Day 9

Water Play

Our position at noon today is 12.44 n 122.58 w, which means we have sailed 136 miles in the last 24 hours. Our pace slowed down a bit due to a fish stop (we dropped the chute so Dan could land a 5 lb Ahi on the trolling line) and the fact that during our sunset discussion of whether or not we should drop the chute for the evening in 20 knts true wind speed, we looked up and saw something resembling a big squall coming right at us. Chute dropped, main up, westerly course of 240-250 at 5 knts in a 12 knt breeze for a warm, starlit evening cruise. There was no squall, but everyone slept quite well. Right now we have the chute back up and are sailing at 6 knots on a 215 deg course in 14 knots of wind. At this pace we will hit the halfway mark to Hiva Oa (1420 nautical miles) late tomorrow night.

But enough about sailing.

Last night’s dinner was pan seared line-caught Ahi tuna on a bed of organic baby spinach, ruby red grapefruit, avacado, and roasted pistachios. I had just re-read Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Alone Around the World”, and it turns out he used that recipe off the coast of Brazil, so we thought we’d give it a shot. It was delicious.

In terms of nature, Jenna saw a sea turtle this morning, and Rich found a flying fish alive and flapping on the floor of our galley. It apparently flew in over the dinghy and SUPS, through the aft cockpit, and onto the cabin floor. We assume it was surprised and bummed at the result of its leap.

Finally, we invented a new game/washing routine for the kids that they call “Water Play”. Leo and Hazel put on swim shorts and safety harnesses, clip in to the safety shackle near the windlass, and then bounce on the trampolines while I squirt them with 78 degree seawater from the deck hose. After a half hour of this, I switch to fresh water and shampoo the kids’ hair. They have an absolute blast! We have clean kids without heating up the cabins! I can’t imagine why I never thought of this during our summer cruises in Puget Sound and the San Juans, and I can’t wait to share this new fun activity with all of our cruising friends when we return.

Day 8

Trade Wind Sailing

Jenna just said that this is what she dreamed it would be like.

We are currently sailing straight downwind at 7-8 knts on a course of 214 degrees under our cheerful Pt. Townsend Sails spinnaker with no main on a direct line to the Marquesas. The temperature is in the high 80’s, and we are all looking forward to our lunch of freshly-caught bluefin tuna. At this current course and speed we will be in Nuku Hiva in 10 days, although we will probably slow down a bit before then.

Our current position is 14.10 n 121.10 w, which means we made 153 miles in our last 14 hours. The lower daily total is mainly due to course changes and a reduction in wind speed. Last night while Jenna and I were on watch, the wind died down a bit and shifted back to the north, so we decided to gybe and make some westing. That didn’t work out to well, so we gybed back and headed at 6-7 knots on a 170 course under full main and jib until dawn.

Dan, Rich and I proceeded to put the chute up at that point, but it turns out the snuffer line was twisted up inside the bag and it took us over an hour to sort it out. Part of this involved Dan and Rich taking the chute into the “living room” and untangling it, and Rich reminded me that untangling spinnakers in living rooms is apparently an old Utzschneider tradition.

Did I mention lately that these guys are splendid crew?

Anyway, after we got the chute up and the main down, Rich looked aft at our meat lines (two 50 ft. lengths of 125 lb test line attached to the boat with shock cords and designed to haul in fish 24×7)and asked “Is that a fish?”. It turns out we had been dragging a 4 lb bluefin tuna for the last several hours, and this fish will soon be our lunch. In fact there were tuna and flying fish jumping all around us, so I put the trolling pole back in the water and within 2 minutes we had a hit. All of this is taking place while the boat is sailing 8 knots downwind under a chute with a crew that was a little tired from sail wrestling after their night watches, so we decided to maintain boat speed while trying to land the fish. We lost that fish but not the leader, and now that we have a more rested crew we have decided to drop the spinnaker the next time we get a hit on the pole in order to give us a better chance to stop the boat, land the fish and fill our freezer. We also have designated Leo the boat CMO (Chief Meatline Officer) and his job is to check the lines every 15 minutes.

Right now Dan and Rich are napping; Jenna, Leo, Hazel, and I are up top under the bimini wearing full SPF clothes and sunhats as Jenna reads aloud a chapter from Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States (Children’s Edition)” as part of our home schooling curriculum. Sophie is pretty much steering herself, and is as happy to be in the warm weather as we are. Our fuel and water tanks are full, the genset/solar/windmills/washing machine/autopilot are all working quite well, and the crew is happy. The grownups are all showered, and we will do the kids on deck after lunch. The big decision after that will be where to take the afternoon nap.

Day 7

Southing!

Our current position is 16.37 n 120.27 w. That places us about 1000 miles north of the equator and 1000 miles from our departure point in San Diego. We feel good about hitting the 1000 mile milestone after our first week, especially given our couple of days of slow going early on. Hiva Oa is only 1900 miles away!

We made 168 miles in the last 24 hours for an average speed of exactly 7 knots. We still have that 20-25 knt breeze coming from the NNE. Last night there was a NW swell that combined with 8 ft. waves from the NNE to mess things up a bit, so we decided to take it easy and sailed with 2 reefs in the main and a full jib throughout the night. Right now the swell seems to have disappeared and the waves are down to 6 ft, so we are running since sunrise with a full main and jib at 7-9 knots with a very comfortable motion.

If you’re following our progress on SPOT, you can see that we’ve been heading almost due south for the last 2 days. With the wind coming from the NNE, it places Sophie in a position to sail in that direction on a broad reach, Sophie’s fastest and most comfortable wind angle. In other words, we are “southing”, sailing easily and quickly while getting warmer and warmer. The temperature is now 72 degrees in the shade in the aft cockpit, and everyone is down to t-shirts and shorts (or sundresses, in Hazel’s case). We are surrounded by flying fish and birds, so you know what’s for dinner tonight …

The wave action is actually pushing us west by about a mile an hour, so we are slowly making some westward progress to the Marquesas while on this course. We spoke with our weather routers this morning, and they said that our current wind and sea state will prevail for the next 36 hours and will then transition to 10-15 knts from the E or ESE. So we’ll continue southing for another day and a half and then switch to our spinnaker and head downwind on a much more westerly course to our final destination.

Day 6

Making progress …

We did 182 miles in our first 24 hour stretch in the trade winds, all on a port tack under reefed main and jib. Our noontime position is 19.24.69 n 120.04.5 w. We made 182 miles in the 24 hour period, our best run yet. The ICTZ begins at 11 n right now, so at this rate we will be there in three days. We’ve gone 828 nm since San Diego, and our goal is to make that 1000 by tomorrow to wrap up our first full week of sailing. We feel pretty good about our current pace and that we are making up for our light air days earlier in the week. We haven’t run our engines yet, so we have plenty of fuel to get us through the flat water in the ITCZ.

++++ Fish Break ++++ As I am typing this, we got our first hit on the trolling rod. Dan and I ran out there, a large fish was running with the line REALLY FAST while we were sailing at 10 knots, but we lost him. The good news is there are actually fish out here!

Anyway, it was pretty rough this morning with a 25-30 knot northerly with 8 foot seas and a NW swell. We had a single reef in the main overnight, and as Dan and I put in a second reef this morning, the beautiful new cover on our brand new second reef line got caught between two mast cars and completely separated, exposing 15 feet of the line’s spectra core and jamming up some of the reef blocks. Bummer (my fault). We went out on the boom and tied off the reefed sail with two new ropes to relieve the pressure on the damaged line, then went back out there later and replaced the entire reef line with a spare halyard. It was my first time crawling out the boom while inside the sail cover, and I must say it was kind of fun.

Current conditions are sunshine, 20-25 knt northerly, and boat speed between 7 and 9 knots with a comfortable motion. Jenna’s chicken enchiladas last night were a hit, and Dan is about to make sausage bread.

Day 5

We’re getting there …

Our new position is 22.26.2 n 120.17.8 west, which means we covered 162 miles in the last 24 hours. We’ve been tacking downwind to do so, and as the wind continues to shift over to the NNE (030-050), where it is supposed to stay for the next 5 days, we think we will be able to sail on a broad reach course directly towards the new waypoint the weather routers gave us (05.00 n 127.00 w). It’s blowing 12-20 right now, with a small running swell. Sophie is sailing quite comfortably with a full main and jib, and Rich got her up to 11.6 knots at one point this morning. If this pattern continues, tomorrow could be even better.

The sky is gray and overcast, just like you-know-where.

The kids are getting their sea legs, and we’ve had a couple of good home schooling days. Hazel’s reading is measurably improving every day, and Leo has kicked off a big “Kid’s Guide to Sophie” writing project that he is quite excited about. I promised him that when he’s done and if he puts the appropriate effort into it, I will post his document on the Lagoon cruisers website.

Rich and Dan are great crew, and my favorite time of day is when Jenna and I pull a watch together at night. We are doing a rotating 2-on-at-a-time watch schedule at nights along with a more flexible arrangement during daylight hours based on who is awake and not teaching.

As we transition Sophie into becoming a warm water long distance cruiser, we know we have to do some things differently. One is to pay more attention to temperature and ventilation throughout the boat. For example, I was going on watch last night at 2:00 AM, pressed the button on the espresso machine for a shot, and all of the AC power throughout the boat immediately went out. No AC power on Sophie means no coffee, no drinking water, and ultimately no movies or personal electronics … in other words, the end of civilization. 🙂 I eventually got over my panic, poked around a bit, and figured out that we had overheated the inverter (the machine that converts the battery’s DC power into AC power) by placing a box of fishing gear in front of the inverter locker’s air vent. Another heat problem involved our Raymarine navigation electronics. For months our Raymarine autopilot intermittently flashed a “SeaTalk connection lost” message while underway. We assumed it was loose cabling and kept tightening all of the connections, but Dan discovered it was caused by the Raymarine network hub overheating inside the unvented plastic splash protection box we built for it five years ago! This usually happened when the Raymarine’s nextdoor neighbor, our diesel generator, was running. These sorts of heating problems simply never happened when cruising the 48 degree F waters of Puget Sound, but it looks like they have become part of our lives from now on.

We also have to pay closer attention to sail trim. We chafed a small hole in one of the mainsail batten covers yesterday and need to constantly make sure that sail doesn’t touch the shrouds while underway. We can repair it for the time being with sail tape, but I am really bummed this happened and need to be more careful moving forward.

Dinner last night involved organic chicken breasts in a Trader Joe’s Marsala sauce with basmati rice and an organic kale nut salad. Tonight we will have chicken enchiladas. Unless, of course, we land a fish.

Day 4

What a difference a day makes!

We did 153 nm in the last 24 hours, with most of it coming after midnight.

We think we have a shot at a 200 nm day today given the weather forecast along our current boat speed over 8 knots, including a 5 hour run this morning with an average speed over 9 knots. We are currently at 24.45.647 n 118.45.053 w at a heading of 196m and have 14 knots of apparent wind on our starboard aft quarter. We are currently sailing with full main and jib in bright sunshine through beautiful blue seas. Trade winds rock!

We spent most of last night with a reef in the main and at one point Jenna had to take in a reef in the jib when the apparent wind hit 28 knots during our second squall of the evening. We also came within 6 nm of two different freighters. For dinner I made a lemon pepper roast pork loin on a bed of root vegetables with a braised kale mix on the side. I’m told it was pretty good.

We woke up this morning to find 3 squid on deck, used two of them as bait but still haven’t caught any fish yet.

Everyone is doing great, and Sophie really likes this.

Day 3

Last night the Pacific was more quiet than I’ve ever seen Lake Washington. Our position at noon today is 27.18.01 n 118.53.927 w. That’s a rock’in and rollin’ 76.1 nm in 24 hours. We basically sat in glass-like water looking at stars for most of the night. They were beautiful stars, and even though we are still keeping the two-on-at-a time schedule at night, everyone had a good night’s sleep. We’ve also done four loads of laundry and multiple boat projects.

Currently we are sailing at 4-5 knots SOG in 7 knots of apparent wind on a course of 143 magnetic. We’re basically back on the rhumbline, and we hope to make up for our slow day starting tonight. Wind forecast is for 10-15 building tonight then 15-20 on Friday and Saturday building to 20-25 with gusts to 30 on Sunday and Monday, all from the WNW then NW then NE. This is the wind we had coming down off Oregon in September, and Sophie cruised comfortably at average speeds over 10 knots with 2 reefs in the main and half the jib up. Can we do it again? We’ll see.

It’s also warmer, with a cockpit temperature reading of 66 degrees. All-in-all we are off to a good start.

Marquesas Trip Day 2

Another good day, with a much calmer night last night. At noon today our position is 28.34.065 n 118.51.374 w. We’re sailing with the chute and no main straight downwind on our rhumb line at 3-4 knots. We made 147 miles over a 24 hour period and would have broken 150 if we hadn’t wrapped the chute around the forestay. It took an hour to unravel, but its back up with no tears. Then the wind died. We are now in mid 60’s sunshine, running the genset, doing laundry and hanging out.

Best of all, we’ve ditched our Seattle clothes for shorts and sunhats. Jenna is making lasagne for dinner. We hope to see more dolphins again after the sun goes down. They leave torpedo wakes of phosphorescence directly under the trampolines, a site that’s pretty remarkable, even for dolphin sightings.

Marquesas Trip Day 1

Hi everyone. We’re off to a good start. At noon today our position is 32.52.2 n 117.54.540 w. We’re sailing with full jib and main around 8 knots on a heading of 194m with a 14 knot wind to our beam. Our goal for the day is is to avoid Guadaloupe Island. We’ve made 116 nm from the San Diego fuel dock in 20.5 hours.

We had a quiet night. We started out with code zero and full main and at sunset tucked in a reef while switching to the jib. We went back to the code zero this morning until the wind picked up and veered more to the west.

It’s really cold and overcast, Seattle style. (Which is where we left most of our warm clothing :-). The kids are doing great, and Dan and Rich are wonderful crew. We’re debugging a few systems and are still putting things away. Sophie LOVES being back offshore.

We’ll do another update at noon tomorrow and will start measuring how much sea we cover in 24 hours. Also, you can start tracking our progress at http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0mqCOqT6lCXcXBDyvy4IJrK3809aAbJSq.

We’re Off!

Departed San Diego at 3:30 PM today. Weather forecast is for ~10 knot winds until Thursday when we will not some nice trades.

We’ll be posting daily updates on this blog. Wish us luck!!!