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.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Day 41 & 42. Costa Rica to Isles Marquises via The Galapagos
At Sea. Sunday, 02 May 2010,
Our position as at 2100 GMT/UTC (1700 NYC; 2300 Ffm):
S 09 degrees 44.25 minutes; W 133 degrees 21.00 minutes;
313.3 Nm to Hiva Oa


Well, we haven't made it to Hiva Oa yet, but we have at least made it into
May 2010! For a tourist the weather is almost perfect. Big blue sky with
puffy white clouds, a steady and refreshing breeze. No rain for days now.
The breezes are however just very light breezes! For sailors like us, it
is frustrating in the extreme that we are going so slowly. Even getting
out Lin and Larry Pardey's book 'The Care and Feeding of the Offshore
Crew', which was written during a voyage from Japan to Victoria, British
Columbia, and which indicates that they had a lot of very, very slow days,
doesn't really help us that much. It's still slow and tedious and we want
to be there now!

During my turn on night-watch, I go over our rig in my mind. Why can't I
use the topping lift instead of the main halyard? Why can't I bend on a
big genoa headsail using the mainsail halyard, backwards so to speak, and
pull the sail up to the top of the mast? This will be a big job what with
clearing away the old jibstay and removing and bagging the red yankee
which at present is tied sausage-like on the foredeck. We might actually
make more speed and at least we could drop the mainsail and secure the
boom to the boom thereby eliminating the slatting and, with the boat being
pulled by the genoa instead of pushed by the mainsail, we might altogether
be better off.

After espresso in the morning today we go on deck. Sail changes alone are
a task. But this has to be jury rigged. We clear the yankee from the
broken stay, bag it and send it below before tying off the damaged jibstay
to get it out of the way. The genoa is much bigger and it will not have
the hanks to keep it under control. After and hour or so of work we are
ready to go: the main is down and the boom secured to the gallows, the jib
is bagged up and sent below, and the genoa is lying on the foredeck, all
hooked up top and bottom and ready to go. Kathleen is ready to sheet it in. I
heave the makeshift jib halyard and the genoa starts up. It fills almost
immediately with wind and becomes almost uncontrollable. Before it is
fully up the body of the sail bellies out ahead of us and pulls the rest
of the sail right off the deck and drops it into the water where it tries
to get in under the bow. Shit! I let the peak down a bit, but that only
allows the sail to fall more into the water and even more under the bow.
What a mess! Trying to pull a sail full of seawater up even using the sail
winch is nearly impossible. You have to pull a bit at a time and let the
water run out. Finally, I recover the whole sail and, this time, manage to
get it hoisted without getting it wet again. It bellies out beautifully as
if to ask, 'What's your problem, anyway?' and Kathleen sheets it back at the
cockpit. I watch for a moment and then move back to join her. I am pooped.
The whole thing has taken nearly two hours but now we are moving along at
a couple of knots and the boom is stowed on the boom gallows. No slatting
to shake the boat from stem to stern. I go below for a break while Kathleen
experiments with steering under these new conditions.

Definitely smoother and quieter! The problem is wind. Or lack of it! We
can pretty much steer the direct route to Hiva Oa, but we are only making
about 2 knots or about 50 Nm a day. We still have 350 Nm to go. At times
we feel that we are almost becalmed. Sailors have to live with no wind
from time to time. The same Lin and Larry Pardey took 50 or 60 days to get
from Japan to British Columbia and often had days of only 40 or 50 Nm. Of
course, unlike them, we have an engine and we are now well within range of
our fuel capacity (I reckon we can make 600 Nm on calm waters on our
approx. 85 gallons). But we don't want to have to replenish at European
fuel prices when we get to French Polynesia.

Day 42

Now the worse aspect is that the windvane steering does not seem to like
working downwind in weak breezes. No windvane likes this. So we are
condemned to sit in the cockpit and hand-steer. This is very, very boring
and stressful, since you can't really do anything but steer and sleep. We
have just had our second night of this and three hours at night can seem
very long even if the stars are beautiful and there is later bright
moonlight.

Trying to throw together a meal is a challenge as you don't want to use up
your sleeping time. Last night we boiled four potatoes in a small pot of
seawater, opened a can of Campbell's condensed cheddar cheese soup, diced
the cooked potatoes straight into the soup and ate it all up. Filling and
fairly easy. Kathleen had made a nice loaf of whole-wheat and rolled oats.

We have come to value a little book called 'Cooking on the Go', which in
turn was recommended to us by cruising friends Bob and Rita Valine (S/V
Ritana), now living in Powell River, BC. It has lots of flexible and tasty
ideas, though some at first seem pretty bizarre. They have all turned out
well so far, though. Anyone contemplating cruising should get a copy. It
was difficult but I found a used copy on ABEBooks.com.

So now, with the genoa up and Vilisar moving at a very slow speed, we hope
for a freshening wind to get us to Hiva Oa a little faster than another
five or six days. Somebody whistle!

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