Update from the Equator

Our second night out, the wind quit and we started motoring.  The forecast was for more of the same, and we worried that our fuel would be so depleted from a few days of doldrums, we wouldn’t have enough for battery charging via the diesel if we had no wind for several days.  In my sleep-deprived state, just north of Guadalupe Island, I decided to divert to Cabo to refuel, but after just an hour of heading due east, away from our ultimate goal, the wind came up a bit and I decided to continue heading southwest. Travis never wanted to go to Cabo anyway.  It was light going for a few more days, but by March 9, day 6 of our trip, the northeast winds kicked in and we’ve been sailing ever since.

We have been silent since leaving California waters, as we have no way to upload files to our website without Internet access.  However, my daughter Tessa, to whom we can send emails via the Sail Mail system, has graciously agreed to post this update on our behalf.  Once we hit “civilization,” i.e., the Marquesas Islands sometime around March 23, our website will be deluged with entertaining and enlightening articles we have written contemporaneously, as well as pictures of some of the highlights.

Wing and wing near Mexico.

The nice thing about sailing in light breezes is that the fishing is good.  We landed three nice tuna over that period, but none since, as it’s been blowing like stink (25-35 knots) which precludes fishing.  Seas have been lumpy and confused, with breaking waves from multiple directions around 15′ high.  Thankfully, Travis and I seem genetically resistant to mal de mer, so the worst peril we faced was trying to sleep off-watch with all hell breaking loose above decks and the inability to open any ports for ventilation, as we had had breaking seas regularly slamming into the boat and cascading down the decks.  Neither of us slept much over the next few days.  However, the offshore sailor’s mantra is “No Whining,” so we kept our sunny dispositions in spite of sleep deprivation.  The sailing itself was exhilarating.

Breeze.

Being offshore is cathartic.  We have gone several days without seeing another ship, and there are no reefs to concern us out here, so all one needs to do is mind the sail trim, steer the boat (or use the autopilot, which doesn’t work well in big winds and seas), cook meals, stay hydrated, and get some sleep.  Our 5 hours on, 5 off watch system seems to be working, but no matter how rested you are, taking the 0200 to 0700 shift is pretty bleak.  Cell phones don’t work, so the only technology we have is our navigation instruments, which earlier gave me fits, and our Single Side Band radio, to which we attach a Pactor III modem to convert the radio’s analogue signal to something a computer can understand.  Hence, we are able to send emails home, but it’s fairly complicated, and takes time and uses a lot of battery power.   We also download weather maps (GRIB files) via Sail Mail, which tells us wind, wave, and other information going out 5 days.  Hand steering for five hours in 30+ knot winds and breaking waves is fun for a while, but after about 3 hours, you can’t wait for the other guy to come to your relief.
Marine life is an ongoing highlight of our days at sea.  We saw several grey whales within 100 yards of our boat on Day 2, and dolphins accompany us in large schools every day.  At night, we hear them spouting near our boat, and see their phosphorescent trails as they shoot through the water.  In rough weather, all kinds of creatures end up on our decks, and one, a particularly vicious squid, even found its way below decks, which was disconcerting, to say the least.  

Equipment problems have been minimal, but they keep up busy when we are not steering the boat.  I purchased a new radar system that interfaces with my wind and speed instruments just before we departed, but other than my initial orientation period, it has been no problem, and Travis loves it.  The watermaker continues to function well, allowing us to take showers several times daily and drink gallons of fresh, pure water.  Did I mention that it’s been a bit warm? 

Safety is always a major concern this far offshore, particularly when only one person is on deck.  We always wear life vests with safety harnesses, but sometimes one must unteather to do a sail change, so both of us are on deck for that.  Our Life Tag system sounds an alarm if someone should fall overboard, but so far, it’s just annoyed us when someone accidentally depresses their panic button, usually in the middle of an already critical situation, such as when our spinnaker lost a sheet and wrapped around the headstay multiple turns.  

We are looking forward to our King Neptune celebration when we cross the equator shortly.  “Nor’easter” has been a dry boat (as in no alcohol) thus far, but we’ve agreed to relax that rule for one beer each, or maybe a nice Chardonnay, once we hit zero degrees latitude.

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4 thoughts on “Update from the Equator

  1. Fantastic update. Such an amazing adventure. Can’t wait to hear more about the vicious squid, among other things – hopefully you have a picture. You are our heroes! Love, Carol and John

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  2. Nothing must perish, no mines!!!! Great and natural seamen U both have in you. May the winds be fair and the mermaids abundant!!! Stop for the mail bouy and pick up my shellback certificate s from King Neptune’s court for you both. RK

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  3. Interesting update. I understand your frustration with the autopilot, it works well in moderate seas, but drains your batteries when it’s rough, and that’s when you really need relief at the wheel. Hand steering is fun for a while, but then helm fatigue sets in; on a lengthy, short-handed passage it can get tedious and weary.

    You guys would be well-served to install a wind vane steering system. On my boat I had an autopilot and an Aries vane (regarded as the best). Between the two, I used the Aries 99% of the time. It steered the boat beautifully at all points of sail, in all wind and sea conditions, and conserved precious battery power. With all the miles ahead of you, an Aries would be a faithful 3rd crew on duty 24/7.

    I wish all the best to you guys on your epic odyssey.

    –Russ

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