Saturday, May 28, 2011

South of Ten

I always said that I loved not having email on Pelagic, swore that I wouldn't be caught dead posting to our blog from the open ocean. But communication with the editor working on my book was the impetus that saw us getting email set up a couple days before we left San Diego. And now that we have it, witness me doing what I said I would never do, willfully interrupting the ineffable peace of the sea to post to our blog.

Purity is so hard to maintain after you're 40 - I can hardly wait until Elias has a teenager's unshakeable standards so that he can be disgusted with my easy temporizing.

Anyway... Alisa has a great habit of fixing special meals to celebrate little milestones, and since we woke this morning at 09°59'N, we had pancakes for breakfast to celebrate being south of 10°N. Ten degrees is roughly the southern limit of hurricanes in the northeast Pacific, and as far west as we are, being south of the ten degree line means that we are completely safe from that threat.

We had a bit of a cheap lesson during the days that we were sailing through the hurricane zone. On shore it was easy to decide that the risk of a hurricane this early in the season is actually quite low (and it is). But once we were out here, with the NE Pacific weather guru we spoke to on the radio implying that we were idiots for making this passage after May 15th, and the same guru warning of a series of possible storms that turned out to be nothing but kept us on our toes for days at a time, and the two little boys all the while looking up at us trustingly, well, it all felt a little different.

Alisa and I are by habit very conservative sailors, and this little walk on the wild side has reminded us why that is so.

Meanwhile, the trades have been ticking along at a perfect fifteen knots, and Galactic has been putting the hurt on - we're booming along, hour after hour at seven to eight knots. (Except for yesterday, when I very stupidly ripped our brand new main so that we spent the whole day under jib alone while I patched.)

The rigors of the doldrums are just ahead - we expect to run out of the trades some time tonight. And, once again, we're reminded how vast the Pacific is - we're still 500 miles north of the equator.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Trades

Thirteen degrees north, San Diego 1400 miles of sailing behind us.

Tropicbirds and boobies inspect us on the wing. Schools of flying fish flee before our bow. A tuna comes aboard at first light and gives us three meals.

Eric, unobserved in his crib for twenty minutes, overflows his diaper and spreads baby poo everywhere with both hands - in his hair, all around his crib, in Eli's bunk. We clear the well of the cockpit and turn it into a baby bath.

Over one long night we cross through Panama-Japan shipping. A tanker appears on the horizon at dawn, four miles away. At first I mistake the bridge for the entire vessel, before the bow mast appears impossibly far away and gives the thing its hulking scale.

Two dawns running find us near fishing boats, their lights ablaze. And then for days and days the ocean is perfect in its emptiness.

At night I pore over weather faxes and nurse the barky through eight hours of light wind. We want to be done with the northern hemisphere and this too-late season.

This ocean is VAST, Alisa says. How did I forget that?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Settling In

Well, I have to look at the log to see how many days since we left San Diego - four, it turns out. We're currently about 350 nautical miles west of Baja California, heading southwest ever as quickly as we can - at seven or seven and a half knots.

Eric vomited the first two mornings out, giving us all sorts of worry. His uncertain status, along with a poor choice about following coastal winds along the Baja, kept us closer to shore than we should have been and cost us a day or two of traveling.

I was also sick, puking my guts out for the first couple of days - less of a worry, as we knew I would come right, but not a lot of fun, nonetheless.

Luckily, Eric was just sick twice and has been completely fine since.

We're spending a lot of time caring for the two kids and settling into this long long passage. Hopefully the joy of ocean sailing will soon be ours.

By the way, I hear that our online tracking service (link at right) still has our identifier, KL2DM, listed as Pelagic. Don't be fooled!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Long Gone

OK, we've gotta get out of here.  Lots of nerves over leaving on such a big trip with the two little fellows, but hopefully we'll soon be feeling that old Ineffable Peace of the Sea!  We're crossing from San Diego to the Marquesas, which should take us three or four weeks.  So there won't be a lot of action on the blog for a while, but hopefully we'll have some great stories to share when we're next in touch.  Meanwhile, you can track our passage with the link on the right.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Clearance Granted

Let me tell you, we're tired.  We're cranky, we're short with each other.  And three of us are sick.

Meanwhile, Eric's piercing scream, which variously means that he's happy, or unhappy, or neither, has gotten so bad that all of the rest of us, Elias included, have begun wearing hearing protection at mealtimes.  Really, it is that bad.

Although we have repeatedly despaired over ever seeing our departure day arrive, the job list is getting short enough that we now realize that the blessed day of sailing away from all this prep work will finally dawn.  And it's close - we have our zarpe, the official clearance out of the country for Galactic, and hurricane season begins in two days.  It's clearly time to be leaving.

We got a huge boost in the form of a recent visit from both of our moms.  They stayed in a hotel right next to the dock and took care of the kids so that we could work on the boat.

Elias got two trips to the San Diego zoo out of the deal.  Here he is with some of his swag.  With boat clutter being the eternal enemy, we make him get rid of something old when new toys like this come aboard.  

And... that's all for now.  I've got to get some sleep.

The view from up the stick.

Alisa installing lifeline netting - drill, baby, drill!

Provisioning the boat some time after midnight.

To My Australian Friends

Late last night when Alisa took the rental car to the store to do the final shop for fresh food, I handed her the camera and asked her to take a picture of the beer prices.

I've missed Australia in the time that we've been here in the US.  But I don't miss Australian beer prices.

So, to all my Australian friends - check this out!  A six pack of Guinness for seven dollars! A twelver of Bass Ale for fourteen bucks!  (That's about AUD $13.30.)  At these prices, why would you even consider the twelve pack of Molson Canadian for thirteen dollars?

Are you jealous yet?

And, to make things even sweeter, there's good beer here.  So, if you're feeling cheeky and want to drop nine bucks on a six pack, you can savor an icy Hop Torpedo:

Just the thing when finishing up a pesky electronics installation at one in the morning.  All praise to the Hop Torpedo!

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Reprieve

Yesterday we finished the 48-hour trip from Morro Bay to San Diego.  The forecast was for more sloppy weather, but luckily we got just what we needed - a gentle passage, the wind never more than fifteen knots and right behind us the entire way.

-This is like tradewind sailing, I said to Alisa at one point.
-Better, she said.  There's no swell. 

Our littlest sailor did fine, with no seasickness at all.  He spent a lot of his time in the well of the cockpit, surrounded by seat cushions.

Seeing Eric thriving on this trip was more of a relief than you can imagine - when he was sick over and over again on the way to Morro Bay, Alisa and I were both privately considering calling the Pacific crossing off.  The trouble with that is that we have so few good alternate plans to consider - we can't imagine living aboard in California, Mexico is about to be closed by hurricane season, and getting somewhere else fun, like Alaska, involves nearly as much sailing as getting to the Marquesas.

So all these considerations were weighing on us heavily when we motored out of Morro Bay.  I can't describe how wonderful it was to have those two days of gentle sailing to remind us how good the life afloat can be.  All the effort that we've been going through to re-mold our family life to fit into the program of a travelling sailboat began to make sense for the first time in a while.

Alisa had her 39th birthday on the first day of the trip - she had to do with a store-bought cake, but it was likely better than the cake mix and packaged icing that I had bought would have been...

Alisa and her presents - a bottle of Tanqueray to replace the one that she dropped overboard at the dock in Alameda, and a hat from Svendsen's boat works, the yard/chandlery/metal shop in Alameda where we left far too much of our money.

Alisa nurses Eric at five or six in the morning, and then they both fall asleep for another hour or so.  This means that I get the best watch when we're sailing overnight, the dawn shift.  The second dawn of the trip found us between Los Angeles and San Diego, where we had our first-ever bow riders on Galactic, these Pacific white-sided dolphins.

We were very happy with Galactic's performance in light winds on this trip.  She's extremely overloaded right now, but kept moving just fine with the wind well below ten knots.

The end.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


April 29th was Eric's first birthday.  We celebrated on the hook in Half Moon Bay.

The next morning we left on the overnight sail to Morro Bay.  The weather we found was like this:

Not really bad, but certainly sloppier than we would have liked.

The boys reacted like this:

Note Eric in particular - completely sacked out.  When he woke up, he ate and vomited.  And then ate and vomited.  Four times all told, completely emptying his stomach each time.  As you might imagine, this was very tough for both parent and child.

It's now apparent that Eric gets seasick.  Given our experience with Elias, this is a possibility that we hadn't even considered.  And it's a development that might have significant implications for our plans.  We have to figure that out very quickly.

Meanwhile, we've had a great twenty hours in Morro Bay.

We're tied up next to the harbor patrol office, where our friend Becka works.  We caught up with her and Mike and their family last night.  Here's the two dads with the combined mob:

And now, we're off for San Diego.  Unfortunately, more sloppy weather is forecast for today and tonight... we'll see how Eric does!