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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 17

Day 17

We found ourselves a little over 2* south of the Equator and in a torrent of sequential squalls – all day long. I don't think we have seen this much rain in 6 years - combined. The auto pilot doesn't like the force of the squally waves and chose a particularly gnarly squall in which to crap out. Carolyne and I took turns hand steering while Jim went to inspect things. The pump apparently blew itself apart. Hydraulic fluid was everywhere. It took an hour or so, but Jim fished out all the little pieces and rebuilt the unit – no specs and since he didn't take the unit apart he was just guessing how to re-build it – but she is back in working order... thankfully! We do carry spare auto pilot parts, by the way, including a spare pump – should Jim's re-build fail down the road.

When we bought Hotspur she came with numerous canvas and Strattaglass panels for an enclosed cockpit – none of which we have ever used with the exception of 2 small side panels we sometimes put up to reduce chill at night. With pouring rain, we dug out the panels and installed them – wishing now that we had replaced every zipper... no telling how old they are, but they are certainly shot. What luxury, though, to have a practically dry cockpit while being pelted by stinging angry gusty rain!

Our bimini was leaking a bit we noticed a few days ago during a drizzle so Jim filled a spray bottle with Thompson's and during a dry spell went to town on the Sunbrella. Thompson's is a fabulous water repellent (we got ours at Home Depot in Mexico) and now there are no raindrops that keep falling on our heads.

Chafe has been our biggest nemesis of late. It's shocking how the same line in the same place is totally fine for 2 weeks and then it moves an inch or two and in 3 hours time it is nearly chafed through. That is what happened with our jib sheet today – brand new! The two braid Class I nylon – chafed completely through the cover and partially through the core. We now check for chafe every few hours during daylight. Any chafe zones on the rigging that we can reach while underway we can wrap with firehose. Anything we can't reach will have to wait until we are at anchor and can hoist Jim up in the bosun's chair.

All the sails I went over with a fine tooth comb before I left Snug Harbor Sails. They are faring well overall. The jib needs some handwork at the leech near the clew and I need to adjust the puckerstring again at the head. The mainsail appears to be in good overall condition. We lost another slide at the batten end. And the lowest full batten has a tendency at times to twist inside the batten pocket. That's not good. The mizzen sail is brand new – I made it myself. It's beautiful – if I do say so!

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 16 - Equatorial Easter

Day 16 - Equatorial Easter

To celebrate Easter, Carolyne and I made homemade English muffins the day before in preparation for an Eggs Benedict brunch. The canned ham we were saving was a perfect substitute for Canadian bacon and the homemade hollandaise sauce turned out thick and creamy-yellow and scrumptious! We topped our creations with paprika and black olives and placed sliced grapefruit and avocado to the side. Carolyne and I were pretty dang impressed with ourselves. The only disappointment... the eggs (even though we refrigerated these particular ones so they would be gelatinous and therefore easier to flip over-easy) broke after cracking... every single one. So we had no choice but to scramble them.

(NOTE: I forgot to list lemons a few days ago... we stored them in the veggie trays but just 10 days later 2 or 3 turned nasty green with mold. I bathed them in soapy bleach water and moved them to the refrigerator. The juice from 1 made a sinfully good hollandaise sauce. And I think lemon bars might be in the near future.)

In the afternoon, we laid the spinnaker on deck to dry. Turns out that the halyard had chafed completely through... right below the shackle after just 4 hours of being hoisted. Once at anchorage in Hiva Oa we'll have to run a messenger line to retrieve the halyard – which is now somewhere inside the mast – then check to see what the heck is chafing it through so we can keep that from happening again. Unfortunately, we won't be able to use the spinnaker until we arrive in the Marquesas and resolve this issue. And we only have that one chute.

Crossing the Equator and graduating from "polliwog" to "shellback" was a stellar event. We all dressed up and Carolyne played the part of King Neptune. Even Jim let Carolyne paint his face and he video taped the festivities. We celebrated with crackers and brie, chocolates, ice cream and champagne. Conditions were way to windy and choppy to swim across -but that was only a wee bit disappointing as we happily accept any and all wind at this point in time. With less than 1/3 of the way to go, we are very eager to get a move on!

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 14 & 15

Day 14: Position 02*57N 124*54W
&
Day 15: 01*23N 125*58W

Exiting the ITCZ and nearing the Equator... few to no squalls now. Wind on the nose and 2 knots of current against us. Shameless as we are we turned the key and started the engine. And the next day there was absolutely NO WIND – none. Zilch. Zero. Nada, Nothing. Occasionally a burst of 2 knots coming from somewhere sent us running to the bow to raise the spinnaker... only to watch it flop and flail and snap... and so we lowered her – again. As we have been keeping track of all the boat in our small flotilla to French Polynesia, I recorded that many boats above the Equator were motor sailing – anywhere between 05.00N and below 02.00N to 123.00W and 129.00W.

We used this time to tighten the puckerstring on the headsail's leech – close to the head there was flutter we didn't like. We also checked all lines for chafe – found some bad areas. We cut chafed line off and used some sail tape for chafe guard... worse area on the sheet where we have been poling out the jib. And my new dinghy chaps have been rubbed clear through in one spot where we have her secured on the davits. We re-adjusted the dinghy and I will repair the chaps once we are at anchor.

In the evening Day 15 we got a beautiful SE breeze that filled the spinny full and sent us racing ahead quietly at 5 knots. It was so nice that we dared to spinny through the night... a choice we regretted 4 hours later. I was woken from my sleep by Carolyne who alerted me the captain needed help. I quickly donned my harness and ran on deck. Except for the tack and the clew, the spinnaker and douser were completely in the water and being dragged behind us. Jim and I heaved and hoed until it was back on board – no halyard was found. The only explanation is that the shackle broke, the halyard chafed through or that the shackle pin loosed. Getting that halyard back down is going to be a nightmare – as we are no longer flat calm.

Luckily we have the genoa – so furled her out and kept on going.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 12 & 13

Day 12 & 13

Our fresh provisions are coming to an end. I attended a seminar in La Cruz on how to prepare fruit and veggies for sailing voyages – what to do to them to make them last longer unrefrigerated. In the end, this is what we brought with us, this is what we did to them, and this is the result:
1. TOMATOES: I bought a flat of green tomatoes, did NOT wash them, wrapped each individually in paper towels and stored them in a plastic vegetable crate stacked neatly in the shower (the best dark and cool spot Jim and I could think of). Had I not been an eager beaver and bought them a full week before we actually left they would still be in excellent condition. But wonderful weather windows do not show themselves weeks ahead, so I took my chances. Now they are on their last leg. We've sliced and dried them, we've made fresh sauces and salsas – and lots of summer salads.
2. CABBAGES: We kept all the outer leaves on the cabbages and stored them in a green, plastic mesh bag forward. We didn't wash them. They lasted 2 weeks before getting smelly and contracting mold. I think we should have removed the ugly outer leaves as we went along.
3. POTATOES: We preferred to purchase unwashed potatoes, but couldn't find any. We stored these separately in a plastic veggie crate and in the shower. They are still nice and firm and no eyes.
4. GRAPEFRUIT: We only bought a few, did nothing to them and ate them within 2 weeks time.
5. LIMES: We did nothing to them, stored them in a plastic crate in the shower with cucumbers, bell peppers, grapefruit, avocados and pears. They are turning yellow, but are fine. If they begin to get hard I was told to drop them in some boiling water for a few minutes and they will be plump enough to squeeze.
6. BELL PEPPERS: Have lasted 2 weeks in the plastic veg container, although they have turned red and are very wrinkly.
7. PEARS: Bought very hard and threw the last 2 away 3 days ago.
8. CUCUMBERS: Washed, dried well and wrapped individually in paper towels – put in veg trays in shower. Have turned a bit yellow, but have remained crisp and flavorful.
9. ONIONS: I removed the ugly outer skins on the red and yellow onions , stuck them in a white muslin bag and stored in the bottom of the locker where we throw our dirty laundry. I check every so often and if there is a moldy patch or bruised area, I remove that layer.
10. GALA APPLES: We removed the stickers, washed well and rinsed and dried, and stored in hanging hammocks with other dry goods – no other fruits or veggies. They are still juicy and crunchy 2 weeks later.
11. ZUCCHINI: Didn't last a week. Wrapped in paper towels and stored in stackable veg trays. They got ugly spots on the outside and turned orange on the inside. Will refrigerate next time.

The produce we decided to refrigerate were lettuce, carrots, celery, avocados and cilantro. A day or so before we want to eat the avocados I remove one or two from the fridge and stick in the veg trays in the shower to ripen.

The kimchi we made several weeks ago is FABULOUS! The taste is pretty strong now – the garlic, radishes and the few Serrano peppers have infused and give it a hot-ish flavor without being too spicy. It is absolutely delicious. It is still in its 5 gallon air tight container in the shower – no refrigeration. Of course, if you hate sauerkraut you will likely not have love for kimchi. But it is such a great source of nutrition for cruisers. Don't forget that you can make fermented veg in much smaller batches.

And as of Day 13, we are motor sailing for the first time in almost 2 weeks - through the ITCZ. Wind is now on the nose from the south and we have a current against us. After conferring with our weather guru, we have decided to make a B-line to 2*N latitude and try to shake the moving target. We've altered course slightly west to gain some speed. Very squally conditions – thankfully no thunder or lightening.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 10 & 11

Day 10 & 11

My husband is a super stud! He ran a 10 gauge wire to juice up the autopilot. It had actually begun shutting itself off several times during the night even after the batteries were fully charged – and I will tell you that it is a horrific feeling. Jim did a lot of reading, some tweaking with the settings and tinkering with the Ram. I can't tell you how relieved we all are that his methods made all the difference in the world! The unit is actually running beautifully now. None of us would ever consider doing this passage without an autopilot on purpose – never.

I, on the other hand, had one of those days. The eggs wriggled free of their bonds and a dozen or so of them plunged over the lee cloth to their deaths from the top bunk, smashing themselves and ruining our lovely cabbages. That was a very icky mess. The back of Nav Station swivel chair broke so I glued and hammered it back together fearing that if I didn't do so right away that one of us might become impaled on the sharp pieces of wood spindles sticking out. As I was working away on the chair, the seat of my pants became wet... a BIG wave had hit the side of the boat and water saturated our bed, linens, pillows and settee cushions... because an itty bitty port hole was open to let in some fresh breeze. After that I took a fresh water shower so that the rest of me didn't stink like my day. I went to my drawer to get some fresh, clean clothes – and everything in it was wet. Yet another leak.

I have asked Carolyne to write a little something to share – from a teenager's perspective. She sleeps a lot these days. (If nothing follows this sentence in this paragraph it is because I haven't received anything – probably because she is still in bed!)

We are half way there!! We should be crossing the equator in a couple days. We are thrilled with the Tartan – she sails fabulously despite our attempts to make her do things that defy physics. We are continually learning how to sail her better and under what conditions. Jim and I are actually sailing her 'together' – and I am anticipating what he wants me to do without him having to ask. That is like... well, HUGE for us. In addition, I no longer am the cockpit sailor. On my night watches, if a squall is coming and I have to furl in the jib – then I do so. We have actually caught up with and passed several boats that left La Cruz a couple of days before we did. Not that this is a race... but... ;)

And I am now going to go enjoy a little fresh breeze – in the cockpit. Because all the port holes are closed... and will remain closed.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Day 8-9

Day 8-9

This is our progress the last few days:
Wed 4/9... 14* 01N 112* 05W
Th 4/10... 13* 24N 113* 29W
Fr 4/11... 11* 57N 114* 50W
Sa 4/12... 11* 11N 116* 58W
Su 4/13... 10* 48N 119* 23W

Fortunately, the trades are now with us. 18-22 knots from the NE. We have gone 1070 miles.

Are we having fun? Not exactly. This is not my idea of fun. But most pilgrimages aren't. Most rites of passage require some discomfort. This is simply a means to an end. Going through "it" to get to the other side - it is all part of the process. Last night was rough. The main had 2 reefs in her and Jim partially furled the jib. We were still raging on (or so it felt) at 6.5 knots. It reminded me of sledding as a kid... lying on my belly and holding on for dear life as the vehicle beneath me surged and lunged and skidded off the sides – flying faster as she rounded corners and maneuvered over lumps... but the snow doesn't race behind you. It stays sedentary. The frothy rush of flexing waves, on the other hand, makes it feel like a giant roller coaster – inside a washing machine. Luckily, everyone has their sea legs and no one else has gotten sick since Day 1 & 2.

We run the generator everyday – very cloudy in the mornings and late afternoons. Otherwise, solar panels are keeping up in the afternoon. A few squalls – no lightening or thunder – just rain and lots of wind. We are trolling a fishing line when the seas subside, but so far have caught nothing.

I discovered how much I enjoy listening to audiobooks on my night watches. Jim has for years, but I never had the desire. This trip I collected as many audiobooks as I could and kick myself now for not doing it sooner. I just finished INFIDEL by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (my dear friend Jennifer recommended it). What an inspiration! What an incredible story! Jim also listened to it (narrated by the author) and we both felt that Carolyne should add it to her homeschool program so we can have a family discussion about it.

Jim and I both feel tired – not exhausted – just tired. With this wind, though, we'll arrive in Hiva Oa sooner than later. And that's okay by me!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Day 8

Day 8

We area about 1/3 of the way there. Pretty good news considering the trade winds have forsaken us. Last few days have been 8-10 knots. Finally today - we are headed downwind with some good wind on our tail. It's nice for a change.

Some things that we have discovered that we wish we could change that we want to share:
1. We put new non-skid on the decks last year and thought we were so smart using sand. We regret that choice. It is too abrasive. Jim's and my soles are raw, it hurts to crawl or crab walk when conditions are a little gnarly – and we don't care for the look of it even after we painted over it. Only upside is that you could dump a load of motor oil on deck and it is guaranteed that you won't slip.
2. Reefing system for the main was just not to our liking. Jim re-rigged it underway and now we are much happier. Before, we would just lower the main altogether. Now we can put 2 reefs in the main easily and without turning upwind. This is great prep for when the squalls sneak up on you! We had very little experience with that... until now.
3. If your mainsail has slides that run inside a track, I recommend seizing a stainless or brass slide on the luff of the main on the first slide at the headboard where the halyard raises the sail. In just 5 days, my brand new Delrin (sp?) plastic slide broke. There is so much torque there. Since the webbing is still in excellent condition, I located the ONLY stainless slide we have on board. They are pricey, but the upside is that I don't have to re-seize it to the sail... I can slide the pin through the webbing that is already there and slip the metal ringlet through the hole to hold it. Easy peasy! I wish I had several more of those.
4. Auto pilot controller – we really wish we had a new controller because ours reacts too slowly and doesn't seem to be efficient. But the cost was a huge deterrent. Still – now we wish we had spent the money as our auto pilot is giving us a hard time. She's working, but she yaws too much. And she is a tremendous power pig... guzzling our charged batteries as quick as she can.
5. If we decide to get a new mainsail, we will buy (or make) one with 2 full battens at the top and 2 partial battens below. A full battened main is a booger to work with... even with Tony Morrelli's lazy bag system.