The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.

Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.

Our favorite sailing quote:

"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron

Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27, almost there

Mostly all is well out here. We have 250 miles still to go and yeah, we are pretty ready to be there. At the moment, we are down a man as Mike is out with some type of weird inflammation in his wrist. He doesn't remember falling on it, but it has swelled to twice the normal size, it is excruciating and he can't do anything with it. In addition, I've got a partial thickness burn (second degree burn) on my leg from a battle with a pot of boiling water, I obviously came out the loser. The boys have really stepped up and they are a huge help. Or, maybe I am helping them? Either way, we are clicking the miles off and we haven't broken anything yet (knock on wood). Zander and I do the watches, so we are tired, but the seas are comfortable and we can doze a little on watch (we've only seen two ships the whole time we have been out here). Anyway, we may limp into port physically, but the boat is holding up well and so are the kids. We are very much looking forward to stretching our legs and hiking in the Marquesas. Two more nights out here and we should be there.

S 09 24
W 134 41

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Flip Flop Recycling, scheduled post

In addition to the plethora of single use plastic bottles we see strewn along the beaches, we also find hundreds of lost flip flops mingling with the flotsom at the high tide mark. Many are trashed, but many are in near perfect shape. Instead of buying flip flops I've started collecting higher quality shoes that are my size. I do get some strange looks walking around town with different shoes on, and while it seems like a pathetically small effort to combat global pollution, it gives me a small degree of satisfaction.

February 25, Day 20

Yup, we are still out here. I'm starting to think we are more like Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki rather than a sailboat, we seem to be floating across the Pacific rather than sailing across it. It has been a slow passage, but we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have 500 miles still to go, 40 gallons of diesel left, currently we have wind and boat and crew are in good shape. We were hoping to get into port before the end of the month, but it looks like it will be a March arrival. Maybe 4 more days to go......

We are dreaming of waterfalls, snorkeling, eating baguettes, fresh fruit and sleeping a whole night through, among other things. Dare I say.....almost there?

S 09 00
W 130 08

Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 23, 18th day

Our spot is not longer acquiring satellites, so not position reports will be available on the blog.

Our current position is 700 miles west of the Marquesas.

S 08 57
W 126 33

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22nd, Day 17

About now I am trying to remember what I liked about cruising? What on earth would get me out here for 3 weeks, bobbing along in 42 feet of living space with my family? I can't say it has been an uncomfortable passage, it has been easy in terms of comfort, it is just a long time to be on a boat.

This is the longest the kids have been on a passage and we are creeping up on the longest passage Mike and I have done (19 days Easter Island to Chile is our longest ever).

Small things are an excitement. Last night we had an escort of dolphins follow the boat for about an hour. They surfed along side of us, pushed off the bow wave and did leaps out of the air. It was wonderful to have their company, we've had precious few wildlife sightings otherwise. If not for the few birds out here with us: leaving the Galapagos we saw Audubon Shearwaters, Wilson Storm Petrels are ever present, we've also seen a few of the occasional Red tailed Tropic Bird, and the odd Masked Booby. Nothing else besides us a lot of blue water.

The wind died back a little last night and stayed low through the day. We are currently running wing and wing with a preventer on the main and the head sail poled out. The winds are predicted to decrease for a few days, but instead we are seeing an increase, so we are hopeful. Today was a slow day, but we've had a few over 160 mile days in a row, so we are making progress.

852 miles to go, but who's counting?

S 08 36
W 124 28

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 21st, lost count of the days......47th maybe

We now have more than enough wind and we are making good time towards our destination in the Marquesas. The seas have grown and the rollers toss the boat around, so the kids now spend most of their time down below reading and watching movies. It is hard to believe we will be out here another week and then some. We have 1000 miles to go. Spot is no longer transmitting, but the radio email has been fast. This morning we had weak transmission to the Tahiti radio net, but they could hear us and it was good to be heard.

S 08 00
W 121 15

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February 18, Half Way There!

We are finally getting closer to land, rather than further away from it! We hit our half way mark this morning and we are very happy to be on the downhill side of this passage. 1400 Miles to go!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Our year at a glance, 2016

OK, so I'm at a little behind this year, but as I did last year, I'm taking a page from Totem's (one of the boats we follow) play book and documenting some of our highs and lows for the year 2016. One year ago we were nestled between Alcoutim and San Lucar on the Guadiana River between Spain and Portugal. We were running our heater every day, having regular tea times and wearing every piece of fabric we owned. It was lovely in Spain, but when you literally live on the water even 40 and 50 degree weather feels cold. After leaving Spain and Portugal we traveled through 16 other countries including; Gibraltar, Morocco, Cape Verde, French Guiana, Guyana, Trinidad, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, Venezuela, Bonaire, Curacao, Columbia and finally Panama. We covered about 6000 nautical miles and if you consider that most of those miles were at about 6 knots of speed, you can appreciate how much time we were sailing. On all our major crossings we sailed almost the entire way, but we aren't purists and more than a few of our shorter crossings were assisted by the diesel. We crossed one ocean, one canal and traveled through 4 continents. By all counts we had a great year: everyone stayed healthy, the boat didn't require any major refit and we ended the year still liking to be together (mostly). That said it isn't always giggles and rainbows, and I'll include a little reality as well in my summary. Here is how our year stacked up:

Best sail: Probably up the coast of South America when we had good winds and a 2-3 knot current with us.
Worst sail: We had one nail biting shift when we had a boat either follow us off the coast of Venezuela or very coincidentally have the same zig zagging course. We still aren't sure what happened there, but there are probably some very plausible scenarios that don't include piracy. Although at the time we were more than a little concerned. Actually, the sailing conditions have been mostly good with the only notable exceptions of coming into both the Canaries and Cape Verde with gale force conditions and bow into heavy, oncoming seas. Fortunately we don't have many days like that.

Nicest People: everywhere people are nice, but I have to give props to Trinidad/Tobago and Guyana. Once you get into the Caribbean, while people are pleasant, we felt like the experience of having people go out of their way to help you or just genuinely want to get to know you was inversely proportionate to the number of boats in the harbor. That said, the people in Grenada were also very welcoming, and for an island with as many cruisers as they have, the locals were really generous in sharing their island.

Highlights: Too many to count, but we loved the Medina's of Morocco, Devils Island was a fantastic landfall after two weeks at sea crossing the Atlantic, and Tobago had great fishing and Zander perfected his spear fishing amongst the coral heads there. In Bonaire we had unparalleled water clarity and the diving was fantastic, visiting Los Roques, Venezuela was an unknown and the lagoons and beaches surpassed our expectations. We also loved the hashes in Grenada and we sang the praises of the Chagres River, Panama our first trip through and we still love it there. I also have to say that our three months in Spain were life changing. We met some fantastic people, the kids got to experience a new culture in a very up close and personal way and we got a little slice of European living that at least 4 of the five us have never experienced before. I also have to say that the people we meet along the way are by far one of the best reasons to cruise. Sometimes it is other cruisers and sometimes it is locals, but both enrich our lives in so many ways.

Experiences We could have done without: Paying $130 for lunch in Venezuela (those decimals do make a difference when converting a new currency), and basically getting robbed in the San Blas and being made to pay a bogus fine. Popping the dinghy was a low point and the aft toilet blowing up was one of experiences I could have lived without experiencing. I know cleaning human poo off hoses in the engine compartment was not in the brochure (I know TMI, but I'm keeping it real). I recently read in a magazine article a quote that seemed quite apropos at the time "The difference between the dreamers and the cruisers is that the cruisers does what needs to be done, no matter how onerous the task". I can now say I am a real cruiser!

Best food: Tagines in Morocco and Roti's in Trinidad. I also have to admit that the $130 meal we had in Los Roques was pretty amazing.

Worst Food: San Blas. The only place to eat, on any of the islands we visited in the San Blas, was a little run down shack that cooked up overly fried chicken. It didn't look all that appetizing, but they had a monkey and the kids desperately wanted to hang out with him. Where that monkey had been in the restaurant was also a worry. The owners threw all their leftovers into a little walled pool where they kept sea turtles, fish and lobsters as future menu items. We contemplated offering them money for the sea turtles so we could release them, but we didn't want the owners to have a reason for capturing more. In Grenada we got friendly with a family that gave $50 to a fisherman to release a huge Hawksbill sea turtle. My gut really wanted to do the same thing, but I was afraid our altruistic intentions may only create a market of more turtle capture? It was a hard call and in the end we didn't make the offer. In this case, the monkey was a highlight, but dragging his ass along the table tops was probably not! I'm not normally a clean freak and I believe in pushing the immune system a little but believe me we used a lot of hand sanitizer in that joint!

Approximate nights at sea: 37
Approximate days in a marina (not including our time in Spain on and off the dock): 33

Highlights for the crew:

Anakena : Swimming off the boat, making friends, and buying shoes in Morocco (she is definitely a girl).
Porter : Living in Sanlucar de Guadiana, meeting all the kid boats in Grenada and watching snake charmers in Morocco.
Zander : Hashes in Grenada, getting introduced to free diving, diving in Bonaire, building our subwing, and exploring forts in Panama and the prison in Devils Island.
Amy : Swimming off the boat, waking with the sun, quiet night passages with a full moon, never knowing what adventures the day has in store for us and lastly, but maybe most importantly, meeting new people. Specific bests include diving again in Bonaire, buying fresh fruit in Morocco, a great hike in Cape Verde and having family come visit and share this incredible lifestyle with us.
Mike : Living in Spain again, a Devil's Island arrival after 13 days at sea, exploring Los Roques, Venezuela and hiking to the Lost City in Colombia.

Lows :

Anakena : Nothing I love the boat!
Porter : Leaving Sanlucar and Grenada, long passages and missing friends at home.
Zander : Rough sea days.
Amy : If you know me you know my one giant worry on this trip is that one of my kids will get really sick on a long passage. That keeps me up at night! Bring on the storms and the pirates (no not really), just don't let my kids get an appendicitis mid crossing.
Mike : I will not miss the constant stress of keeping the boat afloat and forever fixing things that break (I've only rebuilt the carburetor on our outboard at least a dozen times, which is just one among many other usual suspects that need constant TLC).

It is a big lovely world out there and although we are only seeing a small corner of it, we are grateful for this time.

February 17, Day 12

We've finally found the trades. We are cruising with the spinnaker flying, covering 6-8 knots in 12 knots of wind. It feels fast and I don't dare say it out loud, but I think we will have this wind for at least another 4 or 5 days. We still have 1500 miles to go, but now clicking some miles off sure feels good.

We can start to hear the Polynesian cruisers net in Tahiti on the SSB radio. So far they can't hear us check in, but we can hear some light transmission, so hopefully in a few days we will start checking in with them regularly.

Kids are good. I pull a "sea toy" out for Ana every few days, but she's rock solid. She loves it out here. Zander kind of hibernates, he reads and sleeps a lot. Porter is the hard one to entertain lately, although he has been in a surprisingly good mood considering he usually really dislikes the passages. The swim calls have been helpful for morale in general.

S 06 13
W 112 53

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Day 11, but who's counting? February 16

We've only managed a little over 100 miles for the last two days. It feels brutally slow. The little wind we have comes from the east, so we are able to fly the spinnaker again. It makes for a comfortable ride, it is just so depressing to look at the GPS and see our speed. The good news is, everything on board is comfortable. Mike can do his routine maintenance, we can boat school, we can cook, almost anything we can do at anchor we can now do. We also get to have multiple swim calls. Today the boys were able to swim around the boat with all sails flying, if that gives you an idea of how slow we go at times. There isn't any bad weather following us, so we'll continue to creep slowly westward.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Free Diving, by Zander, scheduled post

Do you know what free diving is? Free diving is diving down without the help of a scuba gear. Some recreational free divers, with just a few years of practice, can dive to depths of 100 plus feet and stay down for several minutes. Snorkeling technically counts as free diving, but most free divers think of snorkeling as floating on the surface.

One of the advantages of free diving is you don't need bulky scuba gear. It also costs a lot less then scuba gear and paying for tank refills. Breathing compressed air is very loud and it makes a lot of bubbles, which can scare fish away. Free diving is quiet and there are no bubbles to scare fish away.

There are many different free diving records: deepest man, deepest women, deepest person with fins, deepest person without fins. There is a thing called no limits free diving. What a person does in no limits free diving is, they hold on to a weighted sled and hold their breath as long as they can. The weighted sleds descend faster then some world war 2 submarines. When they can't go any deeper they stop the sled and inflate a big float. The float brings them to the surface like a rocket. The deepest person ever was a women that went to 517 feet on a weighted sled. No limits free diving is very dangerous, there is a high chance of blacking out and suffering from nitrogen narcosis (at a certain depth, which differs for different people, some people can go to 100 feet, some people can go to 800 feet, too much nitrogen accumulates in your blood and creates a narcotic effect, effecting your judgment). In free diving you have to equalize your ears, but you don't have to worry about lungs expansion and decompression sickness.

I have been practicing holding my breath for a few months now. I now can hold my breath for 3 minutes and 10 seconds. Underwater, I can hold my breath for 2 minutes. Physiologically humans should be able to hold there breath longer underwater, because when you submerge your face in water your body reduces blood to your extremities. But in realty most people feel just a little bit nervous in water, so that reduces your breath holding time. Today I did a dive 1 minute and 25 seconds long constantly swimming at 30 feet.

It is harder to hold your breath the deeper your go. The reason for that is, the deeper you go the greater the pressure. That pressure is making your lung volume smaller. At 33 feet there is 14 pounds of pressure on your body, 28 pounds at 66 feet and so on. At a certain depth ( depending on your body ) you become negatively buoyant, and begin to sink. This happens when the air in your lungs is so dense that it is not a enough to make you float.

The secret to efficient free diving is CO2 tolerance and relaxation. The higher tolerance to CO2 you have the longer you can hold your breath. You can build on that by doing special apnea training exercises, that you can find on the internet. Also, relaxation is very important because if you are nervous your heart rate goes up and you will use more oxygen. In most sports adrenalin is a positive thing, in free diving it is the opposite. You want to keep your heart rate low in free diving. If you are nervous or excited you are not going to be able to hold your breath very long.

There are multiple reasons to take up free diving: some people free dive to break records, some to spear fish and some people do it simply for enjoyment. I enjoy free diving to spear fish and for fun.

Frebruary 15, 1800 miles to go

It is another leave your coffee mug on the counter day, meaning flat and slow. We are still creeping across the ocean, the Pacific Ocean mind you, which is freaking huge when you are moving at a snails pace. We were hoping to be almost half way there by day 10 and yet we still have 1800 miles to go. On the silver lining side of things I caught a nice yellow fin tuna yesterday on my night watch, our first since leaving the Galapagos. Mike got a fresh, cleaned fish for Valentines Day. Yup, I'm a fish slayer on my down time! Fresh fruit and vegetables are starting to go. We bought beautiful, organic produce in the Galapagos, but it sure doesn't last as long as the pesticide laced produce we can buy at the big supermarkets. In Panama a cab driver gave me the advice of skipping the local market and buying from the big box stores to provision for a long passage. The fruit taste far better in the local market, but it only last a few days. I did a little of both, but sure enough the pears, apples and melons I bought, from Chile, lasted 3 weeks and the local mango's and passion fruit from the market didn't make it past the Perlas Islands. I think I have one more watermelon hidden under a sail bag on the deck and then it will all be fruit from a can, frozen or dried. We will keep the scurvy at bay, but it will be boring.

Today we did another swim call. Mike cleared one of the deck drains that had backed up, did a bottom inspection and the kids and I played. We pulled one of the kayaks out, just to get a little alone time. It was a nice feeling to be more than 42 feet from another human for the first time in 10 days. Ana cannon balled off the the back deck, Zander did some deep diving, Porter helped Mike clear a few gooseneck barnacles from the bottom and we all got a little elbow room.

Anyway, we are hanging in there. We are watching the storms brew in the southern part of the Pacific, via grib files, breaking up the trades, giving us our light variable winds. Fingers crossed, tomorrow is expected to be better.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Day 8, February 13

We had a fantastic 2 day run with the spinnaker up, moving at about 6-7 knots with 12 knots of wind on an almost flat ocean. It doesn't get easier than that. And then the wind died, again. It looks light for the next 4 days. Fortunately we have between a one and two knot current, so even when it feels like we are barely moving, we are still averaging more than 5 knots. It is a slow way to travel, but life on board is easy, so again, no major moaning from the crew. We still have 4-5 days worth of fuel motoring at low RPM's so we alternate between motoring and ghosting along on an almost non existent breeze.

On a positive note, Mike fixed a compressor problem we have been plagued by and in doing so remedied two other potential issues. Unbeknownst to me, he has been worried about a leak in the transmission since we left the Galapagos. There was fluid under the transmission and deductive reasoning would suggest that it was transmission fluid, although he couldn't find an actual leak. Meanwhile, in a corner of the engine room, not far away, he has been having to occasionally add coolant to one of our refrigeration compressors. We had a new gasket on the compressor installed in Trinidad and since then we have had coolant leaking out, somewhere. We expected it to be somewhere in the copper piping under the floorboards, but without pulling it all up, we've just added a little coolant here and there. Not the most effective way of dealing with a problem, but triage nonetheless. Today he noticed there was a little play in the compressor gasket and after its initially seating had loosened just slightly. Slightly was enough to let a little coolant gas out. That small leak also allowed a little compressor fluid out, which dripped down into a low spot in the engine room, right under the transmission. Aha! He tightened the gasket, no more coolant leak (we think). Fortunately the compressor didn't lose too much fluid and is still functional, even fine, and as a bonus we do not have a transmission leak after all. When do things turn out that well? Um, never on a boat. So the moral of the story is, when you find yourself with oodles of time, crossing an ocean at 4 knots, you can solve problems that once ashore, with the distractions of "fun things to occupy your time", you cannot!

On an unrelated note, while we have been sitting here watching the weather forecasts predict a pitifully slow Pacific crossing, our thoughts have started to wander to new routing. In hindsight we wish we had pointed towards Easter Island, 1000 miles closer, looped through Pitcairn, the Austral Islands, the Eastern Tuamotus and finally to the Marquesas before heading to Hawaii. At the time is sounded like more sea miles, but considering our speed, we may have been better off and we could have seen some more off the beaten path locations. If we had thought about this about 3 days ago, we would indeed be heading south at the moment, but alas we think that window of opportunity has passed us by and we need to stay the course! Turning south now would probably be more beating than beam reaching which differs in an order of magnitude in terms of comfort. Oh well, best laid plans often suck, and we are still headed to the Marquesas although I think Zander could get out and swim as fast as we are moving.

Tomorrow we expect to be 1/3 of the way through the crossing, our boat is adorned with hundreds of beautiful Valentine decorations, compliments of our constant crafter, and we are pulling out some ribeye steaks to celebrate. Ah, life could certainly be worse, maybe not less boring, but worse!

S 04 32
W 105 00

Sunday, February 12, 2017

One week down, still ghosting along, February 12

The weather predictions show very little wind in our area, and very little until about the 17th of February. That said, we've managed about 150 miles in the last 24 hours, which is respectable, and it has been comfortable. The winds are light 9-12 knots, but with our asymmetrical spinnaker we are managing to make progress.

Last night I made homemade pizza and Porter made mystery bread. Zander's comments about the bread were "it kind of taste like warm dirt." Whenever we provision in a new country we have to adjust recipes. Flour isn't the same everywhere, nor is yogurt or milk. Our standard recipe's are different in different regions of the world. We have to make our own yogurt and the taste depends on the UHT milk available and our starter yogurt. If you haven't made yogurt before it's pretty simple. Dissolve one table spoon of previously made (or store bought) yogurt in a liter of milk, heat to 135 degrees, and maintain 100 degrees for 8 hours. That first batch is pretty crucial so you need to get a good starter. Flour can differ, some of it is my translation skills. Am I buying bread, cake, self rising or bleached flour, but I think it can just differ anyway. Generally we are in a country just long enough to figure out the brands and types of food we like and then we move on and we have to start all over again in a new country. The kids have their favorites. Dairy products from Mexico were surprisingly good. The UHT yogurt in Morocco was fantastic and could be kept for months without refrigeration. Colombia had the best selection of candy. Everything in France was good. We were spoiled in Europe with great breads, cheeses and meats and it has been hard to adjust to paying more for a lesser quality product since then.

Anyway, we are cruising, albeit slowly, cooking, reading and keeping ourselves entertained anyway we can. Mike is trying to learn French, Zander sleeps a ton and reads, Porter and Ana play endlessly with their legos (thank God for those things). I'm just happy when everything is going smoothly and we aren't missing something on land too much.

S 03 55
W 102 22

Random Passage Photos, scheduled post

We still don't have the ability to post photos, but these are from the passage to the Galapagos.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Day 6, February 11

We've been plagued by light winds since we started this passage and the trades continue to elude us. We've been running with the spinnaker and at the moment we are moving over 6 knots in 11 knots of wind, and we will take it for as long as it lasts. Unfortunately the forecast shows it falling apart behind us and in front of us, so we are crossing our fingers the forecasts are not perfectly accurate. We've never had such a slow passage, so it is still frustrating, but life on board is pleasant. Yesterday the kids got the bosun's chair out and swung on the halyard between the boat and the spinnaker clew, dragging their feet in the water as the boat rolled. No fish on the lines, but we still have yellow fin in the freezer, so I'm not complaining.

We keep to our small routines on board to keep us occupied. The boys have a checklist of things they have to do everyday, including a little light boat schooling, spending quality time with their sister (complain, complain) and some chores. The big task for us all is keeping the 6 year old entertained. Some days she is great and will entertain herself for hours, some days she's "bored to death" and we have to play her games, which usually require some type of role playing or craft. The boys moan about it, but they are usually good sports. Chocolate is a rare commodity out here and its amazing what they will do for it.

Hanging in there with 2300 miles to go.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

February 9, Day 4

We have found some south winds and we've been sailing most of the last 36 hours, but it has been slow going. We are only averaging about 4 knots. It is a little frustrating to be going so slow, but we want to conserve fuel in case we need it later. Normally on passages, we set the sails and barely have to touch them. This time Mike is tweaking and adjusting all the time trying to squeeze every quarter knot out of the sails.

Late in the evening the wind clocked around to the east a little and we were able to hoist the spinnaker and take advantage of the light winds. It looks beautiful up, but we are still moving pretty slow. When you only have 7 knots of wind, you can't complain too much about moving at 4 knots I guess. The night watch was so quiet we could hear whales around the boat. We could hear them exhale and then see a plume of spray. As the moon made its appearance out from behind a cloud we could just see the whales surfacing about a boat length away. When the wind is blowing strong and the seas are up, you don't experiences magic like that.

S 02 34
W 097 40

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Day 3 on the big blue, February 8

Not much to report, the winds are still eluding us, but we expected that for a few days. Our weather forecasts show that the trades are blowing at about 5-6 degrees S, a little further south than we had hoped. We've angled south a little in hopes of making more southerly progress. We sailed away from the Galapagos for about half a day and we sailed for a few hours last night, but mostly we are motoring on a flat sea with just some big period swells. There is obviously wind somewhere.

Yes, we would like to find the wind, but without it, it is easy cruising and not much different than life on the hook. It's been a nice way for the kids to get back into the groove of passage making. We are eating well, playing on deck, doing homework. Night shifts are a piece of cake because there aren't any sail configurations to change and the autopilot keeps the boat chugging along on course. Motoring isn't ideal, but we get endless power and fortunately without a tail wind we don't get any fumes back in the boat.

Can't complain too much, these are the doldrums.

S 02 00
W 095 01

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Leaving the Galapagos, February 6

We originally expected to stay in the Galapagos for two weeks, but the regulations and the bureaucratic red tape has only gotten worse in the 16 years since we were here last. They don't really want private yachts there, so they make it pretty restrictive. Unfortunately for us, we really wanted to stop anyway. It is an amazing place despite the restrictions, and it is conveniently located as strategic stop for fueling up and provisioning. The port captain in each island in the Galapagos is rotated from the mainland every year, as are the police, immigration and customs officers. In doing this, the government hopes to crack down on abuses of power and corruption (which is ironic because the whole country is run by a crook). The result are laws and regulations that change regularly without a notice posted for mariners. How does this effect us as a boater? You never fully know what the rules will be before getting there. That is not entirely true, if you really want to spend some money you can get an agent in Panama and set up two additional stops, but even the information on that is fuzzy. Some people we spoke to paid 2 and 3 times what other people paid. Some boats got an agent for $500, some for $100. We've been to both the two other stops allowed before, and they are just two more port cities. There is nothing you can do to visit the outer islands or other locations on the islands on your own boat. Nothing was clear and our MO is usually just to throw caution to the wind and figure things out when we get there, beg for forgiveness. We weren't sure of the cost or the number of islands we could visit before we got there. In talking to an agent that has worked in the Galapagos for 15 years she says the number of yachts visiting has dramatically decreased in the last 10 years due to the ambiguity, expense and inconsistencies in the regulations. Since we made our landfall at Cristabol, we couldn't go anywhere else. Not ideal, we were hoping we could talk our way into a better deal, but they didn't budge. With 9 other officials visiting each boat, there isn't any room for one official to bend the rules. Oh well, you win some you lose some. We did as much as we could in the week we were there. Yes, we could have stayed longer on the same island: playing with sea lions, swimming on the backs of turtles and watching the antics of a dozen endemic species, but we could also get a jump on our trip to the Marquesas and Tuamotus and effectively give ourselves another week there. Mike and I have both seen just a glimpse of both locations on the World Discoverer (cruise ship I worked on in the late nineties), to know we desperately wanted to go back. This is for the bucket list. They are both magical places and considering they are both hard to get to, it makes them all the more magical. It is hard to find places in the world that are still unexploited, and believe me we are looking.

Late in the afternoon on the 5th we pulled up the anchor, waved to a few new friends in the anchorage, and set a course for 2900 miles to the southwest. After one short stop at Five Finger Rock to snorkel we were on our way. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't apprehensive, but we were as ready as we would ever be. The kids were in good spirits after a fun week of swimming with turtles and sea lion. It was good to leave on a high note. As the sun started to set on our first day at sea we saw huge flocks of pelagic sea birds feeding, boobies diving under the boat and hundreds of Manta Rays jumping out of the water. Pelagic species sending their namesake off, we took it as a prophetic sign! Once we leave these nutrient rich waters, we don't expect too many wildlife sightings until we get closer to land.

After a night of motoring in windless conditions between the islands, the wind filled in as we left the archipelago in our wake with a lovely 15 knot breeze. Our route will take us on a rhumb line towards our destination, but once we find the trades, we expect to level off and sail due east until we get much closer to the Marquesas. Since we are already at the equator, we hope we don't have too many days of low wind/doldrums conditions and we can find the trades about 3-4 degrees South. We could motor almost 1000 miles if we really needed to, so we can afford to motor through the low wind zones, but at some point we expect we will find the consistent winds. Even if it doesn't last, cruising away from the last bits of land, with all sails flying was a good feeling. We are on our way! French Polynesia or bust!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

After a week in the Galapagos we are starting to prep the boat for the 2700 nm to French Polynesia. We hope it will not take more than 21 days, but obviously it all depends on the wind. Most boats leave from Mexico, but there are a few of us that are leaving early from Panama or the Galapagos. We hope to maintain a radio net to keep in touch. I’m tired of making ocean crossings solo, I’m really looking forward to a few other voices out there with us, even if it is over the radio waves.
The boat is stocked with everything we think we will need for the next few months since provisioning is limited in the Marquesas and Tuamotus. The shower has become the new pantry and we have every other nook and cranny filled with food. We’ve bought a bunch of bootlegged DVD’s from a guy on the street, downloaded podcasts, books and music. I’ve got a full on pharmacy on board: painkillers, 10 different antibiotics (three for malaria, two that were used in an experimental appendicitis study, more for staph infections, ear infections, eye infections, lots of cipro and topical creams). I’ve got an IV kit, epinephrine, flomax for kidney stones, Xylocane and enough gauze and bandaging supplies to supply a small hospital. I got my EMT license figuring if I had it, I wouldn’t need it. Counting on that!
We’ve got four gumby suits, two life rafts, epirbs, and a very large ditch bag. Our boat is solid, well equipped, and everything has been checked and double checked. I also have a very capable captain who has kept us very safe so far. All seems OK, and yet, I’m still freaking out here! Mike reminds me we aren’t climbing Everest or sailing to Antarctica, hundreds of boats do this run every year, we aren’t doing anything exceptionally crazy, in fact it is pretty routine………still….maybe I need to do one more pharmacy run for Xanax!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Galapagos part 1, February 5

Our first casualty in the Galapagos was the loss of an oar from our dinghy. The sea lions use the dinghy to sleep in at night and they either broke the oar when they got in, or they pulled it off. Either way, that wasn't something on our radar to prevent. We now pull the dinghy up at night. The seals, without natural land enemies, are not scared of anything, and here in Cristobol they share the beaches with swimmers and surfers. They sleep on any horizontal surface (including our dinghy or swim platform): park benches, steps leading out of the water and on the pier. On the beach they surf in between us, totally comfortable with cross species body surfing. The sea lion here is a subspecies of the California Sea Lion, so they look familiar, but they are a little smaller and most certainly less timid. By far the favorite activity for the kids has been watching the antics of the sea lions in and out of the water. Yesterday we had a small female swimming near the boat for about an hour chasing a small bait ball. The boys slipped in the water next to her and she was totally oblivious to their presence.
The Galapagos is a bucket list location for most people, and it is amazing, but having your boat here is almost a liability. For example the cost to enter the islands is steep; $1200 for one harbor. In addition we have to pay for an agent, a fumigation certificate and a national park fee. They scrutinize the bottom of your boat and fine you for small infractions and send you on your way if your bottom is covered in barnacles, algae or other growth. Once you pay the fees you have much less to spend on tours. A French boat entered the harbor the same morning that we did and they we denied entry and had to be on their way within 24 hours because of a dirty bottom. They worry about invasive species, which are a threat to the islands indigenous species. We also cannot dive easily on our own (considering we are limited to the one harbor), although Mike and the boys have found a few sites within dinghy access. It is frustrating when you have sailed 900 miles to get here and you can't explore more. Usually a boat gives you access to amazing locations you can't get to otherwise, in the Galapagos it is quite the opposite. We have to pay to go on small cruises around the islands on other boats, which is obviously frustrating when we have a boat at anchor. That said, the islands are still an amazing destination and even with out limitations we have been having a great time.
Mike and Zander dove a deep outer rock with a guide and saw hammerheads, Galapagos sharks and a very impressive bait ball that they caught on film. Porter was able to do his first wreck dive in 62 degrees of water not too far from the anchorage. The water temperature is about 10 degree cooler at the surface and 20 degrees cooler down at depth. Diving in the Galapagos includes a wet suit and even still you can feel significant thermoclines and get cold. Cold, nutrient rich water is up welled around the islands which attracts lots of pelagic species. There are also penguins and whale sharks here that we hope to see, but with our limitations we don't necessarily expect to see.

We also toured the island, climbed a volcano, observed our first giant tortoises, among other small discoveries the island offers. Obviously the Galapagos are known for their endemic species, but it is fantastic to see the actual animals that inspired Darwin's Theories on evolution. We've seen several of the famous Galapagos Finch's which Darwin studied and researched for his theories on adaptation. Each island has their own species of Giant Tortoise. Most are still intact, although several have become extinct. The Galapagos was never inhabited by indigenous people, the first permanent residents of the Galapagos were Germans escaping Nazi Germany before the war. Otherwise the islands were known as a place to stop, stock up on food and water for pirates, whalers, and explorers. The Giant Tortoises took a beating during this era of early exploration because they were a fantastic food staple for the sailors. One tortoise can last a year without food and water. Ships would fill their hulls with tortoises and have fresh meat up to a year from when they left the islands. Although there are lots of naturally reproducing tortoises on the islands, the big islands each also have a tortoise rearing site where they dig up eggs and hatch them out to relocate when the tortoises are 5 or 6 years old. On Cristobol, the island we are on, 90 percent of the island has been in park status for the last 50 years, so there are thousands of healthy tortoises roaming the island. I so wanted to stick one of the little 2 month old tortoises in my pocket, but that would be a pet commitment that I would have to ask my grandchildren to continue since they can live 150 years.