Monday, April 28, 2008

Landfall, the Marquesas

May 3,2008

Obviously we're back in email contact. For any HF geeks I will say the apparent fix was pretty simple. A ferrite choke was about a half inch off the modem end of the cable to the computer. Didn't seem significant but I snugged it up and secured it with a cable tie and, amazing, it began working just fine. Apparently enough stray RF was getting into the cable to screw the works! Lesson learned, I hope.

We arrived at Fatu Hiva in early dawn of the 29th. It was a classic land fall with tropical squalls around but a great sunrise and this mountainous, precipitous, lushly green island right where it was supposed to be. Although that's no great trick with GPS it was still nice to see it was really there. Fatu Hiva is spectacular and we had a nice anchorage with a few other boats. There is a small village with no facilities but we did some hiking and Janet did some trading and one of the local families has dinner available if she can round up more than four people. I've said that Princess Louisa inlet in British Columbia is the most beautiful place I've seen. Fatu Hiva is good competition. It's not as high but it's so violently vertical and there is every shade of green imaginable. It is an incredible place. Since we were technically illegal we only spent a couple days, the local gendareme gives boats a beady stare and three days to go check in, and we headed for Hiva Oa. We're at anchor there now, a short thirty mile sail from Fatu Hiva. Hiva Oa is beautiful but civilized with about 1800 people and stores and tourist facilities. We completed the check in process after some long waits at the bank for bond and the post office for a stamp. Everyone was nice but everything is very expensive so we got some provisions, took fresh water showers, washed clothes and today we'll get fuel and head over to the island of Tahuata (very short sail) and anchor out in what are supposed to be some very beautiful and quiet places for a few days.

My apologies for the long silence but hopefully that problem is solved. We love to get emails!

All the best,
Bill & Janet, Bill Huber and Ken Stiver

PS: Anyone interested in our position should NOW USE OUR SSB CALL SIGN OF "WDD7160" on shiptrak or Pangolin websites. That's how we'll be sending positions reports again.


We completed our fueling and motored over to Tahuata. Had a nice fish on for a few minutes but it broke off and it looked like the line was tooth damaged. I'm going to start using nothing but wire leader. We're presently anchored in an unnamed bay on the northwest corner of Tahuata. I think it's the best spot I've ever been lucky enough to drop the hook. We're in about twenty feet with good holding in sand. The bay is just big enough for one boat to swing well. There's a perfect sand beach without a foot print upon it. We have a nice breeze to keep the ninety degree day quiet comfortable. I think this is why we did a twenty four day passage after years of preparation. I hope there are many like this anchorage to come. We've been snorkeling, relaxing, snoozing and I think dinner and a Hinano beer may be in the near offing.

Bill & Janet, Bill Huber and Ken Stiver

PS: Despite the heavenly present I can't help but be curious about the situation at NWA. Could you guys give us the latest details?


Monday, April 21, 2008

On this heading lie the Marquesas

Hello to all,

A rolicking reach? Rollin' along? Whatever the sailing magazines would call it we're having a good night of sailing but it's a little rollie. We're N16'19" and running straight down the 130W meridian to N10' where we'll start to get across the ITCZ towards S05'. That's the present plan. It's really a pretty moon lit night with a little high thin cirrus. It's rollie because we've got 20 knts of wind from the port quarter (left behind for you lubbers) and the eight foot swell is directly on the beam. Thus, she rolls! We've got a double reef in the main and the stay'sl set to keep the boat on her feet and moving about 7.5 knots. The wind vane has been steering very well the past couple days. Life is good. We still haven't had any hot weather. I'm sitting here at 0130 on watch in shorts and a fleece shirt and it's about 70F. With the breeze it's pleasantly cool. Ate some very fresh Yellow Fin Tuna for dinner and just sneeked a bite from Janet's chocolate stash. Tomorrow we'll probably pass the half way point in distance to the Marquesas. That'll be cause for a small celebration I'm sure.

Please allow me to break off the sailing talk a little while to express my thanks to all the people at NWA who have been so good to us over more than twenty years. For me, even as a retired puke, the merger announced with DAL brings up a lot of old mixed emotions concerning beloved 'Northworst'. I think a 'love-hate' relationship best describes the feelings of a lot of us about the old beast. We love the flying, we love the many, many great people, agents, mechanics, flight attendants, fellow pilots, who work so hard and so well just because they want to do their best and take a little pride in their work and their company. And we hate the fact that so often decisions have been made that have frustrated all this good work and have kept the company from being what we wanted it to be. Sometimes it has been beyond my understanding why we care. I've worked with so many agents and flight attendants who have been screwed to the gills by the situation at NWA but still are putting out 100% for a company that doesn't seem to care about them at all. Brings a tear to eye of the observer and, very strangely, there are a few in my own at this moment. So, we're thinking of you all. We know what fun the merger process can be. Ultimately I believe, if this thing goes through, you'll have a better place to work but it will take a long time for the new culture to settle in for both NWA and DAl people.

Time to do a little late night navigating. Love to all and thanks for the emails!

Bill & Janet, Ken Stiver and Bill Huber

Friday, April 18, 2008

Into the Tropics

Hello to all,

The tropics! We crossed into the zone last night and as advertised today we have our first truly sunny and pleasantly warm day. With the breeze it's actually still refreshing and not hot..that will change. The northeast trades have also kicked in as forecast. We now have a very steady 12-16 knots from 15-25 degrees magnetic. Yesterday was a transition day with a lot of flopping around while the wind made up it's mind. Today it's trade wind sailing. We want to make a little westerly so we're bearing off almost dead downwind with the 150% genoa poled out to port and the full main. Getting 6.5-7.5 knots depending.. The cruising chute works great as a reacher but the range of usefulness is so small I think we'll start using the regular 3/4 oz. symmetrical chute when we can't get near hull speed with this rig.

We caught two very nice fish this morning, a 37" Yellow Fin Tuna and a 40" Mahi Mahi. Both are filleted and in the fridge. We will not starve! We just finished a delicious Sunday brunch of scrambled eggs with bacon and country fried potatoes. Turns out between Janet, Bill Huber and Ken we can cook about anything. I make great popcorn!

We anticipate staying in pretty similar conditions until we reach the ITCZ, the inter-tropical convergence zone, at about 6-8 degrees north latitude. That's where the north east trades and the southeast trades converge. Usually an area of confused weather and winds. Once into the SE trades, which we want to enter about W 130.5 degrees we'll bear off directly for the Marquesas.

So this morning, three rig configuration changes, two fish caught and cleaned, the boat cleaned up from fish blood and now a nice brunch plus the usual just plain sailing and navigating. No one is, or has been, bored. Mozart on the stereo, just replaced Janis Joplin, and before brunch we played 'Southern Cross' for the first time this trip. Seemed sacrilegious to play it until we really had the conditions.

We love to get emails!

Love to all,
Bill & Janet, Ken, Bill H.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Enroute to the Marquesas


Who knows when this will get sent out. We've suffered an email break down. More accurately the USB cable between the computers and the pactor modem(the device which interfaces the computer and HF radio)has gone to where ever bad cables go. Although to be fair, it was an abused cable and shouldn't held accountable for it's inability to function normally. It caught between the nav station desk top and the nav station one too many times. Oh well, if you're getting this obviously we found some work around.

At present we're about four degrees north and 133 degrees west and definitely in the ITCZ. Winds have gone to the east and are much lighter. We've got hot weather and and occassional showers. With the winds no more then ten knots we're still making five to six knots on course which is pretty good. We may cross the equator tomorrow night or early in the morning. We're preparing appropriate sacrifices for Neptune. We're fishing. We're relaxing. We're fixing little things which are bound to go wrong on a long passage but haven't caused any severe problems yet. After replacing a pin in the mains'l headboard car we went for a little swim off the transom. Very, very refreshing. Everybody's getting in some reading. This is what you'd think tropical trade wind sailing should be like. The hope now is the winds we have don't get any lighter and that in a degree or two of latitude we'll be in the southeast trades and bingo for Fatu Hiva and the Marquesas.

Hope to get this off soon.

Continued 4/24/08

Well, we had a couple classic days in the ITCZ. Days which were full of fluky or no winds and scattered rain showers and confused sea. Very hot, sticky and unpleasant. Finally had to start motoring to get through. Yesterday morning there was a definite change in that we started getting a light but steady SE wind and the humidity dropped. We crossed the equator in light SE winds and a sweet rolling swell. Had an invocation to Neptune with appropriate sacrifices and a great swim over the equator. Drank some mimosas. Pizza for supper. Had a beautiful sunset and the first green flash I've ever seen. Very nice. The winds built over the day and by afternoon we were definitely in the trades, the temperature and humidity had dropped pretty dramatically although it was still hot. Wind direction has been a very consistent 110-130 degrees and 8-12 knots ever since and the sailing has been perfect. The wind vane is steering. The main, stay'sl and genoa are set and we're on a close reach doing 5.5-6.5 knots heading for the our destination. Right now we have hopes that this will continue for the next four days. All we need is a little fish on the line!

My apologies for the lack of communication but hopefully that is now solved.

All the best,
Bill & Janet, Ken and Bill Huber


"Trade Winds"??? The term to me connotes steady moderate breezes and puffy clouds...consistent conditions. Ah, so what's with these SE trades? Since my last notes we've had nothing but either too little or, close to, too much wind from most every direction and about as much rain as sun. Our nice 180 mile days have dropped to around a hundred. I had thought we might make Fatu Hiva tomorrow but that was obviously the kiss of wind death because now it looks like three more days if we're lucky. Right now it's quite pleasant. Everybody is topside. Janet is officially on watch although the Hydro Vane (our wind steering device) is doing the steering, Ken is breaking out his inflatable deck chair (that will SURELY be the kiss of death), Bill Huber is doing a little sail repair job and I'm below writing to you. A hatch got 'not closed completely' during a nice run last night and a bunch of water came into the forward berth area, Janet's lair. All her stuff (and she has lots of stuff) got soaked and now much of it is on deck getting dry, hopefully.

I came on watch this morning in a rain squall with plenty of wind. We were blasting along at eight knots and my fishing reel started singing out loud and crazy. Something had found the hook and was heading for Mexico. I've got a stand up rod with 800 yards of 50 lbs test mono on an Okuma CG50W2 reel and it was almost gone before there was a huge splash way aft and 'whateveritwas' threw the hook. Oh well, it could have taken everything and then broke off. It's hard to get a sailboat slowed down and turned to fight a fish. So far we've caught seven fish but only kept two. We're out of fish meat and it would be nice to catch a nice Mahi Mahi or tuna today.

Bill H. made his famous ginger scones again for brunch. Absolutely the best scones ever! I feel like I've been so darn busy the past couple days I'm going to veg for a couple hours.

When we lost email contact we were unable to send position reports via Sailmail but I continued to submit reports through the Pacific Seafarers ham radio net every night. They post these positions on the Yotreps (Pangolin) and Shiptrak websites but the positions are reported by our ham call sign which is KI6IKE not our single side band call sign. So if you go to Shiptrak or Yotreps look for KI6IKE and that will show our position and I believe shiptrak will show all our reports. The Pacific seafarers net is every night at 8:25 California time for roll call but there's a warm up session beginning around 8-8:15. The frequency is 14.300 megahertz. There are net control operators on the west coast, in Hawaii and Australia and it's a very professional organization. Most of their stuff is oriented out into the Pacific but you might be able to listen in from North America.

Things are breezing up a little. Time to go to work. Love to all.

Bill & Janet, Bill Huber and Ken

Hello on the 28th,

My whining about the lack of SE trades must have been heard favorably because they filled in shortly after and we've had a beautiful sail ever since. Winds from 90-120 degrees and 10-16 knots. Gentle rolling swell about six feet from the ESE. Temperatures in the nineties by late afternoon but cooling off during the night. Much less humidity. Caught a small Marlin yesterday. Or at least brought him to the boat and shook him off, didn't want to kill him. Beautiful fish about five feet long. He ran and jumped nicely but seemed to wear out fast. I think it was a Striped Marlin because of the colors which were a spectacular blend of iridescent blues. Great fun!

We have 129 nautical miles left to go having covered 3436 of the same since leaving the dock. We've been slowing down at night because the bunk house where Bill and Ken sleep gets pretty hot with the hatch closed and pretty wet with the hatch open fully powered up with all sail. With luck we'll make landfall early tomorrow morning. I think that will be a thrill for all of us. It's been a great sail but a nice long bath under a tropical waterfall sounds pretty good as well.

All the best,
The Crew!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Riding Down the Northwesterlies

Hello Everybody,

At present I'm wedged into a comfy and hopefully secure spot where this laptop is unlikely to go flying across the boat. We've made very good progress the past few days and the forecast calls for at least another day or two of good NW flow before things get a little lighter. The grand strategy has been to stay in this nice NW breeze and make as much westing as possible without getting into the light stuff in the Pacific high, then jibe back to the south once we get into the northeast trades. With luck we can slide through the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone, 5-8 degrees north) and into the southeast trades and then reach off for the Marquesas. That's been working so far. The tactics have involved a little flailing around the first night getting through a small front and just changing sail trim and headings to make the most of things.

Bill Huber never gets sea sick, we all hate him, Janet and I were over feeling queasy by the second day and now Ken, who is getting his first open ocean experience, is feeling good. It's a very congenial atmosphere and I think we compliment each other well. The cold bite has pretty much left the night air and I think today it will actually get warm. We've been living in layers of fleece and foul weather gear and looking forward to nylon shorts and broad brimmed straw hats. We've had some decent meals and munchies are stored everywhere on this boat. Starvation should not be an issue as long as we keep the boat afloat, our primary goal.

At present we're on a beam reach, starboard tack, a reef in the main and the genoa furled about half way. The winds are 300 degrees at 15 knots and we're heading 200 degrees magnetic. Present position, N31.11.5,W126.16.1. Boat speed is 7.5 knots (which is hull speed) and conditions are pleasant but a little lumpy. We have a 8-10 foot swell from the NW and a foot or two of wind chop on top of the swell. The wind vane has done 90% of the steering since we left and this unit, called a Hydrovane, is doing a great job. We also have an electronic/hydraulic auto pilot but it burns electricity and does no better job. It's mainly for motoring, which we'll try to do as little as possible. We have a wind generator and solar panels for electrical generation.

So we're making good progress and settling into this voyage pretty well. Thanks for your interest and emails. We'll send a few photos when we get to somewhere with internet access. Please just

All the best,
Bill & Janet, Ken Stiver and Bill Huber

Monday, April 7, 2008

Departing Humboldt Bay California

Hello to all,

We got off a little after 1000 hrs. A little sailing this afternoon but now flat calm conditions and motoring. Ocean oily smooth but we'd rather be sailing than listening to the engine and burning fuel. Wind supposed to pick up later tonight. Chicken curry about to be served. Love to all.

Bill and Janet
Ken Stiver
Bill Huber