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The Sky Isn’t Falling

The tales from the grim reaper aren’t that bad. Yes for the last nine days Dazzler and her crew have had patches of weather and a few daily fixes. But in the big picture her crew has learned many things to better understand the whole sailing thing. Everyone has their favorite point of sail and we have ours as well. Our least favorite is having your ear pinned down trying to go as close to weather and as fast as possible. There has to be a level of comfort or the human body gets fatigued. Let’s face it, with a crew of two comfort is a big factor. We generally hove to to make the hot evening meal and that feels as if we are at anchor. Nice break from all the motion of the ocean and subliminal core exercises that Dr. Oz never told us about.

Dazzler and her crew have enjoyed watching her stretch out her legs and lean into the wind. For the last few days we have experienced a good point of sail with 15-20 knots of wind from the east with our coarse of 185°-194° true. The apparent wind angle has been about 70° apparent. Not a bad point of sail but when we add the 1.5-2.5 meter swells running out of the southeast the sea pushes back a bit. Since yesterday afternoon the wind has been coming straight out of the east and Dazzler has hit her glory. We have experience winds from 120°-90° true and she seems to be very happy. For a small heavy vessel she doesn’t give way too easily to the constant bullying of the sea so she holds line very well.

One of the things that I’ve been working on for the last several years is learning to fine tune Dazzler’s sail plan and balance. Constantly adjusting the different sails and noticing how they affect the relationship with regards to how hard the autopilot is working. Currently her sail plan for the above mentioned wind and swell pattern is a double reefed main, fully deployed staysail and the jib let out to the shape of a high clew yankee (About an 80% sail). As she leans into the wind we have been enjoying 6.0-7.0 knots per hour. I must say it’s quite nice compared to those close hauled bone jarring wave crashing times at the helm. She runs smoothly at this wind angle and obtains great speed as we are starting to make up a little time on our passage.

As luck would have it, we are expecting a low pressure front to move across north island New Zealand on 9 November and our scheduled date of arrival is 8 November. So, making up as many miles along the way to ensure we arrive on the eighth of November is important. And who knows what challenging circumstances may rise up to our delight. By the way Neptune that wasn’t a challenge. LOL

The weather is decidedly colder here at 26° south than in Fiji. Granted Fiji had its share of cloudy cool days as well. But Fiji is coming into its cyclone season and summer months now. So is New Zealand for that matter. We were told how warm it was last season by the local Kiwis, but to us 69° and 72° was butt ass cold. Kiwis are walking around in shorts and barefoot and we are all bundled up like we’re going on an arctic adventure with Sir Edmund Hillary. I guess the term of winter or summer is all relative to the thickness or lack of thickness of your blood.

Dazzler is 32 years young and still has a great spirit for bluewater sailing. I try to stay on top of all the preventative maintenance, but issues such as a water lift muffler are something I’ve never experienced or even heard of before. Perhaps they have a service life. Perhaps there is a way to check their condition. Without internet, I can’t search that issue. Rest assured when we get to NZ we will look that up along with where to get a good quality replacement.

Yes that list of projects for New Zealand is growing every day. Six months of sipping drinks with little umbrellas has its price. It’s called Maintenance! Nothing is free in water world! Cruising anywhere and living your dream is not free. Not necessarily money, but your time and labor as well. You could do as some do and have the attitude of deferring maintenance or you can stay on top of it by fixing things when they present themselves. I myself like to even outsmart those pesky things and fix them before they become an issue. In some case those simple projects grow because you find other issues when you’re fixing the first one. For example changing Dazzler’s oil before we left Fiji and finding a nut from one of the shaft flange bolts under the engine. At least we dodged that bullet.

So you see, while I’m sitting here on the morning watch screaming in a southerly direction towards John’s Corner at 7 knots, I am enjoying the relationship we all share. You know the one between Dazzler, crew, the sea, the wind and paradise! You may not think 7 knots is that fast, but for those armchair sailers or those custom to the yacht club bar stool it’s faster than the 405 in West Los Angeles at rush hour but a hell of a lot more fun.

Until next time catch us if you can. Cheers!
Captain Dan

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When Will It End?

Day 5 Fiji to New Zealand

I suppose I should feel blessed that we have the opportunity to live on our beautiful sailboat and travel in some of the most exotic and spectacular places on earth. And, honestly I do. I really, really do. This trip, however, has really taken it out of me and at times caused me to question the wisdom of this lifestyle. But, wait, you don’t know the latest developments on board Dazzler so let me back up just a moment here.

I had slept in much later than normal. It was after 1000 hours when I opened my eyes and stumbled to the cockpit to see what the new day had brought to our world. It turns out this morning was one of the nicer ones on this passage. It was sunny and a bit chilly out but the seas were not overly rough and we were sailing along at close to six knots. The winds were running between fifteen and twenty knots and we were just between close haul and beam reach. It wasn’t super comfortable but it wasn’t horrible either and most importantly we were making good time. With the hours lost the other night this a very good thing. Dan was happy and that made me happy.

I wasted no time getting dressed and into the cockpit. I knew Dan needed to get some rest and I was a bit upset that he didn’t wake me long before then. I’m always worried about him because he will go without sleep if he thinks I need it. I keep trying to tell him that his rest is far more important but he is forever the gentleman and caretaker. As I make my way to the cockpit I take one look at him and know that he needs a lot more than a nap. His eyes are red and half open and his speech and movements are slow and sluggish. I tell him I expect him to sleep for several hours. He says what he always does… “I’ll sleep as long as I can” and then he disappears down below.

I make my usual check of the instruments, sails etc… and then settle in for my watch. This will not be a set and forget it watch as the winds are constantly changing direction and velocity so I won’t be writing or reading. Nope, I’ll be monitoring our movements every moment. That’s okay though. It’s a nice day out and I’m enjoying watching the ocean as the waves, with their white crests, seem to dance in a sort of chaotic rhythm. I’m also keeping an eye out for more pumice. Yesterday I found several pieces that had come up through the sink in the head. You have to wonder how, in this vast ocean, these tiny pieces of pumice manage to find their way up into a thru hull that is just a couple of inches in diameter. Things that make you go…hmmmm!

Not quite three hours into my watch Dan appears in the companionway. “You were supposed to sleep more.” I say in that motherly tone all women seem to instinctively be able to summon when needed. “I slept as long as I could” he says somewhat defensively. Well, I guess I can’t force him to sleep.

Dan takes over the helm and I head below to warm up. He lets out some sail to get us some more speed because we’ve lost a little with the changing of the winds. When he does we begin to heal more to the starboard side which means the only comfortable spot for me is in the bunk. I take my iPad and my tin whistle and head up to rest. I spend a half hour or so practicing my whistle and then read some of my book. It’s called “In A Sunburned Country” by Bill Bryson. Bill is a very humorous travel writer and this book is about Australia. Since we are planning to go there next season I’m enjoying this and it’s really helped to bring some levity to the darker moments of this passage.

Apparently I tired of reading and fell asleep. I am jolted awake when Dan grabs my legs. He scared the bejesus out of me. Guess I was in a pretty deep sleep or as I like to say, “I was slobber sleeping.” He tells me he’s finished with the Net and then starts going on about our course, the wind, how many days we have left to get there etc… Of course I’m still recovering from being shocked into consciousness so none of it is really registering. I do realize, however, that he’s probably really trying to get me to wake up and fix dinner so I make my way out of the bunk and get ready to cook. Dan goes out to pull in some sail so I’m not getting beat up while I’m cooking.

I open our Engels freezer and reach in to grab the Asian chicken I had prepared and vacuum sealed before we left. “Uh oh…this isn’t right”. The first package of meat I pick up is half thawed. “You have got to be kidding me right? Where are the cameras?” At this point I’m thinking there must be tiny hidden cameras all over the boat. We are surely being used as test rats in some cockeyed psychological experiment to see at what point we both lose our minds. You know…instead of “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop” it’s “how many disasters at sea before completely sane people go batshit crazy?” I’m here to tell you…not many more, for me at least!

Before calling Dan down I unplug both plugs and plug them back in. I turn the freezer off then on, then off, then on again. I jiggle the cords and wiggle the plugs and nothing. Well, I’ve done all the diagnostic work I’m capable of … time to get the Captain.

“Oh Dear. It seems there’s a problem with the Engels now.” I say so sweetly as I call up to the cockpit. Of course he starts by telling me to do the things I’ve already done. Hey, I’m not completely without skills. I have a degree in wiggling and jiggling electric wires and you should see me work on plumbing. I’ve got a steak knife that makes one of the finest plumbing tools ever but that’s another story for another time.

Dan stops what he’s doing and comes down to see what’s wrong. Apparently he doesn’t trust my ability to unplug, replug, wiggle and jiggle because he repeats the same steps I’ve already done and he gets the same result. As I said, “I’m not without skills.”

“It’s probably just a fuse.” He says as he grabs the tools and fuses. He pulls the fuse but it looks fine. Just in case he puts a new one in it. Dadadadadadadaaaaa! And……nothing! I’m sitting on the steps with a silly grin on my face. It’s not that I think it’s funny it’s just that I’m in utter disbelief that yet another thing has gone wrong. You have to understand how much preventative maintenance Dan does on Dazzler. The things that have gone wrong are things we could never have really planned for and yet they just keep happening one right after the other.
Of course now he tells me the thing that wipes that silly grin clean off my face. He’s got to get in the quarter berth. “Nooooo! How many times are we going to have to empty the stuff out of there and put it back in on this trip?” I’m now sulking like a kid whose dad just told her she can’t have ice cream.

Dan starts pulling the stuff out and handing it to me. As he does I’m mentally reviewing each item to determine if it is something we absolutely must have on the boat. For example…Bocci Balls. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve moved these things in the almost three years I’ve been on board yet we have NEVER EVER…NOT EVEN ONE TIME played a game. Honestly, if I could have gotten up the stairs at that moment they would have become part of a reef some 9000 feet down somewhere out here in the Pacific Ocean. Of course I’m keeping my mental notes to myself because I don’t think it’s the right time to bring them up.

With the quarter berth two thirds of the way empty and all of its contents strewn about he cabin for the third time in a couple of days Dan begins working to trace the source of our freezer issue. He finds nothing in the battery compartment so he starts tracing the wires near the plug. Within two minutes he has found the issue. Last year before leaving Mexico he installed a timer that was set to turn off the Engels for a few hours in the middle of the night. It was part of our battery management system when we made the big crossing. When we got to New Zealand and were in the marina we turned it off because we were on shore power. We never turned it back on. Apparently something moved around in that compartment and bumped the switch. Good news is it was an easy fix…bad news is we now have to put everything back in the quarter berth again. Arghhh!

With the Engels back up and running I make dinner and Dan finishes working the sails. He fires up the engine and I hear him make a sound that tells me something is wrong. “No water is coming out of the exhaust.” I just put my head in my hands and sit down to wait for what’s coming next. Apparently he burped some hose and the water started going again. “Thank you Lord.”

After dinner I sit around the table reading for a bit and then finally head in for my nap naively thinking that the issues of the day are behind us. What a silly Jilly I am. You see at precisely 2050 I am once again startled awake by my love and Captain. “Is it time already?” I query as I squint toward the light and the black outline that is Dan. “No, we have engine problems again. I heard a whistling sound and I think the exhaust is leaking again. I have to go into the lazarette and need you to get up.” At this point I don’t know whether to start swearing, crying, laughing or doing all three. God bless Dan though as he’s got this amazing can do attitude so I quietly get up and put on some clothes while he goes out to start working.

He tells me just to sit down and be ready if he needs something so back at the table I sit. Meanwhile I’m wondering how long it will be before he says we have to pull stuff from the quarter berth again. I’m also making a plan for what items will make their way into Davy Jones’ locker so I never have to move them again.

His first fix on the leaking hose doesn’t work so he pulls out the Minute Mend. If you don’t have this or something like it on your boat…run, don’t walk to the nearest store and get some. This stuff saved us twice now as he used it where the hose barb meets the exhaust muffler and the leak was fixed. We were ready to fire the engine back up in thirty minutes.

As you can imagine we’re both exhausted at this point. Dan sends me back to bed but I never did sleep. I finally got up at midnight and told him to go down. So far it’s almost 0400 and everything seems to be fine. Of course it’s now day six of this journey and I’m sitting here on watch just wondering what challenges this day is going to bring. I’m also looking for those hidden cameras and when I find the masochistic psychopaths who thought to use us for their little experiment you can rest assured they will pay dearly. At this point I am not someone anyone wants to mess with…I’ll go postal on them!

Until then I’m just trying to keep a good attitude and a tiny morsel of sanity so that they don’t lock me up before I get some Guinness Stew and a few pints in Whangarei.

Until next time,
Jilly & Dan

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Is My Rubber Room Ready

Day 4 Fiji to New Zealand

Last night was certainly one I do not want to repeat. We’re both exhausted and ready to have this passage behind us. I’m trying to look at the bright side of things as I sit in the cockpit on watch. Due to our watch schedule it’s rare that I’m awake for sunset or sunrise. This morning, however, I will get to see the sunrise as I let Dan get some additional sleep. I’m excited at the prospect of seeing the golden sun clear the horizon. It’s the dawning of a new day and one I hope will bring better things for us and this journey.

It’s Halloween morning and I had already written an eerie poem about the sinking of a pirate ship and posted it on the blog along with a photo of me dressed as an evil pirate Wench. With all the mishaps and bad things happening on this passage I’m beginning to wonder if I jinxed us by writing it in the first place.

The sun should be coming up soon as I can see the sky beginning to lighten. As it gets lighter I realize there will be no picturesque sunrise to start my day. It seems the dark cloud that is following this passage has now enveloped the entire sky. There is just one opening in the clouds and as I look at it I can’t believe my eyes. It literally looks like a skull. I can’t make this up! I even take a photo because no one will believe it. I can’t help but wonder if this is some ominous sign but as quickly as that thought enters my head I fight to flush it from my brain. “It’s merely a coincidence. Stop letting your imagination get the best of you.” I say aloud. “I really, really need to get some sleep.” In an effort to change my thoughts I open my iPad and play a little mindless solitaire for the next two hours.

Dan wakes up around 0730 and takes over so I can get my sleep. I’ve only had about an hour and a half in the past seventeen hours so I’m ready. It takes mere seconds for me to fall into a deep slumber that even the pounding of the waves can’t penetrate.

Several hours later I wake to nature’s call. I can feel that the boat is not being tossed around quite as violently as she has in the past few days and I’m delighted. Finally, maybe our luck has turned around and the rest of this passage will be smooth sailing. I crawl from the bunk and hit the head. I’m a happy girl because I’m feeling like everything is finally going to be okay.

I’ve just completed my business when the boat makes a quick lurch to the starboard side that literally catapults me AND the toilet seat off of the throne. I try grabbing hold of the shower wall and sink but the force is too much. It’s as if my bum and the seat are one as we slide forward and slam into the door. The next thing I know I’m standing there with my knickers to my knees looking in the mirror. I have one hand on the shower wall and in the other I’m holding the toilet seat. At this point there are no tears, no salty sailor swear words. No, I just burst out laughing. I mean honestly, what else can I do? I’m mentally and physically exhausted and probably just moments from needing a reservation at the Rubber Room Palace. Laughter is all I have left.

I set the seat down, pull up my britches, wash my hands and walk out. I walk straight up to the cockpit where I inform Dan that he has yet another boat project to work on. We both have a great laugh at my expense and fortunately it takes him mere minutes to reattach the seat. He does tell me I need to hold on better in the future though.

The rest of the day is fairly benign as far as catastrophes go. The winds and swell are what they are and we just keep pushing through. When it’s time for dinner we decide to hove to so that I’m not getting bounced around the galley. Hoving to is a wonder thing. I’m able to make our spaghetti dinner easily and quickly and for the first time on this trip we both sit at the table and enjoy a meal together. Maybe things are going to be okay after all.

Until next time…
Jilly & Dan