Day 87, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Six

Day 87, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Six
Date: Thursday, January 21, 2010
Weather: Clear Skies; NE Winds 12-15
Latitude: 06 degrees 50.956 minutes N
Longitude: 087 degrees 31.182 minutes E
Miles Traveled to Date: 656

Happy Birthday, Sam! We got news this morning from Constance that they are awaiting word on the birth of a grandchild. Maybe Ed’s newest grandchild and Sam will share a birthday. And my first seedlings spouted today, only three days after being planted. I think they were joining in Sam’s birthday celebration.

We haven’t touched a sail since yesterday morning, except for reefing the main at night and unreefing in the morning. The winds have been a steady 12-15 from the NE and we are moving along beautifully, often doing seven knots on a beam reach. We couldn’t ask for better sailing than we have had since Monday. We are staying close to Constance. They were ahead of us all night but a couple of hours ago we caught up with them and are now just a little ahead. I think they could push to go faster, but since we want to stay fairly close our current tactics are working nicely. The next big decision has to do with how we go around Sri Lanka and how we negotiate the traffic lanes there. All of the shipping traffic coming from the Red Sea to Southeast Asia comes that way, so staying out of the traffic lanes as much as possible is a good idea. But if you go too close to Sri Lanka you get in the middle of their fishing fleet and that is no fun at all. But avoiding the fishing boats means heading south across the shipping lanes and then coming back through them when we turn north to Cochin and adds miles to the trip. I, personally, vote for avoiding the fishing fleet and going the extra miles. Decisions, decisions.

The fact that we are going to India is finally becoming a reality. India is such a diverse country with more than a billion people and eighteen official languages. We have no plans for what we will do when we get there. We know we will anchor off Bolgatty Island, the only anchorage available in Cochin. Cochin, now referred to as Kochi, is centrally located in the state of Kerala and most likely we will limit out travels to this area as there is much there to explore.

Not much else to report today. I did laundry. We had tacos for lunch. Yum! And life is good. There are more clouds on the horizon this evening, so who knows what the night will bring. But whatever, we are just so thankful for the past four days of beautiful weather and fair winds.

From 100121 Day 87 Thailand–Happy Birthday, Sam

Day 86, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Five

Day 86, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Five
Date: Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Weather: Clear Skies; NE Winds 12-15
Latitude: 07 degrees 10.271 minutes N
Longitude: 090 degrees 05.582 minutes E
Miles to Go: 1,088

So far we’ve traveled 505 miles, so that makes us almost a third of the way to Cochin. And the time is passing so quickly. We’ve had another good twenty-four hours with no squalls, good wind, beautiful, starry nights, and bright sunny days. We haven’t even touched the sails all day today. I think that’s a first for us. I know this can’t last forever, but we are enjoying it while it lasts.

Mark has finally given up on trying to get the freezer going, so this afternoon we took what was still frozen and put it in the bottom of the refrigerator and I will cook the unfrozen meat and store it in the refrig. I had to take things out of the refrigerator to make room for the meat, and that prompted us to try something else. The refrigerator box and freezer box are side by side with an insulated wall between them. At the bottom and the top, there is an open slot between the two. We keep those slots closed normally, but we opened the bottom one and hope some of the cold air from the refrig will spill over into the freezer compartment. I put the two dozen eggs that I normally keep in the refrig in that compartment, along with bread, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, jam, butter, and yeast. Many cruisers never refrigerate these things, but I will be happier if we can keep them a little cooler than room temperature which is in the 80’s. Once we turned off the freezer, our problem with keeping the batteries charged disappeared. The freezer was pulling a much greater load than normal and draining us of power constantly. Hopefully we can get the freezer fixed in Cochin and it will not draw the excessive amount of power any longer. For a while we thought our problem was our batteries, but now we think it was the freezer all along.

And speaking of power issues, Constance has been battling a battery problem for the past two days. They have two-year-old AGM batteries which should still be functioning great, but they are just not holding a charge at all. According to the sources we have with us out here, it looks like they can be jolted back to life in a couple of different ways, but Ed wants to wait until we reach Cochin to try that. Ed thinks it would be prudent to see what is available there before trying the procedures to revive what he has.

Tomorrow is our grandson Sam’s third birthday. It seems just like yesterday that we flew home from New Zealand after the first year of Windbird’s voyage for his birth. His birthday present from both sets of grandparents and Heather and Jed is a kitchen set. He loves to help Heather and Jed cook and the kitchen is one of his favorite areas at the nursery school. Yesterday Heather had been shopping with Sam and Jonah and when they returned home the kitchen set shows up on the front porch in an enormous box with a photo of the contents on the side. Heather wrote, “We got home from the grocery store and I told Sam to head for the front door, as usual (not noticing the box). I heard “holy moly!” and then “it’s for me! a kitchen for me!” So the cat is very much out of the bag. As I was dragging the box into the house (barely possible for a single person), he was chanting “S-U-P! S-U-P!” which it turns out was supposed to be “U-P-S!” (i.e. hooray for the mail man!). He’s been asking to open the box non-stop, and I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to put him off. So he may get the kitchen early.” So happy birthday a day early to Sam.

Day 85, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Four

Day 85, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Four
Date: Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Weather: Clear Skies; NE Winds 15-20
Latitude: 07 degrees 24.210 minutes N
Longitude: 092 degrees 00.736 minutes E
Miles to Go: 1,203

A Note About Miles to Go: Miles to Go is not an indication of how many miles we have traveled. If you take yesterday’s Miles to Go and subtract today’s, it looks like we have only traveled 86 miles in the last 24 hours, but that is not so. We had to change waypoints yesterday when we got new information on the best way to approach Sri Lanka and that changed the number of miles we have to travel. So the Miles to Go might change considerably as we put in new waypoints or are pushed too far one way or another because of weather. But as of today, our best estimate on the number of miles we have to travel is 1,203.

The good news for today is that Constance got their auto pilot back up and running before sunset last night. The bad news is that sometime during the night, our freezer started getting warmer and warmer and nothing Mark can do is getting it back to freezing. He seems to be able to maintain it at the temp of the refrigerator, but that is not going to keep the meat frozen for long. If it is not improved by morning, I plan to cook all the chicken and pork and eat as much as we can on passage. I think the vacuum packed ground beef, beef sausages, and bacon will keep in the refrig for quite a while, so the challenge will be finding room. This didn’t come as a surprise as we have been having issues with the freezer over the past month, but we did think we had found the problem. Obviously not. So we are just going to have to become vegetarians once again, with a lot of fish thrown in for good measure.

So far, we are having better sailing winds than the weather reports have indicated, ranging from 10 to 20 knots. Today the winds have been 15-20 all day which is perfect. The wind is generally out of the northeast, sometimes a little more easterly and sometimes a little more northerly, so we do have to change the headsail more than a couple of times a day. Basically the wind is behind us and the mainsail has been vanged out to port since we left Thailand. The headsail goes from being poled out to windward so we are sailing wing and wing, to being out on the same side as the main so we are sailing on a broad reach. Wind speed and slight changes in direction dictate which point of sail we are using. We do reef down the main before sunset and then shake out the reef sometime in the morning. This is a pain, but it is security that we will be safe during the night if squalls come through. It would be great if these conditions continued all the way to India, but that’s probably a little too much to ask for.

We haven’t heard from Robert and Tina of Shirena since they first arrived in the Maldives, but if things are going on schedule, Wild Card should be leaving there for Oman in the next day or so. Sounds like Fatty wants to be first out of the gates. Shirena is hoping to stay a few more days and find a couple of boats to sail with to Salalah. Many boats are on their way, and they should start to trickle in soon. This morning on the IO (Indian Ocean) Net a woman named Lu on Skylax had to take over for the net controller back in Phuket. The boat name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t remember ever seeing it. Then I realized that Skylax is the name of Rod Heikell’s boat and his wife is named Lu. Maybe I’m making connections that are not there, but I think not. Heikell is the author of all those very expensive cruising books for the Mediterranean as well as the Indian Ocean Cruising Guide. I have been reading that and thus the familiarity with the boat name. Interesting company out here.

Day 84, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Three

Day 84, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Three
Date: Monday, January 18, 2010
Weather: Overcast AM; Clearing PM; NE Winds 15-20
Latitude: 07 degrees 38.533 minutes N
Longitude: 094 degrees 15.413 minutes E
Miles to Go: 1,297

What a relief. Last night was MUCH better than the night before. We were able to sail with steady winds all starry, starry night. This morning, we shook the reef out of the main and made even better progress, but mid-morning we were threatened with another squall, so we reefed down again. This time it was unnecessary, but better safe than sorry. Once the threat passed, we shook out the reef again and have had a great day of sailing with 15 to 20 knots of wind and sloshy following seas. I don’t think ‘sloshy’ is really a word but when you are sailing downwind in these seas, you do slosh around a bit. There’s a children’s book called Mrs. Wishy Washy and when we are sailing downwind with 20 knots of wind pushing the waves up behind you, I think of myself as Mrs. Slishy Sloshy! Anyway, we’ve averaged 5.5 to 7 knots today even though the headsail has been reefed most of the day. So we will declare today a good sailing day.

We check in via VHF radio with Constance each morning at 9 am and this morning when we reported having a good night, Ed said he wished he could say the same. Their auto-pilot stopped working about 4 am and they have been hand steering ever since. We will talk again at 6:45 pm and hope he has been able to generate some sort of fix. But if not, they are going to continue on to India. It will mean that they will keep their three hour watches around the clock, sleeping on off-watch hours to keep the energy flowing. Hand steering in these seas for days on end could be a real challenge. Lynne crossed the Pacific in the early 1970’s on a boat that was dismasted halfway between the Galapagos and the Marqueses. It took a long time, but she made it to the Marqueses, on to the Tuamotus, and then on to Tahiti with no mast. She made it through that, and she says she will make it through this. Both she and Ed have such a positive attitude. But I’m still hoping for a fix for them. If their back-up drive unit, which is seized up after being on board for fifteen years, doesn’t work, we have a complete back-up for our Raymarine auto pilot, everything except the control unit, that might help. But they have no Raymarine instruments on their boat, so there might be no way they can use what we have. But cruisers can be very creative, so we shall see.

I planted my herb garden today. We bought a couple post in Phuket and Lynne gave us some soil. So I should have sprouting herbs by the time we reach Cochin, India.

Tonight during my 10 to 1 watch, we will leave the Andaman Sea and enter the pass through the Nicobar Islands. When we emerge from the Nicobars, we will be in the Bay of Bengal. This is a huge bay and is bordered on the NW by Myanmar (Burma), on the N by Bangladesh, and on the W by India and the tear-drop shaped island country of Sri Lanka. This is all part of the Northern Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world, coming after the Pacific and the Atlantic. It makes up 20 per cent of the world’s oceans and we are going to see a lot of it this year. So Indian Ocean, here we come!

Day 83, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Two

Day 83, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day Two
Date: Sunday, January 17, 2010
Weather: Clear Skies, E Winds 10
Latitude: 07 degrees 41.542 minutes N
Longitude: 095 degrees 58.231 minutes E
Miles to Go: 1,399

What a night we had for our first day of this passage. It was literally the worst passage night we have ever had, but all is well now and as I write this log we are moving along on much calmer seas with main and spinnaker. In the late afternoon, the winds have stayed somewhere between 6 and 12 knots and it is directly behind us. So we are just gently rolling along. But back to last night’s story. During Mark’s watch from 7-10 pm we had about 10-12 knots of wind, so we had the full headsail out and the main was not reefed. We assumed that the winds would remain the same during the rest of the night, but shortly after I came on watch, I started seeing lightening in the distance. The sky looked clear and I could see no dark clouds, so I just continued as we had been. Then just before midnight, all hell broke loose. We went from 12 knots to 30 in about two seconds and I could hear clanging and banging below as things were thrown every which way. I had a very hard time getting the boat back in control and just headed straight downwind. Since Mark was basically thrown out of bed, he came up to help but there was nothing we could do while the winds were so strong and seas so rough. The first squall subsided but I was confident that it was just the calm before another one hit. We just got the headsail reefed and were ready to reef the main when we were hit again. This time we got gusts to 40 but I tried my best to keep us running with the wind. That meant we were headed SW at a very fast clip when we really wanted to go directly W, but we had no other choice. This time there was no calm, but when the winds calmed to 20-25 Mark was up on deck getting the main reefed. Finally, we felt a little more in control and jibed back to the NE to make up for the side trip south. I have never needed Mark to stay up for more than a short period to adjust sails during a night watch, but last night it was 1:30 before he got back to bed and we were still roaring along with 20-25 knot winds. I stayed on watch until 3:00 and then it took us thirty minutes to readjust sails and jibe once again. This year we installed a new gadget called a Jibe-Easy and it sure earned its worth last night. Neither of us got a lot of sleep last night, but we did nap today and are hoping for a better night tonight. And you aren’t going to believe this. Constance was about 5-6 miles behind us last night, got hit with a little squall at 11 pm and then had winds no higher than 20 for the rest of the night. This morning they were about 6 miles ahead of us and further north, but Lynne just called and said that they can see us behind them now, so we have caught up during the day.

We have had some strange wave conditions that even Constance has never seen on this path in their trips to and from the Chagos. We go through areas that look like overfalls. The swells have hundreds of little peaked white caps on them that rise upward like little spouts. I have called this the dancing waters, but we have no idea what is causing this. We had a nice encounter with dolphins this morning and have had a good day. So we will reef the main at dusk, bring in the spinnaker and pole out the headsail for the night. We will be prepared for those squalls if they come again. No more wild rides!

Day 82, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day One

Day 82, Year 5: Passage to Cochin, Day One
Date: Saturday, January 16, 2010
Weather: Clear Skies, Winds 2-12, Backing E to W
Latitude: 07 degrees 51.625 minutes N
Longitude: 097 degrees 45.101 minutes E
Miles to Go: 1,505

We are on our way to India at last, but it has been a mixed day. We planned to leave at 8 am but there was absolutely NO wind. So we delayed departure two hours hoping the winds would come. Well, minimal wind came, we left, and we have had a day of sailing with light winds, using the spinnaker, motor sailing, floundering, and then motor sailing again. Constance is braving it out without the motor assist, so they are behind us, barely visible on the horizon right now as the sun is setting.. The sea is glassy with swells. We have no idea where these swells are coming from, but it is the swells that make sailing in light winds most difficult. And when I say light winds, I am referring to less than 2-3 knots. We’re not sure what we will do for the night. We might turn off the engine and just slowly move ever so slightly forward if the swell subsides, but if it does not, we will probably continue to motor slowly.

When we first got up we made calls to our kids, my sister, and my brother, although I got no answer there and had to leave a message. Our first call was to Heather, Jed, Sam, and Jonah. They were eating dinner and using the speaker phone so we got to hear all of them. Jonah was silent while I was talking, but once Mark started talking, he went into high babble gear. It was neat to hear Sam chime in. When we said we were leaving Thailand, he immediately said bye-bye, so he obviously understood. Next we reached Jo and found that she had quite a trip home from England, but made it safe and sound with Ziggy in tow. It was still early evening in New Mexico and Justin wasn’t home yet. So unfortunately we didn’t get to talk to him. But Ziggy was there in the background doing his normal dinosaur squeals. So we heard him loud and clear. Last night Mark tried to call his siblings but had to be content with leaving messages. But even though we didn’t connect with everyone, we were almost successful in using the entire CAT international calling card that we paid $10 US for and got ten hours of phone time. I sure hope they have something like this in India. We also made contact with Larry at East Marine and with Crystal Blue. These are good friends we are unlikely to see again.

While waiting to leave this morning, I trimmed Mark’s hair and he cut mine. My hair was down to my waist and was getting unruly, so taking off a few inches seems to have helped. Just as I finished trimming Mark’s hair, the wind came, albeit minimal. But we left anyway. Our goal for today was to get beyond the fishing fleets before dark and that we did. At least, we think we did. The true test will be after the sun sets. If we start to see lights, then we’ll know we didn’t make it. The trip to Cochin is 1,537 miles and we have only come 32 miles so far, but it still feels really good to be out here. Mark and I both love passages, so we are hoping for just a little more wind, not too much, so we can glide ever slowly westward.