Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I see it, the Land of Beyond

I see it, the Land of Beyond

I was told of a place called the Land Of Beyond
A dream that lay beyond the gates of the day,
Of pastures it would seem, so lush and so green,
But ever so far away.
Half whispered its told, of a place where the bold
May dream to see, to touch and to breathe
But far this land lies, beyond the skirts of the skies
And farther than our known stars unfold.
Thus we set out, with never a doubt,
With a hope and a sail, the milky-way for a trail
Having left the land we are of so fond,
In search of this Land Of Beyond

28 days have been our toil, driven along under air foil
A lunar cycle we have been under sail
Led on, by a fairness never to fail.
In equatorial heat we have stewed,
Here, at sea where the silence is brood,
Searching these endless waves so long,
We've now skirted the skies and beyond.
In the vast desert of brine, we have surely put in our time,
Day in day out, but never a doubt,
Over crest of wave and trough, under heaven stars spawn,
Yearning for land to rise with the dawn.

We have been true to this trail, by wind, by wave and by sail,
We've earned this pride in our soul, that still mocks at our goal,
3000 miles we've come, our wake cannot be undone.
Out of this vast blue, it rises, could it be true?
I dare not to whisper, to speak its name I fear,
This mirage, before my eyes will disappear.

Nuku Hiva rises so tall, teaming with fresh water a fall,
Afar and agleam, many a valley a green,
More green it would seem, than one could dream,
And under sky blue, paradise thru and thru.
And what a vision to seek, a high, green beckoning peak
With a quiet and sheltered bay, where IO may peacefully lay
And rest for us without worry, having attained our sought after quarry.


So quietly on the wind did you hear, like a whisper on the breeze so near
Just beyond, at the brink of the dawn,
Is a place where beauty is beset with golden hue
Where coconut trees rise and loom, over aqua marine lagoon
Another place, yet not so far and is yet so new!
Alluring it lies, at the skirts of the skies,
So soon we'll be seeking like ever before,
Whether it be on this, or a far distant shore,
We have not yet found our match, still in our soul that itch to scratch,
That yearning like ever before.
And try how we will; it may be unattainable still,
With the sun, who rises at dawn, holding us ever true to our bond,
Who reveals to us, that search we must
For there is always always the next Land of Beyond.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 28 Land!

Position 08 55S 139 56 W, DMG 129 nm
We are 5 miles of the island of Nuku Hiva, Marquesas.
We are 12 miles from Taiohae bay were we will anchor for the night and clear customs tomorrow.
Tonight we sleep at anchor!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Syzygy position report.

As of 0200 UTC on April 25 Syzygys position sis as follows:
09 37 N 129 26W
We have spoken with Matt and Karen every day and all is well. They have started to sail South towards the ITCZ despite being a little early, but the conditions seem right. They say hi to the parents.
We also passed the message to Escapade from Brenda. I hope they received it and that all is well. I guess we will find out in a few days when they arrive at the islands.


Day 26-7

Day 26
Position 05 46S 137 01 W, DMG 116nm.
So close yet so far, drive IO Drive.
We are out the favorable west setting current but the sails are still full and pulling hard.
My mind waits to fill my senses with the smell, the sight, the feel of land.


Day 27
Position 07 25 S 138 22 W, DMG 127 nm.
Yesterday the thought of approaching landfall was exciting, today it just still seems so far. I have read and heard of accounts of sailors doing this passage where they are eager to get there for the first couple of weeks, then in the middle of the trip, they get into the rhythm of the passage and near the end they sometimes feel they don't want it to end. I have even heard of sailors slowing the boat down just to prolong the experience. I tell you that I'm going to be traveling at hull speed towards Taiohae beach when we drop the anchor! There is now way we are slowing down for anything! 130 NM to go.
At the current speed, we should make landfall tomorrow evening. Unfortunately it is considered bad seamanship and just plain dangerous to approach land in the dark, but the bay that we are going to is pretty strait forward with minimal hazards, so we just might attempt it.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Moitessier & Moi

Moitessier & Moi
This last week has been one of the most difficult times of my life. That sounds rather dramatic when really, I feel like I am not doing anything all day. Almost three weeks into this passage, I just could not deal with the fact that we had another week to go, perhaps longer. Beating into the wind for almost a week now, the intense heat and humidity paralyzed me. The constant heeling, pounding, jerking, bucking, and lurching motions made me think, 'this is simply inhabitable'. I would dread having to go on deck and getting tossed around and sprayed in salt water. I have managed to cook, clean, and function so far on most passages, but after spending almost an hour just on doing some dishes, I was ready to lose it. I braced myself with my four limbs, stomach, knees, elbows, and whichever else body part allowed to keep myself stable while making sure no knifes or forks makes a sudden move to turn into weapons. When something would go wrong, like a spill in the galley, after I'd exhausted my sigh of deaths, I'd break into tears. If you had me next to my three-year-old niece, I would not have looked any different than when she throws a temper tantrum. It's actually worse than that because mine is like the pathetic whimper, the kind that makes you think, gees, you really don't need to be crying. I'm actually quite disappointed with myself at how whiny I can be. Anyway, to make my point, I was hating life.

Yesterday, I picked up one of Moitessier's books. I don't know why... perhaps for inspiration. His writing is beautiful and his life legendary (well, maybe except for the fact that he ditched his wife and kids). He writes, "I've always had the feeling that for me, long passages deeply cleanse me of all the grime accumulated during a stay ashore. Once the coast disappears astern, a man alone before his creator can't remain apart from the natural forces around him. His body and mind, freed from earthly bondage and attachments, can find their essence and purity in the heart of those elements in nature that the ancients made into gods. Wind, Sun, and Sea, the sailor's divine Trinity." This is a man who uses expressions such as "making love to the lagoon that has seduced me" and "being at one with my boat". Without a boat, he feels "like a hermit crab without a shell". In my moments of despair and pathetic whimpers, the contrast seemed black and white clear to me. Let's face it, I'm no sailor. I'm not Moitessier and I'm no Lin Pardey, either. I'm just barely hanging on here. But it was also so refreshing to hear of pure joy, strong attraction, and passion. The last time I felt that kind of pure bliss was my climbing days - my early climbing days in Korea. So it must be that sailing is the medium through which Moitessier loved life. And for me, it was climbing.

With that difference put aside, Moitessier had something else to teach me. When talking about coping with hardships, he said, "I try never to look too far ahead. I heave to emotionally. It's a trick I learned from reading Monfreid. When everything is going wrong, you stop thinking, you just act on instinct, you just do what has to be done every day. And little by little, things become clear."

It is true that I tend to look ahead too far and overanalyze. Yeah, yeah, I've heard it all, live in the present moment and keep it simple. Maybe I had to reach rock bottom to come back up or maybe I was looking forward to the upcoming landfall, it does not matter. I tuned into a different frequency in my head and that's all it took. So what if it takes eleven more days to get there? Just do what has to be done every day. So today, I did.

I kept it simple. Monitor weather. Trim the sails and/or change as needed. Ah, stop bitching now. I hand-pumped the manual watermaker so that we can have freshwater to clean ourselves. I made an effort to eat something decent. After a while, the desire to live and feel alive kept growing and I felt more motivated. Just do what has to be done every day. That is how I coped.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 25

Position 04 07 S 136 01W. DMG 148 NM
Day 25, DAY 25! REALLY?
Still hard on the wind beating to weather but the wind has backed about 20 degrees so we can now shape a course to Nuku Hiva. Spray on deck with every other wave, beating to windward and pushing hard. We have been leaving the sails up far longer than they should be, driving IO hard. Salt is encrusting everything on deck, it dries between sprays in the searing noon day sun, then in the evening collects moisture to become a sticky greasy film on everything. We caught another Yellowfin tuna today; oddly it was on a hook that had no bait. I had been lazy about rebaiting the hook each morning since it has been so rough the past few days and was just dragging a bare hook. I guess that works too! Hyo cooked the tuna and made some ceviche all while the boat was bucking and lurching through and over each wave, heeled over 20 degrees. The fresh crispy onions, garlic and tangy lime juice was refreshing.
We have come 2497 nautical miles (4620 km) and the gps says we have about 360 nm to go. If only I had my spurs! Giddy up IO!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 23 -4

Day 23
Position 01 03 S 132 28 W, DMG 123NM.
More wind but so hot and all the windows are closed because we are still beating to windward and much spray is covering the boat. Not very fun. Still unable to lay a direct course to the Marquesas due to this southerly wind.


Day 24
Position 02 23 S 134 22W, DMG 139 NM.
Today is the 7th day we have been beating to windward on what is supposed to be an easy downwind run! After a long night of beating and pounding the boat into the waves, we made some good mileage. Still unable to make direct course for Marquesas landfall. This southerly wind is not letting us do what we need to. I hate the weather man, the weather files say the wind is doing what we need but in reality the wind is over 40 degrees off. I have sworn allot today. I realize that being angry at the weather is the most useless waste of energy but still, can't help but being mad at it. All the pounding into the wind has caused a few leaks to show up, saltwater dripping onto my bunk makes me very cranky! The port navigation light is broken and I broke the main halyard cam-cleat shaking out a reef. Salty, sticky, so cranky!
Later: The wind lightened up a bit so we could at least open a couple of windows, good for moral to cool down a bit, but not good for course direction.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 22

Position N00 10 W130 50, DMG 96 NM
Getting close, fighting for southern miles. All is well.

A message to the parents of SV Syzygy.

We have spoken to Sailing Vessel Syzygy almost every day via the HF Radio. Matt and Karen aboard wish to tell their parents that all is well and they are doing fine. They had a very slow windless start and therefore spend a few days floating just off the coast of Mexico going nowhere fast. But as of yesterday picked up a bit of wind and were well underway at position N15 22 W112 29 as of April 20 0200 UTC.
Please note that we can only send in updates but cannot read the comments posted on the blog (as we have no internet aboard). We heard that you were following our blog via Ceilydh who we can communicate with via the radio.


Welcome to the South Pacific!

At 0406 UTC we crossed the equator at W130 55. As it happened we were directly in the middle of a squall and so were traveling in excess of 7 knots including the favorable westerly current we have now entered. We opened a bottle of Martinellies sparkling apple juice and offered our sacrifices to IO and King Poseidon to ensure safe passage and asked to be welcomed into the Southern Pacific. We also opened our equator crossing gift from Ceilydh and received our very official crossing documents granting us safe passage through the South Seas. We also enjoyed the chocolates very much, so thank you Evan, Diane and Maia.


Monday, April 19, 2010

day 20 & 21

Day 20 (02 21 N / 128 38 W)
If Moitessier managed to do yoga every day on his voyage, he is truly my hero. My yoga mat is currently used as an anti-skid mat in the v-berth for the produce baskets.

Day 21 (01 29 N / 129 55 W)
Day in and day out, it is quite exhausting fighting against the same conditions - SSW winds and equatorial countercurrent that is pushing us North. We're still making 80-90 nm per day, but why does it seem so hard to push through to get south of the equator? We both had our share bitching at the conditions, but really, what can you do? You can only do your best and let it be. This is a true test of patience. I'm learning to be thankful for the fact that we are safe and making progress even if it's slow.
Three weeks since our departure. We finished our last apple today and the last grapefruit a couple of days ago. Next up, canned fruits. We also calculated that we have 10 days of fresh water left and still over 900 miles to go. We have got to get out of this foul current!
We watched movies today just to numb ourselves. It was a good distraction though. It's a bizarre experience to come out to the cockpit, in the middle of the movie, to do a 360 scan. Holy cow, we are in the middle of NOWHERE and watching a movie.... Our main power inverter blew up and filled the cabin with smoke. We now only have limited means to charge the computer (main navigation)and camera batteries. So we will have to sort something out about that once we reach civilization again.
I realized the other day that I have never been to the Southern Hemisphere. What a cool way to arrive! .... or is it? We hear from other boats that the SE trade winds and south equatorial currents are helping them blaze towards the home stretch. Hope is a good thing. We are really ready to be there.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spoke too soon.

A tropical depression has developed directly north of us in an area we thankfully passed 2 days ago but it has caused havoc with the winds in our area. The wind has veered to the Soutwest and increased which is exactly in the direction we need to go. The resulting change in wind has kicked up a very confused sea creating waves that seem to come from every direction with no rhythm making the sailing very frustrating. Currently we can only sail in either a Northwest or Southeast direction, both of which we lose ground. Brutal. We are both very tired.
The wind has calmed down and steadied although it is still from the South-Southwest and is not very favorable. At least we can sail in calmer seas and are not losing ground. We also both had a good night sleep. We are working so hard to get to the equator. It seems that once we get there we will be in the clear.

Day 19

Position 02 56N 127 30W, DMG 83NM
We have gotten into the southeast trade winds and are blazing along at top speed. Unfortunately there is an awful lot of SOUTH in the Southeast trade winds and so in order for us to get south past the equator we have to beat to windward. That is, we are sailing in a direction that is almost up-wind and while this is possible, it is very rough and uncomfortable. The boat is leaning (heeled) over to one side and waves are constantly crashing into and over the boat causing it to be wet and bumpy. I have also given up trying to collect rain water, it just too rough and the rain is not consistent.
Inside the boat is not a pretty sight either. Well, it's not so much disorganized as it is well, I'll just say it, smelly! We are on a 30 foot boat and the forward 8 feet of V-birth does not even get used except to hold what's left of the vegetables and all the dirty laundry, and so surprise surprise, is smells like humid vegetables and dirty laundry! The head (bathroom) is what it is, and of course has a smell all its own! Each of our bunks has been used constantly for almost three weeks now and while we have changed the sheets/towels we sleep on a couple of times, there is no doubt about it, they have their own funk! We strive to keep the kitchen clean so it for the most part is smell free, but it does have one major drawback, the salt water tap. We have a salt water tap to use for washing up etc. to conserve the limited fresh water. However, if one does not use the salt water tap for a day or so, the bacteria in the salt water die off and become anaerobic/anoxic. So when you need some salt water and it has been a while, the first couple of pumps fill the sink with rotten egg stench water that we have affectionately termed the 'fart water'. Then there is the engine, which is about two feet from the sink. When we had to motor for 19 hours two days ago, we had to keep all the air vents open to assist with keeping the engine cool here in the tropical water. Hot diesel engine smell, inside a hot, humid and otherwise scent filled boat, let me tell you: what a treat! Of course one could always go outside to get some fresh air; there is plenty of that out here in the middle of nowhere. But if it first thing in the morning, you'll find that the deck is covered in flying fish, which of all the fish I have encountered, are the smelliest fish ever. They have such a strong fish smell that you can detect if a fish is on deck in the dark while it's pouring rain. Of course when you go pick it up and toss it over board your fingers stink until you can wash them, with perhaps the fart water!


Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 18

Position 03 53N 126 31W, DMG 58 NM

The winds have been fluky and light, and have come from every direction possible. This is due to the many rain and wind squalls that we have encountered. Today we have done so many sail changes in the strong wind, blazing sun shine and pouring rain that we have lost count. For convenience sake we have just gotten into the routine of not wear clothing anymore. Unfortunately however, I was outside in the sun so often yesterday that I managed to sunburn my ass! Let me tell you that this is in no way convenient, and other than the obvious reasons, here is why; in order to stay in bed during all the rocking motions, we have what are called lee cloths, which basically turns the seat into a cradle so you can't fall out. Now even with these lee cloths in place, in order to fall asleep, you still need to wedge yourself into a corner of the bunk using pillows and blankets to keep you from rolling about. Of course it is also so hot, humid and muggy that you cannot have anything covering you while you sleep or you will sweat to death. The lee cloths are made out of sturdy nylon and webbing with steel grommets every so often making them strong but a bit scratchy to touch with bare skin. Last night, every time IO would come down off a big wave, or lurch one way or another, my naked sunburned butt would chafe on the lee cloth and painfully wake me up! So lame! We are starting to get tired and certainly have begun to question: Why are we doing this again?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 17

Position 04 40 N 126 04 W. DMG 83 nM

Don't touch me!
Becalmed. The ocean is like a mirror and we are so hot, so sticky. We accidentally sat to close together and our skin touches, or rather melds together in a hot sweaty saline union. Gross. This is not a heated passion, it's simple repulsion. Any stray breeze, the slightest puff of air across your skin is a moment of bliss, cooling relief, just for a second, then back to muggy, stuffy, relentless heat.
We need rain. We need water. So many squalls around us and somehow we keep missing them. Just one good deluge would cool our bodies, fill our tanks and bring relief even for a few minutes.

Our supplies have lasted well but are getting thin. Don't get me wrong, we have lots of food, in cans! But we are down to the last 3 grapefruits, two apples and a bag of onions. We also have 4 jicamas left as well (Mexican turnip) and one dumpy old cabbage that I would not want to eat even when it was fresh, almost 3 weeks ago. Other than this we are fine, Hyo baked bread and we have month's worth of other stores as well, but soon there will be no fresh stuff and that will be missed. We also have about half of our drinking water left, so we are not desperate, but having ample water would be comforting. We are also out of shower water, and in this heat, trust me I could really a shower!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 16

Position 06 03 N 125 55 W. DMG 88 nM
A good start, but now there is no wind. The sails are back to slatting themselves and my mind into utter destruction.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Day 15

Position 07 29 N 125 30 W. DMG 96 nM
These past two days have been really pleasant. The wind has been good albeit a little light, the weather hot, and the wild life entertaining. In short, this is what I had imagined trade wind sailing to be like. Unfortunately and ironically we are almost out of the real trade winds. I also have to say that these past few days I have gotten into the daily groove. Although this probably more said now that the weather is not sucking and I'm actually enjoying myself. Hyo also got out the paper chart covering this part of the ocean and plotted our daily positions for the past two weeks detailing our slow but steady progress. Admittedly, it did leave us with a sense of accomplishment.

Note: unfortunately we cannot see our blog and therefore cannot reply to any comments that you may be leaving until we have internet again wherever that may be (we email these posts in over a special long-range radio, unfortunately we cannot access the internet directly while at sea). Regardless, a big hello to everyone, we would enjoy hearing from you. Also, I have been led to believe that there are two school groups following our journey, so a big hello to Mr. Iwaasa's and Mrs. Luthers class. We would also enjoy hearing from you.


Day 14, two weeks at sea and we are approaching the crux.

Position 08 49 N 124 37 W. DMG = 104 miles/24 hours

Four yellow tuna swimming by my keel,
One bit my hook, and what a delicious meal.
Three yellow tuna swimming by my keel,
One bit my flying fish, and spun out my reel.
Two yellow tuna swimming by my keel,
With a squid off the deck, I'll get you for real.
True story and to be continued!

We have had 4 yellowfin tuna following us for a couple of days now. I caught the first one yesterday and we ate it. Then all day yesterday the remaining three taunted and tempted me by swimming so close but not taking any hooks that I offered. They were swimming so close to the boat that I finally got the spear gun out. But after several hours of just waiting for the perfect shot alas I gave up. The tricky buggers would stay just out of range. This morning I used one of the many flying fish that we find on deck each morning as bait and as soon as my hook hit the water a big tuna hit. The reel began to spin out as fast as it could but unfortunately the drag device on the reel malfunctioned and the fish spun out my entire 80 lbs test line before I could get a glove on to stop it. I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow morning before I'll have more flying fish. We did find a squid on top of the sun awning (how they get there is still beyond me) so this evening I'll try my luck again. Yesterday we also got a big strike and had a fish break the 80 lbs test like it was nothing, big fish!. As I write this, I can look over and see a 40-50 lbs tuna, swimming in the crystal clear water about 4 meters from me. Just swimming, darting, mocking!

Yesterday I watched the clouds for hours upon hours. Our motion has become more regular and the wind consistent. Since leaving La Cruz, Mexico, we have now sailed over 2700 km. We have not run our engine for two weeks now. As Hyo mentioned, we are nearing the Intertropical Convergence Zone. If you look at a map of the Pacific Ocean, the wind north of the equator circles in a big clockwise direction producing the Northeast trade winds, and South of the equator the reverse is true. The catch is that in the middle there is an area of low pressure called the equatorial trough or ITCZ or more frequently, the doldrums. In this area, the weather is hot, humid and the wind is non-existent except during the frequent local squalls that can produce strong but short-lived winds, lightning and very heavy rain. These local thunder heads (Cumulus nimbus cloud formations) march across the vast horizon in a daily procession to produce an amazing array of atmospheric wonders. Yesterday we watched as several squalls rolled by us or over us, either blessing us with wind and a touch of rain or leaving us in a windless void. Out here with the horizon so vast, one can see several local squalls at any given time. The entire succession of cloud formation, thunderhead building, rain, and final dissemination can be observed repeatedly. Particularly spectacular is when the light hits the rain from a distance and produces rainbows under the squalls. Yesterday at I witnessed three independent rainbow illuminated cells wander across the sky, all missing us by several miles.
The ITCZ is currently about 500 miles wide and considering that we only have enough fuel to motor about 250, by necessity, we must use these fluky winds to get us through.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

day 12 & 13

Day 12 (10 53 N / 121 32W)
Donna, I am taking your advice and working on a longer (6 hours) shift schedule. It can't hurt to try. Armed with coffee, I did some writing in my journal, emails, and now more writing. In this small space, it's hard to be quiet for the other person sleeping. Tonight, I think I'll skip the Coffee Break French podcast. Every 20-30 minutes, I go outside for a while to check for ships or other traffic. No stars tonight... it's pitch black, I feel so naked.... wait, I AM naked.

Day 13 (10 11 N / 123 32 W)
Today, three significant events occurred: 1) Rain, 2) Changed tacks and heading, and 3) Fish on!
Gradually during the last week, we could feel the increase in humidity in the air. Even with overcast skies, it feels hot after minimal activity (i.e., sail changes). The bunks are starting to feel damp. With the salt water sprays, handling lines or touching anything results in the subtle yet unpleasant stickiness. Yesterday, we had a bit of a mist, only enough for a tease. Today, we had some dark heavy clouds come by, drop some of its kindness, but leave too soon. This was definitely NOT the tropical squalls - as Steffi on S. V. Goldenlion described, "a drive-through boat wash". But we had enough to wash the sails and deck space of its saltiness and collect a bucketful of water. The rain was so welcomed by us as it cooled us down. What a difference!
Late afternoon, we gybed the sails for the first time since our departure and headed slightly more south. This means that the boat heels over to the opposite side than what we had in the last 13 days. Still the uncomfortable motions, but just different, you know, to break the monotony. What it really means is that, while sitting on the toilet, I'll lurch backwards instead of forward. You decide which is better because I don't have a choice. Just kidding... What is really significant is that, it feels good to make our next move and to know we are making progress.
We have not been keen on fishing since our fridge died and we can't keep a huge fish. But today, we caught a small yellowfin tuna, just big enough to feed both of us for one meal. On this tack, unfortunately, it is harder to work in the galley. Mike and I both stood, each pinning down a plate and a dipping bowl for soy sauce and enjoyed the sashimi. Okay, I feel more lucid today.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Day 10 (12 36 N 117 57 W)
Day 11 (11 46 N 119 44 W)
The last several days and nights have been a blur. Not much change in the sea conditions: variable winds 15-20 knots from NNE and confused seas 2 meters. The "variable" part seemed to happen always at night time. Sleep deprivation sucks. During the last five or six days, I think I recall periods of lucidity totals about 3 or 4 hours per 24 hour period. Those are the precious hours that I am able to write, read a book (without falling asleep), or decide to do cook something while engaging in some acrobatics in the galley.
I wish I was not so fuzzy-brained, so I can experience this with a bit more clarity. You see, every time I go outside to look around 360 degrees, I still think to myself, are we really here? Wow! This is so amazing. The evening of our departure from La Cruz was memorable. "This is it!" My heart filled something very hard to describe and I hope I will never forget that feeling. There was a time when we thought this passage was not going to happen. Now Io seems so happy. She was built skookum for this very purpose! She seems to be taking a lot of abuse, but holding up well.
I think we are both getting a little more rest today. Or the excessive fatigue just dulled the associated fear. Or I know I have no choice but to trust our boat's strength. Simple surrender. Winds have shifted to come from the north. Despite the sloshing and occasional tossing, we seem to be moving better. We are logging 1136nm, almost half way to the Marquesas!
As I had done at first, some might wonder, how can you be at sea for a full month? I am learning that, just like other things in life, it gets broken down to smaller parts, smaller projects, and smaller goals. A 3,000nm passage gets broken down into: 1) how to get into and make use of the NE trade winds from North America to a predictable area to enter the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), 2) with good weather report and luck, how to get through the ITCZ and cross the equator, and 3) how to use the SE trade winds to get to your destination. Land ho! With this in mind, we are working on (1) right now. One small goal at a time, even if it takes weeks!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Nine Days of Travel

Here is a quick map to show the progress so far.

Day 9

Position, 13 37N 115 41W, 105 miles made good.
This past few days have been rough. The trade winds have not been like I had read or been told by others. I'm not sure if it's just us or this season or what but we are not alone. We have talked to a few other boats in our area over the HF radio (we have seen no-one for days now) and confirmed that they are experiencing rough gross conditions as well. This is not fun and we are so far away from land. It's not the wind so much as the rough seas. They come from everywhere with no real pattern to them. They are not dangerous or breaking yet so there is no real danger from them, it's just very uncomfortable. The days have been tolerable but the nights have been near sleepless. We have not been in this nasty of seas since we left the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte) islands. Lame!
We had a Red Footed Boobie on deck last night. We welcomed the company and were glad to share our little island with it. That is, until this morning when we found it had shit EVERYWHERE! How could so much shit come out of one bird? There must have been 3.5 liters of slimy-milky-shit strewn across the foredeck. Until then it was fun to watch, so graceful in the air and so awkward on deck. It was using its wings and beak to plod and crawl around the pitching deck, flopping sorta like a fish out of water. And speaking of fish, the deck was covered with flying fish this morning. So naturally, we just started feeding the fishes to the bird, which gobbled them up without pause. After it had downed about 3-4 small-medium fish in its wobbly uncoordinated on-deck fashion, I tossed it a big one. It of course snatched it up immediately, but for whatever reason (either the fish was just too big or it was already stuffed) the bird had a real hard time getting this last fish down and so it sat there on deck with its neck all distended and sort of gagged in an controlled fashion. Then, in a series of lurches, it lobbed its self overboard into the water. We were traveling at 5 knots, so there was certainly no grace involved when it crash skidded and spun to a halt in the breaking waves. I briefly saw it hack up the fish and then re-consume it, presumable having rearranged its gut contents to a more accommodating configuration.
Hyo and I then spent 20 minutes on the pitching deck scrubbing away the feces. Now that I think about it, this sailing trip has brought me within exceedingly close proximity to many forms of shit. Bird shit, whale shit, dolphin shit, fish shit and gallons of human shit. That's just not right! And one last question: why do I have dirt under my fingernails every morning? I am nowhere near dirt! I have not even seen dirt in 10 days! The closest dirt is over 1500 km away! What's with the dirt?


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A night and day difference.

Day 8 position N 14 17 W115 41, Daily mileage =93 nm.

It is just over one week since our departure from La Cruz. Progress may be slow, but our experience very rich. I'm struggling with the night and day differences, both literally and metaphorically speaking.
I am puzzled as to why, with good winds on the quarter and satisfactory boat speed of 5 knots, we are still getting tossed around. We have entered some funky zone where we have good winds, Northerly at 10 knots, but swells coming in from the NW hit us on the beam. Swells are fine if they come at long intervals. But these are more like short confused waves that slap us from different angles. The result: slatting sails, crashing and banging of the boom, and very uncomfortable motions. As S.V. Syzygy put it, it's like being in a fun house with all the unpredictable movements, except that I am not laughing. Inside the cabin, there's only so much one can take of the various banging noises. I talked to a friend on the Pacific Puddlejumpers Net this morning about our state and he said, "I'm glad to hear that we're not the only ones experiencing the lousy sloppy seas! Misery loves company."
During the day, it's simply a lot of work. On the first day, Mike made some adjustments and the motion was immediately better. I even thought, 'you cannot change what comes your way, but you can change your reaction to it... how profound!' Several hours later, when our ass end was lifted up and dropped down sideways again, the Hallmark card moment went out the window.
At night, it's a lot of work and I'm scared shitless. The sloppy conditions seem to be worse and waves turns into Gremlins, those nasty buggers. We know the importance of rest, so we do our best to keep our shifts and carry on at night. Generally, I do not have much trouble with sleep. On our previous passages, five days being the longest in duration, I've managed to have fitful precious rests. But currently, even with the lee cloths on the bunks, I am not snug as a bug in a rug. I cringe at every loud bang and have a knot in my left shoulder. My whole body is still tense while sleeping. At this rate, a circumnavigation should result in a six pack in my stomach... along with no hair from all the stress. Yes, I think it is the mental strain that is worse. Under stress and mental fatigue, everything seems to be magnified and the catastrophic thinking mode kicks in: 'Oh gees, the crashing and banging is just too much! Is the chainplate going to rip out? The repetitive strain can't be good for the rigging!' Just when I think I've dozed off, I wake up, startled, "Is Mike still here? He'd better be wearing his harness", and lay down again.
Night after night, this kind of mental and physical fatigue seems to accumulate and spills over to the day time as well. I try to recover during the day, but still wake up panicked, "Is Mike still here?" Feeling like a zombie most of the day is not fun. I feel like I'm on a month-long night shift schedule. Then again, after about the second crappy night, during the day, we witness a very large pod of dolphins swimming by our boat, at times fully jumping out of the water. Their twists and turns and powerful movements happened three feet below us and their energy was amazing. It was truly an awe-inspiring moment. Despite the zombie-like state, that cheered us up.
We had started to get into somewhat of a routine, but the last three nights were terrible. It has to get better. Rest is not a luxury, it is essential, because we're in it for the long haul this time.
The good and bad moments seem to fluctuate in extremes, like night and day difference. Let's face it, we're not in a storm, we're not rounding Cape Horn. It's just a simple fact that we will have crappy nights like we are experiencing now and we will have magical nights. We will be relaxed and lazy or scared and strained. The sea will not choose when to be kind to us or give us a break because we are tired. I can't think of a more useless thing than being pissed off at the weather or the sea state. Yet we still do it. The highs and lows, my friends... what can I say? Perhaps Dickens can help me out here:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, ......"


Monday, April 5, 2010

Slating hell or silky smooth?

Day 7, April 4, 2010
Position N15 17.56 W113 25.11 distance/24 hours - 91 miles - not bad considering the wind we have or lack thereof!

Last night sucked and tonight is not shaping up to be that much better. The problem is not enough wind to keep the sails filled. When we roll up a wave the sails back and slat and bang. It's hard on the rigging, sails and our nerves. We did not get much sleep.
We are still dealing with these light winds and making slow progress, but we're in a bit more of a routine and rhythm now. Life has become very simple, the only goal being how do we make use of the given wind & sea condition to get to the next way point. Our fridge died on us, so the policy is to eat as much fresh produce as possible. Carrots are just not that yummy when they are all bendy!

We adjusted the sails today to a wing-on-wing position. That is, the main sail is out to one side and the head sail is held out to the other side using a pole. I don't typically like this position as it tends to roll the boat a bit more and it's hard for the self steering gear to sail straight downwind (~165 degrees). But as soon as we did this, the boat's motion was calm and peaceful as if each wave was made of satin. I could finally enjoy the day and even had a long nap. But the ocean is ever changing and now we are back to slating as a new choppy sea has build up. I have heard and read about the joys of trade-wind sailing, but so far, they have been too light and have not been what dreams are made of.
Later: The main sail is down and both Big Red and the working jib are poled out to starboard and port. No slating, no banging but a little more rolling. Stupid boats, always a compromise!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 6

Day 6 April 3
Position: N15 57 W111 59
Log 105 miles. Light winds, going slow. All is well.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The fish that got away

Day 5: April 2, 2010

As of 0200 utc we were at N16 57 W109 49 with a 24 hour run of 108 nM.
IO has had her sails up and been on the starboard tack for over 5 days now and it feels like she is just beginning to stretch her wings. We have been on the same heading of around 240 degrees true for 3 days now. When daylight gives way to darkness, the familiar sight of the constellation, Orion the Hunter has been positioned just so that his belt is sitting on the starboard spreader which is a pleasant daily reminder that we are still on course. We can now also see the Southern Cross, which along with all the other reminders (like the fact that I'm sitting out in the cockpit at 2 am with no shirt on or that is has been too hot to wear underwear for over 2 months now) means that we have sailed a long long way from where we started.
A rather uneventful day unfolded. The left over 3 meter swell and chop sent down by a northerly storm has smoothed out and the wind has become more consistent at 12-15 knots.
A couple of hours before dark I noticed a float bobbing along, then another. Looking around I saw we were passing a large fish boat to starboard, a tuna purse seiner to be exact. We kept our eyes peeled until we were satisfied that we had missed all of its nets and watched as the boat sank back into the horizon from which it came. Out of the corner of my eye I saw that we were trailing something from behind the boat. My first thought was that we had picked up a bit of kelp, net or rope on the rudder. When I leaned over the back rail I immediately realized that the object was not attached to the boat but in fact following us. The largest Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares) that I have ever seen was drafting in the wake of IO. Given its girth, which easily exceeds my own, this fish must be in the 200 lbs range. When I say drafting, I meant that its head was at times within 2 feet of the windvane rudder as it glided effortlessly along with IO. I quickly grabbed the camera, snapped a few shots from above, then leaned over the stern, submerged the camera and got some cool face to face video footage of this great fish swimming alongside us. It was awesome and really made my day.
For those of you who are wondering why I did not get my speargun out, for it would have been a point-blank shot, the interaction with this beast was to beautiful, to intimate for such an action. Besides, we have no capacity to deal with 200 lbs of fish.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 4

N18 00.68 W109 02.57.
24 hour total 81 nM. We woke up this morning in mirror calm waters, by noon we picked up a breeze and sailed at 4-5 knots sliding through the flat seas. By evening we are hitting hull speed (and exceeding it ~ 7 knots) getting tossed around in 3.5 meter swell and 15 knots gusting 20. Overall we are just glad to have some wind and be on our way.

At sea with a nice pair of Boobies.

April 1 2010 (mid-day)

I spy with my little eye, a nice pair of Boobies. Two Red Footed Boobies (Sula sula) have come to visit IO. After about 15 fly-bys the first landed on the front rail and has been happily perched there ever since. He was joined briefly by a fellow Boobie who, upon landing also on the bow rail, promptly began to squabble and chat with the first about who should have the right to that particular post. When interrupted by Hyo-jung wielding a camera, they both sorta wobbled off into flight with the original Boobie returning, again after about 10 flybys and 3 landing attempts. These birds, like the Isla Isabela Boobies, seem to have no fear of us and will easily let me approach within 2 feet. The odd characteristic of these birds is that they have both eyes positioned close to the front of their head (think Owl instead of Seagull) which is an adaptation to increase the stereo visual field which allows greater spatial acuity at close distances. That is, by having both eyes that look directly forward, they can focus on a prey item directly in front of them. Now I say this is odd, only because when you are sitting at the front of the boat having a conversation with one, it stops its feather preening, looks back at you directly with both eyes and sorta blinks at you as if it's waiting for you to say something profound. It's sorta eerie, in an "I'm 200 miles out to sea and talking to a bird" kinda way.
We have also been approached by no less than 4 different pods of dolphins in the past 36 hours. The most intimate of which was with a pod of about 30 Pantropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuate). The deep blue offshore waters, being low in particulate matter, are crystal clear and when these playful animals were bow riding IO, you could see them roll on their sides and look up at us. Our eyes met across a distance of 3-4 feet as they darted and turned with ease.
Another pod of three Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris, not sure on this ID) approached us. One of them was juvenile and was clearly interested in showing off its ability to tail slap. It repeatedly slapped the water and even managed to splash the deck before heading further off, still tail slapping all the way.
One last biological observation we have recently had baffles me profoundly and I will wait to hear back from a colleague before expanding further. Suffice it to say that it involves a species of insect that, to the best of my knowledge, has no business being way out here.


Fighting for every inch.

Day 3, April 1. 2010
18 45N 107 47W, course made good in 24 hours: 22.7 miles.

We have been plagued by calms. Despite our productive first day out, we have been working for every meter we gain. Unfortunately this is typical of the first part of this passage and we are not alone. The coast of Mexico, South of the Baja typically has very little wind until you get out 2-300 miles out and reach the North-West trade winds. While we did leave during a local windy period, when that system died it unfortunately left us sitting in the middle of a no-wind hole. Of course our weather forecasts told us that we should have been in 5-7 knots of wind the whole time. We sat becalmed for almost 36 hours until yesterday afternoon when a 8-10 knot breeze picked up out of the NW and carried us a whopping 26 miles before it died in the middle of the night. Thankfully the last two nights have been full of sleep since we basically turned the anchor light on both just went below and slept. One of us would get up every hour or so and check for wind and ships. It has been so flat that it has made the anchorage in La Cruz look like a storm tossed sea! This morning we also have a nice 8-10 kt Northwesterly which is pulling us along on a completely flat sea. This has also confirmed our suspicion that we are destined to always sail up wind, even here on this typically downwind leg. Those trade winds better be in fine shape or I'm going to be disappointed.