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.