Sunday, 26 June 2016

Arrived Townsville

At 3pm, 55 days out of Victoria, we tied at the customs dock in Townsville, Australia ... 7400 nautical miles on the log.

At 6/27/2016 05:14 (utc) our position was 19°15.08'S 146°49.39'E

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Birds should know their place!

Our trip is drawing to a close, and in addition to the normal watch-keeping and domestic duties, we are having to make decisions - some pleasant like deciding what to wear when we get ashore ... and some less pleasant like deciding which meals to make as all our meat has to be thrown out because of the Australian agricultural rules.

Bird visits reached a crescendo last night. For the second time, there was a bird who insisted on landing on top of the mast (he was silhouetted against the red mastlight - but flicking this on/off had no effect whatsoever). In addition a collection of very LARGE birds (far larger than seagulls) had mastered the ability to land on the solar arch without being inconvenienced by the large wind turbine. We used the air horn on them, but this didn't bother them in the slightest. We considered trying to fashion a slingshot to shoot frozen chicken breasts at them thus - getting rid of two problems at once - but in the end, they seemed to have gone.

It was later (at 0300 on my watch) that I went out geared up to do my exercises. I was startled by a large CROAK, the furious flapping of wings and a horrible smell. One of the big guys had obviously gotten trapped in a small space behind the wheel in the cockpit and could not take off. As this already happened to me a few years ago with two quite small birds, I rushed forward and got out my plastic music stand (music CAN be a useful skill) On that occasion, I'd gently lifted them with it and lofted them into the air. I still remember their huge, scared eyes as they looked back at me from where they'd settled in the boat's wake.

This time, however, I had a presentiment that matters wouldn't be so simple so I woke Larry out of a sound sleep as I rushed forward to get the plastic stand. Sure enough, when Larry followed me out he found the bird was far too heavy to lift with the stand. Larry explained that the ghastly smell was primarily the stomach contents which the bird had regurgitated in an effort to make himself lighter. That way he could take off on the impossibly small runway that we'd provided. {Larry knew the technique. In his fire-bombing days in Alberta in the 60s they left the bomb bay doors unlocked so that if they needed to gain altitude, they could drop the load of mud.}

We considered the tiny space, and decided we should somehow give him a 'platform' from which he could step up onto the top of the companionway steps and take off. So we released the lifeline gate back there, and Larry took a full garbage bag (that way if the bird imbued it with that horrific odor, we could place it in another garbage bag). With some more encouragement from Larry and a lot more rancid fish oil (these birds preen themselves with regurgitated oil, so every time he beat his wings he spread more of it around) the bird hopped up and took off - seemingly unharmed.

When I got up this morning, Larry was finishing cleaning a huge mess left on top of the solar panels which had to be scrubbed with a long brush. There were also the huge globs in the cockpit itself. The various birds who have found the top of the mast a welcome roost had not only left huge piles of feces beneath them, but had damaged the inexpensive visual wind indicator at the top of the mast. Mercifully, they left the pricey electronic version and the radio antenna unharmed.

That makes at least six birds who have inconvenienced us on this trip. There was the smaller black land bird who actually zoomed into the interior and past the sleeping Captain twice in one night, there were the two shearwaters who landed and spent the night together on the bow, there were the two birds who pole-sat on the mast and now this huge fellow.

Birds should know their place!

At 6/22/2016 23:20 (utc) our position was 17°28.71'S 156°59.04'E

Friday, 17 June 2016

The last Islands

When a pilot is lined up on the final part of his approach to a runway, the appropriate action if all is not well is to pull up and fly around for another attempt or to go elsewhere. This action might be taken because of an alignment problem, an obstacle on the runway, poor speed control or any number of other reasons.

With this in mind, the fading light of early evening brought us an amazing display of flying technique by two talented aviators. A pair of shearwaters first identified our solar panels as a suitable landing field for an overnight rest stop. The more conservative of the two went into a holding pattern a short distance away while the other made repeated approaches to land. The approach was made into the wind and runway alignment was carried out some distance off. Control appeared to be very precise notwithstanding the pitching and rolling of the boat. Had this bird observed carrier landings? The first few attempts were broken off some five meters before landing. Were they perhaps planned as an initial reconnaissance or was the wind turbine towering over the solar panels correctly identified as a serious danger? This bird was an obvious master in the air but wasn't going to risk getting hurt in the final stages of the landing.

After a few observations, each preceded by the same careful approach, the shearwater concluded that his required standard of safety could not be met.

Reconnaissance then shifted to the bow railing. This provided a clearer uncluttered overshoot [if the approach wasn't working out] but offered the disadvantage of greater turbulence around the headsail in the final part of the landing. Our genoa sail denied us a view of the final part of the approach but we observed that the first attempt was abandoned just before touchdown due to a sudden pitch down of our bow. The third attempt was successful.

The companion shearwater must have been watching and learning. It made no attempt on the stern and its only failures on the bow seemed to result from the first bird serving as an obstacle. Attempt three was successful for it too.

The two birds spent the night on the bow railing, perhaps feeling it safer than floating on an ocean sprinkled with the occasional submerged predator. In the morning they left and were not seen again. It only took me twenty minutes with a stiff brush and the seawater deckwash hose to erase all evidence of their stay.

* * *

Mary Anne asked in her last posting " ... where are all the other boats?"

Ships always seem to appear at 3am and the Liberian registered "High Venture" was no exception. He appeared directly behind us on the same heading as us and making twice our speed. Obviously someone needed to do something.

When we are in a sail configuration that makes maneuvering difficult, we do not hesitate to call large ships on the ocean and invoke our privileged position to ask them to alter course [under international rules, vessels under sail have the right of way]. On this occasion though, with our current sail situation, it was easy for us to alter course to allow a safe distance between us. The tanker, bound for Singapore, subsequently passed two miles away and looked very large even at that distance.

So why a ship here when there have been so few? Ships are funnelled into defined routes by natural obstacles. They are to be found in large numbers off convex coasts [like South Africa or Central America leading to Panama] or at channels through island chains. In this case, we are heading to pass through a 25 mile wide gap between some islands in northern Vanuatu. We want to split this gap dead center to be as far from island insects and local boating as possible; clearly the ship had the same plan.

As an aside, a book we have aboard authoritatively mentions that the last human was eaten in a mountain village in Vanuatu [then New Hebrides] in 1956. We weren't particularly worried as dietary habits have no doubt changed considerably in the intervening sixty years.

* * *

In the golden age of commercial sail, large cargo carrying square riggers averaged about 100 nautical miles a day on passage. Certainly those ships could be very fast under a sky of canvas in the strong winds of high latitudes but they had slow days too. In an efficient modern sailing vessel like ours, we plan our voyages on an average of 135 miles a day ... 160 miles is reckoned to be a good day; 100 to be lackluster.

Our progress has been mostly disappointing in light winds since Samoa with most days hovering around the 110 mark. The winds now seem to be back and the day's runs should pop back up to 150. Morale on a sailing vessel is very connected with progress [and food] so the improvement in winds is a good thing. The food, of course, has been excellent all along!

* * *

Today is our forty sixth day at sea. That matches our longest trip to date, our 2004 non-stop from Strait of Juan de Fuca to New Zealand. This trip will probably prove to be eight days or so longer than that.

We have lots of food aboard and 250 liters of fuel remain ... good for some 400 nautical miles of motoring [but there is lots of wind to fill the sails so little of it will be used]. The cashews are all gone but a good supply of Lindt chocolate bars remains. Rum is gone but gin and wine remain. All paper products from toilet paper through paper towel to ink-jet printer paper are abundant. We're very happy with the provisioning!

After these surrounding islands of Vanuatu fade astern, there is no more land until Australia somewhat over 1000 miles ahead. Some precision in navigation will be required as there are still a number of reefs to avoid but it truly will feel like we are on the home stretch.

After almost two months at sea, an arrival will be welcome!

At 6/17/2016 21:14 (utc) our position was 14°37.95'S 167°38.10'E

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Where are all the ships?

Finally, we are seeing another ship ... this one is called 'Tokyo Car' and is 183m long ... listed as a cargo ship, it's not much of a mystery as to what her cargo might be! The clock says it's 3:23a.m.
The last ship we were in touch with was at about the same time on Sunday June 5th. I was awakened by Larry calling a Chinese fishboat - the 'Sheng Lian' at 3:30 a.m. Larry placed the call to find out what kind of fishing gear might be in our way. Under International law - boats under sail are obligated to stay out of the way of working fishboats. Apart from fishing boats, powered boats 'give way' to sailboats as it's considered we are less maneuverable. When the 'Sheng Lian' answered, it was apparent the sailor didn't speak or understand English and we wished Mary MacKenzie (who grew up in China) was with us. He finally called back and we understood him to to say that they don't fish on Sundays! He then proceeded to keep turning his boat as if he wanted to hit us ... very odd when - with only two boats - we had the whole ocean to navigate in. So Larry had to call him again ... finally the Captain (who could speak English) was called onto the scene and they headed off to the west.

The temperature is quite benign now ... during my night watches I have been exercising and cleaning. Larry helped me store all my winter clothes in the bow locker. Those which need to be laundered are also stored until we reach Townsville - now that the official laundry bag is full, there's no sense in having them 'clutter up' the place. The Christmas music is provisionally stored there as well until we can reunite it with its companions, which are somewhere else (WHERE?)

Of course, the forward cabin is the most 'active' on a boat underway and impossible to work (or sleep in) at most times at sea. In a 'mixed' blessing, the wind nearly died away altogether so we motored for about 24 hours and that's when I cleaned and oiled the forward cabin. It is always a joy to work with the woodwork on Traversay. Each of the cherry strakes and slats were individually chosen and matched or selected for their interesting design by the woodworkers. I would say about 80% of the boat interior is of cherry wood. The cabin soles (floors) underfoot are alternate strakes of Canadian maple (light-coloured) and cherry from Eastern Canada. At first we merely damp-cleaned the wood as it is varnished wood. But when we were in Ensenada our friends Eddie and Delores gave us a number of products from their D'Tail line of chemicals and I'm now waxing and polishing ... IF there is ever a chemical wax build-up the next owners can deal with it!

Our cupboard doors are 'shutter-like' in that they have numerous cherry slats fixed in position. These allow air circulation - a very important feature on a boat. We have never had a problem with mold in those cupboards featuring these lovely doors. A few of the other storage areas have needed the addition of computer fans which Larry has ingeniously installed ... these are cheap in dollars and in electric power and they circulate the air enough to discourage dampness.

In tending to the woodwork, I start by cleaning all the 'shutter slats' first and then continue with the rest of the room. Yesterday, in my customary pre-work procrastinating and total lethargy I counted all the little slats ... there are 384 of them throughout the boat. I've now finished with the forward cabin and made a good start on the galley and chart table area, so altogether I've cleaned 186 little individual and unique pieces of cherry. Although most people might not agree, our decision to sell everything (including our Condo in Vancouver) and pay to have this beautiful boat built was the best move ever.

If only some of our sun-loving friends could enjoy the amazing weather we're having. Larry and I are far past any idea of sun-bathing - so except for sail-handling we avoid being outside until about 3:30 when there's plenty of shade in the cockpit. We're moving more slowly and Larry's been able to sleep in the forward cabin (fan whirring) as I write this. Days are very short as we are sailing into the Southern Fall/Winter. This morning sunrise was at 6:46 and tonight sunset will be at 18:03. I'm in charge of meals today (bacon, cheese & asparagus wraps for lunch; curried pork w broccoli for dinner) and I have the 'short' sleep tonight (from midnight to 0400) so I'm going to try to get dinner early so we can eat outside, watch the sunset, and I can have a short nap before my watch starts at 20:00.

We have enjoyed some spectacular sunsets. A week ago I took notes on a most amazing sunset. One of the features of being alone out here is that you have a greater-than-IMAX Sky-Surround so you can have several conflicting sky-scapes at once. To the right of the boat (N West and starboard side) there were large black clouds ... it looked like a watercolour on wet paper with the upper part completely black ... around the mid-point, the black paint started streaking and blotting its way down through the small strip of muddy grey sky towards the inky deep blue of the water. In total contrast, behind us and to our left (North and East) the sky was filled with gorgeous white puffy clouds - like those (complete with a few Cupids) favoured by Rennaisance painters. The small patches of sky visible were a true robin's egg blue. Here and there floated a few gauzy bright pink clouds. Meanwhile the sun in the west was a brilliant orange and it disappeared very quickly leaving behind a sky turning a deep - almost blood-red colour - merging with the burgundy (wine-dark) sea.

With only 2 weeks (at most) to go, I am truly relishing my time outside with the stars, the moon (now gradually waxing) and the evening and morning skies. Our watch schedule necessitates the need to be alone a great deal ... I think being solitary and in nature is amazing and wish everyone could have this experience. So where are all the other boats?

I must go and wake the Captain ... 'talk' to you next week!

At 6/14/2016 17:57 (utc) our position was 14°19.53'S 174°11.50'E

Saturday, 11 June 2016

On weather and fatigue ...

Mary Anne and I notice our levels of fatigue, and thus irritability, go up and down with the weather to a much greater extent than in port or on the land. So where does this fatigue come from? Don't we simply go about our daily routine of cooking, sleeping and watching "Sharpe's Rifles" and "Hornblower" videos while the autopilot sails on?

The obvious starting point for fatigue is that people are adapted to sleep at night and work in the day. We, on the other hand, are up and about at all hours on a kind of twenty-four hour fragmented sleep schedule. There is much to do cooking [think cooking in a moving RV on a gravelly pot-holed road!], repairing, and obtaining and studying weather information. Also, our systems for generating electricity and for making fresh water are not automated and thus require attention every day.

And then there is actual sailing - the factor whose effort IS very weather dependent.

When people go out sailing for an afternoon, they might have one person in command, another steering and others handling the control lines of each sail. We have one person for all these functions [the other is probably sleeping]. In constant conditions such as we experienced in the northern hemisphere tropics, hardly anything needed adjustment each day, let alone during a four hour watch period. Fatigue never surfaced.

By contrast, yesterday during the passage of a type of weather system called a "trough" wind directions shifted and then shifted back a number of times. Wind strength changed radically up and down as squall after squall passed by. Each alteration [and there were many during each four hour watch] required sail to be added or removed and the angle of the sails to the boat adjusted. Failure to take any of these actions would either stress our rigging or arrest our progress. Fatigue and Irritability!

On shorter voyages where we can carry fuel to motor a significant portion of the distance, these frustrating weather system passages can be dealt with by motoring for a half day or day until the winds again settle down. On a long voyage like this though, each use of precious and irreplaceable fuel must meet a sterner test than simply the avoidance of frustration.

* * *

I'll revisit now a subject I touched on a few years ago: "How does the availability of weather information affect the modern offshore sailor?" After all, it is not as if we can look at the forecast and decide not to go sailing today!

Before small boats were equipped with long-distance communication equipment, the route was chosen relying on fixed historical weather statistics while actual departure date was based on a shore sourced forecast. By contrast, on this trip we are always looking a week into the future and making decisions based on that information.

Gale or storm avoidance: Our choice to [in the end] sail north of Fiji rather than south was in order to avoid a gale warning.

Seeking more favorable winds: Our current track towards a transit of Vanuatu north of Espiritu Santo rather than south of Efate offers a slight advantage and reduces the risk of calms. Earlier in the voyage, our route toward the south rather than to the southwest off California avoided calms.

Efficient use of limited fuel: In a fixed area of high pressure or in the inter tropical convergence, useful wind might be more than a week away. In this case, it may make sense to motor to where the wind IS. It might also be that you are becalmed and favorable winds are to be found just ahead of you. If these favorable winds are of a transient nature and will be replaced shortly by calms, you might motor ahead in order to avoid "missing the bus." On the other hand, if wind is going to arrive tomorrow and remain in the area you will be sailing through, you might as well loaf slowly along under sail today and save the fuel.

These are just a few examples of the kind of decision that detailed weather predictions can inform.

* * *

In other news, we went from June 10th yesterday to June 12th today as we crossed the 180th meridian into the eastern hemisphere. The actual date line was a few days ago but our onboard flexibility with time zones allowed us to put it off until convenient.

The tiny French island of Futuna graced our horizon for a few hours yesterday.

And pleasantly, a two to three meter swell had been rolling in from the south for several days causing Traversay to bounce about very enthusiastically. This has now been toned down considerably as the large mass of Fiji to our south blocks swell from far away.

Even more pleasantly, when Mary Anne wrote the last blog posting, the temperature was 34C in the cabin; it has now dropped to 30C in the day and 29C at night.

At 6/11/2016 21:48 (utc) our position was 14°47.07'S 179°38.11'E

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Notes on Housekeeping

The temperature of the water is down to a reasonable 29 degrees (84F) and life in this part of the ocean has returned to 'normal'. The flying fish and birds are back and - most spectacularly - we saw LAND yesterday - 24 miles off the port bow … this was Western Samoa immortalized in Margaret Mead's classic study 'Coming of Age in Western Samoa'. In our one-track saga to get to Australia, we'll be passing many beautiful islands in the coming weeks.
I am noticing that my 'writers block' has diminished and that I am now facing a 'housework block' as evidenced by the fact that I'm sitting here writing. Dusting, misplaced music and winter clothes are still waiting to be dealt with. That is not to say that this piece of writing is going to be riveting … in fact the subject I've chosen is so prosaic that you can press Escape! at once.
My chosen topic: Housework and Routines on this boat.
Fortunately neither of us have pressed the Escape! Button on any of the following: watch-keeping dish-doing and meal-making are commitments we honour. We share these equally, and our daily life has continued in a comfortable routine.
A few tips for the galley:
1) I have a bleach spray handy and use it on the cutting board after cutting raw meat. I think cotton dishcloths are far superior for washing dishes (and more hygienic) than a brush. After you wipe the board, stretch out the cloth over the sprayed board, and it will be sanitized. I also place the dishcloth overnight in a weak bleach solution every few days. We have never had a problem with food-oriented disease on this vessel.
2) From our experience: some foods will pall on you and you'll be getting rid of them once you get to shore: for me: lima beans; green cabbage and tinned fruit other than mandarin oranges. In Hawaii, never buy oranges at a grocery store ... they will go bad almost before you leave the harbor .. buy from a Farmer's Market. Supermarkets are obliged to sell oranges from California.
3) Get a list BEFORE you leave of which foods are proscribed by the country of destination. We have entered Australia at least FOUR times in the past, and we remember most of the 'black' list: fresh meat, frozen meat (frozen fish is OK), fresh fruits or vegetables of any description, eggs, any seeds, pods, popcorn, nuts, beans of any kind, tinned duck … Even necklaces or jewelry made out of beans or pods will be confiscated. Don't keep star anise (if you use it) or whole nutmeg.

I want to keep our dried fruit, cheeses and frozen veggies. But are they OK? In past communications with the AUS Agriculture department we were sent a PDF file (which presumably has a list). Most attachments are stripped from our incoming mail (including PDFs) before we even receive it.

4) If you have refrigeration, do get a few jars of Foster's pickled asparagus spears (this is a note to 'Muskoka' and to the other Bluewater Cruisers setting off for Mexico). These have been fabulous in salads, wraps and drinks and I wish we had bought more of them (Costco).
5) We are finding that wraps are the easiest thing to prepare for lunches, and then you don't need to bake or provision a lot of bread. Get the 'NATURAL' wrap variety by Mountain Bread (Costco) … they have a longer due date, stay fresh, and (for us) the added bonus is that they say 'Made in Australia'. We bought far too many packages but from past experience with some unopened popcorn we'd previously bought in AUS, the Customs won't confiscate them.
We have FAR TOO MUCH food … the hot weather lead us to declare: "Let's go on a diet!" So we have cut back and there's enough food aboard for a circumnavigation with an extra five or six people.
The Exercise Routine - have missed only 2 days since May 7th … it is fantastic being able to exercise outside on a dark starry night. I hang on to the stainless grab-bars on our Dodger (that's a spray-hood over the companion way steps down into the boat). I can do my step-up routine on the coaming (that's the extra height seat-back to the benches in the cockpit). With the loud noise of the waves crashing in, the spray and the little wavelets - each of which adds a cross-rhythm to the sound of the breakers, the sound of it is quite daunting.
It's a pitch-dark moonless night. You're hanging on to the bar but you have a great feeling of exhilaration - even a feeling of danger by being up relatively high … you're at the whim of each wave, and with each there's the unpredictability of being thrown about - changing timing and motion with each breaker. It's like riding a slightly out-of-control racehorse at a full gallop … barely able to hang on to the reins. Visually, there are the multitude of stars in the black, black sky … the even more zillions of stars in the Milky Way. These glints of bright light are repeated in the diamond-like sparkling phosphorescence flying off the bow-wave in front of you and the wake behind the boat.

What a spectacular time we are having!

At 6/8/2016 21:26 (utc) our position was 13°37.13'S 174°17.04'W

Monday, 6 June 2016

A repair bill dodged

Traversay III's propeller is of a type that feathers when it is not pushing the boat along. A clever internal gearing arrangement aligns the blades with the water flow when the engine is not powering the shaft, thus reducing drag considerably and disallowing the noisy wind-milling [water-milling?] of the shaft.

Feathering the propeller is accomplished by briefly shifting the gearshift into reverse after shutting down the engine and then shifting back to neutral.

After a period of motoring a few weeks back in the trip, we went through this procedure and found that, after selecting reverse, we couldn't shift back to neutral. The gearbox was jammed in reverse! This didn't bode well for future use of the engine but, since we travel in a SAILboat, wasn't an immediate cause for panic. Brief thoughts of using the dinghy to tow Traversay to the Australian customs dock flashed through our heads .. but first, "can we get it out of reverse?"

While we are not supposed to start the engine in gear, doing so established that we had complete control of the engine with forward and reverse gear available. On shutting down again, the choice seemed to be between an interminably noisy spinning shaft OR a gearbox jammed in reverse. We began contemplating the gearbox repairs necessary on our arrival and the lifting out of the water required to effect them but decided such troublesome thoughts were best procrastinated.

Weeks passed when, while sailing at a slow crawl just north of the equator, I filled one of my night watches with further experimentation. I found that I could get the gearbox out of reverse by rotating the shaft by hand in the reverse direction but then it immediately started spinning forward, presumably from water flowing past the blades like in a turbine. This would not happen if the prop were feathered. A new idea emerged: what if the problem is not the gearbox at all but that the propeller itself is jammed - will not feather - and thus "wants" to spin in the passing wake.

It is true that propellers are not cheap to repair or replace either but there was at least the possibility it was simply jammed with a stray piece of rope.

Now fast forward to a few days ago during a brief period of motoring when the trade winds died for a day or so. What an excellent chance to take a look at the propeller!

We stopped the motor, trailed a long safety line overboard and dropped the mainsail to the deck. I put on a mask and snorkel while waiting for Traversay's considerable momentum to dissipate and then climbed down to the swim platform on the stern. After further waiting, Mary Anne tossed some tissue paper in the water to gauge that we were truly stopped having no wish for Traversay to be floating in one place while I was floating in another some distance away.

Even before I started to climb down the swim ladder, huge waves were washing over my legs as I stood on the swim platform. Then, what an amazing sight as I got to the bottom of the ladder and peered down! The ocean was outrageously warm and totally clear. Not a speck of silt or any form of detritus intervened between my faceplate and the keel suspended seemingly weightlessly in a blue globe that went down and down forever.

I dove under the boat and instantly saw our problem: a piece of fishing net was tangled in the prop. Holding onto the prop-shaft, bucking up and down from the wave motion, I tried to disentangle the net. Unfortunately, the imperative of needing to breathe interfered with completing the now suddenly time-consuming task.

Back at the surface Mary Anne suggested, and then immediately found, a dive knife and sheath for me to strap on. Even with the serrated edge of the knife, it took two more dives to complete the job of removing the net.

Since then, there has been a bit of motoring and a lot of sailing. Both engine gearbox [transmission] and feathering propeller are now behaving exactly as they should.

* * *

As I mentioned in a previous blog, our planned route is always subject to change. As in previous voyages, the (southern) winter weather again looks more threatening (to me, anyway) south of Fiji than to its north. We have made a bit of a turn and are now headed north of Samoa and Fiji. A rumor has been floating around in our boat that this turn was made solely because we could not keep the ice cube trays full of water on the previous heading. There is no truth to this whatsoever!

* * *

In other news, the sea temperature has finally dropped a degree to 30C. The freezer has dropped a degree as well to -11C. The cabin is down to 32C. It feels MUCH cooler!!

At 6/5/2016 21:36 (utc) our position was 12°31.82'S 165°55.03'W

Saturday, 4 June 2016

A Touch of Class

We are now flying along in ideal conditions … the wind is on the beam, we are making between 6.5 and 7 knots and sun is shining down on a sea of a brilliant cobalt blue overblown with tiny white frothy wavelets.

But all is not well within our little home. Our standards have dropped! While we are definitely not fashion models, we have always kept to a certain standard of clothing ourselves. We might meet up with some military ships and be boarded at any time, and who knows whether the way we carry ourselves and dress will have an effect on how we are treated?

But now ... if you were able to look in on us, you will see us in an unaccustomed state of undress. As I write this, the Captain is stretched out sleeping directly on the sole (floor). He's in a state of utter nakedness and I myself sit at the computer in a pair of well-worn black cotton underpants. Under both arms is a dishtowel collecting the pools of sweat running down from my fevered brow.

Checking the Captain's Log, I find it's our SIXTH day of 31 degree sea temperatures (88F). This boat is well-insulated and has a white exterior which deflects the sun's rays to a great extent. Nonetheless, with heat-producing machinery inside the boat and some ventilation constraints to keep the sea spray out, we ourselves are sweltering at an even greater temperature than the great ocean beneath us - 34 degrees (93F). Even the flying fish are not flying in this heat. The sea birds come around only towards the end of the day.

I haven't been able to carry out any of the projects I'd planned – dusting and oiling all the woodwork, moving my winter clothes (which I was wearing when we started this voyage) along with the Christmas music which for some unaccountable reason is still out. These must go into the long-term storage so I'll be able to re-arrange my limited summer wear (now all wrinkled) so it has more room to breathe.

Of course, we ourselves can hardly breathe with the heat.

Even our ONE pretension towards "class" is in a state of siege. When we moved onto the boat in January of 2001, many of the finer things of life went into long-term storage. Here I mention the Cloughley prints, the Florentine Gold Wedgewood china, my 6'8" European Grand Piano and accompanying grand Indian carpet. We thought that our time at sea would have well-defined limits (4-5 years).

We invested in a complete set of low-brow but practical white Melmac 'china'. However, in order to keep some sense of the fine table we had been able to keep, I took out the sterling silver (still in it's drawer) and placed it on the boat. We had seldom used it ashore after I found that the bone-handled knives were not allowed in the dishwasher. In the last 15 years, the heavy silverware has worn really well at sea and it feels so grand eating with it. We have managed to retain most of it.

Now (for some reason) it too is under duress … it keeps tarnishing in this hot, hot weather. I keep polishing it … It pays to keep SOME sense of class out here in the 'wilds'.

At 6/4/2016 19:57 (utc) our position was 11°04.06'S 163°41.27'W

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A new month

As June 1 displays on our onboard clock, the realization surfaces that we have been at sea close to a month ... and that nearly another month will pass before we again walk on the shore.

A very large group of dolphins visited us the day before yesterday, brightening our lives with their exuberance. They criss-crossed at high speed under our bows; they leapt high in the air, landing with a large splash. Then, all of a sudden, these hundreds of creatures were gone leaving the ocean as seemingly empty as before they had arrived.

* * *

It is hot at night and even hotter in the day! The temperatures are made even less comfortable by the humidity ... typically over 60%. Our sea temperature gauge reads 31C as it has for several days. Interior temperatures in the boat reach 34C during the day while it drops as low as 30C outside at night, feeling just acceptable in the breeze. All this so challenges our freezer that it's temperature has risen from its usual -14C to -11C though it is working as hard as it can and has two foam cushions piled on its lid to keep the heat outside where it belongs. We don't even think of using hot water in the shower!

Temperatures have probably peaked though and should start a slow decline in a couple of days as we head further south away from the equator.

Thankfully, our experiment of installing a supplemental cooling fan in the air duct from the battery charger has allowed that essential system to weather the heat wave.

* * *

The shrewd observer might be forgiven for wondering why the dead straight track-line on our map does not point at Australia. So what is our route anyway?

The original plan was to cross the equator about where we did. This point was chosen for the narrowness of the area of calms associated with the inter-tropical convergence. On reaching the southeast trade winds on the south side of the convergence, we were to turn directly toward our destination in Australia.

This year though, perhaps due to the warm ocean temperatures, the southern summer pattern of light and variable winds in the southern trade wind belt seems to have extended into the approaching winter.

It is the wind which propels our boat. Thus we are bending our route well to the south as quickly as is reasonable to reach stronger winds in the teens of latitude. At the same time, we will benefit from more bearable temperatures. Our current plan [always subject to change] is to pass south of Samoa, north of Vava'u in Tonga, south of Fiji and then north of New Caledonia.

By contrast, our previous two crossings of the South Pacific from French Polynesia to Australia took us north of Fiji in an effort to avoid influences of winter storms to the south of that island group. Those passages were blessed with fine weather and good winds ... but it seems each year's weather presents different challenges.

* * *

As I write this log, an American fishing boat has passed within a few miles of us on his way from Samoa to his fishing grounds. The crew spend two weeks at sea fishing followed by two weeks in port. This is the first vessel to pass nearby in almost a week.

At 6/1/2016 17:11 (utc) our position was 06°07.02'S 159°50.71'W