Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Way of the Tortoise

Distance: 78/1634 Day: 14

The ITCZ is a wonky place. So far, we have been very fortunate. We've alternated between light winds, sporadic showers, and dead calm. No nasty convection and only two lightening sightings, both at a distance. Yesterday evening when the wind died, we went swimming (not all at once of course) and then dropped the sails. We put on every light in the house and then just sat there for five hours. Not moving, no crashing thudding swishing or banging, no wind generator whine, just gentle bobbing. Four of us slept deeply, soundly, in complete recovery mode. Jaime was absolutely spooked and took watch checking the horizon every 10 minutes convinced that we were going to get run down. All good.

When the wind decided to reappear, it came light from the NE so we put up the spinnaker and have been making reasonable time all day. It's not zoom crash boom, but I can live with this. As DrC and I say to one another, better to take an extra few days and not add the stress to ourselves and the rig. A gentle 4 to 5 knots downwind in light swell is ever so much better for everyone than zooming along at 8 knots.

A shout out to Maya (age 6) of Pennsylvania who wants to know: "How big is your boat?" Maya, our boat is 38 feet long and 21 feet wide. Her mast is 56 feet tall. She is a catamaran which means she has two hulls with a bridge deck in between. She has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a kitchen which we call the galley, and two heads (which are the potties). Our boat could basically fit in your living room and kitchen.

PPJ Note #7: YEAST. Our New Zealand yeast is not particularly happy with the heat and humidity we are currently experiencing. I strongly recommend that you buy fresh yeast in a climate similar to the conditions you anticipate. We're reviving it with brewer's yeast nutrient... which is another really useful item to pack.

PPJ Note #8: DEHYDRATED FISH. Don't let your family do this. They will then insist on keeping it, eating it, and breathing the stench all over you. It's foul. This is binary, like boarders vs. skiiers, paper vs. plastic. Either you like fish jerky or you want to kill the people who do.

~ Toast
N0 45.6 W127 26.7 205T 5kts
April 30 2000 UTC

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Found the ITCZ

Distance: 152/1452 Day 13

It was inevitable, of course. If you head south long enough, eventually you run into the Intertropical Convergence Zone ... I think that's what it is. We just call it the ITCZ. It's a great lesson in thermodynamics and global weather patterns to understand the ITCZ. The short answer is that it's a section of the Puddle Jump where you can just about count on the weather, wind, and seas to not make the slightest sense. Normal trade winds and swells all but disappear leaving a boat with anything ranging from mirror calm to 35 knot squalls... within an hour.

The strategy for most PPJers is to hit the ITCZ, point the boat due south, and motor across as fast as possible. When the curtain went down on the north trades at N05 20 today, we were ready to do just that. The curtain itself consisted of about 5 miles of strong rain during which the girls and I cavorted nude on the foredeck and got ourselves clean from head to toe. As if on cue, just as we finished rinsing out the last of the cream rinse, the winds died. Utterly. We've been in 15 to 25 for nearly a week so it was at first a welcome relief. It took DrC and I an hour before the light bulb went off, "Oh! ITCZ!" and we turned on the motor for the drive south.

Unfortunately -- or maybe fortunately... hard to say -- the wind came back. Wouldn't you know it, we've got 10 knots from directly south. It's lumpy and super unpleasant. Moreover, the wind/waves are driving us further west than we really want to be. However, there is little choice. We can sail southwest or we can motor dead into the wind. Either way, we barely make 3 knots. So our fastest day (yesterday) is no doubt going to be followed today by our slowest day.

In other news, our yeast is dead. Seriously having trouble figuring out how this happened. Somewhere in the provisioning, I have another few sealed packets of yeast. No idea where to find them. In the meantime, I'm going to try tomorrow to get an active culture out of the remains of the old bottle using some of DrC's yeast nutrient. Why you might ask does the good doctor travel with yeast nutrient? It's for the wine. Yes, he is successfully making wine and yogurt, and I can't even make a decent batch of garlic rolls. Something is wrong with this picture.

PPJ Note #6: HUMIDITY. It seems obvious, but the tropics are humid. Be prepared. We are so sticky. Check the ventilation on your boat for the passage. With the portholes closed and the hatches often closed due to splash or rain, it becomes unbearably stuffy below. If you have the ability on your boat to do so, install dorades and other methods to ventilate the boat.

~ Toast
N04 27.5 W126 47.3
April 29, 1230 UTC

Thursday, April 28, 2011

And Another Thing

Distance: 130/1300 Day 12

Tonight I wish to complain about the cat. The cat was not my idea, I fought her addition to the boat for years, and I capitulated only after setting many conditions and stipulations including that she must be a she named Dulcinea. We have spent oodles of money on this rotten blighter as well as imposing mercilessly and unfairly on the friendship of someone who is more important than any beast.

The beast has three problems.

1) Sand - Her litter box sand is fine and clean, straight from the beaches of La Paz. With these following winds, we get a lovely breeze straight into the cockpit and bam on to the litter box shooting fine grit sand in every direction. The cockpit looks and feels like floor of a beach front park restroom.

2) Hair - Coming as she did from Seattle, Dulcinea brought with her a coat worthy of a hibernating grizzly bear. This is, of course, hopelessly overdressed for the tropics. So our fashionista cat is taking her coat off rapidly. She moves in a nimbus of grey and black fur which, once aborn, sticks to every damp, salty surface. The interior of the boat now resembles a 70's love parlor complete with fur wall paper.

3) Hunting - To digress a bit, it is worth adding two new air born nuisances to my list of mid-oceanic nautical visitors: flying fish and flying octopi. The former are visible during the day as flitting schools of darting silver hummingbirds that scatter before the bows of the boat. The later squirt their guts to jet propel themselves out of the mouths of large fish and into the air. Apparently interpreting the hulls of Don Quixote as comparable to a beluga whale, they jet out of the water all around us.

During the day, fish and octopi manage to avoid us, scattering in all directions. However, at night, they are terminally stupid or fatalistically suicidal and routinely land on the foredeck. On their arrival, Dulci immediately goes into frantic hunter mode. While Don Quixote rockets along in 12' swells surfing down the waves at something like 8 knots, our predator leaps on the foredeck and stalks her prey. Grabbing it, she hauls it back through the mast hatches and deposits it in the middle of the salon. There she carefully removes its motility appendages -- in the case of the fish the fins are carefully excised, with the octopi she simply eats the legs. Then she merrows her triumph, and leaves the eviscerated remains for DrC to gather as fish bait in the morning. By the time my shift is over at 5am, the salon is a fish abattoir as I gingerly make my way to the galley counters to prepare breakfast. The cat, exhausted and completely replete on the salon jelly bean seat, doesn't even twitch a whisker when I scream in horror as I squish black ink between my toes.

I am ready to pitch the cat overboard.

PPJ Note #5: SOFT SCRUB. Bring lots. There is nothing quite so magical in its ability to remove coffee, wine, tea, and squid ink from white fiberglass.

~ Toast
April 28, 1230 UTC
N06 00.1 W125 55.0 210T 7.8kts

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lost Our Squall Virginity

Day: 10 Distance: 138/1047

To celebrate our first official lightening laced squall, I panicked and stuck everything we own in the oven. All our electronics now smell vaguely like burnt lasagna. I swear this is a normal reaction. Anyone else would have done the same.

The wind is still knocking us along at 20 knots from the northeast. I know that our good friend Jamie would tell us this is perfect. We are going at a lickity split rate while the seas and wind never get so large as to make the entire expedition dodgy. However, it does have a tendency to make the seas a bit rolly and we're all going back to being super tired.

Part of the exhaustion is, of course, due to covering Jaime's watches in addition to our own. However, she is one the mend. She took her own watch tonight, and she appears to be keeping fluids down even though we are less than completely successful with the solids. It's good to have her back on the crew.

PPJ Note #3: CUSHIONS. I know most cruisers, particularly monohull cruisers, are familiar with lee cloths -- those nice little cloth curtains that keep you from rolling out of a bunk when a monohull is heeled over. I'd like to also recommend that all folks making a long passage brings lots and lots of cushions. In fact, a metric buttload of cushions would not go amiss. Since the boat never stops rocking and bouncing, going to bed is a lot like trying to fall asleep while balanced on a pilates ball. What I've been able to do is create a molded mound of cushions which encapsulates me in a fashion very similar to the way foam packaging is molded around high end electronics for shipping. As a result, I bounce back and forth in my packaging without actually rolling or jostling too much. It's a PITA rolling over as it requires a complete reorganization of the cushions, but the hassle is well worth the increase in comfort.

Loose Pointer is about 80 miles west and slightly south of us now. They have decided that when they hit N8, they are going to turn right until they see a good opportunity to cross the ITCZ. This sounds like a lovely idea until I look at the 14' rollers coming in from the north right now. Nothing on earth short of an enormous ball of lightening straight in front of me is going to get me to turn beam on to 14' seas. There has got to be a better way.

~ Toast
April 26, 12:30 UTC
N09 08.3 W122 45.4

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Turning Off the Blog for a Few Days

We're having trouble with our radio communications. Our radio is too slow and we're apparently using too much station time. I'll continue writing these nightly blog posts, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to post them all at once from somewhere in the real world. We need to prioritize weather and position reports (see YOTREPS). Sorry about that. We'll try to set up another account as well.

~ Toast
s/v Don Quixote
April 26, 1845 UTC
N08 46.1 W 123 07.5 6.5 kts 215T NE22-25 NE10'-12' 1013

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shifting Zones

Distance: 116/654

We tried doing laundry yesterday. That was fun. Takes four people with the fifth on helm. I bet there is a more efficient way to do this... there must be since couples manage to get to Hiva Oa with clean laundry. However, on our boat there are five people and coincidentally it took all five of us to manage all the various mechanics of getting the clothes somewhat cleaner. I won't say clean. Until we get past mid-way and/or start getting hit by collectible rain, we're being super conservative with our water. The chance that the water maker would die is very slim, but we go all Murphy and make it none by assuming it would die tomorrow and making sure we have enough water to live until we make landfall. So our clothes are cleaner but due to a lack of multiple rinses with fresh clean water they are not completely and utterly clean.

We also cleaned out the refrigerator. Bonus points for finding two more peppers and an avocado alive and well. Minus points for discovering a chili pepper in a zip lock that had literally dissolved. Ugh. The limons are still in good shape, so we celebrated our efforts with bean and cheese quesidillas with avo and a squeeze of lime. Ambrosia.

We are just about far enough west to change time zones. We're switching the boat to UTC and moving all the watch schedules up an hour. I sucked it up and took the hit for the family during my night watch. They will all sleep in an extra hour. I'll make DrC or Jaime absorb the next one.

Music on watch tonight was a flashback to my high school boyfriend. OMD, Depeche Mode, and Yaz. I wonder now how I ever managed to ride my bike for 3 months without an iPod. I wonder more how anyone manages a crossing like this without 8GB of music and podcasts. I'm sure someone will pipe back with some romantic twaddle about being alone with your thoughts, listening to the sea and wind, yadda yadda. Omigod, I would go mad. I spend a good fraction of my watch dancing, the rest of it expanding my mind with broadcasts from NPR, Slate, TWiT, and the BBC. I also started reading Neil Stephenson's Diamond Age. I don't much care for the voice talent for this book which is a bit distracting, but it is hard not to like Stephenson in any format.

I'm starting a list of Things I Never Saw in a Puddle Jump Guide or Blog. I strongly recommend that future jumpers take this list very seriously. The following is my first item:

PPJ#1: BIRDS. What the fo? Boobies and gulls and albatross and every single damn one of them wants to rest for a few hours on the boat. They each poop roughly their body weight per hour. They are immune to the cat, screaming, and sparkly anti-bird measures. What appears to work is smacking them upside the head with a swim noodle or throwing a monkey fist straight at them. Be prepared. Pack a BB gun or a bow and arrow or maybe just a large gauge shot gun. To hell with pirates. Kill the birds!

~ Toast
14 06.40N 118 37.59W (April 23, 12:30 UTC)

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Around Some Corner

Distance: 117/538

Somehow yesterday afternoon I turned a physical/mental corner around which was the promised land of "adjusted to passage." It started with an incredible urge to just go back to sleep and catch another cat nap. I lay down for a few moments, and then I was filled with the very strong urge to do something else. So I got up. Moved around. Sat down. Lay down. Got restless again. Got up.

And that was it.

I cleaned house, drank water, took a wash cloth bath in the cockpit and horrified my children with my naked boobies, and spent the rest of the afternoon on the helm. Dinner was a pleasure to cook and to eat. The low grade headache I'd had since we left del Cabo was gone. I went to bed at what I've established as my bedtime (7pm local) feeling tired but not beaten to a pulp. Getting up for my watch at 1:45am was a struggle, but it didn't feel unduly difficult. No one likes to get up to start their day. It is a typical day that we stumble out of bed, yawn, stretch, scratch and wish we could have just rolled over and slept more. A cup of caffeine and dancing some calesthetics to ABBA hits got me going and all is well.

Three hours later, and I sit at the nav table setting up the position report, and I'm tired, a bit sleepy, a tiny bit of the headache creeps back. That, frankly, is the price I feel is going to inevitably be paid every morning for taking the 2-5 shift. Someone has to suffer. I'm the martyr on this boat.

The shift watch is not an accident nor is it persecution. DrC is incapable of staying awake past 11pm. My working theory is that he used up all his capacity for being alert in the middle of the night during a grueling rotation at Harbor View hospital during his residency. This hospital had a notorious task master in charge that sent all the residents into absolute fits. Our own roommate quit medicine during his rotation through Harbor View, and there were rumors that in prior years more than one had tried to commit suicide. The guy was insane. DrC regularly worked 36 hours shifts. Now, he starts to drop off at 10:30 and there is no amount of coffee and no volume of Led Zep that can possibly stop his slide into oblivion. So DrC gets the 8-11 shift.

Jaime is a teenager. Her natural state is to stay up until 2am and then drop into a coma until 11am. Actually, she'd sleep until 2pm, but I won't let her. So Jaime has 11-2.

We do not ask Mera (12) and Aeron (10) to take full 3 hour watches. That way lies madness. Mera takes two hours and handles them increasingly well from 5-7. Aeron comes on for an hour after Mera. During their watches, DrC and I are awake but doing other things. Aeron in particular is not really very confident at the helm and requires a lot of hand holding during her watch.

And there you have it. 2-5 required someone who didn't fall asleep and wasn't under 13. By default, I was "volunteered." It's okay. Ask me two days ago and I would have said this is hell, but I'm finally getting a bit of a rhythm with a short nap after the night watch and a long sleep after dinner. It'll work, I think. What's more, it doesn't fight my biorhythm either since prior to this trip, I was frequently waking at 2am anyway from either panic or back pain. At least this way, I have something constructive to do.

Precisely NOTHING interesting happened yesterday. This morning, I almost took a spear fishing gun to a seagull that decided to use our boat as a rest stop. I don't mind them resting their wings, but they think we are a full service rest stop complete with a food court and a restroom. Get back to me if you have seagull recipes. I'm ready for action.

~ Toast (11:30 UTC April 22)
15 14.38N 116 48.66W

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Where is the Promised Energy?

Distance: 124/421

So Day 4 has come and gone, and we're still tired and lethargic. So much for getting used to this. I have a strong feeling we are going to arrive in the Marquesas with a filthy boat, filthy clothes, and having spent the final two weeks eating beans straight from the can. I don't feel like cooking, washing, writing, reading, eating, having sex, speaking, talking, chewing gum, or walking. What I really enjoy doing is sleeping, sitting on the helm, and then sleeping some more. These two activities are punctuated by a sporadic desire to sit in the cockpit and stare at the horizon for an hour without moving my head.

I stretch periodically.

This must be what life is like as a cat. Except, they probably don't have the dull ache at the back of the head and behind the eyeballs.

Our most exciting moment in the past 24 hours was gybbing around yet another parked tanker. Holy frickin' god you know the economy is bad when you can sail out into the middle of the Pacific and randomly run into two tankers simply parked in the middle of nowhere. Not moving. Not responding to the radio. Not doing anything. They just sit there like enormous poorly lit steel islands. The sheer enormity of the odds against a random puddle jumper seeing one of these is mind boggling. The fact that I personally have nearly run into two of them during my 2AM to 5AM night watches gives me the heebie jeebies.

We ate the last of the pineapple and colored peppers yesterday. Had to throw away two cucumbers. I made a large batch of tomato vegetable soup with some of the end of line veg which tasted delicious despite its origins. We're just about out of store-bought bread. Really, that stuff is nasty. It lasts almost forever in the refrigerator, and I do not say that in tones of admiration. Within a day or so, I'm going to have to get serious about being a Real Cook, baking bread, getting my yogurt culture bouncing, and pulling out the frozen meats for stews and bean soups. What seemed logical and tasty a month ago now appears in an insurmountably active heap of effort. You can not imagine how difficult it is to soak beans in water.

Speaking of the cat, our most amusing moment of the day was watching Dulcinea attempt to return to one of her favorite perches on the locker we've created under the bimini. A combination of raising the locker to make it smaller and the increased girth of the cat resulted in the perfect lolcat moment with Dulci firmly stuck in the locker, her back legs, tail and soft white underbelly squished out and hanging helplessly. There was the sound of her scramble to dig her claws into something to get purchase. With an almost audible >pop< the rest of her disappeared. There was then an indignant silence from the locker as the family laughed hysterically. After a suitable interval when it presumably was made clear to us that she had enjoyed the pleasures of the locker sufficiently and didn't need to leave because she simply Does Not Fit, the first half of Dulci reemerged. The rest of her remained firmly wedged in the locker whilst she tugged and tugged on her hindquarters. Once again, her aft eventually burst out and threw the entire kitty into the helm in a big, fluffly, spitting mad ball.

Of such moments our days are made full.

~ Toast (April 21, 13:00 UTC)
16 37.86N 115 27.18W

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In a Fog of Exhaustion

Distance: 128/296

Experienced passage makers told us that the first three to four days are rough. The body takes time to adjust to the sound, the movement, the altered schedules due to watch, and the physical exertion of the sail itself. But they reassured that by after those initial days the sheer exhaustion starts to fade.

Pretty please let this be true. We went from doldrums to strong winds and a complete washing machine sea that left the entire crew exhausted and cranky beyond words... though actually there were quite a few unpleasant words. Even had the seas been relatively stable, the middle of the night watches and constant leak of energy would have had us all stretched thin. But the banging around and associated sound and movement, the whistling whine of the sails and generator, it just took their toll.

We added to our troubles by deciding that we didn't like the reefing system. What seems perfectly reasonable during a coastal cruise or even crossing the Sea of Cortez looks just wrong when you calculate the results of maintaining a particular set up for twenty straight days. A knot in a jack line that rubs the sail becomes a possible source of chafe and sail destruction rather than just an aesthetic nuisance. The bulging of the bottom of the sail and the consequent stretch on the sail cover while reefed looked simply horrible when we calculated what the battens at that odd angle would do if left there for two weeks. So we basically rerigged a good fraction of it, reducing points of chafe and wear and reorganizing how the sail lies when the reefs are hauled in. We're still not 100% satisfied, but it is better and unless we think of something further, the best we can do until the next doldrums hit.

Oddly, it wasn't like we didn't look at ourselves, the engines, the sails, the rig, and say, "Hmm... what is that going to do during our three week passage?" We did. Yet, here we are exhausted to the point of collapse with certain bits of our boat that just scream to be modified in ways you would have thought we could have known... but just didn't. It's just that I find this experience very similar in basic nature to riding across country. The common question, "How do you prepare for XYZ? ..." to which the only real answer is, "You do XYZ." The last months, we've looked at our boat in a way we never looked at it before as we prepared her for this journey. We look at her today after just a few days out, and our eyes are opened again. I can only imagine the extent to which our perspective on her systems will evolve over the coming weeks and months. And too, this experience reinforces why salty sailors look at folks new to the scene like they are crazy mad. Without the experience, you do not know what you do not know and no volume of reading of blogs or books is going to really help out that much. Unlike riding across country, however, people's lives are at risk in this little boat. Salties must wonder how any n00bs ever make it during those first few years and passages.

We will make it, however. The kids are stepping up to their responsibilities admirably. Jaime in particular is a fine crew member, and I would recommend her to anyone considering a delivery or passage. She might complain a bit, but she does her jobs with good will, handles the helm like a pro, and pitches in whenever something needs to get done. Aeron is game to try, but we are finding that the weather helm is just too much for her to handle. Mera times her watches to the second and spends a good fraction of her free time just watching movies, but she's adapting. Historically, she has always had the strongest sea sickness, and I believe she is feeling ill, but trying to avoid complaining.

We are largely hand steering the boat the entire way to baby the auto-pilot. It's not that we have any reason to believe that there is something wrong with it, but we have heard far too many stories about auto-pilots dying to believe ours would last over weeks of constant strain. We use the auto-pilot almost exclusively when helm wants to go get something, visit the head, or check the horizon or radar with full concentration. We have the luxury of short watches so hand steering is not the incredible drain it might otherwise be. However, I am embarrassed by how much better a sailor the auto-pilot is than I am a substantial fraction of the time. I feel like our Machine Overlords have extended their clawed finger towards Don Quixote and are giggling. The only consolation is that it gives us an excuse for Loose Pointer's gradually increasing lead. They have a wind vane, the lazy pikers. However, there is absolutely no getting around the fact that the only reason we don't have a wind vane is that they suck on catamarans. Yes, point in the monohull column on this one.

~ Toast (April 20, 12:00 UTC)
18 11.34N 114 01.76W

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No Wind Woes

Remember how we have been fielding questions for nearly a year about "What will you do in big seas? Big wind?" Well, never mind. The real question is what to do when there is no wind.

Here it is, Launch Date, when our plan was to head out from San Jose del Cabo. We're checked out of Mexico in every way possible. We're stocked to the rafters with rapidly rotting produce. We're outfitted, packed up, stowed, stuffed, fueled, braced, rested, and ready. And... there's no wind. In fact, there is no wind today. No wind tomorrow. No wind till Monday maybe.

Loose Pointer has pretty much decided to stay on dock for another day. They have two adults and a 15 year old, but the teen is untrained. It'll take him awhile before they will all feel comfortable with him taking watch. They plan to leave Sunday evening or Monday morning. This is probably the most prudent, seamanlike thing to do. Imagine leaves La Paz today and has at least a day before the Pacific conditions are relevant. They'll ride the tail end of a norther down the coast and just about the time they round the corner, there might be wind.

Don Quixote may leave today despite the strong probability that we will go nowhere fast. Why? Well it seems a bit insane on the surface, but at this point, we're tempted to get off shore for both emotional and practical reasons. Emotionally, we're ready. This holding pattern is somewhat depressing. We're out of patience, out of Mexican cash, and wondering what to do about extending provisioning if we stay on the dock. We'll just spend more money, in other words. On a practical note, if we motor for one day (which requires we load yet another 10 gal of fuel -- fortunately we have the extra containers), we'll be far enough off shore to avoid the local traffic. There we can just bob around for another day or two waiting for the wind to show up. The advantage is that the entire family will be in slow, gentle Pacific swell. We can acclimate our bodies, do school, and begin to get into passage rhythm. And we would have the luxury of doing this in very mild conditions.

And then... as Dean forever notes... the weather forecasts are often wrong.

So the family sat at the salon this morning and debated our options. Mera asked some good questions about food stores. Jaime said she was good with any plan as long as she could sleep until her official watch started. Aeron agreed as long as she could dash over to the tienda to spend her last 15 pesos. So off we go into ... well not much beyonder.

Breaking Us In

Written: April 14, 2011

I have itemized many reasons why I believe that La Paz is an outstanding location from which to stage a Puddle Jump, and to this list I would like to add another: the trip from La Paz to the tip of Cabo is a good one to reacclimatize the crew to ocean movement before heading offshore. Even if you are a jumper who has not -- as we have -- taken a year off, the preparation phase of a puddle jump takes months. During that time, it is very difficult for most boats to spend significant amounts of time at anchor or in big sea. In fact, many boats spend that time in a marina or quiet anchorage piling in the provisions and fixing, installing, upgrading, and replacing.

It's been a year since the Conger family has rolled around on the open sea. Even in our hey day, we spent a lot of time in quiet anchorages or inner coastal waters where sea and swell were minimal. Our bodies are decidedly not accustomed to the movement of Don Quixote on even the most minimal of windy days. So the trip from La Paz around to San Jose del Cabo has served at least this purpose: We're getting acclimated to motion.

Either the meclizine (an anti-nausea drug that must be started at least a day before you put out to sea) or pure exhaustion knocked us all flat the first time. I vote for the later. Our final day in La Paz was full of last minute errands, emotional good byes, and a check list of "last day to dos" that just seemed to go on and on. We locked the cat in one of the cabins so at least we didn't have to deal with that nightmare∑ again. However, I did have a moment where we thought we'd left without one of the children∑ again. In any case, we put down hook, had a fruit drink (parental version laced with rum), and then fell into a coma. Fortunately, the conditions were benign. I'm not sure a full-fledged 40 knot cormuel would have woken any of us up that first night.

The second day was a very long motor from Los Bobos to Bahia de Los Muertos. I'm sure that our first anchorage has another name, but it is situated behind a momentous, bird-poop covered rock which generates a veritable cloud of the small annoying Mexican flies known as bobos. The trip was about 55 nautical miles (1 NM = 1.15 M = 1.85 KM). Motoring along on one engine, that took us about 10 hours. The seas were flat to the point of absurdity, so school was relatively easy. We did some boat chores, had a nice meal, and still fell into bed exhausted. Even a mild day at sea with a grinding motor is tiring.

The third day took us to Los Frailes, approximately 48 NM miles farther south along the inner Baja coastline. This day was almost a pure repeat of the prior one with a lot of motoring, a lot of school, and a lot of sailor boredom. We almost didn't bother with sails. Just to break the monotony, we invited Loose Pointer over for a chili rellenos dinner. When they arrived, Aeron acted like she hadn't seen new people in a decade with exclamations of happiness and relief. Bit of an actress that child. Though, I can sympathize. Even after two days, good friends in our salon was a welcome diversion and pleasure.

The next day, we sailed off our anchor (engines running just in case) out of Frailes and south around the corner to San Jose Del Cabo. Some power greater than us turned on the wind switch. >ZooM!< We started the day running in front of a 20 knot mini-norther in 3 foot seas. Now the rolling started to get to the family. Mera went down first, absolutely green. Aeron protested that she was absolutely fine until suddenly she wasn't. We looked around, startled to realize we hadn't heard her voice in at least 15 minutes, and I found her dead asleep in her cabin. Sleep is the first refuge of a body that is feeling mall de mer. Jaime held out pretty well, though studying took a back seat to just keeping breakfast where it belonged. I got sleepy, and DrC was∑ of course∑ just fine. It would be annoying were it not so useful having at least one person who doesn't vomit at the first sign of waves.

Pulling into the marina at Puerto San Jose del Cabo, the family uttered a sign of heartfelt relief. At least for now, we have stopped moving. We will spend two days in the marina checking out of Mexico, loading fresh bananas, and bathing. We will celebrate running water with our last land-based showers for at least a month, probably closer to six months. And most importantly,this is the last chance before we depart to get a full, quiet, still night of deep rest. Even if it it's only for a night, I'll take it.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Communication Plan for the Passage

Jaime at the Mast
Jaime at the Mast
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
A brief message from your author to let you know that even though we'll be transiting the Pacific, this blog will continue with its endlessly narcissistic accounts of the adventures of the cast and crew of s/v Don Quixote. To make sure that you don't miss any of this scintillating content, the following outlines our communication plan from April to October 2011.


Articles will appear through the next six months more or less on the same publishing schedule (twice weekly) to which you've become accustomed. However, there will now be three categories of articles:

* On the Go – We can post blog entries even from the high seas over our SSB radio/email connection. While we are passage making, I'll try to post at least a position update on a daily basis along with more extensive weekly reports on what we're doing and how we feel about it. When anchored in the islands, I'll continue with weekly articles about our experience. Unfortunately, due to bandwidth constraints, I will be unable to post pictures to most of these Coconut Milk Run articles until well after the fact. I will let you know when we get places where I can engage in wholesale uploads of images.

* Retrospective – In November 2010, I participated in NaNoWriMo. Actually, I participated in December as well though technically that's not the way NaNoWriMo works. I just kept writing until I hit 50,000 words. The result was roughly 50 articles, 30 of which I actually believe are worth editing into readability. I've queued the ones I like best to post once a week for the next six months. The articles speak to boat issues as well as our time in Mexico and New Zealand. Of course, I intended to prep these with pictures... but life intervened. More picturelessness. However, you can always head over to Flickr to browse for photos of that time frame.

* Ship Log – In February, we recommenced posting our captain's log. Historically, this is about as exciting a read as watching paint dry. Position and weather reports, equipment maintenance notes, provisioning status. *yawn* Just because it's an important part of being a sailor, doesn't make it very interesting. When the original log was stolen in New Zealand, we were incredibly glad I'd typed it up and posted it online. And oddly enough, very salty friends of ours over the years have told us they appreciate that highly factual window into our experiences as we travelled the coastline of North and South America. Perhaps, the details found there will prove interesting to cruisers considering a Puddle Jump in future years.

Comments and Replies

Sadly, we will not be able to regularly receive or respond to comments during the next few months. My sincere regrets and apologies for that. I enjoy the suggestions, support and input. Unfortunately, bandwidth is at a premium for this journey. Most places do not have connectivity, and those that do cost a fortune. However, sometimes we need your help. I've asked in the past for assistance and the reading/cruising community has come through with valuable information and even physical aid. We have arranged a shore-bound contact who will regularly read our blogs and the responses – both on the blog and on my Facebook account. Be assured that if I ask for ideas, information, or aid, this contact will relay your responses to us even if we're in the middle of nowhere.


My original thinking was to the Twitter feed into two accounts so that the position reports would go somewhere else. Then I decided that was too complicated. It'll all spam toastfloats. The GPS points will duplicate content we post to YOTREPS. Our family and land-based emergency contacts relied on our SPOT tracking in the past, but unfortunately the SPOT doesn't have coverage in the middle of the Pacific.

Snail Mail

Really? You want to send packages? I don't think so. Let's not even pretend that's going to happen.

* * *

I think that about covers it. Please reply immediately if you have any questions. We'll be heading out in just another few days so this is your last chance to let me know we're insane.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Random Boat Tips

Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
It's not that these hard earned items of nautical wisdom are important to me right now. I'm just saying…Apropos of nothing else going on in my life or yours, I offer to the public the following tips from Don Quixote:

For the Head -- Fill a spray bottle with water, a quarter cup of vinegar and a quarter cup of cheap vegetable oil. Keep it next to the head. After you do your business, spray the bowl every single time. The vinegar keeps down the build-up of salts in the bowl and pipes, and it kills the bacteria in the bowl that can cause heads to smell a bit funky. The oil lubricates and protects the pump and choker valve both lengthening the life of those parts and making the entire pump easier to use.

Got Battens? -- Carry extras by sewing them into your main sail bag in lieu of PVC pipes along the zippered top edge. If your battens are in multiple lengths, err on the side of longer spares as you can always find a way to shorten them.

Aluminum and Stainless Do Not Mix -- Seriously, do not wait a moment to go over your boat from end to end and inventory every spot that aluminum and stainless come into contact. Prepare to replace those bits immediately if not sooner. The replacement process will inevitably involve torque wrenches, stripping bolts, and boring new holes in all sorts of boat jewelry.

Zip Your Zip -- Zipper lube is not an optional lubricant on a boat. Just suck it up and spend the money. If you decide to lube your zips on the cheap, you can use dish soap but do not dilute it, use a zip lube applicator (requiring you to purchase at least one bottle), and do it three times as frequently as you think you need it.

Winch Wench -- Lubricating them is a dodgy proposition at best as the parts are like a Chinese puzzle with fifteen different ways to explode into bits and only one magical method to put the whole mess back together again. Take pictures at absolutely every step of the way. Kerosene and paraffin oils work equally well at cleaning, but make sure you use wench grease when you put the thing back together again.

Ball Bearings Are Actually Balls -- Who knew? Seriously, anything that rolls really nicely is probably full of tiny balls or rollers made of assorted metals, alloys and plastics. In a surprising number of cases, these parts are designed to come apart in a spectacular cascade of wee rolling bits. Never ever take them apart unless you have created a safe work zone into which all the thousands of balls can be captured. Also, do not take them apart unless you already have handy a few hundred replacement balls.

Hot Water and Vinegar -- Calder is always right. Heat a bucket of water to hot but not boiling and add a bit of vinegar. Use this solution on cam cleats, pulleys, blocks, and other rolling, crimping, sliding, or rubbing bits. This cleans out the dirt and oils and dissolves the build-up of salts and minerals thus both extending the life of these parts as well as making them function more smoothly. You can use a toothbrush on the parts that you can reach. Moving the action gets the solution into places you can't reach directly.

Seize It -- If there is any possibility that something expensive or irreplaceable can go overboard, it will. Use seizing wire on cotter pins, shackles pins, and other such bits when you want them to stay put. For items like oar locks or halyard shackle pins that you want to remain attached to the boat but must move freely, use line and fishing swivels.