Mar 27, 2014

Pacific Crossing Week One: March 20 - 27 - Adios Mexico!

The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes 
Strangers of people who should be friends.
Shirley MacLaine 

Idea of a sunset with green flash - - - nearly impossible to capture
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Mar 19 – Prep Day, Leaving God’s Waiting Room

Had appointment to check out of Mexico at 10am.

Customs came in at 10:30am but Immigration didn't come until 1:30pm.

We didn't leave God's Waiting Room until 2pm.

Made it 10 miles away to Punta Mita at the mouth of Banderas Bay for the night.

Technically we are not allowed on Mexican grounds, Immigration took our tourist visas away.

Doing final preparations for the crossing.

All is well
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March 20 – Finally at Sea

Great start at 10:15am.

More than 50 miles off the coast by nightfall.

Averaging 5.5-6.5 knots.

Saw the green flash of our first sunset over the Ocean.

Some say it is a good sign.

All is well
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Day 1 - March 21 - First Day of Spring and Full Day of Sail
Mileage: 140 nm
Position: 19.23.6 N and 107.36.1 W
Total mileage: 140 nm

Local weather 'guru' had advised against leaving due to lack of wind. We didn't listen and thankfully our semi-educated guess paid off.  We even heard him tell another sailor on the radio to make sure to have a good book to read because they’d be bobbing around.  As it turns out, as we learned much later, not only did these people (who left from the same place at the same time as we did), ended up with bad weather and having to be rescued and sink their boat…  Makes you think…

A very tiny chickadee-like yellow and black bird came looking for a rest spot on Music. It is so far away from any land! I don't know if it will make it back there.

Much shipping cargo traffic going from Panama to US and Canada, from Cabo to Manzanillo, and vice versa. We are nearly clear of this busy shipping lane.

Getting used to the movement of this larger sailing vessel. More akin to driving/riding a bus rather than handling a small car. It takes some getting used to but Music is very stable and comfortable.

Back to the 'land' of truly dark star studded skies with new constellations peeking above the horizon, acrobatic dolphins and water as far as the eye can see and beyond. We are more than 100 miles from land, the furthest we have ever been other than by plane.

All is well
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Day 2 - March 22 - Optical 'Delusion' and Two Shower Day
Mileage: 121 nm
Position 18.13.5 N and 109.13.8 W
Total mileage: 261 nm

A little slower day.

Motored a tad to top off batteries and push forward through the lighter winds of night.

Sailing by a half-moon light noticing Genoa has strange shape, looking sort of folded in 1/2.
Going on deck to investigate Mike finds that the shadows and light of moon played tricks.
The Genoa is fine, only an optical 'delusion'.

What was not an optical illusion however was the 70 pound yellow fin tuna we hooked that was 'swimming' with us for 45 minutes only to lose it while trying to release the hook out of his mouth (too large to kill and eat anyway). So strong was this tuna, he slowed the boat down by a knot while he was pulling itself lower to safety. This 45 minute dance was quite a workout for the captain who had to shower again...

We are less than 100 miles SW of the Socorro Islands.

All is well
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Day 3 - March 23 - From Fluffier, Softer and Whiter to…
Mileage: 139 nm
Position 17.21.4 N and 111.26.5 W
Total mileage: 400 nm

From fluffier, softer and whiter after being near bums in the US/Canada, we are quickly back to thinner, stronger and darker. It feels good to be active again.

Same infinite shades-of-various-blues-scenery as far as the eye can see.

Even though we have had very smooth sailing so far, our highest wind being 19 knots and our highest wave 5 feet, we are getting back in the routine of constantly moving and listening for clues from the wind, waves, each other, and Music. We are getting tougher, sharper, and sturdier.

We have been following the schedule for three people: 7am-1pm, 1pm-7pm, 7pm-11pm, 11pm-3am, and 3am-7am = repeat... It seems to work very well. The shortest stretch of rest one gets on such schedule is 8 hours, the longest 12 hours... 6 hour watch during day light, 4 hour watch during night time…

Have seen Deneb, one of the brightest stars - comes up in the SE near dawn. Beautiful.

All is well
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Day 4 - March 24 - No One in Our Path…
Mileage: 133 nm
Position: 16.26.6 N and 113.32.1 W
Total mileage: 533 nm

Passed the 500 nm mark, nearly 1/5 of the way there (total around 2,650 nm in a straight line).

When you drive on a road, you go along a way many others have taken.
When you hike a path, you walk the way plenty others have.
The scenery and events may change but the path remains the same.

When you sail, as in life, you experience a completely unique path.
No two courses could ever be the same.

Even if you had 2 identical vessels leave from the same place at the same time, they would have different outcomes.
Even in close proximity, waves, winds, currents are different and will alter your course in a non-reproducible way.

Hard to think that in this day and age you can still find something no one else could or would follow.

Each trip completely unique.

Like the Tibetan monks say: "Even when you put your feet in the river in the same place at a later time - - - the river is now different."

The sea is still very good and kind to us. We couldn't ask for a better beginning for this long journey.

We have time to bake and eat warm buttered bread and muffins, make fresh sprout salads, homemade chili, etc.

Thanks to Nigella Hillgarth - green flash - the real thing
We saw our second green flash at sundown (Mike saw 3, Wayne and I only 2). Many never see this beautiful 0.6 second event. We've been blessed more than once already.

All is very well
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Day 5 - March 26 - Talking Code
Mileage: 139 nm
Position: 15.25.2 N and 115.41.2 W
Total mileage: 672 nm

There are very few (less than 5) places on Earth that a boat can be more than 1,200 miles from any land in any direction. This trip includes that feature.

Seas are getting a little bigger but are still comfortable. 1.5-2.0 meter swells. Cloud coverage is expanding. Winds are matching the swells, now in the 12-18 knot range. More smooth sailing on the same tack the whole way but less energy captured by our solar panels.

We are more than 300 miles from any land. Other than cargo ships 75-100 miles away that only instruments, not our eyes, can pick up, we are alone with flying fish and boobies. Speaking of flying fish, do you call a group of them a school or a flock?

Boobies are eyeing the lure we have bobbing behind Music. In so much sameness this bright spot of moving color must be intriguing to them. They don't bite, just curious.

In the depth of a night watch we hear what sounds like code talk: "Adelante, Turkey Feather, Hay Stack, Cambio". From memories of military time back in the days, these sound like code names for locations only a few are in the know. Are these fishermen protecting their prized fishing grounds, drug runners waiting for delivery, or navy/coast guard exercises? If they are using code, why use the most common hailing channel instead of something more hidden?

By accident we found the easiest way to cook perfectly round sausages. On a gimbaled stove, they'll roll from one side of the pan to the other, cooking evenly without needing to be turned over thanks to wave action... Voilà!

Another great day at sea enjoying fresh guacamole, muffins, jicama-cucumber-mango salad. You'd think all we care about is food but since the seas are cooperating, we prepare good home-cooking. The cans and dry goods will wait for rougher days.

All is well


Stern view for about 3 weeks
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Day 6 - March 26 - Southern Cross Bound
Mileage: 140 nm
Position: 14.8.7 N and 117.07.0 W
Total mileage: 812 nm

Our one long starboard tack of 5+ days finally ended during the night to avoid a fishing boat in the distance from our bow. We then spent the night following the bright stars of the Southern Cross. It is nice to sail by a known, easy to recognize, celestial entity rather than depending more heavily on instruments.

By morning it is time to veer more west so we are sailing wing-on-wing with milder winds and seas.

Checking the grib files we receive nightly (grib - navigational aid chart showing wind speed and direction for local area), we realize just how absolutely lucky we have been to leave when we did despite predictions advising to wait. If we were only 100-150 miles behind our current position, we would probably not be having winds - folks behind us are covering less water each day and won't have winds for another 3 days!

Somehow we keep catching the very very edge of the favorable weather pattern ahead of us, skirting clouds ahead and to the right. Hindsight is always 20/20 but looking back we couldn't have chosen better. Folks still waiting for the 'perfect' weather window to leave Mexico will have to wait until Saturday. (There is no such thing as a perfect weather window but people keep dreaming of them).

Our nightly radio connection to the outside world has been spreading the news of our progress to other weather stations and the feedback is that they are amazed at our rapid progress since weather has been so mild right behind our tracks. Beginner's luck? Good intuition? Great study of the weather charts? Who knows but we'll take it.

On another note, Music is nearly 19 years old and her oven had never been used except to test that it worked. We baptized it with peanut butter cookies and sourdough bread... We also started a batch of sourdough for the duration of this voyage so we don't have to use (sometimes hard to find) yeast. Our captain was a tad hesitant when we told him we would bake on the passage - something new to him. So far it looks like we are winning him over.

It's been 11 days since we provisioned with fresh fruits and vegetables and so far we have only lost 1/2 an orange. Very little spoilage, something hard to do in clammy, humid, hot conditions with little air.

To end the day, hundreds of flying fish take off parted by the incoming bow of Music, like little swallows miraculously materializing out of the water.

The answer for a group of flying fish: a glide of flying fish.....

All is well


Rainbow that make you forget the next squall
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Day 7 - March 27 - Wishes, Wants, and More
Mileage: 143 nm
Position: 13.13.0 N and 119.14.2 W
Total mileage: 955 nm

A short week of sailing with a total of 955 miles, nearly at the 1,000 mile mark (by the time you read this we will be)!

As a point of reference, the south end of Mexico is around 15 degrees N. Being at 13 degrees, we are further south than that point of land on the American continent.

We ended yesterday on a high note by first catching a big eye tuna (looks very much like a yellow fin with larger eyes and smaller fin). This time, it was just the right size to keep and eat. At sunset we were entranced by the ballet of hundreds of small mottled green/gray dolphins, a type we'd never seen before, playing around Music.

Sailing on someone else's vessel, one cannot help but make comparisons between them. What would I do different on my boat based on what I see/use on this one? What am I happy with on my boat? A list of wishes, wants or unwanted slowly builds in our mind.
  1. Hydrovane vs. Monitor self steering system. We prefer and start to appreciate even more our Hydrovane now that we have used a Monitor. Hydrovane doesn't need the use of lines running to the wheel and responds much more quickly. It feels less cluttered especially on a smallish boat like ours where space is a premium. (And no, we don't sell them nor work for them)...
  2. A large bimini cover with sides over the entire cockpit is absolutely great for protection from sun, wind, or rain but it severely limits watching stars during night watches, or feeling the wind on your face for direction and speed. It isolates you from the elements. An as-needed bimini (collapsible) would be best if we can manage to design one.
  3. All lines running back to the cockpit for safety and ease of maneuvering with less clutter on deck. We are thankful we designed Déjàlà that way! Now, we can see the benefits of all the hard work of rerouting lines before our departure.
  4. Open area to fish from the back of our boat would be nice to set up. We have yet to catch one on Déjàlà in 2 years! Here we've already caught 2 and it was much easier to do!
  5. Indoor shower - a great treat when it is cold or you need privacy from a crowded anchorage. We only have a cockpit shower.
  6. Motoring so far has mainly been used to recharge batteries, especially when it is overcast. Our motor-less Déjàlà would have fared well on this journey so far. We have a tow behind generator to produce power while underway in cloudy conditions.
  7. An oven with a broiler please... Where are my toasts? Amazing the little stuff you get used to or attached to.
  8. The smell of fuel. So glad we don't have it on Déjàlà. It makes it difficult to concentrate on the finer smells from nature.
Overall we have nearly all the same amenities as this beautiful well built vessel, in a compacted kind of way.

Those are not to be seen as negative comments about our current living/sailing quarters (absolutely not); just thoughts to help us design/update Déjàlà in the future. Interesting to realize what we take for granted, and would like to build/design on Déjàlà.

Of course the choices we made on Déjàlà are not for everyone. We are glad to see some of the changes we made work well for us now that we get to try them and compare on someone else's version of their dream boat.

All is well

Note: By the time you read the numbers below Music has gracefully glided over many more waves but, for consistency, we keep these updates 24 hours apart.

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