Day 148, Year 1: Sixth Day, Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos

Day 148, Year 1: Sixth Day, Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos
Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Weather and Wind: Clear skies and calm seas; winds 1 to 6 knots SSW
Daytime Air Temperature: 81 degrees F daytime
Water Temperature: 79 degrees F and dropping
Latitude: 00 degrees 14 minutes
Longitude: 088 degrees 40 minutes
Location: Panama to Galapagos Passage, Day 6
Miles to 00 degrees 00 minutes:

Tonight is the night. We will reach the equator about 2030 and should be anchored in Puerto Ayoro in the Galapagos by mid-afternoon tomorrow. The excitement is building!

Today was a very quiet day. As the full moon set in the West around 0630 this morning, we had a subtle, but beautiful, sunrise in the East. During the night, Mark wrote another installment of Captain’s Ramblings. That is copied below. Our next log will come to you from the Galapagos. And for those reading this, don’t forget to celebrate with us tonight at about 8:30 PM EST.

Captain’s Ramblings II:

Maybe this is the way sailing is for my multi-hull friends (Is this right Ron & Suzie?). I can set a drink down and not worry about it spilling. Well, actually I worry because I am a mono-hull sailor and everything falls off the table when we sail – usually. But now everything is staying put. We are not heeled over. And yet we are doing six to seven knots. We are on a broad reach with light winds and no waves, just the large, gentle Pacific swell. The swell is so large that it hides the boat traveling with us up to above the boom – probably eight feet or so. But the distance between swells must be several hundred yards so we hardly feel them. Instead of rocking over the waves like a hobby horse, we gently rise with the swell and slide softly down the other side. The effect is mesmerizing. I can understand why Balboa (it was Balboa, wasn’t it) called it the “Pacific.” It is so peaceful.

Of course, we are not always sailing. This is the Doldrums after all. We have probably motored about half the time on the trip from Panama to the Galapagos. Because we want to conserve on fuel we have gone slow. Motoring at 1800 RPM’s we use about half a gallon of diesel per hour. At 2400 RPM’s we use a little more than a gallon per hour. But while fuel consumption is doubled, speed is only increased about 20 percent: from about 5 knots to 6 knots. We are in no hurry, so the extra speed is just not worth it. Besides, we have had a positive current with us of about one and a half to two knots for almost the entire passage. So our five knots turns into almost seven knots over the bottom. Motoring at 1800 is also a lot quieter. The hum of the engine is always with us, but it is not loud so that we don’t even notice it and feel almost as though we were sailing.

Since our computer stopped working a couple days ago we have decided to buy a new one. My immediate thought was that I needed to talk to someone who knew what the best computers for the money were. So I used the satellite phone to call Steve Bothwick who is the computer guru for New Hampshire Public Radio. Doreen Kilby answered the phone at the office and I was suddenly back home again and feeling very much among friends. We bought our satellite phone from Doreen, whose husband had it when he was stationed in Afghanistan. She got Steve on the phone and, sure enough, he had the answers I needed. Then he transferred me to Maureen Anderson because I so wanted to talk to everyone on the staff and I knew that Maureen would convey my feelings to them. It was a short call (satellite phone calls are expensive), but I was reminded of just how much I miss all the crew at NHPR, the staff and the board. I spent a lot of time in the hours after that call thinking of each and every friend I have back there.

When I think of all our friends, I want to write them each a personal letter. But then, it doesn’t get done. I just can’t seem to find time. You would think that we would have lots of time in this lifestyle. After all, we are retired (at least for now) and we are sailing, which is supposed to be a relaxing activity. And it is relaxing. But it is also demanding. We get up every day with a list of things that need to be done. Judy writes about some of them in our log. The ocean is a harsh environment. Metals rust, salt builds up on everything exposed, and the constant movement of the boat causes chafe and wear on all sorts of things. The sun deteriorates any finish so that varnishing of wood is a never-ending job. Canvas covers and shades need water-proofing. Stitching deteriorates in the hot tropical sun and needs to be re-sewn. And computers and cameras stop working because of the humid environment. We patch torn sails, sew webbing on areas of the dodger and bimini prone to chafe, sand and varnish woodwork, clean scum off the bottom of the dingy and off the waterline of the boat, change the engine oil and filters, replace a broken bolt on the alternator, grease the pump mechanism on the head, and put grease in the gear box of the water-maker. And the list goes on and on. But I am not complaining. After all, the definition of cruising is “working on your boat in exotic locations.” How else could I get to these exotic locations! And once there, we have to tear ourselves away from boat work to enjoy the place we visit. For those of you who know us, Judy and I have always drunk life from a fire hose. We don’t know how to do anything half way. We are constantly trying to fit ten activities into the time that any sane person would only attempt one or two. And we love it that way. So, if we don’t write, at least we hope our friends will read our logs (which are our letters home, after all) and keep us in their thoughts as they are in ours.


060314 Day 148 Crossing the Equator

Day 147, Year 1: Fifth Day, Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos

Day 147, Year 1: Fifth Day, Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos
Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2006
Weather and Wind: Clear skies; winds 8-12 early SW, 1-5 knots later SSW
Daytime Air Temperature: 83 degrees F daytime, 81 degrees F at night
Water Temperature: 83 degrees F
Latitude: 01 degrees 42 minutes
Longitude: 086 degrees 50 minutes
Location: Panama to Galapagos Passage, Day 5
Miles to Go: 165

What a glorious morning we had today. The almost full moon set about 0630 and by 0900 the skies were clear and we were sailing in 8 to 12 knots of wind. This was unexpected, and a peaceful retreat from the constant hum of the engine. The seas out here are very calm. There are swells, but they are ever so gentle. We still have a favorable current of about 2 knots carrying us along and if all goes well, we will arrive in Puerto Ayoro, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador between noon and 1600 on Wednesday-much earlier than we had predicted.

We had a delightful breakfast this morning. I sliced some apples, cheese, made some toast and cut up some of the best mangos we have ever tasted. It is hard to describe the feeling of total contentment that comes from having a relaxed early morning breakfast while sailing gently along on peaceful seas.

Mid-morning we spotted what we think were white sharks off our port side. Glad we hadn’t decided to jump in for a swim. While we were sailing, Mark took advantage of the time to change the oil, the oil filter, and fuel filter. Then we started the hunt for inline filters for our forward head. This boat is not that big, but after an entire day of turning the boat inside out, we did not find the filters. We are going to try again tomorrow. Sometime during the hunt, the wind died and we had to start the engine once again, but motoring along on these calm seas is certainly more relaxing than any motoring we did in the Atlantic.

Tomorrow night we should cross the equator. Evidently there are “crossing the line” rituals that must be followed. Our daughter Heather sent this from Wikipedia: ‘Seafaring tradition maintains that all sailors who cross the equator during a nautical voyage must undergo rites of passage and elaborate rituals initiating them into The Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep. These rituals date back to the Middle Ages, though the current ceremonies are most likely derived from Viking traditions. Those who have never “crossed the line” are derisively referred to as “pollywogs” or simply “slimy wogs”. Upon completion of the initiation ceremony, the wogs are then known as “trusty
shellbacks”. Generally, the initiation rituals include a dunking in or dousing with seawater, suspension of pay (which some websites say in modern days has been supplanted with an offering to Neptune of coins from the last port of call), being forced to eat gross concoctions, and groveling at the feet of a fully costumed, seaweed-draped “Neptune”.’ Heather went to say, “Of course, all of this is followed by a raucous party with much rum (some say champagne can be substituted). And, of course, Neptune must be cut in on the party as well. What to do when you have no shellbacks on hand is a bit of a dilemma, but I think at the very least a bucket of seawater per person and a couple of good stiff rum drinks are in order. :)”

My take on this is that anyone reading this log should celebrate with us by dousing a loved one with a bucket (or a glass) of water at about 2200 tomorrow night. That should be the time when we reach the equator under the light of a full moon. I think it is a good omen that we are crossing on the night of the full moon-and I don’t think I will need to worry about any howling wolves out here. Mark and I think a good dousing of sea water followed by drinking a bottle of the wine we first drank together 33 years ago should suffice as our celebration. In anticipation of this event, I have had a bottle of Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fouisse hidden away. And of course, we will send coins from previous ports overboard as our offering to Neptune. Let us know if you join in the celebration.

Day 146, Year 1: Fourth Day, Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos

Day 146, Year 1: Fourth Day, Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos
Date: Monday, March 12, 2006
Weather and Wind: Clear skies early, cloudy later; winds 1 to 5 knots SW
Daytime Air Temperature: 83 degrees F daytime, 81 degrees F at night
Water Temperature: 83 degrees F
Latitude: 03 degrees 04 minutes
Longitude: 084 degrees 56 minutes
Location: Panama to Galapagos Passage, Day 4
Miles to Go: 305

We are definitely in “The Doldrums”. The water is warmer and so is the air temperature. And there is no wind. It is 2000 and I am starting the first 3 hour watch of the night. The GPS tells me that at our current motoring speed of 6.8 knots, we have 43 hours and 53 minutes until we get to the equator. That is not quite all the way to the Galapagos, but very close. And I can’t believe we might really be in Puerto Ayoro on Santa Cruz Island by Wednesday. We have a favorable current going our way that is boosting our speed by 1.5 to 2 knots. Our actual boat speed is only 4.8 knots, but that current is giving us a 2 knot boost right now. If it stays with us, that will be great. If it doesn’t, we will be traveling slower and will probably not arrive until Thursday. We’ll just have to see how things go.

I “think” I saw a sea turtle basking in the sun on top of the water today. We weren’t very close, so I had to look through the binoculars. I’m not positive, but it sure looked like a turtle to me. The only other sea life we have seen in the past 24 hours is a little black sea bird with white on the underside. I think it is a petrel, but I’m not sure. She followed us for most of the late afternoon and evening. Every once in a while, she would sit on the water and it looked like she was drinking sea water. Is that possible? There are domestic dogs that have gone wild on one of the Galapagos Islands that have adapted to drinking sea water. If I were a sea bird, I think I would want that same ability.

Not much else to report today. We continue to do boat maintenance during the day and read at night. I’ve read and reread the Natural History of the Galapagos trying to memorize some of the information. It will help me to know what I am seeing once we start exploring. There is always more to learn than there is time to learn it, but I have gotten a good head start on learning about–what to me–is one of the most fascinating places on earth. I can’t wait to see the giant tortoises. Only two island groups in the world are inhabited by these creatures: Aldabra Island in the Seychelles and the Galapagos Islands. And then there are Darwin’s finches, one of which, the carpenter finch, that actually uses sticks as tools . . . and the blue-footed boobies and waved albatrosses that perform fascinating mating dances. Did you know that the waved albatross only reproduces on one island in the Galapagos and no where else in the world? And then there are the flightless cormorants and the Galapagos penguins . . . and the sea lions and . . . to be continued tomorrow.

Day 145, Year 1: Caught . . . Off the Coast of Columbia

Day 145, Year 1: Caught . . . Off the Coast of Columbia
Date: Saturday, March 11, 2006
Daytime Air Temperature: 83 degrees F
Weather and Wind: Sunny with a few clouds; winds 10-15 E/SE
Water Temperature: Didn’t Check Today
Latitude: 04 degrees 38 minutes
Longitude: 082 degrees 45 minutes
Location: Panama to Galapagos Passage, Day 3
Miles Traveled: 400
Miles to Go: 498

Today was the third day of Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos. When I sent yesterday’s log, I mentioned that we were still in what I call “frantic” mode and not really settled into our watch schedule. So as the evening of day two approached, again we had worked all day and we were tired. I went down to get some rest at some point, and was awakened from my brief sleep by Mark talking on the VHF radio to Patrick on Aqua Magic. As I have mentioned, we are traveling in tandem with Aqua Magic and keep in regular radio contact. While I had been sleeping, Mark and Patrick spotted the lights of a boat headed directly for us. It is unusual to have a boat heading that directly for you, so they decided to alter course. They figured it was either a pirate situation or a fishing boat trying to shoo us away from a netted area. But when they altered course, the boat did as well. That made them think it was not a fishing boat. They turned off the running lights and played cat and mouse with this boat for a while. Finally, after altering course to head almost due north, the boat headed behind us. By this time, I was up and on the radar and spotted another boat. After watching carefully for quite some time, it appeared to be going behind us, so we relaxed a little and Mark turned in for his first sleep of the night. I think it was almost 0200 and he left me with directions to slowly resume our course. As I did so, I immediately saw more lights ahead. I got Mark up and asked for his opinion on what to do. At first there was one boat, and then another. Mark recommended that we alter course again to go around the boats. I talked with Patrick on the radio and we decided to go around leaving these boats to starboard. Then another boat appeared and we spotted flashing green strobe lights in the distance. Patrick was sure that we were entering an area with fishing nets and that the flashing lights were probably guard boats to warn us to keep out of the netted area. Once again we altered course. It became evident that the lighted boats were not moving, indicating that they were indeed fishing boats. After we passed the third boat, the flashing strobe light started moving clockwise until it was finally behind us. We really couldn’t figure out what was happening, but we thought it was safe to resume course. As I did so, I realized that this was taking me closer to the last boat than I liked, but I thought we were probably fine. Just as I thought all was well, I heard Patrick on the VHF telling me that he was caught in a fishing net. He was right behind me, so we couldn’t figure out how I had escaped, but I had and he asked if I could come back to stand by to help. At this point, I got Mark up again and we decided to head back ever so slowly. Patrick had gone into the water by this time to access the situation and it didn’t look good. The net was huge and was wrapped around his rudder, his sail drive, and his prop-and maybe even the entire keel. We were going to have to sit tight until first light and then use our snuba gear to dive on the boat and cut Aqua Magic free.

Being at sea, we couldn’t set an anchor, so we kept the motor running and put it gear when we were drifting too close the fishing boat or to Aqua Magic. I thought we were getting way to close to the fishing boat and Mark put the boat in gear to move away. And then . . . Thunk! We immediately disengaged, but it was too late. Now we were caught as well. Then we heard the bilge pump come on, go off, come on again. Obviously, water was coming into the bat. There is a packing gland around the prop shaft that keeps sea water from coming into the bilge, but evidently the pressure on the prop from the net was causing a problem and we were taking on enough water to keep that bilge pump busy. Mark quickly fixed that problem, but obviously we were a bit shaken. It was about 0415 at this point, so there was nothing to do but wait for day break. I fried some eggs and made toast knowing that once we had daylight, we would have a couple of hours of work to do to get ourselves freed and we would need the energy to do that. Then I laid down to catch a quick nap. Mark stayed on watch.

I awoke suddenly when I head strange voices yelling at us. The sun had come up and the fishing boat was trying to get our attention. They needed to bring their net in and we were certainly in their way. The fishermen looked friendly enough and didn’t appear to be angry with us for fouling their line. The boat was an old one with more rust than paint, but I could read the name on the back-the Queen Elizabeth flying a Columbian flag. She had come to free us!

Mark had all the dive gear out and ready to go, so he quickly put on his dive skin and got into the water. The fishing boat came closer. It was just a little disconcerting to have a fishing boat flying a Columbian flag come along side us with one man waving a very long knife at me, but I understand that he wanted Mark to cut loose the netting-at least that is what I hoped he wanted. Mark had already gone down without a knife and thought he might be able to get us loose without harming the net, but that was wishful thinking. I went below to get a big knife the size the man on the fishing boat was continuing to wave at me. I gave that to Mark and now the fishing boat was right beside us which was pushing the netting against the hull. I was afraid Mark was going to get caught in the net. The fisherman spoke no English and I speak no Spanish, but I smiled and motioned for them to pull away slowly. They understood and started to back off, but in backing away they turned were not in front of us. The fishermen on deck were pushing off our bow pulpit. Finally they were at a safe distance, so I relaxed a little. All of the fishermen seemed very nice and had obviously had this situation before. They wanted to know my name and I wished that I could have talked with them as we waited for Mark to come up again. Finally, he emerged and it was evident that the net was loose from Windbird. Now I motioned to the fisherman that there was a second boat caught in the long line. Aqua Magic was probably a good half mile away from us and at the end of the line. We headed that way, but saw that there was no way for us to get close to them. There were floats all around them. We decided to put our dinghy in the water so that Mark could motor over to them with the snuba gear. Patrick was going to need our gear in order to dive down long enough to cut Aqua Magic free. Thank goodness the seas were fairly calm. When I lowered the dinghy motor, it was evident that we were in the ocean and not in a quiet anchorage, but we got the motor in place and Mark took off. All I had to do was keep Windbird from drifting back into the net. After what seemed like hours, I saw that Aqua Magic was motoring toward me with Mark in tow. The Queen Elizabeth was reeling in the long line and it was time to move on.

By the time we got the motor and dinghy back on deck and stored away, and got all of the snuba equipment washed down and ready to put away, it was almost 0900. That’s the time for the Panama Pacific Net that we check into each morning. Mark went down to get on the radio, and right then I spotted whales all around us. All I wanted was a quiet, peaceful, uneventful day, but the whales had chosen this time to visit. After what we had just been through, I was sure that we were going to be hit by a whale, but we survived. They were pilot whales and there were a couple that dove under the boat, but they quickly moved on. Whew! Now I was really ready for an uneventful day.

After the net, it became apparent that the light winds of the night had strengthened and that we needed to set sail. Aqua Magic had already done this and they were pulling quickly ahead of us. We put up the main and the headsail and had an absolutely delightful day sailing on calm Pacific seas. The red tide has disappeared, so the water is once again blue. We were able to sail all day and continue to have a 1.5 to 2 knot current heading in our direction. Even with our “detour” last night, we are still making great time. As the sun set this evening, the winds died down, so we are now motoring into the night. I am on first watch and so far there have been no other boats in sight. I could really go for a night with no lights in sight other than the moon and Aqua Magic’s running lights..

One note about the snuba gear. When we bought this gear at the Annapolis Boat Show, it seemed like a lot of money to pay for something we might not use. We attach the snuba motor/generator to our starting battery and attached the long yellow hoses to the generator. It pumps air into the hoses and allows you have air for diving just as a dive tank would do. This allows us to dive for maintenance purposes or to dive off the boat or the dinghy for pleasure. It’s a little loud and takes time to set us, but it sure paid for itself today. The snuba gear gets our stamp of approval as a necessary item on a cruising boat. If you have dive tanks, of course, you wouldn’t need this equipment. But one or the other is absolutely necessary once you are out here and have to be totally self-sufficient. You never know when you might get caught in a long line and have to set yourself free!!

060311 Day 145 Caught Off the Coast of Columbia

Day 144, Year 1: Second Day of Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos

Day 144, Year 1: Second Day of Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos
Date: Friday, March 10, 2006
Weather and Wind: Sunny with a few clouds; variable winds 3 to 10 knots N/NE
Daytime Air Temperature: 83 degrees F
Water Temperature: 77 degrees F
Latitude: 05 degrees 48 minutes
Longitude: 081 degrees 17 minutes
Location: Panama to Galapagos Passage, Day 2

We had a great sail last night, but we have motoring all afternoon. At this point, it looks like we will be motoring through the evening. We are still in frantic mode, so maybe tomorrow things will settle down. There always seem to be so many things that need to be done, and then there are the things that break and malfunction that take all of your attention. Today’s major issues are that the water maker is still not functioning properly after yesterday’s “fix” and our main computer refused to boot this evening. Frightening! But then, that’s is the cruising life, and that’s why you have to have spares and back-ups for everything.

All day today we have passed areas where there is red tide as far as you can see. It looks like rivers of blood streaming through the ocean. We had thought that the water quality would improve when we got out of the Gulf of Panama, but that has not happened. The water temperature is definitely increasing, going up to 77 degrees today, but evidently it needs to get warmer before we get out of this red tide situation.

When I got up this morning, Mark was in cockpit with my little computer typing away. He said that he was just recording his thoughts. I decided to call his thoughts “Captain’s Ramblings” and include them as part of today’s log. Some of what he says is a repeat of what I talked about yesterday, but then, he didn’t get to read yesterday’s log as I was posting it after my 1900 to 2200 watch and he was on duty. Here are the ramblings . . .

S/V Windbird
Captain’s Ramblings

I am writing while on watch in the cockpit on the second day of our passage to the Galapagos. Though it is 8:30 AM, Judy is asleep below. She took a long watch in the middle of the night so is using this time to catch up on her sleep. We have not found doing watches as difficult as we thought before setting out. In fact, we each tend to stay on watch longer than scheduled so we can let the other sleep more. We tend to use our watches for reading. It seems we get little reading in during the days as we have so many chores to keep us busy. For instance, today we will clean more stainless, finish cleaning the bottom of the dingy which is turned bottom up on the foredeck, and check the water level in the batteries.

Cleaning stainless is a never-ending job. It is almost impossible to keep ahead of the surface rust that builds up in the salt water environment. Two materials take more maintenance than everything else put together – wood and stainless. We have wood decks, wood handrails, and decorative wood around the cockpit and the companionway. All but the deck need to be varnished regularly as the sun breaks down the finish. We probably have about ten to fifteen coats on most of our wood. Luckily the deck only needs regular washing with salt water – which it gets naturally when sailing, but requires a minimal amount of effort when at anchor for a long time.

We are motoring this morning as the wind has dropped below 9 knots from astern. We had great wind overnight and sailed for about eight hours. The trip to the Galapagos is known for having no wind as we must pass through the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ – or commonly known as the Doldrums). Often the ITCZ is wide enough to encompass all of the Galapagos as well as an area well north and south of the islands. That we still have some breeze is mainly due to a headland to our north that intensifies any wind that is funneled by it. We passed that headland during the night and it gave us 20 knots of wind for great sailing.

We have kept our speed down in order to conserve fuel. At 2400 RPM’s our engine uses about one gallon of diesel per hour and we will motor at about five and a half to six knots. At 1800 RPM we use only a half gallon of fuel per hour and motor at four and a half to five knots. Though we may not get there as fast, we should have enough fuel to motor all the way if we have to. The total trip from Las Perlas (a group of islands about 35 miles off Panama) is about 885 miles. We carry about 180 gallons of diesel in the boat’s tanks and another 20 gallons in jerry cans on deck. So with a total of 200 gallons at two hours per gallon we can motor for about 400 hours. If we make 4.5 knots all that time our range should be about 1800 miles – or twice as far as the Galapagos. Of course, we don’t count on being able to use all the fuel (some is in the bottom of the tanks below the pick-up tube) and if we have head winds we won’t make as good a mileage. But being very conservative we should easily make 1000 miles if needed.

I just took a break from writing to log into the Panama Pacific Net on the Single Sideband Radio. There are many nets for cruisers. They serve both as a way to get information, including weather, to stay in touch with friends made along the way, and as a safety net. The Pan Pacific Net is for cruisers leaving Panama for the Galapagos but also serves cruisers from the west coast of Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and south to Ecuador, and a few who have left the Galapagos for the Marquesas in French Polynesia. When we check in with the net we give our boat name, radio license, names of all on board (first names only – a curious fact of life out here is that people are known by their first names and the boat they are on – “Mark & Judy on Windbird”), our position, weather conditions, and we are given a chance to call another boat we may want to get a message to (this is called “traffic”). Aqua Magic with Patrick & Margaret from Great Britain is sailing within sight of us and Windcastle with Doug & Sylvia are about 40 miles behind us but part of our little group. We have our own net at 6:00 PM each day just to check in and chat with each other.

I just started the water maker. Yesterday I took it apart to oil the gear housing. We have had some problems with the water maker on this trip. It hadn’t really been used since we bought the boat and it leaked. So I used a set of spare seals and rebuilt the pump. Then the water still tasted salty so we ordered new membranes (Salt water is pushed through the membranes under high pressure. Somehow fresh water comes out of one outlet and the excess salt water out of the other.). At that point we had just about fixed everything there is to fix except changing the oil in the gear housing. When we ran the water maker yesterday it started squeaking. So… time to change the oil. Our water maker is pretty low capacity by today’s standards. It produces about three and a half gallons per hour. Some of today’s watermakers produce ten times that much. Lots of water makes it easier to shower as often as you like! Since we are motoring anyway, the electric usage makes no difference.

Electricity is a big concern when cruising. We have not tied to a dock where we could plug in to electricity since we left Boston. Lights, fans, computers, autopilot, music, ham radio, toaster, microwave, refrigerator, freezer, more fans, etc., etc., have all been powered by electricity we generate. Some use 12 volts DC, some 120 volt AC. But is all comes from our batteries. AC power is produced by an inverter. We charge the batteries in one of three ways: running the engine which has an oversized alternator (220 amps) on it, solar power, and a wind generator. We like to run the engine as little as possible to charge batteries to save wear and tear on the engine and to conserve fuel. Of course, when we have to motor, the engine is doing double duty (triple duty if you include the fact that we are making water, too). Wind power worked great in the Caribbean where winds averaged 20 knots. Our generator puts out a lot of power at that wind speed. It was a good thing it did because we had a lot of overcast and some rainy days that kept the solar panels from producing electricity. Now, in the Pacific we have the opposite problem–not enough wind to power the wind generator, but lots of solar power. Of course, neither of these is enough to make us totally free of running the engine. On a sunny, breezy day we may not run the engine but every other day. More usually we will have to run it between one and two hours a day.

A final note for the day: Sometimes we get e-mail or the comments people have left on the web site. We rarely get a chance to answer these since they come to us on an account that we can only access when at a high speed internet connection. So I just want to let all the folks who have written know that we really appreciate your comments and hope you will keep them coming. It is really important to us to hear from old friends and work associates. We do miss our interactions with you and look to the emails as a vital contact. We will try to write back when we can and in the meantime hope you will accept our daily logs as our letters to you.


Day 143, Year 1: First Day, Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos

Day 143, Year 1: First Day, Windbird’s Passage to the Galapagos
Date: Thursday, March 09, 2006
Weather and Wind: Sunny with a few clouds; variable winds 3 to 10 knots N/NW
Daytime Air Temperature: 73 degrees F
Water Temperature: 71 degrees F
Latitude: 07 degrees 20 minutes
Longitude: 079 degrees 25 minutes
Location: Passage from Panama to Galapagos

It takes a while to get into the passage groove and we definitely didn’t get there today. We are still in the frantic mode, but by tomorrow we will probably settle into the rhythm. We left Rio Cacique at 0700. Aqua Magic came behind us and Windcastle stayed behind to do some final preparations. They got underway around 1500. We had absolutely no wind this morning and the seas were glassy smooth as we left the anchorage. We have motored all day, most of the day with the headsail out, but as I write this log in the late evening, winds have built to 15 and we are finally sailing. More than likely we will have to motor most of the way to the Galapagos. Anytime you are this close to the equator, there is very little wind. We had hoped for wind today and tomorrow while we are still close to land, but that didn’t happen today. We’ll hope that tonight’s winds continue into tomorrow. We will not cross the equator until we are almost in the Galapagos so the light wind situation will probably be with us for the duration.

When we motor, we are going at 1800 rpm’s which gives us about 4.5 to 5 knots. This is slower than we usually travel, but at this speed we use about a half a gallon of fuel each hour-half as much as we would use if we went faster. We carry 180 gallons in our tanks and have 20 gallons on deck in jerry cans. If we conservatively figure that we have 140 usable gallons in our tanks, we should be able to travel 1400 miles. It is about 890 to the Galapagos, so we actually have about a 50% margin of error, not counting the cans on deck. Depending on our speed, we could arrive in the Galapagos in 7 to 11 days, sometime between March 14 and March 20. Aqua Magic is planning on staying close to us, so if either of us should run into trouble, we will have the other one to help out. We are also checking into the Panama Pacific Net each morning and talking with Windcastle once a day. There are at least 3 boats about 3 days in front of us and there are another 4 to 6 boats in the Las Perlas waiting to leave, so there will be boats coming behind us. Looks like we should have plenty of company!

The morning started out nice and slow, but then Mark and I both got into high gear cleaning and repairing. If found a few more clothes that needed to be washed and on the first morning of a passage, I always clean all of the clear plastic “windows” in the cockpit, making visibility just a bit better. Mark worked on stainless and I cleaned the bottom of the dinghy-which sits upside down on the foredeck when we are sailing.. I cleaned the inflatable part last night, but didn’t have a chance to scrub the hard bottom. It turned a lovely color of brownish-orange while we were in Panama, so it took some “miracle polish” to whiten it again. We listened to the morning Panama Pacific Net and later in the day tuned in to Southbound II to get our marching orders for the next 24 hours. Somewhere in there, the water maker started making a terrible noise, so Mark looked into that while I continued to clean the dinghy. Just about the time we should have been winding down for the day, I heard the fishing reel buzzing and went back to find we had caught a shipjack tuna.-only 17 inches long, but since it was the first fish that Mark and I have ever caught without the help of our daughter Heather, we were very excited. Mark was knee deep into the water maker, so I cleaned the fish. It is enough to convince you that we should all be vegetarians, but I was successful. By the time all of this was done, it was time for Mark to sleep for a couple hours before dinner and first watch at 2000, but we also wanted to check in at 1800 with Aqua Magic and Windcastle on the radio. And then we got just a bit more wind and decided to put up the mainsail. So instead of sending this log at 1600, it will be sent at 2200 when I go off watch and Mark comes on. So instead of Mark doing the 2000 to 2300 first shift, I came on watch at 1900 and he will come on at 2200. As always, flexibility is the name of the game.

Today we said goodbye to the pelicans of Las Perlas and had brown boobies following and playing around us much of the day. We thought we had left the red tide behind, but it is in full bloom in the Gulf of Panama and reared its ugly head in the late afternoon hours. Hopefully by tomorrow morning when we are out of the gulf, the water quality will improve.

I’m writing this log by the light of the moon. The moon will be full on March 14, so we will have the luxury of moonlight for our passage. Unfortunately, the moon is coming up early in the afternoon and will set sometime in the wee hours of the morning, so we won’t have the light all night. But some light is better than none. Let’s just hope the winds continue all through the night and into tomorrow.

060309 Day 143 First Day of Passage from Las Perlas to Galapagos