Monthly Archives: March 2017

When something breaks on a cruising sailboat, it’s usually at night, in the rain, with a boat sloshing around in frisky swells. At least that’s what happened last night, around 1 AM, when I was on watch.

I am on night watch each night from midnight to 5 AM, checking for boats and storms, and adjusting sails. But mostly I nap or sit in the salon playing Sudoku or watching Gossip Girl. I set a timer and check on the boat every 30 minutes, which is all that is needed.

I was concentrating on a hard game of Sudoku when I heard our free flying headsail suddenly erupt with loud, flapping, unhappy sounds. As I headed outside to take a look, Brian bolted out of bed on his own, his ears attuned to the sail and its sounds of distress. Our warm, sleepy bodies were hit with a wall of rain as we stepped outside into the dark.

It was a warm tropical rain so we didn’t even bother with rain gear. Brian went forward and tried hauling the sail in using the lines attached to it, but it was powered up and hard to control. So he went up to the bow and grabbed the huge white sail with his hands as I illuminated him with a spotlight. He pulled it piece by piece around the forestay, and then piled it into a bundle at his feet, taking its power away. Then I yanked it into the cockpit and secured it with a line. Problem solved.

How did this happen? We had a pole which propped the sail out next to the boat, and the pole snapped in half. Things like this happen when you sail your boat across an ocean. Weak links are revealed. We don’t feel this will impact us too much, since we’re nearing the end of the downwind tradewinds portion of our trip and this pole is for downwind sailing.

I didn’t get much sleep after that and wow am I sleepy today.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.


Category: Uncategorized

The seas have calmed considerably today. I’m sitting in my favorite spot on the boat, where I spend several hours each day. I sit nestled against four velvet pillows at our U shaped salon table. My view is of my feet stretched out in front of me on dusty blue upholstery, then beyond that my herb garden hovers in the center, unmoving, set against a tilting, frothing ocean.

I love this view. Even when seas built to alarming heights over the last couple days, there was a quiet joy and wonder in watching as they snuck up behind Magic, rose quickly, and then splashed and thudded upon impact.

Watching the waves gave me an illusion of control over them. When a steep wave crashed into Magic with a loud noise, at least I could see it coming. I knew what caused that thunderous sound. Plus these were the biggest seas either of us had ever seen and I just couldn’t look away. They were the brightest, most beautiful shade of blue I’d ever seen. They were positively mesmerizing.

The gift on the other side of uncomfortably large seas is a deep conviction, a knowledge so solid it could never be felt by reading, or by an old salt’s advice, is that this is what your boat can do. This is what you can do. You did it successfully and you can do it again. And honestly, our boat was never anywhere near her limits. She can weather so much more. I know we can, too.

Our boat is even more today a thing of admiration, beauty, and comfort than before. She protected us. She rode the waves and performed beautifully. Our expectations are reset regarding the size of seas we think will present a challenge for our boat. Those 6 foot waves which seemed large and lumpy a few days ago don’t even register now. They are just a part of the ocean. In this way, the trip has become more relaxing. Our comfort limits have had to expand early and now everything else seems easier.

It’s been great reading the conditions reports from other small boats sailing nearby. We get these reports from a great free website called Farkwar. Here are some reports from the last 48 hours:

“It’s always interesting (a nice word for scary) to look off the side of the boat and see a big wall of water next to you.”

“In the afternoon we had some of the biggest waves we have seen at around 12 feet.”

“The big seas remind us of stormy days off the coast of Washington and Oregon.”

“It is a one hand for you, one hand for the boat kind of day.”

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.


Category: Uncategorized

During the first few days of our trip conditions were mellow, but now we’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean riding 12 foot waves. They rise up behind Magic with white foam frothing on their surfaces. The blue peaks hit the bottom of the boat with a large thud, and then a short thundering noise travels down both beams of our catamaran. Finally Magic falls into the trough between waves only to begin rising once again.

This began last night when winds built to 25+ knots sustained. We’re sailing downwind and are in the beginning of the trade winds portion of our trip across the Pacific Ocean, where the winds blow gently from behind and take you straight to the Marquesas. It’s referred to as the “Coconut Milk Run”.

This isn’t really so gentle, and this sea state isn’t going away anytime soon. We have seen consistent 25+ knot wind and there is more in the forecast.

How to cope? Take plenty of video and photos, and appreciate the mountainous waves. Marvel at the way our boat rides them so smoothly. Then when it all gets to be too much, close the curtains for a while and watch the Simpsons.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.


Category: Uncategorized

After some incredibly memorable last minute-ing, our engines were finally purring instead of clattering. Our big trip is going to happen. We’re going to sail 3000 miles across the Pacific Ocean. For a couple weeks we weren’t sure if it would work out. Our engines were giving us last minute trouble. As my friend Leanne says, you can only push a boat so far. Brian worked feverishly on our two diesel engines with the help of our skilled mechanic, Colin.

We had a time constraint to work around for this trip, which takes anywhere from 15 to 30 days. I need to get to an internet café in the Marquesas by April 14, which is the day one of my big programming processes runs at the University. Yes, my employer approved a month off from work for this trip, but requested that I “return” in time to support this important process. I won’t go into boring programming details, because this is a blog about vans and dreams, but suffice to say I need to be available for this.

At one point, desperate for the right parts and unable to get them in Mexico, Brian flew from La Paz to San Diego to get new shafts for Magic’s sail drives, then flew back to La Paz the next day. We hauled out the boat on a crane twice to work on Magic’s sail drives. But in the final hour, the most maddening job ended up being the injectors.

The injector system was like a house of cards, and every time one piece of it was touched something else would break. The most annoying part was a tiny, wiggly fuel supply hose. Each time it got tightened down too much, or its delicate feelings disrespected in any way (maybe someone looked at it cross-eyed?) it would sprout a new leak and Colin would whisk it away to his own personal Neverland to soothe it with more soldering. Each time it left the boat for another trip to his shop we grew more frustrated. By the fourth time this happened we were about to lose our minds.

Finally the delicate part returned and was installed successfully. We departed full of excitement, but with a sobering fact hanging in the air: we hadn’t tested all these changes to our engines yet. Our last minute-ing may have put our trip at risk. If we found more problems while motoring from La Paz to Cabo it could be too late to fix them. Our mechanic, a good guy with a big heart, reassured us he would drive to Cabo to help with more repairs if needed. He had become invested in our trip and wanted to make those engines work for us.

Luckily we motored all the way to Cabo and enjoyed great engine performance the entire time. Whales jumped near Magic and we were so pleased about our engines. With everything going so well, we knew we were headed off into the big blue Pacific. This is our someday.

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.


Category: Uncategorized

Blog post from Iridium GO!

Sent from Iridium Mail & Web.


Category: Uncategorized

I figured out how to blog from sea using our Iridium Go Satellite email service! I’ll post as often as I can as we sail 3000 miles across the Pacific Ocean from La Paz, Mexico to Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia.

Tonight we are just happy to finally be on this trip. We motored three hours and called it a night. We are anchored out at Ballandra enjoying a peaceful sunset. It’s been a long few days, with plenty of last minute engine repairs in La Paz.

We’re feeling excited. We’re really going to miss Mexico, too.


Category: Uncategorized

 

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
Read more

About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: