Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, Mexico to

The Marquesas Islands

Day 11 - 20




Day 11
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 09 degrees 20 minutes N - 121 degrees 14 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 4', Waves 2', Wind NE at 15 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 1291 miles

April 3, 2007, Tuesday. This was our fourth day without our autopilot and we were very close to giving up on repairing it at this time. David had a couple more things to try out then off to storage the parts and tools would go until the Marquesas. The previous evening the manufacturer had suggested some additional tests, including reassembling the entire unit without the remote control, even though David had already tried it with the brand new spare remote we had brought with us. The manufacturer wanted him to try it with no remote attached. David once more painstakingly followed the prescribed procedure and then gave it another try. And you know what? The most wonderful thing happened; it worked! We couldn't believe it, and we are still somewhat in disbelief. You cannot imagine, unless you've done long-range sailing, how important having an autopilot is; it truly is like having another crew member on board. It gives you an extreme amount of freedom and saves much wear and tear on your body. Once again I must sing the praises of ham radio and the people behind it. David is extremely clever and is blessed with a natural ability to diagnose and solve mechanical and construction engineering tasks and problems. However, we aren't sure if this repair could have been solved without the support and technical help of the manufacturer and our dear friend Richard (W7YTZ). Richard and Patrick's (W7YCN) continued willingness to maintain a radio schedule, phone patches, and unending encouragement are appreciated more than words in this log can express. Now there is one down side to all of this. I'm no longer afforded the opportunity to so easily turn myself into Big, Bad, Buffed Mel, you know, the one with the really strong arms and shoulders. Sure, I still can steer whenever I want, but I think at least for a while, the "want" part will be missing. When in the process of turning this "lemon" situation into lemonade, I was even thinking of new future career opportunities with my soon to be developed upper body strength. Jobs such as baggage handler, ditch digger, furniture mover, all came to mind. It seems now I will just have to go back to being just a sailor on a very incredible adventure! Oh, and the wind continued to pick up to the 15 knot range, enabling Talerra to pick up speed to 6 knots! Yah Hoooo!

Day 12
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 08 degrees 21 minutes N - 123 degrees 10 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 6', Waves 2', Wind NE at 15 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 1423 miles

April 4, 2007, Wednesday. Today we reached our halfway point! We have traveled over 1,400 miles, and it is about 2,800 miles from Zihuatanejo to the Marquesas. We are also at about the same longitude as Seattle, just a little further south! Yesterday's increase in wind, which continued today, helped move us much closer to our way-point, 5 degrees N and 130 degrees W, for turning south through the ITCZ, Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. Of course we can turn at any point, but that way-point is at a location where the ITCZ is suppose to be narrower. It is an area where sea conditions aren't always so comfortable, so you want to cross it in the least amount of time as possible. After making our way through it, we will be in the southeast trades and will continue southwest to the Marquesas. Late afternoon today, David was able to have a one to one radio conversation with Don Anderson, the California "weather and sea conditions" expert who gives daily reports to cruisers on the west coast of Mexico and beyond. He informed David we are on a perfect track for the ITCZ and that conditions are looking good. David and Greg, on Volare, worked all of this out before we left. Way to go guys! Volare is just about at the ITCZ and is experiencing squalls, so we will be getting some soon also. Our neighbor boats are getting further apart, with Marcy, who began two days earlier, way out in front, followed by Volare, then us, and finally Bold Spirit, who left much later in the day on the same day as Volare and Talerra. There is now over 200 miles between each boat, but we still communicate daily on the SSB and ham radio. It occurred to me today that baking treats from scratch, on an ocean passage, has something in common with giving birth, you forget the pain. David says crossing the ocean is like that too. The end result is so wonderful, you don't remember what you had to go through to get there! So it went today with making chocolate chip cookies! Of course I had to use the recipe that includes turning oatmeal into flour in a food processor, which was stored under all of the extra flour, which was …… you remember the scenario. I couldn't finish baking them all, so the extra dough went in the freezer to be baked over the next few days, and David is set for cookies for quite awhile. I also did laundry, breaking the rule about not doing more that one major task a day. I couldn't stand just having the heat from the oven; I had to add more moisture too. Love those boat saunas!

Day 13
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 07 degrees 26 minutes N - 125 degrees 00 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 4', Waves 2', Wind NE at 12 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 1548 miles

April 5, 2007, Thursday. Off Talerra's stern, a consistent and gradual 4 -6 foot NE swell combined with a 15 knot wind from the same direction to make this a fantastic ocean sailing day! We have been flying just our #1 jib, again that's the larger jib, which flies out in front of the boat allowing Talerra to be pulled by the wind, rather than pushed. In addition, the use of a whisker pole helps keep the sail extended and inflated, thus getting the maximum benefit from the wind, especially when it lets up. Moving from above decks to the galley, I must say the food situation on Talerra has been working quite well. As mentioned in a previous log, I didn't have time to prepare food in advance of leaving. Neither did I have time to plan meals for each day of the trip. I know some people couldn't go to sea under these circumstances, but we just went shopping in the same way we normally would and bought more. So far it has worked marvelously! We have had beef Stroganoff, chicken and broccoli curry, a Thai stir-fry, chicken chorizo pasta (ok, so that's just spaghetti made with chorizo, but it sounded gourmet), and we even barbecued steak on one calm evening. Nothing has come from a package, and no cans of stew have been opened. Actually, we don't have any canned stew; hope that wasn't a mistake! We still have fresh fruit and veggies, although some favorites are gone. No more avocados lettuce, tomatoes, melon or bananas. For those of you who know me well, yes my beloved spray butter is gone. Sadly, I couldn't find any in Mexico, and I didn't want to risk having it leak all over my undies or new swimsuits in my suitcase when I made my last trip back from Washington, so I didn't bring any. Surprisingly, I am surviving without it just fine, although I do miss that golden chemical concoction! Will I give up trying to find it? Never! It has become and will continue to be a part of every shopping experience! Granola is the one other food I wish we would have brought more of. We have lots of hot cereal but that just doesn't fit with the warm tropical weather we are now in. I guess we didn't have everything we would need for the rest of our lives after all!

Day 14
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 06 degrees 37 minutes N - 126 degrees 36 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 4', Waves 1', Wind NE at 10 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 1659 miles

April 6, 2007, Friday. Last night, before dark, we reduced sail in preparation for any squalls we may encounter. Doing this when it is dark and/or during a stormy or very windy situation is to be avoided if possible. Both Volare and Marcy had experienced their first squalls by this point, but as it turned out, we saw none. At daybreak we put the larger jib back up and spent the day sailing comfortably and steadily toward our waypoint at 05 N and 130 W. I should point out that we probably will not wait until we are exactly at that point before turning south. Local wisdom indicates that by the time you arrive somewhere in the area we currently are, if you encounter your first squall, you should consider turning south at that point. We also know though that we are having better winds here than they are in the southern hemisphere, so we want to hold off turning as long as we can. The day was uneventful, just the way we like it; although catching a nice mahi mahi or tuna would have been nice. Fishing has been neglected, so I do think we need to get in gear on that one. It's probably also time for me to make my "retired teacher disclaimer" regarding these log entries. Former students, and anyone else who cares, they are not final draft quality. They started out simply as my own personal journal, which I decided to share with anyone wishing to read it. In journal writing, it's not required to follow all of the "rules." You are recounting, reflecting, analyzing, and evaluating events in your life. It's personal and not usually published. So if it bothers you there are no paragraphs and you see other errors, feel free to get out a red pen and start editing. Just don't send it back to me! Now back to the important stuff…….. Just a few minutes before midnight, so it qualifies as today, I saw our first squall on radar. Time to wake up David!

Day 15
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 05 degrees 36 minutes N - 127 degrees 38 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 4', Waves 1', Wind E/NE at 8 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 1754 miles

April 7, 2007, Saturday. Inkblots, that's what they remind me of, and rabbits. First one appears on the radar, then another, and soon there are several more, all seeming to be clustered around Talerra. I'm sure any self-respecting inkblot specialist would have a heyday analyzing their shapes, but we're more concerned about speed, location, and size (they vary, ranging between ½ mile to 3 miles in diameter). After spotting our first one just before midnight last night, this reproduction thing occurred, and we were surrounded. It looked ominous on radar and even in the bright moon-lit night. They are giant black clouds scooting across the ocean's surface, not high in the sky where clouds should be, and seeming to be heavily laden with swirling wind and pounding rain. But when there is no more room to escape their presence, you sometimes are surprised to find only a slight wind with a bit of drizzle or a light spring shower. So it has been for us thus far with the two we've met up close and personal. We were reminded though by our friends on Volare to not become complacent. They are now about three days ahead of us, and after a couple of days in the ITCZ and encountering several squalls with only slight wind and rain (although earlier had met up with a few with winds up to 30-35 knots) were taken by surprise by one with gusts to 52 knots and lasting two and a half hours (usually you are through them within an hour or less). They made it through it just fine, but it was a good "heads-up" reminder for us. Soon after that first encounter we changed course and headed south through the ITCZ, with a course set at exactly 180 degrees, and most of the day had a pleasant NE wind which kept us sailing along at our average of 5 knots. However, by the end of the day, the wind decreased to almost nothing, and we were forced, for the first time in several days, to use our motor. It reminded us that we are in the area that has for many, many years been called the doldrums. At the beginning of the entry I mentioned rabbits, who tomorrow will be referred to as bunnies. From the high seas, we wish you all a very Happy Easter!

Day 16
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 04 degrees 46 minutes N - 128 degrees 30 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 4', Waves 1', Wind S/SE at 10 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 1838 miles

April 8, 2007, Easter Sunday. Anyone with the means of getting them to the boats could have made a lot of money today selling chocolate eggs to the cruisers near us. It seems no one was prepared for the cravings this day would evoke. Of course it is a religious holiday, but those beliefs vary from person to person. The longing for chocolate eggs seems universal. Yesterday we did boil eggs on Talerra, and for our afternoon snack today had them deviled (interesting term meaning food prepared with hot spices and having nothing to do with any of the crew aboard Talerra). At any rate, the Easter Bunny did not make it out to any of the nearby boats on the Pacific (too far for such a small group, sure he will make it up to us next year), but via a phone patch we did hear he made it to our grandsons' home and that is what matters most. Squall activity was minimal today (just encountered one with light rain only) and so was wind. We did resort to running the engine early in the day when our speed reduced to two knots, but wanting to conserve fuel decided to shut it down again. An interesting phenomenon occurred this afternoon with our compass and gps. They began showing different readings with a discrepancy of 20 to 40 degrees. To check out this problem, David got out our hand-held gps and compass. The gps reading matched our main gps exactly, and the hand-held compass also matched the binnacle compass perfectly. We were feeling like we were in the Twilight Zone, not the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. Because our speed was so slow, less than 2.5 knots, we are hoping that is the problem. At the Shelton Marina we would sometimes get funny readings because we weren't moving. We hope it's a case of moving too slow this time, but our speed did not increase enough the rest of the evening to make that determination. There just wasn't any wind (duh, we are in the doldrums), but more is predicted by Tuesday. We are continuing to be visited by lots of dolphins and schools of flying fish still provide entertainment as they soar out of the water in unison. David also had the good fortune today of seeing a yellowfin tuna and a pilot whale!

Day 17
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 03 degrees 53 minutes N - 129 degrees 12 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 3', Waves 0', Wind SE at 2 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 1913 miles

April 9, 2007, Monday. The seas were incredibly calm today, more like a lake than an ocean. It was mostly clear, quite hot in the direct sun, and during the daylight hours there was enough wind to sail. Early in the day we were moving along very well under full sail (main, staysail, jib were all up), which I love. As the wind decreased, David put up the genaker (it's a cross between a genoa and a spinnaker), our huge, rainbow colored, light-air sail, and we continued on slowly but steadily. These conditions allowed Talerra to move along without much back and forth movement and gave us a chance to do certain chores much easier. David transferred 25 gallons of fuel from on deck to our regular fuel tanks. This emptied the last of the four 15 gallon containers and two of the 5 gallon containers, leaving another 30 gallons on deck and our two regular fuel tanks almost full. We are doing just fine in the fuel department (very important because by nightfall the wind completely died and we ran under power)! The calm conditions made it easier to fish, no takers though, and also gave us the opportunity to open hatches and really air-out the cabin. We are pretty conservative about leaving anything open when there is any chop or wave action. We would rather have it warm than clean up after getting a wave below (although David says it is inevitable it will happen to us sometime). The companionway is usually open or partially open because it is protected by the dodger and now weather curtains around the cockpit, but it even gets closed if needed. So far it has not been necessary on this crossing, but it sure was quite often when coming down the Washington, Oregon, California coast! Now to a more serious subject, polliwogs and shellbacks. A polliwog is a person who has never crossed the equator on a boat (airplanes don't count); a shellback is someone who has. Two polliwogs on a boat are ok. Two shellbacks are ok too, but one of each spells trouble for the polliwog. The shellback gets to play King Neptune and initiate the polliwog when crossing. This also includes lots of tortuous teasing and taunting for days ahead of time. We are currently about 200 miles from the equator and this injustice will end. Thank goodness!

Day 18
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 02 degrees 02 minutes N - 129 degrees 44 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 3', Waves 0', Wind SE at 8 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 2029 miles

April 10, 2007, Tuesday. Although anxiously awaiting her fate at the hands of King Neptune, the polliwog still enjoyed a lovely day of sailing on the Pacific. Boat speed remained between 4.5 to 5.2 knots under full sail, and the seas continued to be quite calm, although not quite calm enough to feel we could leave the boat open all day. Now I've never been one to complain much about hot weather, even when growing up in Redding, California where its citizens prided themselves on being able to fry eggs on the sidewalk during the summer months, but I must admit this equatorial environment is very warm and humid (Redding heat was dry, dry, dry!), making it tough to do a lot of work. I now have a much better understanding as to why my southern ancestors sat around on their porches whenever they could, knowing their heat was much the same as this. Sounds like I'm making an excuse for feeling a bit on the lazy side! We did put out the fishing pole and our efforts were rewarded just at sundown. I had just finished writing a whiney no fish email to Volare who earlier had the good fortune of having a Chinese fishing boat come along side to give them a huge amount of packaged and frozen tuna (David and his parents had a similar experience with a Korean vessel while they were crossing the Indian Ocean on their trip in the '70's). Before I even had a chance to send the mail, the pole burst into song as the fish grabbed the lure, and David shouted, "Fish on!" It was a Wahoo, 40 inches plus in length and weighed in on the fish scale at 35 pounds. Wahoo has beautiful white meat, is suppose to be very tasty, and ours now resides in the freezer awaiting consumption! I've never eaten it that I know of, so I'll let you know how good it really is! I was able to add a P.S. to my email before sending it and quickly sent another off to my bratty little brother who has been giving me a bad time for not fishing! He insists it is in me genetically, we come from a family of people who like to fish, and actually David does also. We moved our clocks back an hour today, so we are now in the Alaska Time Zone (didn't know that was the name of the time zone west of Pacific); we're just a little further south. This will better accommodate our 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of dark. Oh, and speaking of nighttime, I must mention how exciting it is to have both the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross sparkling brightly in the sky at the same time!

Day 19
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 00 degrees 25 minutes N - 130 degrees 15 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 3', Waves 0', Wind SE at 8 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 2132 miles

April 11, 2007, Wednesday. This was my last day as a polliwog, forever! Once you cross over and become a shellback that is it. Never again do you have to be subjugated to another shellback, now you have the future possibility of one day being King Neptune to some poor, measly polliwog yourself. Yes, finally at about 2:00 a.m., we will make the big leap south. How fun it will be to give our position with a southern latitude. Our little group of four boats making the big crossing is about to become two. Marcy made landfall in the Marquesas last evening, and Volare should arrive by Friday. That just leaves Bold Spirit and us (Katie Lee, another Zihuatanejo boat, is several days behind, and there are others with whom we are not acquainted). It's ok though because the boats already there (several more besides Marcy and Volare of course) can get the scoop on checking in and pass the word along to us. Some boats are using a yacht services company to handle the paperwork; some are probably doing it themselves. In Mexico we easily took care of it ourselves. This time we are leaning toward using the yacht services, but we don't have to make a final decision yet. Total fees are almost $500, so it is something not to be taken lightly. An interesting aspect of this is how the rules for checking in vary based on the flag you are flying. It kind of makes us wish Americans hadn't made such a big deal about "French" fries. Do you think it will help if we tell them we really do like French wine with our French bread and cheese? Speaking of food, tonight we feasted on our first Wahoo. Wow, it was dee-lish and every bit as tasty as Mahi Mahi! Lucky us! We need to get that pole back in the water for more. You definitely need to be careful though when bringing them in. They have very sharp, nasty teeth and deserve their comparison with a barracuda. Conditions today included calm seas, enough wind to keep our sails full, air temperature a bit cooler, and less humidity! It was absolutely lovely!

Day 20
Lat/Long (0300 Z) - 01 degrees 06 minutes S - 131 degrees 03 minutes W
Sea Conditions - Swell 3', Waves 0', Wind S/SE at 10 knots
Distance Traveled Since Leaving Zihuatanejo - 2236 miles

April 12, 2007, Thursday. Finally a polliwog no longer! I have at last joined the ranks of shellbacks the world over! At 0945 Z, that's 1:45 a.m. local time (Alaska Time Zone), the good ship Talerra crossed that invisible and magical line at zero degrees latitude, commonly known as the equator, and is sailing the waters of the South Pacific. Neither she nor I have ever been in the southern hemisphere. Will water in her sinks now swirl away in the opposite direction? The head (remember that's the toilet) is a vacuum system, so it shouldn't change. As for the seasons, in an instant we went from spring to fall. Having experienced thirty Washington winters, that thought could send ice cubes through our veins, but I think we need not worry. The equatorial and tropical climates will display winter for us in a whole new way. After watching and photographing our gps position reporter switch from the big "N" to the big "S," I retired from my watch and hoped for quiet dreams, knowing this very afternoon King Neptune would be greeting me at our little "Southern Hemisphere" party. Now, we've all heard about the large, raucous celebrations polliwogs have experienced on military and cruise ships, but we are just a crew of two (three counting Bear). Our party paled by comparison, but it was still very, very fun! I dressed in my finest equator crossing outfit, a vibrant yellow wrap ($6 at a dirt-floored Mexican village) and beaded jewelry from some past Mardi Gras festivity, along with a recent purchase on the beach at Tenacatita. King Neptune wore his finest pareo and an across the shoulder wrap, accessorized with a boar's tusk necklace and a shiny trident beautifully fashioned from teak and tin foil (ok, it was aluminum, but tin sounded better). He looked magnificent! Even the boat bear joined in the celebration adorned with a flower lei of bright rainbow hues. King Neptune presented the new shellback with a beautifully scribed certificate, rolled and tied with a ribbon, proclaiming her new status in life, thus making it truly official. Guests dined on crispy ship's biscuits with Hoopes's gourmet smoked salmon, Jones's Wahoo Spread (a secret family recipe) and creamy Mexican white cheddar, while sipping fine Menzemer bubbly. Of course proper homage was made to Neptune (Roman) and Poseidon (Greek), rulers of the sea (want to make sure we've covered all our bases), and photographs were taken. It was a grand affair and forever will be remembered!