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Pacific Crossing, Days 6-10
Tradewind sailing, battle of the birds, autopilot breaking at sea
Day 6 - February 25
Distance sailed: 136 nm
Total distance sailed: 607 nm
Distance to Hiva Oa (as the albatross flies): 2,045 nm
Wind: N 20-28 kts.
Weather: Partly cloudy
Sail Plan: Double-reefed mainsail and genoa pulled out on whisker pole. Sailing at 130°. End-boom preventer in place.
The turf war has begun.
We’d read about the turf war between boobies and sail boats in Rick and Cindy Patrinellis’ account of crossing the Pacific on Cool Change, a Pacific Seacraft 31. They had several boobies land on their bow and get a free ride. One attacked Cindy in the cockpit - something straight out of the movie The Birds - thinking Cindy had stolen the fish the boobie had caught for a midnight snack.
We admit: we are the aggressors in the turf war. It’s us who’ve entered their territory.
Though we do wonder why they have chosen offshore for their home. They must fly against 30 kts of wind and fish in huge swell with nary a place to rest. They probably study us and wonder ‘Why would humans choose to come out here, battling 30 kts of wind, horrendous cross swell and nary a safe harbor?’
We find ourselves both out here yet there is no camaraderie despite misery loving company.
Once we entered their turf, they consider all of our turf fair game. They circle and circle and circle Ana María, trying over and over to land.
Now we’re not monsters. We know this must feel like to them a miraculous provision of much needed respite. So we proposed a peace treaty: You can land and ride on the bow from here to Hiva Oa. You can ride on the warm radar or the perfect little perch next to the radar. The whisker pole is fair game. But NO sitting on the solar panels!
And how did our adversaries respond to such a proposal? They laughed in our faces. Except they can’t laugh. So they did what birds do when they want to spite you: They dropped a gallon of poop on our precious solar panels. It’s incredible to believe that much poop came from such a small bird.
My resentment still seething, I was settled into my night watch when they sent a peace emissary. They shoulda sent one with a bit more tact.
I’m all alone in the middle of the ocean, minding my own business, when a boobie dives between the stern pushpit and the bimini, landing in the cockpit right next to me, squawking and flapping like a bird possessed. Nearly scared me to death.
It took me a good five minutes and a number of tactics to set him loose and send him on his way.
This morning Andrés Jacobo and I spent 20 minutes cleaning up the solar panels. It was the first time on the trip…but I doubt it will be the last. The battle wages on.
We are uptight about our solar panels because they are the only source of energy we can afford on the boat. Many passagemakers run their engines for an hour or two each day to top up their batteries and ensure the fridge can continue to keep food cold. Ana María can’t carry enough fuel for that so we rely on our 2 solar panels to charge our batteries and power our instruments, lights, radar, fridge, and electric autopilot. We foresaw this challenge and followed Don Casey’s unpopular but sound advice: we filled in our spacious fridge with insulation, converting it to a tiny but efficient fridge. We’re pleased as punch with the panels and system performance, with our fully charged batteries AND cold food.
Day 7 - February 26
Distance sailed: 152 nm - without current (!!!!!)
Total distance sailed: 759 nm
Distance to Hiva Oa: 1871 nm
Wind: NNE 22-32kts
Weather: Clear and sunny
Sail plan: Double-reefed mainsail and genoa pulled out on whisker pole then genoa only. Sailing at 160°. End-boom preventer in place.
A Tale of 3 Wise Men (…well 2 wise men and a wise woman)
Andrés Jacobo has just headed down for a nap, one of our last exchanges being ‘How is the monitor windvane doing?’ ‘Doing great.’
So I am surprised to see just 10 minutes later, she isn’t doing great at all. She keeps rounding upwind and I must scramble to bring the boat back downwind to avoid getting these 10 ft swells on our beam. I adjust all the lines. Still rounding up. I glance back at the windvane itself and oooomyyyyyyygooosh the paddle has come off the windvane and it’s trailing behind us as we surf these waves at 9 kts.
‘I NEED YOUR HELP!’ My call down to Andrés Jacobo must have had the right amount of urgency because he pokes his head up almost immediately.
‘The paddle. It’s come off.’
‘I gotta get dressed and get my life jacket.’
‘HURRY!’ This is no time to dilly dally. If we lose that paddle, we don’t have a spare and it will be 4 days of hand steering in 2-hour shifts. With my hand now on the tiller to steer the boat, I know there’s no way that would be fun.
Andrés Jacobo climbs to the stern, clips in his tether and tries to grab the paddle. ‘Oh sh*t, that guy was right!!’
‘That guy’ would be Bruce of Bruce and Gina on s/v Dream Catcher. He saw our Monitor Windvane and wisely cautioned, ‘You need a spare sacrificial tube for that thing. Mine broke early on in a passage and it took me a couple rough days to fix it. Put some penetrating oil on there in case you need to take the broken one off.’
Now, if we carried a spare for every item someone said broke on a passage, we would essentially need to tow another Pacific Seacraft 34 behind us. But we checked in our spares and sure enough we have an extra sacrificial tube stowed with the emergency rudder.
‘The sacrificial tube broke?’ I cry incredulously.
Looks like I’ll be handsteering for a while. The wise advice of Emma Davis, a fellow sailing pupil of Capt Phyllis Woolwine and who made this passage last year on her Pacific Seacraft 37, comes to mind, ‘Just remember all that Phyllis taught you and you’ll be fine.’
With one hand firmly gripping the end of the tiller, I am transported back to our 2019 Bareboat Cruising course with Phyllis when we crossed the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 35 kt winds and 7 ft seas crashing on the stern.
All day as we hand steered, Phyllis would coach ‘Pull the tiller, pull, pull! Okay now PUSH push push the tiller so you don’t jibe. Ok. Now pull hard! Pull hard so you don’t broach. PULL!’ When we arrived in the anchorage that night I felt like I had ridden a mechanical bull across the Strait.
It’s Phyllis’ voice in my head now telling me to push and pull, pull and push. Today we ‘only’ have winds to 32 kts but we have 10 ft swell topped with crashing wind waves. I pull pull pull to to avoid catching one of the waves on our beam then push push push as we surf down the waves at 9.6 kts. It’s going better than I would have expected. No sense of panic, just focus.
Steering requires all my attention, but out of the corner of my eye I can see Andrés Jacobo is making good progress. Just over an hour after I called him up, he is dropping the paddle with a new sacrificial tube down into the water and setting the windvane to steer.
‘Wow! You’re finished already??’ I am impressed! Bruce had made it seem really difficult to get the tube out. ‘Yep. I suspect it broke because there is too much weather helm. With 32 kts of wind, let’s take down the mainsail. It should be easier for the windvane to keep up without breaking.’
Then as we are tethering to take down the mainsail he turns to me, ‘Can I tell you a secret?’
And with a twinkle in his eye, he admits, ‘Back when Bruce told us his story, I put penetrating oil on the sacrificial tube on the paddle of the windvane.’
What a wise man he is!
The best thing about the passage so far is that it’s been incredibly fast! Lucky for us, the famous Tradewinds filled in earlier (yay!) and stronger (uh oh!) than expected. The Tradewinds have been used by sailors for centuries to travel reliably across the oceans allowing transoceanic trade. Hence the name. We’re galloping towards the equator with the Northeast Tradewinds filling our sails. Once we cross the equator the Southeast Tradewinds will push us to the Marquesas.
Day 8 - February 27
Distance sailed: 132 nm
Total distance sailed: 891 nm
Distance to Hiva Oa: 1,742 nm
Wind: 10-40 kts - Variable depending on the squalls
Sail plan: Wing-on-Wing with Genoa on the whisker pole and staysail to leeward at 130° apparent wind angle
We learned our lesson.
Never say ‘After these relentless trade winds, the ITCZ will be a welcome change,’ loud enough for Neptune to hear you.
He gave us a taste of what’s to come next week. A whole night spent attempting to dodge squalls…and mostly unsuccessfully.
I’ll take the consistent 25 kt tradewinds any day over the frightening lightening, clocking winds, and downpours of the squalls.
Sailors for decades have called this passage the Pacific Puddle Jump with no small dose of irony. We joined the Pacific Puddle Jump Rally to benefit from the wisdom and help of the rally organizers, the discounts, and the ability to see the live position of all the other boats crossing. We’ve loved reading the daily updates of the boats who’ve just finished the passage, saddened to read some passages are canceled due to flooded engines, and eager to welcome the fleet of boats who will start the passage in March and April. You can google Pacific Puddle Jump Rally and see on its website a list of all the boats participating. Though we did qualify as a ‘micro-boat’, you’ll notice (to Andrés Jacobo’s disappointment) we are not the smallest boat in the rally.
Day 9 - February 28
Distance sailed: 128 nm
Total distance sailed: 1,019 nm
Distance to Hiva Oa: 1,632 nm
Wind: NNE 22 Kts with 40 kt squalls
Weather: Sunny until squalls
Sail plan: Wing-on-Wing with poled-out genoa and staysail.
Just when I thought living on a boat couldn’t lower my standards any more than it already has…
It took us one night to lower them yet a couple more notches when our foul weather gear got so drenched by the squalls that they stopped keeping water out and began keeping water in. We spent a miserable night sitting in the pools of water created by our accidental rain catchment devices.
Why are we getting soaked, staying soaked, going inside with soaked clothes, and putting on soaked clothes to come back out to get soaked again?
Then an epiphany: We’re a married, 2-person crew without a YouTube channel. Why are we messing with clothes?? So in this squally weather, we’ve exchanged our foul weather suits for our birthday suits.
Classy, I know.
Despite the 10 days of hectic wind and the rough swell on our beam, there’ve only been 3 days when all I could muster in the galley was boiling water for the freeze dried food. Otherwise we’ve eaten well, working our way through the fresh produce while it lasts.
Day 10 - March 1
Distance sailed: 126 nm
Total distance sailed: 1,145 nm
Distance to Hiva Oa: 1,524 nm
Wind: N 18-27 kits
Weather: Sunny with a break from the squalls (and a quick end to our short-lived nudist lifestyle)
Sail plan: Genoa pulled to windward on whisker pole
Sailing 2,700 nm 20 minutes at a time:
The music stops.
Stand up in the cockpit, looking at the horizon in every direction for any lights of cargo ships, tankers, or fishing boats.
Check the AIS map for any AIS targets within 50 miles.
Turn on the radar with a radius of 8 miles to check for squalls or vessels without AIS.
Compare your current Course Over Ground with the Captain’s desired COG. Adjust windvane or autopilot.
Use the red light on the headlamp to check the decks, the sails, the sheets, and the windvane lines for problems or fouling.
Set a timer for the music to stop in 20 minutes.
Press play on your Spotify playlist.
Repeat approximately 2,160 times or until you reach Hiva Oa.
Thank you to Julie on s/v Isabella, Mom, Jim and Dorothy H., Dirk and Silvie on s/v Lison Life,Doug S., Ryan and Janene M., Christina, Nolan, Michael, and Liam L., Tini S., Ashley T., Russ and Patsy T., for providing this week’s encouraging words and dinner time entertainment!
Thank YOU for reading and being on the adventure with us!
Make sure to check our daily progress and read Andrés Jacobo’s log by clicking on the track at https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/AnaMaria
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