Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pictures, pictures and more pictures

For those of you sick of the text-heavy blog posts, this one is for you.  Posting pictures is hard when your only internet connections are a glorified fax machine and an intermittently successful 3G connection on your phone.

I have a few pictures left over from Hawaii that I haven't posted.

First, here is a beautiful panorama (cell phones are amazing!) of the cliffs next to the marina in Menele Bay, Lana'i.  We hiked up here on our way home from a relaxing day on the beach.  Of course, Adam could not resist anything made of rock and hundreds of feet tall.  Due to some tropical storms in the southern ocean there was a large south swell that day; the waves were crashing up against the cliffs as we climbed up to the top, making it difficult for snorkelers in the typically placid bay below us.
Lana'i (I hope the panorama works on your screen!)


Next, here is the view of Waikiki Beach from our first night at anchor.  It was difficult to anchor there because the bottom is primarily dead coral with a light sand covering but we managed to find a spot and spent the evening swimming and playing dominoes as they slid across the cockpit floor.
Waikiki: Diamond Head on the right and hotels on the left.

While we were in Honolulu we made many new friends.  We also met up with some of my old friends from college who had just been stationed there with the Navy.  We took Kevin, Rachel and their two boys out sailing with us along Waikiki.  At one point a pirate ship pulled up along side, started blaring what sounded like the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song and then, much to the joy of everyone on board, shot at us with its water cannons. We kept sailing in circles to go back for more!

Rachel was also incredibly kind as we prepared the boat for departure.  She drove us on many of our errands and we packed her SUV to the ceiling at Costco.  I think she might have a picture of that feat, but I can't seem to find it on my computer.

We actually left Hawaii at the tail end of a dying tropical storm named Wali, so unfortunately most of our time on Kauai was spent inside the cabin avoiding the rain.  The rain did make for spectacular waterfalls on the cliffs and mountains surrounding Hanalei Bay, but yet again, I must have forgotten to take pictures.  As you might imagine, we were a little busy making room for our new crew member and double checking just about everything before we set out to sea.

One of the most spectacular things at sea is the changes in the sky throughout the day.  From the amazing sunrises to the equally colorful sunsets and all of the strange cloud formations in between, I have quite a few pictures.  Here is one from our first night at sea on this most recent crossing.  Of course, the colors are never quite the same on my little point and shoot camera, but you will just have to take my word for it.
If you have never seen a squall on the ocean, here is one headed right for us!  It is difficult to get pictures and video during squalls or during the gale we experienced both because I do not have a waterproof camera and because sailing the boat takes priority.  In our experience the weather on these crossings has been primarily calm interrupted by hours or days of stronger winds and rougher seas.  Again, since I have no photos, you will just have to take my word for it.
There was only one serious injury on our second crossing: my burn.  Here is a picture from about a week after the event.  It still hurt but had at least scabbed over.  Now, fully healed, I just have a a very white patch about the size of a band-aid.

We did a lot of fishing on both crossings, but having a third person definitely made the whole process easier.  Here are a bunch of fishing pictures.
Andrew with a Mahi-Mahi (aka Dorado)

Reeling one in

Tuna missing a brain


The always ready fisherman...
As we got further north, the weather also got colder and colder.  Here are some cold sailing pictures.  Warning: you might want to go grab a coffee or a blanket before viewing these.  They make me cold again just looking at them!
That's me in there, if you can't tell.

Adam all bundled up in his bunk.

Cold and fog!  Not very fun.

The cold was actually my greatest fear about this whole northern crossing.  I do not do well in the cold.  There were a few cold days and many colder nights but most of all I remember a fun time with smooth sailing and sunshine so I will end with a few pictures of those happier times.
Pizza and beer after our first week out.


We called them sail-jellies but apparently their real name is velella.  These small creatures littered the surface of the ocean by the millions for almost the entire trip.  Sometimes it looked as if the water had sequins!
The fin of a Pacific Sunfish as it is startled by our boat.  This was the last animal on my "must see" list of wildlife for the year.  Adam and Andrew spotted it, woke me up, and then circled around so I could get a view and some very crummy pictures.
Adams favorite sail combination: wing-on-wing with the asymmetrical spinnaker and genoa!


On the dock in Port Angeles as we say goodbye to Andrew in the wee hours of the morning.  He had to catch a bus and we had to catch the tide.
Thanks again to everyone following and commenting on the blog this year.  We have had more than 15,300 views since September!  As I said before, stay tuned.  I am still not quite sure what I am going to do with the blog, but first I am going to try and figure out how to post some of the videos we took on the crossings.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sunshine in Seattle

Adam and I are still in shock.

First, we have never felt so loved in our lives!  Thank you for all of the support, phone calls, care packages, dinner parties, slip decorations and miles traveled by some of our guests over the last week to welcome us back to Seattle in style.  We are awed and humbled.

Second, we still can't believe that Adam somehow convinced me to sail through a cold northern ocean to the Pacific Northwest just at the end of summer.  His faith in me (and some warm clothing carried by my Mom when she visited us in Hawaii) gave me the courage to embark on this trip and I was literally dancing in the cockpit during the last 24 hours. There was rain pouring down, I was wearing five layers and felt like the Michelin Man every time I moved, but I was ecstatic because land was near and we were experiencing the coldest, wettest day of the trip.  I had anticipated that the entire trip would be that way but instead we saw much more sunshine than we did between Mexico and Hawaii and although it was cold at night most of the days would have been extremely pleasant it we hadn't had to motor so much.

Third...what next?  We know what happens in March: the residency match.  At that time we will find out where we will be for the next three or four years.  However, between now and then we may be a little transient.  We are living on the boat in Shilshole Marina in Ballard (part of Seattle) and will, most likely, be working at Ballard Kayak hauling boats up the beach and possibly leading kayaking tours.  Our wonderful friends John and Becca who visited us in Mexico for Christmas own this unique and expanding business located on Golden Gardens Beach, just feet from the Marina.  We will also be doing odd jobs like boat work, babysitting, dog walking, etc. to rebuild our bank accounts.  The kayaking season in Seattle ends in little over a month, right in time for residency interviews and then, very soon, the holiday season.  After such a long trip we are both very excited to see our families and will definitely be visiting Madison and Raleigh at some point in November and December.  After that I have to (get to?) go back to school.  I have three rotations before graduation in May, when the next adventure begins!  Moments may go on the market but we haven't made that decision yet.

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Wrap up on the trip:

We made the distance (Hanalei Bay to Neah Bay) in 24 days.  We used about 60 gallons of diesel.  The maximum winds we saw were 30kts, sustained.  The highest waves were 15ft.  The wind turbine churned out more power than we could use even when the freezer was running full blast full of fish.  And, we sailed with only a headsail most of the time; in light winds we used the asymmetrical spinnaker and in heavier winds the genoa.  The waves were at our beam almost the whole trip and the main just flopped around slowing us down.

We caught more fish than we could keep.  So many that we feel certain we could have lived on fish if we kept the poles in the whole time.  Initially it was Mahi-Mahi and then as the water got colder primarily albacore tuna.  Even me, a sushi lover, got sick of tuna.


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Keep an eye on the blog.

I am not sure what I am going to do with the blog.  I have really enjoyed feeling in touch with people and being able to share our experiences with those at home and the friends we have made along the way.  I plan to post some more pictures of our trip when I have enough internet to get them off of our phones and camera.  After that...who knows.  Maybe medical blogging is in my future.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Home Again, Home Again

We have made it!  After a long night of motoring we entered the Straight of San Juan de Fuca shortly after sunrise yesterday, Wednesday, August 13.  True to Seattle form it was raining, and continued to rain most of the day despite our attempts to clean and dry out everything on the boat.  We had hamburgers for dinner in Neah Bay, yum. Still a little damp, and after a short nights rest, we are headed further down the sound today to Port Angeles where we will be saying goodbye to Andrew.  More to come on our passage as soon as we reach Seattle.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Home Stretch


Currently, I am sitting at the computer waiting for a weather fax to complete.  As I mentioned in a previous post, NOAA sends out the weather fax documents via radio transmitters all along the coast.  Right now we are receiving a signal from Honolulu which is gathered by the SSB antenna and then translated into an image by our little modem and the computer.  The winds picked up last night, as we were expecting.  It was also good that we had close to no wind for most of  yesterday, because we were able to organize, clean and prepare the boat for the weather that will, hopefully push us the 4-6 days to Cape Flattery.  On a long trip like this the inside of the cabin can get quite disorganized as people change clothing, switch shifts and live their daily lives all within the 300ish square feet of the boat.  This is typically not a problem until the weather or swell picks up and then these discarded and unsecured items go flying across the cabin and invariably land on someone's face while they are trying to sleep.

Things are going well and thanks to great sailing for the first week of the trip (we actually made over 150nm in one day!) we are still on schedule.  This particular passage is known to test sailors as even in normal years (this is an El Nino year) it is marked by feast or famine where the wind is concerned.  Looking through our position log -- where we regularly log our latitude, longitude, speed and basic weather conditions -- I can see many reports of wind around 20 kts and many where we are simply hove to or drifting because the water is glassy and their isn't a breeze in sight.  Right now there is a low pressure system over the Aleutians, headed towards the Gulf of Alaska and predicted to bring yet more strong winds as air from the high below us rushes up to fill the vacuum of the low.  As I write this we are 620nm from Cape Flattery and although, most likely, we won't be able to see it when we arrive due to fog, I cannot tell you how wonderful it will be to reach that way point.

Also, thank you to everyone who has sent us messages about the hurricanes, we know they are there and are currently more than 1000nm away from them, in very cold water, and are above the latitude reached by the northernmost tropical storm in recorded history.  Still, it feels great to know that so many people care about us and are watching our progress.  For some reason (I am blaming sunspots) we are having a difficult time connecting to send emails.  We do however continue to connect to the Pacific Seafarers Net every night and you can look at our position reports through them by changing the call sign on the tracking map from WDG8553 to KD9AFE
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Traffic



The ocean is a big place, a very, very big place.  Although there are a lot of vessels out here at any given time, it is only slightly more likely for us to see one in our 15 mile radius of sight than it is to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.  That said, occasionally miracles do happen.  Or in our case not miracles but the intense fear of a tanker going 20 knots appearing on the horizon and headed right for our boat.  A tanker or cargo ship traveling at that speed can be right on top of us in 20-30 minutes and although they are 300 meters long their skeleton crew may not see Moments (we imagine them drinking beer and eating hamburgers in their heated pilot house).  This gets especially dicey the further north we travel because there is more rain and fog.  Without our radar system, the limited visability in rain and fog would mean very little time to react if we were to see or hear a large ship headed our way.

On our sail from Mexico, we saw three shipping vessels and two fishing boats.  All but one of the container ships was within 200 miles of the coast.  Then, one night out it the middle of the ocean, as we were changing shifts, we spotted a green light in the distance.  Sometimes we can get fooled and think that stars rising on the horizon (especially Venus) are the lights of ships, but they are rarely green.  This ship passed within 3 miles of us.  An amazing feet when you consider the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. 



This trip seemed to be similar, we passed by only one ship the first week out, but then, in the last 24 hours, we saw four container ships.  We could even see two at one time!  Most of these ships travel great circle routes, which are routes designed to travel the least amount of distance over the surface of the earth.  Because the earth is a sphere, a rhumb line on a map (straight line between two points) is actually curved and one of these great circle routes is essentially straight.  If you have ever flown on a long flight with one of those airplane trackers, you have seen this.  On a flat map Greenland seems a little out of the way but on a flight traveling a great circle route from the US to Europe you see its icy landscape out the window for much of the trip.  After so many large shipping vessels in a row we figured that we must be crossing a great circle route to some large port.  The last ship in the train looked as if it would pass within two tenths of a mile from us so we hailed the captain to make sure he knew that we were there and were hoping not to get hit or swamped by his enormous wake.


This captain might win an award for jolliest mariner and asked (in good English with a thick Russian accent) where we were headed and how long it would take us to get there.  There was a little pause and a chuckle when we told him our expected arrival time.  When we said that they should maintain course and that we would shut off our engines and wait for wind, he became concerned and asked if everything was all right on board.  We assured him that this was just the nature of sailing.  We also learned from him where all of these ships were headed: the Panama Canal.

We are now closer to Washington than we are to Hawaii and the weather is following suit.  Now it is my turn to be on watch and freeze in the fog and rain...

Less than 1000 nm to go!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Its getting cold out here

Things are still going well on the SV Moments.  We are dried out, aired out and still making good progress.  We were becalmed for the first time yesterday and had to motor for a while.  Now the wind has picked back up and we are again headed north.

One of the biggest challenges of this particular voyage is the weather.  Although Adam and I are far from experts, we have learned quite a bit about marine weather systems and weather predicting this year.  From Hawaii to Seattle we head through what sailors used to call the horse latitudes.  This area of relatively light winds earned its name when sailing vessels in the past got stuck here, ran out of water, and had to throw the horses overboard because they had died or in an attempt to lighten the load and sail faster.  Although we do have plenty of bacon and cold cuts aboard we decided to shy away from livestock so lightening our load is not possible unless our crew member decides he would like to go for an extended swim :) 



Unlike the sailors of yesteryear, we also have the advantage of a diesel engine which we have run for a total of 15 hours since leaving Kauai.  To put this in perspective, we only motored about 20 hours total on our way from Mexico to Hawaii; today, we have almost reached that mark and are not even 1/3 of the way to Seattle.  We have heard from a number of boats making this same trip and they have all motored more than expected.  It seems like in this year of extreme weather (remember that cold winter you had? It is all, most likely, connected) and el nino conditions the northern Pacific weather systems are not behaving as they typically do.


I have mentioned this before, but sitting in the middle of the northern Pacific, right on the rhumb line between Hawaii and Seattle, is a cold mass of air called the Great Pacific High.  The name is a little misleading because often there can be more than one high, but every year from June to September the High condenses, stabilizes, and moves south.  This enables us to get up and around it on our trip to Seattle.  Why do we have to go around it?  Well, not only is it cold inside the High, but there is no wind.  As a sailboat, no wind is a big problem.  There is no way we can carry enough fuel to motor through the High, the main body of which is well over 600 miles in diameter.  I say the main body because, surprise, surprise, this year there are multiple highs and they keep moving around! 


Using our SSB radio we download weather information at least twice a day and try to make course decisions to the best of our ability.  NOAA supplies all of this information for free and we use antiquated technology (basically a slow fax machine) to receive the charts via transmissions from Honolulu, Kodiak and Pt. Reyes.  Much to our chagrin, in the last few days a new high has formed and is moving towards us from the west as we try to avoid the even larger high to the east.  Over the next few hours/days we will be trying to thread the needle, praying that we can get north of the primary high and finally start to turn towards Seattle.  However, if we get stuck I don't think we will starve as yesterday we caught so many mahi-mahi that we ended up throwing most of them back!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Northward Bound



Although I am not typically a superstitious person, I hesitate to comment about our progress.  Each time I did so on the way across the situation would change drastically within hours!  Oh, well, here we go.



We are 430 nautical miles out of Kauai and just beginning our fourth day of sailing.  Our progress is much faster than our speed of 120nm/day from Mexico, currently averaging 150nm/day on this leg.  We are aiming for a way point at 40 degrees north, where we will finally turn east towards Seattle.  Hopefully, the North Pacific High will stay out of our way and we wont have to motor like many of the other boats we have heard from making the same journey.  We are carrying enough diesel to motor close to 100 hours, but motoring on a sailboat can be very miserable because the boat is much less stable and the engine is so loud!



During the first two days of the trip I think that everything on board got wet.  Luckily, since leaving Santa Barbara last fall, most of our electronics are stored in ziploc bags and before leaving Hawaii we wrapped up all of our books in garbage bags anticipating a wet sail.  We were drenched for a few reasons.  First of all we were beating north (sailing close to the direction the wind and waves come from) and there was a lot of salt water coming over the bow and spraying whomever was on deck.  Also, for a large portion of those first two days it was raining, a parting gift from tropical storm Wali.  We also saw some lightening, but none close enough that we could hear the thunder.  Lastly, this one our own fault, in an attempt to cool down the cabin we left a port light open and got hit with a wave just right to get, what seemed like, the maximum amount of water that could possibly fit through such a tiny opening.  Things have dried out somewhat in the last 24 hours but there is still this damp, clammy feeling about everything.  Surprisingly, the weather here is much warmer than it was on our way to Hawaii, so we haven't yet suffered being wet and cold at the same time.



In addition to sailing up wind getting us very wet, it has also resulted in more bruises than I have ever had at one time.  Andrew, our crew member, actually bounced out of his bunk and onto the cabin floor, clearing the lee cloth rigged to keep him from doing just that!  Luckily, he was not injured.  I on the other hand received the most serious injury so far when I was cooking.  I had reached over the stove to grab a plate from the cabinet and suddenly the boat moved.  The gimbaled stove, excellent for keeping food in the pot while it is cooking, tilted in such a way that the top of the hot pressure cooker caught the underside of my forearm while I was desperately trying to figure out how to stay upright.  The burn, about 3''x1'', blistered immediately and is definitely the worst one I have ever had.  Luckily, we have a very extensive first aid kit and plenty of antibiotics on board if it comes to that.  Hopefully, when we make our turn towards Seattle in a few days things will calm down again and just living will not be such a challenge.



Miles traveled: 430
Fish count: 2 (Mahi Mahi)
Days until the big right turn: Hopefully less than 5!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rain, Rain Go Away

The last week has been a big one!  In case you haven't heard from Facebook, we have decided to return to Seattle with Moments.  I know that, at least for me, this seems like an odd decision.  We will be trading sunshine, warm water and palm trees for rain and cold.  I know that the rain is not all Seattle has to offer, but for me it has always been the major deterrent.  Still, we decided to return because it makes the most since for us during the coming year.   Adam was offered a job here but has elected to pursue opportunities at home, partially because his remaining in Honolulu to work would mean yet another long period of long distance for us.  So, we embark on this voyage hoping to have a few months together in Seattle before I have to start traipsing around the country for residency interviews and return to North Carolina to graduate!  We are no longer in Honolulu and will be leaving for Seattle from Hanalei Bay on Kauai where we are currently anchored.  Having stayed in Honolulu for three weeks we were definitely sad to leave our friends and all of the wonderful things that city had to offer.  We are already talking about the "next time" we come to Hawaii!

Another big thing that happened is that our crew member arrived!  For this northern passage we decided that having an extra set of hands on board would be helpful.  The boat is definitely a little more crowded but even after the 24-hour sail to Kauai we are already glad that Andrew is with us.  Yesterday he reeled in the first Mahi Mahi of the trip and we had an excellent fish dinner after dropping anchor in Hanalei.  Andrew has just finished grad school at the University of Wisconsin and is an instructor for the Hoofer's Sailing Club, where Adam and I met.  Speaking of Adam and I meeting, that is another big thing that happened this week: on Friday we celebrated 5 years together!  We actually didn't celebrate much because we were running around trying to get out of the marina in Honolulu before they charged us an extra day.  Isn't it every girl's dream to leave for a month-long voyage with minimal sleep and bathing opportunities on her anniversary?  Well, it was definitely a way to mark the day!

We wouldn't have been able to provision this boat without the help of my friend Rachel from college.  She and her husband Kevin (who I met on my first day at UNC) were just transferred here with the Navy and we spent a wonderful afternoon sailing at Waikiki with them and their two boys.  Rachel was kind enough to drive us to the gas station, auto parts store, hardware store, and Costco so that we could really load up.  Adam and I then made an epic produce buying trip to Chinatown, the best place to buy fresh produce in Honolulu.  We brought it all home in our backpacks and a wheeled cart on the bus during rush hour, an adventure in itself.  Then, the morning we were about to pull away from the dock, we checked the weather for the last time and all we saw was bad news.  Tropical depression Wali, which has been lingering out in the Pacific, finally decided to make a slow move for Hawaii.  I madly scoured the internet and radio for whatever information I could find on its projected course and then finally called NOAA where, when I explained our situation, I was both surprised and pleased to be put right through to a forecaster who could answer all of my questions about Wali and discuss the weather possibilities for our trip.  We decided to leave Honolulu after all and as I write this we are currently being pounded by rain from the dissipating outer arms of the storm.  Luckily we will not see any of the stronger winds that such a storm could have brought with it.  We plan to spend the next 24-hours in Hanalei to rest and complete some final projects while we wait out the rain.

For this trip we plan to continue checking in with the Pacific Seafarers Net and make our regular position reports.  We expect the trip to take about three weeks as this is a much shorter distance than from Mexico to Hilo.  However, due to the North Pacific High, an area with no wind in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, we may have to head to about 40 degrees north before turning west at all.  It all depends on the position of the system which this year seems to have a nasty tendency to more around more than it typically does.

Check back with the blog.  We will try to send a few updates like we did on our last crossing.  So long landlubbers!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Where are we again?

The east side of Waikiki from where we were initially anchored
Honolulu is like taking a vacation in a big Asian city and only having to travel half the distance.  Of course, the prices are much higher than in many Asian countries, but much lower than they would be in Japan or Korea.   In addition, the streets are cleaner and there are far fewer motorbikes.  We have been thoroughly enjoying all of the different food options from Vietnamese spring rolls to Cantonese noodle houses.  The amount of tourism from developed Asia is astounding.  There are so many Japanese and Korean tourists that they have their own bus systems, and in our experience these foreign language busses seem to come by the stops much more often than the city bus system we have been using to get around!  The wealth present in Honolulu is apparent everywhere with a Rodeo Drive like outdoor shopping district stretching block after block just off Waikiki Beach and one of the largest malls I have ever seen within spitting distance of the marina. Comically, many of the stores (like the two Chanel stores within one half of a mile of each other) sport winter fashions that would not be practical at any time of the year in Hawaii.  I am guessing that their target customers are not the locals but instead the Japanese tourists who come here for “bargain” prices on the luxury goods heavily taxed all over Asia. Luckily for us, food prices are a little more reasonable than they were on Maui and we have been able to have many meals for under $20.  We just got back from a yummy lunch/dinner at a Japanese ramen counter and had to waddle our way home.  Last week we were very excited to find avocado smoothies (don’t knock it until you’ve tried one) and markets in Chinatown where we can stock up on all of the goodies we miss from our time overseas.
One of our favorite spots on the back side of Lana'i



Atop Diamond Head overlooking Waikiki

We are still in Honolulu after having sailed here about two weeks ago from Molokai.  In addition to eating our way through the city and our funds we have gone hiking on Diamond Head, spent many hours watching surfers on the beach and plan to get up early tomorrow to go out to Pearl Harbor.   Last night we spent a few hours on a local race boat, through which we met a nice group of young people, most of whom are PhD students at the University.  For now we are in a bit of a holding pattern, waiting for the next phase of our adventure to play out.  Although we loved our first crossing, neither of us is too excited about returning to Seattle by boat if we can’t find some crew.  The passage is both colder and has the potential for trickier weather.  We would love to stay in Hawaii for a while and we are currently applying to jobs, but no news yet.  Either way, boat or plane, I will be heading back to the mainland in September to start the residency application process but for now I have a little bit of adventure left in me.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Vacation from our "vacation"

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be on a vacation. I could go back to high school Latin and let the nerd in me peak out its head but in favor of our shortened, 21st century, attention spans I will just fill you in on what we have been up to for the last few weeks.  Since our arrival in Hawaii and our frolics with the dolphins on the leeward side of the Big Island, the last week of May Adam and I made our way to Maui just in time for his parents to arrive from Wisconsin.  This began two weeks of family fun, with some of my family arriving four days later.  There were two very notable events that occurred.  First, we got to sleep in a real bed!  We love Moments, and I have to admit that all of our various bunks are surprisingly comfortable, but after almost nine months of sleeping in the pie-wedge-shaped V-berth I was ready to stretch my legs, horizontally.  I have luckily (for Adam) given up the habit of kicking in my sleep for which I was famous as a child, but it is impossible to avoid bumping knees every once in a while sleeping in the bow of a boat.  Secondly, although Adam and I have been dating for close to five years, this was the first time that any of our family members had met each other.  You might think that this could be nerve racking but in general the two weeks we spent with our family were a wonderful time of exploring this beautiful island, lounging on the beach, and spending quality time with our family members whom we miss very much despite our tendencies to head off around the world.  Adam and I also got to enjoy that nice, juicy steak we had been dreaming about since about 2000 miles from Hawaii!


Of course, our trip to Maui was not uneventful.  Due to the (still paper based, imagine!) system of renting dock space and moorage here in Hawaii we had to stop at a DLNR office on the Big Island before making it to Maui over Memorial Day weekend.  It is a good thing that we left Hilo with some days to spare because we ended up staying in Kailua-Kona and Honokohau Harbor to make some repairs before jumping across the channel to Maui.  We spent one night anchored off of Oneloa and then headed into Maalea Harbor to tie up while our parents are here.  Adam and I knew that Maui was windy.  It is a famous spot for kite boarders and wind surfers, but despite this we truly had no idea.  In the harbor, wind whips through at 20-30 kts on a regular basis!  The leeward side of the Big Island is somewhat projected from the trade winds due to the high mountains.  Maui is essentially shaped like a dumbbell running east to west and, it turns out, that wind funnels right through that central valley making Maalea harbor one of the windiest in the world.  This is good for our batteries as the wind turbine is running full blast, but tough on our hearts because our boat, as well as all of the larger boats surrounding it, move quite a bit in the wind.  We have out every dock line we own, another that was already in the slip tied to a tire to help with the movement and surge, plus our secondary bow anchor out the back to keep the boat from slamming into the dock or the other boat!  We ended up buying another fender because the four we have plus the tires and carpet on the dock were not enough!  Oh and did I mention that there is a reef in the middle of the harbor and that the majority of boats are Tahiti tied instead of side tied to a dock? All of this and there is still a 10+ year waiting list for locals to get a slip.  I guess that small craft advisories nearly every day make for pretty good sailing, if you are into that kind of thing.

For now, it is back to boat work for us.  We once again had our lovely visitors cart gear back and forth.  Christmas three times in one year is not bad. Although the general impression of cruisers involves a healthy tan, colorful drinks with umbrellas and lots of time lounging on beaches, that ideal is far from our day to day life.  I now understand what my history teachers meant when they said that the invention of dishwashers, washing machines and refrigerators made it possible for women to have more free time or enter the work force.  Our days are mainly filled with repairs and chores, not exactly the vacation most non-cruisers imagine yet still a separation and change from our normal life.  Despite our chores, life is more simple, we get more sleep and we have much more quality time together, fulfilling our main goal for this year.  It is hard for me to even remember what it was like when we were dating long-distance. For now we have no idea what the future holds.  Similar to our plan to head "south" in Mexico we are heading "west" here in Hawaii.  This phase of the adventure will end in September when I have to be back on the mainland to deal with residency applications and interviews. Until then we are exploring all of our options: applying for jobs both here and at home, putting the boat on the market, looking for crew to sail back but most of all taking our time and enjoying Hawaii.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Close Encounters

A boobie catching a ride on our sail.
I got some exercise yesterday morning; I grabbed my mask and fins and jumped over the side of the boat to hang out with some spinner dolphins swimming circles around the coral reefs in our bay.  I cannot even begin to describe the amazing feeling of being in the wild with these wonderful, intelligent creatures.  Some were even curious enough to come very close and turn their head to make eye contact before dashing away.  There were about 45 dolphins in total including at least two babies no longer than one and a half to two feet.  I know better than to get too close when babies are involved but I barely had to chase the pod as they drifted in and out of my view.  It was just me and the dolphins for about and hour before Adam joined us.  Despite being very cold (I am completely spoiled having grown up in the South) this was definitely a highlight of the whole year.  We are currently anchored in Honomalino Bay, a secluded location in the shadow of Mauna Loa bordered on the south by an old lava flow and the north by palm trees and a black sand beach.  The visibility in the cove is about 50 feet so we can easily see the ripples in the sand on the bottom from the deck of the boat and watching the dolphins below and above the water is a definite treat.  If you have never seen spinner dolphins and what they can do, Google "Hawiian Spinner Dolphins" and be amazed!  The coral here is much more impressive than anything we saw in Mexico, even if we hadn't
made friends with Flipper.  We were also able to dive our anchor last night and make sure it was set well, which always leads to a comfortable night's rest.

Adam heading off the trail into the roots of a Banyan.  Do things ever change?
We had hoped to ease back into sailing after our long voyage but that was not the case.  From Hilo, any destination secure enough to call an anchorage is at least at 24-hour sail.  We actually started our voyage on Sunday but as we were exiting the bay the Coast Guard radioed that there was a 36-foot sailing vessel disabled outside of the Hilo breakwater.  That could describe Moments, but we were having a fine time sailing and were not disabled in the least!  In the distance, however, was another sailing boat with their sails barely raised and when we approached them we learned that they to had crossed from Mexico but that their engine had quit working almost 1000 miles from Hilo.  Typically that is not a problem in trade wind sailing. We didn't run our engine until that last day of our voyage as we were headed into Hilo.  It is much easier to anchor using an engine than under sail, but this story provides another reason to learn how to do both!  Being the friendly mariners that we are we offered a tow back into the harbor and after a few tries we managed to attach them to our stern and tow them through six foot swell into Reed's Bay, one of the anchorages in Hilo.  It took four or five tries to get them anchored in the right place but in the end Adam and I were able to anchor ourselves and take a nap!  We decided that one false start was good for the day and instead of heading out of the harbor immediately rose early the next morning to travel clockwise around the island.  It was a great sail and despite some currents doing their best to hold us in Hilo we made it to Honomalino with plenty of light to anchor.  I never knew that the big island was so, well, big!  Right now we are about to weigh anchor and head further north with the hope of crossing to Maui Friday or Saturday to meet the first wave of visitors in Sugar Beach for two weeks of family fun.
Rachel clicking her heels to be on land, even if it is in the caldera of a volcano.

For those interested regarding our repairs: The gooseneck is holding up and supported with an insane amount of webbing but the reefing hooks have completely broken off.  That is where the majority of the damage was anyways so no big surprise and it looks like the weather may not even provide enough wind for a slow sail across the channel so we may get lucky here.  We have not hand a problem using the cunningham to reef and have ordered a replacement gooseneck to arrive in Maui while we are there.  Our outboard went on the fritz two days before we left Mexico but the anchorages so far in Hawaii have been so calm that we are easily rowing the dingy anywhere we need to go.  The propane system, which has continually given us problems for the entire year is once again broken but we think we have it figured out this time.  We can cook but for safety reasons keep the tanks closed when we are not using them.  Replacement parts are on their way with our parents.

OK, now I need to start cooking this challah french toast in my effort to burn through all of the remaining Mexican eggs!  Thank you for all of the wonderful messages of congratulations and support we have received in the last week.  It has been really touching.  We were honestly not aware that so many people are reading our blog and have followed our journey.  Aloha!
One of the many beautiful sunsets

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In Recovery

The most remarkable thing is that the boat is no longer moving.  I cannot even begin to explain how strange that is.  My legs are both sore from use and yet atrophied from only walking a maximum of 36' feet for a month,  I am covered in bruises affectionately called "boat bites" from zigging when I should have zagged and I can't believe I am writing this blog post before taking a shower since I have only showered once a week since we left Mexico.  We left the fuel dock in Ixtapa on Sunday, April 13th at 20:20 UTC and we put our anchor down Sunday, May 11 at 21:47 UTC making the trip about 28 days, so our estimate of one month was pretty close.  In general the crossing was excellent.  We had relatively good weather, moderate winds, only occasional large swell and most importantly the boat and its sailors are still in one piece.  We entered Hilo harbor on a drizzly Sunday morning just as the sun was melting back the morning rain clouds.  Even though I have always been a fan of environmental regulations, having left
Our V-berth shortly before departure!


Zihuatanejo only days after government agents posted "playa contaminado" signs along the beach and then pulling into a busy Hawaiian harbor that was still clean enough that you could see the bottom 35-40 feet below the boat, I have a renewed conviction about their importance.  After anchoring in Radio Bay we did a deep clean of the boat and spent the first night celebrating with a good dinner, a bottle of wine and listening to the luau going only feet from our boat.  Unfortunately, we were confined to Moments until Customs and the Harbor Master could clear us officially into the country today but the beautiful sounds of the Hawaiian language and ukuleles were a more than pleasant welcome.

Fresh food from the sea
There were many exciting times on our adventure across the ocean, a few of which I covered in my other posts but here are some of the highlights!

Provisions: We were carrying 110 gallons of diesel, 110 gallons of water and 50 gallons of gasoline.  We still have more than 50% of all of these quantities.  Still, I wouldn't do it any other way. Even though we ran our refrigerator most of the way across, we didn't have to run the generator or engine nearly as much as we thought we would because we made plenty of wind power.  We did make some solar power but the sky was cloudy except for a handful of days, the wind power is really what saved us.  When it comes to food we were very well provisioned and didn't even have to break into our canned/boxed supplies.  I still have about 35 onions and a few pounds of potatoes!

A little serenade before sunset
Casualties: Our biggest problem was chafe on the Monitor lines.  We had to move the blocks running the lines thought the cockpit, rotate the lines, wrap them in tape, and many other measures to limit, distribute or control chafe and made it here just in time.  All of the sheets will probably have to be replaced before we head anywhere long distance.  We also chafed through one of the belts for our wheel pilot, the electronic autopilot, but we had a spare so that was no big deal.  The most important item to break was the gooseneck, the large hinge that connects the boom to the mast.  It did not completely break and we were able to support the cracks that developed by rigging up a webbing harness.  Our best guess is that it bent and cracked when I (rather violently) accidentally jibed the boat during one of the brief periods of heavy swell and wind that we experienced.  Luckily we had already reefed the sails (decreased their size) so the damage was nothing we couldn't deal with.

Fish count: 7 dorado (mahi-mahi) and one tuna

Notes on wildlife: We were surprised that there were birds with us the whole way across.  Neither of us thought that we would see birds way out in the middle of the ocean, but there they were every day.  We also didn't see any whales, turtles or dolphins once we cleared the Mexican coast and have yet to see any in Hawaii.  Lastly, flying fish can fly an impressive distance!

The best part of for me is that we were literally sailing into the sunset every evening and believe me, there were each different and spectacular!

Would we do it again?  Yes!  Yes, we are sick of sailing, we have been dreaming of steak and Taco Bell since about day 15, and we are planning to spend the next two hours in the shower, but we wouldn't give up the experience for anything.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Big Ocean, Small Boat

I cannot believe that another week has passed.  We are making steady progress with great sailing conditions.  Energy is low but morale is high and we are very excited to make landfall hopefully sometime this weekend or early next week.  

My biggest complaint right now is that I just finished my last book!  All I have to read now are boat part manuals and reference books, not exactly the kind of reading you want when you are trying to stay awake on a night shift.  I brought six novels with me and thought that would be sufficient for four weeks but it turns out that I should have brought twice as many.  I would try to spend some time at night navigating by the stars or at least trying to find the constellations I know but we have had almost 100% cloud cover, day and night, for most of the trip.  Today happens to be sunny but I would put money down on clouds rolling in sometime around sunset and staying put until well after sunrise tomorrow.  This is great for our efforts to prevent sunburn but it also makes us a little energy starved when our solar panels don't get a full dose. 

We are feeling very comfortable with our provisions.  We still have more than 50% of the diesel, gasoline and water that we brought with us and although I spend some time every day throwing out rotten produce there are a few apples, oranges, tomatoes, cabbages and cucumbers left in addition to all of the potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets and jicama that wouldn't go bad even if our trip were twice as long!  

This week we have been very fortunate because our persistence on the fishing front has paid off.  After coming down the Baja this fall we really didn't have much luck fishing until just recently.  Part of that is probably timing: we were sailing most of the time in the middle of the day, and part of it is probably laziness: we were using the same lures over and over and by the time we removed them they were barely sharp and definitely rusty.  We did catch a tuna early in the trip but it was mealy and we ended up throwing most of it back.  However, in the last few days our luck has changed.  We have caught so many dorado (aka mahi-mahi or dolphin fish) that we have released a number of them. Adam even rigged up one of the flying fish that unfortunately landed on our deck to see if he could catch a monster, but no luck so far. Yesterday I reeled in one dorado that would probably keep us fed for four days if we ate fish for every meal!  Unfortunately, I don't know if we will be able to eat it all before it spoils because we have had to turn our refrigerator off because it was using too much power, but right now the sun is shining, we are almost there, fresh ceviche is on ice for lunch and it is past time for my nap!

480 nautical miles to go!
2546 nautical miles covered

Monday, April 28, 2014

Are we on a boat or a roller coaster?


Despite our toasts to Poseidon both when we left Ixtapa and when we could no longer see land I think I pissed him off with that last blog post.  Poseidon, I am sorry, you are all powerful.  The sea can be fierce and we have unfortunately seen a little bit of that over the last few days. 


Although, what we have seen is nowhere near true storm conditions, for the last 72 hours we have been getting winds approaching or above 20kts and seas of 8-10+ feet.  The worst part is that the swell period is extremely short.  The measurement "period" is akin to the wavelength if you have ever taken a physics course -- it is the distance from the top of one wave to the top of the next.  When the period is short by the time you come down off of one wave there is very little time, if any, for you and the boat to recover before you begin your ascent again.  I do not want to worry everyone, Moments has done very well and we are safe.  

The major problem has been that the waves, combined with the higher force winds have been too much for the Monitor windvane and we have had to hand steer.  Hand steering, especially through waves like that, is exhausting.  The first day we got into a routine of one hour shifts which was about as long as I could manage to keep the boat pointed in the right direction.  Luckily, the previous day I had made a huge pot of vegetable soup and baked some bread so we at least didn't have to spend our precious sleeping time cooking meals.  

We have experienced similar conditions before coming down the Baja peninsula, but for those shorter trips of 2-3 days there was a light at the end of the tunnel; we just exhausted ourselves hand steering and then slept soundly at anchor.  This time, after one whole day of one hour hand steering shifts we knew that there was no way we were going to be able to sustain that pattern through the night and the next day, after which it looked like the weather was going to change. 

Lets just say that I now know how Popeye got such big biceps, and trust me it wasn't the spinach.  So, what did we do?  We hove to.  Heaving to is a magical sailing technique that allows you to essentially park the boat at a "comfortable" angle to the wind and the waves.  Once you achieve the correct angle and lock down the wheel all you need to do is keep a watch to make sure you don't get run down by a tanker.  Yes, you do drift a little but we actually drifted directly towards Hawaii, making progress when we weren't even intending to move!  

Adam and I both got a good night's rest and we were back to sailing this morning under much more favorable conditions.  We have actually passed the half way mark today so it is all down hill from here.  Or should I say down wind? (Corny, I know, maybe the sleep has gone to my head.)

1500 miles to go!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Life on S/V Moments

All is well on the SV Moments!  Sure, we are both already feeling a little stir crazy but we have good weather and it looks like this pattern might hold for a while.  

Before we left I had a lot of questions about what exactly it was we would be doing for our month at sea.  Frankly, it's pretty boring.  We like it boring, we want it to be boring; boring means everything is as it should be and we have good sailing conditions. 

Life on the boat is pretty much like life everywhere else, you just have to understand that everything moves.  We also don't have a real shower, but that is another story.  The first few days of this trip, and our other longer sails, were exhausting.  While at anchor, we had gotten used to going to bed and rising with the sun, which typically gives us 9-12 hours of sleep a night!  This has been a serious treat for me as medical school typically afforded me only 5-7 hours, maximum.  We cannot truly anchor the boat at night in the middle of the ocean.  The depth where we are right now is more than 3000ft.  Also, there are other boats to worry about.  As as it takes about 14 miles to stop a large cargo ship or tanker and fishing vessels generally have such bright lights that they cannot see us until we are very close, too close, we are always on the lookout.  

We take three hour watch shifts all day and all night.  The good thing is that we are generally so exhausted by the end of our shift that sleeping is not a problem.  We also have plenty of snacks, warm beverages and reading material to make the shifts more enjoyable.  Also, did I mention the spectacular scenery?  Sharks, turtles, HUGE tuna (yes, we can see them through the water), rays, dolphins, whales, birds etc and at night the bioluminecence makes our boat look like one of the floating cars in a Jetson's cartoon, floating among the wonderfully starry sky.  I cannot count the number of falling stars I have seen since this trip began.  

Luckily, one of the things you typically do not have to do while on watch is physically steer the boat.  There is no power steering here and to keep the boat pointed through the waves is a significant workout.  Occasionally, it is necessary to hand steer for a while and even with the Monitor windvane (a mechanical autopilot of sorts) doing most of the work you always have to be alert and make small corrections to the course and most importantly adjust the sails. 

Now that we are ticking off our 10th day at sea (4/23) we have both become more accustomed to the sleep schedule, our meals actually occur at regular time intervals and we have fallen into a routine regarding necessary chores on the boat.  We eat pretty much how we would eat anywhere else which includes baking bread once or twice a week.  We get weather information and even some emails from our family through our SSB radio once a day, which is how I send out these updates. 

So there you have it, extraordinary yet at the same time boring, just the way we like it.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ocean Safari



Finally, we are moving!  Although the weather information that we have downloaded says that there was not supposed to be much wind last night and today, we are finally on a course and speed that puts us ahead of schedule.  Unfortunately, we are still making up time from our fight against the wind and then a few periods where we were completely becalmed, bobbing on an absolutely flat, clear sea.  We are currently about 2700 miles from our destination.

Dolphins are our constant companions day and night racing the boat, flipping and spinning up into the air.  I know they are out there but it always makes me jump a little when I am sitting in the cockpit at night and suddenly hear the sound of their blow holes only feet away.  It was especially shocking when I heard a much louder gush of spray and air and realized that a whale had surfaced just feet from our boat.  We generally try to avoid getting too close to whales as they are about as big as we are and can cause serious damage to the boat (not to mention the poor whale!).  Adam was in radio contact with a boat while coming down the Oregon coast that became disabled after they, most likely, hit a sleeping whale.  However, this whale was most definitely not asleep and most of the time it seems like they approach us because they are curious.  Adam always says we should try to talk to them and then begins to make all sorts of horrible sounds which he maintains is "whale speak."  This whale checked us out and then, most likely realizing that we were not another whale, went quickly on his merry way. 

Although Adam has not yet had any response from the whales he was able to communicate with some of the local wildlife last night.  Similar to the famous blue-footed boobie of the Galapagos, Mexico has a very healthy population of yellow-footed boobies which we have enjoyed watching as they fly around us and dive from 40-50ft to catch fish.  We also spend some time cursing them when they decide to poop all over our decks.

There are still a number of birds way out here and they often like to hitch a ride on our boat.  Last night one perched itself directly on the top of our mast and stayed there most of the night.  This was not a problem until around midnight when I noticed the lights of a fishing boat that seemed to be getting closer very rapidly.  The boobie was sitting right in front of our tri-color light -- the green, red and white light that lets other boats know we are here and which direction we are going.  I was worried that with the bird there the fishing vessel could not see our lights!  Adam was just coming on shift so I asked him to flash the tricolor and anchor light to try and scare the bird away.  This, unfortunately, did not work.  He then tried to give his loudest velociraptor scream up the mast through the hole in the cabin, again to no avail.  As an aside, if you have not heard Adam's velociraptor scream you should ask him next time you see him, seriously, it is straight out of Jurassic Park.  Next, we got out the foghorn and finally received some response from the bird but not the one we were hoping for.  We squawked at it and it squawked back at us, but didn't budge.  By this time the fishing vessel was close but we were clearly not on a collision course so we let the bird be.  He was still there when I came back on watch three hours later.  I have to say that bird must have one solid stomach to sit on that mast all night long, it made me dizzy just trying to watch him!

You may assume that our boat is the only thing for miles around that the birds can land on without getting their feet wet, but this is not the case.  Yesterday, the day of boobie shenanigans, we also saw four of these birds fighting over who got to hitch a ride on the back of a sleeping sea turtle.  They were making such a racket that the turtle eventually swam away but we enjoyed the show as each one tried to swoop in and knock the others off to gain a little respite in the middle of the big blue sea.

Stay tuned for more from the S/V Moments.  Trade winds here we come!

Posted for Rachel and Adam by Lori Hughes

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

And They're Off...


4/15/13 - 10:39 local, 15:39Z

We have left Mexico!  The sign-out procedures were (as anticipated) a bit of a circus but both immigration and the port captain were very helpful to make sure we were able to leave with all of the necessary paperwork.  We left at 3:20PM on Sunday and are now just beginning day #3 on the sea.

Although winds were predicted to be from the northwest we found out very quickly that they were actually coming from right where we wanted to be going!  Sailboats cannot sail directly up wind.  Instead you have to tack back and forth in a zig-zag pattern so that the wind hits your sails at an angle and (just as in an airplane) uses lift and the momentum of the wind to propel you forward.  When tacking to get somewhere up wind you not only move slower because the wind blows you back a bit but you also have to cover twice or more ground than you would if you were headed straight from point a to point b.  So this is where we are.

Luckily the wind was reasonably strong and the swell was low so we covered 60+ nautical miles towards Hawaii in the first 24 hours and by now have covered close to 180nm.  This is definitely progress but we are a little bummed because our boat can easily sail 125+ nm per day.  At least the trade winds wont be right in our faces but we have to get there first!  

Other than the wind, so far everything has gone smoothly and we have enjoyed the company of hundreds of dolphins and 20 or so sea turtles.  Some little suicide squid jumped up onto our deck last night and Adam just put them on our lures as (used to be) alive bait.  I am always amazed by the stars when we get away from land but over the last few nights we have seen a number of meteors which has been a real treat!

We are currently checking in with the Pacific Seafarers Net (www.pacseanet.com) and continue to put our position reports in YOTREPS.  You can go to www.shiptrak.org to see a video of our progress.  Unfortunately some of the reports are under our ship station call sign: WDG8553 (all up until now) and others are under Adam's ham call sign: KD9AFE (because that is how the Pacific Seafarers Net logs them).  I tried sweet talking them into combining the two but no can do.

That is it for now and I hope this message makes it over the radio waves to you all!
 
While at Zihuatanejo, MX. Our boat is the one by Adam's head!







Anchored in Zihuatanejo (no more!)





























Posted for Rachel and Adam by Lori Hughes

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Leap

My New Year's resolutions are shot.  I guess that is pretty typical but I had hoped that since I was on "vacation" I would finally have both the time and the will to make them happen.  Alas, that was not so, as you can see for yourself by the recent frequency, or lack there of, of my blog posts.  I have received a few emails concerned for our safety and hoping that Moments was not resting on the bottom of the ocean.  Not to worry, Moments is still afloat and looking better than ever.  Adam and I are a little worse for wear because although we are on "vacation" we have been putting in long days checking projects off the list.

When discussing this trip with some of you I may have mentioned our original plan: to cross the Pacific to the Marquesas Islands.  About the time we got to Mexico it became clear that that plan would cause us to rush, pretty much all year.  There are two main problems with rushing.  First, on a sailboat rushing is dangerous.  You cannot rush the weather and you only want to make a crossing when the weather looks great not when you hope it will be fine because you really have to get somewhere.  Second, there are many reasons that we left on this adventure but rushing was not one of them!  We grew to love Mexico, so we took it slow.  Our Spanish is better, we made many quality friendships and we were able to stop at some out of the way places rather than make big leaps down the coast.  This was a better plan for us so we moseyed down the coast very undecided about the future, content with the present, and always ready to answer "south" when asked where we were headed.  However, by the time we left Manzanillo it was becoming clear that we needed to make some tough decisions.  Were we going to keep heading south down the Central American coast and cross through the Canal into the Caribbean or did we want to make a right turn somewhere and head out far enough so we could get back to the Pacific coast of the US?

Right turn it is.  Although neither of us has been to Central America and the draw was strong, this was another plan that would result in rushing.  To be out of the Caribbean and Gulf by June, when the hurricane season starts, was just counting on too many "ifs" to go our way.  Not to mention, it is currently lighting season in Panama where there are a crazy number of strikes each year (check out this: http://geology.com/articles/lightning-map.shtml and this: http://wwlln.net/new/map/ for some cool things about lighting)  Tall, warm, metal mast + flat, cool ocean = not a good idea.  Some boats do have lighting protection systems so that all of their electronics are not fried when they are struck, but not Moments.  We probably need to get a little better with the sextant before risking the loss of our navigation electronics!

For those of you not familiar with sailing and global weather patterns.  The wind along the western cost of North America generally comes out of the north and then moves to the northeast as you get further from shore.  The swell (waves, before they hit land and become waves) also comes out of the north as it is (primarily) the result of the friction of the wind on the water.  Sailing up wind with pounding waves at your bow is not our idea of a fun or safe time.

So, with those options not looking so excellent and the Marquesas a far off (but probably unrealistic in a year) dream, we have decided to head for Hawaii!  The Hawaiian Islands are the most remote islands on the planet and to get there we will be traveling more than 3000 miles.  Think LA to NY in a sailboat.  For the last month we have been working hard making all of the necessary preparations for this long passage, which will most likely take us about 1 month.  Thank you to everyone for your support!  More to come before we depart.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sail Repair

We have reached the point in our trip that we need to do some major sail repair.  Since we are enjoying Zihuatanejo so much and there are some minor resources here (fabric store, small fishing shops with some boating items and other cruisers) now seemed as good a time as any.  So here we go with the second sewing blog post in a row.  I apologize and promise more variety in the future, really.

Secondary only to the hull which keeps the water at bay, our sails are the most important item on the boat and they take a beating.  Some might think that sailing in heavy winds is what causes sails to wear out.  Although heavy winds can cause dramatic blow-outs as well as general wear and tear, in our experience it has been sailing in a lot of light wind that has taken a greater toll.  On a sailboat the sails help to stabilize the boat especially in rolling seas.  This only works correctly when the wind is strong enough to keep the sails full.  Here in Mexico we have had a lot of "sailing" days where this is not the case and instead of smoothly sailing towards our destination we wind up bobbing about at the whim of the waves. The sails flop back and forth as we madly try to keep the boom on one side of the boat and figure out how to move faster than the current can pull us.  As they flop, the sails have any number of things that they can bang on and they do this over and over and over again.  Chafe and rust, enemies number one and two on the fiberglass sailing vessel.  Sails can have problems with corrosion at all of their metal fastenings, but this we addressed before we left Seattle by replacing many of the old grommets.  However, the vibration as the wind rushes over the sail, the degrading UV rays from the sun and all of this flopping around has brought about the need for a sail repair session.

As I mentioned in my last post we do not have a sewing machine.  Instead we have four hands, two sail-maker's palms (even a lefty one for me!), some very large needles, various types of cloth, a roll of thick, waxed polyester thread and a couple of brewskies to keep us going.  Most of our knowledge about sail repair comes from our friend Marty at Ballard Sails.  Before we left Seattle she gave us a number of valuable lessons in sail repair that have served us well on our trip.  We cannot thank her enough!  On board we also have two books with information about sail repair.  One is a general repair book about all of the systems on the boat and has about five pages on the most common types of repairs sailors have to make.  Everything we have had to do has been in that book so they definitely picked the right topics, however, their is a serious paucity of information and most of the advice assumes that you have an industrial sewing machine handy.  The other book we have is like a cook book that tells you have to slaughter the cow rather than just season the stew.  No matter how pretty they might be I am not interested in making Chinese junk (a type of boat) sails from natural canvas, by hand.  Also, there is no way that the index in that book was written by anyone who ever had to repair sails.  So, like many of our boat projects, when it comes to sail repair we often feel like we are making it up as we go.

We wanted every sail on the boat examined and ready to sail with.  This includes the spare sails.  We carry one asymmetrical spinnaker, two (very old) main sails, a trisail, a 130% genoa, a 100% jib and a storm jib.  Here is some more information if you are not familiar with the names of these sails:
Spinnaker - These are the colorful sails that you often see on the fronts of sailboats.  Ours is kind of rainbow colored: red, orange, yellow and purple stripes.
Main - Just as the name implies, this is the primary sail on the boat that goes up the mast and along the boom
Genoa - A large sail that runs from the front of the boat back towards the mast.  This is really just a large jib.
Jib - The typical kind of foresail on a boat, running from the bow back towards the mast.
Storm jib/trisail - These are our storm sails.  They are much smaller than our normal sails, and we can put them up in heavy winds to help us more easily control the boat.

If you are keeping count that makes seven sails.  Right now we are three down, four to go!  However, it is definitely the genoa and main that need the most work.  We use those two sails and the spinnaker most often, especially since most of our trip so far has been traveling down wind.  Today my hands feel like a pincushion.  I think every finger has been stuck at least once.  I spent most of the last four days sitting under our harbor awning in my bathing suit pushing the needle back and forth using a sailmaker's palm and a pair of pliers. I don't think I have to say how much I would appreciate a sewing machine right now.  However, it does feel like quite an accomplishment when I look at the finished product.  Our genoa now has a new, functional, leach line and a repaired, leather-wrapped clew, two things that will improve our ability to sail well and safely.  How I acquired the leather is a story for another day.  Adam keeps telling me that if the whole doctor thing doesn't work out I can always fall back on sail-making but I don't think my fingers would like that very much.

Sorry no pictures right now because of our low reserve of data.  However, if you are interested in seeing Zihuatanejo in real life we would love some visitors!  We will probably be here for at least the next two weeks.  This week Zihuatanejo is having a wonderful International Guitar Festival and we can hear the music from the boat!  Check it out here: www.zihuafest.info

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's Getting Hot In Here

We are definitely in the tropics now! Since leaving California on what must have been the coldest, rainiest day in the history of San Diego summers, the weather has steadily gotten warmer.  I still have the odd feeling that Christmas and my birthday were a hoax because we spent our time lounging in our bathing suits and zipping around the bay fishing for 20+ lb sport fish from our dinghy.  However then I look at the calendar and realize that I am indeed one year older and our trip is almost half way completed!
Some of the hundreds of dolphins we saw on our way into Ixtapa
We are currently anchored in Zihuatanejo (zee-wa-ta-NAY-ho) and I think it is shaping up to be our favorite spot so far.  Not only are we in a beautiful protected bay but this is a town that has definitely maintained its local culture despite an increase in tourism.  Here, there are no mega resorts, those are reserved for Ixtapa down the road.  Instead there are many local guesthouses and some boutique hotels that seem to be frequented primarily by vacationing Mexicans.  There is a local market where you can buy everything from a whole cow to a bottle of soy sauce and a morning seafood market right on the beach where we land our dinghy.  Prices are not cheap but finally reasonable and on Sunday night we joined what must have been the whole town for their weekly gathering at the basketball court. That night the entertainment was Zumba and other forms of exercise to get the townspeople moving.  This was probably appropriate as I believe Mexico has now passed the US as the fattest nation in the world! I am certain it is also the most picturesque basketball court I have ever seen with a view of the sun setting over the bay and mountains as a backdrop for the dancers.

Back to the weather...Although we passed the Tropic of Taurus (formerly the Tropic of Cancer) on our way down the Baja, the nights have still been pleasantly cool and we often need our fleece jackets when we are night sailing.   Around San Blas we broke out the "harbor awning" a large tarp that we spread over the boom and tie out to the sides of the boat to keep the UV rays off the deck.  It is amazing how much this little bit of shade cools down the cabin.  We do not have air conditioning but have been more than comfortable most the time.  However, here in Zihuatanejo, it is hot.  Hatches open, awning out, and I am still practically dripping sweat into our food when I try to cook anything inside the galley.  So, yesterday I got crafty.

A large sewing machine was not in the budget for this trip and frankly I don't know where we would have put one.  Luckily, until now we have been fortunate enough to find other sailors with Sailrite machines when we needed to do sail repairs. We do however have a hobby machine, a gift from my Dad and Jane, that has been very useful for some small projects.  Yesterday I was determined to increase the ventilation on Moments.  Failure was not an option.
Our new wind scoop in action.  For the front corners I made some homemade grommets by sewing a washer between two layers of fabric and stitching around it like a button hole


I could write a whole blog post about the wonder that is a Mexican fabric store but this time I did not even need to visit one.  Adam had a ripped camping hammock (thanks to Kraemer, I believe) that he has kept from college due to some premonition that the thin green fabric would at some time become useful.  Yesterday I made half of it into a beautiful new wind-scoop for our middle hatch and we are currently experiencing gale force winds in the cabin.  Well, it may not actually be that effective, but Adam put it through the test with a handheld anemometer (wind speed gauge) and he would like everyone to know that, "the wind-scoop transfers the free stream wind velocity with 100% efficiency, thus defying the Betz Limit of power transfer."  For those of us without a degree in engineering, this means that we catch most of the wind coming towards the scoop and redirect it into the cabin.  We are pretty happy with the outcome and our cabin is once again a place of comfort and moderate temperatures.