The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 38. Costa Rica to Isles Marquises via The Galapagos
At Sea. Thursday, 29 April 2010,
Our position as at 2100 GMT/UTC (1700 NYC; 2300 Ffm):
S 08 degrees 40.95 minutes; W 130 degrees 39.59 minutes;
484.3 Nm to Hiva Oa

Not only is the trip getting very long indeed. While squally weather has
become for the moment, at least, a thing of the past, and we are enjoying
broad sunlit days with puffy clouds and bright moonlit nights, the winds,
on the other hand, have lessened in intensity and the seas, as a result,
have become much calmer. This weather and our reduced ability to carry
sail (broken jibstay and therefore hesitation to put too much load on the
mast above the spreaders), we are barely able to register any speed at all
at times. At this rate we shall never get to Hiva Oa!

The other aspect of weak winds is that our mainsail boom, a very heavy,
16-foot length of solid wood, starts to slat. There isn't really enough
wind to keep the sail filled and, once we start rolling in the swells,
that heavy boom starts swinging and every once in a while it will put the
boat through a complete jibe. We had some bad experiences with this in
British Columbia and Alaska, and for this very reason installed a
"Dutchman Boom Brake". It is essentially a piece of rope that is tied to
the lower shroud on the port side, run through a series of three gears
hung from the boom (you can tighten the gears so the friction is greater),
down to the lower shroud on the starboard side and the tail end run back
to a cleat near the cockpit. If the boom starts to go through a complete
arc, the boom brake will slow it down so it doesn't break things. We have
been plenty glad to have this boom brake in the past since. At present, of
course, we always have the wind behind us. Involuntary jibes are dangerous
to crew and ship. Unless we want to stay in the cockpit day and night, we
have to hope the boat will stay on course and that, if it doesn't and the
rolling or a wind change causes a jibe, the boom brake will minimize the

Yesterday late afternoon during a game of Scrabble below, we hear the boom
swing right across from starboard to port, the boom brake screaming its
protest. There is a big thump and we fling down the game to dash out
through the companionway. I had used a snap shackle at the starboard
shroud for the rope from the gears to pass through. This snap shackle was
around the threaded part of the turnbuckle. It was exactly here that the
turnbuckle has snapped (I guess we should call it a snap buckle). The
turnbuckle's threaded throat is broken off flush with the body of the
turnbuckle. The whole aft starboard shroud that runs to the spreader is
dangling and the boom brake is useless. The mainsail boom of course is on
the other side of the boat.

This is serious stuff. If the mast is already not fully supported (no
jibstay) at least we can carry a mainsail. Now it would be very difficult
to carry any sail at all. There is about an hour to sunset. Kathleen gets
on the tiller to keep us moving with the waves so that if possible we are
not rolling. I go forward to the shroud for 'damage assessment'.
Obviously, I have caused the problem myself by putting a hard metal
shackle around the threaded throat of the turnbuckle. Just like the
jibstay turnbuckle, the bronze turnbuckle at the base of the shroud does
not tolerate side-loading. It has finally broken.

I put on my best self-confident manner and tell Kathleen that we are not
in danger. But, unlike the jibstay, we really have to do something about
this situation if we have any hope of sailing the rest of the way to
French Polynesia. I start turning out the stuff in the lazarette hold
until I can see at the bottom at the back the several additional used
bronze turnbuckles that I bought for spares off EBay a few years ago (they
had been stripped off an old schooner and somebody was selling off the
bits and pieces). Thank goodness! But will one of them fit? I drag out my
tool kit, anhydrous lanolin, penetrating spray-oil and spare cotter pins
and seizing wire. If I work really quickly, I might have this repaired by

Trying to free up the old cotter pins, removing the old turnbuckle and its
corroded pins, etc. takes more time than actually installing the
replacement turnbuckle. I sit on the side deck with my feet in the water
as we roll while I work. The replacement is plenty stout but the through-
pins are not the same size, so I have to go below and find a suitable
full-thread bronze bolt with appropriately-sized nuts. Instead of the
regulation bolt with cotter pin, I am using a bronze bolt that I double-
bolt on each side. It is not quite the right size but it at least fits
into all the right holes. Fortunately, I had greased up the threads of the
turnbuckle when I got it from EBay, so there is no problem tightening it.
As it becomes dark enough for me to have to use the miner's headlamp, the
work is pretty much done. With full darkness the wind drops to nearly
nothing and we decide to spend the night without the mainsail, reefed or
otherwise, and simply to lie ahull with the staysail sheeted in amidships.
We drift about a mile every hour, but even without a mainsail up we are
not rolling particularly badly since we are moving with the swells. When
dawn comes we will take another look and make our decisions. Without a
mainsail up, the mast doesn't creak, the boom doesn't slat and we get a
good night's sleep. First we make ourselves a dish of refried beans with
fried egg. Delicious!
We chat like there has never been a problem.

Finally about 0700 we turn out on deck. The set-up from the night before
looks good. But I make a few improvements and then mouse everything up
with cotter pins or seizing wire. The wind is up a bit compared to
yesterday, so we hoist the double-reefed main and give it a shot. Very
slow! After a couple of hours, we shake out one reef (we will not shake
out the first reef because we don't want to load the masthead). We are
able to pick up a couple of knots of speed even in the still somewhat weak
winds. The sea is still calm with only ocean swells and our course to the
waypoint in Hiva Oa is almost exactly in line with the movement of the
waves. Kathleen sets up the windvane steering and the omnipresent bungee
cords so that Vilisar stays on a course of 230-240 degrees (mag).

From all this I have learned: 1) don't side load turnbuckles; and 2) never
throw anything away. It also helps if you can see each little catastrophe
as a technical problem and not as the end of the world. It wouldn't hurt
if you have already taken the piece of system in question apart in the
past and have some spares and you have stowed them.

It is mid-afternoon on a beautiful trade winds day and we are making 3-4
knots towards Hiva Oa. We might qualify as the all-time slowest trip. But
we shall be there eventually. We might finish our Scrabble game today.
Tonight's dinner is borscht.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 36. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Tuesday, 27 April 2010,
Our position as at 2100 GMT/UTC (1700 NYC; 2300 Ffm):
S 08 degrees 12.95 minutes; W 128 degrees 20.79.67 minutes;
576.6 Nm to Hiva Oa

Yesterday and the day before are very boisterous with large and very
confused seas. This makes, on the one hand, for very uncomfortable
travelling down below; like living in a washing machine. Every task was
made triply difficult because one has to hang on for dear life once you
get off your berth, and even staying in the berth requires lee cloths and
cushions to keep you wedged in. Moreover, we have to spend whole watches
in the cockpit trying to keep the boat on course; the weather is bright,
sunny and windy, but the waves wanted to bump us one way or the other; the
windvane steering cannot get it back on course fast enough. Nevertheless,
Kathleen does make a new loaf of bread. We were feeling very fed up by
evening, so decide just to have Spam on the delicious new loaf. By
evening, too, things have settled down a bit and we can leave the steering
and stay below. Night comes and there is a full moon; it is almost like
daylight once it is well up in the sky. We shall have to put the clock
back another hour since it is well after 1900 (local) when the sun finally
goes down. Only one more change after that (30 minutes) when we arrive in
Hiva Oa.

The jibsail provides us with another chapter. Once the jibstay turnbuckle
had parted (last chapter) I tightened up the jibsail halyard to act as an
ersatz jibstay. Yesterday when I come on my morning watch and am
patrolling around the deck I think the jibsail is sagging off to leeward
and take up a few notches on the winch. It doesn't seem to have much
effect, but I tie the halyard off at the mast cleat and return to the
cockpit. Hardly there, I hear a loud crack. The halyard (three-ply line)
has parted at the masthead; the halyard itself falls onto the deck, the
jibsail, still loosely tied at the bowsprit, falls dragging into the
water. I call Kathleen on deck to handle the steering. I go forward on my
hands and knees to recover the now heavy and soggy jibsail, wrap it
sausage-like with sail bands and secure everything to prevent damage to
the sail or the boat. This all takes quite a while. The nearly-healed
abscess on my right knee of course is scraped open again and bleeding, so
I look properly heroic.

Kathleen is very apprehensive, but I can assure her that there is no
danger now. Of course, we now have no jibstay, ersatz or regular, and the
mast is no longer supported fore and aft from the bow at masthead level
with a jibstay (there is still the forestay at spreader level, of course).
We don't want to overload the mast head above the spreaders, so we shall
not be shaking out any reefs in the mainsail; it is already carrying the
load of the main boom using the topping lift and has a distinct aftwards
bend in it. This means, for one, that the mast squeaks all night as the
wedges settle and finally drop out into the cabin, and that our speed to
Hiva Oa will remain slow. But at least there should be no more exciting
chapters to the jibsail saga.

As I mentioned, the winds and waves quiet during the day and more so at
night. This morning we are almost becalmed. Our speed last night is very
slow and, without much wind, the boom starts slatting around again. Today
is better but we do barely 3 knots on average. I debate jury-rigging the
small storm jibsail by attaching it to the bobstay at the bow and using
the staysail halyard to get it up to the spreaders. After discussion
however, we decide that we shall just carry on carefully and slowly to
Hiva Oa as we are (double-reefed main with staysail). A bit more wind
would be in order though. But, at least for the moment we are spared the
confused seas and big swells. And, of course, something else to fix when
we arrive - in about five or six days at this slow speed. We really would
like to go faster and have this whole thing behind us. But, we also want
to be cautious. Once everything is fixed up at anchor in Hiva Oa we can
debate other sail combinations and the like.

This morning in the calm seas I go forward and reset the wooden wedges
around the mast where it comes through the mast collar at deck level. I
also tune up some of the shrouds that appear to me to be too loose. It is
pleasant out, there isn't much by way of sea, swells or rolling, and I am
happy to have the little jobs to do. Early in the morning the boat had
gone through an involuntary jibe (perhaps a wave pushed us of course) and
Kathleen, later me too, had gone on deck to sort things out. It was still
dark and we started getting impatient with the boat, the windvane
steering, the trip, life on the Bounding Main, the South Pacific in
general and of course each other. Eventually we got things sorted out so
we could stay below. This sort of snapping at each other doesn't happen
often. Usually some sleep or some coffee helps.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 33. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Saturday, 24 April 2010,
Our position as at 2100 GMT/UTC (1700 NYC; 2300 Ffm):
S 07 degrees 2.99 minutes; W 121 degrees 54.67 minutes;
834.5 Nm to Hiva Oa

Constant readers of this blog will already have noted that we are now
calculating the remaining distance to Isle Hiva Oa rather than Isle Nuku
Hiva in Isle Marquises. (You will also notice I have started using French.
Voila!). This cuts about 63 Nm off our trip (the new destination, not
using French). Hurrah!

Hiva Oa had not originally appealed to us. But, given the prevailing SE
Trade Winds and the SW ocean swells, it would be difficult to make it
south from Nuku Hiva to Hiva Oa or some of the other islands we should like to
visit as well. So we shall start in the south and work our way north to
visit around five of the islands in the Marquesas before moving west
towards the Society Islands (Tahiti, etc.)

Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa are both check-in ports, which is important.
Especially during the yachting season the gendarmes patrol the islands and
issue fines if you stop somewhere without first checking in. It's the
usual bureaucratic tango if you are on a sailing yacht. We had planned to
give Hiva Oa a pass because the harbour there has a bad reputation as open
to swells and a foul bottom for anchoring. There is a breakwall to provide
some shelter and the yachts anchor fore and aft to keep facing into the
incoming sea swells. But in addition to check-in, there is fresh water,
fruits and some vegetables which rather makes up for the bad parts, we
hope. So we have decided to call there first.

Last night I spotted a masthead light passing parallel to us at perhaps a
mile or two. Compared to us it was moving very rapidly, leading me to
believe it was a catamaran. But I could only see one light and soon it was
gone again over the horizon ahead of us. I tried calling on the VHF radio,
but no reply.

Today was a red letter day in that I finally beat Kathleen at Scrabble. It
was close, though.

The winds have been stronger the last couple of days and we have been
making better speed. We did over 100 Nm in 24 hours yesterday and will
surely do so again today. There are a lot of biggish waves. Vilisar
handles them wonderfully. She has so much buoyancy in her stern thanks to
the engine room and the lazarette hatch, that when one of the big swells
rolls up behind us, she just rides right up and down the back of the
swell. The waves do not feel threatening at all, though at times some of
them look like about 4 metres from top to bottom. There is a little
whitecap on top sometimes, but these are not breaking waves, which would
be another story altogether. I should not like to be sailing into the
waves, however!

At the angle to the waves which we are now sailing, we do tend at times to
corkscrew a bit. And slop from the big waves sometimes hits the boat and
makes a big splash. We have had several down the companionway hatch onto
the galley stove and the chart table. We finally woke up and started
keeping the sliding hatch closed. And we also keep the GPS in a drawer
rather than exposed on the table. A few weeks ago, it decided it did not
want to turn on after a splashing. We have a backup. But it was a
worrisome minute or two till we got it dried off and functioning again.

On Day 30 late afternoon our calm is shattered when we hear a loud crack
and then hear a sail flapping away vigorously. Going on deck, we discover
that one of the lines attaching the jibsail to the jib sheets has parted,
and now the job sail is extended downwind like a stiff flag at right
angles to the boat and threatening to beat itself to shreds. With Kathleen
at the helm we somehow manage to recover the big sail and smother it on
deck though not before I thought at one point that it would pull me
overboard! Then I go looking for a stout piece of line of about the right
length. Amazingly, I find one immediately in the lazarette hatch, a
vindication of my policy never to throw anything away! I go forward again
and replace the broken one whilst sitting on the deck for safety and
getting sprayed occasionally over the bow. Everything works out fine in
the end, but I am sooooo glad this happened in daylight and not at night,
when working forward is much more fraught.

I mentioned that slop sometimes splashes up into the cockpit and
frequently right up over the cabin roof. The windward portholes are often
filled with seawater for a second or two until they drain. The decks are
always wet and often awash. We have learned to keep the portlights dogged
down, and even the skylight is closed tightly on a permanent basis. Or so
we think. We are quietly reading on our main-cabin berths when we hear one
of those loud slaps we hear so often as a wave hits the side of the boat.
I glance up to see a solid amount of water, a small wave actually, coming
under the skylight and heading straight for me. In a second the whole
berth is drenched along with me and some of the rest of the cabin as well.
We spend the next hour mopping up, wringing out bedding and hanging it
outside to get dry. Of course, it will never get totally dry, and it is
now totally salty (instead of just partially salty as heretofore). But,
another small crisis passed.

Not that the saga of the jibsail is over! Last night I go on deck for a
periodic check during my watch and discover that the jibsail is flapping
again. Gently, and nothing like the last event. But still, it does not
appear to be setting properly. We generally have a rule that no one goes
forward of the cockpit at night while alone on watch or on deck. But,
Kathleen is sleeping below and I only want a peek. I go as far as the
mast. Even with a flashlight I can see that for some reason the turnbuckle
at the base of the jibstay where it attaches to the bowsprit (at the
farthest point forward on the boat) is apparently loose. I cannot see if
the turnbuckle has simply come loose (implying that it had not been
properly 'moused' to prevent unscrewing), or whether it is perhaps broken.
The jibsail is flapping gently and does not seem to be in danger or
endangering the boat. I am near the end of my midnight-to-0300 shift, and
decide that there is no way I can work on it in the dark. I shall wait a
few hours until daylight comes.

Crawling out on the bowsprit after a cup of dawn coffee, it appears that
the threaded part of the turnbuckle has simply shorn off. The sail is
attached to the bowsprit by its own line and the sail adheres to the
jibstay by bronze hanks running to the top of the sail. The sail itself is
still attached to the bowsprit and the stainless steel-wire stay itself
seem OK. But of course it is pretty much useless if it is not attached at
the base. I decide to use the jib halyard (three-ply rope) as an ersatz-
jibstay and use the mast winch to tighten everything up as much as
possible. Even if I can dig into my bits and pieces somewhere on board for
a new turnbuckle (I may actually have a couple), there is no way I can sit
out in the swells and try to connect it to the bobstay. The up-tension on
the backstay and the down-tension on the bobstay would in any case make it
impossible without basically loosening the whole rig and retuning it,
something not advisable at sea if it can be avoided. We are not
experiencing heavy weather so my jury rig should last until we get to Hiva
Oa where I can work on the task of how to get everything down without
damage to the sail. As a reward for my ingenuity, the wind is a little
stronger today and we are having a good sail. Kathleen, after at first
being nearly overwhelmed by a perceived danger, goes below in much better
fettle and gets our breakfast. Well done, Captain Ronnie, Boy Spotwelding
King of the World!

The constant wet on the deck and in the cockpit has led to green pond scum
forming here and there. No doubt the whole starboard (i.e., downwind) side
of the boat is green as well. Gooseneck barnacles are another serous
problem. They attach on the painted topside planking above the normal
waterline where there is no anti-fouling paint. Gooseneck barnacles attach
themselves even at sea, and we have a small crop of them right at the bow,
I notice when I am out there repairing the jibstay this morning. But each
day I put out a boat-length piece of floating line from near the bow and
let it caress each side of the boat at water level for about half an hour.
This, I am assured will keep gooseneck barnacles off. When we arrive at
our destination, we have immediately to scrape off any that have actually
taken up abode as they are really tough little beasts to get off once they
have dried for a day or two. I notice in the cockpit that the pond scum
comes off easily with a stiff brush.

We return to reading and loafing. Cruising is said to be an equal mixture
of boredom, excitement and terror.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 30. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Wednesday, 21 April 2010,
Our position as at 2100 GMT/UTC (1700 NYC; 2300 Ffm):
S 07 degrees 40.08 minutes; W 120 degrees 01.29 minutes;
1186 Nm to Nuku Hiva

We are getting bored and restless with this long voyage! Looking back, the
days rather blend into each other. They are 'filled' with routine
watchkeeping, noting positions, fixing the odd simple meal or playing a
game of Scrabble. Otherwise, we read and read and read or sleep and sleep
and sleep. The tedium of long voyages.

We are counting down the nautical miles now. First the halfway point (1523
Nm from The Galapagos), then two-thirds, etc. Kathleen, very numbers-
oriented, has calculated our progress and drawn up tables and rehearses
the figures repeatedly as a way of passing the time. Whatever you do, it's
still slow going.

We had a few days of around 130 Nm earlier. But now we are running nearly
straight downwind under double-reefed mainsail, a staysail and a yankee.
The 'power, such as it is, comes from the boomed out mainsail. The
headsails are sheeted in fairly tight and act to keep the boat from yawing
off and broaching into the sometimes seriously-big waves. Our maximum
speed, however, now seldom exceeds 4 knots (about 100 Nm per day) and is
often much less. At least on this course although we roll back and forth
somewhat, we are not being battered by the waves as we would be going
across them on a reach, and we are not doing the very heavy rolling that
comes with sailing only under headsails. But, slow progress.

Jimmy Cornell in his book World Cruising Routes opines that the number of
passage-making yachts (8,000 - 10,000 worldwide with only about 10% at sea
at any one time) is declining because it is simpler to fly out and charter
a yacht in Polynesia or the Cayman Islands than be bothered with the
upkeep of a boat and undertaking the long bluewater runs. We have met lots
of cruisers who, after their first bluewater challenges, decide to forget
about long voyaging altogether, though they might continue to live aboard
their yacht somewhere. They only do short passages. I can understand this

In our bad moments we are heartily sick of the clammy cabin interior. No
matter what you do salt gets inside the boat and holds the dampness.
Clothes are not an issue, since we don't use 'em. But bedding and towels
and even books are icky to touch. Occasionally one or other of us gets
cabin fever and begins to rant.

I write all this for the benefit of those who think we are doing the
yachties cocktail-party thing out here.

Having the Iridium telephone on board for the voyage has been a good idea.
We get messages from our friends, which is cheering, and we can alleviate
worry to a degree amongst our family members who might otherwise worry
even more than they do. People of course forget sometimes that we last had
an update on world events in The Galapagos over twenty days ago. So when
people talk about air traffic being halted in Europe because of a volcanic
eruption, we have no background. Was it the Feldberg outside Frankfurt
that blew? Now that's a picture, surely.

When not reading or on watch or sleeping, we talk about our new lives in
Berlin. It's still a bit sketchy but something to look forward to. We also
want to spend lots of time in New Zealand before leaving there. It will
take time to sell the boat, no doubt, and there will be some cosmetics
necessary, I suppose. But, it is a real offshore-yachting centre and the
broker assures us that, given the modest price we shall be asking, Vilisar
should be able to sell herself quickly. His word in God's ear, as the
Arabs say.

At times, the waves seem huge and rather frightening. They vary a lot too.
Sometimes they are very close together and very steep and high. They are
often out of synch and from a different direction than the huge ocean
swells that mainly come from the SW. This causes a lot of turbulence and
bouncing around for Vilisar. She is actually very seakindly. But even
Vilisar can get sideways to the waves. Then life inside becomes like
living in a tumble drier. Everything is well-stowed. But if you are not in
your berth and secured you can easily be flung around hard in the cabin
with a risk of injury. The same applies when you head out to the cockpit.
We now have stainless-steel tubing handholds for safety, and I am still
quite nimble despite my 133 years of age. But this time, my foot hit a
slippery spot on the footlocker in the cockpit. I slipped onto my back
just as a swell rolled us. I stubbed my foot, jammed my shoulder and hit
my jaw bone next to my ear against the tiller. Ouch! I let out an
involuntary cry, which brought Kathleen out of her sleep and berth to see
if I had possibly gone overboard.

The problem comes when you are trying to fix a meal, for example, or doing
some small chore like replacing the dressing on my knee abscess or setting
up the computer for use. We now keep all the portholes tightly dogged down
and the skylight closed. Every once in a while a big sloppy wave will
throw a bucketful of saltwater at the side of the cabin, and it is not at
all uncommon for the deck to be awash when a wave tips us over well to the
side. A few times we have even had a serious deluge down the companionway
hatch onto the galley stove.

The seemingly innocuous little pimple that showed up on my right knee
weeks ago became seriously infected, very swollen, pus and blood-infused
with a 'head' about an inch across. Very ugly, extremely sensitive to the
touch and located for maximum contact with everything on the boat. I have
been keeping it covered and treated with anti-biotic cream, which seems to
be helping, though slowly. It will surely have been 4 weeks before it is
healed. Already other pimples have shown up around my legs. I wonder if
these are salt-water abscesses that become infected rather insect bites as
I originally thought. The ones on my knee became very infected, the others
just dried up at a much smaller level though blood-infused as well.
Perhaps, the pimple rose and then, kneeling to do a job, I ground some
infection into the spot, which then flared up most painfully. Getting
tropical saltwater into an open wound is a problem because of all the
staph infections in the warm water.

Last night we could not get the boat to stay on course without the
watchkeeper being in the cockpit full time. This is a real strain and
surely one of the least popular things to be doing on a boat. Much more
difficult than sitting out your watch below with occasional look-rounds
outside. It is damp and gets chilly without a fleece jacket. You get
splashed and sprayed from time to time and last night I was even hit
whilst sitting in the dark by one of the frequent flying fish that wind up
on deck. And it is damned uncomfortable sitting on the hard wooden planks
while you are wiggled and shaken around. We have both been losing muscle
mass so we are not as well upholstered as we were when we began. After
three hours in the dark, I was exhausted and cold and dying to wake up
Kathleen so I could crawl into the pre-warmed berth. I was asleep before
she was even fully awake, I think.

We are ticking off our 100 Nm a day so that means we have another 11 or 12
days to go.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 27. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Sunday, 18 April 2010,
Our position as at 1800 GMT/UTC (1400 NYC; 2000 Ffm):
S 06 degrees 42.42 minutes; W 115 degrees 6.05 minutes;
1444 Nm to Nuku Hiva

There we are yesterday towards sundown all unawares. Halfway across the
South Pacific from The Galapagos to the Marquesas with 2300 Nm to go and
farther away from land than anywhere else in the world. We are reclining
contentedly on our berths in the main cabin and just finishing up our
evening meal of delicious vegetable stew (and secretly hankering for a
'Bratwurst'). We are discussing such fascinating dinner topics as the
comparative quality of Costa Rican versus Ecuadorian potatoes, and the
time difference between GMT and the Los Angeles time zone. The evening
watches are also discussed, and whether to put our 'local' clock an hour
behind so that 0600 and 1800 coincide more or less with sunrise and

We had a bout of stiff work in the afternoon as we decided to tuck a
second reef into the mainsail. It seemed that even with a single reef the
mainsail was still so strong that it unbalanced the boat and made life for
the windvane steering impossible. Vilisar was constantly rounding up and
we were constantly having to experiment with bungee cords to compensate.
Sometimes that works but the windvane steering should be doing this on its
own, after all, especially if you do not want to be spending all night in
the cockpit or be darting up the companionway ladder every fifteen
minutes. These damned automatic steering systems have been the bane of our
lives aboard on this trip. Everything else, in fact, works just fine.

We haven't seen a ship or a light in yonks. We haven't heard anything on
our VHF radio either since Easter Sunday when we were passed astern twenty
miles apart by two bulk carriers heading up from South America with loads
of fish meal and iron oar respectively. The skippers were having a bridge
-to-bridge chat. Since then, silence.

Suddenly, we hear a "Hallo!" shouted without any radio procedure into the
radio. Perhaps a child's voice? Surprised, we jump up and make a simple
answer. At the same time I stick my head out of the companionway and there
astern see a white sail about a mile or two away to the ESE. Soon we are
chatting by radio with Oliver the skipper of French catamaran called S/V
Piquott (I think). They are eight days out of San Cristobal and also bound
for The Marquesas. In all this great emptiness, another sailing yacht!

He is going probably double our speed and diverts to pull in behind us.
Eventually, rather quickly, actually, he passes us to starboard. They are
four adults and two small kids on board; they are all sitting out on the
catamaran's foredeck and, as they approach and overtake us, they are
alternatively snapping pictures, waving their arms and yahooing. They all
seem so merry. We shout comments back and forth for a few minutes until
they begin to pull ahead of us. Oliver says on the radio that their USGRIB
weather files forecast unchanged weather for the next few days, with an
eventual more easterly component to the weather. "See you in The
Marquesas!" We watch then as the sun goes down, the new moon appears to
the west, the French boat pulls ever farther out of sight until, at dark
it is over the horizon and gone. We switch on our masthead light. We are
quite cheered to see other people and somewhat let down when they have

Last night's sailing is generally much quieter and the steering seems to
be able to handle things. But we are definitely a lot slower; not
surprising, since we have far less mainsail exposed to the breeze. This
morning I get up at dawn and tweak the sails and steering gear for an hour
or so to encourage more speed. In vain. The wind is light anyway and with
the main reefed down.. When Kathleen wakes up from her off-watch sleep
this morning we discuss whether to shake out the second reef or enjoy the
slow sail and the increased comfort below. Each extra knot of speed knocks
off about 2-3 days from the trip, but we unlikely to get more than 5 knots
on average. We have lots of tinned food aboard, but there is also the
issue of fresh water. We have not broken into our 20 gallons on deck and
have been very frugal otherwise. (I bathe in beer, for example.) For the
moment, we are leaving the second reef tucked in and hoping for a little
stronger wind.

With talk of supplies, Kathleen heads into the larder to pick over the
fruits and vegetables. There was a strong smell coming out of the forepeak
last night. Sure enough, the tasty Galapagos spuds have started to go bad.
They give off a very clear message! The Costa Rican ones, though almost
tasteless, are holding up well. (Maybe they have been radiated. I had not
noticed if they glow in the dark like a Russian submarine.) Looks like a
lot of spuds on the menu for the next few days! The Costa Rican white
onions are holding up terrifically. Six apples are discovered, as well, so
the day is a hit.

Kathleen also organises the reading material anew, stuffing the read books
into baskets for later trading and digging out new ones. I play with the
ship's clocks to get them to agree in time with the atomic clock (?) in
the GPS, and then decide to use the bright sunshine and the fillip it
gives to our house batteries to use the computer to write this blog.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 24. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Thursday, 15 April 2010,
Our position as at 1800 GMT/UTC (1400 NYC; 2000 Ffm):
S 05 degrees 42.32 minutes; W 110 degrees 53.22 minutes;
1741 Nm to Nuku Hiva

We have now accomplished our longest voyage ever, The Galapagos to here
being 1305 Nm. The now-second-longest one was Acapulco to The Galapagos in
the spring of 2006 (1280 Nm), which took 17 or 18 days and which involved
at least half the time motoring to windward. We still have 1741 Nm to sail
to arrive in Niku Hiva. We didn't celebrate beyond simply taking note of
the fact.

For the past couple of days we seem to have left the squally area behind
us and each day is sunny with a wonderful sea breeze of about 10-15 knots
coming across our port quarter and lots of puffy little clouds across the
sky. The wind dies a little at night, but we seem to keep ticking off our
miles. We sail under a staysail and the reefed mainsail with the heavy
wooden boom hanging out to starboard. We could actually probably pick up
speed if we were to use the Yankee or working jib in addition. But, at
this angle to the wind, it would frequently be blocked by the mainsail and
collapses with more wear and tear on the sail. We debate reefing in the
mainsail one more level to allow more wind into the headsails. But as we
are basically running with the waves, such a move would undoubtedly make
for much more rolling. And surely we are already rolling enough! We have
also decided to take in the jib at night anyway, since it is a job that is
always fraught and I hate having to do this in the dark if we are
overtaken by a squall. We are still making about 100 Nm daily; made good'
(i.e., not the actual miles sailed), on average therefore about 4 knots,
and are able to sail more-or-less directly to our waypoint 1741 Nm away
without having to tack back and forth.

Adding another knot or two of speed would certainly get us there faster,
but it is rather too exciting rushing along during the night at 7 knots or
more while the boat rocks violently back and forth. Everything is well
stowed down below and on deck. But the loud crashing shakes the whole boat
when we get a bit far to the right because the mainsail loses some air and
the heavy boom crashes back and forth twice or three times before settling
down again. Except for that noise it is not too bad down below unless you
are out of your berth and trying to prepare a meal, for example. You need
three hands: two to work and one to hang on. On the foredeck it can be
scary too. There is lots of spray as the waves beat against our port side.
Sometimes the spray from a wave coming from the side splashes so high that
it flies down the companionway and gives the galley stove a shower. If you
go into the cockpit to adjust the self-steering, expect to get a wetting.

At night we change watches every three hours starting at 1800 local time
or roughly at dusk. Kathleen and I pass each other like ships in the night
(pardon that): we pass a brief update on the steering; the bearing (about
250-260 degrees magnetic); whether a ship has been spotted (never); if the
bilge has been pumped out (this needs to be done every few hours for some
reason; not sure where the water is coming from); then, "Goodnight! Sleep
tight! See you in three hours!"

During the day we try to stay in our berths as much as possible simply
because there is very little to do and it is the safest and most
comfortable location. We read and nap. When we are both normally awake in
the afternoon we make small talk, try to decide whether we should make our
first landfall at Niku Hiva, as planned, or at Hiva Oa a bit farther
south. It is possible to get from Hiva Oa to Nuka Hiva on the trade winds,
but not the other way around. Fatu Hiva is also an option, the island
where Thor Heyerdahl lived with his wife in remote isolation in 1936. We
only get ninety days all together in French Polynesia, however, and Hiva
Oa is a difficult anchorage (large swells and poor landing facilities). We
want to save time for the Society Islands by arrival at which most
cruisers begin to run out of visa time.

The red-footed booby that accompanied us for several days has finally
left. We have had several birds along the way; they are happy to find a
perch out at sea, I guess. This particular bird looked like it would stay
with us to Nuku Hiva. No problem. But unfortunately, these seabirds make a
terrible mess. Our solar panels were so covered in bird shit that they
were essentially useless at providing energy to the batteries. When it
rode on the bow it made a huge mess of our jibsail, and when we ran before
the wind, their squirts splattered the whole cockpit area. I had to get a
stick and constantly chase it away as otherwise not amount of arm-waving
or noise-making (fog horn) seem to do more than elicit a puzzled look.
They seem totally unafraid of me. Very hard on my ego! Yesterday after it
seemed to have finally disappeared, Kathleen handed up buckets of seawater
so I could wash down the panels and the radar arc while balancing
precariously aft on the lazarette deck.

Nearly all our fresh provisions are used up and we are dipping more and
more into canned goods. That was expected. But there are still plenty of
onions, potatoes, 2 cabbages, a couple of tomatoes and two watermelons. At
this speed we still have about 17 days to go. We can replenish at least
fruits in the Marquesas, though vegetables are hard to find, we hear.
Provisioning, though expensive, is better in Tahiti.

We have been corresponding with son Andrew about his joining us in Tahiti.
He graduates next month and would love to come out and sail to New Zealand
with us. But the costs are fairly prohibitive and perhaps he needs to find
at least temporary employment while he makes up his mind what he is going
to do going forward. It is a worrying time to be entering the workforce
when there have been so many layoffs and where the older workers' 401(k)s
have been depleted so that they cannot retire as planned and therefore
frequently decide to keep working. Perhaps the best thing would be to go
to graduate school. But that means more expenditure, more student loans,
more school. Difficult for young people today! So, maybe he will join us
and maybe he won't.

The tedium of the voyage takes over. Tedium is far better than the kind of
excitement you might otherwise get on the high seas, and therefore
preferable from my point of view. The ship is holding up well; no damage
except for here and there some sail-chafe. Since one hour out of San
Cristobal, of course, we have not had to use the engine at all, that other
possible source of technical problems. We have nearly always had plenty of
wind (neither too much nor too little), though unlike other, impatient
cruisers we are neither of us inclined to throw on the engine even when
there is very little breeze. After all, diesel costs about $7 or $8 a
gallon in French Polynesia and it will be fine with us if we arrive with
full tanks. Sailing teaches patience.

We both read endlessly or snooze while our muscles atrophy. When we reach
1523 Nm to Niku Hiva, we will have reached the halfway mark of the voyage
from San Cristobal in The Galapagos. At that point we shall be farther
away from terra firma than at any other place in the world.
Day 19. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Saturday, 10 April 2010,
Our position as at 1500 GMT/UTC (1100 NYC; 1700 Ffm):
S 05 degrees 17.32 minutes; W 101 degrees 76.29 minutes;
2304 Nm to Nuku Hiva

Our life on board has really settled into a routine. The only thing that
disturbs it is adjusting sail or steering. With occasional bouts of
sunshine we seem to be passing through a period of rain squalls that has
been going on for days now and looks set to continue. Maybe this is normal
for these latitudes. When I look in the logbook the word 'squall' comes up
rather too frequently. With the squalls come shifts in wind direction and
speed, and the watchkeeper has to be alert the sounds of the jib flogging,
the main boom slatting or even just altogether too little sound, which
might signal that the wind is now about to get behind the mainsail and we
are to experience an unintended jibe. And of course he/she has always to
be ready to head out to the cockpit fast. After a while you know when you
have to hustle out into the cockpit.

We had run for several days just under a headsail. Slow and very trying.
Very rolly, too. But once we get the mainsail back up we start making
great speed. Whereas a week ago we were thankful if we could clock, say,
70 Nm per day, once we got the mainsail up again we have been putting in
successive days at 130 or more Nm. Vilisar is tremendously seaworthy and
quite seakindly as well. With the mainsail up we have stopped rolling,
with the extra power behind that sail we are knocking off the miles, life
below becomes more civilised and we are beginning to enjoy the trip more.
We have reached below S 5 degrees of latitude, which is rather farther S
than we should wish so as to have a good angle to sail to Nuku Hiva. But
this morning's sail adjustments have us right on course to the Waypoint
there and the SE wind is still on our port quarter (which we like, and not
directly behind us, which we don't).

I think about reefing in the mainsail last night before dark, but put it
off because we are making such good speed and because the abscess on my
right knee I know will suffer in the foredeck work. But, they say that if
you once think you should reef, should already have done it. Well, I don't
and I didn't. On the other hand, we are charging through the water at
sometimes well over 7 kts. In the dark this will produce anxiety in us. We
are also having trouble keeping Vilisar from rounding up from a broad
reach to close-hauled and picking up even more speed, i.e., the windvane
is being over-powered by the big mainsail. The apparent wind increases and
so does the tumult.

Kathleen wants to do it now while it's still light, because she can't hold
the tiller with the strong weather helm. An hour before dark, we get to
work. Reefing is a hardy project on Vilisar, and if I say it myself, the
reefing system is not constructed for simplicity. There is spray
everywhere forward, the deck is pitching and to get the mainsail to come
down we shall have to bring the bow up into the wind and keep it there
long enough for me to adjust the topping lift to support the outer end of
the boom, drop the mainsail partway so that I can get a metal hook into
the appropriate cringle (hole), heave on the reefing pennants to shorten
the sail at the outer end of the mast and then sweat the now 'smaller'
sail back up.

We decide to use the engine to give us more control. This is nearly the
first time we have used it since an hour out of San Cristobal in The
Galapagos. With Kathleen as usual at the tiller, I go forward to the mast.
I intend to drop the self-tending staysail first so that the wildly-
swinging wooden boomlet won't smack me when we round up into the wind;
it's not called the 'widowmaker' for nothing. I take the mainsail and
staysail halyards off the mast cleats and shake the lines out on the deck
so there are no kinks. I am wearing a miner's headlamp to give me some
local light. Everything readied, I shout back to Kathleen to bring Vilisar
up into the wind.

Immediately, the wind seems to increase, the foredeck is pitching like mad
into the waves, and I am being soaked by spray. Swallowing deeply, I get
to work to get the staysail down and smothered on top of the dinghy, the
topping lift set to take the weight of the mainboom, to shout a warning to
Kathleen to keep her head down, to let go the main halyard that drops the
boom near the centre of the boat just above Kathleen's head and to let the
mainsail slide down the mast track. Meanwhile Kathleen has to keep Vilisar
'just so' into the wind so I can do my remaining work: get the hook into
the cringle and sheet in the reefing pennants. It seems like hours, but
the engine has been running for only twenty minutes including the time
waiting for me to ready things on the foredeck. I decide to leave the
jibsail up to see how things go. Taking that thing down is a b.

Under reefed-in main and the jib, our speed does not seem to have
deteriorated whatsoever. But Vilisar is not heeling and there is no water
rushing down the side deck towards the cockpit. Belowdecks, things are
actually now quite comfortable again. From now on, we agree, we shall
shorten sail at sundown by dousing the jib and running at night only under
staysail and reefed-down mainsail. We might sacrifice some speed, but
these crises always seem to happen after midnight in a rain squall. Who
needs it?

We are nearly out of fresh fruit and veggies. We still have a few apples,
but the last banana was eaten with this morning's muesli. We still have
tomatoes, watermelons and an interesting, potato-like vegetable from Costa
Rica, whose name we do not recall. It is pear-shaped, green and the size
of a cantaloupe. Tastes great in a soup along with the squashes we also
still have. Still lots of onions and spuds. The last two loaves of whole-
wheat bread we bought in The Galapagos went blue and grey, so we shall
soon be confronted with baking bread again. We should have had them
double-baked for better storage, but didn't think of it at the time.

The cabin is beginning to become very clammy. We have endured squall after
squall with rain blowing in through the companionway before we can get
things closed up. Now we run with all ports and the skylight shut tight
(mainly because of salt spray or even a bit of slop down the hatch, so to
speak). When it rains into the companionway we put in the washboards.
Inside the cabin we run the electric fans to keep the air moving. It is
warmer and more humid here than 750 Nm back in The Galapagos. We are now
about one-quarter of the way to The Marquesas. If we make 100 Nm daily for
the rest of the trip we have approximately 23 days to go. But even doing 5
knots of speed on average it will only take us another 19 days.

Both Kathleen and I have been fantasising about steaks.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Day 17. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Thursday, 08 April 2010,
Our position as at 1500 GMT/UTC (1100 NYC; 1700 Ffm):
S 04 degrees 14.06 minutes; W 97 degrees 08.60 minutes;
2568 Nm to Nuku Hiva

This is the first opportunity to write a blog for days now. I wrote last
that we had doused the mainsail because we were at cross-purposes with the
SW waves, and because there was so little wind that the sail would not
keep filled. We ran for a few days under our working jib alone. Be assured
that is a lot more pleasant than having your nerves kept on alert day and
night by a loudly slatting mainsail boom.

But, running under headsails has its own set of problems. The absolute
worst issue was the rolling. No slatting, of course. But without the big
mainsail to help stabilise the boat, we roll and roll and roll. Life
belowdecks rapidly became stressful, cooking a dangerous challenge, and
sleeping despite the use of lee cloths and wedging oneself in with soft
pillows nearly impossible for the crewman on the 'upside' berth.

Not that it matters in some ways because the other issue is the fact that
the windvane steering is much less efficient going downwind in very light
airs. To function it needs water running over the tab, and this assumes
some wind. At slow speeds it will of course work, but not very well and
wants to yaw all over the place. If you are following the waves (very
comfortable) and you yaw off course a tiny fraction too far, the waves
give the boat a shove and the windvane cannot recover fast enough to
correct. Soon you are rolling like mad (very uncomfortable). Even using
only headsails hasn't worked well for us. We try everything including just
bungee cords to the tiller again. In the end, the watchkeeper has to stay
in the cockpit. What a drag!

The third aspect of all this is that, at 2.5 knots it will take us at
least 40 days to reach The Marquesas from The Galapagos. A less than
enticing thought! The challenge of the South Pacific Crossing is the
preparation. The actual execution seems to be one of dealing with the

But, hark, dear Friends! There is good news! Yesterday (Day 16), about
mid-afternoon after passing through a squally patch lasting about 24
hours, I notice that the sky has largely cleared and the wind is blowing
nicely from the SSE to S. Nothing wont, we hoist the main- and staysails
again. And behold, we are soon zipping along at over 5 knots! We fiddle
with the Cap Horn windvane steering at this speed and it decides to show
us what it can really do. In a short time we are hi-fiving each other
(mentally, at least) as Vilisar skips along over the waves. There is only
a very slight bit of rolling, and we keep a steady but not exaggerated
heel to starboard (no water rushing up under the caprails) and the deck no
longer becomes a treacherous surface. Down below, except for the sound of
rushing water along the hull, you hardly notice we are moving at all.

I can hardly believe it! Over 5 knots! No, no! Look! It's touching 6 knots
and over! Once she gets her skirts up, this old girl can really run! We
are on a reach or a broad reach, the sails are adjusted and fine-tuned for
good balance and the most efficient sailing point seems also to be the
direct route to our waypoint 2700 Nm away. Glorious! We deserve this,
don't we?

Mid-morning a small snowy egret, whom we have dubbed Igor because he
stands with his shoulders hunched up to his head, lands on the boom and
eventually hops down unto the cabin roof. An egret is a wader that eats
shrimp, crabs and the like. What is he doing way out here? He won't land
on the seawater, most likely. There is no way for him to get food out
here. And how is he to get fresh water to drink? Basically, he has been
shipwrecked. I try interesting him in some of the flying fish I find on
deck this morning. No interest. I reckon his chances are just about zero
unless he does something radical like flying off in search of The
Galapagos some 478 Nm to the NE. What he does is to stand near the edge
overlooking the water as if he were on a dock and keeping an eye out for
shrimp. If you are failing, in other words, increase the intensity of the
activities that you are familiar with. Maybe they will work. He also
preens himself from time to time. I have to admit that his snowy feathers
are beautiful, but his survival outlook is poor. I secretly wonder if we
might do him and ourselves a favour by catching him and converting him
into pollo con salsa. The leftover feathers would be an added souvenir.
This morning, Igor the Egret is still on board. When I move around the
deck he might fly off, but he immediately lands on a part of the boat
farther away from me. I don't think he has many options.

With the steadiness of the boat life below begins to change. Kathleen
bakes banana bread to use up the large number of very ripe bananas. I make
a nice omelette for dinner. And the fact that we are now into the
watchkeeping routine, we both got enough sleep last night. Kathleen wakes
up around 0930 and I make espresso for her. I had mine hours ago and have
completed some little jobs on deck. We talk for a while. I go into the
cockpit and fine-tune the windvane steering to keep us heading directly to
the waypoint. We actually pick up speed and occasionally touch 7 knots.
Good girl, Vilisar! Oh, and Cap Horn? I take back everything I was
thinking about you and maintain the opposite.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

DAY 13. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Easter Sunday, Sunday, April 04, 2010,
Our position as at 1800 GMT/UTC (1200 MST):S 02 Deg. 19.60' W 092
Deg.20.20'; 2871 Nm to Nuku Hiva

As the lights on Isla Floreana drop below the horizon on our first night
out of Isla San Cristóbal, the sea is empty; our horizon is five miles in
any direction. No more islands between here and Nuku Hiva. The stars are
out, the Big Dipper visible low in the sky to the North, but the Polar
Star lost in the haze near the horizon, the Southern Cross bright to our
left in the South. We play with the two self-steering devices we carry;
neither one works to our satisfaction and sometimes just festooning the
tiller with bungee cords work best. Of course, while the boat might hold a
course for a while bungee cords are too unreliable; a wave can knock it
off course, and the watchkeeper has to stay in the cockpit to keep an eye
on things.

Although the Marquesas are at about S 090, the GPS calculates the Great
Circle Route and the course we follow is close to West. We move along at
about 5 or 6 knots, at first; no doubt we are being pushed along by the
strong westbound current around the islands. The wind is light and
increasingly from the SE. The huge ocean swells, however, are from the SW.
The result is that, no matter what we do, the big mainsail slats back and
forth loudly and, in the night disturbingly so, increasing our anxieties
and bothering our rest. Finally on Day 12 at about 2100 GMT (1500 MST) we
decide to drop the mainsail and run under just the big working jib. Our
rolling increases at most angles, but at least the boat is no longer
shuddering as the mainsail boom crashes back and forth.

The days and nights pass slowly and not so enjoyably if one has to sit in
the cockpit. As the night goes on, the dew is very heavy. At first you can
sit out in a bathing suit. But soon you start putting on more clothing.
Buy dawn, you can hardly keep your eyes open even if you had a sleep on
your three-hour off-watch. Your feet are cold and you wish the sun would
come up. The rolling is more noticeable below than in the cockpit.

On the portions of the day when one is awake, reading becomes the main
time-passer. Kathleen is reading about girl gangs in big American cities,
Ronald is reading a history of Lazard investment banking. Either would be
a big enough contrast to sailing the Pacific in a small wooden boat. But
the two aspects of American life are a huge contrast to each other as
well. We debate playing canasta at one point but put it off because of the

The coq au vin I made the night before we left San Cristóbal stretches to
three days. Yesterday we boiled some potatoes and ate it with the rich red
sauce. The little bit left even after that will become part of today's
bean soup. Breakfast is usually a cupful of muesli with raisins and
whatever fruit is available. Dinner is in the late afternoon so that it is
finished before dark and the night watches begin. In between we snack;
yesterday we had tuna sandwiches made with the yellow fin tuna we caught
coming out of the harbour. The two hands of green bananas we bought at the
'mercado publico' are just beginning to ripen. We still have fresh
tomatoes and a few green (now going red) peppers. The last VERY ripe
pineapple from Costa Rica was part of breakfast this morning. Soon we
shall attack one of the three watermelons we still have on board.

Last night was annoying because we could not keep the boat on course and,
naturally, the very severe rolling. I play with the Cap Horn windvane
steering. Sometimes it works just fine and sometimes it drives me to
distraction. I do not want to be steering, one of the most tedious of jobs
on a long passage, but why can't I get it to work properly. It works
better with just a headsail; the big main tends to overpower the windvane.
But still, it tends to round up and not keep the wind on the port quarter.
This could be a real Nervensaege (nerve saw) over the next few weeks.
After dawn this morning, I attempt once more to get the Navico 5000
electronic tiller pilot to function. It works for a while and then starts
beeping accusingly. I give it up as a bad job and stuff it into the
lazarette hold. At this point fortunately the Cap Horn windvane decides to
be more cooperative. We go below and check every 15-20 minutes to make
sure, and at the same time take a look around the horizon for any ships.
(Last night I saw bright white lights off to the South and stayed in the
cockpit to make sure we were not on a collision course. Our first sign of
human existence since leaving the harbour two days ago. Eventually it
moves off over the horizon at eleven o'clock from us. I reckon it must
have been a big fishing boat.)

Kathleen is suffering from diarrhea and has started taking some
medication. I have dozens of bites on my legs and one has become infected.
I lance it regularly and clean it with alcohol and apply anti-biotic
cream. It is amazing how strategically placed this bite is. Almost
everything I do on a boat rubs against it; kneeling is particularly
painful. It does seem to be responding to my treatment. I had one just
like it on the other knee back in Islas Perlas, and our friend Ute on S/V
Lumme doctored it with antibiotics and regular dressings. It's drying up

The windvane is holding our course to the Waypoint in Nuku Hiva well now,
but there is very little wind so we are only making about 2.5 or 3 knots.
Yesterday the breezes picked up in the afternoon, so there is hope. Our
first day out we made 95 Nm in 24 hours; the second day only 75 Nm. We
debate throwing the Lister on or dragging out the big red drifter sail in
order to make speed. But we decide to be patient. According to Jimmy
Cornell's book, we should not head south to S 30 or S 50 before at least W
1000 so that we can have a good angle for The Marquesas. At that latitude
we should find stronger and more reliable SE Trades.

Sailing teaches patience.
DAY 11. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Good Friday, April 02, 2010, late afternoon
Our position at 0000 GMT (2 hours behind NYC; Mountain Standard?): S 01
Degrees 11.03, W 090 Degrees 26.91

We have nearly reached the end of our first full day at sea after leaving
San Cristóbal Island, The Galapagos. Up at first light, we had the anchor
up in ten minutes and motored north out of the harbour and around the
floating buoy marking the end of the big reef. Within an hour we had the
sails up and were able to cut the engine and glide along at between 4 and
5 knots. Wonderful, after the long motoring trip to get to The Galapagos!
It was heavily clouded around the island as we left and the sun did not
appear until mid -morning. But 5-10 knot winds were S to SE and therefore
exactly where we want them to be for the whole trip. After playing with
the windvane steering for a while, it finally decided to hold course and
we lounged around below out of the hot sunshine at midday, checking the
horizon and the steering every twenty minutes.

Just after we cut the engine we realised we had a fish on the hook.
Pulling it in, we discovered half a yellow fin tuna (delicious eating!)
Apparently a shark had taken it lower half without trying to eat our hook.
There was enough meat left to give us big steaks for a late lunch around
1500 and some left over for tuna sandwiches tomorrow. What a treat!

The light winds have held pretty steady all day. We could see Isla Santa
Cruz in the haze to the N, and are now passing Isla Floreana to our S,
after which we shall have left The Galapagos behind us and struck out on
the open sea. When we left the harbour the GPS showed 3,046 Nm to Nuku
Hiva. We have covered nearly 50 Nm after the first 12 hours and can reckon
on making at least 100 Nm in 24 hours (to 0600 tomorrow).

We are settling into our routine and Kathy will take the first watch from
1800 (1200 GMT) to 2100 (0300 GMT). We have had our daily bucket bath in
salt water with a good rub-down when dried off, so we are refreshed, and
after the tuna steaks, feeling quite content.

We only spent three days in San Cristóbal Island in order to bunker
diesel, water and guy fresh provisions. We still have some fruit left from
Costa Rica (the last pineapple, several watermelons, some limes). The Port
Captain was helpful that we did not need to go through the expensive
check-in routine provided we cleared off immediately. He even came around
last night to make sure we actually left this morning. We might have left
a day earlier, but there was a glitsch with the laptop, which we got
sorted out ashore.

It was nice to be back in the island that we got to know four years ago.
We looked up some acquaintances that we had four years ago, and made
friends with Tina and Manolo, who run a tourist agency near the main dock
and who helped us get the diesel. It is as highly controlled as uranium
since the locals can buy it for $1.05 and on-sell to yachties. (You have
to get a chit from the Port Captain and then prove that you actually
bought it before you can leave.) The town looks very prosperous, but the
price inflation is everywhere. The locals bring it on themselves because
they are always eager to get high prices from the tourists and yachties.
Then they wind up having to pay a lot for things too. Nevertheless, they
complain that the government is not good.

Friday, April 02, 2010

At sea. Palm Sunday, March 28, 2010

At present we are motor-sailing in bright sunshine and a cooling breeze
parallel to the south coast of Isla San Cristóbal in the Galapagos,and
have just waved at a couple of snorkeling boats in action near Kicker
Rock. After ten days at sea, much of it motor-sailing, we are looking
forward to a three-day stop here.

Once we got through the Doldrums, we were no longer bothered with constant
sail-changes. Once or twice we reefed down in anticipation of something.
But, all was quiet. We stand our three-hour watches during the long
nights, frequently in the cockpit. Our windvane steering doesn't work when
we are under power and the electronic tiller pilot is finicky. In the end
we use the bungee cord system and sit outside to keep an eye on it. Many
times there is no wind to speak of (much like my solo voyage from Western
Panamá to Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador two years ago now). We could have
tried to sail the whole thing as I did back then. But it took me 18 days
and who's interested. We just want to get into the SE Tradewind zone,
which starts at about the equator and about this time of year. As we
approach San Cristóbal, the winds are indeed SE, but quite weak still.

For those wondering why we did not head straight S from Panamá until we
could get better winds, the reason is that the ITCZ was still quite far S
(touching the Colombia coast) and not up near Golfito in Costa Rica.
Cornell et al. recommend then sailing W from Costa Rica, hoping to pick up
NE Trades in the spring still and then, much farther W, punching S through
the ITCZ. All the characteristics recommending this route were there. But
we never actually found any NE Trades. All we had were moderate W winds,
which on a starboard tack was taking us W (Great Circle Route) to The
Marquesas, we therefore decided to punch through the Doldrums as we
encountered them.

When we came out the other side there was only very light southerlies. Our
rhumb line for The Marquesas and that for The Galapagos were now quite
close together, which encouraged us to decide on a stop here. We can top
up fuel and water and get fresh provisions. We spent a month in the
archipelago four years ago, so we know our way around a little bit. Of
course, the bureaucracy has become more intense, so we shall see what the
whole thing costs. We only want to make a 72-hour stop and then get going
At sea. Thursday, March 25, 2010

It is late morning (Day 7, 25 Mar 10). We are sailing pleasantly and
rapidly at 5 knots S on a cooling WSW breeze and under sunny skies. The
deck and cockpit have been tidied up and washed down, the anti-barnacle
line deployed on each side of the hull and then recovered, the cabin swept
and wiped down of salt condensation, berths straightened and, as reward,
two cups of espresso along with lots of very ripe mango. It seems too much
even to contrast this with yesterday and last night.

We must after all be in the Doldrums. We ran the engine most of the night
to try and get farther S through the ITCZ. It was Squall Alley! On all
sides of us there were black patches of cloud and rain that obscured the
horizons. We dodged around them as much as possible, but at night this is
difficult. When the winds suited us, we hoisted sail again. But soon we
would have to drop the jib and/or reef in the mainsail. It is always a
dicey call about when to undertake these tasks. If you are sailing along
at 5 kts, who wants to cut off that enjoyable progress? But, leave it too
late, and you have to go forward in the gusts of wind, sheeting rain and
splashing over the bow since the jib is guaranteed not going to come all
the way down on its own, and you will be perched on the bowsprit trying to
wrestle with red sailcloth.

Discretion is the better part of valour; last night we shortened sail
early each time, and before dark we put a reef in the main again and
doused the jib on deck. You can't determine those squalls exactly at
night; even in daylight it's tough. At one point we were even sailing with
only a reefed mainsail.

During the night we were pleased that we had prepared. On the one hand, we
remained under sail for the whole night. But at times, near the squalls,
the wind would die suddenly or be replaced by a muggy, hot breath from
somewhere else that soon had our boom slamming back and forth as the boat
became nearly motionless and turned sideways to the swells. After a while,
maybe thirty minutes or an hour, a real breeze would pick up again, if not
always from exactly the same quarter. At several times during the night we
were overtaken by torrential downpours as the centre of a squall passed
over us. Going into the cockpit even in our foul weather jackets did not
prevent a total soaking. Of course, after the squall went through the wind
changed and the tiller or the windvane steering needed to be adjusted. Oh,
for a covered cockpit! At least, with the jib nicely tied on deck, there
was no need to go forward since the other two sails are 'self-tending'.
For much of the time the automatic steering kept us on course. But still,
by this morning when I finally got a cup of java in my hand, it had begun
to seem like a long night. So, tell me again why we're doing this?

On this route we are going to be sailing close to The Galapagos. We shall
probably make a stop and get fresh produce, top up our fuel tanks and jugs
and take on water. We know Wreck Bay at Isla San Cristóbal from our visit
to the archipelago four years ago. We hear that it has become more
bureaucratic and therefore more expensive. But we might just be able to
get by with a 72-hour Port Captain's pass and be allowed to replenish. We
shall save on the price of fuel if it is still under $2 for a 4-litre
gallon (delivered).

It will give us a break too after a week or more at sea. Other boats have
reported taking over 20 days just to get to The Galapagos from Panamá
City. We are now about 300 Nm away, but since it is only about 600 Nm
altogether, we can't say it's just around the corner. By the time we get
there we shall have eaten or thrown away all our soft fruit. Until then we
are living like kings, at least from that point of view.
At sea. Wednesday, March 24, 2010

For the first half of yesterday (Day 5) we had glorious sailing conditions
as we headed close-hauled more or less S with all sails set to find the SE
Trades. We had already passed through a band of squally weather the day
and night before and were becoming convinced that we had the ITCZ behind
us. The winds were still SW, true. But, eventually they ought to become
first S and then SE.

At the same time we were looking for the equatorial current that moves W
at 1-3 knots, a boon for us on the way to French Polynesia. We are still
at between 4 and 5 degrees N and the current is reported to be around 2
degrees N.

Late afternoon big squalls begin appearing all around us again, with heavy
rain underneath the clouds. So far we have not actually been hit by one,
but we usually drop the jib and get ready to reef in should it be

At dark the winds become fluky and we decide to motor-sail S some more to
dodge the squalls and to find the southeasterlies. I stick earplugs in my
ears to cut the noise of the Lister. But, I have to admit that she is
running much smoother and less hot now that I have started using a diesel
fuel conditioner. I also added Startron Enzyme treatment to deal with the
microbes (in addition to biocide) and am wondering if I shall soon have to
change fuel filters. But so far, no. The conditioner should help clean the
inside of the engine, help get rid of water in the fuel and any number of
other modern wonders.

The temperatures in these latitudes are lower than farther north and
certainly a lot cooler than the Costa Rican coast. It is possible to sit
out in the cockpit all night in a bathing suit, though I find I am glad to
have a jacket after an hour or two.

I thought I had the watch routine down. One time Kathleen had to shake me
hard to get me awake and I felt quite groggy. This could be dehydration or
simply not enough to eat. Yesterday afternoon I made our first hot meal
(not counting fried eggs). It was a vegetable and bean soup using up the
last of our celery, a red pepper, some onions and garlic, a couple of
diced potatoes in a some chicken broth and later thickened with a half a
small can of refried beans and a can of cannelloni beans. Spiced up a bit
with Worcestershire sauce, hickory smoke and some red pepper flakes and at
the last minute the juice of a lime, it hit the spot. Perhaps I hadn't to
have filled the bowls so full, because everything slopped over and made
the bridge a little slippery and treacherous. There is enough for another
meal of it today.

After a night of motoring, dawn made us realise that the winds had at last
become SE. The swells were much bigger than before but still at a
gentlemanly distance from another. By raising the jib and staysail and
going on a port tack we could almost exactly get onto our rhumb line for
The Marquesas some 3,400 Nm to the WSW. But, there were still lots of
squalls around. We decided therefore to go back on a starboard. Soon
thereafter the squalls stole the wind from us and we opted to motorsail S
until we were out of the band of bad weather. Three hours later we shut
off the engine again and tried a reach on a port tack once more. The sky
is full of broken grey cloud and the sun has yet to appear. But we are
doing 5 and 6 knots and even considering reefing down to help balance the
boat for the windvane steering (our mainsail is so large that it easily
overpowers the Cap Horn). For the moment Kathleen takes over cockpit duty
and sets things up with bungee cords.

The morning espresso tastes wonderful knowing that we may just be on our
long leg to French Polynesia. A pair of masked boobies - pure white with
black lining on the trailing edge of the wings - circle the boat looking
for a place to land. These are the first of these we have seen on this
trip. They give up the project and disappear finally.
At Sea, Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Last night passed totally uneventfully. The sea was so calm and the SW
wind so steady that we felt when we were below in the cabin that we were
hardly moving at all. In the peace and quiet of the sea we could hear the
water passing down the side of the boat as one drifted off to sleep. We
woke this morning to find puffy trade-wind clouds and a 5-10 knot breeze
that was slightly more southerly than before. This is exactly what we
should expect after the doldrums.

We debate when we should go over on the other tack, but decide to wait
till we get farther south when the wind might become much more southerly
than it is at present and when we might indeed pick up the W-flowing
equatorial current. A double whammy. The air is so much more comfortable
than farther north. The direct sunshine is a trifle dangerous in this
cooler air because you can get a sunburn rapidly so close to the equator
(4-5o at present). But in the shade of the sail, for example, it is

While the dawn espresso coffee is brewing and Kathleen is dozing below, I
do some cleaning around deck, washing the lazarette deck of grime that has
somehow come with us from Costa Rica. The cleaning makes me feel better,
and I eventually go below to enjoy my excellent Costa Rican coffee. Later
Kathleen makes us some muesli and cuts open the last of the cantaloupe. It
looks awful on the outside with white mould formed. Inside it has its
fermented bits, but otherwise totally delectable. This still leaves us
with three five big mangos (rapidly ripening), three big watermelons, five
or six pineapples, 15 or 20 oranges left from the big net bag, lots of
tomatoes and some Fuji apples. Kathleen picks things over every day and
has had to discard some oranges that have got a bit mushy. Washing the
cantaloupe in saltwater seems to have inhibited the moulds for a day or
two. Eventually we shall be reduced to potatoes and onions and canned
goods. For the moment, we are eating fresh stuff and not cooking anything
beyond and egg or two.

For the first time on this voyage, I streamed a yellow, 40-foot floating
line from the bowsprit so the line would lightly graze the hull along the
waterline. I shall do this on each side for thirty minutes each day. The
bottom paint will probably inhibit barnacle growth. But when one is heeled
over the topsides also become immersed in seawater, and goose-necked
barnacles can and do attach there. They are nearly impossible to get off
then, though if one attacks them with something like a credit card as soon
as one arrives in port you can get rid of them. Ann and Tom aboard S/V
Leonidas reported that when they arrived in The Marquesas last year they
had a foot or two of heavy, tenacious barnacle coverage up the side of the
hull. I have used this technique before after I learned about it from
Chuck of S/V Jacaranda. It seemed to work, so what do I have to lose? What
else do I have to do at sea?
As darkness falls on the third night, I can see threateningly dark squall
-clouds towering into the sky ahead of us, with continuous lightening
flashes silhouetting the big clouds. Every afternoon the clouds build up
around us, drifting down from the W on the wind, picking up water into the
heights where it cools again and falls like an apron around the cloud. We
might just be lucky and miss out on the localised blows and rain that go
with this one.

I am on watch in the dark while Kathleen sleeps below. I have not dropped
the jibsail at dusk or reefed in the mainsail. But as the evening
progresses I became more and more anxious. I admit that my anxiety level
always goes up in the dark; a fluffy cloud looks menacing when all you see
is a huge black blob; a slatting boom is annoying in the daytime but
drives you mad at night. I didn't want to rob Kathleen unnecessarily of
her off-watch sleep. But, I also didn't want to be caught off guard by a
squall and have to do the sail-handling in rain and wind as well as in the
dark. I also didn't want to let my anxiety get the better of me, nor to
lose the nice speed of movement we were at present enjoying.

Finally, when I see the lightening getting closer, I go below and wake
Kathleen. Startled, she jumps up immediately and comes out into the
cockpit. I explain that I am about to drop the jibsail. This hanked-on
sail requires going forward to the mast and then climbing out on the
bowsprit to pull the sail down. A furling sail would be better, no doubt.
But we have hanked-on sails so there is nothing for it but to get

The rain and gusts begin just as we start the process. Kathleen swings the
big tiller over to bring Vilisar up into the wind, the jibsail halyard is
let go, and the sail drops as usual only about half way. I have to lean
out over the bowsprit to pull it down and lash it with sail ties that I
have draped around my neck before the manoeuvre. Meanwhile, our bow is
pitching up and down in the waves, and the wind is causing a big flap. To
make things easier for myself, I had already dropped the smaller staysail
onto the dinghy lying upside down on the foredeck; it is attached to its
own wooden boomlet, which with the sail amidships tends to flog badly. It
is sometimes referred to as a 'widowmaker'; if you get bonged by it you
will at least have a few bruises to show for it and you could easily
injure yourself more seriously. That's why I always drop it before working
on the jib. I plan to raise it again once I have completed other sail
jobs, like reefing the main.

Unfortunately, the lines attaching the clew to the staysail boom decided
at this point to come loose, the boomlet drops with a clunk onto the
dinghy and then slides onto the deck and the staysail begins flapping
noisily in the wind. My rope attachments have come undone, but there is
still a stainless steel carabiner attached to the clew; it will definitely
smart if it hits me in its wild flogging! In a torrent of swearing I
smother the sail at last and lash it down. I abandon any thought of
repairing the clew attachment in the dark and rainy night.

The next job is to support the mainsail boom with the topping lift, drop
the mainsail halfway until I can get a metal hook into the grommet, pull
in and secure the reefing pennants and hoist the now reefed mainsail
again. This all takes several minutes of strenuous labour while Kathleen
steers, but when I am done the mainsail is exposing only about a third of
the wind surface that a fully hoisted mainsail offers. The boat, which had
been heeling strongly, now stands up straight while the wind sings in the
rigging. I return crouched along the side deck to the cockpit and flop
down, sweating and exhausted. Man! I'm getting too old for this! Kathleen
had been at the tiller the whole time and is also thoroughly relieved that
the job is done.

We were not sailing under a double-reefed main. I should have liked to
have had the staysail as well, but that is now out of the question until
daylight. We experiment with the windvane steering, which however seems
quite amenable to having only the reefed mainsail to work with. Our speed
is of course slower, but we feel less stressed, less anxious.

With all that work completed, the squall expends itself, and except for a
few more drops of rain passes off to the E. As the night wears on, the W
wind drops so there is hardly enough wind to keep the mainsail filled or
the bow pointed up well into the wind and waves. The boom therefore begins
slatting hard every few minutes, causing the mainsail also to snap loudly.
If it is loud on deck it is doubly so below, the boom shaking the whole
boat, it seems. It disturbs sleep and makes us nervous.

The big dark clouds swallow the night sky and the stars along with it. But
no more squalls. We might well shake out the reef and hoist the jib and
spare ourselves a bad night. But we had decided to be cautious and wait
until morning.

The days have in fact been lovely. The temperatures are warm but nothing
like as oppressive as the Costa Rican or Panamanian coasts. You can sit
out in cockpit at night until it gets to damp from the dew. The winds have
remained mainly westerly, but have taken on a more and more southerly
component. The windvane steering deals with it well, and we are not
required to sit in our uncomfortable cockpit in the midday sun or the
night-time damps. We can go below and only check around the horizon every
15 or 20 minutes, i.e., the time it takes for a steamer to come over the
horizon and mow you flat. We 'sit' our watches, on other words. We read.
We doze if we are off watch to make up for the interrupted sleep from the
night before. During the day we are often both awake and we spend time
talking or making a light meal.

Our tropical fruit is delicious: mangos, pineapples, oranges. They taste
almost like candy, they are so sweet. But they are all ripening at the
same time. How many ways can you prepare mango? And, for the moment,
neither one of us wants to cook. We are happy with fruits and various
salads of fruits, potatoes and vegetables. We shall miss the fresh stuff
in a couple of weeks, though we still have lots of onions, potatoes,
cabbages and a local potato-substitute whose name I cannot now recall. It
looks like a giant pear and is crispy when you cut into it. We didn't buy
manioc or yucca, as I don't really know how to prepare it.

Now in Day 5 (at dusk today; we are using GMT or UTC time which is 5 hours
ahead of Panamá time), we seem to be settling in. The good news is that we
might actually have traversed the ITCZ without much fuss. Last night was
squall-free. This morning (Tuesday, 23MAR10) the winds had shifted from W
to SW, which of course is what we expected after we came out the S side of
the Doldrums. We are actually sailing SSE and sometimes as far left as
ESE. We obviously cannot sail straight to SW, though that is our rhumb
line. But eventually, at the latest at the equator, we should surely
encounter SE Trades. Then we can turn and make for French Polynesia some
3,500 Nm away to the WSW. We know how slow it can be between Costa Rica
and the equator. So, if the traversing of the ITCZ has already taken
place, as is devoutly to be wished, we should count ourselves fortunate.

Position at 1500 UTC (11:00 Eastern Daylight Savings Time): N 4 degrees
53.45, W 84 degrees 55.31
Golfito, Costa Rica, to The Marquesas, French Polynesia
Days 3 & 4, Sunday & Monday, 21 & 22 March 2010

Our plan had been to motor through the windless zone off the coast of
Costa Rica for some 200 Nm until we could pick up NE Trades that still at
this time of year characterise the weather north of the ITCZ (Doldrums).
The pilot charts tell us this and Jimmy Cornell's excellent routing book
for bluewater mariners confirms it. One can make use of the NE Trades and
wait until even as far W as W.128o to cross the ITCZ. Unless of course you
do it earlier. Not sure how that helps.

Our weather remains pleasant, though the light winds coming directly
towards us from the West slow our speed and mock the reference works.
Fortunately the seas are calm so we make relatively good progress along
our rhumb line. And, we are only making about 3-4 knots under power,
enduring the noise and heat of the Lister engine for two days and nights.
Why weren't we going faster?

Finally, some 175 Nm from Golfito, we decide we should get up all sail,
and if we cannot sail directly to westward we can at least tack back and
forth and perhaps make some headway whilst sparing our supply of diesel
fuel. After all, that's what cruisers do, isn't it? You don't just throw
on the engine if the winds are not totally to your liking. At one point,
however, we take advantage of the relatively calm seas and empty ten
gallons from our deck jugs into the port tank (a messy business, as it
turns out) while we review out strategy for getting to Nuku Hiva.

We are after all only a couple of days out on a voyage that may take 40
days or even more. Sailing on a starboard tack at present is pleasant
going, but it is taking us increasingly to the South far sooner than we
wanted. Our hope to pick up NE Trades had so far been in vain, on the
other hand. So, why not just sail southwards until we encounter the ITCZ,
motor through it if we need to, and sail (or motor-sail) on the other side
until we pick up SE Trades that are bound to appear around the equator. We
finally opt for this plan.

The weather remains during the day sunny after the original cloud cover
has dissipated. After the first 24 hours there have been no other ships or
boats on our horizon. At night there are frequently dark clouds and
localised squalls around. The electronic tiller pilot works only
sporadically earning it more curses, and we are glad to find now enough
wind to operate the Cap Horn windvane steering. Doesn't bear thinking
about a long voyage without some sort of self-steering! Steering is the
most boring of jobs and, if you rig up a Rube Goldberg system of bungee
cords, you find that it is not self-correcting and you have to stay in the
cockpit night and day to make sure it is working.

(Rest in next blog)
Day 2, Saturday, March 20, 2010
(Position at 1500 UTC: N.07 degrees 56.62' W.085 degrees 18.68')

So, we've been two full nights at sea now, and will have been underway 48
hours by late this afternoon (in the counting of the days I won't include
the first afternoon). We have rapidly settled into watchkeeping with its
attendant disturbed sleep. We keep three-hour watches but if one of us
feels still awake enough he/she will stay on a bit longer and let the
other get some deep REM sleep. I can stretch to four hours at night but
then my eyes get very heavy.

The heat from the engine is bearable, but of course it is ripening the
fresh fruits and vegetables much faster than we should like. Soft fruits
like mangos or bananas are really hard to keep so we have to eat them as
quickly as possible. This is no chore since I love mangos; the ones we
have are huge. We have not yet started in on the six or eight pineapples,
which I hope will ripen over time and not all at once.

We are still motor-sailing (main and staysails). There is a very weak wind
but it is from the W and that is the direction we are travelling at
present. The first waypoint is at the equator at W128 degrees (The Galapagos
by comparison are at about W90 degrees), some 2,600 Nm still away. It seems
strange to be steering W, but I suppose the GPS is giving us a great-circle
route). The weather probs had told us not to expect winds until we are 2-
300 Nm out from Costa Rica. Then we might hope to pick up NE Trades. But,
no deal so far.

The night watches are balmy. There was lightening to the SE in the
distance, so we are probably skirting the doldrums to the north. The days
begin slightly cloudy but clear up by 0830 or 0900. Since we do not have a
cockpit bimini (shade), we wear long-sleeved cotton pyjamas and broad sun
hats when in the cockpit in the tropical sun. We wouldn't win any fashion
shows, but at least we aren't burnt to a crisp. Fortunately from the
comfort point of view, as we motor along at 3.5 to 4 knots, we are headed
almost directly into the weak breeze, so it is tolerably cool. None of
Golfito's humid suffocating heat, thank goodness!

The sea is dark blue, almost purple, the water clear as you look down into
it. Kathleen said there was a light moving parallel to us for most of her
early morning watch, but it eventually dropped behind. A fisherman? A
drug-runner? Coasties? We saw two huge container ships at 6-8 miles
yesterday. But other than this light, nothing. When the sun comes up the
horizon is totally empty. The high point yesterday were a pair of minke
whales that, totally ignoring my right of way, passed so close in front of
us that I had to pop the bungee cords on the tiller and steer behind them
to avoid a collision. We frequently see large pods of dolphins (grey
bellies) jumping out of the water and tearing off in one direction or the
other. At some point they must be having a feeding frenzy because the
waters are so churned up. Then, off they go. Neither the whales nor the
dolphins seem to have any interest in a passing sailboat.

We seemed to be taking quite a bit of water, I had noticed. I had a look
at the stuffing gland and noticed far more water than normal dripping from
it. For the moment we pump frequently, but when we finally get some wind
and the engine can be switched off and cooled down, I shall get in there
behind the engine with the two big pipe wrenches and tighten things up

At least the water in the bilge is not a sign that our drinking-water
tanks have sprung a leak! Kathleen enforces such frugalness with fresh
water that I feel guilty just drinking it. We have about 80 U.S. gallons
aboard but who knows how long it must last. Now that we have one or two
empty one-gallon jugs, we fetch in saltwater for kitchen tasks, and we
even cooked potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic in seawater last evening. A
trifle salty, but otherwise fine. We do have an emergency watermaker, and
when we have some larger empty jugs we shall soon give it a try. If we get
heavy rain, we can also try catching water using the sun awning or the
mainsail cover slung under the main boom. This will require some
experimentation, however.

I am sure that the fuel in our tanks is contaminated again. I did use
biocide and a diesel conditioner. I also added Startron Enzyme additive
which should stabilise the fuel (diesel fuel begins to break down after 90
days or so) and its enzymes should eat up the bacterial growth.
Fortunately, we have lots of fuel filters with us and ready to hand. I
noticed that when we were running on the starboard tank, our performance
was much worse. When the engine is cooled down I shall change the filters

Finally, the electronic tiller pilot seems to have a mind of its own. It
will be happily steering the boat for an hour or so and then suddenly
start emitting loud beeps of protest. We play with it for a while, but
cannot make it stay on the job for long. We refer to bungee cords to keep
the boat on course. Of course, this means being in the cockpit except for
quick trips below or forward on deck; the bungee cords are not reliable
enough. Fortunately, except for the two rain squalls on the first evening,
the weather especially at night has been super. When we finally get some
wind we can start sailing and use the Cap Horn windvane steering. Kathleen
promises that we shall have NE Trades 10-15 knots today or tomorrow.

Otherwise, nothing to report. It is so far just like a cruise should be:
uneventful with lots of time to catch up on the old new Yorkers and
Harpers magazines and get into a couple of novels.

Position at 2100 UTC: N. 7 degrees 44.87' W. 085 degrees 30.95. Under sail at
3-4 knots. Light W breeze, calm seas.