Sunday, May 29, 2011

In Anse Amyot, Toau

We had a nice sail for the 80 miles from Manihi to Toau.

80 miles at our planning speed of 5.5 knots is 14.5 hours, and there are only about 12 hours of daylight here right now. So we had to decide whether to make it an overnight or mostly-daytime trip, with arrival at night. I favored the overnight plan, but Dave felt we knew Toau well enough, and the entry was simple enough, that the daylight plan would work. The deciding factor was the wind forecast. If we left in the morning, for the daytime run, we'd have mostly 15 knots. Waiting til evening for the overnight run would possibly change the conditions up to the 'near 20 knots' range.

So we pulled anchor in Manihi at first light (5:30am) and crossed our fingers that our carefully-laid anchor would come up easily. It did. We had used our 'Fishfinder' when anchoring the day before, to find a less-contoured spot on the bottom in which to drop our anchor. It took 3 passes to find the best spot, and then get the anchor to the bottom in that spot, but it was worth the effort.

According to our tide calculations, the tide should have already turned in the pass as we exited. So we were expecting a couple of knots of incoming current--no big deal. But we found we actually had a couple of knots of outgoing current. The only explanation is the higher winds (and waves) push more water into the atoll over the low reefy parts than can get out in the pass on the leeward side. Manihi might be one of those atolls where, in high wind/sea conditions, the current never turns. (But we weren't sticking around to find out).

We trolled a fishing line all day. We got one hit, but the fish got off before we started pulling it in. No more strikes. We are finally eating down the stuff in our freezer and have some room for fish, if we catch one.

We had a great sail--the wind was in the 14-18 knot range, and almost on our beam, so the rough hard-on-the-wind trip I envisioned turned into a very nice fast sail. We reefed our genoa to keep our speed under 7 knots. We got our first squall just before dark (and it's been squally on-and-off ever since, so we made the right decision to go).

Getting in at night, though, was a little dicey. Anse Amyot has a lighted range, but one of the range lights is out. So we had to rely only on our GPS, which we knew was 'spot on'. No moon out at all. With the GPS screen radiating too much light in the cockpit, even in 'night mode'--I couldn't see a thing, but just had to rely on instruments. Dave was on the bow, though, with a spotlight, and he could see pretty well. He told me to keep on coming, and eventually spotted the two unlit entry markers. We fortunately finally reached a boat in the anchorage on VHF before we came in--they saw our lights wandering around outside and turned on their VHF. They put their spotlight on an available mooring that they knew had a floating 'tag line', near them. This made it easy for us to pick up, and in a couple of minutes we were secure. So in the end it wasn't that hard. (Dave thinks it was easy, but I wouldn't choose to do it again.)

Since we arrived, the wind has been blowing pretty hard, so we haven't gone diving yet. We did spend yesterday morning looking over the moorings--checking the chains around the coral heads were still OK, and looking for wear in the lines. Dave has a list of maintenance items to make all the moorings servicable again, which we'll help with over the next few days.
At 5/28/2011 12:55 AM (utc) our position was 15°48.19'S 146°09.17'W

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Visit to the Manihi Sailmail Station

One of the last things on our list before leaving Manihi was to visit Xavier Michel and the Manihi Sailmail station.

Because we didn't really arrange this ahead of time, we were most fortunate to find Xavier at home, with his VHF on, when we got back from the Blue Lagoon. We called him on Channel 16 and he answered right up, and invited us in for a visit.

Xavier is retired from the French Navy, and in his last post he was in charge of the entire Pacific for the French Navy. He didn't say so, because he is a very modest man, and we forgot to ask, but he must have been an Admiral to achieve that post. His wife is still practicing as a Maritime Lawyer in Tahiti, so they split time between their home in Tahiti and the very nice place they are building on one of the motus in Manihi.

Xavier has one of the most energy-independent places we have seen in French Polynesia (or anywhere, for that matter), and we enoyed getting the 'engineers tour'. He has a big wind generator (it looks a little light an Air Marine, but 2-3x the size), and large solar array mounted on a swiveling platform with an automatic sun tracker, AND a water generator that runs in the shallow pass next to the motu. Plus, of course, a huge bank of batteries. This has all been professionally designed and installed in and near his 'utility building'.

The utility building also houses the radio and computer equipment required for automatic operation of his Sailmail station. It was also neat and tidy. During cruising season, his station is almost constantly in use from the cruisers passing through French Polynesia, and in fact we saw a connection complete while we were standing there.

We were interested in how he had come to be involved in Sailmail. Usually these stations have arisen from some radio-friendly sailing cruiser moving ashore, but it was obvious that this was not the case here. Apparently he met Jim Corenman and a couple of the other Sailmail guys at a cocktail party in Papeete given for a sailing rally that was passing through. They were lamenting the fact that the Sailmail network really needed a station somewhere in northern French Polynesia. So Xavier said "Where do you want it?" and set about to handle the formalities. On the other side, Jim and Shea Weston helped engineer the station setup and equipment, and when all was ready, Shea flew out to Manihi with his wife and spent a couple of weeks installing and training Xavier. The result is a very reliable and important 'node' in the Sailmail network.

We also got a tour of Xavier's home and grounds. They are still putting the finishing touches on, but it's a lovely island-style home, open to the breezes, but very well constucted with many elegant touches. The island comes complete with a small chappel out by the ocean, where Xavier says he spends a few minutes each day in the evening 'clearing his mind, remembering the things that do matter, and forgetting the things that don't matter."

What a nice man! And very interesting too. We were sad that our schedule required us to move on without getting a chance to know him better. But we are hoping we might get a chance to visit with him in Papeete when we are there.

As we left, we again thanked Xavier profusely for maintaining his Sailmail station for the benefit of us cruisers.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/25/2011 8:10 PM (utc) our position was 15°48.12'S 146°09.19'W

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Up at Manihi's Blue Lagoon

A couple of boats told us that they were headed up inside Manihi to what the locals call 'The Blue Lagoon'. Our friends on Infini and Slipaway had been up there a few days ago via lancha for a picnic with Fernando and his family, so we wanted to see it too.

None of us really knew the way--the directions that Fernando gave were "Follow the red and green markers until there are no markers, and then you are there." We did this and it was pretty easy, though once or twice there were pearl bouys in this path that we had to avoid. But all the major coral outcroppings were marked and the shallowest water was saw was 25'.

Our Maxsea/CM93 chart has no detail inside Manihi, and is off by about 200 yards, so our track went right down the motus on the south side of the lagoon. The 2008 Garmin Mapsource chart DID have a blow-up of Manihi and was pretty darned accurate--even showing all (or most) of the small coral outcroppings that need to be avoided. However, the markers (which are fairly new according to the locals) are not on the chart.

A Canadian boat, Lady Meg, had preceeded us the day before, so when we got to where they were anchored (about 3 miles short of the end of the lagoon), we stopped too. We are not actually positive that we have reached what the locals call 'The Blue Lagoon', but I think so. There is a small curved sand beach (better than the crushed coral that is in the rest of the atoll) and a thatched tiki hut. The anchorage is a little better than down by the town... only 20-25' deep and many fewer coral heads, with the same pretty good protection from ENE-S winds. But it is not MY idea of a 'Blue Lagoon'. Methinks this is just in answer to Rangiroa's advertised 'Blue Lagoon'.

We went ashore by dinghy last night and had a small happy hour on the beach with Lady Meg and Pacha II.

I think we are leaving Manihi for Toau tomorrow morning. Looking at the tides (for slack current in the pass) and the weather, the sooner the better, as the forecast shows the wind building over the next couple of days. So we will head back for town today--still need to stock up on baguettes before we leave, and get our last bit of internet for a couple of weeks.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/23/2011 4:21 PM (utc) our position was 14°24.24'S 145°52.79'W

The Un-Anchoring Dance

The designated anchorage for yachts in Manihi is OK from a protection standpoint. We have pretty good lee from prevailing wind conditions (SE-ENE) in a pretty little curve in the lagoon with (what looks like) a sand beach and lots of palm trees. The only habitation is a small shack that doesn't look inhabited right now (probably only used when they are harvesting the palm trees).

However, it is a terrible anchorage from the standpoint of anchoring in coral. It is 40-60' deep with (dead) coral heads that come up 10' from the bottom. The water inside the lagoon is not clear enough to see the bottom (only about 20' visibility), so you can't see where you are planting your anchor. If you are lucky when laying your anchor (and careful), you will back straight back with your bow pointing East into the wind (a very difficult maneuver if the wind is blowing at all), and your anchor chain will only hang on a few coral heads. If you are not so skilled/lucky, your bow goes all over and you have just 'pretzeled' your way into a very secure anchorage--one which takes a SCUBA tank to extricate you.

We were pretty careful AND used a pair of pearl bouys snapped onto the chain about 75' from the boat to 'float' our chain above the coral, and we STILL had to use a tank to get ourselves free.

We started the morning by going over to help another boat, Pacha II, retrieve their anchor. They had been trying to leave the day before, but couldn't get their anchor up. They called Fernando, the 'go-to' guy in Manihi for a local diver to come, but it was the Sabbath, and he said he couldn't come til Monday. So we took pity on them and offered to help them. )Dave volunteered me, actually!)

I first tried to snorkel their anchor situation--just a recon trip to see how hard it was going to be. It was so deep, and such poor visibility, that even free-diving to 40', I couldn't see what was going on. So we hauled out the dive gear. They were really pretzeled--their heavy chain S-turned around several large coral heads (and numerous small ones) 60' deep. In the process of moving their anchor to a spot that wouldn't get hung on another coral head as they pulled it up, I smashed my pinkie in the joint where the head and the stock join. Ow! Blood at 60' looks a weird color of green. Fortunately the water was murkey enough that I couldn't see the sharks circling and licking their lips!

Once we got Pacha II free, we went back to Soggy Paws to try to do the same--we were going to follow Pacha II up to the 'Blue Hole'--about 12 miles ENE of the town. We were only in 40', and I had previously been able to trace the chain all the way back to the anchor. We were in pretty good shape--pretty much a straight line with only low coral heads, and our bouys were doing the trick of keeping most of the chain off the bottom. But, we had had a pretty good wind shift early in the morning for an hour or so, so we weren't sure how it was--I should have gone right then and cleared the chain, while I was still wet!!

We got the chain about halfway in and it was stuck under something. We wiggled left and we wiggled right and let the chain in and out--normally if you are patient, you can free it. So I jumped in, sans tank, to just take a look. I could see that we were just caught about 6" in under a low shelf. Looked like we could free it by just going a little further left. (This maneuver complicated by the fact that there was another boat who ended up hanging almost over our anchor, so we had to get him to turn his engine on and move up a boatlength while we were maneuvering.) And, because we had the dinghy only half-hoisted, it was blocking our swim ladder and I couldn't just walk up the ladder. Dave had to climb down on the swim platform, and I had to 'monkey bar' up with Dave's assistance (sheesh!).

So back to trying to extricate the anchor--we motored left, and we motored more left harder, and we still couldn't pop it out from under the tiny shelf. Part of the problem was that the bouys that were halfway down the chain were pulling up on the part of the chain that went under the ledge. So Dave giving slack at the windlass wasn't doing any good. We finally gave up and I put the dive gear back on and went down to free it. I carefully laid a second 'at risk' portion of the chain up over another coral head, and looked at the anchor--it looked like it would come up just fine. Another monkey bar maneuver to get back aboard, so I could drive while Dave worked the windlass... And we still had another 15 minutes of struggling to finally get the whole chain and anchor aboard. (double sheesh!) Meanwhile our friend on the other boat has probably really pretzeled his chain, motoring up to stay out of our way!

But, we did get underway finally, and headed ENE up to what the locals call 'The Blue Lagoon'.
Sherry & Dave
In French Polynesia!
At 5/23/2011 4:21 PM (utc) our position was 14°24.24'S 145°52.79'W

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Anchor Down in Manihi - YAHOO!!

After 20 days 14 hrs, and 2403 nautical miles, we are safely at anchor in Manihi. There are 8 cruising boats from 4 different nationalities here (US, Canadian, Australian, French) right now.
In French Polynesia
At 5/20/2011 6:46 PM (utc) our position was 14°27.89'S 146°02.22'W

Entering the Pass in 30 Minutes

We have been drifting around north of Manihi all night. We are now 2 miles from the entrance to the pass and plan to go in in a half an hour. We have already talked to our friends on Infini and Slipaway, and they plan to send a contingent out in the dinghy to help us get in. (Slipaway has been waiting for Dave to arrive to help them diagnose a problem with their SSB radio). Hopefully there will be fresh baguettes in the pilot boat!!
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/20/2011 5:22 PM (utc) our position was 14°27.60'S 146°04.65'W

Friday, May 20, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 20 - LAND HO!

Miles today: 111 Miles Behind Us: 2,376
Miles to go: 12
Wind ENE at 8 kt Seas 1'
Sailing S at 1kt - Triple-reefed Main, Half Staysail

We continued to have excellent weather--winds light but sailable. We averaged a pretty respectable 4.6 knots today, considering the wind never got over 10 knots.

We saw our first land in 20 days at about 4:45pm--just the tops of the palm trees at 7 miles. But as expected, without heroic efforts (ie motoring a lot over the last 24 hours), we couldn't make it to Manihi in enough daylight to run the unfamiliar pass and get safely anchored inside the coral-studded lagoon. So we have opted to just hang out over night and go in around 8am in the morning.

At about sunset, we arrived at our holding point--12 miles NE of our waypoint on the NW corner of Manihi, and set the boat up to "Heave To". This is a maneuver that, when correctly done, sets the boat up at a comfortable attitude to the waves and wind, without actually sailing. And minimizes drift to leeward. We have actually never done this before on Soggy Paws. But it is taught in the ASA Sailing classes, so I have actually done it once or twice in another boat.

According to information we got from another CSY owner, we should be able to heave to easily with a reefed main and the staysail. So Dave triple-reefed the main and we set the staysail up, and tried to heave to in the normal fashion--with the staysail backed to windward, the helm hard over, and the main somewhere in the middle. Well, with 5-8 kts of wind, our big boat with all its windage, and such tiny tiny sails, it didn't work very well. There's not enough force on the sails or motion through the water for the rudder to keep the nose pointed ~60 degrees to the wind, like it is supposed to. We essentially were 'laying ahull'. Not unpleasant, but not the desired maneuver. The solution would be (we think) to put a little more sail area up, but that's too much trouble, according to my chief reefer.

The second problem, besides the too-small main, is that we have a little over a half a knot of current pushing us west. So if we just drift, heave to, or lay ahull, we will end up 6-8 miles downwind of where we are--not really where we want to be.

So we decided to stick with the minimal sail theme, but actually sail along as close-hauled as we can hold it, which somewhat counter-acts the current. The compass says we are currently sailing on a course of about 110 degrees (ESE), but the GPS says we are actually a making a track of about 185 degrees (S) at just under 1 knot. The large difference between where we're pointed and where we're actually going is mostly because of the current.

The GPS says we'll arrive at our waypoint at about 9am. So sometime around sunrise, we'll put up some more sail and try to be outside the pass at about 7:30am. High tide is supposed to be about 7:30, and the slack is about an hour after that. We don't have to wait for full slack to go in. We can manage with a knot or two of current, as long as there's enough daylight to pick out the coral heads. The channel is well marked and we have plenty of waypoints from our friends who have preceeded us.

Can't wait to finally get the anchor down!!
Sherry & Dave

At 5/20/2011 6:59 AM (utc) our position was 14°15.57'S 146°01.88'W

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 19

Miles today: 123 Miles Behind Us: 2,265
Miles to go: 121 (approx 1 more day)
Wind ESE at 9 kt Seas 3'
Sailing S at 5.3kt - Full main, Full Genoa, Staysail

We had another good night last night and good day today. As of 8am this morning, we were making 6.5 knots and counting our chickens on arriving at Manihi in time to get inside the lagoon before dark tomorrow night. However, the wind slacked off during the day, and we couldn't keep our speed up without turning on the engine. Dave and I then had a heart-to-heart conversation of both the wisdom of motoring for 24 hrs to make it in before dark, and the folly of going in to an unknown place on the wrong tide at sunset. We decided NOT to start the engine, and just accept that we'll have to hang out overnight tomorrow night, just outside our destination, waiting for daylight. Under the current conditions (light winds and slight seas), it's no big deal to spend another night outside. It isn't worth risking the boat, or spending $200 on diesel fuel, to get in 12 hrs sooner.

The wind picked up a little this evening, boosting our speed again to the 6 knot range. Again tantalizing us with 'maybe we can make it'. We'll see, but probably not.

Dinner tonight was a delicious stir-fry, again served with the table up and real plates and knives and forks. We ate dinner in the cockpit and watched a spectacular moon rise. It's going to be another beautiful night in the South Pacific.

I just finished another good book. This one is Lost on Planet China by Maarten Troost--the same guy that wrote The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Maarten goes to China, travels around a lot, and writes an interesting travelogue and fairly insightful commentary on China today. Now I'm reading In Retrospect by Robert McNamara--a look back at the mistakes made regarding our involvement in Vietnam while McNamara was Secretary of Defense. My varied reading selection is a result of an outstanding book swap at the Rainbow Bay Marina in Pearl Harbor. The book swap was in the Laundry Room, so every time I did laundry, I had a couple of hours to browse the selection. The table and shelves were always overflowing with books, so I helped myself. No time to read while in port--I am now catching up. Unfortunately, my bag of fiction books is LOB (Lost on Board) somewhere in the V-berth, so I have been reading through the non-fiction selection.

Having plenty of time to read has always been one of the things I love about cruising--ever since spending summers on my Dad's boat cruising the Bahamas (many, many years ago!).
At 5/19/2011 6:38 AM (utc) our position was 12°41.63'S 146°20.81'W

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 18

Miles today: 129 Miles Behind Us: 2,141
Miles to go: 242 (approx 2 more days)
Wind E at 9 kt Seas 3'
Sailing S at 5.3kt - Full main, Full Genoa, Staysail

It doesn't get any better than this! Since the wind came up at 7pm last night, we've been sailing, averaging 5+ knots. This in a time where the wind forecast was for 7-8 knots and we expected to be motoring. (Thank you, weather fairy!)

We started out last night with the big light-air Code Zero, but about 4:30am the wind had come up enough that it was getting to be too much for the Code Zero. So Dave woke me up and we rolled it in, and rolled out the slightly smaller, but much heavier construction, genoa. We averaged about 5.5 knots all night, and about 5 knots all day. The wind slacked off a little about mid-morning, but has still held in the 10 knot range.

This is really pleasant sailing!! Wind just right, seas not bad, sunny skies during the day, full moon at night.

Our full moon story for tonight is that Dave said "Sherry, we have a ship on the horizon." Just about dusk. He was kind of freaked out, because (a) our AIS didn't go off and (b) it appeared and got closer pretty fast. However, a minute later he laughed and said "It's just the moon again.". The moon rising was partially blocked by clouds on the horizon, and only 3 bits of bright moonlight were showing through--looking just like a freighter not very far away.

We are hoping we might be able to make it in to Manihi before dark on Thursday. It will be a little dicey going in late in the day--the slack current on Thursday afternoon is going to be about 1pm and then not again until 7pm (after dark)--so if we arrive about 4:30pm, the current in the pass will be at max flood--running in to an unknown harbor with a 4kt current, late in the day with poor light... I'm not crazy about the idea, but Dave thinks it's no big deal, and he's got 'barn syndrome' really bad. We do have several friends who have gone in in the last few days, with waypoints, and the offer of a 'pilot' costing about $30, if we want it. Or we can hang out overnight and come in on the morning slack the next day.

The wind forecast keeps saying it should be lighter than what we're seeing, and if the wind dies, we'll probably just slow down and sail in, arriving Friday morning.

On the domestic front... With the mild conditions, I did laundry today in a 5 gallon bucket. I am running out of underwear--after 18 days underway, I am on my last pair today. We dress minimally at sea, but underwear is mandatory (for me). I keep a 2 week supply on hand, but this passage, our longest ever, has exhausted that.

We had a nice barbecued pork loin (in the oven), mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables for dinner tonight. Though we ate the last of the brocolli and fresh green beans tonight, we still have quite a few fresh fruits and veggies packed away in the fridge--celery, green peppers, carrots, tomatoes, avocados, cabbage, lettuce, and apples. Plus onions, potatoes, garlic, and bananas in bins outside the fridge. My practice of washing everything in a mild chlorine solution, air drying, and then wrapping each item in a paper towel and storing in a 'green bag', seems to be working well. I am not sure the science behind the 'green bags', but they work for me.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/18/2011 7:17 AM (utc) our position was 10°44.02'S 146°27.05'W

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 17

Miles today: 135 Miles Behind Us: 2,012
Miles to go: 366 (approx 3-4 more days)
Wind ESE at 9 kt Seas Calm
Sailing S at 5.0kt - Full main, Code Zero

We motored all night last night in basically no-wind conditions. This morning, we spent about an hour moving 45 gallons of diesel fuel from 4 jugs on deck into the main tank. We also rigged up our big Code Zero sail. And we finally shook the last reef out of the mainsail. With the full Main and Code Zero, we have almost 1500 sq feet of sail area. If only we had some wind!

Still, the wind was too light to sail at a reasonable speed, so we kept motorsailing. By midafternoon, the wind dropped to the point where we couldn't even keep the 3oz Code Zero full. An hour later, the wind died completely and it was literally like a millpond--completely glassy as far as the eye could see.

Just at sunset, we saw a really weird phenomenon. At first, Dave thought it looked like a breaking reef (about 45 degrees off our port bow). Unless there's some unexpected sub-oceanic volcanic activity, there's no way it could be a breaking reef. I keep telling him it was reflections off the clouds, on the glassy sea. Then a couple of minutes later, it looked like a UFO in the same spot. A very bright glowing on the water. Or, maybe a giant squid phosphorescing just under the surface. Really really REALLY weird. We could not figure out what it was, even with the binoculars. And it wasn't moving. wooo-ooo-oooo. Dave proposed that we motor over and check it out. But I said "Heck no!"

Well, it turned out to be the bright full moon--hidden from us just behind a cloud, but shining brightly and reflecting on the water. Whew! Pretty!! And the sunset in the other direction was gorgeous too. I took a picture of both the moon rise and the sunset, but not sure how well they turned out.

The best thing of the whole day happened at dinnertime. Just as we started eating a delicious taco salad, the wind came up. I wanted to leap up and put the Code Zero out immediately, but Dave insisted on finishing dinner first.

The wind has held--at least long enough to get the big sail out and the engine off. Wow, peace and quiet for the first time in 2 days!

The forecast isn't looking very promising. The highest wind in the next 3 days is 10 knots. And the average is about 8 knots. So I guess we'll have to be a little less choosy about what wind we sail in.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/17/2011 5:29 AM (utc) our position was 08°29.08'S 146°30.00'W


It figures that after everything else, we would get becalmed 3-4 days from our destination. However, we left Hawaii with a large supply of diesel fuel, so, for now, it is "Mr Perkins to the Rescue!".

There isn't even enough wind, with us motoring, to keep our big genoa full (it is built too heavily). So we may actually break down and put up our 'Code Zero'--an even bigger 3oz Dacron roller furling sail. This is the sail that rescued us in the 8 days of calm on our way to Ecuador.

However, we have serious 'barn syndrome' now. After seeing the difference in arrival time when dividing the miles to go by 5.5-6 knots vs 3-4 knots, it may be hard to get Dave to turn the engine off.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/16/2011 5:12 PM (utc) our position was 07°28.55'S 146°33.27'W

Monday, May 16, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 16

Miles today: 121 Miles Behind Us: 1,877
Miles to go: 492 (approx 5 more days)
Wind E at 5 kt Seas Calm
Motorsailing SSE at 5.5kt - 1 reef in the main, staysail

At approximately 8:30pm last night, we gave up trying to sail and turned the engine on. We've been motorsailing ever since. Most of the night, we had some wind, and so left all the sails up. This morning, the wind went to nothing and we reeled in the genoa. By late this afternoon, the sea was glassy.

We motored through some nasty looking cloud banks--but got neither wind nor rain out of them. We even changed course once to try to motor through a shower, but by the time we got there, it was gone. We are really salty, and could use a good rain water rinse.

Though we hate the noise and the expense of running the engine, it is so much more civilized traveling this way... rather than sailing 'on our ear' and bouncing through the waves, splashing salt water everywhere. And we are going faster than we have been going, bashing to windward--mainly because the big seas really kill our speed.

This afternoon, Dave un-pickled the watermaker, which has been laid up since we got to Hawaii. In a little over 2 hours of motoring, we made 90 gallons of beautiful fresh RO water. That is about 12 days of water for us. We carry a total of 170 gallons of water, and always maintain about 40 gallons in reserve. We normally use about 7 gallons a day, and our watermaker makes 40 gallons an hour, so running it an hour once a week keeps us in plenty of fresh water.

The last boat out here with us, Reflections, is arriving at Manihi tomorrow morning. We will still be a couple of more days--probably arriving Friday morning.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/16/2011 5:32 AM (utc) our position was 06°24.07'S 146°41.94'W

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 15

Miles today: 94 Miles Behind Us: 1,756
Miles to go: 608 (approx 6 more days)
Wind ENE at 9 kt Seas ESE at 2'
Sailing SSE at 4kt - 1 reef in the main, staysail, full genoa

Ahhh... why can't it always be like this?? (Well, it wouldn't be very good if we were trying to go downwind). But for us, right now, hard on the wind, today couldn't have been better. Most of the day we had about 12 knots of wind, and made very nice progress right in the direction we wanted to go. The conditions remain sunny with little white puffy clouds.

Late in the afternoon our perfect wind started to get a little lighter and go NE, of all directions we didn't expect. I was off watch and Dave was reading in the cockpit and not paying attention, and the wind vane got confused and we spent about 2 hours drifting SW. Fortunately I woke up before we lost too much easting, and got us back on course. We almost turned on the engine, but decided to wait until after dinner.

The wind has come back a little and now we are now sailing nicely SSE at almost 5 knots in nearly calm seas. Yay!! It is nice when we have calmer seas, because we can open our hatches and get some ventilation down below. It gets pretty hot down below when we have to keep everything closed up tight because of the seas.

We have nearly a full moon out tonight, and we had a nice 'real' dinner in the cockpit, with the table up, plates and silverware and everything. I fixed a delicious sauteed lamb with mint jelly, fresh spinach, and a baked potato. Yummmm!! This is only our second 'sit down at the table' meal in 2 weeks. In more boisterous conditions we have a couple of heavy bowls with handles on them, and we've been eating mostly 'stoup' (stew/soup)--easy to fix, easy to digest, and easy to clean up after.

We have been trying out a new watch schedule on this trip, lengthening the nighttime watches to 6 hours each. This gives us each one long block of time where we can get a really good sleep. So our schedule now is roughly this:

7pm-1am - Sherry on Watch
1am-7am - Dave on Watch
7-11 - Sherry on Watch
12-4 - Dave on Watch

We are usually both awake from 8-9am, 11:30-1:30, and 4-7pm. This has been working well for us. It is certainly significantly better than our original (4 years ago) 3 hr watches, from a sleep perspective.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/15/2011 5:48 AM (utc) our position was 04°28.09'S 147°14.89'W

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 14

Miles today: 97 Miles Behind Us: 1,662
Miles to go: 705 (approx 7 more days)
Wind SE at 15 kt Seas SE at 6'
Sailing S at 4.5kt - 1 reef in the main, staysail, 1/2 genoa

The wind came up to the 15-20 knot range today, and more southeast than we would like. We spent all day crashing to windward, with the genoa partly furled to keep us from burying the bow in the building waves. Every time we hit a wave, a wall of water washes down the deck, we stop dead in the water, and the bow slides off down wind.

We are really sweating whether we'll be able to make it to Manihi without spending an extra day or two out here trying to tack eastward. For most of the day we were only able to make good 195 degrees--at that angle we will miss Manihi and end up in Tahiti (220 miles west of Manihi). I spent hours in the cockpit today tweaking sails and our course, trying to get that last little bit of speed and pointing out of our big heavy cruising boat. Just this once I wish we had a boat with a 7' keel.

At dusk, the wind eased a little, and went a little more east and we are almost able to point toward Manihi again. The forecast shows a few days of SE winds (not good), a couple of days of E winds (good) and some really light winds (not bad--we don't mind motoring).

Our little weather angel tells us we are clear of all the ITCZ stuff just in time--there's a big nasty system laying right across where we went through just a few days ago. Now if we can just get our weather angel to conjure up a week of East winds at 10-12 knots, we'd be in Fat City.

I finished another good book today, A Voyage in the Sunbeam. This is a firsthand account of one of the first cruising families to circumnavigate--Lord and Lady Brassy, in 1876. The Sunbeam was a custom-built yacht of 530 tons, and they took their 4 children, 2 dogs, 3 birds, and a kitten on an 11-month trip around the world. The entourage that went with them totalled 40 people, including a doctor, kitchen staff, 19 sailing crew, 4 engine crew, and 7 'personal servants'. Pretty amazing stuff.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/14/2011 7:02 AM (utc) our position was 02°58.46'S 147°17.70'W

Friday, May 13, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 13

Miles today: 107 Miles Behind Us: 1,563
Miles to go: 780 or 850 (approx 7-8 more days)
Wind ESE at 10 kt Seas ESE at 2' with a SE 8' long-period swell
Sailing S at 4.5kt - 1 reef in the main, staysail, full genoa

About 5am Dave had to turn on the engine because the wind got too light. But the light spell only lasted a couple of hours, and at 8am we were able to turn the engine off and sail again.

Nice sailing again today, except that we lost the NE wind--replaced by an ESE wind. Still nice sailing, but we are now only able to sail straight south. We didn't make it all the way east to 145 degrees longitude as we had hoped--we are only at 147, and currently not able to sail any further east without t-t-tacking. We are mulling over the alternatives and the weather forecast. Our distance to go reflects that uncertainty.

Our destination, Manihi Atoll in the Tuamotus, is now bearing 175 degrees. Right now, with the current wind (ESE), the best course we can sail is about 185 degrees.

The wind forecast for the next week is for only 9-13 kts varying between E to ESE. If that holds (we'll check the forecast again in the morning), we can probably just keep sailing the best course we can make, and cross our fingers that we can make Manihi without a tack. We will be very hard on the wind the whole way, but in light winds, that's not too bad. There are several light spells forecast in which we might end up motoring anyway. And, we can always throw in that tack the last day, if we need to.

The only thing that would really be bad, is if the forecast is wildly wrong, and we end up having to try to tack east in 25 knots of wind.

Our friends on Infini made it to Manihi today, and Sea Flyer plans to arrive tomorrow. They both left 10 days ahead of us. We are highly envious, as we are REALLY READY for this 'adventure' to be over with!!!

The good news is, this will be the last really long passage for the next couple of years. From here to Tonga, the next longest passage is only about 500 miles.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/13/2011 6:39 AM (utc) our position was 01°19.98'S 147°03.71'W

Back in the South Pacific

We crossed the equator last night at 00:19 Central South Pacific Boat Time. We crossed at latitude 147-35.44W.

Dave was off watch asleep. I woke him up a few minutes ahead of time, so we could do the proper ceremonies to Neptune.

We also took this momentous opportunity to cast a few ashes of a good friend of Dave's, as we crossed the equator. Henry "Mike" Mikelait, whom our windvane is named after, is finishing his final lap around the world aboard Soggy Paws. We have instructions from his daughters to leave a little of Mike in his favorite places around the world as we go.

Welcome to the South Pacific again, Mike.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/12/2011 5:24 PM (utc) our position was 00°22.89'S 147°15.38'W

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 12

Miles today: 112 Mile Behind Us: 1,458
Miles to go: 901 (approx 8 more days)
Wind ENE at 9 kt Seas ENE at 2' with a SE 8' long-period swell
Sailing SE at 5kt - 1 reef in the main, staysail, full genoa

Since we turned the engine off this morning, the wind has stayed pretty steady at about 070 at 8-10 kts all day. We've been sailing between 3-5 knots steadily southeastward. We are currently aiming for a waypoint at 02-30S / 145W. Once we get there, we should be far enough east to turn south and start heading for Manihi. But this waypoint is still 2 days away, and the wind could die or turn SE on us at any time.

We have thankfully picked up the east-bound current that Winnie the Weather Guru foretold. Every little half a knot helping us eastward is good. It should stick with us (and get stronger) for the next day or two, until about 2 or 3 South. Winnie also said that our current fair weather conditions should hold for another day or two.

Now that we're in the lighter winds, we're getting enough sleep and eating well. Dave finally shaved his 10 days of stubble off yesterday. I got a picture of him before he shaved it off, and hope to back-post it here someday.

We had a pleasant sunset with a real sit-down meal (Baked Salmon, Couscous, Canned Corn). Except "Henry" (the wind vane steering) tacked us in the middle of dinner. He has been rock solid all day but just in the last hour or two has drifted off in one direction or another. We're not sure exactly what's causing it--maybe too much genoa and not enough main. Dave (who doesn't want to shake the last reef out of the main) thinks it is the large swell. We had to start the engine to drive us around in a circle and get back on course (easier than actually tacking the sails twice).

So that was the big excitement for today on Soggy Paws.

It looks like we might cross the equator in the middle of the night sometime tonight. It's hard to tell exactly when because we are heading SE. As our course and speed changes (with the changing wind), our ETA at the '00' point changes drastically.

We'd hoped to cross over during the day--Dave wants to heave-to and go swimming in 15,000 feet on the equator.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/12/2011 6:21 AM (utc) our position was 00°12.45'N 147°46.28'W

Motoring at 10 Cents a Minute

The wind died last night about 1am, so Dave turned on the engine. We were making pretty good time under sail until then.

With the price of diesel pushing $6/gallon in French Polynesia... motoring has gotten kind of expensive. At 1 gallon per hour, or $6/hour, that's 10 cents a minute!!

This morning at 7am, the wind was back, and also out of the direction we wanted--NE. It is only 10 knots, but with our huge genoa, we are averaging about 5 kts, and going in the right direction. We are finally using the entire genoa, but still have 1 reef in the mainsail--mostly because we are lazy.

We'll keep this up--motoring when it gets too light, and sailing when it's right--until we get through the variables and into the SE Trades (a couple of days at least). We are still heading as east as we can--hoping to reach at least 146 West before we head for Manihi. (Our friends who left from Hilo went all the way to 141-20 before they headed south--they have been able to ease their sheets a lot on the trip to Manihi, and would have been able to reach the Marquesas without too much trouble, if they'd had time to visit there. But they spent a day or two tacking east of Hawaii to get that far east).
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/11/2011 9:30 PM (utc) our position was 00°38.69'N 148°12.64'W

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 11

Miles today: 118 Mile Behind Us: 1,234
Miles to go: 1,002 (approx 8 more days)
Wind ESE at 10-12 kt Seas ESE at 3-4'
Sailing SSE at 5kt - 1 reef in the main, staysail, 2/3 genoa

We had an absolutely gorgeous day aboard Soggy Paws. The wind has been 10-12 knots all day, the sky is mostly clear with no threatening clouds in the last 24 hours. This is the kind of passage-making that everyone dreams about! (and which actually happens oh-so-seldom!)

We spent a lot of the mid-day period today (when both Dave and I are awake) playing with sails. The wind is light, and we are still hard on the wind. We're trying to maximize speed and our pointing ability, while retaining comfort. As I told my friend who emailed me, kidding me about all my sail trimming ("You're not racing." he said), on a passage this long, the difference between 5 knots and 5.5 knots is 2 whole days!! And the difference between making a course of 160 degrees vs 165 degrees is possibly missing your destination by 200 miles.

You would think that after 15,000 miles, we would have it all down pat. But this point of sail--hard on the wind--is our least favorite, and we avoid it like the plague. Whenever it's possible, we wait for the wind to drop and motor like hell to get where we are going upwind. Though the CSY 44 is a very sturdy boat, it's not particularly fantastic going to windward, and ours, with the Tall Mast and Shoal Draft, is worse than others. We are also still somewhat inexperienced when it comes to sailing with the Monitor wind vane (our self-steering mechanism).

So we had fun experimenting--let a little genoa out... did that help? Nope. How about sheet the main in? Nope? How about let the main out? etc. Achieving 'balance' on a sailboat is always a little challenging. Especially one as big as ours, where you can't really feel the changes in the helm, and the little burst of speed you get when you do the right thing, is delayed, and/or masked by wind and wave action. And our problem is compounded by the fact that Dave's new sails are too big for the boat. So we keep them reefed in most conditions. This alters the designed center of effort, and the boat balance isn't as easy to achieve as might otherwise be possible.

Anyway, we had fun--we're going to windward as close as we ever have, still going 5 knots in 10 kts of wind. And the best part is, we're hardly heeling at all. And "Henry" is happy and steering well. The nice conditions enabled me to make a nice dinner tonight--shrimp scampi. All is well aboard.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/11/2011 5:50 AM (utc) our position was 01°37.71'N 148°49.03'W

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 10

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 118
Mile Behind Us: 1,234
Miles to go: 1,108 (approx 8-9 more days)
Wind E at 10-12 kt
Seas E at 3'
Sailing SSE at 5kt - 2 reefs in the main, staysail, 2/3 genoa

We had another big squall hit last night at 9:30pm--almost the same time as the previous night. Dave had a couple more small squalls pass by on his watch from 1am-7am.

But this morning, the daylight revealed a beautiful tropical morning--blue skies with small puffy clouds. Wind about 12-15kts. We have had a great day of sailing.

We passed the halfway mark early this morning. We are still a long way from Kansas!!

The wind is starting drop, so we've nearly got our whole genoa out, but are really enjoying sailing quietly along at 5kt. By tomorrow the wind is forecast to be less than 10 kts. The wind has gone more E than NE, and so we are struggling to make our waypoint. We'll decide once we get to the really light air whether we need to motor east for a bit to get set up for the right angle to make our destination of Manihi.

Our friends on Infini caught an 80lb yellowfin tuna yesterday. Wow! We talked about putting a line out today, but Dave has added a new one to his list of excuses "I don't want to catch one too big." Maybe tomorrow.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/10/2011 6:10 AM (utc) our position was 03°24.00'N 149°02.30'W

Monday, May 9, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 9

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 114
Mile Behind Us: 1,116
Miles to go: 1,220 (approx 9-10 more days)
Wind NE at 12-15 kt
Seas NE at 7'
Sailing SE at 5.5kt - 2 reefs in the main, staysail, 1/3 genoa

At 9:30 last night, we got hit by a big squall with gusts to 30 knots. I was reading in the cockpit and not paying enough attention, so the 25 knot opening blast was a bit of surprise. But within a minute or two, I had the genoa completely furled. Dave came up and we eventually furled some of the staysail too, and eased the main a little. We were fine. The accompanying rain was nice--it washed all the accumulated salt off.

After the squall passed, the wind got pretty light and shifty. I spent the next several hours on my watch cranking the sails in and out as the squalls passed. Fortunately, none were as bad as the first one. But I played it pretty conservatively, so we had a pretty slow night. When Dave took over at 1am, we were down to about 2.5 knots, so we decided to crank up the engine. Dave had a pretty uneventful night on his watch, with the genoa furled and the engine on.

When I took over for Dave in the morning, the wind had come back. So I shut down the engine and we've been sailing along 'smartly' ever since. Still dodging a few squalls, but nothing really bad. Nice trade-wind conditions.

It looks like we may have skated through the dreaded ITCZ. Winnie the Weather Guru tells me "Your entire path to French Polynesia is now free and clear, maybe some clouds and low topped showers, but I don't see any BFSs lurking about". (BFS is our term for Big Fat Squalls).

The boats ahead of us (Infini, Sea Flyer, and Reflections) are reporting good conditions in the South Pacific. Kind of like "Ahhhh!" Looking forward to getting there ourselves!
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/9/2011 5:10 AM (utc) our position was 05°11.85'N 149°49.76'W

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 8

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 132
Mile Behind Us: 1002
Miles to go: 1,327 (approx 10-11 more days)
Wind NE at 12-15 kt
Seas NE at 6'
Sailing SE at 5.3kt - 2 reefs in the main, staysail, 1/3 genoa

We had another pretty good day of sailing--mostly sunny, mostly steady tradewind conditions. We pulled out a little more of our genoa and averaged 5.5 knots for the last 24 hours. Fairly respectable considering we are still pretty hard on the wind, and HEAVILY laden.

Conditions were reasonable enough that we finally got "Henry", our wind-vane steering system hooked up and steering. "Janet", our electric autopilot has been doing a great job, but Janet takes electricity, and Henry only uses wind power. Though we had Henry mostly rigged when we left Pearl Harbor, the first 2 days of motoring and the past 5 days of rough conditions, kept us from climbing out on the stern platform to finish the setup.

Our friend Winnie the Weather Guru has been watching the big picture weather for us. She warned us of a big "blob" on the ITCZ that we need to be concerned about (that's a technical weather term). It is really difficult crossing the ITCZ without getting slammed. Weather systems just appear and disappear around the equator, and no one can forecast them. The only method is to watch the satellite photos, which Winnie is doing for us. We are hoping we can thread our way between the two blobs in our path.

This time of year, the ITCZ (aka the Doldrums) is moving from it's wintertime position at about 5 degrees South latitude to it's summertime position about 8 degrees North latitude. And right now, there's ITCZ-like activity both north and south of the Equator. Our friends on Infini, who thought they were in the clear, got slammed yesterday and today with some horrendous convective activity. It will take us 5 or 6 days til we are completely clear ourselves.

Dave is feeling nearly himself today. He made lunch for the first time on this trip, got on the radio, and did some small maintenance tasks around the boat.

We finally are getting close enough to the Tuamotus to pick up a new cruiser net we just heard about. Called the South Pacific Cruiser's Net, on 6224Mhz at 0230 UTC (4:30 Tuamotus time). We are finally hooking up with the main body of the Pacific Puddle Jump group who left Mexico 6-8 weeks ago.

With not much to do while on watch, I've been reading about a book a day. Today's book: The Sex Lives of Cannibals. It's a true account about a guy and his wife who take a job on Tuvalu, a tiny atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Well-written and funny. Tuvalu is in the Gilbert Islands (part of Kiribati), and we may well stop there on our way from Fiji to the Marshall Islands next year.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/8/2011 5:26 AM (utc) our position was 06°46.28'N 150°41.58'W

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 7

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 112
Mile Behind Us: 870
Miles to go: 1,457 (approx 11-12 more days)
Wind NE at 15-18 kt
Seas NE at 6'
Sailing SE at 5.3kt - 2 reefs in the main, staysail, scrap of genoa

Well, after the worst night we've had, we had the best day we've had on this trip. This morning dawned clear and sunny. The wind dropped just a little bit. The waves spaced out a little. And we had reasonable sailing most of the day. Amazing the difference a few knots of wind makes.

Just before he took his evening shower, Dave went out on deck to check on things--inspecting the rigging and other stuff on deck. He only found a couple of minor issues. The cover on our anchor windlass had come off--one explanation for the larger than normal amounts of water we had in the bilge. Even though I was trying to slow down while he was out on deck, Dave still got hit by one big wave while he was on the bow. (Hence doing the inspection BEFORE his shower).

We saw one fishing boat today. The AIS beeped when it entered our 'guard zone' at 15 miles. It was a 115 foot fishing boat from Japan. At first, it didn't look like we were going to come at all close to him, but he stopped and sat drifting almost right in our path. They did not answer our radio calls on the VHF. But he didn't move as we sailed past. Dave thinks he was maybe parked there on purpose--protecting one end of his net from us. We eventually passed in 1/2 mile away. We could track him on the AIS for several more hours--he was 26 miles away before we quit receiving his AIS signal.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/7/2011 5:34 AM (utc) our position was 08°33.78'N 151°52.89'W

Where is this wind coming from?

We had the worst night ever last night. Though the skies are mostly clear--no real visible squalls--just passing clouds--the wind has been up and down to 25 knots all night. We spent the whole night with the genoa completely furled, and the staysail partly furled--and still going too fast for comfort. Neither of us got much sleep.

This wind is not reflected on the weather forecasts, and there are 'no significant features' on the surface map. We expected to have LIGHTER winds once we got south of 10 degrees north latitude.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/6/2011 5:19 PM (utc) our position was 09°25.13'N 152°22.09'W

Friday, May 6, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 6

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 126
Mile Behind Us: 758
Miles to go: 1,565 (approx 12-13 days)
Wind ENE at 15-20 kt
Seas ENE at 6-8'
Sailing SE at 5.3kt - 2 reefs in the main, staysail, scrap of genoa

Today was much better than the last two days--mostly sunny with no squalls. However, the wind is still up and down, so we're constantly having to trim to keep us moving as fast as possible, as close to the wind as possible, without totally burying the bow in the big waves. Just about the time we get everything trimmed up just right, the wind changes and we have to re-trim all over again.

For those of you wondering what we eat in conditions like this... we have been having a hard boiled egg and some fruit for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and stew or soup for dinner. I pre-cooked several days worth of stew before we left, and also pre-cooked a bunch of chicken and froze it in meal-sized ziplock bags. So it's easy to make a 'hearty chicken soup' with a few bits of fresh veggies, Ramen noodles, and chopped up chicken. When in calms down as we get closer to the equator, we'll have a few more normal meals, and then go back to easy meals for the last leg into Manihi.

We still haven't seen any ships--either visually, or on the AIS. But we're not positive the newly-installed AIS is working correctly. As we were leaving Honolulu, our friends on Windy City said they couldn't see us transmitting from 7 miles away, though we could see THEM. We think we're receiving OK, because I had 20 targets while we were in the vicinity of Honolulu, and our last target as we left Hawaii we were receiving from 24 miles away.

We are hoping it's just an installation issue--we installed the new AIS with a fancy splitter to use the mast-top antenna for the VHF, did a quick transmitter check with a boat down the dock, and didn't do any more testing. Neither the AIS or VHF seem to be transmitting properly (any distance), but we've been in too boisterous conditions to check anything out further. The AIS does have a built-in SWR warning, which is NOT being displayed.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/5/2011 9:45 PM (utc) our position was 10°47.78'N 153°04.45'W

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 5

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 127
Miles to go: 1,715 (approx 13-14 days)
Wind ENE at 15-25 kt
Seas ENE at 6-8'
Sailing SE at 5.3kt - 2 reefs in the main, staysail, scrap of genoa

The cloud cover showed signs of breaking up at little this afternoon, and the sat pic I just received confirms that we should be coming out of it soon. But we're still getting squalls.

The good thing is that it looks like the ITCZ is not looking too active ahead of us. But we still have 2 weeks of hard-on-the-wind sailing ahead of us.

We have found lots of new leaks as the waves crash over us and occasionally engulf the deck. We can stay reasonably dry in almost everything except the worst of the squalls, as long as we can keep the boat speed under about 5 kts. Faster than that and we punch some of these steep, closely-spaced waves and send a wall of water washing down the deck. However, keeping the boat speed under 5kts is s-l-o-w and extends our trip by 1-2 days. We are shooting for 5.5 knots, which is fine until a squall comes by, then the wind increases and our speed goes to 6.5 knots, and the waves get bigger. Then we take a big one.

Dave made me reef in a little when a big wave dribbled cold salt water on him while he slept on the couch in the salon.

Are we there yet?
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/5/2011 6:47 AM (utc) our position was 11°57.23'N 153°34.58'W

Snotty Weather

Our little squall at sunset last night has turned into a steady stream of squalls all night long and lasting into the morning.

The wind varies between 15 and 25 knots, and it is challenging to keep the boat moving without going crazy when the squalls hit. Fortunately they are not Florida-thunderstorm-60kt type squalls--but bad enough. The sat pic shows this persisting until about 10N (another 160 miles)--we won't be out of it until sometime tomorrow.

The satellite picture (a 3-4 minute download on the Iridium sat phone of a tiny B/W sat pic) shows we are under a band of clouds that looks like a trailing end of a front or trough. It doesn't show on any weather map we have, and the GRIB files say the wind today should be 15-17kt. Ha!

We're also watching a blob of weather down near the equator (02N 142W)--though we're still about 700 miles/5-6 days from the equator, we need to track the movements of the major bad areas to make sure we avoid where it's going to be.

Our friends on Infini, who left about 10 days ahead of us, just crossed the equator last night. They are motoring again in light winds, and seem to mostly be clear of the ITCZ.

Here's the sat pic we are able to download at sea, using the Iridium (its ~82K)

A much better one can be found here:

The upper right picture on this page is a pretty nice sat pic if you have reasonable internet.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/4/2011 9:42 PM (utc) our position was 12°41.27'N 153°48.30'W

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 4

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 129
Miles to go: 1,837*
Wind ENE at 15-20 kt
Seas ENE at 6-8'
Sailing SE at 5.5kt - 2 reefs in the main, staysail, scrap of genoa

* I added an intermediate waypoint to more closely approximate our planned route, and that increased our miles to go.

We had a pretty good day today. The wind was more in the 15 knot range, and so the seas were not so bad. So we let out a little more sail and went a little faster.

Late in the day we got into a cloudy area and had a couple of minor squalls with winds to 25 knots. We saw them coming and got the sail in in time, so no big deal. Nice to have a little fresh water rinse.

Dave is feeling better, but still not 100%. Fortunately our autopilot is doing a great job, and the sail plan we have is easy for one person to manage. The double-reefed main is good to about 30 knots, and everything else is roller furling. It's slow for one person to crank our big genoa in, but do-able. The trick is to start BEFORE the winds get to 25 knots!
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/4/2011 6:05 AM (utc) our position was 13°52.27'N 154°28.78'W

Better Conditions Today

The wind has slacked 4-5 knots and gone a few more degrees to the north, and the seas are significantly less--not as high and not as closely spaced. We are still hard on the wind, but not crashing and bashing so much.

At 0840 Local / 18:40 UTC
Wind 070 at 16-18
Seas 6' mostly ENE
Skies 100% high overcast, some low clouds

We survived another night hard on the wind, and are 60 miles closer to our destination.

Our little fleet of boats is spread out over 600 miles between here and the equator, but we had a good copy on everyone this morning. Everyone is doing fine.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/3/2011 6:34 PM (utc) our position was 14°47.12'N 155°02.28'W

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 3

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 120
Miles to go: 1,898
Wind E at 15-20 kt
Seas E at 6-8'
Sailing SSE at 5.5kt - 2 reefs in the main, staysail, scrap of genoa

We have had a pretty wild last 24 hours. And though it feels worse, truthfully the wind has only been in the 20kt range all day. The seas have been pretty big, and confused. That, combined with the fact that we are hard on the wind, has made for another wet salty day.

Dave is still feeling a little queasy, so he slept most of the day. During my daytime watch, I had fun trimming sails, trying to combine speed with a comfortable ride in the right direction. As always with a triumvirate of goals, you can pick any two...

Dave, on the other hand, has one priority, and that's comfort. So when I go off watch, we slow down a knot and wallow around comfortably. He is happy with the idea that whatever easting we give up by easing the sheets, we'll make up down in the ITCZ (the doldrums), by motoring for a day to windward.

The forecast I got this morning promises a slight easing in the wind tomorrow. We can only hope!! (The forecasts in this area are not noted for their accuracy... it's pretty complex weather and very little input data for the models).
At 5/3/2011 6:01 AM (utc) our position was 15°46.16'N 155°24.72'W

Make it Stop

Dave's first comment to me this morning when I took over the watch was "Honey, please make it stop." He was only half kidding.

We've got relative winds of 20-25kts and we are hard on the wind. It is a very wet salty ride. Just going to the bathroom is an adventure.

But we've got the boat trimmed well, and it's pretty much sailing itself. We are snug and dry down below, except for popping out to check on things every 20 minutes or so--from the vantage of our fairly dry protected cockpit. So it could be a lot worse.

We knew this was going to be a bear of a trip, coming back, when we left French Polynesia for Hawaii. It should get better in a few days when we get closer to the equator.
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/2/2011 5:32 PM (utc) our position was 16°43.76'N 155°45.22'W

Monday, May 2, 2011

Enroute to the Tuamotus - Day 2

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 133
Miles to go: 2,015
Wind E at 15-20 kt
Seas E at 6-8'
Sailing SSE at 5.5kt - 2 reefs in the main, staysail, 1/3 genoa

We motored all night last night in light SE winds. By 6am we were 50 miles off South Point, the south end of the Big Island. As soon as we got near South Point, the wind started picking up at little. We finally had the genoa out and the engine off by 7am. We've been sailing ever since.

It has been an overcast and sloppy day. As expected, we got extra winds and seas from the 'South Point Effect' so for awhile it was pretty wild. Midday it wasn't too bad, but around sunset it got bad again (windier, and the seas get bigger). At dinner (stew I cooked several days ago, just for weather like this), we had 2 or 3 waves slam into us, and spray a good bit of water over the top of our big cockpit--this almost never happens. Fortunately, we are all buttoned up and dry in the cockpit, so we didn't get wet. We keep tweeking the roller furling genoa in and out--adjusting the size--trying to stay as fast as possible within a reasonable comfort zone, and keep adjusting for the changing wind conditions.

As I was writing this, things started to get quiet outside... I went up to check on 'Janet' (our autopilot) and we must have just crossed over into different weather. We got a 20 degree left shift, and the wind went down about 5 knots, and the seas are smoother too. This is all good! Hope this holds through the night.

It was so rough this evening that Dave is feeling queasy. He started with a Scopalomine patch 3 days ago, but it came off today. He didn't eat much dinner, but took a Stugeron (first time, we'll see how it works), and he's off watch and asleep til 1am. Hopefully he'll feel better by the time it's his watch again. He's usually over it after a couple of days. I am, as always, unaffected by the motion. I get to do dishes tonight!!

We're trying out a new watch system--6 hours each at night, so we have a chance at a decent sleep. Depends on what time we get through with the evening radio schedule and dinner--then we just split the time left til 7am.

We have 3 radio schedules a day... 8am and 5pm with the 3 other boats out here (Infini, Sea Flyer, Reflections), and then the Pacific Seafarer's Net at 5:30pm. The Pacsea Net is a dedicated bunch of ham radio operators across the Pacific--from the mainland US and Mexico all the way to NZ and Australia--who monitor boats on passage.

And.. we heard at the tail end of the Pacsea Net that they finally got Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. It was breaking news on the net, so I don't know many details, but it sounded like it was confirmed, and not a rumor. Yess!! Hmmm... reminds me that I forgot to turn back on the Reuters Headling News daily email before we left internet land...
Sherry & Dave
Headed South for French Polynesia

At 5/2/2011 6:15 AM (utc) our position was 17°35.39'N 156°11.68'W

Sunday, May 1, 2011

En Route to Tuamotus - Day 1

6pm Hawaii Time
Miles today: 120
Miles to go: 2,148
Wind ESE at 5-10 kt
Seas 3' confused
Motorsailing SE at 5kt

We finally escaped from Honolulu. It was a wonderful time and we really enjoyed it. Besides the exotic location and beautiful cultuer, we will so so miss all our friends on Oahu, especially those who hung out with us for sunsets on C Dock and Monday nights at Hawaii Yacht Club.

We got a lot of 'boat projects' done. Logistics are so much easier when you can pick up a phone and order something, when you have a car to get around town, and when you speak the same language as the people you are interfacing with.

Mid afternoon yesterday we were wavering--it clouded up and rained on and off all afternoon. Dave was feeling fatigued from getting up early, running all day to get ready, and the 'patch' he'd put on the night before. So while he took a short afternoon nap, I went in the water and took the bag off the prop (what's wrong with this picture??). Another rain shower--we were still wavering.

I was antsy to just get underway. Dave was leaning toward having some time to review his list one more time, getting a good night's sleep and leaving early in the morning. While this was logical, I didn't want to waste another 12 hours of a light wind weather window--to get some easting in an area that normally blows 18-25 kts out of the ENE--and to get south before it starts honking again. But the clincher was that we'd have to pay another $15 to spend another night. So we got underway at about 4:30pm local time yesterday.

When we made the decision to go, it looked like the rain was clearing, but we left in a light mist and got deluged right outside Pearl Harbor while we were putting the sails up. That wasn't a good start.

However, after that, it settled into a pretty nice night. We motorsailed for awhile, and then the wind came up and we were able to turn the motor off and sail right on course at a good speed for about half the night. The wind has been up and down all day (one of the down sides of a light weather window). But we'd rather use our 'iron genny' (the motor) than bash into heavy wind and seas.

We have been motorsailing all day in the light and variable winds in the 'lee' of the Hawaiian islands. By dawn tomorrow morning, we should be clear of the Big Island, and hopefully will have just the winds we're looking for--ENE at 15 kts.
Sherry & Dave
in Honolulu, Hawaii for the winter
At 5/1/2011 5:29 AM (utc) our position was 19°32.40'N 157°02.40'W