Monday, October 31, 2005

Journal Entry October 31, 2005 Halloween Across the Dateline

Author: Pam

It was another night with good wind and some crashing waves. Tournesol is working on perfecting the belly flop, but my tummy could certainly live without her continued competition status. During the day the seas calmed down under overcast skies. Though there wasn’t a lot of direct sun, it was still bright enough to be a decent power making day.

The day started with the usual SSB nets. During our first check in the net controller added Trick or Treat after calling each boat name. During the second net we check in on Sue on Pegasus reported her daughter Amy was all dressed up with no where to go. The Net Controller suggested she go up on the foredeck and look for a dolphin to scare. In the afternoon I had a hankering for some chocolate (mostly because I hated the canned spaghetti we had for lunch) and after rooting around discovered a box of truffles. Unfortunately my excitement was dashed when I discovered they had melted (probably a dozen times) and were now stuck in their individual slots. I decided not to be discouraged by the fact I could not pick one up daintily, so I tried the prying with a spoon technique to then discover with no big surprise, they had also taken on that unique “boat flavor.” I threw the box over as a Halloween treat for Nemo and his friends. No chocolate for me. Since we are a day ahead of the US, Halloween came a day early for us. So, if you are reading this on your October 31st, Happy Halloween!

Our boat project for the day was a brainstorming session and list making of all of the boat projects we need to do when we arrive in New Zealand. It was good to get it out of my brain, but a bit overwhelming. Cruising certainly takes its toll on your boat, especially the intense tropical sun. Tournesol is looking forward to a rest and some good old fashioned and well deserved TLC.

It probably won’t come as a big surprise the other project for the day was cabbage management. I hope everyone has a pound of salt handy when you are reading some of Scott’s accounts of life aboard Tournesol. However, in this case I have to admit the cabbage situation did get a bit out of control. The bottom line, they do not cohabitate well with onions. Hanging in their respective net bags they were barely kissing, but the onions cause rapid decomposition of anything they get near. So, the particularly ewey one got deep sixed immediately along with several of the offending onions. I couldn’t see how peeling off the outer leaves was going to get me anywhere. The second one wasn’t nearly as bad and peeling off the outer leaves revealed a perfectly good looking cabbage specimen, ok I announced we will have this one for dinner. Before dinner Scott asked if I was going to peel off more outer leaves just to be sure, that was my plan so off came the first leaf to reveal some black slime. Ok, this isn’t looking good. I took off several more, cut the beast in half and you guessed it, it went over for the sea life gang (I am sure the chocolates were a bigger hit). Well, once again being the optimist I had already started sautéing the onions and garlic I had planned to cook with the cabbage. Another Plan B, Scott suggested adding a can of green beans. Dinner turned out to be the best meal we have had in a couple of days, Canned Ham (with mustard of course), instant mashed potatoes (yuck) and green beans. I am determined to get this cabbage business worked out, it is up there with the baking goal I guess.

We stayed inside again all day, still too many waves and too much salt to sit out in the cockpit. Hopefully it will be sunny and calmer tomorrow, it would be nice to go to play. We are making good progress, as of 1600 we had 629 miles to go, almost half way there. Scott made me add our Five Crown match currently stands at Scott4 games, Pam -1, Ugh you can only imagine the size of his head.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Journal Entry October 30, 2005 New Zealand Crossing Day 5 – Hemisphere Line and Cabbage Slime

The first two items of importance for the journal probably happened at about the same time last night. Around 0300 we crossed into the eastern hemisphere of the earth. I am sure most of you know and understand the world is split in half dividing the globe into a northern and southern hemisphere at the equator. The equator also is the starting point north for the northern latitudes and the starting point for the southern latitudes. Latitude lines run horizontally around the world. Well, some of you may not know the world is also divided into western and eastern hemispheres. The eastern and western halves of the world are somewhat divided by the International Date Line, but unlike the equator the International Date Line does not run perfectly straight, for example you may recall that we crossed the Date Line before reaching Tonga, and Tonga is located in the western hemisphere. This is because some countries want to share the same date with New Zealand and so the Date Line is conveniently skewed to allow countries like Tonga to remain in the same day as New Zealand. However, much of the International Date Line follows the dividing line for the eastern and western hemispheres. Just as the earth is measured with horizontal latitude lines the world is also measured with vertical longitude lines. When we crossed into the eastern hemisphere we moved from 179° west to 179° east longitude. Somehow the east and west hemispheres don’t get quite the glory as north and south do by crossing the equator, but we still feel it is a very significant event for us.

The other interesting thing that happened to me around 0300 happened while I was resting between visits to check for boat traffic and I was pulled out of my light sleep by an absolutely fowl odor. During the day I was aware the smell was building, but for some reason at 0300 the putrid smell took on a whole new dimension. The offenders were two large slimy green cabbages hanging over my head in a net bag. Looking up was like laying on my back while Shrek walked over me sporting his Ogarian family jewels and this is loosely what I think it smelled like. As I lay pinned down and writhing in the dense stench I wondered how these two innocent green balls could emit such a powerful stink. I also wondered how Pam (the person who wakes up at every creak the boat makes) could possibly sleep peacefully through such an awful olfactory assault, I mean P U! Just then I noticed that the left orb was actually turning a shinny brown color and I wondered if that gooey slime on the surface could somehow leak through the net bag and drip on me while I lay beneath, and then what if there are bugs living in those things. That was it, no resting on watch for this puppy; I was out of there, escaping to the safety of the windy and rolling cockpit.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. The weather had only marginally improved and we were still mostly stuck down below with high winds, big seas, and the evil cabbages. It was a day of toast for breakfast, soup for lunch, nothing for dinner, reading, cards, and journal writing. The big events for me were reefing the main to a second reef point with Pam, reading Erik’s book about climbing Mt Everest and taking my own expedition in the wild weather to check out the boat and to stop a ladder from banging for Princess Pamela. Don’t you think she could have a little more sympathy and respect for the poor commoners aboard Tournesol who are subjected to the torturous cabbages?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Journal Entry October 29, 2005 New Zealand Crossing Day 4 – Pam’s Unexpected Shower

Author: Pam

The night passed fairly peacefully and we each actually saw a boat. It almost feels strange to see boat traffic after seeing almost no boats since leaving Mexico while on a passage. My sighting was six and a half miles behind us and then turned off at an angle on our starboard side. I sat outside for nearly an hour keeping an eye on its position with the monocular.

The days have started to take on the longer passage routine. Each evening we discuss our plans for the next day and then regroup in the morning. The routine currently includes checking in on the nets at 0800, breakfast , personal reading or journal writing, a boat related project, lunch, reading out loud and playing a game of cards (Scott won again today, ugh). Today our boat related project was to finally reorganize the mass of instruction manuals we have collected over the past year. We had set up a filing system before leaving, but since leaving we had just been throwing everything in the front of the file box. It was a nice way to pass the time and we felt like we had been quite productive. While we had the label maker out I also made new labels for the running rigging to apply during Tournesol’s upcoming face lift in NZ.

The seas were still rough today breaking over the boat at regular intervals. We have had the hatch and ports closed for the entire trip, except for the opportunity to open the hatch last night. We continue to keep the companionway hatch boards off for the light, air and the convenience of going out to look around and adjust the windvane. However, this has proven on more than one occasion to be risky. I was sitting on the nav station seat when a rogue wave smashed into and over the port side of the boat and showered through the companionway onto my head. The good news was I provided a shield for the computer, the bad news I suppose is obvious.

We decided we needed a break from soup, three meals in a row is a record. We had canned baked beans and pineapple for lunch, not mixed together mind you, though that may have been an idea. This will not go down as one of my favorite lunches, but Scott had wanted to buy the canned beans. Our Ifo Bakery order had included 6 flour tortillas, which we were very excited about. The plan was to make vegetarian burritos with refried beans, cheese and salsa. It seems we had gone from a soup trend to a bean trend, I am not sure what happened to our sense of variety the past couple of days. I pulled out the tortillas that I was assured had a long shelf life to find they were each spotted with green specs, oh no! Well, we may not be up on variety, but we are flexible sailors. Plan B ended up being jasmine rice and refried beans (too late they were already in the pan) with cheese and salsa on top. We both ended up enjoying it almost as much as we would have the longed for burritos.

We discovered today when we checked our e-mail that none of the position reports we have sent so far on this passage to Yotreps have been posted due to a technical error. Unfortunately, we won’t have a current posting until tomorrow October 30th, four and a half days into our trip.

Today was sunny and a great power day. We thought we would have to run the engine to give the batteries a drink, but the sun came through. The day passed quickly and we are thrilled to be making good progress toward Whangarei, at 1600 today we had 887 miles to go.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Journal Entry October 28, 2005 New Zealand Crossing Day 3 – Murky Day Trapped Inside Tournesol

Author: Scott

Today started out looking like a sink full of dirty sink water with thick gray clouds covering the entire sky. Where was our beautiful blue sky from yesterday? It almost looked like we were in for a snow storm but the air was nasty, muggy, and in the mid 80s. Pam was still feeling the effects of the wild roller coaster ride we are on and was never too far from her cozy nest on the leeward settee. We continued to munch down our baked goods from Ifo Bakery. I had another mouth-watering cinnamon bun and Pam had her usual chocolate muffin. We spent the morning reading the awe inspiring New Zealand arrival information packet and watching the battery voltage languish with the lack of sun to pump up the solar panels. If the gray sky was enough to depress us then the information packet that blathered on about what you can’t bring to New Zealand could have killed us from boredom. For lunch we had tomato soup. In the afternoon Pam read aloud but we decided to put Sir Edmund Hillary on hold and moved on to another Mt. Everest tale that was a little closer to home. We started reading “Touch the Top of the World”, by Erik Weihenmayer a fellow blind person who was the first blind person to climb Mt. Everest. I have had a few opportunities to meet Erik but had not had the chance to read his book yet. We found the book to be quite interesting and entertaining. After reading we broke out the Five Crowns card game and I won bringing our current match total to one game each.

Late in the afternoon the wind eased from 25 to 30 knots to a much more enjoyable 15 knots and more importantly the seas calmed a bit and Tournesol no longer felt like she was landing on her belly after jumping over parked cars, and the sky even began to brighten. When we did our daily position report we had 996 miles to go before reaching Whangarei, New Zealand. We finished off this thrilling day with a beautiful sunset, the cloud cover turned lovely shades of lavender and pinks. Dinner was soup again! Pam was still feeling funky so we just whipped up some cup a soups and polished off the day listening to a new nighttime radio net, the “Fat Nose” net coming from the acronym FATNZ for Fiji and Tonga to New Zealand.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Journal Entry October 27, 2005 New Zealand Crossing Day Two

Author: Pam

Throughout the night the wind continued to be light, but steady making for a peaceful first night of this 1200 nautical mile passage. It looks like 0800 will be the official start of our days with a daily check in with Gavia on 8122 and then moving over to the “Rag of the Air” to check in with the other boats on passage for New Zealand. It seems there are always several nets going at one time, usually because a small group of boats that know each other establish one that is more informal. It is nice to have these venues to check in with and to give your position, find out if there is anyone else near you and get the current weather forecasts. Jim who is the net controller of the “Rag” is on every morning and is there as a volunteer for the boats who are at sea, very generous if you ask me. Just before we turned on the SSB radio we passed through a small squall that graced us with a beautiful rainbow, always a good way to start a day. After our radio sked we dived into the breakfast treats we had ordered from Ifo Bakery, I had a chocolate muffin and Scott had their famous cinnamon bun. As always it is so nice to have fresh food for the first couple of days and expertly baked goods is certainly a treat. I thought I would bake more on passage, but the conditions and my baking pans haven’t drawn me to the task. I am hoping to get it together during the next sailing season. I know I have an interested party if I did manage to bake something and his name is not Nemo.

All was going along smoothly until around mid day when the wind and seas picked up. The wind increased to 15- 20 knots, which is ideal, but the bigger seas that came with it caused the usual change in our environment. We had to close the hatch and all of the port holes, unfortunately some of that happened after it got a bit wet in the cabin. We started getting hit with waves over the bow and the usual streams started flowing across the cabin sole. At least we have learned to leave without the two small rugs on the floor so they don’t get soaked. Scott was in the cockpit making some adjustments to the sails when I heard a fairly loud crash. A moment later he stated calmly “we have a small problem with the dodger.” One of the support bars on the port side had sheered off leaving the dodger compromised. He filled the hole with epoxy and he will drill in a new screw for extra reinforcement.

We ate lunch in the cockpit and had the last of our frozen treats from Ifo Bakery, chicken enchiladas. They were actually more like a taco in my opinion, but they were yummy and it was really nice to just pop something in the oven. While we were eating we were passing Kao and Tofua, two southern Tongan islands 14 miles to port. We believe Kao is possibly volcanic, but we don’t know that for sure. It was the silhouette of a perfect triangle with Tofua a longer and flatter island to the right. These islands will be our last glimpse of land until we make landfall in New Zealand.

In the late afternoon we decided it was time to put a reef in the main since it looked like the wind was only going to keep increasing. This process went fairly smoothly. The reefing lines have developed some annoying twists and this always makes reefing the sail a bit more challenging. Once we brought the jib in as well life was a bit more comfortable.

As the seas had picked up my tummy was not liking the roller coaster ride. Eating was not on my high priority list. We decided on Wolf Gang Puck’s Clam Chowder, which I must say is the best canned clam chowder I have eaten and it seemed to sit fine with my queasy tummy. I have never experienced sea sickness in my entire life or on this adventure until the last couple of passages. When the boat is picked up and dropped or rolls a lot from side to side, combined with not being able to go out into the cockpit has turned out to not be a winning combination for me. I still have not gotten physically sick, but I just don’t feel like a million dollars either. The lack of desire for food on passage has been referred to by others as being on the Jenny Craig diet, certainly not my plan.

The night continued to be rough with those pesky waves and very dark with no moon until the very early morning hours. It is nice that daylight comes around 0530 and with it the adventures of another day at sea.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Journal Entry October 26, 2005 – Departing Tonga for Whangarei New Zeland

Author: Scott

We have decided to send current journal entries throughout our passage to New Zealand, since we have had trouble with our website and journal prior to leaving Tonga. Upon reaching New Zealand we will continue posting our past journals along with reposting journals from the beginning of the voyage. With good Internet access in New Zealand we should have the entire journal completely sorted out. When our Internet provider moved us onto a new server it caused all sorts of problems, we apologize for the confusion.

So here we go with October 26! We woke up early this morning with a long list of things to accomplish prior to leaving for New Zealand. We have decided to leave now so we could take advantage of a weather window that is providing fabulous sailing conditions down to New Zealand, but should also dissipate by November 5, so in order to make good use of the window we have had to really get organized quickly. We were both up by 0630. We spent the early morning getting the boat ship shape for the passage. At 0800 we checked in with Gavia Arctica (Gavia) on frequency 8122. Gavia is about two days ahead of us on their way to New Zealand and they were doing well, but had light winds. After listening to the local net we were off to unload our last batch of trash with “Pete the Meat” the local guy who collects trash and sells meat from New Zealand, a combination I find a little disturbing. Next we were off to face all of the officials for our checkout. First, we visited Immigration and the very friendly agent efficiently stamped our passports and wished us well. He was personally interested in our trip and had a number of questions for us. He told us that when we are done with the voyage, San Francisco will seem like heaven. Next we visited the Port Captain, a friendly man that took our $13.09 pa’anga ($6.50 USD) as a fee for leaving the country, the least expensive departure fees we have had to pay. Our final stop in the checkout process was Customs. The Customs agent took our form from the Port Captain, stamped our departure form and we were all finished. We were not required to bring our boat along the wharf for clearance which was a big relief for us since the town wharf is quite ominous with tall cement piers.

Our next challenge was how to manage getting our bakery order including frozen pizzas and enchiladas from Ifo Bakery and to get ice from across town all without letting any of it melt. The plan was to divide and conquer, I ran off to the store for ice and Pam ran off to Ifo. The plan worked pretty well, but I did get back to the dinghy with my ice before Pam arrived with the food. I sat on the dock talking to Luke and MJ from La Boem while I waited for Pam and shielded the ice from the blazing sun. When Pam arrived we were off like a flash to the boat to get everything into the cooler.

No sooner were the enchiladas and pizza on ice then we were off again. Our next stop brought us to Tropical Tease, a local store selling very groovy custom made T-shirts. When Pam was in shopping the other day, Cindy the owner ( from the US) mentioned that she was trying to get her website up and Pam mentioned that I sometimes take on website projects. I had a look at Cindy’s art and believed that she is most of the way there towards posting a website. We stopped by and Cindy and I agreed I would assist her with her site over the next few months. Our plan works out well for voyage and everyone, Cindy will have a completed website, I will feed the ever hungry cruising kitty a little, and all the work can be done over the web after I leave Tonga.

The next stop was a quick chicken enchilada lunch at the Mermaid and then we paid our moorings fees, faxed our Advanced Arrival Form to New Zealand, took a shower, checked email and I had a final cappuccino at The Aquarium. I am getting tired just writing it all down.

With all of our land chores done we dinghied back to the boat, pulled the outboard onboard and stowed the dinghy. Today is an important day for the outboard, if all goes well it will have mostly worked through the South Pacific and now it can rest until it gets a thorough checkup in New Zealand. Though it has been the bane of our existence, with a little love the bratty motor did serve us well in the end. Ann and James from Novia dropped by and said goodbye, they are also headed to Whangarei and we will see them there.

Finally everything was ready! We hoisted the sail while still on the mooring, and as Pam fell off the wind I pulled the line from the mooring and we slowly eased into the wind. At first our progress was slow and we did not have a lot of steerage, so we decided to run the engine for a few minutes so we wouldn’t drift into anyone, but we were able to return to sailing five minutes later. Terry from No Komis yelled over and said we looked in fine form sailing off the ball, and we sailed off through the pass with Pam at the helm and me on the bow with a monocular. Of course we passed the biggest commercial ship we have seen since arriving in Tonga just as we were exiting the skinny pass. The winds were light but solid and we slowly made our way out of the Vava’u group. Pam had a big rock to her port that she artfully just managed to squeak by without having to jibe the boat and then it was smooth sailing off into the sunset.

We turned on the stereo, and relaxed at a three knot pace with twilight descending on us. Dinner was the pizzas from Ifo Bakery and they were just as good as all the delicious pastries and breads they bake, we only wish we had gotten a few more for dinner. As darkness hit, we settled into our first night at sea with a gentle 10 knot breeze blowing and sailing on a perfect beam reach.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Journal Entry October 11, 2005 Happy One Year Anniversary! (While it lasts)

Today we are submitting a journal entry out of date order to acknowledge our one year anniversary of the Blind Circumnavigation. Some moments it seems that it has been many years since we put the Golden Gate Bridge astern and said goodbye to friends and family, and at other times it seems like it was not all that long ago. One thing is for sure, we have lived life fully over this past year with countless memories from this adventure. We have visited twenty-two ports in four countries. We are currently at sea and less than 150 miles from the Kingdom of Tonga, our fifth Country.

We have faced and overcome challenges. We have met wonderful people along the way and made lifelong friends. And we have seen so much of this beautiful planet. What an incredible year it has been!

We are just a little over 1,000 miles from reaching one of our first big milestones, the first crossing of the Pacific Ocean by legally blind people without sighted assistance, and we are getting very excited. We should reach New Zealand and complete our Pacific crossing in late November.

Today we are sailing under partly cloudy skies with a ten knot wind blowing from the northeast. We are sailing under a full main and 80% jib, and making about five knots. To celebrate our anniversary our boom took the opportunity to over rotate and invert, causing us two hours of unexpected repairs and problem solving, No problem, we got it fixed and we are now continuing on. The only consistent thing about living on a sailboat is that nothing is predictable.

Between now and New Zealand we should catch up on our journal, we have been very busy with many exciting experiences, so stay tuned. Today is also a big day for an entirely different reason and I better cut this journal entry short, because very soon we will cross the International Date Line and loose the rest of today and the next 24 hours. Until tomorrow…