05-18-2018 Crossing the Pacific

We’re now starting to get close enough to our destination that we can sense a change (internally, not the environment!). We’re still 1200 miles away, too far to just douse the sails and motor in, but something is changing. We have cycled through all four of the shifts, so each of us has spent 10 days on each time schedule. We each have different ways of organizing our days to fit in the constraints. Now we’re rearranging the shift schedule again, this time not according to the algorithm, but rather looking at who prefers which shift and who is open to any of them. Dan and Dave will keep the current schedule, while Kathy and Baban will switch. We think we are roughly two weeks from making landfall.
We had a celebration about 10 days ago marking the halfway point in our travels. Dave made a delicious appetizer of seared dorado with a sesame-soy sauce, Dan made a fresh loaf of apricot honey bread and mixed up a fruity rum punch. We set up a picnic on the deck in front of the pilothouse while Lungta all but sailed herself. We watched a few whales spouting in the the distance and toasted our journey, both internal and external. The day had a bit of a magical quality to it!
We’ve seen more than our share of wildlife and other boats. We have had a few sightings of spinner dolphins. These guys are smaller than the “usual” bottlenose dolphins and behave quite differently. While bottlenose dolphins love the bow wave and will swim back and forth in front of the boat for hours on end, spinner dolphins rarely come closer than half a mile from the boat. Spinner dolphins, however, love to leap! They seem positively joyful in the way that they catch the air! Sometimes they will do interesting spins and turns, but mostly they just jump as high as they can and come back to the water with a huge splash! The latest pod we saw was huge, with well over 50 members. There were smaller groups of them that seemed to be swimming in tandem, surfacing together and diving simultaneously. Other individuals were dancing their own dance, some leaping 15 feet up in the air, some doing partial somersaults, landing on their sides or backs. The whole happy show only lasted 15 minutes, although we could see their silhouettes fading into the horizon for a good bit longer. One night Dan and Baban enjoyed a visit by a group of bottlenose dolphins playing under the bowsprit. Another night Kathy heard a whale spout just outside the window of the pilothouse as she sat at the helm. She grabbed a flashlight and searched the water’s surface. She heard the release of breath, saw the mist of the spout, smelled the fishy breath, and saw the mucousy residue on the water’s surface. The whale (or pair?) surfaced roughly a dozen times close by, first on the port side and later on the starboard side, but never in the flashlight’s beam. Dan joined in the search and did catch a glimpse of a tail submerging – but mostly this individual or pair avoided the light. Given the size of these animals and the fact that others have reported seeing pilot whales in these waters, it’s reasonable to assume that is what these guys were.
Back when we passed the Galapagos, and for about 250 miles all around, we had lots of boobie birds around. There was one night where we had 15 of them on the spring stay (which connects the tops of the two masts). They generally coexist peacefully, with only a little bit of grousing. 🙂 But there were also 2 or 3 frigate birds that wanted to horn in on the location and they were a source of much complaint! Eventually the frigates moved on for the night and we were left with only boobies. Unfortunately, in the morning we were left with a spattered and slippery walk on the downwind side of the boat. At that, we decided they were unwelcome. Baban and Dan pulled out a slingshot and tried to shoot dried beans at the birds to convince them to move on. But, true to form, the boobies were unresponsive. Fortunately we moved beyond the comfortable reach of their home territory and they dropped away in just a couple of days. More recently we had a smallish bird catch a ride on our deck overnight. Although this is usually not a good sign, he ended up flying away in the dawn’s light. We typically end up feeling protective of birds like this that take refuge for a while on our floating home!
We’ve also had a couple of turtle sightings. They seem like such gentle creatures, and their endangered status always makes us privileged to encounter them. By far, thought, the animal that we’ve seen the most of has to be the flying fish! They get spooked by the boat as we pass by, and they leap out of the water on a mad dash through the air, sometimes “flying” a hundred yards away from Lungta. Sometimes they are avoiding other marine entities – like tuna and dorado! It’s exciting to see a school of flying fish with a predator or two in hot pursuit! Our stretch of catching dorados daily has passed, and our catch has dwindled to only one fish every 2-3 days – which is still a treat!
Last night we decided to leave a fishing line out over night to see what happens. What a surprise! Round about midnight, the line made its classic whizzing sound, indicating something bit. Baban woke us and then proceeded to reel the line in. Turns out we had hooked a squid, about 15″ long and 6″ in diameter. Dan scooped it up in the net, and it squirted ink into the air (making a sound reminiscent of a fart). 🙂 Baban (what a guy!) brought it into the galley sink, cleaned it and popped it into the fridge for lunch today. Mmmmm, garlic and olive oil calamari!
In addition to wildlife sightings, we seem to have had more than our share of boat sightings. 🙂 We have seen two sailboats and 3 commercial vessels (two of these were mentioned our last posting). All but one of them passed within 2 miles of us! One cargo ship altered course when they spotted us. Our AIS system showed us that one was heading from Panama to New Zealand and another from Seattle to Brazil, around Cape Horn. So even though we were way out in the middle of blue water with no land within 500 miles, we were right on the route straight down the coast. Both sailboats were almost certainly heading the same place as us – French Polynesia! Of the 20 or so boats on the tracking list that Kathy is maintaining, no one has reported as many sightings as us. Few see more than 2 on the entire passage! Don’t know what’s different about Lungta, whether it’s our route, the fact that we have four pairs of eyes scanning the horizon, what catches our interest – or perhaps just a coincidence!
One of the common issues on a long blue-water passage like this one is chafe. We have had our share too. The most significant example (so far) has been the halyard for our jib. This line is used to pull the jib up to the top of an aluminum extrusion, which encircles the forestay and can freely spin around it, and which has a slot that the forward edge of the sail inserts into. The halyard loops over a pulley built into the extrusion at the top, to allow us to pull down from below when we want to bring the sail up. But with all the continuous motion of the boat, the line moves around a bit and slides along several surfaces in the area around this pulley. Over time, something wore completely through the halyard, causing the jib to slump down in the extrusion’s slot. Once the sail was no longer taut, it lost a lot of its effectiveness. We were able to roll it up, loosely, and continue on our way – but at a significantly reduced speed! We decided to send someone up the mast at th e first available window of “gentle weather”. Unfortunately in the meantime, both of our staysails developed long tears in them. These sails are quite old and it’s time for us to replace them (obviously, according to Captain Hindsight). We had thought/hoped that they had one more season in them (but perhaps we shouldn’t have tried to cross an ocean in that last season!). So we pulled out the sewing machines and set to work. In the meantime, a flap of the jib worked its way loose and flapped itself silly in the wind, creating a few more tears that needed repair. After 3 days of sail repair, we were moving along again with all of our sails except the jib. Finally we found the weather that we were waiting for, and Baban volunteered to go up the mast to run a new halyard. Then we hoisted the jib, secured all the lines involved in the process, and lowered Baban back down to the deck. Away we went with our powerful jib leading the way!
Several people have reported to us in the last couple of days that there is something odd happening with our tracking page at forecast.predictwind.com/display/tracking/Lungta Apparently the line that represents the track we have followed the last several weeks/months has turned into a squiggle that is reminiscent of an Etch-a-Sketch drawing. It appears that we backtracked dramatically and then returned to our course. Rest assured that all is well on Lungta. We did not lose someone or something and go back to retrieve it! 🙂 We don’t know what happened with this tracking tool, but the problem is digital not actual! We have heard that one other boater is having similar issues.
We have had no problems with storms, tsunamis, or pirates! We are slowly, but peacefully, crossing the Pacific Ocean under the force of Mother Nature. Life is slow and fairly basic. We’re all learning about ourselves and each other. This is a lifetime event for all of us, but it may be difficult to articulate just what it is we’ve experienced! It will be nice to arrive in French Polynesia, but these last several weeks have not been all about getting there; they’ve stood on their own as an interesting chapter in our lives.
Hoping each of you is also content with where you find yourself in life! Thanks for riding along with us on ours!

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