Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 17 Roundup

July 23, 2012, 1926 UTC
09 21.310 S, 130 18.278 W
Day 17

Hello, friends. Greetings from the morning of Day 17. As we were warned, long passages are a bit of a roller coaster ride - sometimes everything is great, the sun is shining, the fish are biting, and you are blistering along at 9 knots. And sometimes, everyone is turning into Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining, and you wonder if full complement of Papillon is going to arrive at the other end.

Here is a brief overview of the past week:

Day 7: A winner! With the main and mizzen spinnakers flying, we were making great time. Erik caught a mahi-mahi for dinner. A great meal to end a great day.

Night of Day 7: Worst. Night. Ever. In short: tack ring tore out of main spinnaker. Repaired. Tack pennant blew on main spinnaker => snap shackle failed on mizzen backstay (in only 10 knots of wind) => mizzen mast bent forward like a bendy straw. Stabilized the mizzen. Skied a halyard. Yelling ensued.

Day 9 - A pod 20-30 dolphins swam with the boat for about half an hour. It was the absolute highlight of the passage. I will post a video when we reach the Marquesas, and you will all cry with jealousy.

Day 10 - The once-again-repaired main spinnaker tore itself apart completely. We are now without a light-wind sail. We are getting by sailing wing-in-wing (main out one side, jib poled out the other.) This is rolly, slow, and less than ideal.

Day 11- Freighter Forest Kishu kindly agrees not to run us down in the middle of the night.

Day 12 - The One That Got Away. Erik hooked a huge fish, fought it for ages, then lost it when the hook chafed through the leader cable at the eye.

Day 15 - Erik caught a tuna for dinner. Good, but not as good as the mahi-mahi. We are now very picky about our fish. I can no longer tell the difference between Velveeta and Roquefort, but fish we know.

Day 16 - The freighter Manon passed by in - you guessed it - the middle of the night. Thankfully, collision was not imminent.

Every Darn Day - Erik travels up and down the main mast hanging and adjusting chafe gear. Because stuff on a boat likes to break other stuff on a boat! Yours truly mans the winch handle, and is developing overly-muscular arms. The girls and I spent a morning making new baggywrinkle, but we didn't have enough old line aboard to make as much as we'd like. Hopefully we've covered the worst of it.

We should reach Fatu Hiva in a few days. We'll take a more serious look at the mizzen, then move on to Nuku Hiva. Wish us some boring, routine sailing between here and there.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pets At Sea

July 17, 2012, 1608 UTC
8 deg 31.595 S, 115 deg 45.228 W
Day 11

It is inevitable that, after travelling 1600 NM over ten days and being completely alone on the water, the very first boat we should see would:
a) Be a freighter.
b) Appear at midnight.
c) Be on a collision course with Papillon.
I mean, honestly. Thankfully, the good people aboard the freighter Forest Kishu answered our hail and were very accommodating about not smashing into us. And that's why, boys and girls, even in the mid-Pacific, we keep a careful watch. Thus ended day 10.

Growing up, we always had a cat. I love cats. Not to court a dog-vs-cat debate, but cats have it going on. It was to my everlasting sorrow that I finally had to admit to my cat allergy. It was only when I moved out to attend university that I discovered the joys of breathing. I still didn't want to admit it was that bad, but allergy testing a few years later proved me wrong. It was that bad, and no house pets for me if I want to enjoy the continued use of my lungs.

Stylish has wanted a pet from the moment she could talk. As a baby, her hands were a flurry of activity as we would walk in our neighbourhood, signing Cat and Dog with great excitement whenever she saw one. The writing was on the wall.

I explained early and often why we couldn't have a pet at home. (I took the blame on myself, but the truth is, I suspect Erik loves my allergies. Having grown up in his parents' veterinary practice and being possessed of a sensitive nose, I think he exceeded his lifetime quota on animal smells quite some time ago.) Stylish accepted my explanation, but her desire for a pet was undiminished. We bought some goldfish. And while Goldie, Blackie and Speckles were fun to watch, you can't cuddle a fish. So Stylish gave her love to her stuffed cat named Dinah, and continued to quietly hope.

As the years rolled by, I heard a lot about her friends' pets. I knew every new animal that passed through her peer group. And each time, Stylish would turn to me with big eyes, wondering if today would be the day Mom cracked.

And I wanted to crack. Having a snuggly, cuddly, purring, hair-shedding, asthma-inducing… no. The answer was still no. Stylish consoled herself with the notion that, as soon as she moved out, she could get any pet she wanted.

I've been amazed at how many cruisers have pets aboard, and a goodly percentage of those animals are big dogs. Like, German shepherd-sized dogs. I don't really see how that works - washing the decks of enormous doggy-do at regular intervals... where does that get fun? But, more to the point, Stylish (and now Indy) got to play with more cats and dogs. And desire grew.

In Cartagena, friends found a tiny kitten near the marina, seemingly abandoned. They poured this bit of fluff into Stylish's hands, and begged us to please consider adopting her. Well, I ask you. Stylish actually tried to steal off the boat a few hours later to mount a rescue attempt. Tears ensued. Mom still said no. (Mercifully, we saw said kitten a few days later with her mother and a sibling, slipping through a crumbled wall. Phew.)

Yesterday, the cat discussion came up again. We had received an email from friends who were battling a rat issue (it swam out to their boat from shore). This gave Stylish ideas.

"Mom, what if a cat swam to our boat?"
"We would take it back to shore."
"But what if we were already at sea?" She looked at me anxiously. "You couldn't just kill it."
"You can't kill it!" piped up Indy.
"What? Since when do I kill cats? Of course we wouldn't kill it."
"Then it could stay," said Stylish.
"Until we got to shore."
"But we aren't going to get to shore for another three weeks."
"That's true, but we don't have a cat onboard."
"But, Mom, what if a cat got onto Papillon and it has been hiding?"
"We've been out for almost two weeks, honey. I don't think a cat would hide that long."
"But what if it did? What if there is a cat hiding on the boat right now? You said you wouldn't kill it," she reminded me.
"I'm not going to kill anything!"
"So we'd have to keep it," concluded Stylish.
"Keep it! Keep it!" shouted Indy.
"Look," I said. "If there is a cat aboard right now, you can have it."

A frenzy of searching ensued. The hypothetical cat had become real in their minds. If they could only find it, the holy cat grail would be theirs.

After a day of looking, the urgency wore off a little, if not the desire. They still think that, maybe, there is a cat here somewhere, somehow.

But I'm a little disappointed. I kind of hoped they would find a cat.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pacific crossing, day 6

5 22.864 S, 103 40.145 W
875 NM from the Galapagos

Hello, friends! Papillon greets you from the wilds of the Pacific ocean. We are on day 6 of our passage, with 14-18 days to go.

It has been an exciting time, filled with sail rearrangement, broken sewing machines, bored and cranky children, and, of course, seasickness. Thankfully, that last faded around day 4, so I can now rejoin the functioning complement of the crew. To wit, I am cooking again, which everyone appreciates. Hooray for me, because I calculated correctly beforehand. Before leaving San Cristobal, I cooked a big pot of chili, a roast chicken and two pizzas. Those things ran out just as I was feeling better, so no one was subjected to endless peanut butter sandwiches this time, a la the Chesapeake.

Stylish lost a tooth this morning, so we had a Lost Tooth Party at lunch, complete with fresh hummus, vine leaves and other tasty treats. She is preparing a note for the Tooth Fairy, so she can find us at sea tonight. This fiesta doubled as a Spinnaker Party. The winds have slowly been dying and moving astern of us, so we sadly packed away the main and jib, said goodbye to our 7-8 knots of speed, and pulled out the light wind sails.

For those of you not familiar with a spinnaker, these sails are very big and very light. It is rather like flying a house-sized K-Way jacket in front of the boat. For all that, they pull like heck. At the moment, we are flying two - a main spinnaker and a mizzen spinnaker. Erik hastens to mention that we tried to fly the mizzen staysail (which the girls named the candycorn sail for its orange and yellow stripes), but it tore after two hours. He then broke the sewing machine trying to repair it. I think he only did that so he would have something to fix this afternoon - we all make our own fun on passage - but that may be untrue. Then again, yesterday he spent the day running new cable for our SSB. Some days, I shake my head at the gulf between us. Anyway, the current sail configuration is giving us 6.5 knots, which is not bad in 9 knots of apparent wind. May the K-Ways hold out.

As for the ladies, it isn´t all bickering and kicking. They are busy doing crafts and playing Barbies and Duplo. They stroll the decks, clearing the scuppers of flying fish and small squids, and throwing them back into the water. We´ll start school in a little while, which is fun and eats up the hours. We are all working on our constellations when the sky is clear (I highly recommend H.A. Rey´s The Stars - A New Way To See Them). And the days roll on.

We are running the SPOT tracker once or twice a day (to conserve batteries), but it should give you an idea of where we are. Cheer us on!

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Home Passage Simulator 1.0

Our time in the Galapagos is rapidly coming to a close. I can tell,
because I have a monstrous headache, and wake up in the night
wondering if we have enough onions.

First, pictures. Well, there should be pictures, but Blogger isn't
being my friend right now. So you'll have to imagine a giant sea
turtle swimming about four feet away. Now, a giant tortoise in the
grass. You're in the Galapagos!

Second, The Big Passage is upon us! The maybe-twenty- maybe-forty-day
passage across the Pacific to the Marquesas. Oooooh!!!

I know some of you are wondering about that. Some with a raised
eyebrow, some with a shaking drink in your hand.

Passage-curious sailors, I am here to help. Below you will find
instructions for the Home Passage Simulator 1.0. Experience the
thrills and chills of a long passage from the comfort of your own
home, and see what Papillon is forever going on about.

Simulate the Boat
Before you leave, you have to get ready, and as any passagemaker will
tell you, good preparations lead to a happy voyage.

1. Move everyone into kitchen/living room. Welcome to your new living
space! (Yes, that's all you get.)

2. Disable your telephone, internet, television – all of it. And
don't cry; you'll be okay. Even Erik, the Blackberry addict,
eventually got over the shakes when we moved aboard.

3. It is time to provision. Break out your folding dock cart and get
walking. To accurately simulate your choices, you may either a) do
all of your shopping at your local convenience store, or b) visit your
local supermarket, but you may only buy things from aisles 2,5 and 10,
and you have only 39 seconds to grab what you can in the fruit and
vegetable section. Be sure to take a good list with you, because once
you are aboard, you have what is there. That's it.

Simulate the Passage
All this preparation is well and good, but what does it really feel
like on passage?

4. Prop up the side of your house about 10-15 degrees. Now you're
heeled over. Tip the house gently forwards and backwards, making sure
to add in some random shaking or corkscrewing once in a while.
Doesn't that feel nice? Now try to cook something, or even open a
cupboard. Oh, didn't you lash everything down before you left? Tut,
tut. If you want to avoid getting brained by jugs of olive oil every
time you open the pantry, you will need a strategy to hold it all in
place. Bubble wrap and old fishing nets work well.

5. Paint your ceilings black. Add many tiny white dots. These are
called "stars", and they appear at night. If you live in the city,
you've probably never seen more than three at a time. Don't be alarmed
– they are perfectly normal, and the sky is full of them offshore.
Along with phosphorescence and the sound of dolphins, they are one of
the best parts of doing a night watch.

6. And speaking of watches, you need to set a watch schedule. Someone
needs to be stationed at the window at all times to make sure you
aren't going to get flattened by a car carrier. Watch trajectory of
every car (freighter) or pedestrian (sailboat) going by to make sure
they won't collide with your house.

7. Make a list of every system and moving part you have in your house
and car. Furnace, alternator, toilets, even door latches – anything
that serves a purpose and can conceivably fail in some manner. Cut
the list into individual strips and drop them all on a jar. Set some
alarms on a random timer (preferably set to go off between 11pm and
4am). Whenever an alarm sounds, grab a piece of paper out of the jar.
That is what just failed on your boat. Go fix it.

8. Realize you are eating your fifth uninterrupted meal with your
family, with none of the distractions from point 2. And no one can
leave! Mwahaha! But really, do you see how relaxed you all look?
And how everyone is laughing? You may feel like you are all on top of
each other sometimes, and that can lead to friction, but, for the most
part, passages are relaxed and delightful.

9. Try out seasickness. Drink 18 cups of coffee within 30 minutes,
then spin around as fast as you can. When you come to, you will want
to end it all. Welcome to seasickness. It is horrible, but keep in
mind that even a hard-core mal de mer sufferer such as myself, locked
in a migraine hell and resistant to all treatment, appears to come out
of it by day 4. (I'm trying to keep that firmly in mind right now.)

10. Plan a party. Every long passage descends into tedium at some
point; a party is the perfect way to break up the routine. On the way
to the Galapagos, we had an equator party. It was fun, it involved
planning (read: killed time), was different from our regular day, and
everyone got involved. And any excuse will do.

11. You're in the groove now. Keep going for a month.

Wasn't that fun? No? Well, the real thing is better, I assure you.

Now, for some housekeeping. That is going to shock you, but we're not
going to have email for a month. I know, it's tragic. I'll use the
ham radio to write posts when I can, but that will about do it.
However! Do not view that as a chance to stop writing to us. We love
your notes. They make us feel warm and fuzzy. I expect to hit the
Marquesas and open my inbox to an overflowing heap of mail from you
people. You can also follow our progress on the tracker (we'll put up
a GPS point every day). And we'll see you on the other side…