Monday, 20 May 2019

Last Day!!

Here we are on our last day of our Pacific crossing. In less than 24 hours we will be able to say we have crossed two oceans. Overall this has been a good crossing. We have had a lot of things break but so far nothing outrageously expensive or catastrophic so I will call that positive. The four of us are more than ready for a break from constantly moving. We are looking forward to sleeping without getting up every 3 hours. We are excited to arrive in the gorgeous Marquesas islands!!!

We kept track of how many squid and flying fish we had to bury at sea, how many reefs D put in and out of the main sail and how many books read. In the end the numbers didn't come out as impressive as I thought they might. I was worried in the first week that Maple's deck would be the cause of squid being added to the endangered species list with how many we had to pry off the deck every morning. But for some reason after about a week, the squid finally learned to avoid using Maple as an escape route. The final tally was 50 squid and 25 flying fish. As for the reefs in the main, again we (and by "we" I mean D) started out with putting in lots of reefs and then shaking them out again, but then the second half of the trip was mostly just sailing with either the genoa only or a few days with the spinnaker. So the 29 times D was at the mast adjusting the main doesn't seem so bad...says the one who didn't do the work. As for the books read, also not that impressive of a number of 28 for a crew of 4. Clearly I should have instead of kept track of the number of levels of Candy Crush completed or games of Exploding Kittens or Sushi Go played. Next time I guess.

Now I know that some of our sailing friends are desperate to know what broke, right?! Ok, maybe just Jeff and Shaun really. I could give you a full list but that would be boring. Instead I will just give some of the highlights:

The most spectacular break was one of our radar reflectors (this is something that is attached high up in the rigging so that Maple might have a better chance of showing up for boats that have radar on board). It is a long piece of a plastic tube with metal bits inside. So one morning, D and I are sitting at the helm together, quietly enjoying a cup of coffee. When something plummeted in front of our eyes immediately followed by the most outrageous sound as it hit the deck and shattered. There is that moment of not understanding what just happened and hoping it is not the start of the mast falling down. We were relieved when we discovered the cause, it is just unfortunate we had to contribute yet more plastic to the world's oceans.

The most concerning break was when we went to start the starboard engine in an attempt to top up our batteries and we got nothing. Just silence from the engine. Oh no. That's not good. At the time the seas were unpleasant and basically every second wave would hit the engine hatches so it meant we (and by "we" I mean D) could not investigate what was wrong with the engine. At one point D did get impatient waiting for the seas to tame and as he was half in and half out of the engine, upside down, a wave swamped him and the engine room. So that was the end of that until later. Since then D has been able to isolate the problem and the good news is that it is just a relay between the engine start switch and the starter solenoid that needs to be replaced. The bad news is that is the one spare part we do not have on board. So for now, we will have to jump start the engine with a screwdriver, how ghetto is that?!

And the most recent and exciting break was our spinnaker (a light wind, downwind sail...think of a parachute). Our dear, sweet spinnaker who we will forever have a love/hate relationship with. D noticed that a ring at the top of the sail was showing wear from a metal shackle that attaches the sail to the sock that is used to deploy and furl the sail. D being a clever fellow decided to replace said metal shackle with a soft shackle (one made from high strength rope) thinking that would help avoid further wear on the ring. We had the spinnaker up for about 12 hours with this new "fix" when close to midnight (during my sleeping shift), D describes hearing a very soft "pop" sound followed immediately by the spinnaker gently floating down into the water. Brilliant. Thankfully we had a full moon and calm seas on our side. The poor spinnaker was drifting calmly at the back of Maple in a tangle of lines still attached at the bow. D and I managed to drag the sopping wet sail out of the water without too much drama. And wouldn't you know it, we actually found the poor soft shackle that was severed through. Hmmm, one of those times when "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" applies. And in case you are wondering, the sail is no worse for the wear and did fly again in the morning.

The girls have been amazing. They never missed one of their watches, Iris especially was like clockwork with showing up right on time. They were able to get a lot of school done as the school year is quickly drawing to a close. Sure it is not always harmonious on board, but overall the four of us make a fantastic team and I would call this a successful crossing!!

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At 2019-05-20 19:00 (utc) our position was 08°51.78'S 138°43.56'W

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

1 week left?

We continue to make progress towards our destination. Life is pretty chill on board Maple with not a whole lot going on. As some wise people said before we left, it is much better to have a boring crossing than lots of problems. Although as I said last time, we do have our share of things that need to be repaired or replaced. Funny story, apparently you are not allowed to swear via HAM radio frequencies, I had no idea. So my last email was rejected until I renamed my broken "stuff" list. On the plus side, we have found the best station to connect to and it is as far away as Georgetown, Texas. So I need one of my Austin friends to track this person down and buy him (or perhaps her, although a long shot) a beer.

We received some sad news yesterday. Our cat, Jack, died last week. We picked up Jack as a kitten back in 2005. At the time, I told D that if we got a pet, I would wait longer to have a child. He liked the sound of that so we acquired Jack. D is a sucker. I think it was no more than 9 months later I was pregnant with Ella. Jack had a love/hate relationship with the girls. I have sweet pictures of Jack curled up next to Ella as a baby. However, a favourite game of Jack's was he liked to stalk the girls. He would unexpectedly jump around a corner and swat or nibble at their ankles, which neither girl appreciated. Jack was an astute hunter and loved to bring home "gifts". The most memorable was a small bird. Upon dropping it on the mat inside for me, the bird took off like a shot. As I ran around the house trying to catch it, which I eventually did upstairs in E's room, Jack just curled up and went to sleep offering no assistance whatsoever.

As D and I made plans for this grand adventure, Jack was always top of mind as to what was best for him. We looked into countries rules around bringing pets in on the boat. But ultimately, it came down to we could not picture Jack getting comfortable with being confined on a boat. So what do we do?! Obviously, Jack has been a member of our family for 10 years at that point. Well D's mom, Ann, made the decision easy in the end for us. Ann generously offered to take Jack for us. It could not have been better for him. They were a wonderful match and I know Jack settled in beautifully with Ann. Thank you, Ann, for giving Jack such a loving home these last four years, we are deeply grateful for your love and care of Jack.

Needless to say, the girls are heartbroken on this news. They are grateful they got to see him one more time when we were back for a visit in September. As usual, Jack was his aloof self and paid very little attention to the girls. However, the girls look back on Jack with fond memories and seem to have forgotten the ankle biting.

We are officially in the triple digits for miles left to landfall. Yesterday marked two weeks at sea, we anticipate at least another week to go. The forecast is for the winds to start to slow which will not improve our speed, so we are just being patient and will get there when we get there. We have plenty of fresh produce left and are all doing well.

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At 2019-05-14 19:00 (utc) our position was 08°19.18'S 125°148.18'W

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Excitement on Pacific Day 5

So this morning started out like all the others so far on this passage. Me dragging my exhausted self out of bed after I have overslept my sleeping shift. I do my daily round of the boat recommitting a number of flying fish and squid back to the sea. And yes, I am keeping a tally, inspired by my mom who likes to track and organize everything. It does seem an amazing feat the height these little guys can get to end up losing their lives on the deck of Maple. Not exactly the close animal encounter I am looking for as I pry their bodies off which have already partially glued themselves to the deck. Anyway, I digress. Next important task for the morning is making coffee, followed by my lying down in the cockpit...yes, I did just wake up and it should be D who is now resting, but what can I say, I have a very tolerant captain.

There are many things that go beep on the boat. The most common one is the auto pilot warning us that the wind has shifted...again...boy is the wind fickle out here. Another interesting beep is when our aging chart plotter GPS decides to intermittently stop working so it loses our position. That same GPS also beeps incessantly due to interference from the SSB radio when we try to connect the radio. However, the beep this morning that caused the adrenaline to start pumping so it negated the need for the coffee, was the alarm that the house battery bank had just shut down. Yes, the batteries, which keep all things running on board...all the navigation instruments, the fridge/freezer, charges our various electronics, allows me to froth my milk in the morning with a hand blender so I can pretend I am having a latte, you know all the critical things we need electricity for.

About a year ago, we dropped a bunch of dollars on replacing our dying AGM batteries with lithium. You have no idea the hemming and hawing we went through to decide to spend that much more money on lithium and then where to source them. We picked them up when in Florida and installed them just before we left for Cuba a year ago. We have not one regret over the choice to buy lithium, they are amazing. The ability they have to charge quickly with our solar panels. The fact that we can use more than 80% of their capacity. Ok, that pretty much taps out my knowledge of batteries. Anyway, we love them. What is not great is the monitoring system that came with the batteries. It is crap. And without going into detail that I can't actually explain because I don't understand it, basically the monitoring system thought the batteries were dead, when in fact they were doing just fine. So the system shut down the whole battery bank leaving us with no power.

D immediately understood what was going on thankfully as my foggy brain was still going through the inventory of beeps it could be. While he is trying to override the system to restart, I fortunately go to the helm to discover that hey, without power the auto pilot is no longer steering. Minor detail. As the boat was heading into irons (which I think is the term for when the boat is pointing straight into the wind and the sails are not doing anything), I managed to hand steer with all the instruments staring blankly back at me. Look at me, I can be useful sometimes.

We managed to turn the battery bank back on and are charging away, so hopefully that is the end of our excitement for today. Being hundreds of miles from anything and briefly without power reminds us how self sufficient we need to be out here. I am not even going to try to explain how we are attempting to fool the system into realizing that we do in fact have well charged batteries because I don't get it. But thankfully in addition to being very tolerant, I have a very smart and resourceful captain on board.

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At 2019-05-04 23:00 (utc) our position was 04°38.06'S 100°47.47'W

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Pacific Day 2-3

Life is going smoothly here on Maple in the Pacific. The view doesn't change too much out here, although far off on the horizon today, I saw four spouts of water that only could have been whales, but unfortunately they never came close enough to see them. We have a few more days out here yet so perhaps we will get some whales visiting like they did for us on the Atlantic.

The bananas are ripening fast. Haven't had to resort to baking banana bread yet, but I think it is only a matter of days. I was reflecting today that my dad would have been quite impressed at the $10 we paid for our giant stalk of bananas. My dad for some unknown reason would pay close attention to the price of bananas when shopping. I can't remember what he felt was a reasonable price, but I think he would consider what we paid a bargain.

Sushi is on the menu tonight with the yellow fin tuna that we caught last evening. The sushi rice is made, just need to get the girls to cut the avocado and cucumber, then we can start rolling. I am regretting not buying the pickled ginger that was surprisingly on the shelf in Santa Cruz. As you can tell food really is a focus during passages because what else is there to do.

The girls deserve huge praise for getting right into the routine of school in the morning, followed by their watches and then they are allowed to watch movies. I think their current goal is to watch the entire Glee TV Series (again) before we arrive in the Marquesas. Nothing like having goals.

Thank you for your emails, Mom and Jeff. Unfortunately we are still really struggling to get a decent connection on the radio and still have not successfully downloaded a weather file since we left. So I won't be responding to emails individually just yet. Hopefully we can eventually find a reliable station and time to connect. Jeff, it was great to hear the play is going well!! And Mom, glad to hear the Galapagos postcard finally arrived. We mailed it from San Cristobal, the first island we visited, so it took around 3 weeks to arrive.

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At 2019-05-02 22:20 (utc) our position was 03°35.79'S 095°51.20'W

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Pacific Day 1

We departed from Santa Cruz, Galapagos on Monday the 29th at 12:45pm. Very slow start, not a great deal of wind so spent a bit of time motoring. On the plus side we had the chance to chat with two other passing sailboats: Chanticleer and Wiz. Both are now long past us and out of sight, but it was nice to "meet" another kid boat heading to Nuka Hiva too.

Currently we are quietly sailing along slowly with full sails. A long slow swell hitting us on the beam, but it is fairly comfortable. The Maple crew are all doing well, although it didn't start out that way this morning. It was near mutiny by the youngest crew this morning when the Captain and First Mate insisted on school the first morning of the passage. Honestly you would think we were asking them to row us across the Pacific with all the complaints. In the end, the swabs reluctantly followed through on their orders. But I have to give them credit, they both did their watches today without complaint.

No fish caught yet, but Nawii promised us we would catch a 25kg tuna so we are holding them to that. I guess we still have plenty of time to make that happen. As we were leaving Galapagos yesterday, we had a manta ray give us a good bye jump plus we had loads of blue footed boobies doing their dive bombing from insane heights into the water around us while they fished. This morning we saw some dolphins in the distance doing some jumps, but they chose not to come say hello. Perhaps they were keeping their distance from the whining.

I am holding out for repeat conditions tonight like last night. Calm conditions, no squalls, lots of stars, and me dancing in the helm without D and the girls rolling their eyes at my epic dance moves.

PS: Just a reminder to please start a new email if replying to us. Unfortunately we are still really struggling to find a station we can reliably connect to send and receive email, so any help we can get with not downloading unnecessary text, is a huge help. I do love hearing from people though!! Thanks.
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At 2019-04-30 20:27 (utc) our position was 02°01.43'S 091°59.69'W

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Arrival in the Galapagos Archipelago

Hello All,

Our welcome to Galapagos could not have been better. We approached San Cristobal around 7am in flat calm seas. (And yes, that means from a sailing perspective it was not good, but after motoring for the last 48 hours what was another hour.) We were first greeted by a pod of dolphins out for their morning feed, but a few stopped by for a brief hello at the bow. Then on a number of occasions we were fortunate to witness a manta ray jump out of the water, do a somersault in the air and land with a spectacular splash. The flash of its body from white to black as it flips in the air was awe inspiring. And then in pairs or threes, a march of sea lions would go parading by out fishing for their breakfast. This would not be the last of the close encounters with the sea lions, whether I liked it or not.

We anchored and Darryl immediately went to work on tying lines and fenders at the back of the boat to create a barrier from the inevitable sea lion boardings. He really timed it perfectly as it did not take long for the first sea lion to come along and try out the transom (the back step/platform) where we have managed to limit their sleeping space. Sure it is cute the first time or two. However, right now in the middle of the night when I can't sleep even after 7 nights of interrupted sleep, I am listening to the wheezing and barking of what seems to be the most disgruntled (or maybe it has a cold) sea lion, which is basically parked right at our cabin's back window. Right. How long are we staying here?! The girls insist on naming each one...and no, they have no way of telling them apart as they seem to circulate on a semi regular basis from one boat to another. We have not had a chance to explore the island yet, but are looking forward to seeing some land based animals too.

Jeff and Sandra, I am sorry to hear of your feathered friends leaving you countless gifts to scrub and clean. I am glad they were able to find you as we did keep sending them your way. I guess it is all trade offs, you at least are managing to sail while we burned half a tank of fuel on each engine. And the verdict is still out on whether sea lion poop is any better than bird, in the end I think both species are quite prolific. I hope you continue to have good winds to keep your sails filled!!!

We are now seeing the first rains we have seen in over a month, I honestly can't tell you the last time we had rain. So we might have some wet exploring while here, but on the plus side, the two non-princesses on the boat (Darryl and Iris....in case that isn't obvious) got out in the rain and gave Maple a long overdue scrub. Although the huge squid ink (and I mean the real kind) stain down the one side of boat is going to need more than a little rain to clear off.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Officially Shellbacks

One last hello from Maple before we arrive in Galapagos tomorrow!

Today we had the momentous occasion of crossing the equator at around 1100. Okay...really it is like the anticipation of New Years Eve and then a little anti-climatic but we made the most of it by making an offering of a maple leaf shaped cookie and champagne. We think Poseidon has a bit of a sweet tooth. And yes, it is Poseidon to us instead of Neptune given where we started our journey. The Greek Gods and Goddesses win out on our boat.

We had received an official summons the night before from Poseidon himself to meet him at 1300. So the girls and I were on time, but the captain was a no-show. And what do you know Poseidon himself graced us with his presence!!! He put us through the motions to adequately demonstrate our worthiness of becoming a shellback. We had to tie a bowline, have squid ink (which smelled and tasted suspiciously of molasses) drawn on our backs in the shape of a turtle shell and brave the creatures of the deep by jumping into the ocean. The girls and I passed with flying colours of course!! Poseidon then sadly left us but with instructions for whenever the captain decided to turn up with some punishment for failing to show up on time. And what do you know the captain turned up not long after Poseidon's departure. His penance for not being on time was to crawl around the boat on his hands and knees and to have the added addition of squid ink dumped over his head. However, in the end, we think Poseidon was satisfied that the whole crew qualified for the distinguished order of shellbacks.

Tomorrow morning we should arrive in Galapagos!! Sadly there has been no wind to speak of so it has been motoring all the last day and night for us. The one positive side to that is we enjoyed our first swim on the southern side of the equator. We are looking forward to arriving and have been sorting out our defenses against the sneaky sea lions to keep them off our boat, will keep you up to date on how successful we manage.

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At 2019-04-01 21:23 (utc) our position was 00°11.80'S 088°47.13'W