PACIFIC CROSSING UPDATE: DAY 15
Hoo boy, 15 days in and I started it in an extremely crappy mood. I started day 15 in an extremely crappy mood because this morning at 6:30a (or whatever the hell hour that translates to in this oceanic temporal vacuum) I shattered our French press. After 30 minutes spent boiling water, I was ready to sit back and enjoy three hours of highly-caffeinated relaxation time with my book and some trail mix, capped off with a lovely Pacific sunrise (which now comes up over our port side). But that was not to be. One big swell and the press tipped over, spilling coffee and grounds across the cockpit and shattering the glass beaker well beyond repair. Faced with the prospect of two full coffee-less weeks, should I have hailed the Coast Guard right then and there, requesting an airlift to shore? Many would say yes, of course, absolutely, no question, get your butt home pronto, Chase. I refrained. How could I have let this happen? You’re talking about the guy who bought two (two!) back-up can openers in case our primary one failed and we had no way to access the beans. And yet somehow I thought that our four kilos of coffee would be safe with just *one* fragile glass French press? Rookie move, Jackson.
Two of Connor’s helpful suggestions were to (1) simply dump the grounds into my mug, wait for them to settle at the bottom, and then sip the coffee off the top (“cowboy coffee,” apparently this abomination has a name), or (2) steep the grounds in my sock like some sort of tea bag from hell. Both of these options made me feel like the heroin addict who runs out of clean veins and has to inject between his toes (“gotta get my fix, man”). Thankfully, a third option presented itself. Just before our departure, Connor’s good buddy Greg sent us two of these fantastic travel mugs, each capable of holding an entire press’ worth of coffee. They have been a constant companion on the crossing. Also, as it turns out, that mesh screen/plunger doodad from the French press fits *perfectly* inside the mug, allowing one to make a whole thing of coffee without the need for the stupid beaker at all! Greg, you are my hero. Greg, you are also Connor & Stuart’s hero, for you have spared them the agony of having to deal with the World’s Grouchiest Dude for the next two weeks.
Oh, and we hit the halfway point today. I will be baking surprise cookies for the crew to celebrate and also to apologize for the whole French press thing. More to come tomorrow.
THE STATS POST!
We have hit our imaginary halfway point! I say "imaginary", because defining halfway is a bit of a challenge in and of itself. At the time of writing (2200 UTC, April 10), we are currently 1406 nautical miles from Marina La Cruz in Puerto Vallarta (following the rhumb line), and 1402 nautical miles on the rhumb line to Traitor Bay in Hiva Oa, our landfall destination. Our position is 10 13N, 127 0W. We're all feeling great, though beginning to smell quite a bit. Every day seems to be a bit hotter than the last, and the humidity keeps increasing as well. To celebrate, it looks like Chase is baking some cookies. Woohoo!
A bunch of you asked for some stats thus far, so I'm happy to report the following:
We have been traveling for 340 hours, with a moving average of 4.48 kts. We have traveled 1516 nautical miles (we are not following the rhumb line), and our maximum speed has been 10.5 kts (presumably, that was surfing down some waves). Our biggest mileage day was out of the gate, where we hit 143 nm in a single day. I then decided that was probably a bit too fast, so we slowed it down. Then, the winds died on us for the next 5 days or so, as you can see from our total mileage. Since we've hit the trades, we've been super consistent. We have not run the engine since we left Marina La Cruz, and part of me wants to see if we can get through the ITCZ (doldrums) without running it at all. We'll see! I'm guessing we'll have a low mileage day today as well, as we're all kind of recharging and relaxing, flying under headsail alone.
Our highest wind has been gusts in the low 20s, and in general, the sea state the last 2 weeks has gone from dead calm to about a 2.5 meter swell that we've been running since last week. It's a bit much for us, but it keeps us moving (and awake all night).
Speaking of, last night we switched up the watch schedule. For the last 14 days, I've gone from 8 - 11 PM (local time, AKA, our own made up time which we call TimeSteve. More on that later, maybe.), Stuart has gone from 11 - 2 AM, Chase from 2 - 5 AM, and then me again from 5 - 8 AM. Stuart then gets up around that time and takes over, while I take a nap, and Chase makes breakfast. We'll all do breakfast, then Stuart will usually take another nap. It's a pretty good rhythm, but I can't seem to sleep at all between the 11 - 5 AM shift. So, last night we switched it up, and Chase and I swapped shifts.
And my night shift was DOPEEE!!!! The moon finally sank below the horizon for the duration of my shift last night, so I was rewarded with a spectacular star show. Our heading is literally to point the bow at the Southern Cross. How cool is that? There were shooting stars galore and a variety of pretty ominous clouds that blocked out the night sky. We have radar, but given the brightness of the sky, it was relatively easy to spot the clouds, and I did my best to navigate around them. Whether or not we were looking at squalls or just some big, heavy clouds, I don't know. I think we're going to continue that same shift schedule tonight. We've been blessed so far with no squall activity, but we know that we're lucky. Tonight may change that, though rain would not be unwelcome, as the entire boat is covered in a layer of salt (as are we).
Last thing - people keep asking us how we get emails and weather! For those techies out there, I'm running SailMail off of an ICOM M710 connected to a Pactor IIUSB modem. I have been using the KISS counterpoise and an AT-120 tuner. I've insulated my backstay above the split for an antenna. I know the KISS counterpoise is a bit contentious, but so far, I've had no issues, and seem to have better signal than most other boats in the same anchorage. Whether that's to blame on the KISS or some other element of my install, I am not radio-savvy enough to know. I do have an issue where occasionally the Pactor USB cable will lose a connection to my laptop at low frequencies (5-7 MHz). According to some radio gurus, the disconnect is caused by too much RF interference. I added a ton of ferrite chokes to the USB cable and it seems to have solved the issue, mostly. I chose SailMail over WinLink due to ease of use and user support. I don't give out my SailMail address publicly because of the fear of getting spam and clogging the whole system. Instead, we created a Gmail account that my dad manages that collects all website email. He then compiles that traffic into a daily "newsletter" and sends that to us in a SailMail-friendly format.
For the non-technies -- I basically use my radio as dial-up internet to recieve emails. Except it is much, much slower. Just sending out this blog post via radio will take me about 30 minutes to send, text-only. For weather, the application I use to send email through radio also has a catalog where I can download NOAA grib files. I mostly use the GFS model, though I know I should be better at compiling a few different models. I then take those grib files and overlay them onto OpenCPN, which is the navigation tool we use in the cabin (we run Navionics via an iPad in the cockpit). I can plot my estimated positions over the estimated weather and get a good idea of what's to come.
Here is some more mileage information for those interested (all notes taken at 1800 UTC):
Starting Position: 20 44N, 105 23W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 143 nm
Position: 19 37N, 107 30W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 114 nm
Position: 18 46N, 109 13W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 90 nm
Position: 18 16N, 110 38W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 90 nm
Position: 17 42N, 111 57W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 69 nm
Position: 17 16N, 113 6W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 79 nm
Position: 16 53N, 114 20W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 112 nm
Position: 15 49N, 115 48W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 101 nm
Position: 15 20N, 117 24W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 117 nm
Position: 14 47N, 119 15W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 111 nm
Position: 13 57N, 120 55W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 116 nm
Position: 13 2N, 122 35W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 122 nm
Position: 12 32N, 124 33W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 118 nm
Position: 12 19N, 126 29W
Previous 24 hour mileage: 115 nm
Position: 10 30N, 126 59W