April 9, 2003
(OOPS, I see Barbara has already written a dispatch. Since I had already composed this, you can read it and get my take on the trip as well, if you like.- Craig)
Dear Friends and Family:
Well we are truly underway. As I write this, it is 2:45 am and I have just come off watch. Barbara, who is the mainstay of these messages, is unconsciously enjoying her deal with us: she is cooking in exchange for being relieved of night watches. This seems to make everyone happy, so far, as her cooking is easily superior to the crew's and a lot prettier than mine.
We are about 285 nm WSW of the California-Mexico border, long since out of sight of land, off the continental shelf (12,000' deep here!),and on our own. As we have traveled south, the swells have diminished and the temperature has warmed up. We are still using our woolies on night watches, but it is definitely warmer and we have stopped running the cabin heater at night. Yesterday Barb cleaned out the shower/hanging locker, and after running the engine to charge batteries had warm water for a shower for each of us. How civilized! Combined with Barb's excellent beef stew and lunch and Mexican rice with chicken at dinner, and we are feeling pretty good.
We have had good winds and only minor problems, easily handled. Yesterday's run was 161.5nm made good on our course of 180 degrees true (due south). (For a boat like Sequoia, anything above 150 is a good run.) The first night, we used the electric autopilot ("Otto") which works very well - better than any of us in the dark-part of the time. But it uses a lot of electricity, which comes from the house batteries and must be replaced every other day or so. Then we got the Monitor Wind Vane ("Jeeves", your silent and efficient servant) working. It yaws a bit more but uses no electricity. One of the minor problems occurred in the middle of the night last night when one of Jeeve's lines to the wheel got off its block and sawed itself in half, resulting in an immediate gybe. Fortunately we have a device called a boom brake which slows the gybe down from damaging to merely loud. I had just one spare piece of the high-tech line the Monitor uses, and easily fixed it, but if it goes again I will have to substitute some other kind of rope.
For those of you who sail, we have been running almost dead downwind with one or two reefs in the mainsail, and our genoa jib to the other side, held taut with our spinnaker pole. It is easier partially furl the genoa, which can be done entirely from the cockpit, than to reef and then shake out the main. With winds varying from 15 to 25 knots, this has moved Sequoia at speeds of 6.5 to 9 knots. We are definitely more conservative at night, when only one person is on watch most of the time. Before the night watches we rigged a preventer on the boom and doubled the reefing line for more security.
Every day brings noticeable changes as we proceed south. We are all looking forward to shucking our foul weather gear, now required as a top layer for warmth, particularly at night. We finally saw whales, spouting and tail-standing about 1/2 mile off, and had several visits by dolphins yesterday, both the Dahl's porpoises which look like little killer whales, and a smaller kind with brown and white coloring. Brian just had to go up to the bow (clipped on with his harness, of course) and yell hello to them. None replied in identifiable fashion. I think we are still almost a week away from tropical delights such as shorts and shirtsleeves and seeing flying fish, but we are dreaming about it. Maybe tomorrow I'll rig a fishing line and see if there are any tuna to be had. If I catch one, it will be a double pleasure since we will also have to kill off the ice cream to make room for part of the catch in the freezer,
Best wishes to all of our friends.
Craig and Barbara