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Pacific Crossing, Days 1-5
Seeing the last lights of Cabo, the barrage of cargo ships, and dolphins
Day 1 - February 20
Distance to Hiva Oa (as the albatross flies): 2,650 nm
Wind: N 15-20 kts
Weather: Partly cloudy and chilly
Sail plan: Wing-on-wing at 150° then close reach at 60°
You know when you watch the beginning of a basketball game and it’s clear the nerves and adrenaline are making the players jittery? Their passes are loose. They miss shots they’ve made a thousand times in practice. They overshoot or overrun the pass.
‘Settle down. Just settle down,’ you can imagine the coach yelling from the bench.
You need the adrenaline to come out of the gate kickin’, but too much adrenaline and you make silly mistakes.
Today we’ve made silly mistakes. When leaving the anchorage under sail (need to save every ounce of fuel!), I tried to backwind the Genoa to tighten our turn and avoid hitting our neighbor boats. Trying to do it by hand without a winch was stupid and the Genoa flogged before Andrés Jacobo got it under control. Luckily, the turn was tight enough we didn’t hit any boats.
The wind lightened enough this afternoon to shake a reef … which we’ve done a thousand times. This time though the sail was caught on the gooseneck assembly and we made a slight tear in the sail. Luckily, we have a sail repair kit on board and we were able to patch it.
Both minor mistakes, luckily fixable. But both mistakes we can’t afford out here.
We just need to settle now. Settle into the rhythm of sailing. Settle into the motion. Settle into the watch schedule.
Settle down, Katherine. Settle down.
The echoes of the whales calling to one another in Bahía Los Frailes kept me awake our last night at anchor. It’s hard to be mad about lost sleep when the sound reverberating through the hull is so other-worldly and magical. The whales escorted us for the ride from Los Frailes to Cabo. Pretty nice send-off!
Day 2 - February 21
Distance sailed: 106 nm
Total distance sailed: 106 nm
Distance to Hiva Oa: 2,499 nm
Wind: N 12-15 kts then 15-25
Weather: Clear skies. Chilly enough for full foul weather gear during night watches. Rain during the day.
Sail plan: Genoa, Staysail, and first-reefed Mainsail at 60° close reach
It’s an hour into my nightwatch and the lights of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose Del Cabo are fading behind us.
The lights we expected to see, the red and green lights on the army of fishing boats that swarm around Cabo, are nowhere to be seen. They all must round up the peninsula to fish the shallow reefs. No floating-city cruise ships ferrying tourists from Cabo to Puerto Vallarta. Only one cargo ship showing up as an AIS target, but she is 37 nm away and moving fast towards the Panama Canal.
The only light now comes from the dim backlighting on my instruments and the brilliant sparkling night sky. With no clouds and no moon, it looks like the entire universe is visible. Some constellations I recognize, but many stars I am surely seeing for the first time tonight.
Should I try to count them? No. Impossible. There are millions of ‘em. Just enjoy them.
It’s this view that has called humans to pursue space travel rather than deep water exploration. Out here the motion of the ocean dominates the senses, rocking your whole body back and forth. But it’s the stars that capture all your attention.
You’ll read often about what happened on ‘this watch’ and ‘that watch’. For the new readers: On a passage like this, we sail non-stop and someone must always be ‘on watch’ to look for ships, adjust the autopilot for wind shifts, and monitor for changing conditions. With a two-person crew, this means one of us is always awake while the other sleeps…and both of us are always tired. :P
Those of you who’ve been reading for awhile, you know we normally do 3- or 4-hour watches. For this long passage, we’ve worked in a 6-hour sleep for each of us to help manage fatigue. Here’s our current watch schedule: 1800-2200 KRG, 2200-0200 AJGN, 0200-0800 KRG, 0800-1400 AJGN, 1400-1800 Dogwatch
Day 3 - February 22
Distance sailed: 118 nm
Total distance sailed: 224 nm
Distance to Hiva Oa: 2,384 nm
Wind: 7-10 kts and fluky becoming
Weather: Overcast and chilly
Sail plan: All 3 sails out but too much slatting so Spinnaker day it is
I have an idea.
Let’s play a game called ‘Dodge the Cargo Ship.’
I’ll be a tiny sailboat struggling with fluky winds. You can be the Panama Canal.
As soon as it gets dark, you shoot in rapid succession as many cargo ships and tankers as you can straight towards me and I’ll see how many I can dodge.
Fun game, right?
Maybe for you.
Nevertheless tonight’s score was Ana María 13, Panama Canal 0!
Hooray for the home team!
We have invaluable tool in our battle against cargo ships: AIS. I can’t google it out here to tell you how it works but I can tell you how we use it.
We have an AIS receiver and transponder. When another vessel with AIS comes into range, between 5 and 50 miles depending on the vessel, a boat icon pops up on my Cortex handheld device. That icon tells me the vessel’s relative position, course, speed, and the most useful data when you’re sleep deprived: when and how closely you’ll pass the vessel. Our device even shows us whether we need to steer up or turn down to increase the passing distance between us.
Our transponder sends our position, course, speed, and vessel name to the other vessel. This is helpful because we know they see us even if we are the size of a speck of dust compared to them. Tonight at 2 a.m. we heard over the radio ‘Ana María, Ana María, Ana María. This is tanker Weisshorn Explorer on your port bow. We cannot see your lights yet but we see you on AIS. Is it your intention to maintain course and speed? If so you can pass us on our bow and we will pass astern of you.’ Marveling at the courtesy of this Captain, we hailed back, ‘Correct, we will maintain course and speed so you can pass astern of us.’
Day 4 - February 23
Distance sailed: 119 nm
Total distance sailed: 343 nm
Distance to Hiva Oa: 2295
Wind: NNW 10-15 kts
Sail Plan: Wing-on-Wing-on-Wing…as in our normal Wing-on-Wing with the main pulled out to leeward and the genoa pulled to windward on the whisker pole PLUS the staysail out and sheeted in tight to act like a riding sail. We’ll try anything to get some stability with the Pacific swell on our beam.
I’m just settling in for my first watch of the night, having taken down the spinnaker and set up Wing-on-Wing-on-Wing with Andrés Jacobo. He’s given Standing Orders, ‘If the wind dies completely for 20 minutes, do a line check and start the engine. Motor at 2000 rpm on a course of 202°T for 3 hours. Might as well run the watermaker while the engine is pumping out energy.’
My favorite podcast is queued as I expect a long watch of trying to keep the boat moving in dying winds.
What the heck was that??? I turn to the stern of the boat. If that’s a whale, he is waaaay too close for comfort.
This time on my starboard side.
SPLASH! SPLASH! SPLASH!
All the sudden there are dolphins everywhere around Ana María. They’re smaller than those we’ve seen in the Sea of Cortez. Maybe 3 ft long? Kinda funny looking bodies in that it looks like all their tails were chopped off.
With the backdrop of the neon red band of the setting sun separating the blue of ocean and the gray of the overcast sky, they put on quite the show for me. Jumping. Dancing. Twirling. Swimming right alongside me.
What delightful company to have on my watch this evening!
Many of you shared Spotify playlists with us and some of you even made playlists for us. Your efforts are keeping us awake during watches so thanks! I’ve been enjoying Malia Norman’s ‘Songs to Sail To’ and Ryan Martin Brown’s ‘50 Songs to Cross an Ocean.’
Day 5 - February 24
Distance sailed: 128 nm
Total distance sailed: 471 nm
Distance to Hiva Oa: 2,172 nm
Wind: 15-25 N
Weather: Partly cloudy, getting too warm for my SmartWool underneath my full fouilies (yay!)
Sail Plan: Wing-on-Wing at 150° with a first-reefed mainsail
My confidence took a hit today.
We jibed the boat which is a complicated ordeal in these conditions. I know how to jibe. I could tell you each and every step of a safe jibe. But recently panic has mutinied against logic mid-maneuver. Andrés Jacobo has been working with me to make my steering decisive in heavy seas and to ensure I don’t allow the boat to round up to a beam reach risking a knock-down.
So strong was my focus on decisive steering and not rounding up that I choked and messed up the most basic step of the maneuver: I pushed the tiller the wrong way. Luckily Andrés Jacobo realized it and quickly corrected me. Together we still managed to jibe gracefully.
I felt ashamed. Ashamed for making such a simple mistake. Ashamed that I can’t seem to control my panic. Am I more of a liability to Andrés Jacobo than an asset on this passage?
My shame lingers through to my first night watch. Seas are heavy. Winds pipe up then slow down. The Monitor Windvane, our non-electric, mechanical autopilot, is misbehaving. Our current course would take us to Peru.
‘Cast not away thy confidence,’ my dad would tell me if he was here. So I start listening to John Maxwell’s ‘Winning is an Inside Job.’ I’ve loved John Maxwell ever since Jolie, the Ferndale refinery manager, showed us his video ‘Law of Influence.’
Only a few minutes in and my morale starts to lift. I can apply some of these lessons right now.
Take responsibility - I am not just a warm body out here in the cockpit. Andrés Jacobo does such a great job routing us. While he rests, I need to take the helmsman responsibility seriously and figure out a way to get us headed back to Hiva Oa on a course of 190-200°.
Listen and learn from other successful people - What did I observe Andrés Jacobo do this afternoon to adjust course and tune the Monitor Windvane? He adjusted the Windvane control line up and down. He tightened the tiller control lines. He loosened them. He tightened one and loosened the other. He studied the impact of each adjustment and tweaked and tweaked. I can do that. I can adjust the Windvane control line. I can play with the tension on the tiller lines. I adjust and watch and adjust some more. It takes 30 minutes but I finally get us on a course of 195° with the Monitor Windvane behaving reliably.
Learn from your mistakes - ‘Don’t try, try, try again. Try, then stop and think. Then try again.’ If all goes according to plan, we won’t have to jibe again for several days. Instead of just hoping I don’t panic again, I’ll think of ways to get my panic under control. Maybe power poses pre-jibe? Maybe doing a dress rehearsal before the jibe so I have muscle memory?
When Andrés Jacobo comes on watch, I give him a status report and a summary of my work with the windvane. ‘Good! 195° is the ideal course and I think even I would have struggled to get the windvane set to that. Great job.’
I am not a great sailor yet…but I am committed to becoming a better one.
Thank you to Cheryl W., Aaron H., Brittany S., Cindy S., Andrea and Donatto P., John Mark R., Sam and Jesica on s/v Hiraya, Juli M., Brett and Jordan A., and Jeff and Krista J., for providing this week’s encouraging words and dinner time entertainment!
Thank YOU for reading and being on the adventure with us!
You can follow our daily progress and read the Captain’s Log by clicking on the track at https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/AnaMaria
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