Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 2+, Becalmed.

N18 57.11 W107 25.68
My binoculars spied something afloat standing out against this vast barren image. I could make out algal growth along the margins and a scaly effect on the rounded surface. We are moving at 0.0kts. IO is just bobbing up and down on a gigantic mirror. As we roll up and down with the waves, the slating motion of the sails is like a giant bird flapping its wings and is just enough pressure to maintain steerage. Occasionally a slight zephyr gives a push, this stray breeze fills the Big Red with enough force to tighten the sheets if only for a second. I need to work hard in the noon day sun to inch and claw my way near the dead turtle, floating so high in the water. It's not on our path, but we are not really going anywhere so I'll take a look. 10 minutes, and trimming the sheets just so, 50 meters. 20 minutes of slating sails, 40 meters, I can see the scales. I could have swum over and back 20 times, but I am using almost no wind to move 17,000 pounds of sailboat. Hyo is below sleeping. A half hours goes by, we are almost within one boat hook distance. A large wave rolls by and the sails slat with a bang. The turtle woke up and swam away.

Hours pass, then 10, now 15. We have only added 30 miles to hour 24 hour gps reading and only 23 miles are in the direction made good. The sun beats down so fiercely. Our refrigerator unit has been working overtime and is acting up again. We are going to be eating salad a lot faster now until it's gone.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The good omen

March 30, 2010
N19 13.13 W107 19.86

The offshore water is a brilliant blue. Light penetrates in deep long dancing shafts. The winds have been light but we have still made good time by flying Big Red, our drifter since we left La Cruz. 128 nm in 24 hours, not bad for our first day out, especially considering that we are not in the trade winds yet. This also marks the furthest distance away from land that we have been yet on this passage. The full moon accompanies me on my night shift and makes writing out in the cockpit a good way to pass the time. It's 2 am local time, but we have changed our watches to universal coordinated time (UTC) since this keeps us in tune with the weather updates and radio check-ins.

My father is a true outdoorsman and is happiest in life sitting on the back of a newly broke horse, heading off down an unknown goat path deep in the mountains. While off on these adventures, my father, in his cowboy bliss, will begin to recite one of the many poems from his repertoire. Of the many poems and limericks he has memorized, one is recited most often and reads thus:

The Land of Beyond

Have you ever heard of the Land of Beyond,
That dreams at the gates of the day?
Alluring it lies at the skirts of the skies,
And ever so far away;
Alluring it calls: Oh ye the yoke galls,
And ye of the trail overfond,
With saddle and pack, by paddle and track,
Let's go to the Land of Beyond!

Have you ever stood where the silence is brood,
And the vast horizons begin,
At the dawn of the day to behold faraway
The goal you would strive for and win?
Yet ah! In the night when you gain to the height,
With the vast pool of heaven star-spawned,
Afar and agleam, like a valley of dream,
Still mocks you a Land of Beyond.

Thank God! there is always a Land of Beyond
For us who are true to the trail,
A vision to seek, a beckoning peak;
A fairness that will never fail;
A pride in our soul that mocks at a goal,
A manhood that irks at a bond,
And try how we will, unattainable still,
Behold it, our Land of Beyond.

-Robert Service-

The day we left, while we were sitting in a small café/taco shop, I noticed the familiar title sitting in the book exchange. Re-reading the poem, I knew having this aboard would bring us luck. And my reply:

Well Dad, searching we are, for this Land of Beyond,
This dream you know, and are of so fond.
Farther than most, far far away from our coast,
We're skirting the Skies of Beyond.
By paddle and tack, but this time with no track,
With wind in our sail, and desire that knows no fail,
We are searching for this Land of Beyond

Yes Dad, Alluring it calls,
This time beyond mountains and falls.
Blessed be that moon, it is the day sun at noon
In this vast desert of brine, that is our yoke this time.
Yet still by same yearning we abide,
Although not this time, ye green horse are we astride.
Afar and agleam, our mind still must dream,
Across the vast inky black, under heaven star-spawned
Our courage holds strong, as we seek far and long
For our own, Land of Beyond.

Despite the calms and storms, through which this journey has led,
To the places we've dreamed, our desire has fed.
I sail now where the silence is brood, and the vast horizons begin.
That goal we would seek, like the beckoning peak
Like times gone by, we strive for and win.

For us who are true to the trail, by pack, by saddle or by sail,
We carry pride in our soul, that mocks at our goal,
Led on, by a fairness never to fail.
We are out here seeking like ever before,
Whether it be on this, or a far distant shore.
And try how we will; it may be unattainable still,
But this is our bond, to ever seek our very own Land of Beyond


Monday, March 29, 2010

Beyond Dragons.

March 29, 2010
N20 05.98 W106 23.43

We left last night at 8 pm local time and headed out under a near full moon ant a fresh 12 knot breeze. A choppy sea presented near the coast but smoothed out once we passed the 20 mile offshore mark. I'll keep this short because I am feeling the usual first morning blahs. In fact I may see revisit my breakfast again soon. All is well and we are making good time at 5-6 knots.  I won't even bother with the miles left countdown since its still well over 2800 (>5000km). Gotta go out side now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

To stand at the edge of the world, where beyond there be dragons

For now the last of good friends, tacos and ice cream. We have been hemorrhaging money again but the repairs are complete, the cargo hold is full of groceries, and this adventure is really about to begin! It sounds a bit odd to write that considering that we have been at this for almost a year now, but this next passage is the one that I dreamed of since long before the beginning of this voyage. Sailing off into the sunset across a seemingly endless expanse of open ocean with nothing except our boat, a star to steer by, and the hope of raising a deserted tropical island out of the endless curvature. That’s the dream, today, our reality! Oh my friends, how I have dreamed and worked and thought and schemed to make this experience happen. To sit here on the brink of this grand adventure, should fill me with a sense of accomplishment and anticipation. It does nothing of the sort. We have not sailed far enough to satisfy my mind. I only yearn to see what’s beyond the next wave, the next sunrise, the next horizon waiting just over there and beyond. Come with us friends, if only in mind and thought on this grand voyage, with us aboard IO across the grand Pacific. We will spend an entire lunar cycle seeking the beyond, under an endless sky, chasing an endless horizon, trailing our endless wake.

In preparation

Siesta in La Cruz

Despite our needs for final preparations, we have learned that Siesta is a necessity.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Isla Isabella Video

I have posted a new video of some of the wildlife we encountered at Isla Isabella. It is under the original Isabella post, so just scroll down the page to have a look.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Random acts of kindness and the problem of limited space.

We are simply not that far away from home yet. We are still near airports and cars, Costco and yes, even a Home Depot lays in our midst. One could drive from here to our hometown in a matter of a few days.
Soon, so soon, this will be far far in our wake. I think and feel that we have not gone far enough, sailed long enough, seen what I have come to see, whatever that may be. However, regardless of this perceived lack of mileage, we have wandered through numerous interesting, remote and unprivileged (only in an economic sense) communities. Bella Bella, San Quintin, Man of War or San Carlos, all have their charm, their beauty and their poverty. Whether it was a fishing village in Northern BC with a population of children with rampant seafood allergies or the quaint Magdalena Bay, having been just wiped out by a hurricane, we have met people in need. We have heard the usual, bring pencils, toys, clothing, batteries and fishhooks to give away or trade for local goods. Anything that promotes education and economic revitalization via stimulating local industry or just basic well-being is welcome cargo.
Our latest shipment of dispensables via my sister's visit filled our meager cargo hold with an abundance of toys, clothing and stationary which I am told will be met with open arms and open hearts in the remote South Pacific.
We have enjoyed sharing this experience with you, our friends, our acquaintances both present and future. And with an idea given to me by one such acquaintance, I hope to be the conduit to share a little more with the communities that we visit.
We have decided to add a “donate to a random act of kindness” button on our blog. The proceeds of which will be entirely used to supply the communities we visit with local and suitable acts of kindness, which will be documented here when possible. Our emphasis will be on purchasing and distributing educational and medical supplies to the communities we visit, but we are not limited to this. Our friends on Oblivion came up with this idea and have already put their proceeds to several random acts of kindness including donating over $300 to a local ice-cream shop for the local kids here in La Cruz. Kids and ice-cream, pure joy. So please, expand our cargo hold by giving a little and by sharing our blog with your friends and encouraging them to donate.

Friday, March 19, 2010

cruising community

La cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico

“How much chain do you have out?“

“All right, that will keep you from swinging into us. Have a good day.“

The cruising community seems to me like the Korean extended family: They’re all in your business, but also there to help you out. You cannot have one without the other.

How did the quote go…“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.“ That is how I feel about memberships, especially those requiring plastic cards, usernames, and passwords. But we are amidst the Pacific Puddle Jump group and the level of energy and support right now is quite amazing.

In my late teens and early twenties, backpacking trips to Europe done by so many friends and acquaintances seemed too typical and trendy. The same pictures taken in front of the same church buildings seemed no different than those life-size cardboard stands with the “insert face here“ hole. In my rebellion against any uniform culture, I guess I had failed to see the unique nature of each person’s travel details.

Now that I start thinking of my life in decades (feeling old today, hyo?), I see that starting with the times of girl scouts, there is something special about belonging to a community. Whether it be climbing, yoga, or science, there are friendships, exchange of resources, mental support, and pride that might even have a touch of self-righteousness.

I will never forget the heartwarming brief encounter we had with a fellow boat after we rounded Point Conception. The red and white navigation lights in the thick of the night were the only visual features giving a “face“ to the friendly deep voice heard over the VHF radio. As we exchanged information on weather and sea conditions we’d each experienced and said our good-byes, I felt my energy renewed.

People refer to the Pacific crossing and subsequent routes as the ”coconut milk run”. But who cares? There are so many unique stories to be told. Like seashells on a beach, one can pick up a handful of the same species, but each shell will have a slightly different feature. Ours is simply unique and special to us.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A reminder of some of the forces we are dealing with out here.

We broke some gear. While crossing here from La Paz we spent 18 hours in a full gale and as we found out first hand, the sea state in the Sea of Cortez can build up short choppy sea. Unfortunately, unlike the open ocean, the wave patterns were of very short period and steep which means that the waves are hitting the boat more frequently making an uncomfortable bumpy lumpy sail. Hyo-jung and I were both inside during a shift change when we heard a uniquely ominous crashing wave approach IO. Not a second later we were hit and thrust sideways and over at least 40 degrees. Hyo quickly opened the hatch and in the moonlight we could see the cockpit was filled to overflowing with seawater. Sploosh! Another wave hit just then and with the door ajar water sprayed into the navigation station soaking the seat, walls, and spraying most the of the electronics. Being “pooped” like this can be particularly dangerous because while our cockpit is smaller than most boat designs, it can still hold over one ton of water and if it does not drain fast enough before another wave hits, the weight of the water could drag the stern of the boat so low into the water that the next wave could crash directly into the boat. Fortunately the second wave only splashed us but as we found out later, this experience left its mark.

While anchored in the beautiful Isla Isabela, Hyo noticed that the windvane rudderpost was looking funny. Upon closer inspection, we found that the post had been bent sideways about 10 degrees. Now this is not insignificant, as this post is 1 ¼ inch thick solid super-duplex stainless steel (stainless steel on steroids). This is the strongest individual piece of gear on this boat and one wave in the wrong direction bent it like a pretzel! Needless to say our wind-vane is out of commission and we are dealing with getting a new post down from Canada.

When we next pulled up our main sail, we noticed that two of the bolts that secure the main sail outhaul track (the bit that holds the main sail to the boom) had partially been torn out. I had to lash it down until we reached port.

We certainly have sailed through bigger wind and waves but that reminded us that the forces produced out here can be tremendous and that IO is just a small ship on a big ocean.

Monday, March 15, 2010

charlie's charts mexico

A quick thank you to whoever it was that dropped off charlie's charts mexico on our boat last year, please let us know who you are. It has been very useful to us and we have not been able to thank you!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Buenos Nachos!"

“Punch buggy, no returns!”

Two fists belonging to a uncle Mike and Xavery darted back and forth in front of me while our buttocks simultaneously launched off our seats on the ultra-bumpy bus ride. This is the wrong country to be playing punch buggy – VW bugs are everywhere!

We spent ten days with the Mulholland’s exploring Puerto Vallarta. Christy’s family was our land support in Victoria where they generously shared their laundry machines and mailboxes with us. Here, they also shared their luxuries with us: unlimited hot showers, internet access, laundry, and yes, gigantic kitchen counter space.
We attempted to playIo, the charter boat“ and took everyone out to Las Tres Marietas. Amazingly, our boat did cater and sleep four adults and four kids. Despite the uncomfortable night in Punta de Mita and choppy sea conditions resulting in numerous green faces, we were in good spirits.

It was a true vacation for Mike and I as well. Somewhere along the way, the fatigues of each passages and stress of repairs and chores must have sucked out the fun-seeking natures in us. Every time we entered a new port, we immediately went into our habit of looking for necessities such as water, fuel, markets, or hardware stores. We needed to break out of this routine and really enjoy sightseeing. Christy’s excitement and enthusiasm are exactly what we needed to make this experience “real”. Belly-laughing with the kids had the magical powers of relieving knots in my stomach. Being tourists together with family taught me to open my eyes to the details of the twisty tree branches, hear the flutes and drums of the Huichol Indians, and smell the BBQ fumes of flattened chicken.

I felt refreshed. All my surroundings felt more real. I appreciate what we have right now and am thankful.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A few fish we have met and et.

Sierra or Spanish Mackerel, Scomberomorus sierra. Fantastic. Interestingly, recent work on the visual adaptations of this fish suggests that when it is young (larval stage) it has only rod photoreceptors in its eyes. This will allow vivid colour vision but little visual acuity. That is, it can see farther into the color spectrum that other fish (and us) but the image will not be very clear during low light levels. It is hypothesed that these fish may exploit a unique food resource when they are young that requires different visual capacities to detect, then upon maturation, they move into a more commonly exploited food resource that is best visualized by having both rod and cone photoreceptors. I admit it would be an ill- supported hypothesis to suggest that it is this difference in nutrient acquisition during development that is causal to the increased flavor of this fish during its adult life stage. But it was in fact the testiest fish we have eaten so far! Clearly more research into this phenomenon is required and the next one I catch will be entirely eaten as ceviche.

The black skipjack, Euthynnus lineatus. Picture a fish with red steak- like meat. When I butchered it, it felt like I was cutting up fresh beef roast. Interestingly, this species has been used as a model organism to study how it, and other large ocean predatory fish like the tunas, are in fact warm-blooded. That is, they can maintain a core temperature that is higher than the surrounding water. They do this by two basic mechanisms; 1) by having a hemoglobin (blood protein) that maintains oxygen affinity despite being warmed up by the fast actively swimming muscles and 2) having a central blood heat exchanger, that passes the warm, but oxygen-depleted blood past the colder oxygen rich blood to warm it up before it reaches the core of the body. This all helps to keep the animal very active despite ocean temperature fluctuations, which is useful for top level predators. Not the tastiest fish we have eaten but certainly beautiful to see

Mahi Mahi or dolphin fish, Coryphaena hippurus. Beautiful, fast and as one fisherman we met said, “basically the piranha of the ocean”. This has been on my checklist of things to see and do (and catch and eat) while I am here on this planet. So tasty.

Best day ever with Rhincodon typus