Saturday, 10 May 2014

Across the Equator

Busy night watch dodging squalls and keeping up with the constant wind shifts. The moon set a little while ago so the stars are so clear. We are heading straight for the Milky Way and there have been some very bright shooting stars. Venus should be rising shortly - this time will not stress over why I could not see the suspected contact on radar when it is indeed only a planet.

Fishing report: pulled in my lines to check and, again, some monster of the deep has broken off the leaders of both lures. New hooks tied on straight to the strong line (200 lb test I think) and a flying fish added as bait. The tuna we caught seems like a long time ago so looking forward to fresh fish ...

Wildlife report: Bobbie the Booby has appeared to move on which does minimize the clean up I need to do on the foredeck. The dolphins have come to visit regularly and there are still squadrons of flying fish bounding all over the place.

Maintenance: Liz mentions the refrigeration challenges later. Also keeping an eye on the vang attachments as they are creaking. I have figured out what is moving and will see if I can find a machinist in the Marquesas to make me some bushings. The "to do" list on the spreadsheet is growing already for our arrival.

Some excerpts from Liz's emails home:

Day 18:

"We no longer have a crew of pollywogs - now we have a crew of shellbacks. This afternoon, King Neptune held court, asked some challenging questions, of the gathered entourage, and we celebrated with treats (both ones we had packed and some surprises sent with us from some of our friends - we are so grateful to be so blessed). It was a fun afternoon for everyone. We had earlier contemplated a mid-ocean swim, but the winds were good (in fact, Neptune provided us with a bit of a rolly period), so we all stayed safely aboard. It is quite likely that swimming stations will happen at anchor after we arrive :)

The Lego emerged from its cupboard yesterday, and peace has been reigning aboard Fluenta ever since! Even with a small fraction of their available Lego, Victoria and Johnathan were absorbed for hours today, both making and playing. They have even been cooperative and put it all back in its box during the after-dinner stow-the-boat period. I love to listen to their play, as the bad guys plot and the good guys win in the end.

I think Fluenta did us a favour today. I woke up from an off-watch nap to find Max wearing his favourite (not!) Refrigeration Technician Hat, and poking around in the engine compartment with his multi-meter. The fridge had not been running for part of the day, and he was trouble-shooting the problem. After poring over the circuit diagram with Nancy, and checking various voltages in the engine compartment, he traced the problem back to a switch that is above head height behind the nav table that had somehow gotten bumped into the off position. This is an old switch that we have never used, and never bumped before. In the process of his trouble-shooting, however, he found two places where cables had come loose and were rubbing that could have caused damage down the road (one was a power cable and one was a fuel line). Thankfully, it was a simple fix, but I was grateful that he discovered these other problems in advance. All I could think was, "Thank you, Fluenta!" Our fridge is cooling happily again, and after a couple of little wire-tying jobs everything will be in its place in the engine compartment, but it could have been so much worse!

Dinner tonight was a feast of individual pot pies from the La Cruz Market. So yummy and so easy. (And if there was any doubt about the freezer, I wanted to enjoy them while they were good!)

All is well in the southern hemisphere - less than 700 nm to go!"

Day 17

Greetings!

Today was all about preparations for crossing the equator. The sailing was lovely and lazy (perfect conditions if you didn't have somewhere to go... as for us, we were appreciative when the wind came up to 8 kts in the evening from +/- 6 kts throughout the day). On the bright side, the current is *finally* helping us - it is pushing East to West at about a knot). The kids got to work in the afternoon making costumes all around (amazing what they could come up with using tinfoil and imaginations). This also used much of their energy so there was less left over for winding up each other (or me), which was nice. They actually commented at dinnertime that they had had a good day.

Today was also the day that Victoria created a fort at the head of the aft bunk and Johnathan practiced tying some of the knots from the Marlinspike Sailor and from Victoria's knot book ... once again, fun to see what some pillows, some sheets and/or some lines, and some imagination could lead to.

The main excitement of the day came just after midnight, when we woke everyone up to watch the latitude numbers count down to 00 deg 00.000 minutes N. We will celebrate properly tomorrow, but the crew of Fluenta has successfully crossed the equator!

Just to remind us, once again, that we are *not* alone in the ocean, as we were disbanding from our mini equator crossing party, Nancy said, "I see a light off the bow." It was *not* (as I first hoped) a brand new star from the southern hemisphere, although it was almost as bright -- it was a ship. There was much less excitement than the last time when we saw a fishing vessel - we flashed up the radar (yes, sure enough - a ship), tried to hail him (no luck on either Ch 16 or 12), changed our course by about 20 deg to be sure of plenty of sea room, and shone a bright light on our sails. We probably got no closer than 4 nm away, and then carried on our way to the Marquesas, back on our bearing of 212 deg M.

Thank you for all the prayers and good wishes. We feel very blessed that thus far, our passage has been reasonably smooth, with cooperation from the weather and from our boat. We have friends who left a day later than we did, and have had no end of grief (either no wind or too much wind). They have been hand steering for the last three days because the seas are too big for their windvane. Other friends left the same day that we did, but they tore their mainsail within the first week, and they are struggling now that the wind is more on the nose. They are both hundreds of miles behind us. A third boat left La Cruz five weeks ago, lost their autopilot early in the game, and have been handsteering the entire way with just two of them on board. They have been a "couple of days away" from Hiva Oa for almost the last week, but they are hoping to arrive by the weekend. These scenarios remind me of how fortunate we have been, and how vigilant we must continue to be, as we complete the last several hundred miles of our journey. Please keep all of these boats in your thoughts and prayers. That being said, we hear from each of these boats each evening on the PPJ SSB (HF) net, and spirits are good aboard them all. Everyone has their own journey as we cross this ocean together.

On the more mundane side of things, I threw out two cabbages today (probably could have eaten them up until a few days ago, but didn't bother in time). They molded the whole way through. We made slaw for dinner (mac & cheese) with our jicama (still fine, kept out in the open in a crate), beets (kept in green long-life bags in the pantry and still good), and carrots (from the fridge) and Aunt Margaret's boiled vinaigrette. (Made with my Allison-inspired mandoline). It was popular all around and a good way to get some crunch after over two weeks at sea. It is taking some creativity to feed everyone a few servings of fruit & veg every day ..we still have loads of apples (thanks to Exodus for the suggestion to bring lots!) and potatoes, that are all keeping well in the bags that Allison sewed. These are in the pantry (aka forward head) in the stacked plastic crates from the tienda (fruit & veg market) in La Cruz, but other than a dozen carrots in the fridge, that is it for fresh food.

Well, my bunk calls, so I will wish you a good night / good morning :)

Love from the southern hemisphere"

Day 16

Fluenta has been flying along! She seems to love this point of sail. Even with still about a knot of current against us, we have been doing 6+ kts over the ground (ie 7+ kts of boat speed) with the boat riding comfortably through the water.

Tonight is a beautiful starry night - no storm clouds to be seen - just lots of stars, and finally some moon. Even still, I didn't like to leave the cockpit during my watch, so now that Max has taken over, I have a minute to send a note.

The highlight of the day - we celebrated passing through 1000 nm to go in the late afternoon. We are down around 960 now.

Day 15

I just finished my watch - bouncy!

The word(s) of the day today was hot - and humid - and heeling. The good news is that our winds have picked up an have been steady (10-15+ kts) for the last 24 hours, and we are heading towards the Marquesas directly (ie not trying any longer to go S to get through the convergence zone). The bad news is that the winds are from the S/SE, so we have been on a close reach most of the day. This means that the sails are in pretty tight, and the boat is heeled over at about 15 degrees. This is fun for a Wednesday night race heading towards the windward mark, but it wears thin after a bit when it is your house (especially your kitchen) and it goes on all day and all night! It could be worse - we have friends who left a day or so after we did and have spent much of the journey waiting for wind. These conditions just make us appreciate the trade wind sailing when it comes all that much more.

We still have a lot of current against us (this is expected to last until about 1 deg N). Most of the day we were eeking out 5 kts of boat speed which was converting to a measly 3.5 kts over the ground. Now that the winds have picked up tonight, we are doing over 7 kts through the water which is still over 6 kts over the ground. Even with a double reef in the main and a reef in the genoa, we are doing these kinds of speeds, which is so much more heartening!

Back to the words of the day - hot & humid - by this I mean that it is over 30 deg C in the cabin and the relative humidity is about 70-75%. I tend to keep Benjamin down below to keep him out of the sun, but he just drips with sweat all the time, so it is a constant juggling act. I drink and he drinks, and he is otherwise happy and hydrated.

We are still eating some fresh veg from the pantry - sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and lots of apples. I have a couple of beets and some cabbage that are still waiting as well.

Our next waypoint is the mouth of the harbour for our anchorage. The miles are counting down - we had 1089 to go when I came off watch. We will celebrate the various milestones over the next few days - 1000 miles, equator, 500 miles, etc, etc. Hopefully these moments will provide some distraction as well.

So, it is off to bed for me and on-watch for Nancy. Fluenta seems to be enjoying these conditions - 15 kts of wind, boatspeed between 6-7 kts, and waves to blast through. My watch made me think that if ever I had ridden a fast horse that loved to gallop, the feeling would have been similar. The sky has cleared off, and there were no squally clouds at all for the last few hours. It is a completely different night than last night.
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At 5/9/2014 8:49 AM (utc) Fluenta's position was 01°52.00'S 130°51.00'W

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1 comment:

  1. Congrats on crossing the equator! It sounds like you have hit a sweet-spot wrt winds and weather compared to your fellow sailors. Enjoy your last few hundred miles the Marquesas.

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