Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Sinking of Nirvana Now

February 28, 2015

On Panama's idyllic Ilsa Contadora, we enjoyed a game of beach bocce ball with fellow cruisers Randy and Dawn Ortiz of Nirvana Now.  Randy was a ringer; Dawn, incredibly sweet. 
Dawn, in the upper photo, and Randy with the straw hat
April 8 2015
"Watch out for Nirvana Now - they're in your area and sinking!" Satellite-SMS-ed Julie from Kia Ora.

As in most disasters, initial information  is alarming, confusing, insufficient and somewhat contradictory (likely including some info in this blog post).
Julie gave us a rough location, which seemed implausible given Nirvana Now's 10+ day lead on us as they bypassed the Galapagos (where we spent 10 days).
We weren't 100% sure when Nirvana Now began floundering, or if their boat was still recoverable (Wayne believed perhaps his mechanical prowess, tools and repair materials might save the day).  We didn't know their exact location.

We'd heard at least 2 and perhaps 3 boats were either already there or on their way.
Unsure of whether or not we could help, we made a u-turn and headed their way.
After a few hours, it appeared we were not needed, and we turned again, resuming our course.

Over the next 12 hours we learned Dawn and Randy were rescued via super yacht schooner Athos and sailboat Continuum, but that Nirvana Now sank.
Rescue efforts were facilitated via a mix of technology - ham radio networks, satellite phones and Wi-Fi hotspots, EPIRB (distress signal coupled with GPS location data), VHF radio, coordinated between Pacific Puddle Jump (PPJ) organizers and participants (209 boats, including Nirvana Now and us) and the Coast Guard.  PPJ organizers had everyone's contact info, most of their location data and a listing of their communication and emergency equipment.  They rapidly deployed that information accordingly.

Our hearts go out to Randy and Dawn for their devastating loss.  Our guess is their boat is uninsured (like ours - older boats are often difficult and impractically expensive to insure).  If so, it's a significant financial setback, though likely not much worse than a moderately bad day in the stock market. At least,Randy and Dawn still own a home in the Edmonton Canada area - someplace to go back to.

Far more difficult is the emotional loss... The sense of helplessness, and most likely the loss of a beautiful dream... Independently traversing the high seas to explore remote and magical places.

A rare moment - Journey with all her sail up and
a photographer in range.  (Thanks, Anne aka "Krazy Lady.")

We are deeply saddened 

by Randy and Dawn's loss. 
Even though our boat's not prone to the specific mechanical issue that sank Nirvana Now, we accept that some other freak disaster could strike us, too.
And yet the everyday courage required in taking these calculated risks are part of what makes life worth living.  Even if we weren't in the midst of a 3,000 mile open ocean passage, we risk our lives every time we get into our cars to buy groceries or head into work.  We risk our hearts in every meaningful relationship we build.  We risk our very essence by refusing to dream, or refusing to follow our dreams. 

For us, foregoing that risk would be the greatest tragedy of all.

March 2, 2015
Nirvana Now was among the group of 5 sailboats
(including ours) making passage to Galapagos (us) or the Marquesas (the other 4 boats - we were heading there after Galapagos).

The nearest landfall?  Roughly 1200 miles away.
Their vaguely-estimated location was 4-5 hours from us, less than 21 miles away, behind us.
The silver lining in this nightmare is thanks to all that and the heroic efforts of Athos and Continuum's crew, Randy and Dawn survived, even if their boat did not.  The ragtag emergency assistance system works.
Does this tragedy discourage us?


Please wish us a safe passage... 
More importantly, send your heartfelt condolences to Randy and Dawn as they recover and rebuild their lives.  And for you, do not be afraid to dream big, and live your dream.

Location Location
We arrived after 32 days at sea and over 3,000 nautical miles in Hiva Oa, Marquesas, French Polynesia (anchorage latitude, longitude coming).  We are catching up on 36 days without internet access - much more to post soon!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How do you plan for a month's gluten-free meal meals at sea?

To make more interesting, the last big tipoff to our supplies, was in Panama City, Panama.  That was over a month ago.

We added a few sundries from Galapagos' limited selection 2 weeks ago - mostly produce... carrots, cabbage, onions, a few potatoes, apples pears and eggs.  The eggs in particular were of dubious freshness. Quinoa was inexpensive; a nice protein addition for the passage ahead with limited freezer space for meat.

For the culinary curious or those provisioning, especially for a gluten-free diet, here is our 1st 2 weeks meals

Day 0
Breakfast:  killer potato toes with onion, pepper, chorizo spam and Verde salsa
Lunch:  smoky quinoa salad
Dinner:  leftover chicken stir fry
Snack:  giro
Greek Salad
Day 1
Breakfast:  homemade GF raisin bread and butter
Lunch:  Greek salad
Dinner:  Asian soup with mung bean noodles

Day 2
Breakfast:  French toast from cinnamon bread
Lunch:  PBJ sandwiches on cinnamon bread
Dinner:  chicken nachos
Day 3
Breakfast:  raisin bread

Lunch:  leftover skillet spuds & Greek potato salad    
Dinner:  Asian soup chilled as salad, Mediterranean salad with pears, Kalamata olives, hearts of Palm, cheese

Day 4
Breakfast:  Anniversary!  GF organic buckwheat pancakes, bacon, cranberry mimosas
Lunch:  misc. leftovers & snacks
Dinner:  pork stroganoff (GF made from scratch)
Day 5
Breakfast:  GF homemade pumpkin bread & cream cheese
Lunch:  misc. leftovers
Dinner:  leftover stroganoff 

Day 6
Breakfast:  pumpkin bread & cream cheese & cheese omelet
Lunch:  salad of feta, pear, ‘bell’ pepper, lalamata tad, hearts of Palm

Dinner:  leftover stroganoff

Amazing to still be eating some fresh
 salads 2 weeks out.  All the more so given
 produce picked up from small tie dad on
 one of the less populated Gal├ípagos Islands.
Day 7
Breakfast:  smoked quinoa salad
Lunch: salad of pear, salami, capers, manchengo and kalamata
Dinner:  Frito pie (Fritos topped with chili and shredded cheese

Day 8
Breakfast:  rehydrated spuds skillet cooked with spam chorizo, onions, olives
Lunch:  tomato corn salad
Dinner:  red chicken curry with coconut rice (awful!  How can Thai Kitchen make such great noodle soups and such lousy curry pastes?)

Day 9
Breakfast:  leftover skillet spuds
Lunch:  apple-cabbage-carrot salad
Dinner:  nice Dinner:  rice noodle soup
Day 10
Breakfast:  instant mashed potatoes with cheddar cheese added and a fried egg on top
Lunch:  apple cabbage salad with blue cheese
Dinner:  chicken enchilada casserole (from scratch)

Day 11
Breakfast:  GF granola (made from scratch) (Dana) rice with butter & Soike (Wayne)
Snacks :  curry leftovers on plain rice (Dana), Blue Diamond GF pecan crackers & cheese
Lunch:  salad of pears, salami, blue cheese, roasted red bell pepper, Kalamata, capers, hearts of Palm

Dinner:  pasta with made from scratch Al Arabiatta sauce + onion & roasted red pepper
Gluten-free Brazilian Cheese rolls using
crystallized eggs - came out great!
Day 12
Breakfast:  cheese omelet (using crystallized eggs - remaining eggs from Galapagos tossed - spoiled) - came out well!  Wayne ate granola
Snack:  Brazilian cheese rolls (made another batch)
Lunch:  apple, purple cabbage, blue chi use and pecan salad
Dinner:  leftover spaghetti
Day 13
Breakfast:  granola
Snacks:  cheese & crackers, Brazilian cheese rolls
Lunch:  tuna in ranch dressing atop salad of purple cabbage, carrots, roasted red peppers, black olives and rehydrated celery
Dinner:  stew, made from scratch using a mix of canned mix veg, rehydrated potatoes and rehydrated celery and fresh carrots

Pasta salad made with a gluten-free rice-based
pasta  and a mix of fresh, canned and rehydrated
veg and  ham.  The rehydrated green beans were
as good  as store-bought frozen green beans.

Day 14
Breakfast:  just smacked on cheese, crackers and giro
Lunch:  stew
Dinner:  GF pasta salad made from scratch with fresh carrots, canned corn , onions, fresh carrots, green olives, rehydrated celery and green beans, parm cheese and homemade vinaigrette dressing

After 2 weeks passage, with another 2 weeks or so to go, there's still meat in the freezer (though we hope to catch some fish, too), 1/3 head of cabbage, 2 carrots,
7 onions, 3 heads of garlic, 1 casaba root, 1 green tomato and enough nonperishables to last at least another 3 months if needed.

"Don't think we're going to lose any weight on this passage" Wayne observed, eating stroganoff.

Probably not.  Looking forward to hiking it off and eating lighter once we hit landfall and can re supply with fresh fruit and veg.

What would you do if you had to plan for a month's meals with no new perishables?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Luddite Alarm for Passage-Making Watches

Took a while to find a basic, analog timer.  Most were digital.
Our boat’s not well suited for more than two aboard – if that, sometimes – which means when we’re sailing a multi-day 24/7 passage we need to alternate who’s on watch. 

The crew member on watch takes responsibility for watching out for navigational hazards and making adjustments to stay on course and keep the boat safe as weather conditions change.  In our case, if not in the cockpit the entire watch, we agree ahead of time how often a check outside is required.  For us, that’s as infrequently as every 20 minutes if the likelihood of hazards are low and as often as every 5-10 minutes if the rest of the time.

When we’re on easy passages of a few days or less, generally Wayne takes a long watch, and I cover the witching hours, from around midnight until dawn or later.  One more difficult passages (like this one [Squeakenstein]), we alternate about every 3-4 hours.  Ironically, I’m more a morning person and when working, Wayne generally works swing shift or graveyard.  However one of my odd talents is catching catnaps at odd intervals and getting by, while Wayne usually suffers when he’s unable to take larger time blocks of uninterrupted sleep.

To stay on track, WendyHinman, Pacific Ocean circumnavigator, author of “Tightwads on the Loose” and public speaker extraordinaire and her husband used inexpensive waterproof Casio watches with alarms for their watches.

We seem to have the death touch with them.  We killed at least three Casio watches since we started cruising and find the alarms frustrating to set.   

Given the mix of sleep deprivation, the harsh marine environment and crappy watches, we opted for a simpler, even less expensive solution – an analog kitchen timer. 

No batteries required.  No digital readout with disappearing pixels.  Big enough to find with ease, and to steal Timex’s old slogan, “It takes licking and keeps on ticking.”

It hasn’t failed us yet, though we have slept through it a time or two, it’s a fair trade-off for a system that has to balance when the crew member off watch needs to sleep, not that many feet away from the alarm.  Besides, even after spending over 20 years working in high technology, I’m still a Luddite at heart.

Location Location
This post was written whilst on a ~1,000 nm South Pacific bound passage between Contadora, Las Perlas, Panama (N08.37.393 W79.01.870) and Galapagos ECUADOR (S0.57.924 W90.57.750), March 2-11, 2015 and stored until we regained traditional internet.  We are currently on passage again, from Galapagos to the South Pacific, about 3,000 nautical miles.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Poison Apples – Beware the Machineel!

Deadly machineel apples – unless you’re a Galapagos tortoise.
The refreshing, delicious scent of crisp, green apples wafted by as we appreciated the cool canopy shade of a Machineel grove on a hot Galapagos afternoon.  

Machineels are handsome trees, with sculptural, twisting branches and glossy, almost waxy emerald green leaves.  Pippin-green Machineel “apples” are about an inch or two in diameter; abut the size of a crab apple.

Machineel leaves… aren’t they beautiful?
But, beware!  They’re deadly.  Those cute little apples are poisonous.   Unlike Eve, we will not give way to this apple’s temptation!

What’s more, in the Caribbean, where we first encountered Machineels, we were warned the tree itself is so poisonous, not only do you want to take care not to brush up against them, you’d best not take shelter under them in a rainstorm.  The rain can carry the trees toxins down, potentially causing rashes.

Whether Manzanitas (Spanish) or Machineel (English) … beware!
Imagine my surprise in discovering Galapagos tortoise love them; they’re a mainstay in their diet!  They must be in hog, or rather, tortoise heaven here.  Machineels abound.

Machineel grove… sculptural trunks
support a shady canopy.
Location Location
This blog post was written when we anchored in Galapagos Ilsa Isabela’s Puerto Villamil (S0.57.924 W90.57.750) an incredibly exotic mix of diverse land and sea life.  It was prescheduled to run while we're sailing for the Marquesas – French Polynesia.  It’s a 3,000+ mile stretch of open ocean, no stops in between.  We expect it to take us a little less than a month.  

Thanks to our Iridium Go satellite (limited) WiFi hotspot and the help of Trisha Dunn, there will be brief periodic posts along the way of our passage.  As well, this is one of several prescheduled posts to run during passage.  There will also be some catch-up posts from our whirlwind Galapagos adventures.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Passage-Making's Terrible Tresses

wayne seitz and dana greyson galley wench tales
Wayne and me, kissing after our barefoot-on-the-beach wedding.
It was a good hair day.
This is your hair.  

This is your hair on passage.  
aboard pearson 365 sailboat
me, Dana aka the "Galley Wench."

wayne seitz journey captain bad hair day
Captain Wayne.

Location Location

This post was written whilst on a ~1,000 nm passage between Contadora, Las Perlas, PANAMA (N08.37.393 W79.01.870) and Galapagos EQUADOR (S0.57.924 W90.57.750), March 2-11, 2015.  It was then prescheduled from Galapagos, once we had internet, to run while we’re on passage from Galapagos to French Polynesia, a 3,000+ mile open ocean stretch. 

Our current plan is to leave Friday, March 20th from Galapagos.  We anticipate a lot of seriously bad hair on that passage.

We expect to resume "normal" internet within a month (and also a decent shampoo).

Thanks to an Iridium Go satellite (limited!) WiFi hotspot and Trisha Dunn, there will be periodic brief blog updates of our passage.  There will also be a few more prescheduled blogs, like this one, that will run while we're underway.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Marquesas Passage: Ready Or Not?

Map is pilfered from Tania, who just completed their circumnavigation via sailboat.
We're about to embark on the same passage they depict here.
"We just needed a swift kick in the butt," Wayne admitted.  We left Ilsa Contadora, Panama reluctantly.  After 2 months with the fun-to-suck ratio way off (too much  boat prep and rough passages) we finally relaxed on Contadora's lovely beach, and were reluctant to leave.  Leaving there and going to Galapagos would be our longest passage to date.  We were feeling anxious about it, dragging our feet a bit.

To our delight, the nearly 10 day, ~1,000 mile passage from Las Perlas Panama to Galapagos was the most pleasant long passage yet.

If we stick to plan, tomorrow we follow in Tania's footsteps, sailing the ~3,000 mile passage from Galapagos to Marquesas.  That's 3 times the distance we just sailed a little over a week ago to get where we are right now in Ilsa Isabela, Galapagos, Ecuador.  From my perspective, it's best just to assume it will take us a month to get to French Polynesia's Marquesas, though we expect to arrive sooner.

There's still a few odds and ends to do before we take off, the most notable is the need for me to play mast monkey again to re-attach our mizzen mast halyard.  The last few rainy, rolly days in the anchorage encouraged our procrastination, but it needs to happen before we go.  Otherwise our mizzen mast will be useless on this huge upcoming passage as it's far easier to fix in a rolly anchorage than at sea.

Galapagos blue-footed boobie.  More coming up on catch-up blogs
after arriving in French Polynesia when we return to "regular" internet.
Other than our usual passage prep -- getting our last-minute weather report, securing the dinghy onto our davits, setting up our jacklines and other safety equipment, charting our course, making sure the cabin's secure -- we're mostly ready.  After all, in many ways, we've planned for this passage for the last three years.

Thanks to Trisha Dunn's assistance and some features in our satellite's limited WiFi hotspot, there will be brief periodic posts of our progress during the passage.

Click here if you're curious about the South Pacific passage and where we're headed and here to learn more about the informal crossing of boats on the same track this year as part of the South Pacific Puddle Jump.

There are also several blog posts pre-scheduled to run while on passage, though a lot more "catch up ones" are on their way from our time on the Galapagos.

Wish us luck and don't forget about us while we sail the big blue ocean.  We're not dropping off the face of the earth, it will just seem like it for a little while.

Meanwhile, time to get some shut-eye before we begin our long passage to the lovely French Polynesias.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Galapagos’ Original Beach Bums

Snugglers and snoozers… Galapagos sea lions at rest.
You can count on it from just about every camera-toting Galapagos visitor… photos of the local sea lions. 

They’re at the dinghy dock, on the park benches, on the beach right next to sunbathers, in any boat hapless enough to not shoo them off….

Galapagos sea lions… big and little,
making themselves at home.
Like town drunks, they’re generally sleeping it off, mostly so snapping a photo, is, well, as snap even for the slowest photographer (ahem – that would include me)….

They snuggle up with each other, snore, grunt, nurse, poop, bark, stink, once in a while swim, and generally make an adorable nuisance of themselves. 

This sea lion looks like he’s saying “Huh?”
Stretch… This Galapagos sea lion asks,“Hey!  Where’s my pillow?” 

“I’m stylin’ now!

A minor influencing factor for our choice to anchor at Puerto Villamil Ilsa Isabela Galapagos is the sea lions are far less a problem here than in more heavily traveled Ilsa Santa Cruz.  There we’re told it’s difficult to keep them off your boat.

“Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!  This boat’s deck
is gonna ooze with some
serious sea lion stink!”
And yet, after nearly a week coming ashore, we start to recognize some of them, like the one who stakes daily claim on the park bench at the foot of the port walkway…. I’d even taken to greeting a few with “Hey Dude!” – wondering if perhaps my greeting should’ve been in Spanish.  Nahhh… these guys are probably bilingual.

So cute!  Don’t you just want to
pat this Galapagos sea lion
on the head?  I wanted to, but know better.
One thing for sure, you know when you see ‘em you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Did the sunbathers lay down first?  Or the sea lions?  Wayne had
a  family of sea lions plop down after he sat down on the beach,
so guessing the sea lions joined the party, rather than initiated it.
Location Location
We’re anchored in Galapagos Ilsa Isabela’s Puerto Villamil (S0.57.924 W90.57.750) where we’resoaking up the exotic mix of diverse land and sea life.  Any day now, though, we’ll be setting sail for the Marquesas – French Polynesia.  It’s a 3,000+ mile stretch of open ocean, no stops in between.  We expect it to take us a little less than a month.