Monday, June 30, 2014

Day 15: Yoga On The Aft Deck

Today the sea and the wind aligned with our westward course. As a
result, a flatter boat led to a sweet yoga practice.

The first week we were out we had NW wind with a SE swell, sailed
upwind and heeled over so much that Down Dog was out of the question.

Then for the past week we have had NW to NE wind with a NNE swell,
sailing a reach and getting beat up with periodic steep waves on our
beam, making walking and standing nearly impossible. We have literally
been dancing through the cabin as the waves toss us from one side to the
other and a sort of do-see-do occurs.

Sometime during the night last night after a series of rainy squalls,
things changed. Now I honestly think we are in the infamous trades:
East wind and East swell, a gentle sled ride as we surf the waves and a
steady wind pushes us westward.

This allowed for my first yoga practice on the aft deck, and it was
heavenly. For 40 minutes I entered another world, I went deep inside
and breathed and found my namaste. Ahhhhh, bliss.

~2,050 nautical miles offshore, another 770 to go until landfall.


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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 14: Over the Rainbow

A night with 15-20 knots of wind (YEA!) and occasional rain showers (we
prefer that term to squalls) led to a clean deck on a beautiful sunshiny
day with a steadier breeze and smaller swells. So we settled into
another day of sailing, hopeful that it would be an easy steady day with
no surprises, a following breeze and gentle seas.
People often ask what we do on a sailboat all day long, they wonder how
we can stand to go so slow. They imagine that our feet are up, we are
reading and taking naps. Well this perception is far from the truth.
Another phrase that I find laughable is "steady as the wind." Ha! This
wind is anything but steady. It gusts, it shifts, it is squirrely and
demands that we be constantly on our toes.
Sailing is an endeavor that must only be indulged in by those who
relish a challenge. The challenge – to harness the wind. Today we
started with two sails up, the jib and trisail. A little while later we
doused the jib and flew the Genoa. Next we took down the trisail. A
few hours later we doused the genoa and flew the asymmetrical spinnaker.
After an hour of that, we doused the geniker and raised the jib and
trisail again. Then after dinner we doused the trysail again. Each of
these sail changes took about 30-60 minutes to complete and at least
three people working together. It included bonked heads, tweaked backs,
torn sail gloves and weary crew who forgot to stop and eat lunch.
Why do we do it then? Because sailing with no engine feels a little
bit like flying. Through the water, 7 knots feel fast! Because to be
out here in the middle of the sea affords us remarkable experiences of
teamwork, strength, and comraderie. Because we feel closer to nature.
Part of the elements.
And then, at the end of the day, we get to ride a rainbow! And another
one. And another. We watch our children laugh and dance in the rainy
sunshiny deck with a full glorious rainbow behind them and their whole
lives in front of them.
That's why.
From 1,913 nautical miles off shore, 904 more to go.


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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 13: Down Time And An Orange Buoy

When I was packing for this trip, many people said, "I hope you have a
lot of books" to which I replied that I have a good pile but I doubt
I'll be reading much. "What else are you going to do?" they asked. It
is so hard to explain but it's not a life of leisure out here. It takes
a lot of work and effort to sail and live aboard every day. Busy busy
people are sailors :)

That said, we are now in a pretty predictable groove and so over the
last few days I have finally had enough down time and enough sleep under
my belt to read. For the first 10 days, I would try to read but I'd
either fall right to sleep or I would be unable to absorb the meaning of
the words, my brain was so sleep-deprived. But last night a momentous
thing happened - I finished a book! It was a sweet and relatively short
novel, but I read it cover to cover, actually got lost in it. It felt
so good.

As long as there aren't any unforeseen issues like storms coming upon
us or sails ripping or engine trouble, now our days are marked with
simple pleasures like finishing a book or re-rigging the fishing poles.
I am starting to complete the projects I brought on board that have
been hanging over my head for months – I fixed Richard's necklace and
made some progress on a hat I've been knitting and ripping out for
months. Another week of this and who knows, maybe I will even finish
another book!

We did have something exciting occur today - an orange buoy drifted
right alongside us. When someone on deck shouted, "a buoy! a buoy!" all
hands came on deck, and we watched as we sailed past this evidence that
another human being had been out here. We quickly noticed that
barnacles were growing on the underside and although a line dangled from
it, it was apparently drifting. It could have been drifting out here
for months, years even?

Within moments we were past it and we each returned to our 54-foot
world atop the Pacific Ocean. But for a few minutes we were given a
glimpse of something outside our little universe. Where had that buoy
been? Who lost it overboard? Where did it start? Where will it end up?

~1,764 nautical miles off shore; 1,107 more to go.


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Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 12: A Cabin Day At Sea

Our family has a cabin in Seldovia. It is off the grid, simple, and
feels like a little slice of heaven to us. When we go there from
Anchorage, our worry lines vanish, we breathe deeper. We frequently
spend most of the day in our pajamas, or in the same gruby clothes we
always wear at the cabin. Our daily activities involve chopping wood,
doing repairs or upgrades around the property, whacking weeds, going for
walks, or when we're feeling more energetic, going for a kayak paddle or
a sail up the bay. One of the things we do a lot of there is sleep.
Once back in Anchorage, we occasionally wake up on a Sunday and declare
that "today will be a cabin day." I needed one of those today. Out
here sailing Sweet Dreams, life is busy. We are constantly in motion,
trimming sails, making repairs, cooking and cleaning and doing all of
the day to day chores one needs to do anywhere. The one thing we don't
do a lot of is sleep. We sleep in chunks, a few hours here, a few hours
there. Our nighttime sleep is interrupted by a night watch. And
sometimes that sleep we do get is so full of rocking and rolling that it
is nearly impossible to drift deeply into that precious REM cycle that
we need.
Today I awoke with a heavy-lidded feeling. When I was a teenager I
slept for hours and hours, burrowing under the pillows and blankets on a
weekend morning. Today I felt like that grumpy growing teen. And
luckily I am among friends and partners in this adventure who took one
look at me and told me to go back to bed. It felt luxurious and I felt
guilty doing it, but I basically slept the day away. I got to have a
cabin day.
So now I feel better, a little bit more myself, although my usual
chatterbox self has still not emerged. I bet the other crew were
pleased to have a bit more peace and quiet today. And I am grateful for
their allowing me to indulge in as much of day off as we can have here.
Our progress as of today: 1,578 nautical miles; Remaining: 1,239


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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 11: Halfway! Another Vessel! And The 3-Minute Rule

Half-way mark Passed! 1,450 nautical miles offshore, 1,366 to go.

Today we passed the halfway mark, and we also saw the first sailing
vessel out here and the first vessel of any sort for over a week. When
we heard a voice, crystal clear, hailing us on our VHF radio, we all
raced to the cockpit to listen and look around. S/V Hannah Rocks
spotted us behind them and we had a 15-minute conversation with them.
Now they are a few miles ahead of us, and we might catch up to them
sometime in the night. They are heading to the Marquesas. It's hard to
express how elated we all feel knowing there is another boat out here
doing the same thing we are doing (albeit with a different destination).

Today passed quickly with a brisk breeze of about 20 knots pushing us
along at 7-8knots. We had to veer a little bit north of our course in
order to keep the swells bearable, but we are sailing so fast we will
make up the distance in no time when we turn westward again later
tonight when the swell subsides.

Carmen received a haircut today and I spent two hours tying embroidery
thread around a braid, she looks stunning of course. 

As we spend more and more time relying on the wind to guide and propel
us, we realize how fickle and changeable it is. It can be infuriating,
deciding what to do to get all we can out of the wind, making a sail
change or adjusting the course, only to find that the wind has changed
from the time we made the decision (to reef for example) to the time
that we make the change.

So Gina in her infinite wisdom instituted the 3-minute rule. It goes
something like this: if you notice a change in the wind and find
yourself thinking we need to adjust or change the sails or (gasp!) turn
on the engine, STOP and wait three minutes. If at the end of the three
minutes you still feel the change needs to be made, then do it. Since
she and I came up with this strategy, we have noticed that often, within
the three minutes, whatever situation that led us to believe we needed
to change things up, dissipates. For example, if we notice that the
wind has been dying down and we think "hmmmm, maybe we should take out
the reef," 9 times out of 10 after three minutes the wind is back up and
no change was needed. Patience.

It occurs to me that this strategy might be a good one to implement in
life. Have you ever made an impulsive statement or hit SEND on a
hastily-written email only to regret it later? Have you barked at your
children or partner or friend, only to wish you could take it back, take
a deep breath and re-phrase the hurtful words? I think I will use it
on Terra Firma also.

For now, I send this with love and return to the downwind sleigh ride
aboard S/V Sweet Dreams.
P.S. Animal sightings: An Albatross (we think) circled the boat for a
entire day, never landing but soaring around the boat all day and into
the night. A few other seabords come and go, it is amazing that they
are out here 1,400 miles away from shore. Flying fish, about six inches
long, look like a flock of small birds when they burst out of the water
and fly for a surprisingly long time skimming the surface before diving
back down. One landed aboard the boat overnight, and was perfectly
preserved in mid-flight. A few nights ago a pod of dolphins swam with
the boat, leaving a trail of phosphorescence in their wake. We have
lost two lures to 5-foot+ long marlin and caught a dorado yesterday.


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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 10: A Speck of Dust In An Immense Sea

1,300 nautical miles offshore, sailing in the middle of an immense blue
palette of water. Feeling more like an insignificant speck of dust than
I have ever felt before. Not in a bad way, just in a humbling sort of way.
In school we learn that most of the earth is comprised of water. We
look at globes and see all of the blue, yet what we mostly study are all
of the land parts where we humans live and create complicated worlds of
our own. I have always known this about the largeness of the sea, but
until now I have not felt it. Having not seen another vessel nor land
for ten days, and knowing that the water below me is near 4,000 feet
deep, I am humbled. I look at our chart and see that up ahead, beneath
the sea , there rises a mountain because the water depth changes from
4,389 feet to 1,317 feet. A 3,000-foot mountain with its own complex
habitat and from the surface it is a tiny circle on my navigational
chart. Its peak lies out of touch of all but the most technologically
advanced submarines. Amazing.
We are not quite halfway by mileage, but may be halfway time-wise since
our overall pace is picking up as we enter the Trades and are able to
maintain about 6-6.5 knots average. An occasional bird, a dolphin or
flying fish are our only companions.
To me, it feels as if the ocean itself has become an entity. It has a
personality, is moody and serene, beautiful and ugly. It is constant.
Always here, demanding respect. It is enveloping when it gently rocks
us to sleep with gentle swells. It is fierce when it throws large steep
wind waves at us.
It is blue. So blue. Indescribably blue.


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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 9: It Is What It Is….Out Here In The Big Blue Sea

Every day while we've been out here we download gribs (wind
predictions) and swell reports from NOAA. We receive an email with an
attachment that opens as an overlay on our digital chart. So far 90% of
the time they have been wrong. Wrong direction, wrong strength, wrong
time of day. It's become our morning ritual – check the gribs, look
outside and see how wrong they are. "Oh, the gribs say we have 5 knots
of wind from the North with a southerly swell. That must be why we have
15 knots of wind with swell from the Northeast."

When I complained about these incorrect predictions to Bruce, he
replied, "with no buoys or reporting vessels in the area it's really
just a guess by NOAA – remember you are out there now and it is what it is."

It is what it is.

And it is indeed a gigantic blue ocean. And we are in the middle of it.
It has been six days since we saw another vessel on our AIS
transceiver. It feels like the twilight zone, an other-world-ness. It
really makes sense that no one knows what is happening out here, because
out here is a world away, a different dimension, a Zen lesson in being

I suppose instead of complaining, I should figure out how to be a
reporting vessel (I think it's just a matter of emailing NOAA a
description of what we are experiencing), so that any other mariners out
there receive a more accurate prediction.

Meanwhile, we sail along here. The days are lovely, with following
breezes and a swell on our aft quarter. A little gusty and rolly at
times, but overall an enjoyable sled ride. Last night was not so nice.
The wind died down but the swell didn't, leaving us with flopping
sails and a rolling boat that was far from conducive to sleeping. So we
enjoyed naps during the day and hope for a smoother night tonight.

We rigged three different sails today – a trisail that is used for
stability in the swell and has improved the back and forth rolling of
the boat, the genoa (our second biggest headsail), and then back to the
jib as the evening and the gustier winds fill in.

Sweet Dreams from S/V Sweet Dreams, and don't forget:

"It Is What It Is"

1,177 nautical miles down, 1,657 to go!


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Monday, June 23, 2014

Day 8: Yes! In the Trades, For Real This Time

As sailors, we have heard over and over about that fabulous feeling of
sailing in the "trades." "Trades" means the steady winds that blow
around the ocean – in our case the NE trade winds that blow us westward
across the Pacific Ocean. I have heard stories of sailors being able to
set their course at 270 degrees, set the sails for a broad reach and not
change the heading or sails for the 2,500+ miles it takes to get to
Hawaii. Well, I think that story is a little like a fisherman's big
fish story – with each re-telling of the story, the Big Fish gets a
little bit bigger. Perhaps in the retelling of the sailor's trade winds
story, the dozen or so course and sail changes that were done are
forgotten because the pleasure of sailing in the trades is so awesome it
overpowers the reality of sail changing. Plus it makes for a better and
more dramatic story.

Today we awoke from a night of totally becalmed seas to a NNE breeze
that steadily built to about 12-15 knots. Proof that we got into the
trades? We have been able to rig our Asymmetrical Spinnaker, a
light-air sail made of parachute material that can only be used in these
perfect not-too-strong winds that are on the back quarter of the boat.
The boat is literally lifted up out of the water (at least it feels that
way) as this more billowy sail catches the wind and pulls us forward.
The flip-flopping of boom and sails over the past few days has become a
distant memory. And we have been sailing this way for five hours now,
with only a few minor adjustments. So far (I hate to jinx it by saying
this aloud) the wind is still steady and the seas mild. The colorful
sail and smooth fast sailing result in happy people and a happy boat.

Also today, Carmen started making 2,000 origami cranes. She won't let
anyone help her, saying she wants to make them all herself. She is up
to 28 cranes. I wonder if she'll finish them before we arrive in
Hawaii? She is showing her perfectionist tendencies, as she is not able
to hang them yet because they have to be in rainbow color order and she
mistakenly started making a color that doesn't go on the bottom. At one
point today she came up out of the cabin with a huge grin on her face,
glowing so much that we all asked, "What's up Carmen? Why such a big
grin?" Her answer, with a shoulder shrug, "I'm just happy" then she
plopped down in my lap. My mother heart swelled, my arms wrapping
around her slender frame. I treasure these moments of childishness and
joy in my daughter who is on the brink of becoming a teen.

987 nautical miles down, 1,830 to go! Enjoying the ride.


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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 7: It’s a Homemade Cinnamon Roll Sort of Day

Carmen, otherwise known as Charlie-Alpha-Romeo-Mike-Echo-November (we've
been practicing our NATO official letter names) decided last night that
she was going to make cinnamon rolls for the crew today. She went about
finding a recipe and preparing to bake the next morning. She boiled
potatoes (with Gina's help) and set out all of the ingredients. She
tends to be one of the first to awaken in the morning aside from Jim,
who is on watch from 5-8am. And so this morning we were awoken with the
aroma of cooking cinnamon rolls – YUMMMM.

Have you ever noticed how regular foods taste so exceptionally yummy
when eating them outdoors? I just love a huge pot of spaghetti after a
cool day hiking. Oatmeal never tastes so good as when it is cooked over
a Coleman stove at a campsite. And cinnamon rolls in the middle of the
sea one week into a 3-week voyage, well that is close to nirvana, if you
believe in that sort of thing. I think it is not only the deliciousness
of the food, but the heart and the love that goes into it. I'm proud
that my little (BIG) girl gets pleasure out of giving in this way,
thanks to the excellent training she received from her dad.

Other than our fabulous breakfast, the day has been somewhat uneventful,
especially compared to yesterday's marathon 20-hour engine repair and
the previous fitful nights of sleep. Most of us got better quality
sleep last night (I know I did) due to our friend the Beast giving us a
smoother ride in a low-wind sea with swells on our beam. And today we
have covered Jim's shifts so he can nap. The kids have been laughing
around the table, playing a dice game and scrabble. And now it is time
for dinner, my how the day flies.

843 nautical miles completed; 1,930 to go. Still waiting for those
famous consistent NNE trade winds to push us there, hoping they fill in
over the next few days.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Day 6: The Beast Needs Some TLC

You will see on our tracking map that we tacked a few times today. It
was necessary so Jim could do some work on The Beast (that is this
sailor's term for the necessary but dreaded engine). At about 1:00am we
had been flopping in a becalmed sea with our wind indicator swirling
atop the mast. You would think that being becalmed in the big ocean
would be quiet, even peaceful. Well, on a sailboat with sails up it is
anything but serene. The sails that don't have any wind in them flop
back and forth with the motion of the ocean, making a racket like
thunder that vibrates throughout the hull. Every creek and groan that
the boat makes is amplified in the quiet windless night.
So, we went to start the engine for the first time since we departed
Cabo six days ago, and received that dreaded sound – clunk. Nothing
turned over or engaged. Again, clunk. A half dozen times, clunk clunk
clunk. The troubleshooting began, checking the batteries and their
connection, charging the batteries, replacing the starter engine,
reading manuals and Diesel Engine maintenance books. Finally, Jim
figured it out. Because we had been on a starboard tack for 700+ miles
with a lot of wind and swell, water had back flooded from the sea valve
into the engine (this valve would normally be closed during a voyage
like this when the engine is not in use, but was mistakenly left open,
and who knew we would go 700 miles until we needed to run the engine!).
Once diagnosed, Jim and Colton began the process of removing the
water. Not a simple task, and it required tacking to port so that the
water could drain out of various parts of the engine while we heeled
over the other direction.
A few minutes ago, we were all relieved when the rumbling purr of the
engine kicked in. Right now, we are closing the engine room, putting
the companionway ladder back in place, and planning to celebrate with a
cocktail and snacks and some much-needed naps. So, it's been an
uneventful but exhausting 12+ hours and we are back on course with a
working engine (although we still haven't used it, as there is a nice
trade winds breeze today).
So, the Beast is happy again and we continue to sail. The reassuring
thing about being on a sailboat is that the engine really is not
necessary, because we can always sail to our destination. If we had to,
we could sail all the way to the harbor and get towed in. No big deal!
760 nautical miles down, 2,063 to go.


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Friday, June 20, 2014



Day 5: Westward Bound, Finally! Sailing in the Moment, Marking Time

Last night the wind started to clock around from the West to the
Northwest and today it is coming from the NNW, allowing us to sail
directly west to Hawaii. We were all getting a little tired of going
southwest and feel relieved to know that we are now truly making a
beeline for our destination. The wind has also filled in, allowing us
to travel at a rate of 6-7 knots consistently. This will greatly
improve our eta. It is bad luck to talk about what day one might
arrive, so I will leave it at that. We have traveled about 650 nautical
miles so far, and have about 2,080 to go. So far all under sail with
NO engine assistance!

As we get into our daily routines, I realize that this time is indeed
what my blog title says - it is a "passage to now." While sailing, I am
truly doing nothing but sailing. Checking the wind, adjusting the
sails, watching the water, looking at the charts. Being present. In
that sense, it is a form of meditation that works far better for me than
the traditional seated meditation - sitting in a room trying to quiet
the mind has never worked for me. Sailing does. My mind is quieter
than ever.

Until night watch. It's funny, logically I know that nothing is
happening at night that doesn't happen during the day. It is the same
ocean, the same swell and wind and current. Still, the darkness adds a
level of mystery to the passage. The sea turns from brilliant blue to
dark black. During my 11pm to 2am shift, I swear the boat creaks more,
the waves splash more loudly, the wind blows more fiercely. The same
point of sail during the day, the same angle of heeling and speed feel
more out of control than they do in bright daytime light. Everything
feels exaggerated.

So I listen to some music and temper my fears. Peeking over the side at
the wake, I see in the water splashing away from the hull the most
glorious phosphorescence lighting up the black sea with bright white and
greenish light. When I am lucky, a few dolphins come swim with the boat,
their bodies outlined with the lights of their disturbed microorganism
friends as they travel through dark water.

Two nights ago we saw the southern cross in the night sky for the first
time, a constellation that is not visible at home. We celebrated by
blasting CSN's "Southern Cross." Carmen baked brownies yesterday. We
successfully reefed our sails and maintained controlled sailing in 20-25
knots of wind. Today we sail westward. We mark our days with
meaningful events like these. We have heard of people sailing to Hawaii
on the trade winds, setting their sails and their course in California
and never having to change course for thousands of miles. I think we
are there?


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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 4 Lulls and Squalls and Checking In

We're getting used to a weather pattern out here: light winds during the
day that build in the late afternoon, and on and off squally conditions
at night. Not the kind of ugly knock-down squalls you may have heard
about or seen in movies, but rather patches of gusty high winds that
sometimes require us to reef our sails. They pass pretty quickly with
no damage, just a little bit of heeling over and adrenaline rushing.
Right now, at about 4:00pm, those strong winds are beginning to build.
A few hours ago we were ALMOST forced to turn on the engine, the winds
were so light and variable. We are glad we didn't break our record run
of sailing without the engine.

When the wind is light we relax and read, and yesterday we even put down
the swim platform and stuck our feet in the water while sitting on the

Another thing we do in our down time is to check in with ham radio nets
using our SSB radio. We found a great resource in Mike from Ohio on
frequency 21412 at 22 time. He manages a radio "net" for the Pacific
and is now tracking us. It is amazing to think that this old-school
technology is still one of the most powerful and reliable out here. We
will check in with him every day. It's reassuring to know that someone
out there is monitoring our progress. People who don't have a Ham radio
can follow us on my MapShare page which tracks our progress through our
InReach device. You can find it from my Facebook page (sorry I can't
find the website url and have to send this now).

When the winds pick up we get into high-productivity mode. Grab all
items like books and pillows from the cockpit and put them below, stow
all dishes or other items that may fly across the cabin in the event of
a knock-down, start reefing the sails and preparing to pass through the
weather. So far we have been very well-prepared and they have been
consistently milder than we expected. Better safe than sorry!


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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Day 3: Getting In a Groove

This morning Carmen woke up and decided to bake crepes with her "special
sauce." When I awoke she was on the counter taking down the pots and
ingredients. Thanks to excellent training from her dad, this girl can
move around a kitchen and create delicious meals. She made homemade
raspberry/strawberry/applesauce compote, plus a lime & berry juice
drizzle atop homemade crepes.

Cooking is one of the duties we share aboard the boat, along with
washing dishes and checking the fruits and vegetables (most of them are
not refrigerated and in crates and baskets that we keep dark and cool –
each day we sort through them and pull out the veggies we should eat
today, throw out any that have gone bad, and refrigerate those that are
on the brink.)

Another important duty aboard the boat is to take a shift "on watch."
At all times, someone needs to be at the helm making sure the boat is
tracking properly, the sails are full and there aren't any large ships
heading our way or garbage we are going to run into. We are getting
accustomed to our on-watch schedule, which involves the three adults and
one teenager each taking two 3-hour shifts a day. My shift is from
11:00am-2:00pm and from 11:00pm-2:00am. Today Carmen helped with the
daytime shift so that I could hand-wash our clothes on the back deck.
Carmen and Niki have been helping cover some of the shifts to give us
some much-needed breaks or time to do other things.
One of the other things we did today included catching a 6-foot marlin.
Well, actually we hooked the marlin but didn't bring it in. We also
fiddled with the storm trisail. And we napped. We all nap during our
off shift times, and the rhythm of the ocean makes it almost impossible
to stay awake all day. So far our days have been sunny and breezy with
large gentle widely-spaced swells.
Today we entered a state of peacefulness. Since we lifted the anchor
three days ago, we have not run the engine and we've been setting into
our groove. It is amazing how silence can settle into a group. How it
helps us get in our groove.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 2: Blue Sea, Sailing West

Another 24 hours have passed aboard Sweet Dreams, and Mother Nature
brought us beautiful wind and seas, clear skies and comfortable temps.
We clip along at about 6-7 knots and are slowly clocking from SSW to
West, toward our destination of Hilo, Hawaii.

With about 2300 more nautical miles to go, we have completed about 205
nautical miles entirely under sail, no engine needed! In fact, not only
are we NOT putting fossil fuel pollution into the atmosphere, but we are
making our own green energy with six solar panels and a wind generator.
I love this feeling.

Carmen has begun taking a shift, the 5:00 – 8:00am shift, with Captain
Jim. She is learning how to monitor AIS, keep us on our course, and
adjust the sails.

Finally, what I really wanted to share is the incredible feeling of
moving along the gently rolling swells of this big beautiful blue sea.
The color when you look down at it is an amazing azure. I don't know
how to describe it - deeper than sky blue and with a magical brilliance.
And the rolling, it is like beautiful rolling hills of western
Connecticut, but instead of your car rolling over the hills, the hills
themselves are actually rolling underneath you.

So sweet.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 1: Sunrise Behind, Wide Blue Ocean Ahead

5:45am – Engine started, anchor up, mainsail raised, quick phone call to
weather routing service and to Bruce to get the go-ahead, and we are off!

6:15am – Jib raised, engine off, sun rising behind us, warming our

As I watch the sun rise over Mexico's mountains the land becomes smaller
and smaller, and I relax. The stress of uncertainty over the last seven
weeks melts off of me. I smile. The breeze is lovely. The boat sways
comfortably and the sails carry us forward. I am not sweating buckets
in the Mexican summer heat. Life is good.

Carmen says, "I love it when there is no land in sight, it is as if we
are floating on a giant blue disk."

To our surprise, we have been able to sail the entire first 12 hours
(about 70 nautical miles) of our 2,500nm journey to Hilo, Hawaii. No
engine rumbling below us, no uncomfortable waves tossing us around.
Just peace, wind, sunshine. This is a good thing, as we carry enough
fuel to run the engine for about 12 days and the trip will take us
anywhere from 18-24 days. So conservation is important. We know a
family of sailors who used their engine for only seven hours the entire
trip from Mexico to the South Pacific. We are hoping to follow suit.

As of now, we head SSW making about 5-6knots per hour. Although it
appears to be a little bit out of the way, our routing information tells
us that if we go a little bit further south we will stay in wind and
actually make landfall quicker than if we went in a straight line west
to Hawaii. The patience I learned while preparing to depart land is
serving me well, as we go in a seemingly roundabout way to our destination.

Loving the journey.


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Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Departure Dance

Okay, I get it now.  Over the past two years I have known many people on sailboats who cross the Pacific Ocean.  I have wondered why it takes them sooooo long to get off the dock.  I have watched these friends set a departure date and delay and delay and delay again.  They change out parts, paint, fix things, provision and end up provisioning a second time because they are so late getting off the dock they have eaten all of the food they carefully selected for the first departure date.  My logical self knows that they were being cautious and careful, but I have to say that before this experience, I did wonder whether they were possibly overdoing it, or putting it off because it is simply a scary prospect, crossing the huge ocean in a small sailing vessel.

Now, almost seven weeks since Carmen and I left Anchorage, Alaska to climb aboard S/V Sweet Dreams and crew for them across the Pacific, we are still at the dock and I finally understand.  With my tail between my legs, I admit that I was clueless.  All six of us have been pulling our hair out working to get the boat ready and waiting for the weather.  Everything takes longer than anticipated.  The weather is unpredictable.  Thus, we have missed many deadlines while we do this Departure Dance that I imagine all seamen become accustomed to. A few rules of thumb:  respect the ocean, wait for a good weather window, don't rush.  Have another margherita and wait.

**swing your partner**

While we wait for the perfect weather window, the girls and I took a few hours off to play near the surf.
The first deadline we missed, our launching date of May 9th, was due to issues with the work being done on the boat in the boatyard, to the tune of nearly three weeks worth of delays and missed deadlines for launching.  Our actual "splash" was May 30th.  Honestly, it's a good thing that we were delayed, because Gina and I worked nonstop during those weeks sewing canvas covers for the inflatable dinghy (called "dinghy chaps").  Our estimate that it would take one week to complete was way off when attempted by novice seamstresses such as ourselves. 

During this first three-week delay, we missed our weather window to go to the South Pacific.  Either too much wind in the form of cyclones or monsoons, or not enough wind in the doldrums make it not a good choice this time of year.  And so we changed our destination to Hawaii.


Safety meeting at the dock - Jim is going over how to deploy the life raft (which we are sure we will NOT need!) 
Once in the water, we remained on the dock another three days rigging sails, making more last-minute repairs, shopping for food, and waiting for a good weather window to safely cross the Sea of Cortez.
**sashay left**

After successfully crossing the Sea on June 1-2nd, we spent the next week hopping south in beautiful aqua water and monitoring Hurricane Cristina, slowing down since we knew we had to wait for this storm to peter out before we rounded the tip of the Baja Peninsula and headed West.  Eating the food we carefully provisioned to last four weeks for six people at sea.  Accepting the weather delay with a sigh and a feeling of gratitude for modern meteorology and technology, making us delayed but helping us avoid catastrophe.

So, we monitor the weather and meanwhile tidy up and dance a little.  We get to those last-minute items on the to do list that we thought we might just never complete.  We hold safety meetings and prepare to stow everything once again.  We learn patience.

Reviewing where medical supplies are and how to use them.....yes, we are VERY prepared aboard S/V Sweet Dreams!
**circle right**

For days the hurricane (upgraded from tropical storm two days ago) has been growing in strength and tracking NW, right toward our route to Hawaii.  But today, things are looking better, the storm is expected to dissipate over the next few days.  This morning we got that green light from Brynn for a tentative departure of Monday or Tuesday.  Not only is it looking likely that we can avoid getting caught up in it, but we will actually benefit by receiving some decent wind for the first part of our journey, left over from the hurricane's power.  

Even so, the latest departure date of "Monday or Tuesday" remains tentative.  Mother Nature is fickle and unpredictible.

And so we dance.

**sashay right**

Taking a break from boat stuff - a blustery walk along the beach.  Terra firma for a few more days, then only ocean under our feet.
P.S.  You might be wondering how in the heck we monitor the weather without the Weather Channel.  Here's how it works:  When we have an internet connection, we watch the storm via NOAA and other weather websites specifically designed for sailors.  We also have Bruce (my husband) back home in Alaska sending us emails with his merchant marine sailor's interpretation.  When we are not land-based and thus have no wifi, we email or call via satellite phone, and get updates from Brynn, our official professional weather router who is the person in the end who decides when we get a green light to depart this hot dock.  While underway we will use a low band-width dialup email connected via satellite phone.  Once a day we will upload and download emails - this way Bruce will send us updates.  When needed, we will call Brynn via sat phone.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

PORTUGUESE man of war?

    Niki and I had just let go a juvenile pufferfish that Colton had caught for us, and were sitting on the bow, laughing over someone's slip of the toung. It was getting on to evening, and the swells were dieing down, so we started to make our way back to the coc pit, but Niki spotted something on the top of the water. 
    "Man of war!!" I said. I had read a book on sealife and knew that the Japanise man of war was (as I put it) really poisonous!!
    "Wow, really?" Niki asked in astonishment. I looked closer then said,
    "Well, then, what are you waiting for? Get the net!!" I ran to the long-handled net (there was no way I was touching this thing), and jumped into the water. 
    "Colton, where is it?" I asked, as he was leaning over the rail, looking down at it, and I couldn't see it from the water. He pointed in front, and to my right a little. 
    "And which way are the tenticials pointing?" He pointed his finger away from the hull of the boat. I swooped my net in the direction he had indicated. 
    "Did I get it?" I asked
    "Yep." He said. 
    I swam in a way that the net was far from me, but the jelly couldn't get out. As soon as I got to the ladder, I handed the net to Niki. We turned the net up-side-down and shook it a little over a bucket. The jellyfish stuck. We shook it a little harder. The jelly still stuck.  
    "Pesky lil' booger aren't you?" Niki mumbled. I reached over and grabbed the smaller, wooden handled net. I poked at the jelly with the end of the wooden handle until lit let go. 
    "There." I smiled. As I was putting it down, the end of the wooden handle brushed my leg. I was so caught up in the moment, ooing and awing at the jellyfish, that I barely noticed. What I did notice though, was a small irritation on my right thigh. Then the irritation became a bother, then a hazard. 
    "Ah ah oh ooow. I got a sting. I got a sting." I started hollering. 
    " oow-I got-eeh-a STING!!!"
    "From what?"
    "I don't know, probably that!!" I pointed toward the little white bucket. 
    "Aah! It hurts!!" At that moment three things happened.
1)I ran to the coc pit
2)The parents sprung into action
3)I panicked 
    While Gina started to prepare some baking soda paste, my mom pored some fresh water on it in an attempt to clense the salty leg. Wrong move. Fresh water on a jellyfish sting releases the toxins and is one of the worst things you can do to it. Almoste immidiatly, the joint on my leg started to cramp up. 
    "My leg feels weird." I said in a small, scared voice. 
    "Her leg feels weird," my mom yelled down to Gina, "please hurry!!" About a minute later, Gina came up with the backing soda paste and started slathering it on. 
    "It's not working." I wined, "it hurts!" Gina started flipping through medicinal books while my mom applied more of the paste. 
    "Just breathe honey, it'll be alright."
    "It HURTS!" Tears sprung to my eyes. "I need a doctor, please! Help me!" My hands started to clench. My lungs didn't want to breathe, and my eyes wanted to close. 
    "Please. Help me." I said in a thin voice. Jim was standing over me. Just breathe, Carmen. Keep your eyes open. Look at me. 
    "I need a doctor." I started clenching and spreading out my hands. 'In, out, in, out' I told myself that's all that matters. Just breathe. In, out, in, out. I'm going to be okay. But I didn't believe myself.
    "Can you stand?" Jim asked I nodded my head. They walked me over to the paddle boared. Jim paddled to shore where we'd spotted a couple (lucily English) locals. We had a successful landing, and I gratefully accepted a seat in their shady four weeler as Jim explained the situation 
    "I got stung." Was all I could say.
    "Ooh them man of wars are mostly harmless, but they do hurt, don't they?" The man said. "What did you do first?" Jim told them that at first they had poured fresh water, then baking soda paste, and when that didn't work, alcohol and vinegar.
    "First off, the fresh water releases the toxins..." And then he went down the list of mistakes that we made before vinegar. Meanwhile, I was still relieved at not being in serious threat, as I was stung by a Portuguese man of war, not a Japanise man of war. 

Later my mom swam in. When I walked toward the board, my knees felt so week that they might just collapse. Mom paddled me in, and, since it was rolly, she suggested that I swam the last ten feet. 
    "No." I said. "I'm not swimming today... or here... or untill we're at least two hundred miles out at sea." We laughed a little and I shakily climbed aboard and collapsed into my bed. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ready set......ready set.......ready set.......

Go!!! Well, almost. 

We moved aboard S/V Sweet Dreams four days ago and sailed across the Sea of Cortez. We have been anchoring in pristine aqua-water coves as we make our way down the Baja coast toward Cabo, from where we will launch out into the Pacific Ocean.

It feels good to be off of dirt and rock and instead to roll on ocean water. (Well, the rolling didn't feel so good the other night when it was big and mixed up and making me puke). Even so, it feels good to finally GO!

The last five weeks have been full of accomplishments and setbacks. Two steps forward one step back, as we prepare to depart for a sailing journey across the Pacific Ocean. A sailboat is complicated, with electronic systems, plumbing systems, sailing systems, engines, and mechanical and structural issues. And when it is going to be your home and your means of transportation for weeks on end in the ocean, making sure that all systems are more than OK is critical. Thus, the to do list grows and grows and needs to be thoroughly completed. Not any time for sleeping or relaxing.

Preparing for something like this makes the actual journey itself feel like the reward, the easy part. The "work" involved once actually sailing involves taking shifts at the helm through the night, checking engine systems, changing sails, cooking for the crew, tracking the weather and plotting our course. It may mean lots of time to read and nap. Stargazing and sunrise/sunset and wildlife viewing. I don't mean to sugar-coat it, for it may also mean days on end of weathering a storm and not sleeping much but even a storm will eventually come to an end.

After weeks of preparation, this ocean-bound lifestyle feels simple and refreshing compared to the massive amounts of planning, organizing, preparing, hauling, tweaking, fixing, installing, painting, sweating and tearing that have comprised the weeks leading up to departure.
So for now we relax, knock off a few more to do items, and wait for the perfect weather window to cross.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ready Set ....... Sail!!!!

It is hard to believe that it's been five weeks of preparations to depart Mexico. Tomorrow we will finally leave!  Bottom painted, groceries (for 6 people for 3-4 weeks) purchased and stowed, engines checked, and finally today, sails rigged.  We will leave from San Carlos Sonora Mexico tomorrow morning, make it to the tip of Baja near Cabo around Thursday, then wait for a weather window to cross to Hawaii (about 3-4 weeks).

Track Us on our MapShare page and here.  

Today it is 103 degrees with a hot wind blowing on shore here in Mexico.  Can't WAIT to get on the water....