Friday, 22 May 2015

Fluenta 22 May 15 - Passage to Tonga (not likely via Minerva) - Day 6 - Still motoring

Hello!

We are still motoring on a glassy blue carpet. It was a good day to do some tidying below decks in preparation for turning this floating campervan back into a sailboat in the next few hours. I collected all the foulies & fleeces - we don't need them at the moment, but we are not necessarily done with them yet - and even swept the saloon floor! When the wind fills in, it is likely to be on the nose, so it could be harder work for the last few days of the passage.

I am not sure I can describe the water as we glide through it. The colour is a deep, deep blue, and it is so smooth at times that it is like we are moving through molten glass. Even the kids were exclaiming to each other about it today.

With the engine running, we had loads of (hot) water, so it was shower day today. (Yes, we can shower on passage, and No, we don't do it very often). We have had continuous problems (ie since Mexico) with the shower drain (one time it was Lego in the hose, but Max blew that through ...) and today was no different. Usually, Max opens up the floor of the saloon to access the grey water system, but since we are on passage (and we have bags and bags of food & supplies stowed there) we used a simpler solution to clear away the water from the shower floor - we used our portable bilge pump into a bucket. Plumbing can wait til Tonga! It may be that there is a length of hose that will need to be replaced, but we will make do with what we have as long as possible, as the "proper fix" would involve removing and re-fiberglassing the entire shower floor. Not fun!

It is kind of like we have sailed into spring from late winter. When we left NZ, I needed two tops, two fleeces, foulie bottoms, a foulie jacket and a woolen cap for night watches, in addition to my life vest and tether (try nursing a cranky baby, who is also bundled for the cold, with all those layers, and you will see why we have headed for the tropics!). It was not much warmer in the daytime. Now we have daytime temps into the mid-20's (shorts & tshirts are more the order of the day) and it is just a little cooler at night (I still need a fleece). I am wondering how much longer we will be sleeping under our duvets and blankets...

No extraordinary kitchen accomplishments to report today (although we are continuing to enjoy Victoria's bread from yesterday). We vacuum-packed some regular deli meat in NZ, so we are still enjoying fresh wraps at noon time (Jesus is a whiz at laying out a tempting buffet of veggies, cheeses, and meats). Dinner was an all-you-can-eat smorgasboard (ie leftovers - pork & rice, fish & rice, and fresh veggies). I have our first batch of yogurt curing on the stove (for the curious, I use 400 mL of whole milk powder, 900 mL of 120 deg water, and sit it in mason jars in a hot-water bath (slightly more than 120 deg) in our pressure cooker for 5 or so hours). With the engine running, our tap water (which routes through the engine compartment) is about 160 deg, so I didn't even need to boil the kettle!

The wind is starting to build, so I think we will be sailing again before long. We are leaning away from stopping at Minerva now, and aiming for Tonga. ETA there is early Wednesday. We shall see.

I feel a tiny bit closer to friends and family tonight - we crossed back into the "Western Hemisphere" today, and are now counting down our longitude from 179 deg W.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
Manual position - 25 deg 43.2 S 179 deg 42.5 W at 1140 UTC 22 May 15
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At 5/22/2015 7:51 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 25°06.00'S 179°57.21'E

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Thursday, 21 May 2015

Fluenta 20 May 15 - On passage to Tonga (hopefully via Minerva) - Day 4 - A beautiful day of sailing

Hello,

Up until today, I must admit that I have had a few moments of wondering what on earth possessed us to trade in our perfectly normal existence (jobs, cars, house, life ashore) for rolly seas, cold weather, and a constant need for one more hand than I had (Note for the moms & concerned-something-terrible-is-about-to-happen-to-us folks on the list - I was uncomfortable and grouchy, but things were never dangerous. It was simply the sea doing what the sea does (waves) and the boat doing what boats do (rolling)).

Today, I got my answer to why on earth we not only did this, but dreamed of doing it for years before we left. It was a lovely day from start to finish. We have made enough northerly progress that the grey of sky and sea has evolved into the deep blue that I remember from last season. During the morning, we had steady winds that set us cruising along gently on a broad reach. We could have gone faster, but we still had a reef in from overnight, and sleep trumps speed. We shake out reefs when we are both awake. In the afternoon, we flew our new spinnaker (purchased last season from friends during our stay at Minerva Reef). We put our "ATN Tacker" to use (a plastic thing that lets us fasten the bottom of the spinnaker to the furled genoa), and it worked really well. This evening, the wind has dropped significantly (down to 6-10 kts) but it has also come forward of the beam, so we are ghosting along on a close reach, generally maintaining a boat speed of 5-7 kts. This boat sails really efficiently on this point of sail, so it doesn't take much to move us. The clear blue sky with puffy clouds of the day has given way to a clear starry night. It is still chilly enough that I am glad of layers and foulies, but the wooly hat has become optional. (Victoria is even sleeping in the cockpit). When the winds drop further, I will have to start the engine, but this I will delay as long as possible. There have been several times when I thought we had reached the limit of slowness, and I was gearing up to start making noise, and then the wind picked up and we were doing 7 kts! Thankfully, the current is in our favour at the moment.

The morning had a bit of a funny start, wind-wise. We had consistent winds from the south for most of the trip, and all of a sudden, just as we were about to listen to the morning radio net and get the weather analysis, we had a 200-deg wind shift. We followed the wind, and I hand-steered while Max participated in the net; we basically drove in the wrong direction for almost an hour. Thankfully the winds were light. We decided to gybe the boat to put ourselves somewhere back towards our course, brought in the main sail, swapped the preventer line to the other side, furled the genoa ... and the wind shifted again! It went back to its southerly direction, steady as anything, as if it had never left. We decided not to gybe, swapped the preventer back, let out the main, unfurled the genoa, and found ourselves perfectly following our desired course! (For the weather curious - there seemed to have been some kind of band of clouds / squalls that we passed, so obviously they exerted their influence, then were gone... )

Benjamin is growing up before our eyes. He is steady on his feet now, and maneuvers around the boat with ease. The biggest change is that he has discovered that the big kids have been watching cartoons on their iPod, and now he wants in on the action! It is funny as a card carrying non-video-watching-before-two-years-old mom to see myself letting him watch with Victoria & Johnathan - he heaps himself on top of them, and is instantly absorbed. (Of course, this is why I don't like babies watching videos ... but sometimes it is nice to buy myself some peace!) The phrase "everything in moderation" comes to mind!

We had some whipping cream in the fridge which had an expiry date of today, so obviously, we needed to make pancakes this morning to use it up! Victoria and I made a nice brunch of banana pancakes with whipped cream during our morning watch. It was also a bit of a mid-passage brunch - we still have several days to go.

Dinner tonight was the albacore tuna we caught a couple of days ago, with rice and stir-fried veg. It is so much more enticing to be in the galley when the boat is flat! With the spinnaker run, dinner was late (ie eaten in the dark), so Benjamin and I ate in the galley where he could see his food. He sat in his favourite place - on top of the counter - and shovelled in fistfuls of rice. He wouldn't have been able to do that a couple of nights ago!

Most evenings, just after dark/dinner, Victoria heads for her bunk, and she is then on-deck to help Max not long after sunrise. Johnathan likes to read or visit in the cockpit later into the evening, and joins us later in the morning. When we are on passage, and there is someone awake 24/7, it is nice that both kids can find their natural routine and sleep/wake cycle. This would be another of those benefits of leaving home to travel like this that seemed so far from my mind earlier in the week!

It is a good thing that we are not relying on our iPad for navigation. It has decided to stop working, or at least all the apps that are not native to it crash when we open them. Hopefully we can play with backup/restore (perhaps this is an IOS issue?) when we get to anchor, but it was a good reminder that it is a nice device when it works, but we are glad to have a "proper" chartplotter, laptop, paper charts [and two sextants and tables, and two handheld GPS, and various other bits and pieces. Max] as well! Victoria and Johnathan have done well with only one device the last two days - paper books have absorbed them (both novels and the minecraft "for dummies" books that Johnathan was given at Christmas time), and they have been watching the same five cartoon episodes with Benjamin that we loaded on their iPod in NZ.

That seems as good a place to leave it as any ... the wind is dying, and it is time to start the engine.

Love to all,
Elizabeth
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At 2015/05/20 2:07 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 29°58.59'S 178°26.13'E
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At 2015/05/21 1:56 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 28°58.00'S 178°51.00'E

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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Fluenta 19 May 15 - Passage to Minerva Day 3 - Finding our groove

Hello!

We are finding our groove. As much as we will all be glad to relax at anchor in Minerva Reef, we have had pretty good conditions for crossing an ocean today. Winds have mostly been in the 15-20 kts range, with a few spells higher than that to keep us on our toes. The sea state has been friendly - the odd funny roll, but mostly pretty benign. Boat speed has been in the 6.5-7.5 kts range, which is just right.

Johnathan contributed in a new way today - we were having interference problems again between the HF radio and the autopilot, and it was Johnathan who sat at the nav table and did our upload/download of email traffic, with Max at the helm.

Over the last few weeks, Victoria has taught herself to crochet (with the help of various online tutorials) and she has nearly finished her first project. It is lovely to watch how she perseveres when she has set her mind to something.

We are over 1/3 of the way to Minerva, and tomorrow we should be approximately half way. Despite the vastness of the ocean, we are still in and out of VHF range with some of the boats who left Whangarei when we did. Now that everyone seems to be out of their early-passage inertia, there may be some interest in something yummy for brunch. We shall see ...

A short note for tonight, but it gives you a little insight into our daily routine, and lets you know that we are doing well and thinking about you.

Love,
Elizabeth
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At 2015/05/19 1:52 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 31°29.00'S 177°00.00'E
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At 2015/05/19 2:40 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 31°26.63'S 177°04.94'E

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Fluenta 18 May 15 - Passage to Tonga (Minerva) - Day 2 - Catching fish and getting our sea legs

Hello!

We had a lovely day on passage today. Max and the kids caught a fish just after sunrise, and when it was filleted, we had seven bags for the freezer and two for the fridge. I was relieved to find that many nooks and crannies in the freezer, because I already had it pretty full of NZ beef, lamb, and chicken...

Benjamin is getting his sea legs, and has been brave enough to stand up and try to move around. His new harness is easier to adjust, so he wears it constantly in the cockpit, but we are able to take it off down below.

We are still decked out in all our foulie layers (jackets, pants, fleeces, leggings, wooly socks and boots). Even Benjamin is wearing his MEC "pumpkin suit" (which makes him orange and round) when he is upstairs. We have just gybed and set a course of 330 deg M, which has a good northerly component, so things should hopefully warm up considerably over the next 24 hours. Although it is still cool, it is not nearly as cold as it was when we left NZ.

Our winds have been steady at 15-20 kts, and we had some gusts into the high 20's overnight tonight. While everyone else was sleeping at the handover of our watches, Max and I worked together to reef the main and then gybe it across (while the autopilot decided to take a break for awhile). Given that it was nighttime and rather rolly, we furled in the genoa completely before the gybe, which meant that the lines did not get fouled on the inner forestay, cleats, etc that lie in wait for them on the foredeck. The whole operation worked well (and was rather fun, in fact), and it made me realize that I *like* sailing when I don't also have three children clambouring for attention. In a rolly sea after two hours of wrangling both baby and boat earlier in my watch, this was a surprising revelation!

Said baby is now calling me, having slept on the port settee during our evolutions, so I will sign off!

Love to all,

Elizabeth
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At 2015/05/18 4:25 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 33°18.00'S 176°39.00'E
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At 2015/05/18 10:06 PM (utc) SV Fluenta was 32°43.71'S 176°32.39'E

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Monday, 18 May 2015

Fluenta 17 May 15 - Passage to Tonga (likely via Minerva Reef) - Day 1

Liz Letter End of Day 1 (17 May 15)

Greetings and salutations!

It is a long time since I last sat at the chart table during a night watch to catch you up on our doings. For old times' sake, Benjamin woke up just as I started typing, so once again, I am typing one-handed with a (much larger than last season) baby nursing in my lap. The one change is that now he sometimes sleeps in the bunk, so he is not on my chest in the carrier all night. I feel much lighter :)

After months of maintenance, travel, visitors, stowing, provisioning, etc, we have made it off the dock, and have had an ideal day of sailing to get our sea legs back. Despite the 8000 nm he has already done, the whole experience seems new to Benjamin. He is *not* impressed by his harness or tether, and he is a bit wobbly on his feet. I guess this is understandable, since he wasn't even walking when we got to NZ. So far, there have not been too many crashes below decks, so it seems that we have done pretty well at "securing for sea". A few days ago, I said that we would need a miracle, and it would seem that we got one. Hundreds of cans and over 100kg of dry goods (rice, flour, oats, and sugar) all found their way into cubbies and compartments. Both saloon benches are available for sleeping on during the passage. It feels good to be ready!

Our departure just before 2pm went smoothly. The wind had picked up, but we had a lull in the wind when we went to spring off the dock. A lad from a neighbouring boat appeared to handle our lines from the dock, and we slipped away with no issues. Everyone had a turn on the helm as we were leaving the bay. It is fun to see Victoria and Johnathan confidently handling the boat, steering by the channel markers and avoiding traffic. Jesus coiled lines and stowed fenders, and is now monitoring the cockpit on his first night watch. We have good conditions for now - 15-20 kts behind us, and we have the autopilot (Sammy) on wind-hold, within about 10 deg of our desired course. Our track is expected to take us on anything but a straight line, as we follow the wind to Minerva reef.

There were about 15 boats leaving Marsden Cove Marina this morning, but we only have two contacts left on our AIS - the fleet has already dispersed. We will see some folks in Minerva Reef, some in NZ when we return, and some at some unknown future date. Such is the cruising life.

Dinner tonight was our own canned chicken (thanks Dad & Mom for lids and pressure cooker gasket) with pasta and veg. We snacked all day on the apple & cinnamon muffins that Victoria made us before we left.

I am (so far, touch wood, etc, etc) feeling pretty good. This is likely due as much to the calm sea state as it is to the "Sealegs" (Bonamine), essential oils, and homeopathic remedies I have been using; however, I will not make this long, as I want to keep things that way!

Love to all,
Liz
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At 5/18/2015 7:42 AM (utc) SV Fluenta was 33°26.01'S 175°28.74'E

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Saturday, 16 May 2015

Off to Tonga!

We cleared customs today, and are part of a convoy of over a dozen boats headed north.
Anticipating a week or so on passage, then we will catch our breath at Minerva reef. 





Both kids got a chance to drive for a few minutes. Fun to be on our way again!

Liz

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Mother-Daughter Rigging Team and other passage preps.

After I had checked over the rig it was time to get our nice leather spreader covers put back on.  Victoria has been asking for ages to help up the mast so ... Liz and Victoria were up the mast today to put the spreader covers back on and to sort some chafed spots. 


Rigger at work

Ladies' Rigging Team
New harness put to work (and shiny new OCC burgee)


Johnathan winched Victoria up the mast.

Vacuum packing victuals

More ...

Meanwhile I continue to argue with Windows reinstalling the satphone driver. 

And Benjamin helps with the laundry. 




And a day to play tourist.  The oldest kauri tree in New Zealand.

And a rustic spa visit