Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Merry Christmas!

December 25th, 2008

Holiday greetings and love to all. We truly hope that you are surrounded by all the love and warmth you can handle this day, enjoying all the gifts that life can give.

Christmas in Martinique is unique thus far. It is certainly tropical and green for a good reason. Refreshing rain showers and squalls run through about every hour. You can see them coming, wash over you and roll on their way in minutes. It is much like being in an automated car wash. It helps a lot to break up the humidity and heat. The energy and livelihood of the people rings through even in their Christmas music. We've only gone ashore so far really for grocery shopping and a bit of internet.

Christmas Eve we had a fun get together with our two pal American boats, Don and Anna on s/v Redwood Coast II and the Kelly's on s/v Moorea. It is always fun to see how resourceful people out here can be with home made gifts and impromptu pot lucks. Generosity abounds. Santa found his way the boat between rain showers and the family has enjoyed a quiet and comfy Christmas morning. The boys are already engrossed in a crystal making set, pirate costumes, new books and a game boy game. Oh yes,
and there's plenty of chocolate to keep us going for a while.

Christams day activities include our continued tradition of cleaning all the goose neck barnacles that hitched a ride across the Atlantic on the bottom of the boat.

Blessings to you on this joyous day, remebering the reason for the season. The truest gift of all, life everlasting.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Racing Santa to the Finish Line!

December 22, 2008 7:30 pm local time
coordinates 14 26.127N,060 53.238W

WE MADE IT! 22 days and 4 hours but whose counting. The wind filled in fantastically for us on the last four days. Ohana Kai really hit her stride and we flew in just under the radar to beat Santa to the finish line. We dropped the anchor in St. Anne's Bay, Martinique, just as the sun was setting. Picture Perfect. The anchorage is chock full of boats coming from all directions. The land looks lovely, very green and lush from the water. The hillsides are dotted with cows. It smells like a
warm summer day after the lawn has been mowed, with a dose of sea weed mixed in. The shallow waters around the southern tip of the island are canvased in fishing nets marked only by clear and small water bottles. Friends ahead warned us of these traps but even as we were looking for them it took all our concentration to dodge them. Best to stay in deeper waters.

Tomorrow we'll head to town to check in to the country. Martinique is governed by the French, so it is a little funny to hear yet another new language on the radio. We'll stretch our legs on shore, look into laundry, produce, internet, chandleries and begin to clean up Ohana Kai.

Christmas is coming, the crew are sleepy heads, pleased to sleep the whole night through in their "not moving" beds. (Must sing that last line with a melodious tune)

Most of all, thanks so much to everyone for all the words of encouragement, positive thoughts and prayers. They help more than you know. We aren't doing this alone.

Friday, December 19, 2008

500 Miles to Go!

December 19, 2008 2:51 AM
coordinates 14 32.314N,052 22.933W

Being able to click off another hundred miles each day is the best Advent calendar we could ask for. It is extremely slow going right now but any progress is good progress.

Day 16 - Another day of bright blue skies we decided to take advantage of it and send Tristan up the mast. Matthew helped tail lines and also managed to do a bit of photo journaling of the event. We had a leader line threaded through the mast previously in case we ever needed to run another halyard. We put him in his harness, strapped him tightly to the front roller furling and hoisted him away. It was quite a task at hand as the boat with no sails up now, pitches to and fro with greater force
when there's nothing to stabilize it against the swell. In addition, he had to pull the line out, wrap it around his arm and cut the line. What's that old saying about not running with scissors, what decent mother would send her child up 52 feet into the air with scissors. Mission accomplished with amazing strength and fortitude, alas the halyard is not run to fit our needs for the head sail or spinnaker. In the process though, we do discover that the genoa halyard, since not in use do to the
torn sail, will fit the bill. We have been flying the spinnaker successfully ever since with little to no chaffing. We pull it down every 5 hours to assess it's strength and hoist it right back up again. We are like a finely tuned Indi pit crew at this point in our routine. At night we motored due to the unpredictable winds and squalls so the water tanks are full and the batteries are topped off.

Day 17 - Under grey skies we hoist the spinnaker again at sunrise and fly it until sunset. We had a consistent 20 knots of wind and made great time. Again in the evenings, the winds drop too much to sail with the main and staysail but too unpredictable for the spinnaker, motor on. After one quick wet squall and the moon had broken through the clouds, Bruce woke us up to show us something we had never seen before - a moon rainbow. Complete half circle across the horizon ahead of us was a shining
white moonbow.

Day 18 - Sunny skies and VERY light winds. 5-10 knots out of the E-SE and we are making speeds of 3-4 knots accordingly. It is forecasted to continue this way for the next 24-48 hours. We have only 4 days worth of fuel left at least 6 left to get there at this pace, so we are trying to avoid starting the motor at all costs. The seas are nice and calm with the lack of wind and not a squall in sight. So we are taking our chances and flying the spinnaker all night. Our course is a little off at
this point and it looks like we're heading for Barbados rather than Martinique on the charts. When the winds fill back in on Monday, we'll get back on track then.

We have officially passed the mark as well for the longest time we've spent out on the water. It took us 18 days to cross the Pacific. We still feel very lucky to have only 5 or 6 days left to go out here. We know quite a few people who spent the better part of a week bobbing around. So let's sail on!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wear and Tear

December 16, 2008 3:30
coordinates 15 11.128N,046 37.446W

It is nothing if not exciting out here. The last two out of three days have been continually plagued by squalls and ever changing winds. We have a new cheer, Reach to the left, Reach to the right, Up wind, Down wind, Fight, Fight, Fight, Gooooooo Ohana Kai!
We were beginning to think the little black rain cloud was following us. If you look on radar you don't see it anywhere else.

Day 13 - The Wear: As our morning was beginning to roll along we heard an enormous snap and the unmistakable sound of line zinging through it's holds. We jumped above to assess the damage and found that a shackle had snapped in two on one of the primary blocks for the sheet on the main sail. It holds the main sail in place so without it, the boom had now swung wide to the starboard side. Without the battens in it the sail had wrapped itself around the spreader like a wet hanky. We were able to
recover the sail and much to our amazement, we didn't rip off a spreader and there were no tears or further damage to the sail. We spent the next couple of hours shifting pieces and parts around the boat managed to find a replacement and get things back in action. Voila, back on track. It was amazing to see how much wear on the metal finally just caused it to fail.

Day 14 - The Tear : Again as our morning was getting under way, Bruce had just finished the morning radio net, was brushing his teeth in hopes of a long mid day nap when he peeked up at the head sail and noticed a 6-12" tear horizontally in the upper third of the sail. We flew up top to roll in the sail. Again it happened in relatively light winds and calm seas as all our sail damage does. We decided to take advantage of the light winds and bring the sail down to see if we could repair it. Let's
just say, by the time we were done with it, it wasn't a simple 6-12" tear anymore. The fabric has grown so fragile that the tear continued on into the shape of a T or X and now likely at least a 6-12" in each direction. We haven't actually had the heart to unroll it yet and assess the damage yet. We can't say that it was unexpected. We had been carefully watching, waiting and babying the sail with possibly false hopes that it would make the crossing. The winds had since picked up and the rains
set in, so with the storm sail and the main we were still making progress. From there we have lost track of how many squalls have passed us by and from what direction. We kept moving the sails around until 2pm and were even able to take showers in the rain the down pour was so strong.

Day 15 - Oh happy day, sunshine! With light winds, we flew the spinnaker for the better part of the day. When we took it down this evening, we found a spot on the halyard where it nearly wore through. Had we not caught that one in likely another half hour we would have been fishing the spinnaker out of the water with any luck. It is a little too difficult for us to sail the spinnaker at night with these unpredictable winds and we need to find a way to address the spot causing the wear on the
halyard, so we will be forced to motor overnight. Hopefully the stronger winds will fill back in soon. We have a new neighbor tonight. s/v Gillarooo from Ireland is visible on the horizon. (I'll have to check on the spelling of that one)

There are a few silver linings to what we thought was our perpetual wet black cloud: it did decide to not rain on us during both wear and tear events, it is at least warm weather now not freezing cold rain so if one has to shower in the rain this is the place to do it, and the events happened during relatively calm and daylight hours. For all the things that could have really gone wrong, they didn't. We have been blessed.

So, here's to silver linings, Goooooooo Ohana Kai!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere!

Saturday December 13, 2008 3:30AM

The last 48 hours have brought us plenty of rain. The squalls continue to march across the sky coming up out of the SW and heading NE. It is interesting to watch those black lines bear down on you. Luckily they have brought nice winds which keep us moving toward our goal but once they pass we are back to wallowing on our own. With all the power washing we have been receiving, it is fair to say there isn't a speck of Sahara sand left on us.

The biggest change is the noise, or lack there of. We finally took the battens out of the main sail. They are flat long fiberglass stays that slide into the main sail giving it a bit more form and rigidity. That is a great help when we are sailing up wind but it has been murder on our nerves with this rolling around. With each swell the sail would fill and unfill with a noisy crack, sending the reverberations down the mast and throughout the whole boat. With each whip, our nerves would fray
a little more at the thought of the potential damage we were doing to the sail, not to mention disturbing the precious sleep of the mate of duty. Removing them has brought an end to that noise. The extra weight that they provided in the sail actually was helping them to flog around a bit so they are even a bit more stable now on this down wind run. Best of all, that equates to better sleep, at least for Lisa. Poor Bruce is still plagued with nothing but disruptions on his daytime naps. Hopefully
that changes a bit tonight.

Day 11 brought consistent squalls, Day 12 brought something new every hour. Winds from the North, the South, the West and finally back out of the East. The final squall came around 3pm on Friday with a whopping 35 knots of wind and a torrential down pour, then they seemed to have blown them selves out for a while. We have actually settled into a steady 25-20 knots out of the ESE and are clipping right along the rhumb line toward our destination.

Spending half your nights awake and half you days asleep sort of causes the days to run together. Luckily we have our stellar crew of Tristan and Matthew to keep things in order. After school work they have started taking on new projects. Matthew entered the galley today and cooked up some delicious coconut chocolate chip cookie bars for us all by himself, and Tristan is diligently sewing some very special Christmas presents. The Christmas chain is starting to grow nicely as we count our days
out at sea. I have to say that it is much more fun to count down the last half than it is to count up the first half.
We hear that some significant weather is heading your way for many of you, so if you get the opportunity, throw a snowball or two for us.
until next time,
Your Ohana Kai crew

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Half Way!!!

December 11, 2008 6AM
coordinates 16 24.750N,036 03.405W

By the time you read this, we will have officially crossed the half way point on our Atlantic journey. Roughly 1350 nm down and 1350 to go. 11 Days so far. The last 4 days have brought us quite a mixed bag of weather. The majority of which held little to no winds and we were struggling with flogging sails and restless spirits, clocking only an average of 115 mile days. At this speed we will just make it in by Christmas Eve, but no guarantees. With the boys weather book, we are practicing our
forecasting skills. We are getting rather competent at judging highs/lows and reading the clouds and barometer, not mention very familiar now with relative vs. absolute humidity!

Day 7 Light winds off and on out of the east, thunder and lightning storms at night that make for a beautiful show. When the clouds part the stars shine bright. Orion is standing guard directly above us and marching on his way to the horizon. The moon is growing great and Jupiter is brighter than we've ever seen.

Day 8 No wind and we break down for a fairly full day of motoring. The up side to motoring means the running the water maker and filling the tanks up with hot water for showers! There was even enough power and water left over to make extra for a couple loads of laundry. Of course, doing laundry out here has much the same affect as washing your car at home, in comes the rain.

Day 9 Off again, on again, we are still struggling with light winds and are starting to see the wear and tear appear as we do our daily inspections after trying to reef and make sail changes in the dark. A few new tears found in some reinforced areas of the main reef points. Not critical, but add it to the list. Secondly, the boom where it attaches to the mast have begun to grind against each other. We aren't sure what has caused the extra wiggle room to allow the grinding, or what caused the
grinding to allow the wiggle room. Again not critical, for now we've reinforced the bottom point with a washer and will do the real investigating once we've reached land and can fully remove the boom to inspect.

Day 10 The winds, though light, were consistent enough out of the ESE all day to fly the spinnaker. A ten hour run with our colors up will lift any spirits. Not to mention the forecast for stronger winds to fill in within the next day. Busy, busy night with great winds and lots of rainy squalls. As long as there is wind with it we don't care what falls out of the sky.

One of our neighbors out here, s/v Redwood Coast II has crossed our path within a mile 2 or 3 times now. That's rather remarkable when you are 1300 miles from anywhere. Nearly every boat out here as well has cast their lines to the water with the almost instant gratification of Dorado on the line. Knowing we still have a freezer full of meat, we can't quite rationalize catching more food, tasty though it may be. Truth be told, we still struggle a lot will killing the beautiful creatures. There
is nothing quite like seeing their wildly vivid blue, green and yellow colors literally drain from their body as they stop fighting. We on the other hand have kept our lines neatly on board and continued to catch our daily quota of unsuspecting flying fish. If they have the fortune of landing in the cockpit at night, they have a fighting chance of being returned to the sea, but if they land anywhere forward of the dodger, I'm afraid they are on their own.

The Kelly's on s/v Moorea gave us a half way crossing gift before we left. When the boys wake up I'm sure that's the first thing on their minds. I'll let you know what it was. Our pals Tom and Amy from s/v Sandpiper who just departed out of Las Palmas themselves have posted some footage of our departure. I hear they have quite a few great You Tube clips, check it out:

So, though the butter never officially melted, it was soft enough for us. We're making our way west, have changed a couple time zones and are hoping that the trade winds fill in and the next ten days are going to be faster than the last.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Less than 2000 to go!

December 7, 2008 1:45 am
coordinates 18 43.7758N,028 03.706W

Day 5 sunrise brought us the answer to the grey haze we seem to be living in. These easterly winds we realized are bringing loads of Sahara Sand. The particles hold the moisture and make for a real gray day. No wonder we had been sneezing in the middle of the ocean. Meanwhile, we are covered in the red stuff. The wind is holding steady as well as the barometer. Keep on, keeping on.

Day 6, we tried to start the water maker but no pressure. Not a good sign and a brief moment of anxiety. We fiddled around with it for a while and managed to get it working. It doesn't like to be run without the motor on and often builds a strange pressure up in it. Then that afternoon, the winds began to die as forecasted. We started up the motor only to hear it lug down and struggle. Bruce changed out a filter and then the engine died completely. She too likes to be used more frequently
and doesn't appreciate having to sit and wait her turn with all this wind. Changed a second filter and she too was happy. It was the second moment that day though that we briefly thought we were going to have to divert to Cape Verde. Now would be the best time to do that as well if needed because we are almost too far past it and any return would involve a lot of beating into weather. Never a fun chore.

The wind, thankfully, filled back in but is keeping us on our toes, with frequent 40 degree shifts. Blowing now at 10 to 20 knots rather than the 20 to 30 range, we have put more sail up and we continue to move right along. By 12 noon on the 6th we have pulled the last reef out of the main and are sailing with the jib, full main sail and stay sail. A new one for Ohana Kai. The sea state has lessened considerably but the swells still can't seem to make up their mind about which direction they would
like to come from. We did end up putting the reef back into the main sail only to quiet down the slapping. Light winds can actually do more damage sometimes than the big winds, when things start slopping around. Not to mention how difficult it makes it to take naps with the noise.

The butter may nearly be melting, we are down to t shirts and shorts during the daytime and blue sky is making longer and longer appearances.

Today we celebrate as well, because as of 2:30 am on the 6th, we crossed a magic line. 700 miles down and less than 2000 to go! Woo hoo! Celebrate all the victories, even the little ones.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Rolling, rolling, rolling!

Day 4 & 5
December 5, 2008 5:09AM
coordinates 20 54.325N,024 22.205W

48 more hours of 20-30 knot winds out of the ESE have given us a couple of 155 nm per day. That's pretty good considering we are still running with the same tiny sail configurations of the staysail and a double reefed main. The sea state continues to be big or bigger, fluctuating with no apparent rhyme or reason. The sun has made a brief appearance for a few minutes each day but the majority of the time it has been an eerie solid gray sky from horizon to horizon.

Day 3 we crossed the 23rd latitude, the Tropic of Cancer. Amazing to think that many of the worlds deserts sit upon that line. We have been able to shed a layer. We are now down to a fleece vest and warm socks while on night watches instead of the complete fleece jacket and additional blanket, but the butter isn't melting yet. We've taken a few good waves into the cockpit, which managed to sneak their way into the boys cabin window and douse a comforter or two but not too badly. In the galley,
we managed to launched a pot of boiling potatoes but thankfully no casualties human or otherwise. The most difficult aspect of the situation so far is the incessant rocking and rolling, jerking and lurching of the boat. With the confused sea state, and the swells that continue to break upon the boat, the noise and inability to predict just which way to lean next is exhausting. Off watch naps are heavenly to get away from all the over stimulation.

Just how does one sleep on Mr. Toads Wild Ride anyway? There are a few methods. First there is the starfish technique. Lay face up or down, your preference, with your arms and legs spread wide to give you leverage. No matter which way the boat heels you are covered. But never fail, the boat will lean more frequently to the open side of the bed in which you will eventually slide off. You can put up a lee cloth to stop you but again, eventually you end up balled in the cloth and lose your starfish
advantage. Next technique, and most helpful on Ohana Kai, the mummy. With lee cloth in place, wedge large cushions and pillows all around you. Wrap yourself tight in your blanket and try to rest as now only your innards sway too and fro with the swell. Though it limits you wiggle room while you sleep, you are finally able to relax enough for a few hours and will gladly take any stiffness that may accompany this position. The third and less utilized tactic is the fetal position, perpendicular
to the bed. This position is helpful on single overnight when sleep is less critical and the swell far less active. The other essential item with any of these routines are ear plugs. Amazing little devices that, as they slowly expand to fill your ears, fade away the sounds of the world. No more rush of the water along the hull, the whirring of the wind generator, the water bombs that crash into the hull, the creaking of the mast, boom, sails and any other accessory rigging, the knocking and sliding
around of any item left not bolted to the ground. Remarkable, your ears are still tuned to hear the call of your crew members when things go wrong and they need your help.

Though it's difficult to get much accomplished with all the motion, we managed to put up our little Christmas tree and the boys have begun to decorate their room with snowflakes. Tomorrow's goal is to chop up our melon before it goes bad and maybe brave making some candied nuts. And we certainly haven't seemed to have lost our appetites either. We've managed to feast on hamburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, and pork chops thus far. Though you get a great core workout trying to maintain any upright
position, we will atrophy everywhere else and watch our back sides spread out from all this fine feasting and sitting.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rolling Right Along!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008 2:30am
coordinates 24 06.453N,019 47.877W

All is well here just over two days into our crossing. Right now all we see is water but it is strange to think that the Sahara Desert is only 150 miles off the left side of the boat. We ended up having some nice wind to sail us out of Las Palmas which was a nice treat. That lasted about 8 hours then became a motor boat ride for nearly the next day. The winds were forecasted to be filling in nicely so we waited, and fill in they have. We have seen winds from about 15 to 35 knots but averaging
around 20 out of the ENE for the last 24 hours, and we're averaging about 6.5 knots. It feels much like Santa's Sleigh ride, swooping up one side of the waves and racing down the other. Unfortunately boats don't go very straight when the swell and waves come from a variety of directions. So it feel a bit more like being on a tilt-a-whirl. Add that with Santa's sleigh and you have Mr. Toads Wild Ride. Originally we had full canvas up but have settled back down to a double reef in the main and
the storm sail set up wing-on-wing. This means that the head sail is pulled out to the left with a pole and the main sail off to the right. We look a bit like an uneven butterfly. It helps to lower our center of gravity and cutting down a little bit on the roll and keeps us prepared if the winds pick up suddenly. only supposed to last a few days before going light again so we are trying to get as far as we can on it. We couldn't as for a nicer start.

It is currently 2:30am, Bruce and the boys are asleep and I, Lisa, am on watch. Every boat out here has a slightly different watch schedule depending on their needs. We have settled in on a bit longer watches than most. I sleep from 8pm to 1am while Bruce is on watch, then Bruce sleeps from 1am to 6am while I am on watch. We swap and do it all over again. There are a few hours during the day when we are both awake, especially around dinner. The boys do school in the morning by themselves until
I wake up and then we try to do the rest together. Every night we eat dinner together and watch a movie. We are on to our Christmas traditions now which means a new Christmas movie every night. Matthew is making a red and green Christmas chain this year but instead of ripping off each day, he adds a new one on for the crossing. It helps us keep track of the days at sea and we'll be nicely decorated when we arrive, hopefully before Christmas. On their down time, the boys get two hours of screen
time, be it computer, game boy or video game. The rest of their down time is reading or playing games like cards, chess, legos, battleship, etc. Every so many days we get to take a shower while sitting on the back of the boat. If we run the engine, we get warm water but the wind cools you down quick.

The Kelly's on s/v Moorea are just about 60nm behind us. Along with a motor vessel named Kosmos and a trimaran named Redwood Coast that we have met, also from US, are just about to scoot past us out there somewhere to the west. And much to my surprise another s/v that has been keeping good pace with us named Sun Chaser from Sweden just hailed me on the VHF to wish me a quiet night shift. Lastly, an Australian boat that we met back in Gibraltar are about 590 miles south of us as they just departed
out of Cape Verde. We are all trying to make landfall somewhere around Port Marin, Martinique. I mention all these boats only because they are our small link to other humans voices right now. We hold radio nets each morning and evening to check in on each other. We exchange our coordinates, discuss what the movie and meal dujour are. If anyone is in need, then there are at least of few of us out here to help. If any one at home happens to be a Hammy let us know. Maybe we can set up a time
to chat!

So we're settling in nicely to the routine. Everyone is feeling great and watching the days click by.