Journal 9      -      25 DAYS OF PERPETUAL MOTION
    APRIL 7 – MAY 2, 2004


    APRIL 7 – MAY 2, 2004

    We start by deciding we’re too tired to go on the appointed day (Apr 6).  Everything
    is ready, but it’s mid afternoon and we look at each other and say “ I’m tired, lets go
    tomorrow”….. tomorrow came and we hoot and honk our way out of the marina to the
    waves and whistles of our dock friends in Puerta Vallarta at 0800, enroute to the fuel
    dock.  Not a positive experience: the fuel hoses did not have automatic shut-off,
    which would have been ok had they told us, but that not being the case, we ended up
    with geysers of fuel on both sides of the boat resulting in Henry and the deck getting
    totally drenched with diesel fuel….needless to say, words were had with the
    management, the “service charge” was waived, Henry and boat washed down at the
    dock and we eventually got under way.  We were the only boat leaving that marina on
    that day: the bulk of the Pacific “Puddle Jumper” fleet had left from either an alternate
    marina or a Banderas Bay anchorage several days before.  We motored out into the
    Bay, were met by several dolphins and turned our three circles: the first for a safe
    departure, the next for a safe and fruitful journey and the third for a safe entry to our
    future port.  We set the sails with a double reef in the main and headed out of the
    Bay into the Pacific for the start of our 2800 mile passage.  Interestingly enough, we
    only set 3 waypoints for the whole trip! What a contrast to the 13 we set down the
    California coast…. As they say, you’re just not going to hit anything out there!

    We had been frantically busy for the prior month and so focused on the practical
    aspects of the trip, that on leaving the Bay, we were both individually faced with
    personal thoughts and feelings on what we were about to do.  Only about 200 boats
    a year do this, approximately 450 people out of the world’s 7 billion: the combined
    fleet from Europe and the Americas, cross the Pacific in small boats … why were we
    doing this?  We’ll each take some time to record our personal perspectives on that,

    In the meantime, we’ve recorded our activities during that pre-departure month: the
    amount of work we accomplished was incredible: it’s documented separately on the
    website for those who think that cruising is a carefree lifestyle and for those who are
    serious about following in our footsteps.

    Where to start?  Lets start with food!  The provisioning exercise is detailed in the
    abovementioned document, but essentially, we ate our way across the Pacific!!!  We
    can’t remember when we ate better, ever.  In the absence of any hint of seasickness,
    we ploughed our way through gourmet meal after gourmet meal, and even so,
    arrived at our destination 10 lbs lighter!  Breakfast was an “every man for himself”
    affair taken from choices of orange or mango juice, coffee with assorted flavourings,
    a variety of fresh and dried fruits, oatmeal, muesli, cereal bars, egg scrambles,
    pancakes with maple syrup…whatever the Hyatt had, we had more!.... we scheduled
    lunch and dinner alternate days: ie, if Henry did lunch one day, he prepared dinner
    the next, and vice versa…so, it meant that dinner preparation became more of a
    creative challenge than a drudge.

    For the detail-minded, we’ve documented the main meal of the day in our narrative
    log, so you can eat along with us.   We ate wonderful fresh fruit the whole way across,
    and, 6 weeks later are still savouring oranges.  We bought mangoes, avocados and
    a pineapple, potatoes, onions, garlic, chillis, celery (which was terrific with peanut
    butter and cream cheese centers).   We made pies for special occasions, feasted
    on Alaskan smoked salmon, cream cheese & capers with special champagne, for
    crossing the Equator and honoured several other special events and milestones.  
    We’d ordered gourmet sausages (turkey/cinnamon/apple and sun-dried
    tomato/cheese) and ostrich steaks from the Puerta Vallarta chandlers and had
    wonderful dinners like chicken kiev parmesan, from the freezer cabinet.  Even during
    “hairy” 25 knot rides, we were in the galley, pumping out great meals, followed of
    course, by a selection of chocolates.  We sometimes shared a can of beer for lunch
    when conditions were calm but mostly drank flavoured water and Gatorade.

    Our other primary wake-time activity while passaging was radio communications.  
    DreamCatcher is equipped with the Icom 802  Single SideBand radio which is also
    email-capable.   We were part of the Pacific Puddle Jumpers net which had daily roll-
    call and weather/information exchange.  Additionally, we would often check into the
    Blue Water Net, the Amigo Net and Don’s (Summer Passage) weather broadcasts.  
    With 4 radio scheds a day, it was like being back at the office, on conference calls!!   
    These nets kept us connected to the “outside” world of other cruisers, as during our
    entire passage we never sighted another sailboat (just 1 fishing and 1 research
    vessel) and it was always heartening to know we weren’t out there alone.   We LOVE
    the radio.  Additionally, we were able to do email every 2-3 days, invaluable for
    keeping in touch with you all and for contacting boats ahead and technical vendors.  
    Email while passaging is a little challenging though: bracing oneself in a constantly
    moving environment and having the patience to wait while the radio picks up a free
    station and uploads/downloads, takes time, all the while keeping an eye on the amps
    available (email transmission requires a significant amount of power) to ensure that
    critical boat systems  are not compromised.  With our time zone changing as we
    gradually passaged west, the timing of the radio nets was often in the midst of an off-
    watch so they added to our broken sleep routine – but we wouldn’t have missed
    them for the world.  Towards the end of the passage, the Puddle Jumper fleet had
    thinned,  with the last 10 boats or so keeping up the net: as each boat made landfall
    they dropped out till there were finally just two of us.  The reduced net participants
    made the net more informal and plans and fish stories were swapped, boat
    problems discussed and moral support provided.

    It wouldn’t be right to pass the radio topic without giving Don of Summer Passage
    acknowledgement and kudos for his weather information.  A long time but now ex-
    cruiser, he transmits from his station in Southern California, tirelessly and selflessly
    providing weather information and anaysis to passage-makers.  We have never
    seen a photo of him, but I imagine him as a cross between Yoda of Star Wars, wise
    and considered...and Santa Claus, jovial and kindly.  Don weaves the weather into
    wonderful but factual scenarios and delivers it in his dulcet Cheshire tones with a
    chuckle thrown in for good measure.  He takes personal calls on weather (if you can
    get in over the myriad of cruisers clamouring for his expertise) is on a first-name
    basis with all cruisers and gives his undivided attention to your call, particularly if a
    vessel is being compromised by a weather system.   We’ll miss him after the

    Weather, of course is the sailor’s number one concern (along with boat integrity).  
    We had decided early on to contract a professional weather router for the Pacific
    passage.  We used Commander, who call weather for the big round-the world yacht
    races.  Their forecasts differed from Don’s in that they were text (email), and very
    specific to Dreamcatcher’s capabilities and location.  We would send them a
    position report and in return they would email us a 5-day forecast with wind direction
    and speed for every 6 hours during those 5 days.  There would also be general
    warnings about squall and convection areas in our path.  They would specifically
    route us in certain directions (luckily for us, usually the rhumb line, which enabled us
    to make the most efficient distance).  On one occasion, when we were in the middle
    of a huge (2000 square miles) low pressure system, we called them on the sat
    phone: our radio net had indicated boats up ahead encountering 50 knots of wind,
    some lying to sea anchors…..we had been in 28-32 knots for a couple of cold,
    drenching days, and getting pretty sick of it: they said “turn south immediately”, we
    did and were out of the worst of it within 24 hours.  When we tried to turn west again
    to make our equatorial crossing goal of 130W, we again found ourselves tangled up
    in the weather system, so ended up southing some more, till the whole mess blew
    itself out and we were able to pick up the SE trades at about 6 deg N of the equator.

    During our entanglement with that large low pressure system, life was a little hairy
    and very wet for about 2 days – who would have thought we would be huddling in the
    cockpit in full heavy duty foul-weather gear, seaboots and woolly hats drinking hot
    soup, at 7 deg north of the equator?!  Most of the time during this rough weather, we
    hand-steered the boat – the seas being too much to ask of our autopilot even though
    we had all sails deep reefed.  While the winds never got much over 34 knots, the
    seas were big, and 34 knots of wind in a mid Pacific low delivers a very different sea
    state than 34 knots in San Francisco Bay.  Our rough calculation was that every 5
    knots of wind earned another 2 feet of swell height…. The tops were being torn off
    the waves, turning into white spray and the general scene for days was simply grey-
    green for the sea and grey-white for the sky…..often merging into a grim light and
    dark grey world (the squalls) for many hours at a time.  The waves and swell were
    coming from behind us, and every few minutes between arm-wrestling the wheel you’
    d glance over your shoulder and see a block of water the size of your corporate
    headquarters rolling towards you, hissing and spitting, wanting to climb over your
    stern rail, and with another “oh sxxt!” hissed between clenched teeth, you wrestle the
    boat down the face of the wave, only to rise over it…..time and time again, for hours
    which turned into days.  We hand steered these sections so as not to overload the
    autopilot and to keep a “feel” for the boat, reduced to two hour watches due to the
    physical and mental stress such conditions deliver.  While we were not scared, it
    was an anxious and demanding time.   We were drenched  and tired for several
    days and were glad to see the back of that weather system.  It was during this time
    that part of a wave did splash into the cockpit and triggered Henry’s life jacket to
    inflate …. It was a heck of a fright!

    We were fortunate in that we largely missed the ITCZ (doldrums).  We did have one
    full night of too much excitement: dozens of thunder/lightening squalls kept us wide-
    eyed and on a zig-zag course dodging lightning flashes: that was the night Jack, our
    autopilot, died.  

    The autopilot failure was a major turning point for us : it meant we would have to hand
    steer the remaining 1200 miles.  Henry quickly established there were no on-board
    fixes we could implement (it was the electronic control head that had taken water
    through the display).   It meant we had to eat separately – now gone were the days
    we’d share a meal, chat while Jack drove during dinner, gone, our opportunity to
    read a book while under way (this is usual cruiser practice in daylight when
    conditions are calm & clear) gone our 3 hour watches – it was simply too long at the
    helm, and we switched to 2 hours on/2 hours off.   This loss of the autopilot, while it
    didn’t have too big an impact initially, eventually took its toll as we became very, very
    tired, to the point of major fatigue towards the end of the passage.  Sadly, it took a
    lot of the enjoyment out of the last part of the trip and towards the end we had
    curtailed many of our passage-making activities (creative cooking, “housework”,
    email) and were mostly driving and sleeping.  Sometimes the latter was difficult
    despite our tiredness – coming off a vigorous watch, hand steering through lively 30
    knot squalls at night, you’d be so pumped with adrenaline, it would take ages to get
    to sleep, only to have to be up again in what seemed at the time, like minutes.   We
    continued to eat  well and were glad of the prepared frozen meals we had that we
    had not touched during the early part of the passage.   We slept in our clothes on the
    salon couches (the bed only got used 2 nights out of the 25), and sometimes in our
    harness & lifejackets, simply being too tired to take them off.  Ablutions mostly
    became a brief  wipedown with a moist towel and everything else became
    secondary to rest.  Sleep deprivation tends to be part of any long ocean passage but
    on looking back now, the discipline and stamina that we required for this part of the
    trip, was phenomenal.  It is certainly the most physically and mentally demanding
    prolonged effort either of us has ever had to make.  We both had tears running down
    our faces when we made landfall and saw the Marquesas emerge from the dawn,
    through relief that this pain and fatigue was over.     Of pain, GT got neck and
    shoulder cramps from continual hand steering and had to start each watch with a rub
    of Tiger Balm and half an muscle relief tablet.  Because of the hand steering, both
    hand and bicep muscles grew enormously she now looks like Popeye the Sailor
    (minus the pipe!).

    One thing the cruiser mulls over is back-up systems: should we have had an
    independent back-up autopilot?  Possibly, but that would have been another $5,000
    USD.  Should we have had a wind vane steering device? Possibly, and we had
    pontificated over this for months prior to departure and apart from the $3,000 extra,
    simply couldn’t make it fit onto the stern of the boat where we had too much other
    “stuff”: the dinghy mounts, the stern anchor and the mizzen boom.

    Life aboard during that 25 days became “normal” – it sounds odd but your mind and
    body simply starts to accept the regimen of living at sea: it took us (and most boats
    we talked to) about 5 days to get into the “groove” and after that, it was simply the
    way we lived.  We were always busy – when we were off watch, time was spent in
    meal prep/eating/cleaning up, radio schedules & reports (these could sometimes go
    for over an hour), ablutions, reviewing manuals & technical documents, fixing things
    that broke, writing emails, making phone calls, laundry and of course a goal of 8
    hours of rest.   We preferred to sleep in the salon of the boat: it was comfortable, with
    2’6” bunks each side plus it enabled the helmsman to have visual access to the other
    person should help on deck need to be summoned : throwing a sandal from the helm
    at the sleeping crew below was found to be the most effective method of getting their
    attention (it was impossible to wake someone sleeping in the aft quarters without
    leaving the helm) and that location also had quick access to the chart &
    instrumentation center.

    Like every boat on the passage we did some damage along the way…Clearly the
    autopilot was our biggest loss.   Additional carnage was very light compared to
    some other passage-makers:
    -        broken main topping lift (jury-rigged at sea, still holding)
    -        biminy stitching chafed and split on aft edge as a result of above (restitched in
    Nuku Hiva)
    -        shredded spinnaker halyard – jury rigged under way : ugly but still holding
    -        second reefing block/lines departed the main sail – re-rigged mid ocean during
    15 knots wind with acrobatics you wouldn’t believe!
    -        Main sail – launched a batten, split through batten pocket, small hole.
    -                        - puncture from a boom screw
    -        Battery combiner (house & starter) malfunctioned, still reviewing wiring.
    -        Galley Kettle – smashed tempered glass lid during rough ride: this had a
    serious impact on water boiling activities on a moving boat.  Replaced in Marquesas.

    Without exception, boats had breakages and issues: most common were problems
    with autopilots and wind vanes, engine malfunctions came next, including a couple of
    engine fires, then rigging: fellow puddle-jumpers lost their headstay and one boat
    broke major rigging tangs on port side, seriously impacting their ability to carry sail,
    plus an assortment of other marine ailments we all sympathized with either over the
    radio or over a beer in our arrival anchorage.  What was common to all was the
    uncompromising help everyone was to everyone else.  There is nothing more
    unifying than the society of people sailing small boats in large oceans, needing help
    – everyone was genuinely interested in your issues, despite having a list of their own,
    and tried to help solve your problems with sympathy, suggestions or practical hands-
    on work, as we did theirs.

    Henry’s personal perspectives: It has taken me a couple of weeks reflect upon the
    Pacific crossing. One thing is for sure: crossing the Pacific has been the biggest
    challenge that I have encountered in my life. Twenty four days on the boat with Glen,
    and not a stitch of land in sight. Just the 3 of us: HM, GT, and Dreamcatcher. Would I
    do it again? No, unless I was a fool. Did I learn a lot?  Yes, and will always treasure
    this incredible achievement. I may become a sailor yet! It has been gratifying that all
    the work Glen and I put into Dreamcatcher paid off. She safely took us across the
    largest body of water
    in the world in comfort, and with minimal breakdowns. The last 12 days of the journey
    without the autopilot were the most difficult. Lack of sleep, eating dinner in shifts, and
    having to focus on the boat all the time consumed most of our energy and spare
    time. Night time sailing is my favorite, and by hand steering, I lost the ability to look at
    the night sky for extended periods of time: only quick glances. We were getting short
    with each other, especially the last two days before landfall. And what a thrill to see
    the coast line of Hiva Oa…our spirits revitalized and grateful for a successful Pacific

    GT’s personal perspectives: certainly a major achievement that drew on all my
    reserves to the full and probably something to be proud of (no-one would ever dare
    call me a whimp after this!!!).  Would I do it again? Heck no!  Am I glad I did it –
    absolutely.  What it makes you realize is that there is so much more to learn about
    the technology and the practice of seamanship, even after decades of sailing.  It fills
    me with even more awe for the early sailors who had none of the aids we did.  Doing
    this with Henry, after having had so much practical hands-on work “re-building”
    DreamCatcher made it very special, despite the fatigue and the crankiness we felt
    towards the end.  I feel a real warmth towards the boat – whenever we were under
    strain or stress I kept telling myself “trust the boat”, and of course, the big trusty boat
    did just fine, even on the occasions when I was frazzled.   So far, since leaving
    California we’ve logged over 5,000 miles and look forward to the next 5,000, as long
    as Jack’s aboard!!!!