Thursday, April 24, 2008


Thank you for your patience, all you vicarious voyagers! It seems the muse has not visited as often of late. From the intensity of the crossing, we have transitioned to the intensity of relaxing! That and sad news from home that cast a long shadow. But that is for family and life goes on...
Our landing in Fatu Hiva was all that a landfall in paradise could be. It was, of course, not legal and on the second day the local gendarme had words with our friends on Tarun. We missed it but it seems he was a little upset we did not visit him on arrival. In the end, he was content though and said we had 3 days and then must leave to go to an official port of entry to clear into the country. Meanwhile we attempted the hour long hike into the tropical rain forest to find the waterfall. It
was not an easy hike! The paved road ended, then the unpaved road ended and soon we were following a track through dense jungle, with lots of palm trees and beautiful white or red flowers everywhere. The trail continued to get narrower and soon we were searching ahead for the small cairns, rock piles that others had stacked to show the way. Some scrambling up and down slippery rocks, along a stream and down a valley and voila! Le waterfall! Quite spectacular actually, maybe 300 feet or more
of sheer cliff face with a curtain of water falling into a pool below. A family on a catamaran who had just come through the Panama Canal and the Galapagos were there and the girls were swimming in the pool. Our guide book had indicated it was polluted but it seemed fine. Later we exchanged stories on the big black fresh water leeches we had seen and the 3 foot long black eel that Brian saw further downstream. We did not swim but enjoyed the location before trekking back.
On the way out of town, we had been approached by a rather large woman who asked if we had anything to trade. We had brought along some colored crayons and elastic hair bands and small items like that. We agreed to pick up some fruit from her on the way back. Well, she was nowhere to be found on our way back but I had asked her name and so enquired in town of Marie Priscilla! We were pointed to her house but a neighbor said she was visiting and sent us in that direction. After several inquiries,
we found her and she seemed in no hurry to fulfill her part of the barter. But we smiled and were persistent and she scavenged three huge pamplemousse from someone else's tree and some green oranges, some lemons and a papaya. So we were happy. Another young girl had been pestering us so we gave her another box of crayons for another large grapefruit! The grapefruit are to die for! They are huge and sweet and delicious. We met a couple of wood carvers working in a shed. No more carving tools,
they had the disc grinders going. They harvested the wood from rosewood trees on the windy side of the island and some of the tikis and other animals they carved were beautiful. We had no local currency at this point and no one seemed interested in American dollars. What they wanted were boat bumpers or heavy ropes. These we could not spare!
The next day we raised the anchor and sailed the 40 plus miles to Hiva Oa and the rolly anchorage behind the breakwater in Atuona, where the wastrels Paul Gaugin and Jacques Brel spent their last years. The anchorage was crowded and uncomfortable and the 2 mile walk up the hill and around the bay to town was tiring in the heat and humidity. But the baguettes were cheap and fresh every day so we did our paperwork and cleared into the country. The locals were friendly and if you stuck your thumb
out, you could usually get a ride into town.
But we got out of there as soon as we could and now we are anchored in an idyllic little bay on the lee side of Tahuata Island, only about a two hour sail from Atuona. The water is a turquoise and clear down to the sand and coral 25 feet below. We swim and relax, unwinding still from the rigors of travel. The sandy beach is white and the breeze makes the heat bearable! We picked up some NZ lamb in town and Linda is busy making it into a curry....have to get over to the rock cliffs to look for
the parrot really is a rough life!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Land Ho!

Tuesday, April 15, about 8PM Victoria time! We are hove-to behind Fatu Hiva and waiting for daylight to anchor in the bay!
Our first sighting was in the dark at about 2AM. We had good wind all night and were barrelling along at better than 6 knots so we put a reef in and then a second one and eventually furled half the jib as well. Still, Toketie continued at a good 4 knots, as if the momentum of the last 28 days could carry her to the anchorage! The moon had set and slowly the dark mass of the island took shape. The air carried a faintly citrus smell and the feeling was euphoric.
When daylight arrived, we motored the last five miles into Hanavave Bay with towering volcanic hills on both sides and ancient rock formations at the head of the bay. It was everything one could imagine of a landfall in paradise and we were in awe.
About a dozen boats were anchored and several left as we approached. We managed to get the hook down in about 60 feet and by the time we let all 300 feet of chain out we were sitting in 90 feet of water. The breeze funnelled down the valley and blew out to sea. We had read about strong offshore winds in this little shelter so were careful to set the anchor well. The holding was good.
After the usual rounds of boat chores, cleaning and stowing, we had a pot of coffee and launched the dinghy. Later, we shared the celebratory glass of champagne with Brian and Cathy on Tarun, and landed behind a small breakwater on a concrete launching ramp. Someone had organized a dinner at one of the homes. At $25US per person, it was not cheap, but we could not miss the experience. About two dozen cruisers attended and after a short walk through a very clean and orderly village, we all sat
around a makeshift banquet table set out under an open roofed area. Steaming pots of a local chicken dish, poisson cru...a marinated fish dish, breadfruit, cooked bananas, rice, papaya salad and afterwards, huge chunks of the local pamplemousse, like no grapefruit we've ever tasted before! Sweet and juicy! It was a wonderful evening and we talked and laughed and ate. They had said we could bring alcohol if we liked, as it was a dry island and none would be available but other than one lady with
a can of Mexican beer, I did not see anyone drinking. It was a heady enough experience on its own!
Now we have had our first sleep, sort of...the winds really do blow down the valley and out the bay...I woke up at one point to hear them and registered it was blowing 20 knots. But there was no sea running and Toketie bobbed peacefully at the end of her tether!
We are told we can spend 3 days here before having to move on to one of the official islands to report in. The people here are proud and self sufficient and very friendly. They speak French so my language skills are getting a long overdue workout.
Today we plan to hike up the valley to the waterfall and rumour has it someone is baking a cake for tomorrow!! What a wonderful place to spend this milestone.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Getting close!

Well, with about 50 miles to go, the sun is setting and we expect to make landfall on Fatu Hiva by daylight. The winds have finally filled in nicely and we have been bombing along at about 6 knots all day so will probably hove to when closer and await the dawn!
We are told that propagation is not very good there because of the high volcanic mountains so this is probably the last update for a few days or until we move to another island.
It's been quite a ride and we're glad you came along! We are somewhat weary though and look forward to a good rest.
The saga will continue anon.....:)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Starry, starry night!

We had a good night last night! The wind had been light all day and we struggled to hold a course with enough 'westing' in it. As usual, just before sunset, the wind shifted a bit and we watched to see what it would do for the night. First it piped up and as Toketie was carrying full canvas, she came alive, put her rail down and dug in. However, we were wary now, having been caught before 'with our pants down' so to speak! That would be when we are called up to do the Chinese fire drill on the
foredeck, usually in pitch darkness after not having gotten enough sleep, wrestling the sail to put another reef in and settle the boat. It goes just as fast with the reef in, if the wind is strong, but the motion is more comfortable, not to mention the wear and tear, on the gear and on the two insignificant little beings that have come along for the ride.
So out we go, before the sun sets, and tie in one reef. That settled things down! Of course, within a half hour, the wind had gone very light again. It was dark now, as the daylight comes and goes suddenly in the tropics. But our old friend the moon was back, waxing in the west! Linda was off watch and sleeping so I clambered out forward, with a harness on of course. That was our agreement, if I had to go out on deck at night, I would wear the harness. That way she could sleep without the
fear of waking up to find herself alone on board! And me, well that would make a story I would probably never get to tell! Anyway, I digress....I shook out the reef and adjusted the vane, tied the preventer on and sat back. Toketie rocketed on through the night, with a very gentle swell off the port quarter and only about 10-12 knots of wind, we were holding a pretty steady 5 knots.
It was the most awesome, cloudless night with a billion stars overhead and right down to the horizon. The milky way looked like someone had sprayed it on with a giant airbrush! We spend our watches mostly in the cockpit now because it is warm out and so comfortable sitting out there. Tarun's faint nav light was just visible, when she rode up on a swell, about 8 miles west of us and as the night proceeded and dawn came, we found them alongside about a mile off our starboard beam. So we made good
time last night and had a very comfortable ride.
The boats ahead who have anchored in Fatu Hiva report that the anchorage is deep, 60 to 100 feet and local winds come up from the mountains and blow out the bay. Some of the 17 or so reported boats have left. It rains heavily for a short period every day so if you have some way of catching it, you can fill your water tanks! Talk about 'mana' from heaven! We will be working on rigging something. No contact with any local gendarmerie! A navy boat was in the bay and ferrying back and forth but
paid no attention to the yachties. The locals do not accept US money but will trade canned goods for fruit. They would like alcohol but it is not recommended and we would prefer not to affect the local culture in that way. Someone organized a dinner and about 27 people from the yachts attended on shore.
We have just over 200 miles to go so, if the winds hold we expect to make landfall early Wednesday morning. According to 'Charlie's', it has been rumoured that the bay was originally named "Bay des Verges" (Bay of the Phalli) by early explorers because of the shape of the rocky pillars. Supposedly the missionaries disapproved, and inserted an "i" making it "Bay des Vierges" which translates to Bay of the Virgins!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why we do it!

I am reading "The Happy Isles of Oceania" by Paul Theroux, one of my favorite travel writers. He began his odyssey in Australia and worked Eastwards through the S Pacific so I expect at some point our paths will cross, figuratively speakin
Everything they say about blue water cruising is true! The old joke about it being the most expensive, most uncomfortable and slowest way to travel is very true. And the other one they like to joke about in the yacht club bars is getting everyone up at 3AM and standing you on a moving platform, I like to imagine one of those old fashioned wooden gliding swings that rock back and forth, while someone dumps buckets of water on your head and turns giant fans in your direction.
Oh, the romanticism is still there! It is just harder to focus on at times. Perhaps it is some primitive instinct in us that is trying to escape the slow death by a thousand cuts that living in the cities brings? Is it that we do not feel truly alive unless the adrenaline flows occasionally? Are we escaping from something or someone or somewhere? Is it simply the challenge of 'pulling it off'? One of the best descriptions I have heard, given in one of the Blue Water Cruising talks, is simply
that "the highs are higher and the lows are lower". In other words, we are stretching our boundaries, moving outside the confines of the safe little world most people instinctively surround themselves with. The comfortable home, the yard or garden, the family pet, the friends and even jobs and going to movies and all those things we enjoy and often take for granted!
None of that out here folks! No, out here you face totally different and often unexpected challenges. It is in large measure simply an exercise in self sufficiency but unlike taking your tent off into the wilderness, you are at the same time moving a boat across the globe and trying to maintain some semblance of order in the process, not to mention maintaining it along the way. Someone else once very succinctly pointed out that there are really only three things you need to cross oceans: water,
food and navigation. And I would agree! Everything else is a 'nice to have' but not a necessity. The electronic gizmos and gadgets, all of which are subject to failure at some point and frustration if you grow dependent on them, are very nice to have. I love the electronic chart plotter that shows graphically exactly where we are, what our course is, our speed and how long it will take to get there. But I still plot our noon position on a big paper chart because I like to see those little crosses
with a circle around them that somehow truly represent the efforts we've made! And when you measure between them with the dividers, that really is how far you have come on the journey. The squall in the night may have blown you 5 miles sideways before you could react and get things under control but that is par for the course. When, like we happen to be at the moment, you are sailing on your rhumb line, which is simply a direct line to your destination or intermediary waypoint, the sails are set
perfectly, the boat is balanced, the wind vane is steering with minimum effort and you are reeling off the miles towards your goal, then you feel some kind of 'symbiosis' with your environment. You are still over tired and ache all over from the buffeting you took a few days ago but there is a good kind of tired and the other kind. The good kind rarely comes from stress or anxiety but from an exertion to some degree that you have chosen willingly, no matter how crazy some people think you are!
And if your first mate is baking bread, just doesn't get much better than this. Do you need a fridge? Nice to have for sure....and we appreciate it but if it fails, we will survive. And the big, heavy, thirsty, iron monster that lives under your you really need that engine? Many small boats have circumnavigated without one but it sure is convenient at times! You become a much more proficient sailor pretty quickly when you lose it, as we found out last year off the Baja
Peninsula. But it only served to build confidence in ourselves and our boat. Self steering, solar panels, fancy downwind rigs....all wonderful things to have and they all make life on board easier when they work but generally the more complicated you make it, the more time you spend maintaining those devices. We have met several people who gave up cruising because they felt they just spent all their time fixing things. I can relate to that! Somewhere in there is a healthy balance and everyone
must find what works for them. And the important thing is that you will never learn this by reading of other people's experiences, valuable as that is, but by doing it. I've always lived by the old adage that there are many more mistakes out there just waiting to be made! The trick is to learn from them so you are not doomed to repeat them!
And then there are the people you meet along the way! The cruising fraternity is still relatively small. There are those who have consciously taken a break from their busy lives to experience it and there are those who do it on a part time basis. And then there are the RBers as our friends so succinctly coined them. These are the ones who, if they have finally built up the courage to leave the marina, will gravitate to another marina or yacht club or occasionally now, with the advent of the GPS
which allows anyone to find their way, they take over an anchorage. What was once a quiet, secluded place to commune with nature becomes a destination for the 'organized games on the beach' and 'never a moment's peace' crowd because without constant distractions, they may have to face themselves. These are the people who try to bring with them to the cruising world all the things some of us are trying to escape from in suburbia! No offense, it's just different strokes for different folks! I am
glad they are out there enjoying themselves and it just makes us look a little harder and a little farther for whatever it is we are looking for! But the small fraternity of real cruisers is still very much alive and the rewards of meeting them and sharing with them are boundless. The bonds formed can be fleeting and enjoyable or deep and long lasting. Often circumstance throws you together and if you are 'open' to it, the rewards are great.
And there are, of course, the destinations. Most of the places we go are not accessible any other way or at the least very difficult to get to without a boat. So they are special because the world is getting smaller every day. There are more people and more ways to travel to more places and therefore it becomes more difficult to get 'off the beaten path'. The cruising life still affords that option. Yes, it is getting crowded out in paradise but there are still places you can explore, especially
if you stray from the multitude of guide books and publications trying to help you, full of useful information but often leading you to the same places everyone else is going. But it is relative as well, because 16 boats in Hanavave Bay on Fatu Hiva cannot possibly be compared to 16 boats in Winter Cove, because these 16 have all gone through a shared experience to get there, and though often unspoken, the bond is strong in the cruising community. And the local people usually live and survive
close to the sea so you have something in common when you arrive in their community.
So why do we do it? I honestly don't know if there is any simple answer to that. I will admit to having been 'brought to my knees', so to speak, on several occasions and asked myself what we were doing out here! But that moment passes and another takes its place and in the end, all we have is these "moments in a lifetime"! So our goal is to make each one meaningful and to take as much from it as we can by living in it as it passes. Living on "the razor's edge" as Somerset Maughn put it...a fine
balance indeed!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Groundhog Day!

Seems like it will never end! The problem is the lack of light we ghost along but the sails slat and the wind vane gets cranky and our progress is sloooowwww! But the sun is shining, so hot and bright we have to hide from it! And the beautiful white fluffy trade wind clouds drift across the sky like giant marshmallows....we tried putting up the drifter, a large light air sail, but since the roller furler was installed there is nowhere to hank it on. So we flew it free but that was an
enormous effort for very little reward as we could not maintain the course. So with even greater effort (remember the sun! And the big fluffy clouds!) we took it down and motored for a couple of hours to break the monotony and charge the batteries. Now we are sailing again but very slowly.
The foot infection seems better today. When I get too active it flares up a bit but the swelling is pretty much gone and no sign of infection.
You may have noticed these updates are happening on a different schedule lately. It seems the propagation for getting a winlink connection is better later in the day now so I try to do them before sunset instead of in the morning.
Two of the boats ahead of us in the radio net have now anchored on Fatu Hiva and report about 17 boats in the bay. Sounds pretty crowded but we expect most of them will have moved on by the time we get there in about four days at this rate.
Coconut fish soup for dinner tonight! Must say this fish is a treat and we are still enjoying it! Unfortunately the beer bread did not work out this morning.....worked fine the last time but the inside would not cook today for some reason. I have been spoiled with banana bread (with chocolate chips), cheese bread and beer bread so we are not starving out here. We do miss the occasional glass of wine though!
Now if you could all focus your thoughts on sending us another 10 knots of wind from the ESE, it would be appreciated!

Friday, April 11, 2008


In the tropics the smallest cut can turn into something serious pretty quickly. In my case, I was not as diligent as usual the day we left Mexico when I gouged my foot on deck, running around barefoot of course, also not the smartest thing to be doing. Anyway, instead of cleaning it, sterilizing it and dressing it like I usually do, we were so busy and the winds were strong getting offshore that it was neglected for two days before I had a look at it. Didn't seem so bad so I cleaned it and tried
to keep a band aid on it, not easy in this environment where every time you go forward on deck, your feet get wet. Well, it seems that it healed over but was infected on the inside so two nights ago, during the fronts we were subjected to all night, it started swelling up and throbbing. Pretty soon I was incapacitated and could not walk on it! Not a great situation with 5 or 6 days still before landfall. So when things calmed down a bit, we had a look at it and found there seemed to be some fluid
building up inside. So we got out the medical kit and with a sterile blade I sliced it open. Lots if icky yellow stuff came out but that's good! All those dead soldiers fighting the foreign invaders were trying to keep my body whole. After lots of alcohol, on the wound unfortunately, we put antibiotic cream on it and a gauze pad so it could breathe. As an extra precaution, I started on a strong dose of tetracycline. By morning now, the swelling and discomfort have gone down and I can walk on
it again. Still have to keep it clean and sterile and hope we got it all but prospects are brighter today!
Dinner last night was fish again and this has to be the best fish I've ever tasted. Found some pictures of fish but it was not among them and it is not a wahoo as someone suggested, maybe a bonito. Still lots of it in the fridge too!
On the sailing front, we were rewarded with a wonderful night of 10-12 kt breeze and Toketie sailed herself directly towards Fatu Hiva all night. With daylight now, the wind is going light but usually fills in later in the morning. The skies are blue and we have less than 500 miles to go! I wonder what today will bring?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Roughish night!

So you are all back there nice and cosy in your homes or offices, thinking what an idyllic adventure we are having! Right? Well, not last night anyway....we have moved from the squally region to the full blown frontal systems. Last night they hit us all night. It's relatively calm now at daylight but we are showing the effects. They are actually not that bad once you get used to them. These ones last for hours instead of minutes and have up to 25 knots of wind in them. Oh, and the torrential
downpour of rain of course. They do move us along in the right direction, sometimes at 7 knots! Then they pass and we wallow with virtually no wind and the seas toss us around.
Where are these peaceful gentle consistent trade winds we expected? We have not really had them on this side of the equator yet. There must be some tropical disturbance in the area. Tried downloading weather files but by the time I get them they are usually out of date.
Our batteries were low and we are in a calm spot now so we are motoring for a while to charge up and hopefully get further south to where the winds are more predictable. Having a harder time getting a winlink connection too so if I miss an update or position report, it was because I could not log in. Hawaii seems to be the best bet lately but still hitting S Cal at times.
Our friends on Tarun are still within VHF range, though we get separated when the fronts come through, we usually have a rendezvous plan that gets us back in range. 627 miles to go! Sure looking forward to them French baguettes!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Fish story!

Caught a beauty yesterday! We were down below and both heard the fishing rod whirr as it struck. I spent maybe half an hour reeling it in and then lifted it over the side with a gaff! What a gorgeous looking fish! Not sure what it is but some of the other boats suggested maybe a Wahoo or Bonito or Blue Marlin! It was three feet long and narrow through the body, with a large fin on its back that extended all the way from the back of the head to the tail. The colouring was spectacular. It was
a deep blue on its back and a silvery blue on its belly. It had a bill about 8 inches long and coming to a point. The meat was white and very mild. We must have gotten 2 kg of it by the time I finished the messy filleting job. Linda made chunks of the filets in the frying pan with garlic and butter and it tasted marvellous. We now have lots of meat in the bottom of the fridge. Probably not cold enough to freeze it so we will be eating fish for a few days!
Other than the excitement of our first fish, winds have been light and died down to almost nothing overnight. We inch along making slow progress but every day the distance shortens. We have gone to 2 hour watches at night now because 3 hours was too long. This way when we hit the bunk for our 2 hour sleep, we pass right out and are more or less ready for the next watch.
Winds have freshened moderately and are at least from the right direction to carry us directly to the Marquesas. They are currently about 12 kts out of the ESE.
Batteries took a big hit two nights ago so I checked the fluid and added some but nothing serious. Have to watch them.
Anyway, 726.6 miles to Fatu Hiva!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sleepless night!

Very quiet night with a gentle breeze but we are both tired and nodding off on watches! Daylight is always a relief and the coffee always tastes great! Tarun, a few miles behind us reported being hit by squalls all night....we saw dark clouds but nothing hit us! Anyway too tired to write more....diesel reported to be $7US/gal in Atuona...yikes!

Monday, April 07, 2008


We are now on the other side of the world! Down Under as they say! Dawn brought blue skies and fluffy white clouds on the horizon. A picture perfect day for this milestone! We had motored overnight in the calm flat seas of the doldrums, burning up the diesel and lightening the load. But with the sun and the warming of the surface temperature came a nice light breeze from the SE.
But we were not to continue so easily! For days now, the new Harken roller furling rig for the headsail had been very stiff, hard to wind and unwind. The installation of this unit in Puerto Vallarta was a saga of its own but suffice it to say, it was installed and working when we left. The furling line had snapped the first night out, likely due to chafe on one of the stanchion blocks that had been mounted backwards. The pin fell out of the shackle that holds the tack of the sail to the furling
unit allowing the foot of the sail to billow free. Two days ago one of the jib sheets had almost worn through where we had attached the pole for downwind work. In lowering the sail to retie the sheet, I discovered that the foil for the furler was loose and sliding up and down on the forestay. Sorry about all the technical jargon but what had happened was that two set screws that held the foil (aluminum extrusion with slot for sail) onto the drum at the bottom had fallen out. Obviously none of
these fittings had been assembled properly or seized on with locktight as recommended. Before continuing on our last 12 miles to the equator, I went forward to examine the furler unit and attempt a repair. Using it as it was could lead to more serious problems. We lowered the jib, managed to slide the foil up and I tapped two new threads into the holes to keep it in place. Two shackles from the top of the unit were coming loose as well. One pin was hanging on the edge of the shackle and the
other was backed out about half way. These were all secured and seized on and the sail raised again. We were now ready to continue to the celebration awaiting us!
After what seemed an interminable amount of time we finally reached the magical 00 degrees 00 minutes and 00 seconds, marking the center of the earth's axis! The skies had begun to cloud over but as we neared the critical time, a huge patch of blue appeared over us and the sun shone as we popped the champagne and toasted Neptune, God of the Seas!
Along with our friends, Brian and Cathy, on Tarun, we hove to and drifted across the equator. This momentous occasion was followed by lunch! Thank you big sis for the lobster pâté and the chocolate! Thank you Jabula for the Champagne.
It was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and we savoured the moment! All the planning and effort to reach this point fell away as we gazed ahead to the Southern hemisphere. What new adventures await?

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Although the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea makes no mention of it, it is a well known tradition of the sea that those who have never crossed the equator on a small ship are referred to as "pollywogs"! The few who have endured the challenges and performed the necessary rituals become "shellbacks", a name given to hoary old sailors who have been at sea long enough for barnacles to grow on them!
We are 12 nm from making the request of Neptune to grant safe passage across the mid-point of his domains! The ceremony can be brief or drawn out but must include the traditional toast to the God of the seas and an offering to him, usually of the finest spirits on board! Ignoring these rituals is done at your own peril! Now, we are not as superstitious as some when it comes to nautical lore, though we never leave port on a Friday and always touch wood after commenting favorably on some aspect
of the weather. It seems appropriate, however, to celebrate this milestone. After all, we have earned it! A bottle of cold French bubbly, courtesy of the Jabula's awaits in the freezer!
So as we steam through the night on the large gentle swells from both NE and SE, a legacy of the trade winds we leave behind and those we hope to find ahead, burning the precious fuel we carried to take us through these 'doldrums', our bodies weary from the constant sail changes and demands of night watches, we can feel the warmer air and almost see the waving palms ahead!
The log shows close to 2000 nm traveled and 900 nm to go to Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas where we plan to first drop our anchor. Although not an 'official' port of entry, we have been told the local gendarme is welcoming and will allow you a brief stay before proceeding to the next island to do the necessary paperwork to enter the country.
So sometime between 1:00PM and 2:00PM, local Victoria time, on Sunday, April 6, 2008, if your thoughts turn this way, raise a glass with us as we pass into the world down under!
And remember, the sun is always over the yardarm somewhere in the British empire!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Are we there yet?

Well so much for optimism! Good thing we still have a sense of humour or we'd be chasing each other around with butcher knives....VHF (short range) radio fun with Brian and Cathy on 'Tarun'....revolves around his latest comparison of sailing to being a toddler again....first, you eat your food out of a bowl and are lucky not to drop some, second, you take baby steps and hang onto things, third, your language is incomprehensible to most people...." itcz axis forming at 04 north, 0000zulu.. copy that,
va7dxf clear....etc", fourthly going to the potty is sooooo satisfying and you're so proud of yourself...when you can work it in.... and last but not least....must have that nap in the afternoon or you get cranky!!!
So the night from hell has ended! Started out pretty tame but soon torrential rains engulfed us to the point where we radioed Tarun, exchanged positions and moved apart because we could not see each other's lights and did not know what kind of wind was in the beastie! Turned out to be not much wind except for the brief 20 knots to keep us on our toes...literally. The rest of the night was heavy rain and light wind off and on so we motored when we had to and sailed when we could...anything to get
through this thing. Not sure if everyone gets beaten up this way in the ITCZ but we are weary of it now. Lost radio contact with Tarun and calculated their DR (estimated) position based on last course and speed. Had it to within a few miles and made contact before dawn. And a glorious dawn it was! Still clouds all around but blue skies ahead and a beautiful 12-15 knots breeze from the SE to greet us. Soon have all sail set and chugging along directly towards Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas.....two
hours later wind has died and we are drifting with sails slatting....oh well it's still a beautiful day and we think the worst is behind us....the coffee is great as always. Two slices of Linda's home made cheese bread and we are set for another day.....
" bring me that horizon......"

Friday, April 04, 2008

A dark and stormy night!

Ok, we are getting tired of this....over 300 miles of ITCZ and still not out of it! Gentle peaceful sailing one minute and all hell the next! Very interesting phenomena though, watching these storm cells appear out of nowhere and turn into wind and rain! One of them last night turned into 30 knots of wind! But we have taken a less philosophical view of them now and size them up for what we can get out of them. The rain cleans the boat and the wind makes us go faster! Ergo ergo sum, they are
good things! If we weren't so exhausted from the sail changing and trying to maintain our course in them, it would be fun! Oh, they often come with wind from totally different directions! Did I mention that?
Anyway, we are surviving and becoming inured to them, if that's possible. Linda is in the galley making pancakes at the moment....and the coffee pot smells sweet as always. I suspect this is all preparation for our initiation into the 'shellback' society!
The sun has popped up over the horizon once more and there is plenty of blue sky all around so the dark beasties that haunted us all night have retreated for the day. Hopefully a steady breeze to carry us the last 191.7 nm to the equator...but who's counting!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Further adventures!

Working our way south through this ITCZ beast! It really is a moving target. Last night, just after dark, we saw a very dark cloud formation that radar confirmed was only about 4 miles ahead. Looked like lots of rain. The two other boats we are now in convoy with, Tarun and Tin Soldier, both BWC boats by chance, were ahead of us and radio reports from them had winds gusting to 20 kts and torrential rain! Tarun was blown E 5 nm before they could take action. Having experienced similar squalls
a few nights ago, this time we had a plan! Rolling up the head sail, two reefs in the main and firing up the iron genny we set the autopilot to 180 degrees and attempted to proceed due south through it. Well, they did not exaggerate the rain, it came down in buckets! But no harm there! And the wind was not too bad so we motored blind through it. Seem to be some strange currents pushing in all directions as well, maybe this is where the W Equatorial Current meets the Equatorial Counter Current.
That could explain a lot. For anyone who had ever sailed off Cape Mudge on Vancouver Island, just multiply that by 10! It got nasty but only lasted a few hours and we were out the other side. A light breeze picked up and allowed us to sail the rest of the night. Morning now and need new data on the location of the ITCZ so will download email. We are hoping it is moving north again and we have all day to put some miles between us and it!
To the SW of us is a beautiful rainbow! A sign perhaps? Should we change course and seek the pot of gold? Anything is possible out here!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

April 2nd, Wednesday at sea!

The sun is up! We had a very comfortable night, sailing at 5-6 knots almost due south. The wind is holding now and we took a reef out and our speed is closer to 7 knots. Lots of sheet lightning in the atmosphere south of us overnight. Other boats reporting squalls south and west but we have been spared and are rested. Expect to have to go through the ITCZ again as it moved 240 south two days ago when we were half way through it. It is one of the most unstable weather phenomena's in the world
apparently and is totally unpredictable and moves very fast. Our goal at this stage is to move south as quickly as possible and get through it.
Meanwhile the coffee pot is on and it is an beautiful sunny day with a perfect breeze from the right direction....aren't I tempting fate by stating that!
We'll take it where we can is the lesson here! Toketie continues to perform marvellously and is a very dry and comfortable boat. Some minor modifications for ease of sail handling will be in order however in NZ.
Appreciate the ITCZ summary wx reports JD!!
Don't work too hard now! Cheers from the skipper and crew!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Inter Tropical Convergence Zone!

Well, we are into the thick of it now! Not really a planned event but two days ago the clouds and showers started to surround us and before we could make the decision whether to head south, it was upon us. So the mountain came to Mohammed! We accepted the gesture and are doing our best to get through it! Hard to describe sleep last night...Linda got a little but we were nailed over and over again by these cells that apparently just form out of nowhere at any time. They have torrential
rain in them that has washed the boat down nice. And they have wind, so far for us only about 25 kts or so but other boats nearby report up to 35 kts. They hit suddenly and are gone in half an hour or so depending on the size and intensity. Needless to say, lots of sail changes are involved if you want to keep moving.
Dawn was a relief! We are surrounded by grey skies and can see rain in the East. The systems move from East to West and travel quickly. We were picking them up on the radar and being ready for them after the first couple of experiences but the radar quit working last night so we managed in the blackness just reacting when they hit. The grey daylight is still easier than the darkness. It went very light this morning and we crawled along, ran the engine for a couple of hours and now it has come
up again from the NE at about 10-15 kts. It's not uncomfortable but very tiring. Talked to the boats ahead of us and looks like we are in for this for 4 or 5 more days before breaking through to the other side. Talked to Don Anderson on the SSB as well and he agreed with our plan to dive South now that we are in it. The plan was to get further West first but best laid plans and all that!
Anyway gotta go.....wish you were here!!! :