Archive for March, 2010

The Sameness of the Sea

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

We have inspected every inch of the past 1000 nautical miles and found it all to be identical. And so it is with our days here upon the ocean. There have been few highlights; we saw a tuna trawler about a week ago, we see birds at least once a day – including an indicator species of the tropics, a tropic bird – and S saw a piece of flotsam. Flying fish and four individual wave trains bearing down and rushing beneath us are our constant companions and we never tire of watching them.

We’ve begun some course corrections and refinements as we bear down on the ITCZ some 650nm away. It feels like re-entry from outer space at 7 miles an hour. Our plan is to skirt the southern boundary of the tradewind belt, staying just out of reach of the ITCZ thunderstorms until we see a gap and then we’ll sprint across, probably getting mauled anyway because it will take us two days.

And now K will provide a book report on the 12 CD volume of The Silmarillion by J R.R. Tolkien:

The Silmarillion is the pre-history of the Lord of The Rings. The first 300 hours are in the style of an Old Testament genealogy. While it is absolutely mindnumbing, it is delivered with severe gravitas by a British guy and is well suited to watchstanding alone at night over a tempestuous sea. The second half has lots of nice stories about sword fights and dragons.

12°19.47′N 122°02.32′W 28-Mar-10 02:34 UTC

Where are we going? And are we there yet?

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Perhaps you’re wondering, why does Bint al Khamseen appear to be headed for 05N 130W when the Marquesas are at 09S 140W? Like all good Seattle yuppies we navigate life based on the musings in other peoples’ blogs. Several years ago our friends on S/V Marcy discovered two guide stars during this very passage: “Westie” and “Eastie.” We think we know which stars these are and we track them every night. It’s not an exact science.

What is an exact science are the in-depth explanations of equatorial Pacific weather that are broadcast twice daily by the penultimate weather guru, Dr. Don Anderson. Don holds court on the single side band radio from his bat cave in Oxnard California and advises sailors on everything from micro-forecasts of the ridiculously complex Mexican coast to the proper way to communicate on a radio. He has written a concise guide on sailing from Mexico to French Polynesia which illuminates the vagaries of the mythical and intimidating Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), otherwise known as the “doldrums.”

The ITCZ is the mixing zone where the Southeast trade winds of the South Pacific run into the Northeast trade winds of the North Pacific. One might hope that they merge nicely together and make a lovely East trade wind right down the equator. Instead they plow into each other and spend their energies milling around making rain squalls and thunderstorms with no useful or consistent wind direction. Avoiding the ITCZ is the key goal of this passage but cross it we must. It spans the Pacific just north of the equator. On the coast of Central America it is quite wide, perhaps 1,000nm. It tapers to the west until it is only a 200nm wide (or less) at 130W. So there we are headed, the thin end of the ITCZ wedge. When we arrive we’ll take a turn to the south and sprint across like a turtle on the interstate hopefully getting a pleasant washdown without any squally winds. Once we meet the Southeast trades we’ll set course directly for the nearest palm tree.

15°16.27′N 119°03.01′W 25-Mar-10 11:45 BST

On the Wearing of Plastic Pants

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

While there are many among us who require a short trouser that will allow us to sit in puddles in a warm climate, there are very few options within the sport garment industry to meet this need. After years of searching and threats, K has taken matters into his own hands to fabricate a pair of plastic shorts. While others seem content to loaf around in a full foulweather trouser in warm periods of high moisture, K prefers to have a wet ass. The issue has always been heat… with a choice of heat vs. dampness, K will pick wet every time.

He has a flawless and succinct philosophy on the folly of avoiding moisture which goes like this: We are all sopping wet less than a millimeter beneath our skin therefore we should not be too worried about a little wetness on the other side. K claims credentials on subcutaneous wetness by his early career in a machine shop where he was routinely escorted to the infirmary, holding one bloody dripping hand in the other.

And yet some limited waterproof protection in just the right area would vastly reduce the amount of salty wet clothes to be processed. Of course the other option is to wear no clothes, but there are imaginable bad effects to the delicate assidophilus after prolonged stewing in a crusty brine. This is the genesis for the plastic short. While there is no need to avoid a few droplets on your knees, a plastic short would allow mankind to sit anywhere without looking for a dry spot.

There are a very small handful of examples of waterproof shorts in the sporting industry but they are rare as Cowry Spit and extremely expensive. The next obvious choice was to cut the legs off a pair of standard plastic foulies. It turns out there is a non-intuitive relationship between the human anatomy and the cut of a standard short trouser. Even after careful consideration, leg #1 of the plastic short had a rather high cut on the outer seam. Leg #2 was similarly trimmed in the interests of aesthetic balance. The result was a strangely comforting diaper cut with a wide range of leg motion. Happily, what began as an undersight turned out to be a feature for maximum action, ventilation, and pocket access, after all we need not recline like Romans on our hips in a briny puddle, we just need to sit in it.

There was early discussion on what to wear under a such a plastic short. It is clear that in mixed and sensitive company it should be worn as on over-short. In periods of sloth or infancy regression there are no such requirements, these bad boys will hold their own straight off the galley cutting board.

17°28.15′N 116°36.29′W 24-Mar-10 03:17 UTC

Bint Speaks

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Bint al Khamseen is migrating to the South Pacific with unusual purposefulness. Its clear we’ve been holding her back like a greyhound forced to compete in a dog paddle competition. Now that she’s been given her head she is racing down the line with little help from us, propelled by something beyond sails. Neither reefing, course tweeking, sloppy sideseas, or cross current has slowed her down or turned her nose.

She charges down 220 degrees by the compass with a bone in her teeth, free from the anchorage tethers in this bay or that, free from the barnacles and sea lice that colonized her smooth parts, and free from the embarrassing spinning egg beater that sticks out of her bottom. The prop blades are feathered now and Bint al Khamseen has met the dream to be in the place where she is at her best.

She’s bringing us with her, lunging across big long waves and smashing through short steep ones that detonate like Roman candles, red and green in the running lights. After 24 hrs she’s just now easing to the pace of her people. S will soon be living below without screwing her eyes shut to block out the motion.

21°35.17′N 111°42.89′W 20-Mar-10 20:26 UTC

Cabo San Lucas, City of Darkness

Saturday, March 20th, 2010

We had planned to say that we slipped quietly into the pacific under sail and the grin of a Chershire Cat moon, but to be truthful our exit from the Sea of Cortez was a sloppy confrontation with an unseasonal south wind. It reminded K of his Ballard bum-fight; some shoving, some wallowing, a few grunts and groggy epithets. The Cheshire Cat did watch (as a Ballard cat would) and arbitrated a compromise by sun-up. We got a rowdy upwind run right down our course line in 18 kts of wind. The Sea of Cortez Southern Crossing staggered off to harass some other pedestrian.

We crossed the track of our 5 month old inbound route somewhere in the darkness off the beach at Cabo San Lucas. Cabo is a city of darkness in our experience and it is a good arrangement for it is beautiful in the dark.

23°10.23′N 109°29.54′W 20-Mar-10 00:18 UTC

South!

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Ladies and gentleman Bint Al Khamseen has left the building. We finally extracted ourselves from the deadly convenient and somewhat jealous harbor city of La Paz. She was loath to let us go but we have taken our fill of big box supermarkets, tacos al pastor, and sideways anchoring in 4 kt current with 20 kt crosswinds.

At the last minute we were enticed to remain for a St Patrick’s day feast, a jam session of our favorite cruiser pick-up bands and a beach party on the Magote peninsula but it was time to turn our backs on these pleasant options and steel ourselves for the long sail ahead.

We’ll always have a soft spot for this part of the world and we were reminded of this by the manta rays who jumped by the hundreds as we sailed down the Cerralvo Channel.

108-1

150-1

149-1

We’ll also miss the parade of boats that wander in and out of the anchorages of the Sea of Cortez.

167-1

Most of them seem to be from Seattle (is that an RDF on the mizzen? Holy smokes old timer!).

029

Unlike our friends on the Arctic Clipper we are loaded to the waterline. There’s hardly room for another fig on this boat. We completely lost control of how many kgs of flour, powdered milk, rice and beans came on board.

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We made a huge batch of oatmeal cookies and 4 pizzas. We sail for the Marquesas.

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23°59.24′N 109°49.72′W 17-Feb-10 18:00 MDT

An Intermission

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

We’ve been traveling around the States visiting family and adjusting to the loss of our two brothers. Please enjoy the following marine animal interlude while we rebuild our focus for the next chapter of our voyage.

ToLaPaz 024

From the starfish collection:

006

214

EnsenadaDeLaRaza 099

LittleCamera 052

LittleCamera 037

Reef dwellers we love:

BackAtSanMarte 041

LosFrailes_Friday 066

SunSnorkling 028

SunSnorkling 041

SunSnorkling 107

Reef dwellers that love us:

018 (2)

021

SunSnorkling 037

LittleCamera 004

ToLaPaz 005 

And finally from the invertebrate files:

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BahiaSanMarte1 058

BahiaSanMarte1 063

SunSnorkling 058

25°00.00′N 110°00.00′W 05-Mar-10 11:00 PST