Map Display

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Castro

Our Extra Large National Day Chile Flag
Fish Market Roof
I wanted to seize the opportunity to post lots of pictures before our rare access to high speed internet is replaced by our usual glacial-paced short-wave radio and satellite in a few days.

We made our way from Marina Quinched the short distance to Castro, the provincial capital, in order to take part in the national Day celebrations.  It seemed that the capital city would also allow us to top up any fuel we had depleted before our foray into the wilderness to the south.

The Cueca
The National day celebrations did not disappoint!  There were bands, marching assemblies of firemen, navy and police personnel, endless nearly-understood speeches and lots of couples doing that colorful and romantic national dance - the cueca - which involves a lot of teasing moves with handkerchiefs. To add to the general merriment, the many little children were dressed in oh-so-cute national costumes - and even some of their pet dogs! Those firemen by the way are unpaid volunteers - like all firemen in Chile.

A foray to the grocery store put off the day (for a bit) when we have to switch from fresh food to tinned and frozen.

Dressed for the Day
Also Dressed for the Day
Fueling was not as straightforward as in Valdivia where a truck came down to our dock and stretched an incredibly long hose from the parking lot to our boat at the end of the dock.  While trucks are sort-of available in Castro, they don't like to appear for a sale of less than three or four hundred liters.  So just like years ago in Arctic Bay, Nunavut, we set off for the shore with eight 20-liter jugs.  A phone call summoned a taxi who took me up the hill to the service station while Mary Anne waited with the dinghy.  After returning to Traversay in the dinghy, four of the jugs were siphoned into the tank and a return visit to shore refilled them (with the help of another taxi) to serve as a reserve. With a seven meter tide range and no floating dock, the dinghy had to pulled up a long launching ramp and rolled back down it with each trip ashore.
The Bomberos (firemen)

The visit to Castro finished up with rather long visits to the Navy to receive our permit for the next portion of our voyage south and to the post office where all the correct procedures were followed to send two vital letters on their way to Canada.

Time seems to be slipping away very quickly and we must now be on our way south!




Sunday, 17 September 2017

Marina Quinched


William and Valeska with their first grandchild
This marina hosted a huge National Day Celebration when we were here 10 years ago. Alas, the inspiration behind this marina – William Bannister – passed away several years ago. However, the greatness of his vision continues and his wife and sons are carrying on. He would be gratified at the size of the beautiful araucaria trees he planted as seedlings all those years ago, and also at how well his ‘Dream’ marina is being maintained. The moorings (which had been too light to restrain the heavy wooden boats tethered to them) have been reinforced and a diver was out checking them as we arrived. Boats stored here were
being aired in anticipation of the summer season.


Quehui Cathedral
Altar decorations - National Day
Unfortunately, there are no festivities here
this year, no guitarists and singers, so we’re moving on to Castro (the main town on Chiloe). We’ll be back here Wednesday night to enjoy this peaceful place and to use the laundry facilities. Of course, the old saying “you can never go back” holds true both for the loss of people and changes in places.

Surprisingly, we sometimes (and unexpectedly) have the reverse experience. Yesterday we re-encountered an old acquaintance.
Church guitarist practicing

Chiloe Island is known for its wooden churches which have been given Unesco World Heritage Site designation. We were able to visit many of these churches ten years ago, but on arriving at Isla Quehui we decided that one of the two churches in view had NOT been visited 10 years ago.
Christ's image

Ignacio
We launched the dinghy, motored to the beach, tied to a fence post and chatted with the owner - who then directed us to the ‘correct’ route to the church. As we approached the church, a well-dressed man in his late 30s ‘found’ us and took us across the rain-soaked lawn and inside. As we entered, he tried to stop us from proceeding into the church - I obeyed - but Larry went up to the front and asked the guitarist whether he could take pictures of her and of the church. It was acceptable (as it had been all those years ago).  We left a donation, and started back across the lawn whereupon Ignacio tried to insist that we go straight on with him – after our insistence that we needed to get to Chiloe, he resignedly pleaded that we take his photo and email him a copy. And THEN (almost simultaneously), as we realized it was not a real e-address, we both remembered that he was the same person who had manoeuvred us into an expensive meal 10 years ago. I had felt sorry for him and  subsequently sent him postcards from places we visited for over a year. And yet (with few visitors) he forgot us. With limited abilities, he does help his own economy and the village he lives in as a meeter-greeter. We had not only forgotten him, but also forgotten that particular church until we started photographing it.
Eliana - singer-guitarist 
Hearing the guitarist practicing for the upcoming Mass reminded me of our most recent guitarist friend – Eliana – met in Valdivia and instrumental in getting us some copies of Violeta Parras songs of the 80s. She and her style are great – and reminders of Joan Baez’s protest songs of that era. Ellie came over a few times to play and sing with the piano, and she secured a print copy of V.P.s most famous songs, so we’ll be trying to learn them during our trip south…it’s a great way to learn the language.
As the time approached to leave Ellie and the other friends we’d made, I felt my usual mixed feelings and regrets. However, Nature helped me in two ways.
Firstly – Chile apparently has a limitless supply of wood and it’s the cheapest heating choice. Only now are people able to concern themselves with the health implications of this smoke. Along with myself, many Valdivians suffer from smoke allergies. Throughout the winter, we experienced connsistent wood smoke except when the rain kept down the wood fumes. Fortunately (?) it rained a lot of the time in the last 3 months we were in Valdivia. However, two nights before we left, I awoke from a nightmare. I was still back teaching in Ontario and desperately looking for the emergency Epi-pen (for one of the kids) in my desk at school.  I couldn’t breathe.
Secondly - the arrival of Spring with it’s pollen-producers had decorated our boat with yellow pollen.
Gradually as we motored past Valdivia and the last garden of yellow shore-dwelling bushes
I started to be able to fill my lungs. Now we are going to have to trail south either ahead of Spring or out of reach of pollinating trees.

Friday, 15 September 2017

On our Way Again

During the last six months since arriving in Valdivia, Chile, we had barely moved our sailboat TRAVERSAY III more than a few hundred meters. Some of the winter storms in Valdivia are indeed fierce but at our berth, the river is less than a half a mile wide and any discomfort was limited to the sound of heavy rain hammering on the deck and wind howling in the rigging. Inside, we were warm and dry.

We benefited greatly from social occasions with friends, old and new, and from the cultural scene in this fine university city. There were concerts to attend, museums and colonial fortresses to visit and fine dining, sometimes just ourselves and at times with company.

The Yacht Club de Valdivia where we and our boat stayed was friendly, helpful and secure.

As is usually the case though, after such a long time stationary we become restless and feel that it is time to leave. We have a large part of the coast of Chile to explore and a limited time available. The first difficulty though is getting away! The first 10 miles is easy ... down a calm scenic river with high green hills on each side. After that though, the route is south 100 miles through open ocean before sheltered water is again found. That hundred miles is generally either very stormy or has strong contrary winds. Once every week or so, there is a weather window just long enough that the usual unpleasantness is limited to 2-3 meter seas flowing across the entire Pacific from storms thousands of miles away.

To add to this timing burden, the entrance channel from the open sea to the sheltered inside passages of southern Chile has tidal currents so fierce that there are only two periods each day that allow entry. Not only are the contrary currents stronger than our boat speed but they also cause those large Southern Ocean swells to rise up and break dangerously. Timing is everything!

We have now run that gauntlet and are peacefully anchored with sheltering green islands close all around. We visited the nearby village of Mechuque this afternoon and chatted with people who have spent their whole lives there. Large wooden motorboats and passenger ferries are dried on the beach as the five meter tides recede to allow work to be done on them. Across the harbor a wooden skeleton of a new boat was taking form at the local shipyard. The whole village and its people seem to have been transported magically from a more peaceful time and dropped into our present busy century.

Tomorrow we move a short distance to visit another island village as we slowly move towards Castro, our last city on the way south.
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At 2017-09-15 02:04 (utc) our position was 42°19.37'S 073°15.28'W

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Time in port

sunset view from our cockpit
Underwater scene - New Zealand
Late-blooming in Valdivia
A boat on the outside wall
We have now been in Valdivia for just over two weeks. We feel very fortunate to have been allowed to secure Traversay III at one of the outer dock spaces in the marina (there are only three such spaces available). This is where we tied up 10 years ago when we stayed here because with our relatively deep draft, we would be aground at low tide in the inner docks. The marina doesn't allow rafting out (being tied to another boat which is adjacent to the dock) in the winter.  It is still Autumn - and many roses and flowers are still blooming. Until our final space becomes available we're tied to a fine neighbour-Eduardo- whose boat is a sister-ship of the renowned ship 'Wanderer IV'. She is steel - as we are - so the chance of damage between us during contrary winds and currents along the river is remote. The large Motor Launch currently occupying what will become our final location is waiting to have generator repairs completed before cruising back up towards North America.

Gymnastics in the cockpit
We've been busy. No longer walking with a cane, I'm having some physio sessions for my injured 'rodilla' (knee).  I need to overcome what happened in New Zealand when I rather stupidly tried to get out of the cold water and climb up the skinny boat ladder wearing many pounds of lead dive weights to counteract my own weight and the buoyancy of the drysuit. We did get some nice photos, though!
sea-lions and pelicans at the fish market





defensive tower

Valdivia building


Niebla Castillo from the sea
The most exciting event for us has been the arrival of our grand-daughter for a 2-month stay. She's 11 and lots of fun and brings sheer joy and brightness to our lives. Everyone here is amazed that she would attempt the 10-hr flight from Toronto on her own (although we did pay for the Unaccompanied Service of Air Canada). They do not realize that her mother waited until her plane had t
aken off, and that I was in Santiago to meet the flight. The more amazing fact was that she then undertook a 10-hr overnight bus trip down to Valdivia with me - and still had the energy to eat a 3-decker chocolate coated ice cream in Santiago before we left (the 3 flavours were bubble gum, vanilla and chocolate!) Perhaps we need to start a new dietary program as insted of getting progressively more tired (I'm exhausted by 8pm) she seems to get a second wind at 10pm. We both help with school in the morning (Larry with math and French) and I with English, reading and violin. Then we can set off to do (mostly domestic tasks - which seem to be a major part of being in foreign ports) or to see some interesting features of the city. She's been to the local fish market (not just fish but also sea lions and pelicans attend this place) and also to one of the forts which defended Chile against the French, English and even Dutch in the 18th Century.
Niebla lighthouse

We're all learning how to communicate better. Larry is already very good, and reading books by Isabel Allende |(in the original) and Valdivia newspapers. I recently bought the 'Rosetta Stone' downloadable version which is highly acclaimed.So far, our little girl has made more use of it - perfecting her pronunciation on words such as dog, cat and learning about the gender issues associated with the language. She's already familiar with some of the issues of learning a 'Romance' language as she studies French at school (as do all Canadian children).

Yesterday we visited the Castillo in Niebla ... it was quite a misty day ('niebla' means 'mist or fog' in Spanish). The lighthouse was not 'on' however!

Friday, 17 March 2017

Valdivia; Closing Notes

Chilean fishboat
We arrived safely here to Valdivia Chile on Monday March 13th and have had brilliant sunshine ever since. We feel lucky as we remembered that it mostly rains here from our stay 10 years ago. We took a few photos of the 'authentic' heavy wooden fishboats which we've seen all along the coast here. They're so colourful - they're often pulled ashore and left up to dry during the low tide. 

Snowy Wanderer displays his pink ear patches
Larry's really enjoying speaking Castellano and he's very good at it (having sailed into Spanish-speaking countries on/off for some years now). My own range is much smaller, but I have really appreciated the friendly and helpful people we're meeting here. One of the workers here at the marina actually lent me his cane. After the 39 days we were at sea, my right knee declined to work properly. It's gradually becoming more affirmative and probably some care and physio will take care of it. I'm looking forward to making some Nanaimo Bars for the office staff - this is a gesture which my friend Frida Audette taught me when I met her on "SV Arabelle" in London UK some years ago.

Royal Wanderer 
I have been remembering some glorious moments from the offshore trip. Our last day at sea was quite spectacular. As we were adjusting the Mainsail, we saw a beautiful rainbow which extended from one end of the heavens to the other, dipping into the water at both ends. Then, while coming in from the huge ‘altamar’ we’d been in for so many days, we were met by a school of several hundred dophins. I’m not proficient at counting mammals – but I could see splashes and indications of the many many animals all the way to the south of the boat. When dolphins accompany a boat, they are often quite interested in the boat, and treat it as a novelty – interweaving around the bow and criss-crossing under the boat. However, this time the dolphins were clearly focussed on filling up in the very rich hunting grounds they have on this coast of Chile. There seemed to be several species – all co-operating and showing a hint of the magical zest and spirit which many species seem to have (even humans when they’re young!)
Mollymawk


We were also entertained by the enormous numbers of birds – large and small – who were  fishing out there. We saw many mollymawks (they’re the slightly smaller albatrosses who can be distinguished from the Wanderers because they appear to be wearing black mascara and eyeliner!) I again attempted to take bird photos. Ever since we were in Alaska the first time about 15 years ago, I have not been too good at ‘getting’ photos of birds. So I was really pleased this trip. I got a somewhat fuzzy photo of the male Snowy Wanderer – you can tell he’s the male because he clearly (or – reasonably clearly) – has pink EAR patches. I also got a very good picture of the Royal Wanderer – and of a Mollymawk.
Sunset - East View


Sunset - West View with the 'wine-dark Sea'.






There were some memorable sunsets - here are two taken on the same evening - one looking eastward and one into the setting sun to the west!

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At 2017-03-13 15:12 (utc) our position was 39°49.46'S 073°15.09'W

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Chile!

After 39 days at sea, TRAVERSAY III anchored behind Isla Mancera in Bahia Corral. As mentioned in an earlier blog, we have arrived here too late to proceed upriver to Valdivia in daylight and thus will complete the journey to the city tomorrow.

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At 2017-03-12 21:12 (utc) our position was 39°53.38'S 073°23.30'W

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Last day at sea

Today is our last full day at sea!

The end of this voyage is close enough that the weather forecasts can hold no more surprises. An on-again off-again area of low pressure has come and gone and proved to be a non-event. The wind shifts involved no sail changes or jibes and the breeze barely exceeded 30 knots. At this point, the 4 meter waves have become de-rigeur.

The sun is out again lighting the wave crests a brilliant white running across the ruffled deep blue of the sea. Flitting about this panorama are hundreds of seabirds of all different sizes and species. In our experience, none of these birds fear being far far from the shore. Their presence is less a result of our being near the land - after all, it is still 170 miles away - and more because of a rich marine environment just off the South American coast. We are beginning to find ourselves in that area of up-welling ocean currents as shown by a falling sea temperature.

The winds which have been our steady companion and have been driving us along for weeks will fade away tonight as we get ever closer to the coast. It is likely we will be motoring the last fifty miles or so. More patience than we possess would avoid this bit of powering; the winds will be back along the coast in a day or so.

Our arrival will be too late in the day tomorrow for us to navigate up the river to Valdivia in daylight with a rising tide (safety considerations) so we will anchor for the night in a sheltered place just inside the river entrance at Corral, moving the last few miles up the river the following day. On Sunday as we enter the Bay at Corral the incessant motion will finally stop.


We are certainly looking forward to anchoring!

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At 2017-03-11 15:06 (utc) our position was 39°40.41'S 077°06.86'W

Monday, 6 March 2017

Less than 1000 miles to go

In the last day, our ride has gentled down a lot. It is not only that the wind is less, but more that it has moved more from behind. For a couple of days we were sailing as close to the southeast wind as we could and still weren't able to maintain the course we wanted. That's always very choppy. The wind will be back again though but at least all the winds predicted are from behind.

Less wind is a mixed blessing. With 20 knots of wind we can do 7 knots; at 15 knots we get 6 knots of speed and at 10 knots wind, we are lucky to do 4. We like 20 knots even if it raises a bit of a sea.

In a calm under power out here we can only do 5 knots - so slow largely to stretch out the fuel. But even if we open the engine up, we couldn't match the 7 or 8 we sometimes get with a good breeze on the quarter. We are getting close to the point where we could just make Valdivia under power with the 500 liters of diesel fuel we have remaining in the tanks. That gives a good back-up feeling for if something went wrong with the rigging, but we prefer the speed and quiet of sailing.

Our cashew supply is now exhausted (treats are the first thing to be used up) but there is still lots of chocolate and frozen blueberries. Steak is still on the menu when we feel like it. Ditto chicken, lamb, pork, fish ...

It is taking a bit longer than we might have liked but that is an obvious result from the roundabout route we have followed from New Zealand. Nonetheless, we would do the same again to avoid the nasty weather that was overtaking us or lurking in our path.

4000 miles and 33 days behind; under 1000 miles (less than a week) to go.


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At 2017-03-06 17:10 (utc) our position was 38°39.82'S 094°13.50'W

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Things break, things get fixed

It is one o'clock in the morning. It is totally overcast and the moon is new. Outside, it takes about 10 minutes for your eyes to become accustomed to the dark before a vague grey sensation appears that there are waves out there beyond TRAVERSAY's deck. The mainsail can just be made out, a kind of nearly black against the infinitesimally lighter nearly black of the sky, and, by craning your head way back, you can see the wind indicator in the light of the masthead running light. The red illumination of the outside instruments casts a warm glow around the nearby space.

The wind is blowing just over 15 knots on the beam. This is not enough breeze to raise an objectionable sea but it does race us along at 7 knots. The ugly five meter waves of a few days ago have now faded to a few meters of ground swell leading to a gentle rocking motion. At this speed though and in this dark, you leave the shelter of the dodger at your peril. The dodger, a canvas shelter protecting the main entrance, is repeatedly doused with wave tops cast into the air by our motion. It is very easy for the unwary to get wet - and seawater never seems to dry.

The dark and the speed and the nothing-to-see-beyond-the-boat combine to give an intense feeling of isolation. Of course, another source of that feeling that we are in a very remote place is the failure of some important piece of boat gear. After all, we DO have another 1700 miles to go!

It is a rare day at sea, with lots of sun and a good breeze, when we can make up our entire electrical energy requirements with solar and wind power. The 730 watts of installed alternative energy is largely theoretical, depending as it does on the whims of nature. The considerable power consumption of our autopilot and freezer, by contrast, are real and unrelenting. This all leads to our running the diesel generator for a few hours almost every day.

Yesterday in the late afternoon, during this compulsory battery charging, the generator abruptly ceased making noise and electricity and displayed a high temperature warning light on its panel. A cursory examination suggested loss of cooling water to be the cause rather than some hard-to-fix internal problem. The coming night lead to some minor procrastination. It's no fun fixing things in the dark anyway.

When light returned in the morning, it was time to go to work. Usually, loss of cooling water is the result of the failure of a small rubber impeller in the water pump. A typical failure leads to the inner and outer parts of the impeller separating from each other so that the shaft rotates but the impeller does not. I expected to simply take off the cover, pull out the old impeller, push in a spare and put things together again.

Not so simple! The old impeller had disintegrated completely. I knew I had to find all the missing pieces or they would simply be lurking somewhere waiting to cause some internal harm. The whole afternoon wore on as I removed more and more pieces of generator in my search for debris, bit by bit re-assembling the broken impeller much like an air crash investigator reassembling a destroyed fuselage.

Finally, with light and mirror, I saw the last piece of the puzzle hiding inside the inlet pipe. How it moved upstream to get there, I have no idea. The inlet pipe would be far more difficult to remove than the outlet pipe, now sitting on the galley counter. It would involve yet more panel covers and the removal of the whole pump from the generator. Fortunately, the little rubber shards yielded to some very thin stainless surgical instruments that could be pushed into, and extract debris from, the tiny inlet pipe.

So just the re-assembly left to do? Oh no! My thought that the generator exhaust had run hot and dry for a little while before the automatic shutdown led me to check the rubber exhaust hoses for heat damage. Sure enough, the hose section from the generator to the muffler had a soft spot that could lead to failure, exhaust and seawater in the boat, and much unhappiness. New hose is a challenge to force over tight connections; old hose is even harder to take off. During all this time the work place is bouncing around.

But it all got done, leading to a gin and orange juice reward and a fine Thai chicken green curry dinner prepared by Mary Anne.

Our nearest land is now Easter Island 700 miles almost due north of us. Rather irrelevantly, Coronation Gulf, visited on our 2013 Northwest Passage, is far beyond Easter Island on the same line 7000 miles due north of us. And I do believe we are now two thirds of the way across this endless ocean.



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At 2017-03-01 17:54 (utc) our position was 37°59.42'S 108°22.54'W

Sunday, 26 February 2017

A rough shiny day!

This has been a tough passage ... we haven't been able to relax much because all along our path it seems we've had 3 to 5 meter waves ... and we've diverted from our course to avoid the even worse 9 meter waves. There have been many sail changes and a lot of uncertainty.

BUT today we sat out in the beautiful sunshine looking at the cobalt-blue shiny waves.

We're now using the same 2007 chart we used for our last NZ-Chile nonstop.
2007: we were at 43 degrees South
2017: we're at 37 degrees South
2007: water temperature: 13 degrees C
2017: up to 20 C
2007: 33-day passage
2017 (probable): 39 days
2007: we were "knocked down" (boat slewed sideways and top of mast hit the water)
2017: a more conservative navigation schema will preclude a knock-down

Earlier, we got a chance to have calimari for dinner when this gift arrived from Neptune!

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At 2017-02-27 06:04 (utc) our position was 37°07.29'S 115°36.18'W

Saturday, 25 February 2017

BART

When tropical weather disturbances get a name (BART) rather than a cryptic number (such as 13F), you know they are getting serious. Having come to life in French Polynesia nearly a week ago, BART spun up into a typical hurricane (perhaps near-hurricane), left the tropics and headed our way. The New Zealand weather forecasters who concern themselves with this bit of ocean go beyond a "gale" warning to the more serious "storm" warning in their caution to stay away from its still-kicking remnant.

Our other forecast tools suggest winds over 50 knots and describe seas over 8 meters in height; definitely not something to be trifled with.

So here we are still going north ... When the center of the storm passes to the south of us tomorrow evening, we expect winds of less than 30 knots where we will be: all because of the few hundred miles of evasion-distance we have been accumulating during our recent off-course days.

Of course, then we'll have to scurry back again to the forty-something south latitudes we need to provide a reliable source of west winds to speed (??) us on our way to South America.

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At 2017-02-25 18:53 (utc) our position was 38°06.94'S 120°10.87'W

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Halfway!

With the gray skies above and the few birds foraging and soaring over the endless four-meter waves, our halfway day seems much like the days preceding it. Nonetheless, in a world of few treats, it is special to us.

We have presents to open and some candy packages to demolish. There is also that grand new feeling that we are moving closer to Chile rather than further from New Zealand.

Our furthest point from land on this crossing was actually a few days ago when we reached 1250 miles from both New Zealand's Chatham Islands and French Polynesia's Rapa Iti. We now find ourselves a "mere" 1100 miles south of Pitcairn Island of "Mutiny on the Bounty" fame. That's still a daunting distance - seven days travel for us. If you wanted a photo of our tiny white speck in this vast wilderness, a jet from Easter Island, the nearest airport 1380 miles away, could visit us in a six hour round trip. It is as if you were the only inhabitants of Toronto and the nearest people - but only a few dozen - lived in Miami ... with no-one any closer in all the space between!

This is not a commercial shipping route. Our empty world has featured no ships and no airplane contrails since we left the coast of New Zealand almost three weeks ago.

Five days ago as we were easting along the forty-ninth parallel of south latitude, it seemed that we would eventually pass "Point Nemo", the furthest you can get from land in the whole world. That would have placed us equally 1465 miles distant from Pitcairn, from Easter Island and from Cape Dart, Antarctica. That will not now happen as we have wandered away to the north.

So how does all this work?

Every day, in the late afternoon and early evening, the ionosphere configures itself so that short wave radio communication is at its best. That is when we exchange our incoming and outgoing emails with a shore radio station (currently Chile) that is itself connected to the internet. One of our outbound emails is a request for weather maps and text forecasts and attracts an automatic email reply with the requested information.

We look at text forecasts for the western South Pacific from New Zealand, the eastern part analyzed by Chile and tropical storm forecasts (they move in this direction before dying away) from Fiji. These are made much more understandable by an accompanying map of wind, wave and atmospheric pressure of much of the Pacific. Another map of detailed winds in our area for the next few days of sailing completes the picture.

Using priorities of 1) avoid really nasty weather even at the expense of reversing the course for a few days if necessary, 2) less importantly, avoid calms and headwinds and 3) least importantly, try to find a measure of comfort (hah!). The maps, texts and these priorities are all distilled down to the route to be followed and heading to be steered based on predictions out five days or so into the future. Any forecasts beyond five days are a bit fictional and, anyway, it all changes enough the next day that the whole process is repeated and the heading revised as necessary.

We try to infer from the forecasts what sail configuration will be optimal for the coming night. This is in order not to disturb the four-hour stretches of sleep the off-watch person gets with sail changes that could easily have been predicted and made before dark. There seems to be enough clambering around on deck in the black of night, though, to suggest that this doesn't always work, but we do try.

Looking back at our path so far, the jog way to the south was to avoid east winds blowing in the forty to forty-five degree latitude range in our first two weeks. The race toward the northeast now deals with a series of deep low pressure cells bringing gale force winds to the latitudes in which we had been sailing. Better weather expected to the north appeals to us more than the reduced distance obtained at higher latitudes. A tiny benefit to being further north is that the rising sea temperature is leading to the cabin temperature actually becoming tolerable.

An added puzzle this year - or is it this month - is the instability in the tropics leading to near-hurricanes (failed hurricanes?) spinning down across our path from the north. These too must be watched for and avoided.

And "only" 2500 miles more of this await us!

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At 2017-02-21 16:15 (utc) our position was 43°33.54'S 130°00.00'W

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Two steps forward, one step back

The gale sweeping down from the north towards us decided to intensify. We in turn decided to try to avoid the worst of it by heading for the nearest exit ... in this case, around the back (western) side of the low.

This is being penned to explain the little jog in our path. Even on the gentler path we took, it was all accompanied by lots of rain, big (5 meter) waves and howling wind.

Now we are again romping (perhaps "loitering" better describes our pace) towards the east with a fair wind. A wind that is likely to be with us as far into the future as the forecasts go.

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At 2/13/2017 04:04 (utc) our position was 48°25.29'S 156°24.59'W

Thursday, 9 February 2017

How far south?

Until the early part of the nineteenth century, sailing ship routes were based not on any scientific foundation but simply on what had worked in the past.

Mathew Fontaine Maury, a lieutenant in the United States Navy at that time prevailed on a large number of military and merchant mariners to pass to him logs of their weather readings during their various voyages. From this, Maury compiled charts showing the likelihood of winds of various directions and strengths in different parts of each ocean.

These charts, updated with modern observations, are available today to assist in the planning of ocean voyages. While day-to-day routing is based on actual weather and short term forecasts, the grand plan of the voyage is based on "Pilot Charts" descended from Maury's original work. From these maps we can tell, for instance, that winds in May in French Polynesia are calm less than 1% of the time and blow from the west almost never - a great region and time in which to make your way west! Similarly, in February in the area in which we now sail, the winds are said to virtually NEVER blow from the east. As sailboats cannot easily make ground directly toward the wind, we would seem to be well positioned for an eastbound passage.

Unfortunately, "virtually never" is not the same as "never"! Low pressure weather systems usually travel around the bottom of the world to the south of the roaring forties reinforcing the west winds prevailing in this region. Nonetheless, in the warm sub tropic waters far to the north of us a complex low has chosen to develop. It now plans to move to the southeast across our path and produce gale force easterlies exactly where we would like to be in a few days. As such winds are something we would prefer to avoid, we keep deviating south. On this path, the gale force east winds should lie to our north until the weather system passes to the east and dissipates. We expect to return to somewhat more clement latitudes in a few days after friendlier winds reestablish themselves there.

Of course there are limits to this! Not much to the south of latitude 50, Antarctic icebergs start to be a concern. As the weather situation develops, rather than be forced even further south, we may need a different plan ... perhaps we will simply heave to and wait while the contrary winds howl themselves out to our east.

A negative aspect to our southerly route is the change in cabin temperature from merely "uncomfortable" to "depressingly cool". Yes, we have a very efficient heater aboard but we would prefer to save our diesel fuel for emergencies as our route will take us over 1000 miles from land for a few weeks into the future. As we approach South America in March, we may choose to warm up the boat ... or we may be so inured to the cold by then that we can't be bothered. Notwithstanding this comment about the chill, it is actually the same temperature here at 48 south as it was 250 miles further north on our crossing ten years ago. Could it be that the warmer temperatures this year are leading to the formation of the tropical lows and to the displacement of the wind patterns further south than usual?

As the weather system that has favored us with a fast passage over the past week draws to a close, we have slowed from seven to five knots. From this remote place, far away almost straight north are the islands of, first, Rarotonga and much further again, Kauai. Traveling due east over three thousand miles you find Chile; but perhaps surprisingly, west along this latitude, you find no land at all until the coast of Argentina. Our nearest land, New Zealand's Chatham Islands, is 650 miles behind us and we have sailed almost 1200 miles since leaving Picton just over a week ago.

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At 2/9/2017 21:48 (utc) our position was 47°51.25'S 159°57.18'W

Friday, 3 February 2017

At sea

After a thoroughly enjoyable seven months in Australia and New Zealand, we have now set out on the long road across the far south Pacific to Chile.

The first 0.4% of our voyage was certainly a gentle introduction! Anyone who has traveled the ferry route between New Zealand's South and North Islands will be familiar with the hill-enclosed passage along the quiet waterways of Queen Charlotte Sound and Tory Channel. While a gentle rain did dampen the view, there were no waves or wind to speak of and the only motion was a subtle swirling from the tidal currents in Tory.

Then, as if to remind us that this was to be an OCEAN crossing, our first night out featured winds up to 40 knots (70 kilometers per hour). We kept reducing sail to control forces on the rig until there was very little left at all - and still we kept galloping along. By morning, the front had passed and all was gentle sailing in the sunshine. That will certainly not be the last gale we experience on this crossing!

* * *

A digression for trivia buffs: When we speak of "miles" in these blog postings, we always mean "nautical miles". Until recently, marine navigation (and until the 1970's, long distance air navigation) used a branch of mathematics called spherical trigonometry to calculate position using the sun, planets and stars. The answers came out as angles measured along the earth's surface rather than as distances. It was thus convenient to use an angular measure for distance. The nautical mile was born ... equal to one minute of arc or one sixtieth of a degree measured on the earth's surface. Thus one degree of latitude spans 60 nautical miles. In a comparison to units commonly used on land, one nautical mile is 6080 feet (15% longer than an American/British mile) or just under 2 kilometers.

Speed in ships (and planes) is measured in knots (not nauts and not knots per hour!) equal to one nautical mile per hour. 150 years ago, speed would be measured with the help of a long reel of rope terminated in an edge-weighted floating block of wood that would grip the water. Along the rope at calibrated distances were a series of knots. The block was thrown in the water and, as the rope unreeled into the ship's wake, a sailor noted when the first knot ran through his hand. He turned a sandglass to start timing and counted knots as they ran off the reel. The number of knots in the rope that passed through his hand before the sandglass ran out was the measure of the ship's speed.

Today, with knot reels now many years in the past, container ships make 22 knots through the water while airliners high overhead cross oceans at a speed of 480 knots!

* * *

As I write this, Picton, our point of departure, is 220 miles to our northwest as we make our way at 7 knots towards Valdivia, Chile some 4700 miles ahead. Eastbound sailing voyages across the South Pacific are made in the forties of south latitude to take advantage of the west winds prevailing there. This ocean area has long been known as the "roaring forties" because the winds blow with considerable strength - more than we really need or would like in a small vessel. But it DOES move a boat along.

The routes here were the last bastion of sailing cargo ships as they could still compete economically with the steamship when it arrived on the scene. 3000 ton square-riggers carried grain from Australia to Europe right up until the start of World War II - long after steamships had taken over all trade in the northern hemisphere.

From day to day, our route is re-planned to take advantage of the ever-shifting weather patterns and to avoid any particularly violent storms by shifting to the north or south or by slowing down to allow a weather system to advance ahead of us.

In a couple of days we will pass near the Chatham Islands, a New Zealand outpost marking the 10 percentile of our trip. That will be our last milepost - a quick glance at a map shows no islands at all across the rest of the ocean. Our distance from land will gradually increase to just over 1000 and then will stay at that figure for most of the crossing. Our feeling of progress will come from resetting the clocks an hour every four or five days and from noting which of a succession of inhabited islands or cities lies far far to the north of us.

We have many miles to go!

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At 2/3/2017 12:13 (utc) our position was 42°58.32'S 178°21.22'E

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Imminent Departure

Park on the waterfront - Wellington ferry
Here we are in Picton New Zealand - tied up in the town marina. This is the main ferry terminal which connects the North and South Island between Picton and the nation's capital of Wellington. We're booked to clear Customs tomorrow morning, We'll  leave here bound for South Ameica shortly afterwards. As if mirroring our feelings about leaving this part of the world and these beautiful lands, today has turned out grey and rainy. After checking the weather,  however, Larry says tomorrow should be a perfect day to depart.

Picton Waterfront
Picton is a very lovely small city as these photos show. Residents here tell us that they would 'never leave'. I include a photo of Blenheim which Larry visited because of his toothache. After a thorough inspection by the dentist, it turned out that nothing was wrong, but Larry ended up taking the bus at 7:30 with the return trip at 5:30 to Blenheim for an 11:00 appointment. There were no openings at the dental clinic in Picton. So here also is Larry's photo of Blenheim.



View of the Marina

Blenheim



Sunday, 22 January 2017

Reunions, Meetings, Greetings and Soundings


Terry Fitz & Christine Lindsay
Throngs of Gannets
Nesting gannet

This has to be a very long blog because it has been an eventful month. Early in the month, we flew over to Auckland on the N Island for a reunion with Christine Lindsay and partner Terry Spitz … it was to have been a 6-year Reunion when we (along with stellar athlete Marigold Edwards) met up at Gulf Harbour Marina north of Auckland for a sail together over to Great Barrier Island. Unfortunately, ‘Goldie’ wisely (in view of a delayed NZ Summer) isn’t getting back to her home country until late February when we hope that Traversay III will be Chile-bound. We missed having Goldie with us, but her friend Dr Nelly Steinemann came for a visit and to see the NWP Show aboard Terry and Christine’s good ship ‘Shiraz’. Some wanderings we shared took us over to Muriwai on the west coast to see the Gannet Colonies, and also for a beautiful walk in Shakespear Park on a clear and sunny day.


Shakespear Park walk

Richard & Michelle on Theleme

More reunions: Returning to Nelson, friends Michelle and Richard from the French-flagged ‘SV Theleme’ reminded us of times we spent sharing anchorages in Chilean Patagonia. Before untying the lines, guests came over for crackers and cheese. I had met Lorna at the Gym I joined in Nelson 10 years ago so she and Peter were aboard once again along with new friends such as Helen (a fellow boat-owner at the Nelson Marina), Ruth and Tom (whose fabulous aluminium boat ‘Matariki’ is now for sale at the marina), Alister and Kim and Tom and Vicky (Sunstone).
Peter, Lorna, Helen, Tom & Vicky

Wai Choong
Having been introduced to Wai by our friend Jen (see previous blogs) we were delighted to have dinner at his home and to see the very old piano (a ‘Kuhlu’ piano circa 1900 from Berlin) which is most beautiful with a mellow, silvery tone and is set in a tomato-red room furnished with a most elegant oriental carpet. We have been driven around and helped in our provisioning and
Wai's piano
air travels by Wai and Jen, and given a loving send-off by Maurice and Katie Cloughley. We are going to try to return in five years time to share important birthdays, and also to pay a return visit to the Mt Arthur Tablelands.

Soundings: A few days ago we left Nelson for
Pelorus Sound with a fair weather outlook. After catching up with the classic ‘Irene’ who resembles a beautiful white cloud as she sweeps through the waters, we travelled through French Pass. We’ve been revisiting some of the scenery that we travelled through a decade ago with Traversay’s Waterline sister-ship ‘Red’.  The weather so far has not been very co-operative and since leaving Nelson, we’ve had to ‘take cover’ several times.
'Red' in  the Sounds

Dick & Pat's classic yacht - SV 'Irene'
'Chantelle'
Kelly & Leslie

We were lucky to meet up with ‘Chantelle’ in Bulmer Bay 2 days ago just before a huge storm. We’d spent the previous night there – anchored with 275 feet of anchor chain out. Kelly advised us to take up one of the mooring balls next to his yacht ‘Chantelle’ and we spent 24 very windy hours safely tied up. We don’t always know whether mooring balls have been recently tested or whether they’re sufficiently strong to hold a heavy steel boat such as ours, but Kelly has been boating in these parts, and fishing off the west coast for years and years and his is trustworthy knowledge!

We’re now en-route to Queen Charlotte Sound where we hope to find another ‘bolthole’ anchorage as more bad weather is in the forecast. Bad weather is far from our minds at the moment – sunshine and remarkably beautiful scenery as we travel through this blessed land drives thoughts of stormy winds away – at least for the moment. We know that we may again be able to live through poor weather by tying to the shore as well as anchoring, and also by exploring the beautiful underwater kingdom.
Sea star and anemones

Sponge

Our last dive here at Maori Bay yielded more of Larry’s terrific photos. We were especially pleased to see a few large sea stars. These have been disappearing in BC waters due to an unknown killer (possibly a virus of some type).