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Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 13, The Jibe

Monday Noon

We changed course to the south today. Recent weather information indicates that there should be no more low pressure 'humps' in the ITCZ for the next three days at least, giving us an opportunity to duck South and cross it.

Of course the weather guys don't always do the best job. The forecasts I look at come out once every 6 hours and each one is usually prepared by a different forecaster. Strangely, it seems they don't always read what the guy before them wrote before they prepare the text for their own forecast. One will talk about a ridge or trough, then in six hours there will be no mention of this feature. The first guy didn't say it was expected to dissipate, so what happened? It can be frustrating especially when you are hanging on one or two words to make a decision that could result in a very uncomfortable crossing if you get it wrong.

In other weather news, it is hot and humid. Not terribly hot I guess, just 80 or so, but the humidity makes it so you can't hardly move without sweating. I (John) sleep wedged in between two piles of pillows to keep me steady in the rolling. It's like being wrapped up in a blanket and can be warm in these conditions.

We noticed another little gift from our bird friend. Not only did he bend the little indicator flags on the Windex in a way that we can't tell what the jibe angle is, he also bent them such that the pointer part can't make a full 360 circle without getting stuck. So now we have very little idea of what the apparent wind angle is. I taped a tell-tail (a small strip of cloth) to the backstay but it's not as affective as the Windex. Maybe when we get to the ITCZ we can get it to swing around to the other side of the obstruction and it will work until we have to tack or jibe again.

{GMST}12|47|N|123|50|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 13|Day 13{GEND}

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 11 and 12

Sunday Noon

It's been a rough couple days. Starting Friday afternoon we've had winds over 20 mph and seas over 8 ft. It makes it very hard to rest, especially sailing dead down wind as we are the boat rolls terribly.

I was sending out these updates a day behind, logging Friday's evens on Saturday, but I think I'd like to be caught up. In my current state of exhaustion it's hard enough remembering what happened today, much less yesterday.

Winds should be calming down slowly over the next couple days and we will be turning south for the ITCZ. All the books say to make as much distance to the west as possible while in the Northern Hemisphere because the winds are stronger. Frankly, I'd prefer to sail in a little lighter wind even if it takes a day or two more to get there.

{GMST}13|51|N|112|02|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 12|Day 12{GEND}

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 10

Friday Noon

The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, or ITCZ is an area of light winds and bad weather located north of the equator. It is caused by the North East trade winds coming down from the Northern Hemisphere meeting the South East trade winds coming up from the Southern Hemisphere. You might wonder why this is important? Well it's very important to us because the ITCZ is our next big hurdle as well as one of the major factors in the weather we have. Right now there is a minor low pressure system embedded in the ITCZ just to our south. This is causing higher than normal trade winds and cloudy skies. It's making a pretty rough ride and both of us are commenting on the amount of exercise we're getting just hanging on. We both go to bed exhausted at the end of our watches only to be tossed around in bed making it hard to sleep. Somehow we manage to get 6-8 hours a day, in 2 hour increments.

We have crossed the ITCZ 6 times and have never had what we would consider a 'bad' crossing. Sure we've experienced light winds and some rain, but it wouldn't take much effort on Google to find stories of horrendous lightening storms and squalls. These things we have been lucky to avoid.

We're not sure what our next crossing will bring, in a week or so, but we're working to make sure it is as calm as possible by being in the right place at the right time.

{GMST}14|55|N|117|38|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 10|Day 10{GEND}

Litter Box

Saturday AM

Here's a tragi/comic mise en scene for you. Ziggy's litter box is tucked into a tight spot under the salon table. Normally I have to take two settee bottom cushions off to pull it up from the floor onto the (now bare wood) settee where I then have easy access to clean it out. And normally Ziggy is asleep up on our Pullman berth all day. But because the Pullman is being used as storage for our bins of potatoes, white onions, red onions, garlic, 90 vaselined eggs, nuts, cookies, trail mix, sails, toilet paper, and all the misc junk that's normally stored in the quarter berth (where we're now sleeping - one at a time), Ziggy's bed and his crate have been displaced to the far corner of the salon settee. This also happens to be the leeward, or low side of the boat on our current tack. Right on top of, you guessed it, one of the cushions I have to remove in order to pull the litter box out from under the table. (It's a big box with high sides so it has to come straight up. It won't slide around the corner of the table on the floor.)

During this passage I've taken to waiting for Ziggy to get up late in the afternoon, about an hour before his dinner, when he likes to go outside and snooze in his "bin." This is a plastic dish pan with a towel in it, tucked under the clear window of the dodger where he's out of the wind. Then I can get the litter box out without disturbing him. I use a normal litter sifting spoon to collect his "deposits" into a plastic dust pan from which the refuse is flung overboard.

This system worked fine until yesterday when we had our windiest, roughest day of the passage so far. Nothing unmanageable for us. Just imagine being in one of those fun house tunnels where the floors tilt crazily as you try to walk through a dark passage. Or crossing one of the wooden suspension bridges at the Isla Cuale in Puerto Vallarta when kids are jumping on it, making it sway and pitch, as you try to walk across in a more dignified straight line. Yes, once Nakia picks up some speed, it takes two hands just to stand and move about the cabin of this good ship lollipop.

Needless to say Ziggy wasn't going to venture outside this bouncy house in time for me to clean his litter box before I went off watch at 5 PM. When I came back on watch at 9 PM I pondered what to do about the box, which I like to keep meticulously clean. Ziggy was now firmly entrenched in his bed for the night, and wouldn't get up for anything but a flying fish flopping on deck. I didn't want to move him to the other (windward, or high) side of the salon where he'd likely get thrown out of bed, that is if the entire bed didn't just slide off first. I finally gave in to distasteful fact that I was going to have to use John's more slap dash method.

I pulled one of the cushion sets off of the settee to give myself more maneuvering room. I strapped John's LED head lamp over my forehead and switched it on to red light (so as not to spoil my night vision for ship spotting).Then I had to use my contortionist skills to lay on my side, reach down into the litter box with the spoon in my left hand and the dust pan in my right. The dust pan kept blocking my light, and I had to hold it very carefully so it wouldn't spill whenever the boat lurched. With the dust pan finally full of the biggest bits I could snag, I left the spoon in the box, backed out from under the table and gingerly made my way to the companionway steps. I climbed the four steps, wedged my feet on either side of the top step, managed to clip my tether onto my harness with one hand (still carefully balancing the dust pan in the other), climbed over the drop board blocking the bottom half of the companionway entrance from spray, took three steps out into the cockpit, wedged my foot against the combing, and flung my Herculean boulder (or was that Sisyphus?) into the sea.

It makes me feel better knowing he has a clean litter box, even if the damn cat doesn't appreciate it!


Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 9, Windex Crash

Thursday Noon

More wind late in the afternoon signalled the need to take down the drifter. With the exception of taking down the spinnaker, taking down the drifter is one of the more complicated things we have to do on NAKIA. It takes two people, one at the mast to let the sail down slowly and another in the bow pulpit to gather/control the sail as it comes down. We accomplished the task without getting the sail wet or damaged, which are the only real goals, so I guess we were successful.

We've been resting so well lately because of the light winds I really wish we could 'save' our rest. Something tells me Friday and Saturday are going to be difficult days to sleep.

We started to see some real 'trade wind clouds' today. These are light fluffy medium to small size clouds that march along with the winds. I usually curse them for getting in the way of our solar panels, but with the tow generator it hasn't been a problem. In fact we're once again in danger of over charging the batteries and I may have to disconnect one or both of the solar panels to keep that from happening. This after I let the batteries get down to 60% charged, something we NEVER do at anchor, before putting the tow generator back online. Today during peak sun time, when NAKIA was moving at 7 mph I saw 25 amps on the charge meter. On a normal day we see 15 from the solar panels alone. I have got to get a charge controller for the tow generator!

Our brand new Windex (an arrow that is mounted to the top of the mast to indicate the wind direction), which Linda's sister carefully hand carried from the US - and I waited until the last minute to install so some stupid bird didn't break it - has been bent by SOME STUPID BIRD! Usually Frigate birds are responsible for these things getting bent. They like to try to land on it to roost even though the mast head is whipping back and forth like mad as the boat rolls in the sea. But in this case it must have been a booby. Booby birds are aptly named because they are as dumb as posts. One was responsible for breaking our guest spider's web when it tried to fly behind the mainsail and ran smack into the backstay. They always look at the thing they ran into with an expression of 'whoa man, how did that get there!' No doubt one of them was concentrating on the 'pretty white sails' when 'WHAM' someone put a pointy wire thing in its way. The windex will be bent back into shape when we get into the Marquesas and I can go all the way to the top of the mast without getting killed.

{GMST}15|59|N|115|38|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 9|Day 9{GEND}

Day 8, Unrated Sail Area

Thursday AM

We've had a little passenger on NAKIA ever since leaving Socorro. A spider must have drifted out from the island to the boat on an Easterly breeze and took up residence between the backstay and the short wave antenna (HF Radio Antenna). He liked it there, because he built a very nice web which catches anything blowing in over the stern. We can see him in the center of the web, waiting patiently for a bug to get blown in. We're not sure if there are likely to be any bugs, but we hope for the best. In any case his web gives us an additional .5 sq foot of sail area.

Day 8 was pretty slow. We had 5 hours in the early morning where the boat went under 2 miles per hour. Our normal target speed is 6 mph. Amazingly, the auto pilot steered flawlessly and only got 'lost' once. When I say it gets lost, I mean it was unable to keep the boat on course and sounds a rather annoying alarm which wakes the off watch. And the on watch for that matter.

The wind filled in a little during the day and we spent the rest of our time going 4-5 mph. In these light wind conditions, we use a 'double head sail' configuration where we pole the jib out to one side and then raise our nylon drifter in the second track on the headsail furler. It's very effective down wind, and because we double reef the main, it is fairly quiet even when the sea rolls the wind out of the sails. Much quieter than having the main banging back and forth in any case.

The wind is supposed to increase Thursday, and then increase again Friday so it's likely we'll be pulling down the drifter soon.

{GMST}16|58|N|114|04|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 8|Day 8{GEND}

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 7, 'Lectronic Problems

Wednesday evening

The wind was pretty reasonable for the last 24 hours, aft of the beam and strong enough to keep the windvane steering. The windvane, a mechanical device that steers the boat relative to the wind, works pretty well as long as there's enough wind flowing over its sail. When the wind goes light we have to switch to the autopilot which steers the boat relative to its own magnetic compass. I assume we'll be doing this tonight and tomorrow as the forecast is for lighter winds.

The main halyard problem seems to be taken care of for now. The addition of leather to the top 8 inches of the halyard seems to be protecting the rope. I've had that leather on the boat for at least 15 years, it's about time it made itself useful.

I dismantled the radar display today to see if I could find anything that might be causing it to function poorly. In 2004 when we trucked the boat to Seattle the cable for the radar was damaged by vibration on the truck. I repaired it as best I could at the time, and the radar has functioned well until recently. About a year ago I noticed some corrosion on the back of the radar display where the cable attaches. It looks like rain water had entered the cable jacket at the repair and flowed down the cable to the display. When I found this problem I cut back some of the jacket at the lowest point of the cable so any water entering the jacket could drain at the lowest point, instead of at the display and I cleaned up the corrosion. But now I suspect some of the water got into the display and may be causing problems. The operation was successful. I did find evidence of minor water intrusion and cleaned up the electronics. We won't know, however, if the radar works any better until we get close enough to something solid to get a reflection. Right now there's nothing around us but waves, and while you can usually get waves to show up on radar, it's not a great test of the system. Considering how infrequently we use the radar, I'm not too worried. Eventually we will have to remove the mast to replace the cable and if we're going that far I'll probably replace the radar too.

{GMST}17|29|N|112|55|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 7|Day 7{GEND}

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 6, Halyard Problems

Day 6 brings our departure from Isla Socorro. It was nice to stop for a couple nights, I guess. But really in this light wind it's almost nicer being underway. For one thing the boat rolls a lot less then when we're at anchor and for another I sleep better since I don't have to worry about our anchor rode failing or the anchor dragging.

When we pulled down the mainsail at Isla Socorro I found that the main halyard was worn through about 25%. That's quite a bit, especially for only 3 days sailing. So I re-spliced the rope to get rid of the worn spot, it was right at the end near the sail, and added leather and tape to keep the spot where the rope rubs on the mast from damaging the rope. Yesterday I lay on my back in the cockpit and used the binoculars to look at the halyard where it goes into the mast. Sure enough, more wear. There are two aft-lead halyard ports on the top of the mast, one for the topping lift, the other for the main halyard. It looked as though if we swapped the halyard and topping lift port, the rubbing would be minimized. So that's what we did, 1 1/5 hrs before sunset yesterday. It seemed like it would be about a 20 minute job but in the end ran over an hour. We were successful in the end, and if the rubbing doesn't stop it's not for a lack of trying.

It's very strange that this should come up all of a sudden. We sailed 2300 miles from Raiatea to Hawaii on this tack and didn't have this problem using the same sail and halyard. The only thing I can think of is that there was a lot more wind on that trip so we probably had a reef in the main most of the time. I suspect when the main is reefed the halyard doesn't rub at an angle that causes it to wear. So another thing that could solve our problem is more wind!

{GMST}19|32|N|109|34|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day XX|Day XX{GEND}

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day 3 and 4

Day 3 was more of the same, just making our best time in light wind. We have the 'big' jib on so we can make progress in light winds but to this point we haven't had to deploy it entirely. There has been enough wind to keep us going nicely without having 480 sq ft of sail hanging off the forestay.

Day 4 brings some news. We were going to pass within 5 miles of Isla Sororro, a lonely outpost of the Mexican Navy, and have decided to stop and see if they would allow us to stay a couple nights. We called on VHF 16 and they told us to come into Vargas Cove and wait for a boat to come with officials for an inspection. Another sailboat, RED, who also left PV on Wednesday, had also decided to stop. They had to motor 30 mile or so to get here. The crew of RED does not speak Spanish, so after the inspection on NAKIA was complete John was employed on board RED to translate. The formalities took about 30 minutes fore each sailboat and were mostly a survey of safety equipment. After their inspection was complete they presented us with a questionnaire to review their performance, also in Spanish. John's Spanish is pretty good, but understanding the questionnaire would have taken all day and really when you are reviewing the performance of a Lieutenant and a Full Commander the best thing is to do is just check 'MUY BUENO' on each question.

So now we can stay as long as we like, though two days should be sufficient.

{GMST}18|43.792|N|110|57.468|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 4|Isla Socorro{GEND}

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 2, Tow Gen and Mattress Topper

We've kept the wind so far. Though it hasn't gotten back to it's peak of 18 kts on the first afternoon it has cooperated very nicely.

We are thinking about making a stop at Isla Sacorrow. I think this is supposed to be a Navy Base/Wildlife Refuge, so I'm not sure if they will let us stay. But if the wind dies as it's forecast to and they let us anchor in the bay for a couple days it may be a good way to wait for wind. If anyone has made a stop at this island please send us email and let us know how it went.

The tow generator has worked well. A little too well as it happens, I had to pull it out of the water this morning because we were already at 100% charge and with bright sunshine the solar panels are ready to contribute their part to keeping the batteries up. The tow generator is basically a propeller attached to a permanent magnet motor via a long rope. You put the propeller in the water and the boat moving through the water makes it want to spin. The rope transfers the spinning to the motor and the motor acts like a generator. The problem is it does not have a regulator, that's an option I didn't buy. If the batteries are completely charged when it's spinning it can easily over charge them. Last night to keep that from happening we; charged all the computer batteries, ran virus scans on all the computers and ran the radar for a couple hours. After going through the hassle to get the propeller out of the water I think I'd rather find ways to use up the extra electricity.

The other huge addition to our equipment on this passage is the memory foam topper we bought second hand in Mazatlan. A NOB (North of the Border-er) had brought one down to put on the mattress in his rental. When he arrived he found the owner of the rental had already installed one. He put it up for sale on the local radio net and I bought it. We put it on our main bed and found it very comfortable, but the real reason we bought it was for the quarter berth which we use as our bed while we are on passage. The mattress on that bed is just regular foam, extra, extra firm. Not good for sleeping in any conditions, let alone on a rolling sailboat. Before we left PV we put the memory foam topper on the quarter berth mattress and, since the topper is queen size and the mattress is full, we folded it over on the edges. What a incredible difference it made. No more waking up with soar joints from sleeping on what is basically a piece of plywood.

That's all for now.

{GMST}19|23|N|109|28|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 2|Day 2{GEND}

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 1

We got a pretty good start yesterday, in spite of the bad forecast. We pulled anchor at 0800 and motored out of Banderas Bay and by the time we were in the strong currents around Punta de Mita we were able to set sail and have been sailing since. Winds have been mostly NW, so we've been making our best course to the WSW waiting for a shift into the N today. Hopefully. We are still expecting the wind to die Saturday, but hopefully between now and then we will put a few miles under the keel.

Ziggy is doing well. We've carpeted the table and sink board with some left over non-skid fabric so he can walk around without sliding. We had two squid and one flying fish on board last night and we were able to keep him from eating all but one of the squid.

The new tow generator is working great! Normally we would be down 5-10% on the batteries overnight, but last night we stayed even.

We had lots of ships last night and this morning. There is a line from Cabo to Manzanillo that most of the shipping traffic follows along this coast. Now that we are outside of that we should have less to keep track of in the night.

Off like a herd of turtles!

{GMST}19|55|N|107|15|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 1|Day 1{GEND}