Thursday, October 06, 2011

A Long Distance Grind

Distance: 185/1347 Vava'u to Auckland Day: 4

Yesterday we motored. All day. On the upside, DrC wanted us to burn off the rest of our Mexican diesel. Now I am not saying that we haven't bought fuel since we left Mexico. We have. We just haven't bought a great deal. DrC estimates that we have purchased 50 gallons since we left North America. Until yesterday, we have never been less than half full in the tanks. Now we're down to a fifth in one and a quarter in the other. It is time to fuel up. Tongan diesel from Nuka'alofa is reasonably priced and has a reputation as relatively clean. We'll top up both tanks, the heater, and all the jerry cans and then add preservative to the lot. What we do not use on the trip south, we'll burn over the winter in our heater.

By far, the majority of our fuel has been 'spent' on making water. You could really think of all that diesel as being converted to laundry, pasta, and cocktail ice. Our port engine burns approximately 75/gal/hour during which we can motor at a speed of 4, charge up the batteries (including all the rechargeables and the laptops), and make 30 gallons of water. I figure that given our capacity of 72 gallons, add the 50 we bought, subtract the 17 still in the tanks, and we've burned 105 gallons of fuel, motored 560 miles, made 4200 gallons of water, taken 1000 showers, charged our laptops 500 times, and washed the sheets once.

People ask all the time, "How much fuel do you need to cross the Pacific?" It varies widely. The dependencies are wind, weather, and mood. We know cruisers who sail everywhere. They do not have refrigeration or water makers, they never bathe. They probably burn 10 gallons of fuel to get across used exclusively to anchor and pull anchor. Others turn on the iron genny whenever their speed drops below 5 knots. They have two fridges, make water every day, motor from anchorage to anchorage, run the engines to watch T.V. Heck, some boats out here are *gasp* power boats. They motor everywhere. Don Quixote is somewhere in the middle of these extremes. We try to sail all but the first and last mile. We try to live off our renewable power sources. We get shore water when it is available and the math works so that it costs less than water maker water (e.g. free). Yet, we're not shy about turning on the motors in very light winds. We motored a lot in Vava'u, for example, where the protected waters makes for a Puget Sound-like dearth of usable wind. So to answer this question for your own boat, you must ask yourself about your personal habits, your willingness to bob in the middle of the ocean for a day or two, your standards of cleanliness for both your boat and your bodies.

And then there is the wind... because as obvious as it may sound... you can't sail if there is no wind. Sometimes, like yesterday, you have to go from point A to point B on a schedule and the Wind Gods fail to cooperate. If you are Don Quixote, you turn on the motor and grind the day away. We spent nearly 7 months avoiding such demands on our time. If you don't plan to meet a friend or family member, don't schedule a plane or make a rendezvous with another boat, you can dodge such days completely. Just wait until the wind engine turns back on again, then sail from here to there for free.

But even the most footloose boat will eventually have a schedule to meet. Our visas run out on Friday, October 7. We had no choice but to arrive in Nuka'alofa on Thursday night so that we can spend DrC's birthday dealing with provisioning, customs, immigration, and the bank. After that, our schedule urgency diminishes. While we really want to arrive in Auckland before November 1, we have nearly 3 weeks to travel 1,100 miles. The wind looks super light for the next two days, so we might go around the corner, hide behind an islet and wait till some breeze blows up. Only a low with a squash zone just off the North Island coast is likely to force those motors back on before we arrive in the Auckland Harbor.

~ Toast
21 07.45'S 175 09.80'W Nuka'alofa, Tongatapu, Kingdom of Tonga
Oct 6 2011 18:30 UTC

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