3 April 2012 11:39:00 AM AEST

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Last night just before making dinner, I was visited by a pair of animals that I have never seen before. I was looking back and saw what looked like a pole moving through the water. It was a fin that could have been five feet high, and it was nearly the same width all the way up.
My first reaction was that it was a shark, it seemed to be trailing the tow propeller about 60 feet behind the boat. Then there were two of them, their backs coming up out of the water. My next thought was that they were killer whales, they seemed to be that large, but I didn't see any
white colour on them. It deffinitely wasn't porpoises or dolphins, they don't have fins like that. I took a wrench and knocked on the hull and they seemed to get the message. They hung back a few hundred yards for a while, and as I kept pounding out a tune, they must have become disinterested, as I didn't see
them again. A number of people had told me that sharks often have a go at the tow propeller, and I should keep a spare. The one that I had was a three blade white unit. The spare I bought was a heavier black one, designed for going faster than seven knots, when the lighter one would sometimes skip out of the water
at speed. I wouldn't think a black whirring thing would be of interest to a shark, and if he went to take a bite, it would be spinning so fast that it would take all his teeth out, and leave him with a pretty sore mouth.
The winds have pretty well held around ten knots, and at noon today, we had maded 132 miles in 24 hours., an average of 5.5 knots. For a while I knew we were hitting eight knots, so it is nice to be making good miles. I expect that when I report in to the Pacific Seafarer's Net this evening at 3:00gmt we
will have kept up this average. We are approaching 7 degrees south, racing to keep ahead of the wretched ITCZ that is moving south and chasing me. Yesterday's chart for today showed it down as far as 6 degrees, so I am just keeping ahead. Probably before 8 degrees I will swing west. Nuku Hiva and the Marquesas
start around 8 degrees, so I want to miss them by a wide margin, not just from fear of running into them, but to stay away from the effect the land might have on the winds. And any other boats that might be in the vicinity.
Today I put my stereo speakers up in the cockpit, and I have been listening to great music all day. The speed we have been making has made the generator crank out good amperage, and we are in the positive, so using the computer is no worry. Wish you were here

2 April 2012 11:37:00 AM AEST

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Well, I'm a third of the way there, only 4600 miles to go. The first 2350 took 25 days, but I reckon I will do the balance in 35 days. Thisw is based on being back to making 125 miles a day, now that we are in the trades.
I should have the same 15 knot winds for the next 3000 miles. Last night we had a good run, doing 6 to 7 and sometimes 8 knots. About 5 in the morning I noticed a difference and went on deck to check. All around there was lightning,
always in the distance. Most of it was northwest of us. With the winds from the south east and our course southwest, that was not a worry, but when I saw
flashes directly east, I took notice. However I never heard thunder, and as the sky lightened in the east, I could see big rainstorm clouds all around. At 6 a big on caught up with us and it really pelted down. It also brought an
increase in wind, so I gambled that it was the 15 knot trades arriving, and swung to go west. The jib has been a great help. I can immediately feel the difference when I hoist the jib. It is easy to hoist and to furl, neither requires a winch handle, just a good pull
on the line does the job. When the wind hit, I swung to the west, and furled the jib first. In the dark it got tangled, but by letting it out again and starting over, it rolled up easily. Then I furled the genoa, a tougher job, requiring
paying out the sheet as you furl. Once furled, I yanked it into the self tailing winch top, and turned to adjust the main. In an instant, the furling line slipped out of the winch, and the wind took the whole sail out. Pulling on the furling line only got half the sail in, the rest got whipped
around the stay at least three times, and tangled the sheets with it. In the early light, I had to go forward and try to pull the sail around the stay, with the wind whipping it back and forth all the time. Between winching both sheets tight, then wrestling the sail, I finally got it loose, and was really pooped by the time I got it
furled. Letting out the main then took us to five knots westward. I didn't feel like breakfast till 10:30, only having a good cold glass of grapefruit juice.
Of course the wind was not the 15 knot expected, so I later pulled out both sails and headed back southwest. It wasn't long until the 15 knots did arrive, and we have been hitting up to 8 knots, gradually going a bit south, in order to stay ahead of the ITCZ which is chasing me again. Today it is supposed to come as far as 5 degrees
south. I am below 5 now, and should be at 6 by evening, so I hope to stay ahead of the mess. In a couple of days we will skirt the Marquesas, be north of Tahiti, and heading for the Cook Islands. At the moment, still making way to the south takes us across the waves, so it is a bit rough. When I get below 7 degrees, I should be able
to go more westerly, and more with the seas, so it should smooth out a bit.

30 March 2012 12:07:00 PM AEDT

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Clinton's chart for Mar 29 shows the split ITCZ will have rejoined, above the equator between 125 and 130 west. I am at 1 degree south, so it promises good. The advice on crossing the ITCZ is to do it between 125 and 130, and then 'motor-sail' south, looking to have the good winds start again about 5 degrees south. I am struggling to get to 5 degrees, by tonight I will be past 2 degrees, with a couple of hundred miles to go. At my current 60 miles a day, that could take three days
before I can hope for decent winds. 'Motor-sailing' is a term a lot of cruisers use on the west coast and around the south east. Some cruisers start the motor if their speed drops below 4 knots, so that they can keep up a daily average of
about 120 plus miles. That is fine if you are just going to the Marquesas, about a 30 day trip from Mexico, you can use all the fuel you want, 'motor-sailing' through the ITCZ and getting to the trades in quick time, because when they get to the Marquesas, they just fill the tanks again. In my case, I am not stopping, not at Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji or anywhere, so fuel means something different to me. I wasted a days fuel thinking I was getting through the ITCZ. I wonder how a sailor can say he 'sailed' across the Pacific, when he stopped for fuel
at a dozen places?
During last night we just poked along, two or three knots. At six, I decided to cut and run, heading across the wind and the waves on a course due south. With about 8 knots of wind from the east, we were
up to 4 knots quickly, and later in the morning when the wind shifted to come from the south east, I was able to point slightly south west. About 11 the wind sloed, but we kept making miles. The power deficit has climber to -178.6, but hopefully some speed will help to reduce that.
By 1320 the wind stopped, an occassional waft giving us 1 knot, a gust of 4 knots getting us up to 2 knots once in a while. At 14.20 it came back, and hopefully it will stay. I wonder how many times Steve and Robert crossed the ITCZ? It seems to me that they must have done it a few times when they sailed from Singapore to Hawaii. Maybe they had the good sense to do the crossing much farther west, like I should have done, on reflection.

29 March 2012 11:15:00 AM AEDT

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After struggling to get through the doldrums above the equator, we finally picked up a bit of wind. The forecasts show ten knots from the east for the next three days.
Last night I ran with the winds, but by this morning we were down to two knots, so after waiting for the promised ten knots, I cut and ran to the south. At least going crosswise to the winds
gave some speed, and by mid afternoon we are still powering on. The good part of the speed, is that the tow generator puts
out good amperage when boat speed makes it spin. Even using power for the autopilot, we generate 10 to 11 amps between the generator and the solar panels.
For the past few days we have been building up a power deficit, without much charging at night, and with cloudy days, the deficit just builds up. But today
the ten amps is charging the batteries, and the deficit is going down. If tonight has wind, and speed, we will be back to normal power by tomorrow. I absolutely refuse to use the engine to
charge the batteries, so it is a relief to hear the generator spinning at high speed.
Seas are rougher today, with a bit of wind, and by going south we are crossways to the seas and winds coming from the east, so there is a fair bit of pitching and rolling.
But better that than sitting counting ripples at two knots and wondering how many days like this are still coming.
Haven't see any traffic for at least ten days. I get up every hour to check, but there is nothing to see., just how the boat is moving.
Having prepared so many meals in advance, I have few dishes to wash. I use the same pot of water each day to boil to heat up my zip-lock dinner, and as soon
as I have eaten, I use a paper towel to wipe out the bowl. Usually I can get it clean enough that way so that I can use it next time.
I finished the last little tin of salsa and the tostados are still crisp, so I guess I have to nibble them without spicy salsa.
I have been thinking of doing a Mexican meal when I get to Oz, I bought bags of tortillas, as I discovered that the maize variety does not need refrigeration, and keeps
forever. I just have to steam them to make them warm and rollable.
Clinton asked if I wanted him to send me a few chapters of some book by email. I said no thanks. I have a Kindle reader
on my PC and have at least fifty books on it, but for some reason, I don't crank it up and read.
One of the latest books I bought on Kindle, for 2.99 was by a sailor I met in Mazatlan, a few months older than me, who has
just published his first novel. He has a website michaellattanovels.com and the book is titled In Deep Salt, a story about
a sailor/diver in the Caribbean. Mike has a boat named the Narwahl, a 24 footer copied on the one Lyn and Larry Pardey, the heavy weather sailing specialists, who circumnavigated
years ago. Mike's father was a submarine commander, of the Narwahl, lost I believe near Malaysia.?? Hence the name for his boat. Mike was amazed to find so m many parallels in our background..
both worked in advertising, both lived in Africa..and on and on. H referred to me as his 'twin', but doing things he has
only been thinking about. I got started on his novel, but since I left, I haven't read any more. Mike, I'm looking forward to reading it.. and your next novel.

28 March 2012 8:01:00 AM AEDT

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Lured by the promise of the south east tradewinds, a constant, steady fifteen knots of wind, always coming from the same direction, and the prospect of weeks of easy sailing, with nary a change to the sails, I have succumbed and followed the advice of the so called 'experts'.
'Head for 125 west, and zip across to catch the trades.' For what seems like days now, I have been bogged in the ITCZ, like the seaman in the rhyme of the ancient mariner, doomed to drift endlessly in a windless wasteland. Each day I get the charts of the wind and wave forecasts
for the eastern pacific, plus the daily wind forecasts for two degrees west and two degrees south of my current position,, the gribs that forecast the wind in 6 hour increments for the coming three days. Every day my hopes rise when I see all these experienced weather forecasters
with their zillions of dollars worth of computers and experience predict 10 knot winds out of the north east. Out of the North East mind you, and here I am south of the ITCZ in supposedly south east tradewind territory. Shows you what geniuses these guys are. Yet all the transpires, is
a wisp of a breeze. Nothing that could be called a wind. Just a gentle breath of air on the back of the neck to tease you that there might be winds on the way.
Ten knots of wind seems like a distant memory, so long ago it's hard to remember what it was like. All I get is this gentle wisp of air, hardly enough to cool my forehead, that I have to sail in.
Using every bit of canvas, arranged to cover as much space on both sides of the mast as I can, I strive to gather as much of the wifts as I can, and sometimes achieve a magnificent two knots of speed. Sometimes two and a half knots. Barely enough to give me a daily fifty or sixty miles.
Why can't these weathermen predict 5 knots of wind? Or even less? They continue to show the arrow with one full barb on it, promising ten knots. They could show mit with half a barb, for five knots. Or even leave the barb off, which they do sometimes, to show that it's less than five knots.

At two knots, even the piddly waves pass us, and even the sea birds know enough to stay out of this dreadful zone. At this rate, I wonder how many more days, or weeks, or maybe even months it will be before I find the wind and return to sailing?
A person sitting alone in Sydney with not much to do, can look at the telly, or think about going to a movie. Or maybe going to the shops to buy some fiddly thing. Or perhaps calling up a friend for a chat, or even just going for a drive.
Here, I can just sit and look at the waves, one foot high, with hardly a wind ripple on them, no difference between the ones I see here and the ones I saw a thousand miles ago. My world is a circle of ocean, perhaps three miles in any direction, and all I have to look at it the waves, the ripples coming out from the sides of the boat. The bit of foam and bubbles
in our wake. And the horizon. Are there any clouds today? Gee. That would be interesting. I have already cooked enough meals for the next three weeksw, the fridge is full, so there is not a lot to interest me. Maybe listen to the lap lap of the water agaainst the sides of the boat.
And put up with the repetitious luffing and snapping of the sails as the breeze fills them, them then drops off and lets them fluff. When we roll to the right, the main sail snaps. When we roll to the left, the foresail snaps. Then we roll to the right again, and on and on it goes. The problem with inconsistent winds, or air in this case, is that
the snapping eventually rips out a grommet, orsnaps a slide. There is no way you can stop the snapping, unless you have wind.
My main sail had snapped three of four plastic travellers since Mazatlan, all of which I have replaced, but in three places it has torn out the metal grommets and now is just connected to the boom by the cord. I have had to shorten the sail to the first reef, hardly a foot really, just to protect the sail from
getting worse. And up on the mast at the first batten, both travellers have broken off. And the batten has punched through what I see was an old repair.
Looking at the main now I can see six or seven places where it has been repaired in the past. It's the same sail that came with the boat when it was built in 1981. It still has the New Zealand yacht club number 4902 painted on it.
And the foresai, which was a new one cut to order in Vancouver when I bought the boat. I told the sailmaker that the foot was too long and that it should be raised a couple of feet above the furler. But he was the expert and he cut it exactly the samr as the genoa we took off and gave him as a pattern.
Now it comes right down to the furler, and has to go up over the safety lines and then flair out. Coming down from California, it chafed, and the UV protection tore. I put on a roller on the stainless steel to protect it, but it was obvious that it should clear the safety rail at the foot.
I got it repaired in Mazatland, but these are not real sailmakers, so I couldn't get it recut. In order to keep it up high enough, I am forced to furl it in a bit. This shortens the sail, reducing tha amount of canvas I can raise, and thus it affects the speed we can achieve.
A couple more things to do when I get to OZ. That and the mast top stay on the port side that has lost a strand of wire. I can see it dangling above the spreaders on the port side. Hopefully without any real weather to strain it, it will be okay until we reach Oz.
If I have to stay in this windless zone for a few months, I wonder if my mind will care when I do get some wind. When I see Jesus walking beside the boat, and He invites me to join him for a stroll, maybe then I will know that I have been stuck in the doldrums long enough.

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