Monday, April 16, 2012
It's 3am, the winds have shifted slightly causing our sails to alternately fill and then collapse and aside from the light of a few stars peeking through the cloud cover, we are sailing along in what seems like the blackness of outer space. Brisk winds and lumpy, confused seas caused by several low pressure systems interacting with a weaker than normal NorthPacific high pressure development conspire to give us a fairly uncomfortable ride . The normally large, gentle, long-period, northeasterly swells have been replaced by short period, steep waves that approach from several directions and often combine in height to slap us from our stern quarter and send us rolling and surfing forward. It's rough enough that Anne has had to resort to taking sea sickness medication once again after thinking she had acclimated to the motion. Meal preparation has been especially difficult with all of the pitching, rocking and rolling and even moving about the boat is like contact sport. We have the bruises to prove it! Though separated by hundreds of miles, we are sharing the enormous expanse of blue ocean with thirty or more other sailing vessels known as the 2012 Pacific Puddle Jump fleet. Most check in nightly at an established time to report their positions, weather, sea conditions and state of welfare. We get an occasional chuckle hearing others complain about their rides and comparing notes about how many seemingly well-stowed things have been flying around their cabins, ending up on the floor. We have been underway now for a week since leaving Isla San Benedicto and two weeks since leaving the mainland coast of Mexico. We have passed the half-way point on our voyage to the Marquesas and are looking forward to our crossing of the equator in another three days. All is well aboard"Blue Rodeo" but each day offers us an assortment of challenges. As is the case for most offshore sailors, weather and sea conditions top the list followed by navigation, boat maintenance and repairs, meal preparation and personal hygiene. Sailing hard, 24 hours a day for weeks at a time, subjects equipment to more abuse than most boats see in years and can certainly take its toll. Mark has fixed two major items in the last two days. While on a trip forward to the bow, he kept a sharp eyeout for anything amiss and noticed that a large, stainless steel clevis pin that secures the lower end of "Blue Rodeo's" mast's head stay (forwardguy wire) had nearly worked its way out, almost allowing the stay to detach. Had that happened, the mast would , almost for sure, have come tumbling down doing significant damage. The cotter pin put in place to secure the clevis pin had sheared almost completely off allowing the clevis to work its way sideways. When Mark noticed the problem, he scrambled back to the cockpit and went below to gather up tools and a newcotter pin. We both ended up going forward in rough sea conditions to complete the repair. Anne stabilized the now unsecured head stay and jib furling unit while Mark drove out the pieces of old cotter pin, pressed the clevis pin back into place and secured it with a new pin. Crisis averted! Though we had precious little time to enjoy them, an audience of 20-30 dolphins joined us to surf in our bow wake and watch our antics during the repair. Our other problem occurred yesterday, when after starting our diesel auxiliary motor to make water and run our refrigerator, he noticed that the glow plug indicator light remained on. When he attempted to start the motor the next time, he found the starting battery nearly dead. Apparently, even though the motor had been shut down normally and the ignition turned off, the glow plug heating element remained powered causing the battery to be drained. Fortunately, Mark was able to use the main engine start battery to restart the auxiliary motor and recharge its battery. He has since insured that the battery is disconnected from the start circuit when the motor is off to prevent having the problem again until he can further trouble-shoot the glow plug control circuit. Another crisis averted! Each morning on the passage, as soon as the sun has illuminated our decks, we make a check for any alien life forms (sea creatures) that have decided to come aboard in the night. We usually find an assortment of squid, small mackeral and flying fish. The record so far is 16. Several times now, in the early morning hours, while Anne has been on watch and reading a book, she has been quite startled by flying fish jumping into the cockpit, one even landing on her lap. During the daytime hours we try to catch up on sleep, read, check for e-mail, prepare meals, examine our diminishing supply of fruit and vegetables and do general housekeeping chores. If conditions are calm enough, we might shower in the cockpit and do some laundry with a plunger in a 5 gallon pail. In the afternoons, between naps and constantly checking for other boat traffic, we often treat ourselves to a DVD episode or two of "West Wing". In the evenings, after dinner, we check in with two radio "nets", ( PPJ and Sea Fare'rs ) to report our position , heading, speed, wind and sea conditions and barometric pressure. We also listen with interest to reports from other boaters heading to the Marquesas. Despite the lumpy sea conditions, we have been making good speed. Infact, our best 24 hour run so far has been over 220 miles. We will beapproaching the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) during the next 36 hours and can expect rain showers, and possibly squalls with thunder andlightning. Our friends Bob and Ann of the vessel "Charisma", who are about 400 miles ahead of us, just told us about the harrowing experience they had while transitioning the area. We are hoping that by using our radar, we can avoid most of the areas of bad weather. As the old saying goes," it's better to be lucky than good", so we'll wish for a little luck with the weather as well.