Friday, 27 June 2014

Arrival then and now!

We're nearing Hawaii and I'm getting excited. I'm re-registering the feelings and impressions of my very FIRST offshore trip - nearly 21 years ago now. Not only would finding land with the sextant be important, being able to eat a SALAD and indulging in ICE WATER was on our minds. We might also see real musicians and dancers playing and performing to that steel-guitar music we'd been hearing on the radio.

In the intervening years, we've had our 'perfect' boat built. Ice-water is readily at hand. We've sailed nearly 100,000 nautical miles on Traversay III. No matter that our life aboard has become so much easier, and that sophisticated equipment COULD make us jaded about getting to land, when I read my writings from that time it still invokes the emotions of my first offshore adventure. Here are some excerpts:

Mary Anne Unrau's Log Book of a Hawaii trip Summer - 1993 on the 37' Jeanneau Yacht "TRAVERSAY II" June 24-July 12 1993

"As we got closer to shore, it became certain that we would never make it to Hilo during daylight. At first, we decided just to 'slow down' so we could go in during the daylight.

But as we got nearer and nearer, we decided to go in whenever we could - really, the sooner the better! I wondered how well we would manage being in close quarters with other boats and people (in the dark, yet!) after so much solitude at sea.

Amazingly (perhaps not so for the many people who have watched Larry navigate and sail) it became clear that we were not only pointed at the island of Hawaii, but at the Hilo harbour as we got close enough to see what had looked like a cloud mass change into a dark land mass. I had thought his sextant work (during which he started to have to wake up at even stranger hours for star-shots - the sun being inconveniently positioned in the middle of the sky!) was a bit of obscure busy-work. It was a lesson in cool-headed observation and accuracy to see how closely he had predicted our position."

"... Larry got out the high-powered light so we could direct it at the shore and make out the end of some docks which jutted out in the path of getting into Radio Bay Marina (our goal). As we went in, all the other boats were tied up to a wall Mediterranean-style - and all seemed to be sleeping (it was about 2230). Larry suggested we go in closer to scout a possible position (hopefully with our own individual ladder on the wall up to the shore). Then we moved further out again so he could give me explicit directions and explain the whole procedure. We would have to set our anchor and back up in between two boats laying out the chain. Somehow, this was so successfully accomplished and we tied up so easily that our port neighbours didn't even hear us come in!

Next morning, I sat in the cockpit relishing the (somewhat squalid) view of a Hilo trucking lot which contained GREEN palm trees and a RED cardinal. Something besides BLUE!"

Here we are in 2014. That incredible first visit to Hawaii fixed my determination to continue the adventuring. Surviving a Hurricane Alert suggested getting a more 'perfect' boat. We did it even though it meant we had to live through five long "boat-less" years and spend all we had. Some of the experiences live on in my memory ... the Customs officer in Hilo who gave us a whole bag of papayas ... running into 'kindred spirit' George Free and his immensely talented son writer-photographer David ... meeting and staying with a true genius and Renaissance person - Buddy Naluai whose mother (recently turning 100) welcomed me to her home and became my Hawaiian 'Mama'... spending time alone aboard the boat with 13-yr-old daughter Alice and preparing the boat for that Hurricane Alert ... scuba-diving and touring the island in a red convertible with her ... playing Chopin over a live broadcast circulated throughout all the Islands .. the privilege of performing on the Steinway Concert Grand piano in the 'Westminster Abbey' of Hawaii flanked by a portrait of concert pianist Queen Liliuokulani ...

However, I understand this blog is really meant to give current news and not to reminisce no matter how pleasant the memories ...

So TODAY two small natural ambassadors entered our lives thus proving that we've nearly arrived. A flying fish tried to leap over the boat (see Larry's photo) and a beautiful long-tailed 'Tropic-bird' floated above us. We're nearing land!

ps *** the July/August edition of 'Ocean Navigator' includes Larry's article about the NW Passage***

At 6/26/2014 16:26 (utc) our position was 21°10.45'N 150°08.96'W

Monday, 23 June 2014

a gentle routine

We are now in our eleventh day of our passage from Ensenada, Mexico to Hilo, Hawaii and life out here has settled into our passage routine.

We now sail the tropical Pacific with a sea [and air] temperature at 24C [75F]. It is cool outside at night but nothing that would require a sweater; the days are quite warm.

We see flying fish around the boat every day. If you haven't seen these creatures, you would find them quite amazing. They appear out of the surface of the sea and fly - not just leap or glide - above the surface for many tens of meters. Although not on this trip, I have been hit in the face by a flying fish while in the cockpit of our boat. It is common to find a few of them littering the deck each morning.

There have been uncharacteristically few birds though three followed us for several hours a few days ago. I think birds far offshore are more common in colder waters where there is more to eat. As we are now on an untravelled part of the ocean, we have not seen any ships since a week ago when we crossed a line between Asian and South American ports.

Our departure from Ensenada was on a full moon and the nights were very bright. Now, as we approach new moon, cloudy nights are very black while clear nights are illuminated by a faint silvery starlight. The waning moon gives off a fitful light just before the dawn lights the eastern sky.

Our progress is slow in the light winds, often measuring not much over one hundred nautical miles a day. Each day's forecast is much like the previous yielding yet more unthreatening gentle trade winds. This is hardly cause for complaint as we cycle through our watches and galley duties with little but routine to concern us. I don't remember such a quiet passage since our sail from Capetown to the Caribbean some three years ago across a tropical South Atlantic renowned for its gentle conditions.

Seven hundred more miles to go.

At 6/23/2014 13:25 (utc) our position was 22°51.90'N 142°59.48'W

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Tiger goes to work

Dolores welcomes us

'My home is your home'
Ever since we left Ensenada I've been looking forward to trying out the new 'D'Tail' products from Eddie and Dolores.

The stash of products they'd given joined us - the people - and all the furniture ... just sitting around and collecting dust. Finally yesterday the pitching (that's the forward/aft motion like a rocking horse) stopped for a while. I felt I'd live after days of semi-sea-sickness. Only the rolling motion persisted. This is still anathema for doing dishes, vacuuming or reading music at the piano but other pleasant activities become possible. Including cleaning.

After getting hatted, life-jacketed and sun-screened I was anxious to get started and wanted to bound to the bow of the boat. I had to settle for being tied to the boat and crawling along the deck bearing a bucket half full of water, a spray bottle of D'Tails rust remover, rags and cotton pads. In an hour, I managed to get most of the spray onto the boat (and not just myself) after completing about 1/40 of the task. I made my cumbersome way back.

Eddie at his place of business
We've been very fortunate - Mother Nature ordered her immense waves to clean the outside of the boat. Only the steel rails were left out - the major portion of the Captain's outside work having been done. The steel remains out there as my job.

Back inside, I looked around at the woodwork (also my job).

I know for sure there are exactly 453 little cherry-wood slats (I counted)to be cleaned in the 25 cupboard doors. These slats make up a louver for the door, allowing air to circulate into storage spaces. Having missed Spring Cleaning more than once and having been in an elevated position up above a boatyard for four weeks, the accumulation of dust is outstanding. It takes work on each little slat with an ear-bud (Q-tip) and cotton pads to get at all the dust.

I decided to leave that aside and go to one of our outstanding books.

We've been really lucky in finding books ... I just counted 23 paperbacks (and more on Kindle) that we've read on this trip. That's not counting all those already read and given away ... they're off travelling the world on someone else's boat. Various friends in Victoria gave me books and Kevin and Beth (in Port Townsend) gave us some really great books.

I've set aside both "Practical" and "Applied Cryptography" for the moment. However, with R Restack 'Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot' - given us by Peter Leffe - I feel that along with newly acquired skills at dancing and language and with my evident skill at counting I WILL do math. Restak advocates a well-exercised brain in all areas. Alas, in the past my math skills have proved resolute against improvement and my brain remains under-exercised in that area.

Larry advised me to read "Does God Play Dice" by Ian Stewart as a start. When I got to page 38 and read the words 'differential equations' I had that remembered panicky feeling from school and had to be reassured by the Captain and given a strong drink so I could keep going. I'm finding it easier reading now - I highly recommend it - besides, it's much better than dusting.

At 6/18/2014 21:33 (utc) our position was 26°06.16'N 133°14.63'W

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Well on our way ...

We are now three days out of Ensenada and have sailed over 500 nautical miles. This puts us nearly one quarter of the way toward Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.

We started out quickly but in little comfort. The wind close to the continent parallels the Mexican coast and required us to sail with the wind and waves close on the starboard bow to keep from heading south of our desired course. CRISTINA, the third eastern Pacific hurricane of the season was churning away 700 miles southeast of us with 120 knot winds. Of course if we were worried about CRISTINA we wouldn't have left but, not knowing exactly what she would do next, it didn't seem a good idea to head south.

Now, far from the land, the winds are moving behind us toward the northeast as northern hemisphere trade winds do and our motion has changed from an urgent pitching to a gentle relaxed roll. Our speed has dropped a bit but that seems a small price to pay for comfort. CRISTINA is dying away still far to the south; early season Mexican hurricanes seldom head very far into the cooler waters of the central Pacific.

Now, after such a good start, the forecasts are predicting very light trade winds in five or six days. That would be unwelcome but, since the lighter winds only appeared in the down-the-road forecast today, they might just as suddenly disappear tomorrow ... as if they had never been predicted in the first place.

We know there are many ships out here. Our instruments announce their passage at distances of forty or fifty miles on their urgent missions to and fro between Latin America and the Orient but only one has come close enough to see. A 300 meter long behemoth passed a half a mile away in the middle of the night en route to Manzanillo. The lights looked VERY close even at that distance but we had spoken with the watch officer. He saw and was avoiding us.

1670 nautical miles to go!

At 6/15/2014 20:06 (utc) our position was 28°47.82'N 126°04.14'W

Friday, 13 June 2014

Adios to Mexico

It's always with a mixture of regret and excitement that we leave a port at which we've managed to insert ourselves a little into the ongoing lives of the people we've met. The excitement should be familiar to everyone who finally gets the car packed en route to lake or cottage ... or boards the plane for a foreign holiday. The regret comes from the feeling of being uprooted from a place in which you've become comfortable and in knowing that you may never see it again.

We made some lovely friends in Ensenada. Had we stayed, I could have looked forward to gradually improving both dance and communications with my friends at the zumba class (who speak only Spanish). I was managing to stay in tempo (and mostly in step) at the gym and my lovely español teacher Yahaira Nava Morán was seeing a good improvement in language competency. Dolores and Eddy invited us to both business and home. They showered us with boat gifts (Eddy owns a chemical factory which makes auto-detailing products) and a home-cooked meal. Eddy's excellent Spanish (with the welcome American accent or outright English translations) made it easy for us to understand. The whole experience made their motto 'mi casa es su casa' feel heart-felt and warm.

In addition to the regret of leaving new-found shore-based friends is the regret of not hearing about the plans and experiences of the many other sailors we meet. We're all heading off in different directions. It's been rare for Traversay to meet up with an old friend ever again. We were only actually sitting in the water in Ensenada for 4 nights so we never had enough time with the "Soul Mates", the "Jolly Dogs", the "Rascals", the "Agapes" ... with Igor/Juli (flying the Russian flag) or the gorgeous Rich and Wendy who were crew on the most elegant yacht on the pavement. We felt a pang at leaving the workers at Baja Naval, and shared a pizza lunch with them to thank them for their excellent work on our "new" Traversay III.

People who leave their homes for a few weeks don't worry too much about not communicating with every single friend or relative. I do ... and I usually try to send cards or phone especially close friends who seem to be communications-challenged. I was told that cards (if they arrived at all) would take 2-3 months to arrive from Mexico. As for phone calls, I have not had time to phone all the people I'd like to say farewell to.

For me, it's a feeling of "just in case".

Along with all of our generation - we (in our case) are feeling not just the world flowing by under our bow, but the passage of time. Speaking of "passages" - at this point I want to say "Cumpleaños" to my Skipper who today - on Friday the 13th - turns a young 66.

At 6/13/2014 17:18 (utc) our position was 30°29.23'N 119°29.07'W

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Almost Launch Day

A vacuum hose collects sanding dust
My aft locker work
Work started on Traversay III with grinding away and re-priming any rust spots on the bottom.  This was done at the start to avoid contaminating any finish-painting with rusty steel dust.  While this painting was delayed by hot dusty weather, I did my much smaller jobs involving some interior varnishing and clearing up and re-painting some small rust spots inside an aft locker.

When work got going, I was very impressed with the care and attention to detail of the workers.  All the correct products and procedures for the paint system were used, the yard was kept clean and tidy and the workers all wore the latest protective clothing and respiratory gear for the work being conducted.

Raúl installs new sonar transducer
Now, as I write this a couple of weeks later, the hull sides between waterline and deck gleam with a mirror-like finish but below the water line is still a patchwork of grey epoxy primer and old-but-sound black anti-fouling paint.  A lot of waiting is going on as a result not of the yard, which is very efficient, but of delivery delays.
With the upper hull paint complete, we need sunglasses on to look at our now highly reflective boat in the endless succession of clear sunny days.  Under the heading of Exceeding-Our-Expectations: not only has the name been reapplied on the bows as before, but even the small builder's marks on the quarters have been duplicated in color, size and font

So why the wait?  Our anti-fouling paint is late arriving. Perhaps we should have used the excellent name-brand product they hold in stock here, but this was all planned before we knew that.  Also the refurbished propeller and another item that must be installed out of the water are wending their way through Mexican Customs a few miles north of here in Tijuana.  We are productively using the passing days to have some outside varnishing done and, to minimize the time from launch to leave, we are provisioning and refueling the boat here in the shipyard rather than waiting until she is in the water.

Repaired varnish - their work - not mine
It is all a bit holiday-like.  Because of limitations in grey water tankage aboard, we can't do a lot of dishes.  This has resulted in the longest string of restaurant meals in years.  A nearby cine shows first-run movies, some in English with Spanish subtitles and some in Spanish - we've mostly been choosing the Spanish ones.  And around the yard and marina conversation is never in short supply as a succession of sailors, mostly from California, come and go having various repairs done to their boats.

                            *     *     *

Principal work: adding reflections to boat sides!
Now, as I place this in our blog, the bulk of the waiting is done.  Our refurbished propeller has returned - to be mounted tomorrow, the anti-fouling bottom paint has been applied and a replacement sonar transducer has been mounted.  We are now beginning to anticipate [is this a mistake?] a launch on Tuesday morning [the 10th] and a departure for Hilo, Hawaii a couple of days after that.  The weather predictions suggest very light winds for some days at the start and then good sailing winds, first from the side and then from aft as far into the future as we can see.  There will be an early season tropical low starting to spin up and head west but it will be far to the south of us.

Of course, mindful of all the possibilities, we will delay our final shopping for fresh veggies and the visit to the various government departments for passport stamps and exit papers until we are actually floating. Nonetheless, A pizza-party for the workers has been arranged for tomorrow to thank them for the great work - so we must be nearly ready.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Colores Mexicanos

Our new friends here have made the unusually long stay 'on the hard' easy to cope with. One of my Zumba teachers invited us over to her 8-yr-olds birthday party ... everyone had a grand time ... as you can see from the photos of the food, music, colour and dancing ... the site was a car wash (conveniently closed Sundays) and there was something for all ages... a  pavilion and piñata for the kids ...
Cara, Gabrielle (age 8) and Annette (my zumba teacher)

Gabrielle with the downed piñata
Table of gifts
Cesar provided music 

Dolores (Dolly) and us
... music and singing (provided by family members), dancing, magnificent food and great conversation for adults. Conversations of which Larry understood 60% and I took in 25%. We got a ride home with Dolly and her husband.
Karen David and Fernando

Baja 500 ramp w police support
It is indeed cruel and unusual treatment for a boat , with over 90,000 nautical miles to be out of the water for more than 4 weeks. Nautical miles are BIG ... bigger than land miles ... and both Trav 3 and her owners are feeling unhappy about our distance from our natural element. In Trav's case, she is still waiting for her 'bottom' to be cleaned up and for her propellor to be installed. In our case, climbing up and down the ladder to get to the toilet or to leave the boat reminds us of what it must be like to be a 2-toed sloth (they climb down from their tree-top once a day to defecate). There are advantages to being atop a high ladder, however. We will probably SEE the annual Baja 500 race from up here.  - we will certainly HEAR it!

While the painting of the topsides took place - with the use of toxic paint - we had a nice break for 3 nights at the luxurious Coronado Hotel (see photos taken from our 2 balconies).
Harbour view with Cruiseship
Red tiled roofs of the city

I found it very relaxing as this is where the Gym and my Zumba classes take place.

I've been carried around and along with all my new amigas here ... My appreciation of the music and rhythm has really improved ... si ... mi me gusta MUCHO la zumba!!!

However, it's unlikely I will ever be able to join the teacher Imelda and some of the other dancers in my class - Norma, Ruth, Josie and Miravel. They dance in the annual Carnivale here ... what a
charge to dress up in such an exotic costume
Imelda and the class

and hit the stage ...
CARNIVAL dancers ... from Left Norma, Ruth, Josie (?)  (?)  (?) (?) (?)  Miravel and Imelda