Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Marquesas Islands and Pacific Transit

Panama City, Panama,
Hiva Oa, Marquesas
03 July - 16 Aug 2011

First question many of you might have is, “Where the hell are the Marquesas?" Fair enough question. The Marquesas Islands are the easternmost island group of French Polynesia. 900nm northeast of Tahiti (probably the best known island in Polynesia) The Marquesas lie just about in the middle of the Southern Pacific ocean; halfway between South America and Australia.

The Big Picture: The Marquesas are at the end of that line.

The trip took Galena 37 days, 3.5 hours; not bad for a 32-ft boat. Considering the actual miles under the keel (4184), that gives me an average speed of 4.7-kts. During the voyage I consumed 42-gal of water while Galena consumed 45-gal of diesel fuel.

I had planned on a 40-day voyage, give or take a week. I had water enough for two months and food enough for eight months. Enough fuel to motor 800nm. Enough safety equipment to placate those who care about me. Enough experience to know that I didn't have enough experience. And a boat that could take more abuse than I and would forgive my mistakes without trying to kill me.

I am well aware of the fact that I left Panama several months late according to common cruising wisdom. Most cruisers depart Panama by mid-March and here I am making my move in early July. This late in the year there's a whole different weather pattern at work. I've discovered why this is not a good time to make this crossing.

The reasons for my delay might mostly be attributed to my unexpected 3-month stay in Cartagena, Columbia. A delay that I don't regret for a moment. But a decision that was perhaps not well considered.

As usual I kept a detailed log during this voyage. Partly because I wanted to have my position written down every few hours in case something (lightning strike?) took out my electronic navigation equipment. But mostly because I wanted to be able to look back years from now and be reminded of all the strange things that ran through my mind.

Unlike past passages this time I'm not going to transcribe my deck log. There's just too much (over 400 separate entries) and I really don't think anyone would be all that interested in working through it. Most of those entries describe such exciting details as “raised the staysail" and “Shit! Accidental gibe!" and “Wind just died down to 4-kts." Almost all of the entries included a position (lat/lon), heading and speed, wind direction and speed, and distance to go. Mostly it is very boring stuff. So I hereby relegate that book to my archives; something to reread when I'm old.

I did, however, make some observations while reviewing the log for this web update and I'll include them.

The Start of the Passage

Galena was traveling in company with several buddy-boats: Stravaig, Hakuna Matata, Columbus, Sur L'Eau, Passion, Ulawatu, et al. When traveling with others one makes some allowances for staying together. It's not so much a safety thing as it is a social thing. While I personally like being alone I also really enjoy being with people I know.

When I say "in company with" I mean that for this voyage we were usually withing 800nm of one another. Columbus was closest to me and they were usually 500nm back. That translates to about 3days behind me. Not really close enough to toss me a line in case of trouble. But close enough to commiserate with me about a troublesome weather system.

With that in mind I found myself in Panama City, Panama, waiting with friends for other friends to get ready to depart.

Galena was lying at anchor west of the causeway outside of Panama City. It's a large anchorage with lots of room. It's also deep and there's a 15-ft tidal range. For many cruisers this is their first contact with a range like that. Combine lack of experience with only moderate holding and you have conditions ripe for dragging. And just about every time the wind blew over 20-kts, someone's boat went on an unexpected walkabout.

View of part of the anchorage with Panama City in the background.

Stravaig was victim of one such incident when a large (over 50-ft) sailboat dragged into his trimaran. He sustained a bit of damage to his bows and the other boat's anchor chain ended up wrapped around his prop shaft. Events like that make for an interesting night.

On 3 July with the others promising to be right behind us, Stravaig and I departed for Las Perlas; it's an island chain just 30nm south of the Canal. The intent was simply to get out of that tar-pit of a harbor. There I waiting for another 5 days for the others to catch-up. I gave up and headed out alone on the morning of 9 July. The others wouldn't leave for over a week.

I had been anchored in Panama for too long. Weighing anchor took about an hour as I had to stop and scrub the growth off the chain every few feet.

Raising the anchor in Panama City. Manual windlasses suck. But they always work.

Finally I was off. But there was little wind and I found myself motoring on calm seas.

Galena motoring toward Las Perlas

While there was insufficient wind to sail that day, there was torrential rain for at least half the trip. I saw the rain approaching. There was the usual gray clouds and that white mist over the water. But again, not much wind.

My route from Panama City to Las Perlas

Stravaig and I ended up on the northeast shore of Isla Pedro Gonzalez.

Galena motoring toward Las Perlas

The Los Perlas islands are a beautiful set of islands. Lots of large beaches and secluded anchorages. The one we were at had palm trees, wide sandy beaches, and not a hint of surge. The water was deep right up to the shoreline and crystal clear.

Here a large cat is careened on the beach at Pedro Gonzales, Las Perlas, to clean it's bottom.
15-ft tides are sometimes convenient

One of the reasons I decided to depart when I did was that the clock had already started. While sitting at Las Perlas I was consuming my limited supply of fuel, water and food. I had left Panama with 85-gal of diesel fuel, 80-gal of water, and about 8-months worth of food. That and the fact that I had been dreaming about this voyage for over five years and there was no reason to put it off any longer.

On the morning of the 9th of July s/v Stravaig came by to say “goodbye" and wish me a safe crossing. Jose dropped off some cake she had baked for me. Jeff said he was going to wait for Columbus and leave with them.

Their delay was good for them. They missed the storms that rolled through the Gulf of Panama that week. I was out there enduring them.

I was giddy. Finally heading out for a 5-week voyage. Almost couldn't believe it. Again, I'd been dreaming of this day for years. And here I was… actually doing it!

I will not recount the mistakes I made during those first few hours in my nervous excitement: The sheets that were run foul, the miscues of seamanship of which I knew better. But, hey! I was on my way.

It was 1500 GMT, 09 July 2011.

The Route vs The Track

The direct line distance from Panama to Marquesas is 3800nm. My planned route was 4000nm in length. The currents and winds force a couple of decisions: Get out of the doldrums by heading south first then west, or west then south? Pass the Galapagos to the north or the south? Cross the equator (and the equatorial counter-current) east or west of 100-deg west longitude?

I chose: head south first, pass north of the Galapagos, cross equator before 100-West.
I may not have chosen wisely.

The actual count of miles under the keel was 4184-nm. Most of that wondering off-course was done in the first week while trying to get out of the Gulf of Panama. My worst day mileage-wise was July 15 when I made only 68-nm under the keel but managed an embarassing -1nm made good. My best day was on July 24 when I chalked up 158-nm.

Trying to get out of the doldrums in the Gulf of Panama. Each green dot is a day. Blue line is my planned route.

On 12 and 13 July, while I put 150-nm under my keel, I only made 6-nm good (toward my destination). The weather that night was so bad (all together now: “How bad was it?") that when I did my daily check-in with the Pacific Seafarers' Net (14.300 mHz, 0330Z) the Coast Guard called me to tell me of a sever weather advisory. There was no place for me to go to get away so I'm not sure what they expected of me. I just held on and let Galena take care of me throughout that night.

That whole first week was pretty bad both in terms of weather and wind direction. The wind was SW and I was heading SW. The current was coming around Ecuador and hitting me right on the nose, too. Add to that the almost constant squalls and I was not loving life for that first week.

As expected I motorsailed a great deal of the time. I burned up 45-gal of fuel during that week and only 5-gal during the remaining month of the voyage.

Had I left in April I might have avoided some of this storm activity. As it was the winds were right on the nose for the entire first week. It wasn't until the 9th day out that the winds and seas clocked around to the port beam and Galena ceased her continual pounding into the seas. From that point on Galena was on port tack with only a few short-lived exceptions.

The area just south of the Canal is crowded with shipping. By the way, the canal runs mostly north and south, not east-west as some think. When I say south of the canal I mean on the Pacific side. As a single-hander I found that my AIS system was a lifesaver. Literally. Many times during the first few days I had to respond to AIS alarms indicating that some freighter was steaming toward me with a projected CPA (Closest Point of Approach) of several hundred yards. They don't change course or speed for anyone. So I had to.

That reminds me of a pet peeve: I've often sat in bars listening to sailors say that they keep a spotlight in the cockpit so they can shine it on their sail at night. They mean to let ships know that they are a sailboat and therefore have right of way. I have to say that's dumb. First of all your nav light configuration indicates you're a sailboat. Secondly ships are not going to see your 'lit-up' sail from a mile away. Finally, they won't care! Just change course, open up the CPA, and sail on. You are not going to win any argument about right of way at sea.

Several times Galena let me know that I wasn't just along for the ride. I actually had responsibilities! I'd wake up to find Galena gently bobbing along in pleasant weather but making only 2-kts; and that in the wrong direction. I'd adjust some sheets and give Harvey (my Aries wind steering vane) a nudge left or right and Galena would bound off like a happy puppy: on course and making 5.5 kts again. Made me feel important.

A noteworthy difference on this voyage was the fact that I almost always wore a safety harness and tether when going forward. Past journeys to the mast or even out on the bowsprit have often found me slip-sliding around on my bare butt with nothing keeping me from a dip in the deep blue sea was my good luck and a strong handhold on a mast or boom. Perhaps it was the significantly larger distances from shore, or perhaps in my old(er) age I'm simply more aware of my own mortality. Whatever the reason I almost always swung the harness over my shoulders, double-clipped the snap shackle at my chest, checked the other end of the tether to ensure it was fair-led to the jackline on the proper side deck and only then did I make my move forward.

Sailboats have one element that we sailors sometimes overlook. They are pretty. Even my old Galena has some nice lines. I don't mean just the lines of her hull. But the lines that are formed when she's doing her special thing. Looking up from the v-berth through the forward hatch displays just one view of those lines that make sailboats special.

Looking up through the forward hatch at the 130 Genny.

During that first week my electronic autopilot failed. It was a 5-yr old Raymarine St4000-gp. The electronics got wet or something and it just stopped working. My Aries wind vane was stiff with corrosion and wouldn't steer in anything short of 15-kts of wind. I was contemplating turning back or detouring to Ecuador for repairs/replacement. But I worked on the Aries for a few hours and got it loosened up by pouring a lot of acid on it to dissolve the corrosion and then a lot of used motor oil on it to lubricate the shafts. Finally I used duct tape to attach a large RubberMaid container lid to the top of the vane and that give it enough oomph to work in lighter airs. So I continued on.

The weather began to improve. By the eighth day out I was actually able to sit in the cockpit and read. No foul weather gear required. No hand-steering required. Sailing on my desired course without engine assist. Things were looking up.

The 130-Genny poled out on a rare starboard tack

I mentioned reading. On a voyage this long one needs to amuse oneself with something. I chose reading. Before leaving Columbia I had bought a Kindle (e-book reading device). From fellow cruisers I had acquired about 30,000 books in electronic format on an external hard drive. Like my 70,000 songs in mp3 format and my 600 movies in mp4 format, I had pirated the hell out of just about every artist on the planet. The e-books were just the latest of my illegal activities. I know that “a pirate is a pirate whether he wields a saber or a cd-burner." Well, I'm a pirate of many sorts.

I spent most of my down-time on this voyage reading. I'm not a fast reader but I still went through quite a few. First of all I reread the Foundation Trilogy by Asimov, then a bunch of books by Doug Adams, all eleven volumes of the Hornblower series. Currently I'm working on the 10th volume of the Kinsey Millhone detective series by Sue Crafton. I know some people disapprove of the whole e-book idea. I understand that “book in the hand" argument. But on-board a boat these devices can't be beat. I find myself looking forward to “having a little kindle" each afternoon.

Dinners were simple. Usually on Galena I'll have something like Spam and onions. Actually this is quite a tasty feast. Pasta or rice is also a favorite. I don't get many return dinner guests and don't really know why that is.

Spam in the skillet
[I have to say, each time I come back here to edit this section, this picture makes my mouth water. Am I sick or what?]

While in Panama I had collected a few small, single-serving wine bottles. They seemed to be the right size for dropping overboard with a message. I dropped a few during this passage. My message was simply who I was, what I was doing, where I was, and would you please let me know where and when you found this message. I've done this many times before and in all these years I've never once had anyone contact me saying they found my note. But there's always a chance.

When cruising on the ocean one often finds uninvited guests on board. Each night you may look out and find a bird or two taking advantage of your deck and resting.

Most mornings you'll find several flying fish that had the misfortune of landing on deck. Most are about the size of sardines. Many are up to a foot long. And some are only an inch or two long. All quickly begin to smell bad. So each morning while walking the deck and checking the rigging and sails I find myself looking into nooks and crannies and tossing the little buggers overboard.

Bird taking a break on Galena aft deck

There was one full week of the voyage wherein I found no flying fish on board. Instead I found squid. Lots and lots of squid. But then they disappeared and we went back to flying fish. Strange.

small squid on deck in the morning

An annoying by-product of all the squid was all the squid ink. Amazing that such a small creature can produce such a quantity of black liquid. Fortunately it washed right off.

Between Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands there was a morning when the wind was light and the sky was clear and as I looked toward the SE I saw for the first time the undistorted ocean swell.

I'll try to describe it but I know at the start that I will fall short: Wind waves we've all seen: usually up to about 8-ft high, 30 or 40 feet between peaks. But Pacific swells were awesome. Yes, Ron, I mean like nuclear bomb “awesome." To see these swells that were easily 12 feet high with 150 yards between peaks moving at 30 knots and feeling almost nothing but a gentle lift and drop as they ran under you. That is a picture I will never forget. For some time I couldn't take my eyes off of the ocean. Most of the time there's enough wind to put 5-ft wind waves on top of the swells. That tends to hide the actual immensity of the swells. But that morning showed them in all their glory.

My decision to bypass the Galapagos was based on time and money. I've heard several horror stories about how much they charge to land there. Some cruisers were spouting figures as high as $800 just to clear in! To be fair many were only quoting costs in the $300 range. But I wasn't going pay that much just to spend a few days in a nature reserve. That and the fact that I was on my way, making good time, and anxious to get to “the islands" caused me to decide against a landfall there.

But I did pass close enough to see the islands.

My only sighting of the Galapagos Islands

While sailing west over the northern edge of the Galapagos I encountered a strong current setting me NW. I lost some of my southing but I was cranking along at over 7-kts for several days.

I crossed the equator at about 1100Z, 24 July 2011.

Crossing the equator. You can see by the speed that I was still in the grips of some powerful and favorable currents. And while for you coastal cruisers out there, that "Off Course" number might be a little scary on this leg with so far left to go it means little.

Of course as I crossed the line I when through my own private little ceremony. Mostly I had a drink with Neptune and then he and I had a long talk about what I expected of him in the coming weeks.

Throughout the passage I was treated to day after day of beautiful sunsets and sunrises.
Here are a few That I thought were "pixle-worthy"

Try as I might I was unable to capture on cameral the awesome power of the ocean. One of the ocean's characteristics that sets it so far apart from the land is that it is always in motion. There is never a moment when you look out toward the horizon and see a still-life image. I took tons of picture and many minutes of video. None of it captures the immense size of the waves; the power in those waves. The combination of ordered motion in the swells and the clouds and disordered motion in the wind waves dancing on the surface. During this voyage I spent much, actually most, of my time below; out of the elements and wrapped in the comfort of Galena's cozy cabin. But every time I looked out I saw something new. The same, to be sure. But unique none the less. If you've never been out there you just don't know.

I once visited a web site (years ago, now) that was devoted to "Those who love the sea." Lots of poetry; lots of photos. But the poetry talked about 'going' to sea, not being there. The photos were all from the shore, looking out. I posted a photo not unlike one of the ones above: from the deck of my boat. I captioned it with something like, "If you love the sea and want to know her, then live on her. Don't stand on the shore. Let her wrap herself around you and hold you so that you feel only her. Let her carry you away. Then you will know the sea. Then you will be able to say whether, in fact, you love her." I didn't get a warm reception. The nuance was lost.

The last two days of my voyage were full of frustration. The wind was very light; down around 4 kts. And it was directly astern. That made it very difficult to hold course and very difficult to keep the sails full while rocking in the swells.

The final night held the worst weather I'd encountered since the Gulf of Panama. Constant recurring squalls; heavy rain and sudden winds. Coupled with the fact that I was close to land and couldn't really go to sleep so I was up all night tending to the tiller and the sails. By dawn I was motorsailing along the southern coast of Hiva Oa looking for the harbor.

The village of Atuana is located on the rim of a sunken volcanic caldron. There is a circular ridge around the bay and the actual harbor is a result of a small stream flowing into that bay.

Entering Atuana harbor

As I motored into the harbor I looked back at the last sunrise of my voyage.

Looking back toward my last sunrise along the souther coast of Hiva Oa.

I pulled in, dropped the sails and dropped the anchor. I was safely anchored by 0630 local time on 16 July 2011. I opened, then drank, a bottle of warm champaign and then promptly went to sleep.

Galena, the center of the three boats, anchored behind the breakwater at Atuana

The next morning s/v Columbus came into the harbor to join me. They had left 8-days after me and arrive one day after I did. They also missed the storms in the Gulf and had a pleasent transit.

Columbus arriving at Atuana, Hiva Oa

Clearing customs was easy. With Columbus in tow I headed into town. It's about a 2-mile walk to the village.

First thing we found out was that the Gendarmerie only processes clearances Monday-Friday 0700-1000. We were almost late when we started.

We went to the bank to post bond. Being from a non-European Union country (me from the US and Columbus from Australia) we had to post a "get-off-our-island" bond. The French authorities don't want any boat bums stuck here on their islands with no way to depart. So we must either have an out-bound airline ticket or post a refundable bond in the amount of the cost of a ticket home. For me that was $1,500. They charge your credit card and then, eventually, refund it when you clear customs on the way out. Alternatively one can actually buy a (refundable) airline ticket and then cancel it when you sail away. Another option is to post a cash bond. Then you have to trust that you will a refund at your last port in a currency that you can use later.

The local currency is the French Colonial Franc. Currently US$ 1 = 79 XPF. For those who translate using the Beer Economic Model, A beer in a roadside bar costs US$3.

If you're from an EU country, there is no bond. Feels a little depressing to suddenly be from a less-than-first-class country. Fitz and Trish (s/v Columbus) had to pay about $900 each for their bond back to Australia.

The bank needed only our passports and credit cards. While they do this all the time it took a surprising amount of time to accomplish the payment and there was a surprising number of forms to sign; all in French, of course.

Then to the Gendarmerie. They wanted our passports, boat documentation, and crew list. We filled out a form indicating that we were not smuggling anything illegal into the country and in a few minutes we were done. Columbus had some issues with their two cats but they worked that out.

Back to Galena and down with the yellow "Q" flag and up with the French courtesy flag. As a non-EU citizen I'm only allowed a 90-day visa. So my clock has started. I have to visit here, Tahiti, and then depart Bora Bora before 16 Nov. A little quicker than I'd like, but doable.

When s/v Stravaig arrives on Sunday, We'll party our asses off for a couple of days then head over one of the smaller islands for bottom cleaning and more partying. After a couple days there I'll head toward Papeete, Tahiti, s/v Columbus will sail directly for Bora Bora, and s/v Stravaig will probably stay here in the Marquesas for a while.

To date I have put over 22,000 miles under Galena's keel. I'm still not much of a sailor. I'm still learning from Galena herself as well as from other sailors and of course from the sea. Most importantly I still don't know what I'm looking for or what I want to be when I grow up. That's what this voyage is all about.

Some additional comments on Galena's systems.

Galena has a watermaker. A PUR-40 that will produce about 1.5 gal of drinking water per hour from seawater at a cost of about 5 amp-hrs. Galena's internal freshwater tanks hold 60-gal. I had lashed to her side decks another 20-gal in portable jugs.

My consumption was purposefully miserly. I used freshwater only for food prep and drinking. For the duration of the trip I used about one gallon per day. There was not need to run the watermaker.

Besides I had mounted the watermaker on the port side forward in the head vanity cabinet. With the majority of this voyage taking place on a port tack that water intake was often sucking air. Something to consider next time I fit-out a boat.


I have a 10-yr old Icom 706 ham radio on board. It has been doused with enough seawater spray to have cause some of the buttons to no longer work. The old Pactor II radio modem had finally given up and I was forced to replace it with a new PTC-IIusb at considerable expense in Panama. My new Pactor modem has the Pactor III license upgrade. The II is ok, but the III actually connects more reliably and has significantly higher transmit speeds. While P-II may run at 300-baud on a good day, P-III will usually connect at 4-times that speed. I use a copper foil counterpoise and an insulated backstay antenna.

The Pactor is invaluable for e-mail communications out in the deep. I wouldn't leave home without this capability. As well as email with friends, I get weather fax and weather forecasts. I need more RF chokes on the various wires connecting all the bits. It looks like I have stray RF current running all over the boat. The result is that the computer goes a bit crazy and looses comm with the radio when the radio transmits. I'll get that taken care of when I reach more civilized areas. Maybe Tahiti.

I should have replaced the Icom before I left. I'll replace it sometime in the next few months. Probably with an Icom 710.

Being very much alone out here is mitigated by communications.

Each morning and evening I'd make contact with my buddy-boats Columbus and Stravaig on the SSB. We had setup a scheduled net on 8.143 mHz and would exchange positions. When you're out here it's always nice knowing that someone knows where you are.

With that in mind I also checked in with the Pacific Seafarers' Net each evening on 14.300 mHz at 0330Z. They keep track of voyagers and post positions on several web sites. If I'm at sea you can probable see where I am by visiting the YotReps site at: http://www.pangolin.co.nz/yotreps/tracker.php?ident=N4UDE. My ham radio call sign is N4UDE. For some reason that site still that Galena's old name listed: Vinegaroon.

Some cruisers don't like to check-in with this group because they run a strict, directed net. They call boats in a specific order and expect you to give your report in a specific format. If you don't do it right they will scold you. I know. My first report wasn't quite up to their standards and they let me know about it.

Also, since they are sitting there at home in their ham shacks, kicked back in their easy chairs sipping coffee they don't really know what' it's really like on our end of the line. If your signal is a bit off or weak, they'll say things like, “Well, you should rebuild your counterpoise" or, “do you have another antenna you can switch to?" Or my favorite, “You might want to change out your power supply, you got a bit of a hum in your signal." They don't seem to understand that out here, what I've got is what I've got. Period!

But on the plus side, if you miss a check in or two they will definitely send help. They take themselves quite seriously in that regard.


Checking in to radio nets brings to mind the issue of Time on board.
Clock time, I mean. When voyaging for weeks at a time you have two types of times. One never changes. Radio net times for example. Those are usually given as UTC or Zulu time. To keep those schedules you'll need a clock set to UTC.

Some times change daily. Sunrise is an example. What time do you get up? When do you eat? So you might want a clock set to local time, which when traveling east or west changes daily.

In the days of tall ships and long voyages the captain would use his sextant each day to do a noon site. That would give him his latitude and allow him to set his ship's clock (hourglass) to local noon each day ("Make it noon, Mr Hornblower." And the hourglass would be flipped over and the ship's bell would ring eight-bells.)

Log book entries. What time do you use for when writing in your log book? If you say you got out of bed at 1500Z hrs it isn't immediately obvious that that is dawn at 125-degrees west longitude.

I compromised: each 15-degrees of longitude (1 time zone) I changed my ship's clock. But my computer and my GPS and my log were all standardized on UTC, or Zulu time. Fitz on Columbus set his ship's clock to the time zone of his destination. He reasoning was that he would have no 'jet-lag' when he arrived. That's another thought.


Galena carries a main, staysail, yankee jib, and 130% genny. Also I have on-board a storm tri-sail and storm jib; neither of which I've ever used. Well, I've used the tri-sail to heave-to.

The sails are all soft, worn, patched, weak. They were on Galena when I bought her in 2003 and I think they were new in 1999. So, yeah, they're old.

I should have replaced my sails before I left the States. I looked up one morning and saw a 1-ft tear just below the second reef cringle on the main. Not really a tear, the seam had come un-stitched. So I pulled out my thread and needle, dropped the main on deck, and sat on deck sewing it up.

Torn sail seam

I found a small tear where the reefing line had chafed through the material and patched that. I also found a spot where the lazy-jacks had chafed through at the battan pocket. That needed to be patched, too.

My Yankee jib was crying out for maintenance, too. Two of the hanks had pulled their grommets out of the cloth and were hanging on to the bolt rope. Nothing to do about that till I get to port.

The repairs I made to the staysail while in Columbia were holding well. But the sail itself is soft and well-worn. After arriving at Hiva Oa I found a small (2") tear in the luff that needs mending.

The only sail on Galena that was in good shape at the start of this voyage was the 130% Genny. I left it up in winds that I thought were going to blow it out. It survived in spite of me.

I'll probably order new sails either in Tahiti or while in the Philippians.

But my buddy Fitz on s/v Columbus just showed me his home made roller furling. Cost him all of $50 to build. And it's already lasted about 10 years. The foil that runs up the stay is made from a couple of dinghy masts, riveted together, end for end. At the top and bottom he's built large nylon washers that act as bearing for the rotating parts. The foils are bushed with small PVC tubing slipped over the stay wire. The only thing he had built for him was the drum at the base. I may hold off on the sail purchase till I see about building a similar furling system. Photo's to follow.


I departed Panama with full internal tanks (70 gal) and five 5-gal jugs on deck for a total of 85 gallons of diesel fuel. I knew I would have to motorsail for several days while busting through the doldrums in the Gulf of Panama. And I did. But not all of my fuel went into the engine. One day the smell of diesel fuel filled the boat. I looked outside and down the starboard side deck and saw one of the deck jugs had tipped over, the cap had popped off (not sure how that happened) and two or three gallons had poured out and washed down the scuppers. I decided to pour that jug into the internal tanks. But the seas were rougher than I though and I ended up spilling even more of it out scuppers as I poured from jug into the Baha Filter.

I arrived in the Marquesas with 40-gal of fuel remaining having run the engine for 100-hrs (0.45 gal/hr). Pretty much what I had planned.

Without refrigeration and with both a wind generator and a couple of small solar panels (70 watts total) I was able to make due without resorting to running the engine for electricity.

Auto pilot

My Aries wind vane auto pilot is old and prone to seizure. I've rebuilt it once and that's not a small job. Certainly not something I can do on board or even on a beach. I should have rebuilt again it while I was partying in Columbia. The people in Cartagena have the skill to rebuild anything and to make it better than it was. But I foolishly put it off.

I may yet have to replace it if I can't get it working better than it is now. It's functional, but needs too much wind to work well.

Auto-inflate safety harness

One of the first pieces of equipment purchases was an auto-inflating safety harness with tether. I bought the best one I could find. Actually bought two since my ex-wife was still cruising with me at the time.

I sprung for the auto-inflate option thinking that If I go over the side due to a hit on the head the thing would inflate without action on my part.

I've now disabled the auto-inflate option.

On this voyage, for the second time, a boarding wave soaked the harness to the extent that the little bobbin dissolved and, Bam, I'm wearing a fully inflated life preserver. Two problems here: First a fully inflated Mea-West is very large and gets in the way of just about any activity. Secondly, I only have two more extra gas cylinders on board and can't afford another accidental inflation.

So I've gone to manual (pull the little tab) inflation only. When I get around to replacing these harnesses, if ever that happens, I'll get the strongest harness available, I'll get an inflatable harness (I find the bulk of that type of harness reassuring) but I'll not get the auto-inflate option.

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