Thursday, November 6, 2014

We're back in the ocean! All is well

Family Circus is rolling along in stark sunshine, nice long ocean swells are pushing us along, and we have four fishing lines out. The only thing missing is wind, but we're puttering along well under one engine, and are making water and have almost two full tanks of fresh water. The seas are mellow enough that the captain is allowing alcohol and our refrigeration is allowing cold beer! I thought I would try and catch you up on some of our past few days.

Its funny how far we have come in 11 days- we just caught a Dorado/Mahi Mahi but tossed it back because it was too small! (3-4 lbs) they are quite beautiful and we want to catch them or their relatives in the future when they are bigger. We hope we'll get something bigger in the next 30 hours on our current journey to Cabo San Lucas- but we do have 6-8 lbs of Skipjack Tuna and 4 lbs of MahiMahi in the coolbox. We have tried sashimi on both- but the skipjack tuna is definitely a bit more gamey and will take some creativity to cook properly.

On these mellow passages everyone in the family finds their own groove and the autopilot does its thing. Heather is sun tanning, and writing in her journal, Tristan is doing some schoolwork on the bow, Lexi is cooking and drawing, Mykaela is listening to music and Amaia and Alina are alternating between a movie, stuffed animals and making their plans for sleeping in the hammock we just rigged in the cockpit. We are about 20 miles offshore at 24 degrees 01 minute North Latitude and 111 degrees 33 mins West Longitude, and the remaining 120+ boats are spread around us- you quickly realize how big the ocean is- there is lots of room!

We are about 48 hours from this Baja HaHa Rally coming to an end- which is so hard to believe. Its been a great event to give us a firm date to get started and has built a great instant community of similar minded folks that we have started to connect with. The "kid" boats tend to find each other on the beaches pretty quickly, and now the kids are even calling each other on the VHF radio: "Kid boats; Kid Boats this is Porter on Pelagic, anyone who wants to talk please go to channel 78 Alpha, channel 78 Alpha" -- its quite amusing actually. Age doesn't seem to make a difference as 5 year olds are happy playing with 12 year olds, etc. The kid boats also extended to adults who are "kid-like" and like to chat with our kids- thankfully we are getting positive feedback from others on our kids so far :-)

The downside of an event like this is that you are torn between keeping up with the group and the events they organize and leaving amazing places that you wish to hang out longer in- which is the dilemma we faced last night as we made a decision on whether to leave Bahia Santa Maria. Its quite an epic location that is in the middle of nowhere with a tiny fishing "village" with 10-15 huts that house fisherman and their families. The beach was beautifully long and sandy and had a very wonderful beach surf break that all sat under a few majestic mountains that popped out of nowhere. The organizers put together a beach party that takes quite some orchestration, even though our schedule was thrown out of synch with the Tropical Depression Vance that we were waiting out in Bahia Tortugas. The Party involved a few tents on a bluff overlooking the beach, and then folks that they have been working with for the 20 years of this event brought in a ton of cold beer, and a Rock and Roll band (kids 15-20 playing music that was created before they were born!) that played all afternoon. Amplifiers were powered by gas and wind generators. The band and drinks had to come through a 6 hour journey that involved driving on a beach at low tide for 25 miles to make it to the narrow isthmuth of Bahia Santa Maria (its worth googling the satellite picture for those of you with fast internet access). Besides the music, food and booze they had beach games of sand bocce and volleyball (which we seem to be active in every time) and then we also spread out to do our own thing of shell collecting, tide pool exploring, boogie boarding and our first day of surfing! Its not a bad deal, and a big thanks to Uncle Andreas for connecting us with a custom painted "stick" and inspiring us to get surfing! That custom board got Tristan his first solo-caught wave! Bahia Santa Maria is a place that will need some more discovering on some future trip, and certainly made leaving this morning quite difficult- but we know there advantages to getting down the coast in good weather windows and finding some other cool anchorages all to ourselves.

Our trip to Bahia Santa Maria was quite fast under mostly good weather- we had plenty of wind coming from a good direction- we had some extra strong gusts in the night as well- but after our earlier excitement coming to San Diego from San Francisco- we felt quite comfortable. We caught a 5 lb. skipjack tuna in the first 10 minutes and landed two more before the trip was over, and threw one more back. (we also lost three lures to some sort of huge fish as they grabbed them so quickly and powerfully that we couldn't respond. The wind clocked back behind us so far that our gennaker sail made for sailing a longer course- and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to fly our colorful spinnaker. We had never flown it before, never on a catamaran, and never as a family but it all worked fabulously. Its a beautiful sail that helped us sail more downwind and we felt awesome gliding down the waves. The organizers' 65 foot catamaran came by us taking photos and video and giving us enthusiastic praise over the radio- we hope to get some of the those shots on to the website at some point. (we also have some cool video of our own) Unfortunately our fun ended as after about 5 hours the spinnaker tore along one entire seam and we had an "all hands on deck" as we scrambled to get the pieces down. We actually have a sewing machine aboard- but didnt think to bring spinnaker sail cloth tape with us- at this point we may have to wait for a few weeks to fix it, or tackle it with duct tape. We would have attemped a repair in Bahia Santa Maria, but as we anchored we ran in to a bigger issue.....

Click, Click, Click......that was the unhappy sound we heard as tried to lower our anchor as we had arrived. Our windlass couldn't lower the anchor as all it did was click- it had been an issue we had worked around by jiggling the unit- but nothing was working. We dropped the anchor OK, but then were asked to move it, and "we" had to lift the all chain rode and anchor by hand two times to finally get it settled for the night. A broken windlass is a pretty big deal, as we anchor almost everywhere we go and it can at times be a safety device as well. Heather and I started troubleshooting the issue after dinner with a flash light and voltmeter and isolated it to a bad solenoid or bad motor in the windlass. I have to pause here to say that electrical issues are probably my greatest weakness-I've worked on so many other issues but I try to avoid electrical, and this was definitely electrical. Every morning the rally fleet has a radio net, and we reported our issue and asked for help and immediately had two folks offering to help. One came with jumper cables and confirmed that the solenoid was fine and that the issue was with the motor. I started taking apart the windlass bolt by bolt when another gentleman called me from the water as he had swum over from his boat. He offered to help and come aboard. I had taken the motor out and opened the cavities to find two out of the four motor brushes were completely worn out (which explained the intermittent failure) Unfortunately the motor needed to be rebuilt, and brushes weren't going to found anywhere soon. My new best friend Steve from the sailing vessel Seahorse was a super positive Canadian tug captain who had maintained a tug fleet and done his own "wrenching". He also mentioned that he loved tinkering with things, sometimes rebuilding watches" and had "probably rebuilt 150 starters" in his lifetime. He suggested we shim the springs behind the brushes that push the brushes to the motor and asked if I had a milk carton or cardboard around- I found a recently discarded milk carton and while he held the housing, I slipped in a few custom pieces of milk carton plastic neatly in behind the brushes. The brushes stood proud, and I got some nail polish removed from Kaela to clean up a few things in the motor and put it back together. It actually reminded me of my dad, when I had first taken the generator out of my 1967 VW Bug and he explained how they work. (Dad- I'm sorry I didnt get it then- but I do now and I miss you!) Steve guaranteed a 95% result but I was more skeptical. Happily, when I switched the power back on, the windlass whirred to life- much more powerful than before. It was a great example of Cruising= Fixing things in Exotic Places, and also a great reminder of how great the people out here are! We really have to be as independent as possible, but we arent too proud to not ask for help and will always do likewise.

I realize this update has gotten quite long, but hopefully it gets those interested back up to speed. We should be in true Internet access in a day or so and hopefully can update you with some of our pictures, and maybe some video. We hope you are all doing really well and enjoying your own adventures every day! CHRIS

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  1. One our favorite ways of eating skipjack tuna is as Hawaiian poke salad. Here is a basic recipe lifted from

    Ahi Poke Basic
    2 pounds fresh tuna steaks, cubed
    1 cup soy sauce
    3/4 cup chopped green onions
    2 tablespoons sesame oil
    1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
    1 tablespoon crushed red pepper (optional)
    In a medium size non-reactive bowl, combine Ahi, soy sauce, green onions, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and chili pepper; mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

  2. What great news! Kudos to you guys for being back on track. I'm with all your followers in hoping that you post more of your adventures to come. Thanks so much for sharing that! Safe voyages!

    Kathleen Gardner @ Bid 2 Fish