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Monday, March 15, 2010

Sun 14th March 2010

Finally, FINALLY - we're leaving tomorrow.
That said, I definitely needed this time on land to get back in the right frame of mind and have felt that each day we were delayed was like a 'free pass', but now I'm like Stu - keen to get going and to just get to Hawaii!!

Hawaii is about 2250 nautical miles away and for those that don’t know a nautical mile is different to a road mile. A nautical mile is 1852 metres compared to the road mile at 1600 metres. Either way, it's a long haul. We're hoping to make the trip in less than 20 days, but all of that is weather dependant I guess.

Looks like I'll be celebrating my birthday at sea, too! I guess that means there won't be a wild party or a gourmet meal, but it will be pretty cool to say that I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for my birthday (let's just hope it's on Pelon and not that freaky little orange inflatable thing...eek!!).

So - this is the last posting for a few weeks!! Can't wait to get to the warmer weather (although it is definitely improving here - it's just the wind that is cold, coming from the snow covered mountain in the distance I guess). Danielle - have a lovely 30th and indulge a bit - bump wants strawberry freddos!! Keli - have a lovely 80th (looking good for your age I must say - you don't even look 40!!) - not too much Jansz... Ash, have a wonderful 3rd birthday - I hope you get a great birthday cake (coz I know you wanted one for Christmas!!), and finally a big WELCOME to Ellie Millhouse, who was born the other day (sorry guys, my days are blurring in to one here, and the different time zone doesn't help matters!!).

We'll blog again from Hawaii (hopefully with stories from along the way). Catch you then!
(Don't forget to track us - we'll turn our tracker on again when we leave. And don't forget that there are 'black spots' sometimes where it doesn't work...)

Another post from Stu

Hello again - it’s time for my much overdue posting.

A lot has happened since my last post as I am sure you would know if you have been following Kym’s posts or checking Bruce’s blog.

We finally left Dana Point on Friday the 19th and had a pleasant although windless sail to Avalon on Catalina Island, which is probably the most popular of the Channel Islands. At Dana Point we were warned that Avalon was the ‘Vegas’ of the Islands and they were right. As you enter the harbor you have to radio in and advise the Coastal Patrol of your impending arrival which we did and were duly met by a man in a boat who gave us a mooring number and directions before relieving us of $35US. Finding the mooring was not the easiest, however we were in a fairly good position a few hundred meters off the beach and jetty. The moorings are a fore and aft set up where you pick up the bow mooring and it has a sunken line that goes back to the aft mooring. The good part of this mooring set up is that the boat is secure and you are free to leave it without worrying about dragging the anchor. The flip side is that you are crammed in like sardines and it has a marina feel to it as the boats are all lined up in the same direction (and close enough that you could easily have a conversation with the crews of the boats on either side). The other issue is that if there is a swell rolling into the bay the boat may lay at a poor angle to the swell and then roll all night as it did when we were there.

After launching the dinghy we went ashore and started looking for places to eat. There were lots to choose from and we finally decided on a back street restaurant which served a great meal at a reasonable price. Also it was full of locals, which is always a good sign! We have had terrific meals throughout the trip. After dinner we explored the Avalon waterfront which was very ‘Gold Coast’ and surprisingly busy as it winter here. I am sure that in Summer people would be lining up to get a table at a restaurant and that you would have to crawl over half a dozen dinghies to get to your own. As we settled into another drink on the boat we noticed on the back of the mooring receipt that we had to vacate the mooring by 0900 the following morning, which was a bit disappointing as we would have liked to see a bit more of Avalon but did not want to stay another night due to wanting to leave for Hawaii asap. If time had allowed the local businesses would have seen us again.

After leaving Avalon we headed around the other side of the Island to Catalina (Cat) Harbor which is at a neck on the Island which has a harbor on either side. After a meal at the hotel we met some locals who told us that the whole island is owned by the Wrigley family (of chewing gum fame) and that everyone who lives on the island must be employed by and rent from the Wrigley family. Some former employees now live on boats at Catalina as they did not want to leave the Island.

Thankfully we were on the protected side of the island this time and had a really peaceful nights rest.

Due to bad weather we waited until Tuesday morning before leaving Cat Harbour as I wanted a nice fair weather start to the trip. We spent most of the day passing the other islands and had a quiet night with little breeze. At about 10am the following morning we were buzzed by a US Navy plane barely 100 meters away from us! It was pretty amazing as the plane was a big 4 engine propeller cargo type. On its second pass he made contact via VHF radio asking our course, speed and destination as they were wanting to start a live fire exercise and were trying to clear the area. After a few minutes they buzzed us again and asked if we could sail due South for 20 nautical miles which was about 90 degrees off our course and would take 4 to 5 hours. We agreed to their request and changed course, as you do…

As the day went on and we resumed our course the breeze picked up and we soon found ourselves beating into 25 to 30 knots which was fast but not very comfortable. We continued throughout the night under a partly rolled genoa and a reef in the main as the night went on the wind headed us more and more. In the morning the breeze eased but stayed hard on the nose with a confused sea. We tacked a few times during the day trying to get the best of the shifts but progress was slow.

On the forth night at sea we were still hard on the wind and waiting for the elusive trade winds when the wind started to increase and the barometer dived from 1030 to 990, and then 970. At the peak of the storm I read the barometer at 956 hpa. As we reduced sail to just a triangle of jib the boat was still travelling too fast and launching itself off large waves with a bone jarring crash. At this time we decided to heave to which was not overly successful under headsail. Eventually we tried running with it as it was now a full blown gale. This really improved the motion of the boat but with speeds of over 10 knots and a really big breaking swell I was worried that we may broach so we streamed a 300 foot line in a loop with a fender tied in the middle. This dropped the boat speed considerably and made Pelon far easier to steer. At this point we were steering a course closer to San Francisco than Hawaii however the boat was safe and under control. This continued throughout the night and the next morning until it eased enough to recover the warp.

With the breeze still on the nose and having used more fuel than planned I decided to head back to Catalina to refuel and have a sail repaired which had been damaged when a furling line parted releasing a 130% genoa in 45 plus knots of wind. It took two days to sail back to Catalina with the wind only dropping out on the final night; I think that we were all pretty happy when we motored back into Cat harbor.

I have only been in two storms that I feel were worse than this one, the first being on New Year’s Eve 1989-90 off Matsuyker Island when we had 60 plus knots for about 12 hours and then in 1994 during the Sydney to Hobart when we had a really bad storm in Bass Straight. This storm was not in the same league as the earlier two however it was still pretty nasty. I spoke to the Harbor master who said that the storm was the worst that they had experienced in decades. While it was really unlucky to get caught in this storm it is good to know how the boat performs in adverse conditions. I have a real feeling of confidence in Pelon - she is strong, safe and sound.

After a night at Cat harbor we decided to sail to Newport Beach to have the sail repaired. At Newport we rented a mooring for $5 per night which is really cheap. The only downside is that the harbor is so regulated you can only land your dinghy at 4 or 5 spots in the harbor and if you leave the dinghy on this side of the pontoon there is a maximum time limit of 20 minutes and the other side of the pontoon is 2 hours while if you leave the dinghy at the back of the pontoon it can stay for 12 hours before somebody will impound it. Also, if you leave your dinghy on a beach it will be impounded. This all makes movement within the harbor difficult as the docks are all on the wrong side and the closest Laundromat is a 20 minute dinghy ride away.

Bruce and Claire have decided not to continue on the trip to Hawaii. It is unfortunate that this storm may have put them off offshore sailing as they both did such a great job on the boat. Kym and I will continue alone and while it did take Kym a day or so of soul searching before agreeing to give it another shot, I think that she feels that this is business that needs to be completed. We are now both looking forward to round 2 which will hopefully be a quiet trip to Hawaii.

It is now Saturday night and we were hoping to leave tomorrow however we will most likely leave on Monday as Steve, the owner of another Catalina 42, is delivering another genoa on Sunday. We spoke to the sail maker who said that our original genoa had seen better days, and that to put good money into repairing it may not be the wisest move. As Steve was looking to sell his in order to hopefully buy a larger 150% genoa we were able to buy his old 130% sail. The extra sail is really just a back up, however as we have already blown one ‘back up’ up we think it is worth waiting the extra day!

So here we are sitting on the boat with the larder full trying not to break into the goodies too early. We expect that the trip will take somewhere between 14 and 21 days so we have catered for 20 days of good food and another 20 days of emergency food which is generally can based long life type. We carry about 500 liters of water in the boat’s tanks and about 100 liters of bottled water just for drinking, and we also carry 40 liters in 2 jerry cans that is purely for emergencies. If we were to drink 3 liters per day each (and I doubt we could) over 20 days we would need only 120 liters, if the trip doubled in length to 40 days we would still only need 240 liters from our 640 liters on board. We intend to use salt water for showering and cleaning.

Yesterday we went to Universal Studios. It was our second attempt; the first ended when we saw the entrance queue stretched about a kilometer long with very slow movement. Fortunately yesterday’s queue was about 5 meters long. The highlights for me were the Waterworld show and seeing Magnum PI’s Ferrari and the Mini from the Bourne Identity.

Friday 12th March 2010

Universal Studios - Take 2

We thought we'd tackle Universal Studios again, now that we're here for a few more days. Much to our delight the queue's were only 5 people long rather than the hundreds that were lined up last time we tried to go. As an added bonus this meant that we didn't have to wait longer than 5 minutes for any ride which meant that we got to see a lot in a short time and didn't have to spend all day waiting.

We started off with a studio tour which was a bi tof an eye opener in terms of what they film versus what we see on screen! For example, there was a swimming pool sized 'pond' with a blank wall behind it that could be painted to suit the scene (eg, clouds or sunset). Then the action is filmed in that little pond - action that includes scenes like the shuttle landing in the sea in Apollo 1;, paddling off in to the sunset in Hellboy; the ocean scenes in The Truman Show - all stuff that looks "real" on the screen, but to imagine the actors filming it in this little pond made it all seem a bit like kids playing! Kind of amazing how they make it so realistic though. We also saw Wisteria Lane (Desperate Housewives), and they were filming as we went past but we didn't catch any glimpses of the housewives, and there were only 2 or 3 houses on that set where we were expecting a whole street of sorts. The War of the Worlds set was pretty speccy and included a real 747 that they blew up especially for the scene:

We also saw Jaws, as he leapt menacingly out of the water at us.

Actually, he's a bit old and tired these days I think, so the build up of the guide pretending to work out where Jaws was going leap out was more tense than the actual event - I think I was expecting a more sudden, aggressive "attack" rather than the mechanical movement that we saw. So maybe I watch too much TV, and was expecting a shark that could easily be mistaken for the real thing... anyway it was still good and looking at the size of it (it was the actual shark used in the movie) I'm glad that it WAS fake. We saw him hung up later on and barely escaped with our lives:

Let's hope this is our only shark experience for the whole trip...
We went of a few rides - the Jurassic Park ride was pretty good. I knew it was a 'splashdown' type ride but hadn't informed Stu. He's not keen on rides or heights, so telling him that it was a ride where he would get dropped down a hideously steep slope into a pool of water would ensure that I went on it alone. Once we were buckled in he saw the sign that said "caution - you will get wet", and started to question his judgement (or lack of). Little did he know what was in store :) I've been on rides like this before but I think this was the steepest! I've never screamed on a ride before this one - I think my stomach is still at the top of the big drop...

We also enjoyed the Waterworld show - lots of jet-skis, stunts and explosions.

I think Stu's favourite thing, though, was when he saw the Mini from 'The Bourne Identity'. Those who know Stu will know about his interest (fetish?? addiction??) to Mini's. Those who know Stu will also not be surprised at the following photos of him sizing it up:

For those who don't know him so well - I promise you he is totally normal and his addiction is healthy. And I think we're having Mini's as wedding cars... Provided they are authentic and have the right number of fuel tanks / correct door handles / proper grill / correct badging / original thimgamy and specific whatsits....

All in all it was a fun day out made better by the lack of crowds and waiting. In all honesty it probably isn't much better than Movie World in QLD, but we had a really good day and it was fun to do something touristy rather than 'boaty' (if I never step foot in a West Marine shop again it will still be too lovely as all the staff are of course!!).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday 9 March 2010

First up - thanks to everyone for their supportive comments! It sounds like you all knew I could do it before I even realised that myself, and that makes me feel pretty awesome and has definitely boosted my confidence. We will now be sailing double-handed, just Stu and I, so it's a slightly bigger challenge but as they say regardless of the size of the mountain you still climb it one step at a time. (Do they say that? Or did I just make that up..?? It's good - let's say I made it up!!).

Also - on the topic of comments - a few people have said that their comments haven't worked. The blog is set up so that I can moderate comments before they are posted, so when you add a comment it won't appear immediately but will show up once I hit 'publish'. And I haven't yet rejected a comment, and doubt I will - but I just like the power :)

We're currently in Newport (for TV buffs this is where the TV show The OC was set). I think there's a lot (a LOT) of money here - some of the boats and houses are absolutely massive, and the massive boats are usually parked outside the massive houses. We've found the one we want to buy if we win the lottery :

We're a bit surprised at the conditions of some of the boats though - some look like they've been bought to keep up with the Jones' but are never used and certainly not maintained. One that we go past daily has seals living on board!

Others look like they are sinking, some have torn sails flapping around and some are really looking ratty and rusty. It's quite sad actually! The majority, however, appear to be well looked after but I doubt they get much use. Everyone also seems to have little Duffy electric boats that they cruise around the harbour in, which look like fun.

We're on a mooring so have to take the dinghy to shore, which is a bit off-putting when I feel like going for a run so needless tosay I haven't been running here. We do walk everywhere though, and use our bikes, so the incidental exercise is significant. I am, however, having withdrawals from the full on, high energy boot camp and boxing sessions I was doing 4 days a week back home so I need to start thinkg about that kind of stuff again or Stu is going to bear the brunt of my nervous tics and I'll snap - probably somewhere in the middle of the Pacific where it wil be most inconvenient.

On that note, the sail we took in for repair is only due back on Friday, so we're here until at least then but if all goes well we're hoping to leave for Hawaii (take 2) on the weekend. While it's frustrating sitting around waiting, it's nice to have a chance to explore the area a bit more, and we're going to attempt Universal Studios again later in the week.

Once again, wi-fi is a rare commodity but we've found a place where we can get is easily - Fashion Island! I know a few people (Lanny...and Llani!) who would love it here - lots of the big name brands in one convenient location (but no Tiffany's, unfortunately....)! That said, we're only window shopping (although the Apple shop is mighty tempting!) and milking it for the free wi-fi, plus spending time browsing (aka reading) books in the massive Barnes and Noble shop here. I only have 1 or 2 books left to read, thanks to Caire who kindly left hers on board! We're also making the most of the dvd's that Dave and Jill gave us and that Bruce and Claire left us, and have been watching Dexter each night (for the record - series 4, OMG!!!). I think we'll have to break the budget and invest in some more books for the trip though or I'm going to go insane...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Decision made

Since we’ve arrived back the whole experience seems like it didn’t really happen, or at least it feels like we made it out to be bigger and worse than it was! I know that’s not actually the case, but it’s all calmed down a bit in my head. That said, I still feel ill thinking about that wind noise and remembering the worry about whether the boat would survive the pounding of the waves (lying in bed and seeing the waves crash over the hatches above me). But while I feel nervous, and my stomach churns thinking about heading out there again, I think I have managed to downplay it all a bit in my brain and I have to ‘get back on the horse’. Although even writing this makes me feel kind of weak at the knees… I know that I would really regret not sailing to Hawaii with Stu, and it’s not exactly something that I can come back and do again any time. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and I don’t think I can let myself miss out.

A couple of random things have popped up in stuff I’ve read over the last few days too, which have given me food for thought. One was by a friend of mine about getting over a fear of his:

The other was a quote in a book about a couple who retired on a yacht – he wanted to but she didn’t, due mainly to fear of the unknown. Her daughters reminded her of this quote from a favourite book:

‘Come to the edge’, he said,
She said: ‘I am afraid.’
‘Come to the edge,’ he said.
She came.
He pushed her… And she flew.

I’m doing it for Stu, but mostly I’m doing it for myself.

So – looks like I’m sailing to Hawaii.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I have chilblains like you wouldn't believe (about 20 on my hands, massive and painful, worse than I have ever, EVER had. I think they are going to take over my whole body...)

Bruises and lumps on everyone

Stu cracked his elbow again (hoping not broken like happened last year...)

Bruised ribs for Stu, too, after ramming in to a winch

Sanity everyone!

Oh - and a torn sail.

Not bad really!!

Monday 1st March 2010

Calm. Well, compared to what we’d been through. It was such a relief to know that we were going to be back on land this morning – the GPS gave us an ETA of 10:30am, and I couldn’t wait. I had mixed emotions though, because while I was so happy to be so close to land again I know that Stu was shattered that we had to turn around and come back, not because he wanted to ‘fight out’ the storm but because it was such an emotional rollercoaster over the last few days, and he was so exhausted mentally and physically, feeling the pressure and responsibility of keeping us all safe, and now he was back to square one again.

I am so proud of him. He was an absolute rock at all times – stayed calm, took everything in his stride and dealt amazingly with every situation as it came up, and while I was scared at times I just had to watch him taking everything in his stride and I felt safe. Stu is a hugely competent and experienced sailor who has been through worse than what we experienced and I knew that he would get us all through this. Bruce was also amazing, taking on so much so Claire and I didn’t have to.

Back to Two Harbours – felt so surreal!

A very welcome hot shower, and spent the day at the cafĂ© and bar on terra firma. Talking to the locals and looking on the net we realized that we’d probably been in a ‘washing machine’ of storms – the earthquake in Chile, there was a minor quake off the coast of Hawaii apparently, plus we had heard storm warnings for San Diego. Tsunami warnings all over the place. We also found out from Harbour Patrol that these storms were the worst they had experienced in “decades and decades”.

Back to the mainland tomorrow. Heading to Newport to restock and to get the torn jib fixed. Bruce and Claire have decided to go their own way – they are running short on time, plus there’s no way they want to get back on the boat! I can’t say I blame them. The thought of running in to another storm like that terrifies me – knowing that we could be 1 to 2 weeks away from land and no way to escape. At the moment I really don’t think I can do it. Stu has said that there’s no way that he will make me do anything I don’t want to do, and I know he means it, but we can’t sell the boat and take such a big loss, plus Stu needs to do this trip. Maybe I could fly and meet him in Hawaii?? I feel much more confident about the shorter legs (after Hawaii the trips will only be around 5 to 7 days for a little while). Maybe he could hire a couple of crew members to go with him instead of me? I feel sick thinking about it, and my brain is total mush trying to decide what to do. I know he really wants me to do this with him and I really want to support him but at the moment I have this total block trying to think about 3 weeks at sea. I’ve got some thinking to do. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday 26th – 28th Feb 2010

A really flat, calm night last night which made for a more pleasant watch although still cold. No bikini’s today – unless we wore them under our thermal tops… That said, at least it wasn’t rough.

The weather worsened over the day though, and towards evening Stu checked the barometer which read about 1040. I made the joke (“joke”…!!) that I hope he had his cyclone seasons right, which got us on to the topic and we were discussing how cyclone weather seems to start around the 950’s. I looked down at the barometer again and instantly felt sick, passing it to Stu to double check. It was reading 954. In less than a minute the barometric pressure had dropped by almost 100, and the wind had started to make a low growling sound like I have never heard before. Not howling, not whistling, but a long, low, menacing growl that made me very aware that mother nature is very much a living creature. Even after that previous hideous night this was the first time I felt scared, and even thinking about that sound now I feel sick to the stomach. Stu called everyone on deck and said that the weather – which had already turned nasty – was going to get a lot worse. We all got in to our wet weather gear, boots and life harnesses (which we didn’t remove for 3 days) as Stu ran through what we would do if we needed to abandon ship (which of course he had done before we left, but wanted to ensure we all remembered the drill and knew what we were doing). Seeing the life raft in the cockpit was an everyday thing, as that is where it is stored for easy access if needed, however it was always just this big orange thing that sat there. Now I was looking at it as something which I might need to entrust my life to. The thought of heading in to a storm – a cyclone perhaps – in Pelon was terrifying enough, but the thought of having to climb in to a glorified ‘floatie’ in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with 12000 feet of water below me and 3 or 4 days from land, made me feel absolutely sick and sitting in the cockpit listening to Stu my body started trembling and I couldn’t stop it. Stu said that he was pretty sure that the storm would blow over and wouldn’t get much worse, but he wanted to be over-cautious. I found myself touching my jacket pocket every couple of minutes, making sure that my personal EPIRB was still there – like the ultimate security blanket I guess, because as long as I had that on me I knew I could be located to within 3 – 5 metres.

Needless to say that same noises that I had heard the other night were so much more threatening tonight as the weather got worse and we all went below to ride it out, Stu sitting up all night at the nav table, making regular checks above. Those who were watching out tracker would have seen us change course – we had to just go with the wind as it would have been dangerous to fight against it, but eventually it took us back in the direction of Catalina Island and the decision was made to continue on that course as we would need to restock and re-evaluate.

The next few days are a bit of a blur. We dozed when we could; we ate what we could force down; we were cold and wet, going from on deck to bed with all our wet weather gear on including life harnesses and boots. Every day we were sure that the wind would die down and the waves would calm down, but they kept coming, and kept coming, and the wind would growl that horrible growl. I know that no one got much sleep, although boys took on the lion’s share of the tasks and let Claire and I shelter below. I know that Stu didn’t get more than a couple hours of dozing for at least 2 nights and was functioning on pure adrenaline.

The only sail we had up was a tiny, tiny storm jib which helped us to maintain steerage and stability and we were still doing over 10 knots – bearing in mind that with full sails up we were only averaging about 6 knots in good winds previously.

We also put out a sea anchor – it’s amazing what a loop of rope with a fender attached to it will do in 30+ foot swell and winds of 50-60 knots. The weather hadn’t calmed at all though, and I was still terrified of having to crawl in to that life raft.

On what would be the last night of true storm weather Claire and I were woken with Bruce shouting that they needed us on deck NOW! The furling line for the jib had snapped causing the sail to unfurl fully, which meant that we had enough sail to race along in 15 knots of wind and therefore way, way too much for 40+ knots. Claire and I raced up on deck to find Stu right on the bow of the boat trying to drop the sail by hand, Bruce steering. I took the wheel from Bruce with instructions to keep the boat dead straight and the waves directly behind us so he could help Stu. Going from lying down for 2 days to leaping up (plus the stress of the situation no doubt) sent the blood rushing from my head and I suddenly found that I was trying to steer the boat with totally blacked out vision. Claire took over the steering and, while I know that she was terrified, did such an amazing job and kept Pelon absolutely spot on course. She was amazing. It was freezing, it was wet and the waves were massive, with a random waves coming from the side making us feel like we were going to tip over. Poor Claire was sliding around and I had to wedge myself between Claire and the side of the boat to hold her in place. Meanwhile, we were watching two of the people we love most in the world balancing on the bow trying to get the sail down. I’m sure it only took 10 minutes, but it felt like hours. Stu and Bruce told us later, once it was all over, that a lose rope had managed to hook itself on to Stu’s life harness and – had he let go of the sail – it would have flung him up in to the air or over the edge. He had his harness on which attaches him to the boat (with a massive strength rating of 600-700kgs), however it could have resulted in him dangling over the edge of the boat or flinging up in the air and crashing back down on to the deck, causing who knows what damage to himself.

With the sea anchor out, the sail down and the motor running, there wasn’t much else we could do except head below for shelter and what sleep we could get, leaving the auto helm to steer for us. Unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as that. The auto helm decided not to cooperate and Stu and Bruce had to hand steer all night, taking turns hour for hour, with Claire and I taking turns keeping them company and awake. Utterly exhausting after everything else, particularly for the boys who were already sleep deprived and totally worn out.


Finally, the weather seemed to be easing, or at the very least it was steadying.
Another long day for Stu, and poor Bruce wasn’t well so was in his cabin but I’m sure he wasn’t getting much rest either.
We were all talking in the cockpit and discovered that we had all been hearing things – I heard music and singing all the time (mermaids, I’m sure!!), Claire kept hearing a Jamaican man talking to her (saying “bloop, bloop, aaye” in a deep, Jamaican voice) and Bruce heard people talking to him. Weird stuff.
We were all so tired – Stu had only slept for about 5 hours since the storm started – and were so sick of being cold and wet. Days were cold, but night watches were freezing. The weather had calmed a lot by evening, although still nasty, but it meant that we could set the auto helm and rotate watches while Stu sat in the cockpit with us dozing, waking up when we needed to check anything with him. He was so calm and strong through the whole thing, even with minimal sleep (and usually he’s crabby after one night shift!!).
We knew we weren’t far from Catalina Island at this stage, but also knew this would feel like the longest part of the trip so far!

Thursday 25th Feb 2010

This morning everyone felt sick due to the huge amount of rolling and heaving that the boat was doing – and so constant! We all just wanted a rest from the constant excessive motion! It took me about an hour to get up due to having to lie down to recover with eyes closed and deep breathes after each maneuver (one sock on, recover; second sock on, recover…). Going to the loo was a bit of a drama too, and being at the bow it was probably the part of the boat that exaggerated the movement of the boat the most. I finally made it on deck with the others – salty rice crackers and oranges were our friend today, although none of us felt like eating (as an aside, we all lost a few kgs over the few days!).

The water seemed to be smoothing out a bit however we were all hanging out for the trade winds which Stu assured us meant a constant tail wind and smoother sailing, plus warm weather! (bikini weather tomorrow, Bruce predicted). Warmer weather will be a welcome change, as it’s been really cold so far.

Be careful what you wish for…

We all wanted more wind to get us moving – tonight we got it!

I went to bed around 5:30 to get some sleep before going on watch. I woke up with a fright to what sounded like the mast being ripped out of the boat! Turns out it was Stu and Bruce tacking, but the wind was definitely up and with the mast right near my head and the hull acting as a huge amplifier I didn’t know what was going on! It was a rough, windy night, with the boat being thrown around but every time I woke up I could hear the boys on deck, and as they didn’t sound frantic or loud I figured we were ok and it all just sounded worse from where I was. All night, though, I felt like I was in a tumble dryer, being thrown around and often waking up finding myself clinging to the mattress so I didn’t roll off the bed due to the massive angle that the boat was heeling. On top of the rough ride, and possibly worse that the rough ride, was the noise. Rigging clanging and crashing, the hull lifting up and smacking back in to the water like it was hitting a concrete slab, and waves hitting the side of the hull like a freight train colliding with it. There were more than a few times that I wondered about the integrity of the hull – could it crack with the force of these waves? That said though, Stu came down a couple of times to see how I was and due to him seeming very calm I also felt surprisingly calm, figuring that he would let me know if it was time to panic! I guess in my sleepy brain I also figured that this was showing us that the boat could handle well (although part of the wind gauge was blown off… but no other casualties at this stage!) At one point the engine wouldn’t start, which I heard the boys discussing in my half-asleep haze. I briefly wondered if I had pushed the handle back down after I had turned the engine off last time, and was sure I yelled something to Stu but apparently I dreamed that bit. Stu came down an hour or so later and said that there were a few problems but everything was fine. I asked him whether the handle had been pushed down and he leapt up, yelled to Bruce to check, and 30 seconds later the engine roared in to life. I found out later that Stu had started to get quite concerned when the engine wouldn’t start and was considering whether we needed to turn around. I wonder how things would have been if I hadn’t remembered about the engine handle…!

Motoring gave us some more control, although it got to the point where Stu decided to heave to which is kind of like ‘parking’ the boat – in 12000 feet of water – and letting the worst of the weather pass by (whether this takes 2 hours or 20)… in a perfect world... Unfortunately it wasn’t as successful as we had hoped and we ended up just plowing on.

During the night we got winds of up to 40 knots with 25 foot swell. The wonderful boys let Claire and I stay below the whole night, taking on all of the work themselves. They did an awesome job.

Wed 24th Feb 2010

Woke up to the sound of a low-flying plane this morning, and heard Stu and Bruce commenting on it while they were on watch. A bit strange, but stranger still when it came back! Got up to hear Stu talking to them on the VHF – turns out it was a US Navy plane clearing the area for a live fire exercise! They requested we head South (out of our way) for 20 nautical miles before resuming our normal navigation again. Frustrating, but of course we did what we were told – don’t want to be hit by a random missile…

Heard the reverberation about an hour later.

Into deep water today – off the continental shelf from around 5000 feet to 12500 feet. Sailing along nicely but still making slowish progress. Hoping for the trade winds soon!

Tues 23 Feb 2010

Woke up to another nice day - hooray!

Said goodbye to a guy we had met in the marina, who was from ’the swamps of Louisiana’ (his words). Apparently it’s a great place to party, because unlike the big towns where the police will throw you in jail for being drunk, in his home town they will just handcuff you to a fence for the night to sleep it off…

We set off at about 11:30 but, after motoring for a few hours to charge the batteries, we put the sails up and... no wind! Well, very minimal anyway. Slow progress, so turned the engine back on to get us going.

But - goodbye Catalina Island, and Hawaii here we come!

Flat seas with Catalina Island in the distance

First Pacific Ocean sunset.

Monday 22 Feb 2010

A nice day today weather-wise, but although the forecast looks good we thought we’d wait another day to let things settle a bit more so the seas are hopefully less lumpy and confused. So, another day to kill here but tomorrow is it!!

Filled in time with another walk, Bruce and Claire went fishing, Stu attempted to teach me a few knots (bowline - rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree and back in the hole, although the bloody rabbit kept getting lost…). Tried to make friends with the local cats, but I think the buffalo would be friendlier.

Hawaii 2000nm this way!!

Had our first ‘proper’ meal on the boat, played cards, generally filing in time and we are all keen to get going tomorrow, albeit a bit nervous.

Sunday Feb 21 2010

Wind was really blowing again last night – up to 40 knots apparently and high seas predicted – although we were very sheltered in the harbor. Much nicer conditions than Avalon for sleeping! Not the right conditions for leaving and will wait for a better long range forecast.

Unfortunately we had only planned to stay at Two Harbours for a night, but now that we’re here for longer we’ve realized that there’s not much to do. Avalon is more of a tourist hub, but we amused ourselves by going for a walk to find more buffalo, followed by a buffalo milk cocktail at the bar.

Buffalo milk cocktail

Not sure what we’d do here for another day so hoping to leave tomorrow. Checked the forecast at Harbour Patrol, and looking good from now on.

Saturday Feb 20th 2010

Left Avalon at 9am, heading for Two Harbours. Again, we had to motor the whole way due to no wind.

We saw whale spray in the distance which was pretty exciting. This was soon followed by whale tails in the distance, and then a pod of 3 whales swimming along about 35 metres from the stern! We think they were Pilot whales (after looking at some stuff later on) but haven’t kept up on our whale identification studies so can’t be sure.

Two Harbours - Catalina Harbour (near) and Isthmus Harbour (far)

Our mooring at Two Harbours was much more successful, although there weren’t many people to witness our success. Booked in for tea at the only restaurant in town, and the guy warned us to watch out for buffalo as we were walking back after dinner. Some kind of local joke, we figured, however when walking home we suddenly became aware of a big dark shape about 2 metres to our left… Torch on, and there was a buffalo bull standing there looking at us! Needless to say we didn’t hang around long. Apparently they were brought to Catalina Island for a movie years ago (Catalina Island aka Coney Island, by the way) and were just left here after the filming ended. There are about 250 buffalo on the island at the moment, and when the population gets too big they ship some off to the mainland to ‘roam free’, where they gain 600 pounds due to the better grazing. These things are already big – wouldn’t want to be 2 metres from one 600 pounds heavier.

Pelon moored at Two Harbours - Catalina (Cat) Harbour

Friday Feb 19 2010

Goodbye to Dana Point

We left Dana Point today, headed for Catalina Island (Avalon). It was so good to finally get Pelon out and sailing, although we only got the sails up for an hour or so as the wind wasn’t on our side and we ended up motoring most of the way. We arrived at Avalon at about 5:30pm.

An interesting mooring experience – an odd setup that we had no idea how to work but we figured it out (and didn’t hit the boat next to us!!)

Avalon looked quite pretty and quaint. We had a great seafood meal at ‘The Lobster Trap’ and have finally learnt to order either appetizer sizes or one meal between 2 as the serves are so massive (we were wasting a LOT of food!).

Rough night in Avalon tonight – the boat rocked and rolled a lot with the high winds and the mast and rigging creaked and clanged. With the mast right next to Stu’s head in the forward cabin it makes for a very un-restful night.

Heading to Two Harbours tomorrow (the other side of Catalina Island), hoping to leave for Hawaii on Sunday.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Quick update

Well, we're back at Catalina Island... Headed off on Tues 23rd bound for Hawaii but copped a big storm about 3 days out. Not overly pleasant...Was easiest to go with it and we eventually turned around and headed back to Catalina. No one was injured although the boat's jib tore and we had massive waves and lots of wind. Now that we're back we've looked at weather reports and it seems that there was an earthquake off the coast of Hawaii on the 23rd and off the coast of Chile on the 26th, so I guess we we caught in the middle of them!!
More details to follow, but just letting everyone know we're all safe, although sick of being cold and damp all the time...