noeuds en surfant les vagues . Il y a toujours un truc qui tombe de nul part. j'ai même reçus des bananes sur les couilles et Anne Marie reçus le hamac des fruit sur la gueule.

Ya toujours un muscle, sur toi, qui travail pour te garder en position. Même coucher ca n'arrête pas. T'as la tête qui bouge tout seul de gauche à droite, le bassin qui grouille, une jambe pour stabiliser le tout, l'estomac qui cherche à faire descendre ton souper. Mais la motion du bateau qui veut tout remonter sans cesses. Ma tête tourne un peut. J'ai comme une ivresse légère mais pas de mal de coeur a en vomir. C'est un combat constant et la seule solution possible c'est d'accepter le tout et le vivre a 100% pour que tout ca devienne un souvenir inoubliable.

A suivre...

Monday, April 1, 2013

In the Groove - Day 8

The first week out we were really excited to be underway, full of emotions, seeing lots of wildlife and figuring out our routines on board. I feel like we've found our groove now.

- We have our night watch schedule down.
- We've been "showering" every 4 days (maybe we should be doing this more often) with a bucket full of salt water in the cockpit and some soap.
- We figured out how to do laundry, also in the same bucket with salt water and detergent. This method has worked really well. I was nervous it was going to leave the clothes feeling hard, but the material is somehow still pretty soft.
- We inspect all the boat's systems (sails, rigging, bilge pumps etc...) diligently every night.
- I act as net controller every night at 8 pm while Busby cooks us delicious dinners.
- We inspect all our fresh fruit and veggies every 2 days and put anything that's about to spoil in our next meal.

Being in the groove is great, but it's not terribly exciting. I feel like we've become sloth like creatures, napping a lot during the day, reading, listening to music/podcasts starring out into the abyss and pondering the meaning of life. Whenever we do move, it is very slowly and calculated, trying not to bruise ourselves on Starship, which we've done repeatedly. The downwind sailing motion is very rolly and often unpredictable. The boat's motion is way too chaotic to work-out or do any type of exercise, unfortunately. We aren't sleeping the greatest at night due to the boat motion too. I've developed a starfish sleeping technique, where I stretch out my legs and arms are far as they'll go until contacting a wall or lee-cloth. This way, you don't roll around too much when trying to fall asleep. The guys have started to employ my technique and said they're sleeping a little better.

So...I'd say that we've found our "Starship-groove" and are just trying our best to deal with a home that is constantly rolling and rocking ALL over the place, which is often easier said then done.