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.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Sea lions love hanging out on the public benches
in the Galapagos.  This one was curious about my
Tipu's Chai "vessel."
Gasp!  Not sure this is allowed for a self-proclaimed Pacific Northwesterner, but periodically, I get burned out on coffee.   Once, it was for 12 years!  Now, we still have a good supply of Peets aboard, and I definitely drank Cuban coffee when I was in Cuba, but these days, I start my morning with a cup of Tipu's Chai tea.

I used to make my own chai from scratch, a good 20-45 minute process.  Tipu's is the best instant chai I've had, very spicy -- not for folks who like their tea wimpy!   I use their unsweetened version,  and make mine much less sweet than overly sweet presweetened ones on the market.   I mix my Tipu's Chai with a full-fat powdered milk and just a little bit of sweetener.  On a boat, instant and powdered is a very good thing as it's easy, takes up less space and weight.  

Galapagos marine iguanas who choose to hang out by
Isabela's docks are about as energetic as the sea lions.
Sad truth -- our boat, like most, isn't always "April fresh" smelling.  My morning cup of chai not only makes my tongue and tummy happy, it makes the boat smell really pleasant too.

The nice folks at Tipu's generously supplemented my Tipu's Chai supply with more tea and a really cool container that excellent for mixing. 

In return, I promised to send Tipu's Chai some photos on cool places where I'm enjoying Tipu's Chai.

Is it shameless promotion?  

Absolutely.  However I sought Tipu's Chai out specifically because I really like their product; I would never recommend a product I don't love myself.  

Journey at anchor; dusk in
Galapagos Ilsa Isabela.
Location Location
We are currently in the Galapagos, Ecuador, anchored off Isla Isabela (S0.57.924 W90.57.750).  We figure we'll spend another five or so more days here before we head off to the Marquesas.  At over 3,000 miles, that sails is over three times as long as Panama to the Galapagos!  Panama's Isla Las Perlas to Galapagos was roughly 1,000 miles.  Ilsa Isabella to the Marquesas is over 3,000 miles.  The first two latitudes are still part of the doldrums, but after that it's known for it's steady (easy) trade winds.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Galapagos - Tortoise Sex & Other Oddities

Just when you're sure those silly tortoise caricatures are a figment
of the artist's imagination -- this is the real deal!
“It’s not easy for giant tortoises to mate!'

'The females usually try to escape from mating but the largest males manage to capture them.'

'The males make loud noises when they mate."

--quotes from Galapagos Tortoise Breeding Center

Tortoise montage.
Today was our first full day on Galapagos, after spending over a day getting cleared by various and sundry Ecuador officials and handing over $800 for the pleasure.  

Close up of tortoise montage.
We kept it simple, mostly scouting about for future activities and a amble over to the Galapagos Tortoise Breeding Center, which is not far from town.  The hike traverses "The Iguana Crossing" (true!  more on that in a future post), past some surreal pumpkin-colored lagoons, rife with bird life (again, watch for more on that in a future post, too).

Tortoises trying to get it on.
The Galapagos Tortoise Breeding Center Visitor Center was a refreshing change from our recent travels.  There were even sparkling clean restrooms with  flush toilets and fully stocked toilet paper.  Not that may not seem like a big deal, but it's been absent for the most part since we left the States.  As part of Galapagos National Park, we'd already paid for our access to Galapagos Park sites ($100/person) as part of our Galapagos check-in.

Inside the Tortoise Breeding Center's Visitor Center.
We were intrigued by the attractive tortoise montage poster outside the visitor's center.  Upon closer inspection, we realized it was composed of of hundreds of tiny, cleverly laid out portrait photos, presumably of volunteers, visitors and staff.

Rats.  One of many tortoise predators.
The entire Center's signs were in English and Spanish, very straightforward and matter-of-fact.  As well, the center's ecosystem murals were as beautifully executed as there were informative.  

We learned all about when the tortoise mating season occurs, the artificial insemination the Center uses, the egg laying and gestation process, hatching and how to determine the sex and age of a tortoise.  A full lifespan for a tortoise could span 150 years, at which point they reach about half this size of a shetland pony.  That is, if the ants, and rats didn't eat their eggs, if the boars and cattle didn't unwittingly crush their nests, if there's no dogs making off with tortoise sushi.... 

Up close and personal (60x zoom).  Looks like anyone you know?
When a local volcano erupted 10 years ago, the center managed to wrassle up surviving males of a rare species for repopulation.  One would presume there were some ladies as well, given these randy gents are credited with siring 200 baby tortoises in the two ensuing years.  Guess there were a lot of grunting and unhappy female tortoise!

Hundreds of tortoise hung out in a series of low, walled gardens filled with watering holes. They eat Machineel apples, which look like green crabapples and for us would be lethal.  Just about about every part of a beautiful, artfully twisted Machineel is poisonous... its trunk, leaves and fruit.    

Moving at warp speed for a tortoise!
It was hot that day, so the tortoises kept to the shade and the watering holes and didn't move around a whole lot.  Then again, even when it's not hot, tortoises are hardly lithe creatures.

In general, other than the one silly-faced fella in the first image, tortoise do not look like happy campers, male or female.  Then again, if I ate poison apples, had to drag my home around on my back and suffered all the aches and pains the come with a century and a half lifespan, maybe I'd be cranky, too.

This bird was following the tortoise as it trucked along.  Not sure why.
In an case, they sure are a lot easier to catch in a photo that the leaping juvenile sea lions and penguins romping about in our anchorage.  Not sure if I'll be able to get a photo of them or not.  They're FAST!

Thanks to a reasonably quick camera with a zoom lens, I'm betting as we venture onto other parts of Galapagos' Ilsa Isabela, we'll encounter wildlife plentiful enough they'll find their way into a future post, along with the marine iguanas, penguins and, when I see them, the blue boobies.

"I'm getting in the last word on this!"
Location Location
We are currently in the Galapagos, Ecuador, anchored off Isla Isabela (S0.57.924 W90.57.750).  We figure we'll spend another five or so more days here before we head off to the Marquesas.  At over 3,000 miles, that sails is over three times as long as Panama to the Galapagos!  Panama's Isla Las Perlas to Galapagos was roughly 1,000 miles.  Ilsa Isabella to the Marquesas is over 3,000 miles.  The first two latitudes are still part of the doldrums, but after that it's known for it's steady (easy) trade winds.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Don't S--- on My Solar Panel!

cruiser humor, wildlife
Pannel s---er, makes his ungainly getaway
after doing the deed on our solar panel.
“Birds are the wildflowers of the sea,” one sailing adventure book opined.  Indeed, on a long open ocean passage, they do provide some much needed visual variety.

We were on our third day of passage from Panama to Galapagos, a couple hundred miles from land.  We noticed a seagull circling our boat.  Clumsily, he alighted upon our solar panel, his feet unable to maintain consistent purchase.

rio chagras panama
Not all our feathered friend
encounters go awry.  This
stunning hawk (falcon?) roosted
at Fort San Lorenzo,
Rio Chagres, Panama.
We watched, amused. 

Some birds alight to get a rest.  Some make it a social stop, with us other other birds of a similar feather.  Others still look for handouts, or something they can steal. 


Was this bird planning on replicating the calling card left from another in the Dry Tortugas (click here for that)?

cruiser life
Flitting about their community of odd hanging nests, these birds
warbled beautifully and did not s--- on our heads.
“Don’t s--- on my solar panel!” Wayne warned. 

Perhaps the bird knew it was an empty threat.  He s--- and flew away.

cruising life cruising humor
These charming little fellas alighted
on our boat in Rio Chagres and again in
Portobelo.  No calling cards left behind.
A Chinese proverb claims "You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair." It does seem, however, we cannot prevent them from pooping on our solar panel.  Or our dodger.

cruising life pearson 365 sailboat
Dawn off our stern in Galapagos.
Location Location
This post was written whilst on a ~1,000 nm passage between Panama (N08.37.393 W79.01.870) and Galapagos (S0.57.924 W90.57.750), March 2-11, 2015 and stored until we regained traditional internet.  We are currently in the Galapagos, Ecuador, anchored off Isla Isabela.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Galapagos - We Arrived!

Galapagos!  SO.57.924. W90.57.750

We're here... anchored off Isabela Island (SO.57.924. W90.57.750).

Sunset over our stern

It's beautiful here anchored off Galapagos IIsa Isabela.  The sun set over our stern is gorgeous!  We're still boat bound until we finish getting cleared. 

 Just a bit of our trip along the way...

Sunset over Santa Cruz
Galapagos sunset over Santa Cruz...  
Not long until we check in at Isabella.
Sailing "speed."
Just in case you thought that 1 knot sailing "speed" was because we're slackers.... This was the wind - Less than our sailing "speed". 

Getting there.
Oh, that’s what they mean by the doldrums!!  Fortunately, winds picked up – we had thought we would arrive at Galapagos Isabella Island Wednesday - a result of 100% sail power.
Champagne toast to the equator

Here we are celebrating crossing the equator.  Champagne for Neptune and a toast to us.  Wayne caught a tuna today, too!  Our arrival in Galapagos was be a bit longer due to lighter winds, but we enjoyed the moments along the way.

Check out the wings on our stowaway surprise! Puttering around one morning and found this guy flew in and landed at the base of the navigation table in our cabin.  Bait!  

Today's bait -- flying fish.
We often surfed more than we sailed!  This day was much better!
Surfs up!  Between Panama and Galapagos.


Location Location
Galapagos, Ilsa Isabela, Ecuador.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Friendly Isla Contadora Cruiser Competition - Beach Bocce Ball

All too often we don’t know a soul in our anchorage and that’s if we’re not the only boat anchored.   While we love the solitude, sometimes it gets kinda lonely and we crave some good social connection. 
We’re anchored a stone’s throw from this beautiful
Isla Contadora beach, surrounded by the clearest
 water we’ve seen since Florida’s Dry Tortugas.
Thus, we were tickled when the friendly folks Jody & Stephen from Blue Pelican, another Pearson, sailed into “our” Ilsa Contadora anchorage. 
Jody first rescued us when we were desperate for an internet-based weather report in Panama’s Shelter Bay marina.  We’d arrived just after the office closed, which meant no local Wi-Fi password for internet.  Jody kindly let us log onto her system in the marina library to check the forecast.  We had little time to get to know each other, as Jody and Stephen were a day away from passing through Panama Canal – about a week before we planned to. 

Bocce ball explanation begins….
Players, left to right, Stephen of Blue Pelican,
Randy and his wife Dawn of Nirvana Now,
Jody of Blue Pelican, and my hubby, Wayne
(and me, not pictured because as usual, I’m taking the photo).

Yet I was so sure we’d meet again, I loaned Jody our treasured copy of “The Curve of Time” a true story of a single mother who cruised in the Pacific Northwest with her five children on a small sailboat back in the late 1920s.  It’s an area we cruised and plan to return to, and the book was given to us by an Ellen Anderson, a friend we cruised with there.

Indeed, not long after we completed our Panama Canal Caribbean to Pacific transit, and anchored in Panama City’s La Playita, Jody and Stephen dinghied up to welcome us with a flask of ready-made G&T to drink.  We drank to that!  We also appreciated their excellent Panama City provisioning and transportation advice.  They tipped us off to Fred, the cruiser-friendly English-speaking taxi driver, who we found tremendously helpful in our resupplying efforts.

At Las Perlas’ Ilsa Contadora, Jody & Stephen instigated a game of Bocce Ball and sundowners on the beach, inviting their frequent buddy boaters, Dawn and Randy of Nirvana Now and us.  “Bring something to drink,” Jody suggested.  “Curry afterward, at Blue Pelican.”

Impressive array of bocce balls, considering the one  we were
 aiming for was pinned below the pink and green pair at the top. 
Alas, our team was the green team.
As the sun dipped down, we gathered on the beach and got the (bocce) balls rollin’.  It was a good spirited game, and we enjoyed ourselves even if we lost, 3-0.  Bocce is the perfect cruiser past-time.  The game’s simple, it’s hard to be too competitive playing a game most of us never or rarely played before, and all it takes is a little space. Thanks to a barnacle cut on my right index fingertip from cleaning our hull, I even tossed left-handed no more poorly than I would’ve with my dominant hand.

Dawn’s toss is so lighting fast, she’s a blur of motion.  Or so it seems.


Jody’s impressive and stylish bocce ball form. 
She was one of the better shots.  Really.  Usually, anyway.
Funniest shot of the day….
Jody’s ball ricocheted from a ball, to the
 tree branch, nestling in a driftwood trunk. 
She was, justifiably, quite proud of it!
Randy and Stephen look on, studiously, whilst someone else winds up for their lob. 
Jody’s curry was fantastic but yummy as it was, it placed a distant second to great conversations and the forging of new friendships.  We’re typically not good social initiators; as a result we’re especially grateful when another cruiser takes the lead and welcomes us into the fold.
Blue Pelican and Nirvana Now are leaving around when we are, though their plan is to bypass the Galapagos and head straight for the Marquesas.  We hope to catch up with them again when we get to the Marquesas.

Location Location

We loved our Las Perlas anchorage (N08.37.393 W79.01.870) off Isla Contadora and its idyllic beach. Thankfully, we were able to get our v-drive to cooperate and, as of March 2nd, we were humming along at 6+ knots to the Galapagos.  NO7.19.703.  W79.22.200.  We estimate it will take us about 10 - 14 days, sailing 1,000 miles 24/7.  Today, March 4th, we entered Lat N04 - Galapagos is @ the equator (0).