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Posts by Idefix

Lost at sea

The big event of the day was the loss of our waste bucket as it was being rinsed over the side. The sea conditions were a little too rough to pick it up, so it looks like our laundry/dishes/bath bucket is going to be re-purposed. We will not be very fresh on arrival in Niue!
The bucket has now joined a handful of sail ties, 10 feet of line, the windex bird-spike, and a couple other odds and ends taken by the sea. Nothing irreplaceable for sure.
We’re finally close enough to Niue to be able to bear off a little more, and with the wind shifting, we are on a run. I hoisted the jib top to try to make slightly better speed and get us there by sunset on Monday. The poor sail is starting to fall apart. I guess 5200 isn’t strong enough after all, or we should’ve backed it up with stitches. Oh well.

Crossing the Line

At 0822Z, longitude 157d44W, Shirley, Nick and I became trusty shellbacks.
The wind has picked up and we are close reaching in 4-ft waves, trying not to lose any ground to the West. There is plenty of spray on deck, and the boat leaps and pounds into the waves, which makes my berth up front feel like the inside of a bass drum. The itchy little blisters on my knees, which I thought had disappeared, are back over my entire legs. The consensus on board is it’s prickly heat, it’s driving me crazy.
Achernar, Canopus, the Southern Cross and Magellanic clouds are keeping us company at night. Meanwhile, Polaris and most of the big and little dippers are below the horizon. The zodiacal light is also very noticeable.
If you’re tired of the party line, you can read Nick’s take on things at

Fanning Island

We left Fanning Island (aka Tabuaerean), Republic of Kiribati, yesterday after a relaxing 3-day stop. The people of Fanning are very friendly. 2500 to 3000 of them live on this atoll, in little villages spread out around the perimeter of the lagoon. Most of the lagoon is too shallow to navigate, so we stayed anchored next to the pass. The atoll also has a bunch of stray dogs, domesticated pigs, and a few transients like Coconut Mike, who sailed from Hawaii and has been there three months. Mike gave us all sorts of advice, taught us a couple words of the local language, and got us some local bread. All in all it was interesting to make a stop in this very isolated place, and see people living more or less how they did a couple thousand years ago: fishing from handmade outrigger canoes (and the occasional hobie cat), living in dwellings made from felled coconut and pandanus trees, gathering seaweed and copra. Of course there are also motorcycles, bicycles, radios, and little stores with canned food and detergent. I could have seen us staying here for a little while longer if we’d had more food and water (athough we managed to collect a fair bit of rainwater).
Now we are moving on towards the South, and also trying to get a bit of easting in before we hit the trades. A couple nasty squalls ran us over last night. For about an hour the light was completely blotted out from the sky, and I thought I was floating in a fifty-fifty mix of air and rain.

Change of course

The big island of Hawai’i, with its twin 13600-ft volcanoes, casts a wind shadow that stretches for hundreds of miles to leeward. We’ve finally exited that patch of light winds and are sailing in the NE trades. Unfortunately the NE trades here are blowing from the SSE, and we’re not making any progress to the E, so it looks like Tahiti is out of question. I’m a little bummed, but our new course will allow us to spend more time in other places, as well as shave 1300NM of sailing off our route. Both of these are mighty appealing, especially since we are running about a week behind schedule. Right now we are aimed at Niue, with Perhaps a stop at Penrhyn atoll, but the weather may have other plans for us.
All is well on board. We are close reaching in about 12-17 knots of wind and 5-ft seas. There is quite a bit of spray on deck, and it’s hot but not unbearable down below. Last night during my shift I was chilling out listening to music when out of nowhere something smacks me in the forehead. Eventually I figured it was a flying fish, probably due to the fishy smell and scales on my face. A couple hours later Nick got one in the face too.

Made it!

Idefix is in Hanalei, rafted up to Green Buffalo (thanks Jim!). Got in shortly after midnight last night. The last day was an incredible white-knuckle ride. During the night I’d taken down the spinnaker in a squall, just left main up and gone to sleep for 5 or 6 hours. I woke up on Friday and the wind had finally arrived. The waves had picked up quite a bit too. The boat was moving at 6 or 7 knots with just the main. I did some quick time-distance-speed calculations and was faced with a conundrum. I was 150 miles away, and I could slow down some and get there early Saturday morning, as planned, but I would’ve felt stupid trying to slow the boat further. I didn’t want to arrive in the pre-dawn hours, because I’ve been falling asleep at 3am like clockwork. But I see that if I average 8 knots, I can get there at midnight. So I decide I’m going to put the pedal to the metal and try to get there as early as possible. The catch is that there’s no way the autopilot is going to handle the boat with a chute up in 20-knot winds and messy 10-foot seas. So I finish breakfast, toss an armful of snacks and drinks into the cockpit, crank up the music, hoist the chute and am off on a wild ride that’ll last 16 hours. I was doing mental math the whole way and calculated an average 10 knots for the first hour, and 9-9.5 for the rest of the day. I got drenched by waves breaking into the cockpit within the first 10 minutes, so needless to say it was not a comfortable ride. I managed to leave the tiller 5 or 6 times to fuel up on food, water or caffeine, but that often ended in a broach or accidental jibe. At some point I went past the research ship Kilo Moana, which was hoding station 85 miles from Hanalei, and chatted them up on the VHF. They mentioned they’d seen another sailboat go by five days ago, by the name of Truth, and he was hauling like me. I was pretty flattered that they thought I was anywhere near Truth in speed! Eventually the sun went down, and the Kilauea lighthouse came into view. Then it was down to the last few miles, and soon I was trying to pick out the lights of the condo, and trying to reach the race committee on the VHF, and getting run over by squalls. Last time I had cleaned up and shaved before the finish. This time I took one last big gulp of coffee and managed to spill it all over myself. Oh well. Finally just pulled out my cellphone and called the race deck. Last couple miles the wind shifts a ton. I’d been expecting it, but then forgot. Fighting to keep the chute up, eyes riveted to the GPS to make sure I cross the line without hitting the reef. Finally I’m there.
Sent at 2012-07-13 15:50 UTC from 23°11.21’N 156°57.58’W

250 miles to go

Last night was clear and beautiful. I think this is the first night of the trip that I could really do any stargazing. The milky way is as bright as ever, and after the sun goes down you can see a bit of light from the primordial dust left in the solar system. We’re now south enough that the scorpion is high in the sky, and I spotted Alpha Centauri low on the horizon. The southern cross is too close to the sun to see for now, and the horizon is pretty cloudy.
Today started with a beautiful sunrise, then got pretty hot, again. For most of the day it looked like typical tradewind weather, with puffy little clouds and deep blue water. Flying fish are everywhere (but I’m managing to keep them out of the berths today), and tropic birds keep showing up to check on my progress. I stripped off too many clothes and got a sunburn. Then a massive wall of squalls came and I took down the chute for a while, and clouds and rain have taken over the landscape.
Up until I took down the chute, I had been making very good speed, and I’m now less than 250 miles out. Probably completely jinxing myself, but I expect to come in sometime on Saturday morning, around 8am PDT (5am local). If the wind picks up as expected, it may be earlier than that. I’m torn as to whether I should consider slowing down a bit to ensure I come in with a bit of daylight.
I managed to reconfigure the solar charge controller and got a halfway decent charge, so I have enough power to send a couple emails for the rest of the trip, unless tomorrow is completely cloudy. I also managed to throw out a fork and spoon with my dishwater. I’d sworn that wouldn’t happen again…


Breakfast in bed

I was wondering why the inside of the boat smelled fishy this morning, when I found a flying fish had sailed through the companionway and found its way into one of the quarterberths overnight. Thankfully not the one I was sleeping in. I’ve heard they can get to be up to two feet long, and are quite delicious to eat. This one was the biggest I’d seen at about 8 inches, but I had just finished breakfast when I found it.
Today was finally the clear day I was hoping for to charge my batteries. They’ve been starting to get really low, and I figured the overcast was keeping them from topping up. To my great dismay, I found the solar panels weren’t putting in the 10-12 Amps of power I was expecting, even at high noon. More like 6 Amps. A little bit of investigating later, I found the wires for the cabintop panel had corroded away, so I jumpered them and managed to get 8 Amps for a little while, but it quickly tapered off to 6 again. What’s happening is the solar charge controller thinks the batteries are already topped off, and is giving them only the float voltage of 13.6V instead of the absorption voltage of 14.4V. It’s been doing this the whole trip, but I’ve been attributing it to the cloud cover… I’m going to try rebooting it tonight when the batteries are at their lowest, to see if it’ll cooperate. I can probably survive until Hanalei at this rate, but I’m having to cut down on power use.
Only 439 miles to go, but we are moving excruciatingly slowly. The wind is supposed to build tonight, so hopefully that’ll change.
Sent at 2012-07-12 00:45 UTC from 24°03.02’N 151°46.67’W

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