Monday, April 25, 2016

Recap on the Longest Passage We'll Ever Make

All passages take on a personality unto themselves.  You remember the passage, like any other experience in life, by the unique DNA of the experience and the impressions it made on you.  So here is a look back on the memories that made our passage from Mexico to the Marquesas one we'll always remember.

What would any passage aboard Moonshadow be without a stowaway or two?  So about two days out, we noticed these Boobies (that's a kind of bird) were taking a special interest in Moonshadow.  One even decided to land on our brand new Windex masthead wind indicator, and bend it.  It was four days old at the time (the Windex - not the bird).  Then there was this guy who was determined to hang out on the bow pulpit, probably the most difficult perch a bird could find that day.  He fought every roll with wings outstretched and his webbed feet slipping and sliding until after taking several photos, John made it clear we weren't interested in any self-invited crew.  The last view of this guy was of him flying away from Moonshadow with his neck twisted around looking backward at the rude guy that evicted him.

Not far offshore from the Mexican coast the seas built to the point some of the bigger waves were quite impressive.  Enough so that we spent some time just staring aft wondering if some of the bigger ones might crash aboard Moonshadow flooding the steering cockpit.  But no, every one just slipped by under our stern, giving Moonshadow a nice little push towards the Marquesas.  And each one, no mater how big came out looking rather benign in the photos we took.

Then there were the sunsets.  It became a ritual to stop, get comfortable and just watch.

Deb decided to photograph every sunset on her iPad.

Of course there were routines we found fit into each day, including a daily shower on the stern...

 ...and the morning ritual of picking up dead flying fish and squid that thought Moonshadow was the most attractive thing ever... until they smacked onto to the deck.  This guy found a place right next to Moonshadow's name painted on the boom to end it all.

 The sky on this passage was one of the things that set it apart from all our previous voyages...

... especially at sunset... 

Now, there will always be things on a passage that are not so wonderful.  Like finding a large cotter pin on the deck 4 feet from the base of the mast.

So John spent the day taking photos of every aspect of rigging on the mast...

... and finally concluded that every clevis pin in the rigging had it's cotter pin intact. We finally agreed the pin was discarded during some work done on the boom vang in La Cruz, so ...

crisis over!

...and it was back to gazing at the Pacific sky...

 ...and wondering how many sunsets out here go completely un-noticed on an empty ocean with no ships there to see and take note.

We couldn't get enough of them...

...and if you wait just a few minutes, everything changes to a completely new scene.

Then there was the sailing.  We had some moments when the wind was too far aft for fast passage-making or completely absent.  But then there was hour after hour of sailing when it seemed Moonshadow was gleefully romping across the water, glad to be free to stretch her legs.

What a pleasure she is at times like this.  With no more than one spoke of the wheel's deflection Moonshadow would carve mile after mile in straight line headed for paradise.

 Until one day, there we were watching the GPS count down the degrees minutes and seconds 
to the equator.

Of course, all we had to do was look outside to see the green line on the water to know we had arrived exactly half way between the North and South pole.

Then it was time to celebrate:  

Shots of Mexican tequila and flutes of French Champaign were served up, a dribble on Moonshadow's bow, a splash into the Pacific for King Neptune, and the rest down our throats for a job well done.

Of course we had to dress up for the occasion, this being Deb's first time across the 00.000 line, making the transition from "Polywog" to "Shellback". 

The dreaded doldrums, an area where the wind just doesn't hardly blow at all, turned out not to be quite as windless as we'd feared, so we took advantage of every bit of wind we saw.

 Then one day we had an alarm from the auto pilot.  This happened with the spinnaker up.  The boat started to round up and nothing we did could make the autopilot regain control.  Finally while Deb hand steered, John climbed into the space where the rudder post and hydraulic auto pilot ram are located.  The problem was immediately obvious:  the hydraulic ram has a 1" stainless steel rod that threads into a stainless steel ball-joint terminal which is bolted to the rudder's auto pilot tiller.  That rod had un-screwed itself from the terminal so the auto pilot's commands to steer were not being transmitted to the rudder.  A couple of large wrenches later, all was back in place and Moonshadow was back on course for the Marquesas.  The whole episode lasted less than 15 minutes, but in that space of time there was ample opportunity for Captain and Crew to play out in their minds the prospect of hand steering for the next several days, and decide that wasn't anything we wanted to do!!

So instead we returned to gazing at the ever changing and eternally gorgeous sky and sunsets.

At sea on a long passage your are constantly reminded of millions of faces the ocean and sky can present:  Sometimes fearsome, most often indescribably beautiful, always majestic.

 Then, through the magic of GPS, we learned the day had arrived.  We would see land somewhere ahead, and we were pretty sure it would be the island of Hiva Oa.  But even without GPS, we would have known we were getting close when a huge school of dolphin arrived to escort us.  

In the picture below, we count 12 dolphin, but there were more like 80 to 100 surrounding Moonshadow as she rolled ever closer to the islands.  They were ahead, behind and on both sides of the boat, making quite a racket, jumping, splashing and exhaling, sometimes five abreast jumping clear of the water.  It went on for an hour and made us all the more excited for the awaited landfall. 

Deb saw it first:  "Land.  I see land.  No, I'm sure this time that's land!!"  Sure enough, we both described the same shape, very faintly but persistently there on the horizon.   

"Land!"  "God, don't let this be Point Loma!"

No, this wasn't Pt. Loma, it was Hiva Oa. 
The Marquesas.  
French Polynesia.

With nightfall rapidly approaching on a Friday night, we sailed past the island of Hiva Oa with it's tiny, crowded harbor at Atuana, and headed instead for a bay called Hanamoenoa on the nearby island of Tahuata where a nighttime arrival is safe.  In the pitch blackness of an overcast, moonless night, we used our Radar and GPS to slowly creep up to the cove and drop the anchor in 30 feet of water.

The next morning, we came on deck to discover what a beautiful anchorage we'd found.  

With the authorities closed till Monday, we spent the next two days relaxing napping, swimming, and basking in the realization that we'd just completed a voyage of 2800 miles in 16 days 8 hours, grateful to arrive safely aboard the good ship Moonshadow!

Monday, April 18, 2016

After 16 days on Passage, Imagine Waking Up Here

On advice from friends already in the Marquesas, we skipped entering the crowded harbor of Atuana on Hiva Oa, and anchored instead in the pitch blackness of a cloudy rainy evening about an hour after sunset at a cove called Hanamoenoa on a nearby island called Tahuata. It was easy enough to find and enter as there were no reefs or hazards at the entrance to the bay. We quickly tidied up and went to bed. This was the first time either of us was able to sleep for more than about 5 hours in two and a half weeks. It was pure luxury to wake up, and realize it was ok to roll over and go back to sleep because there was no watch to stand.

Imagine then, when the sun came up and we climbed the ladder to go on deck and look around. The cove we had anchored in was stunningly beautiful with a white beach, glistening palms, water so clear you could see the anchor on the bottom forty feet down, and fragrances coming from land that included earth, jasmine, gardenia maybe some vanilla. The image and impact of suddenly being no longer on passage, but instead anchored in such lush and beautiful surroundings will forever be the memory Deb has of arrival in the Marquesas, like the memory John has carried of his arrival here 45 years ago, which forged the dream to return one day.

A couple of cups of coffee later, reality set in. Moonshadow was still in passage mode, with spinnaker sheets, preventers, and jury rigged boom vang lines to derig, wash and stow; awnings to rig; water to make; batteries to charge; five loads of laundry to do; salt crystals on every square inch of the hull, deck and hardware to wash off; the dinghy needed to be launched from it’s blue water perch on the foredeck; the outboard winched overboard and into the dinghy. Down below, there was lots of cleaning to do and putting away of binoculars, cameras, books, flashlights, etc. that till then seemed just fine out and about, but now were just clutter. By three o’clock we realized we’d been working non stop since morning coffee, but the only thing left to do was a jump in the 89 degree Pacific, shampoo, soap suds and finally the very last thing. John shaved!

That first night on anchor was a shock to our systems which had adapted to short shifts for sleep and long hours of sailing, but the second night was the true rebirth into the realm of normalcy. We slept like the Marquesan stone Tikis and woke to yet another beautiful day in our new home: Paradise.


How I would love to take Dustin for a sail on Moonshadow.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Moonshadow’s Final Passage Report

I know you call a bunch of sea animals a school, but it was a SWARM of dolphin that greeted Moonshadow to the Marquesas today. There were way too many to count, so we guessed 80 or 100 dolphin, port, starboard ahead and astern, sometimes 5 abreast jumping clear of the water. It was just a riot of splashing and exhaling dolphin, that went on for about a mile. We couldn’t imagine a better welcome party.

Landfall after a long passage is just the best. The end of one chapter and the beginning of another. A day we will never forget.

Final stats:

Distance sailed: 2837 nautical miles
Time of passage: 16 days 8 hours
Average speed: 7.2 knots
Still happily married: John and Deb

While awaiting landfall

While waiting for that moment when land looms up on the horizon and all arguments about whether it’s real or not are over, we needed something to pass the time so we showered, had a beer, and suddenly realized we were “faced” with a new delema:

The Passage Beard… keep it? lose it? give it more time?

Let us know what you think. Send us an email.

Oh, by the way. There is land right in front of Moonshadow. It this turns out to be Point Loma, we’ll never live this down!


more pictures when we get closer.

Message from: Moonshadow

1900 zulu, April 15, 2016
09 deg. 15.7 min. South!
138 deg. 05.9 min. West
Wind East AT 17 knots
Sea conditions ENE swell 4'
Sky condition 90% blue sky

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 209 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 2633 nautical miles
Total distance remaining: 56 nautical miles

WOW, this is the day we will make landfall on the island of Hiva Oa. If you squint really hard and stare at the horizon, you'd swear you can see the island. Of course you can also see giraffes and polar bears out there. Your eyes play fun tricks on you at times like this. Just 59 miles away, and featuring a mountain top over 3000 feet high, you'd think we could see it, but not yet. It is just too hazy. But soon! We are totally stoked.

Of course, from experience we know that once we do see the island it will take FOREVER to catch up to it. It usually seems like some tug boat has your landfall under tow away from you. But the way things are going, by sunset we will have finally reached the town of Atuana on Hiva Oa, completing the passage in 16 days, 7 or so hours (ever so slightly faster than the last time Moonshadow sailed here - but we're not really racing). We will continue past rounding the corner of the much smaller island of Tahuata then pull into a cove called Hanamoenoa for the night.

So. Tonight we will be swinging on an anchor in a cove that everyone says is just beautiful, with a white sand beach, crystal clear water in the high 80s and a palm plantation in the valley beyond with rugged mountains behind that, toasting the end of the longest passage of our lives past and future.

Quite a day aboard Moonshadow.

Cheers from Moonshadow

John and Deb


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 15 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 14, 2016
07 deg. 05.964 min. South!
135 degrees 22.963 min. West
Wind East North East AT 17 knots
Sea conditions E swell 7'
Sky condition 100% overcast - occasional rain showers

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 187 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 2425 nautical miles
Total distance remaining: 262 nautical miles

We are amazed at how…



As I began to write this post we received an alarm on the auto pilot saying HELM RESPONSE FAILURE. Immediately, Moonshadow, sailing with the wind at her back and a little to the port side, the spinnaker pulling like a horse, romping down the course at 9 knots and surfing up to 10.5 knots in building seas, started rounding up. The spinnaker collapsed making that awful "I'm going to explode whenever I refill, if I don't shred on the spreaders first" sound. After resetting the auto pilot and attempting to power steer back to our course, the warning reappeared, then the circuit breaker went off. I thought I'd turned off the breaker with my knee (nice trick if you can do it - the breaker is behind a plexiglass panel!). I switched the breaker back on powered up the Auto pilot, and CLICK the breaker popped again.

Time to hand steer. After getting Moonshadow back on course, I passed the helm over to Deb and gave her the course to steer. Since we practically NEVER hand steer, especially at sea with no land or other reference but the compass, I stood by and watched her. She nailed it.

Next a quick dive into the lazarette locker where the steering gear lives revealed the problem: The hydraulic ram, which we had removed and overhauled in San Diego, had unscrewed itself from the toggle attachment on the rudder post. The Simrad pilot tried to tell us that with the warning, but it's vocabulary is severely limited. This Simrad is the best auto pilot I've ever had or used, but when you disconnect it from the rudder, that's a real handicap!

A couple of big Crescent wrenches and remarkable little cussing and voila:


The whole episode took less than 10 minutes, but for an instant there, we thought things had taken a really ugly turn aboard Moonshadow. Without the pilot, Deb and I would be sentenced to 12 hours per day at the wheel while the other person did all the cooking, cleaning, admin, navigation, and sleeping.


As I was saying, we are amazed at the fact we sailed 187 miles in the last 24 hours. It seemed like we crawled after the previous 230 mile day. At the beginning of Day 15, we were immediately beset by wind shifts and resultant sail changes from spinnaker to jib, heading changes, etc., then the wind quit, so we motored, the wind returned, we sailed, the wind quit, we motored, the wind built, we hoisted the spinnaker, a squall arrived, we douced the spinnaker, the wind died, we motored. And so on. All this after sailing without touching the spinnaker sheet or the course for hours the previous day. It is like this section of water didn't get the memo that the doldrums ended at 3 degrees South. We grimly watched the ETA climb from 48 hours to something in the eighties!

Finally mid morning today, with Deb asleep off watch, John put up the spinnaker himself, caught the fact the tack and clew were back-asswards, before the chute filled, and sorted that out, hoisted the sock (like a nylon condom that you pull down from the top of the sail to snuff the wind out - do the reverse to set the sail). We've been sailing fast again ever since (except - see news flash above).

We're really anxious to arrive in French Polynesia sometime tomorrow evening. We're pretty sure we can't maintain the 12 or 13 knots it would take to get there mid afternoon, so we'll bypass the town of Atuana on the island of Hiva Oa, and anchor instead for the night in a nearby cove on the island of Tahuata about 10 miles beyond. The tiny harbor at Atuana is jam-packed full of yachts anchored bow and stern - something we won't want to deal with at night. More on those plans with the DAY 16 passage report tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 14 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 13, 2016
05 deg. 01.4 min. South!
133 degrees 07.1 min. West
Wind East AT 17 knots
Sea conditions ENE swell 3'
Sky condition 65% blue sky - occasional rain showers

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 230 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 2242 nautical miles
Total distance remaining: 436 nautical miles

230 miles in the last 24 hours is our fastest 24 hour run under sail alone throughout the 19000 miles and four years we've been sailing Moonshadow. We did 233 once but we were motor-sailing up the coast from Costa Rica to Mexico - just not the same as sailing. 230 miles a day is an average of 9.6 knots. We actually averaged 10 knots for about a 10 hour stretch but this morning we had some light spots and that took our average down. No whining!

The big excitement now is watching the ETA to our anchorage in Hiva Oa, the Marquesas Islands. It has said dawn on April 15 and it has said 0100 on the 16th, and many times in between. We only want two things here: A daylight arrival, and a finish in under 16.5 days (that's George Bachus's passage time to the Marquesas with Moonshadow back in 1998). Any finish before sundown on the 15th will accomplish both goals. As cruisers, we have to realize we're not racing, we're sailing our home and all our posessions to paradise. Who are we kidding here? We're RACING!! Go Moonshadow GO!!

All is well aboard Moonshadow.

Cheers from John and Deb Rogers
SV Moonshadow


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 13 Passage Report

Good bye Doldrums, good bye Roll-drums, good bye squall-drums. Hello Southern Trades!!

1900 zulu, April 12, 2016
02 deg. 25.2 min. SOUTH!
130 degrees 18.2 min. West
Wind East AT 17 knots
Sea conditions ENE swell 3'
Sky condition 100% blue sky

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 173 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 2012 nautical miles
Total distance remaining: 675 nautical miles

Send the fun police, 'cause we are having way too much fun. I used the analogy before of a young pent up colt finally being released to romp around and that's how Moonshadow reacts to 15-17 knots of Southern Tradewinds on the beam. We are flying along at 10 knots taking turns calling out the speeds on some of the waves: "11.3, 10.7, 12.8, etc". Meanwhile the scene around us is indigo blue ocean sprinkled with small white caps and a cobalt sky studded with the occasional white cotton ball.

Some of this speeding will abate when we sail out of the equatorial current we're in, which is adding a knot to our water speed. It's like running on a conveyor belt. As we traverse Southwest across this river of water flowing westward, we will realize when we reach the other side by watching the GPS speed (our speed across the surface of the earth) fall back in line with our water speed.

The GPS is also teasing us with time to arrival predictions that are now under 70 hours. Can that be? We try not to put too much stock in those numbers because the math puts a premium on our current speed and we have no guarantee it'll hold up. But, having just logged 13 days on passage, getting told you have less than three days left makes you feel positively giddy. If you let it.

All is good aboard Moonshadow

John and Deb Rogers
SV Moonshadow


Monday, April 11, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 12 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 11, 2016
00 deg. 54.8 min. SOUTH!
127 degrees 37.644 min. West
Wind SE AT 9 knots
Sea conditions ENE swell 3’
Sky condition 100% blue sky

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 140 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 1839 nautical miles
Total distance remaining: 889 nautical miles

After a glorious night in my new favorite spot for star watching on the planet, Deb came on watch for her turn at star gazing. Before I went to sleep we guessed the crossing of the equator would happen before dawn so agreed to put off the celebration till a more decent hour. But I just had to get up to see the GPS chart plotter position tick down to 00 degrees 00.000 minutes. Which I did at 0545 local time, then went back to bed.

After breakfast we moved up to Moonshadow’s bow for the celebrations. We started with Tequila from Mexico, dribbled a bit in the Pacific for King Neptune, a bit on Moonshadow’s bow, a bit on the dinghy, and drained the last down our throats. Next we popped the cork on a bottle of French Champaign for French Polynesia, and repeated the process, but a lot more of the champagne made it down our throats!

So Deb is now officially a “Shellback”, which I think allows her to swagger and act like she’t hot shit. I mean more hot shit that she already was before. We are pretty, pretty darn stoked to pass this milestone and have such a fine day.

After the champagne was gone, we set the spinnaker and enjoyed 3-4 hours of spinnaker reaching in flat water. The wind never shifted in direction or strength, so we were able to tie off the sheets and nap in the cockpit. Later the wind died so down came the chute and the rest of the day as been spent motor sailing under jib and full main.

We are getting much more sailable conditions than we thought we’d see in the doldrum zone, so quite happy about that. Also, we calculate that running the main engine at 1200 RPM (vs. the normal 8 knot cruise at 2100) gives us about 5.5 knots in smooth going and burns just 1.36 gph (vs ~2.5 gph at normal 8 knot cruise). This has given the captain a bit of relief from the worry of running out of fuel in the doldrums and starving to death out here. Actually, that could never happen because Moonshadow has so much food, we could probably eat in style for a year. For example, tonight it was Costco Filet Mignon, and baked potatoes (still celebrating!).

Next milestone will be watching for the GPS chart plotter to estimate our time of arrival at less than 99.99 hours (the display reads blank for higher values) or just over four days. Knowing a bit about how this works, the display will show 99 hours or so, then go blank if we slow down a little bit, then return with some number, go blank and repeat this a half dozen times before finally we are solidly within the 99 hour limits. This is what we do. There’s no Facebook out here.

So that’s our day: Equator tequila shots in the morning, spinnaker flying in the afternoon, steak at night.

All is GOOD aboard Moonshadow!

John and Deb
SV Moonshadow

Moonshadow Equatorial Sunrise

Moonshadow recorded the following position in the log at 1145z:

00 degrees, 00.000 minutes South
127 degrees, 37.644 minutes West

Celebrations to include one each for Captain, Crew, King Neptune, and Moonshadow
Tequila shot for Mexico
Champaign for French Polynesia

All smiles aboard Moonshadow!

Bonus Passage Report: Just 30 miles from the equator

The sky where I am is just stunning, day or night. It’s night time here now, and I’m alone on watch taking in quite a show. You’d think the tropical sky would be thick with water vapor, but somehow, that’s not so. You can see the lunar rover on the moon with your naked eye. Almost. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the stars are out. By my count there are a gazillion of them visible tonight. They light up the deck and make the horizon distinctly visible even though the moon set a couple of hours ago. Imagine an absolute blanket of stars that stretch from horizon to horizon, and I mean right down to the water. You cannot go outside and not feel the weight of all that matter in the sky. To the west Jupiter is setting and making a beautiful reflection on the oily slick water that reaches from the edge of the sky right to the edge of Moonshadow. Like a “moon river”, this is a “planet river”. To the south there is the same ship I saw two nights ago with it’s bright light shining, can’t be over 5 miles away right on the horizon with a bright cloud nearby. When I saw that ship the first time I quickly scanned our radar and chart plotter for AIS targets, guessing this was our friends aboard Speakeasy, a catamaran that left La Cruz two days ahead of Moonshadow. Tonight I wasn’t fooled: That is not a ship, but something called Lambda Velorum - a supergiant star that hangs out 545 light years from our sun, and down here it sits right on the horizon posing as a ship. And that cloud? It’s part of the milky way that reaches right across the sky and dives into the water where my ship was. Just above all this is the Southern Cross pointing straight down at the south pole. A quick 180 and there to the north is the Big Dipper pointing at Polaris, or where Polaris would be, too low in the sky to see if you hang out at the equator.

That’s right, we are now just 15 miles north of the equator, a very magical place.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 11 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 10, 2016
01 deg. 11.4 min. North
126 degrees 29.4 min. West
Wind dead calm
Sea conditions ENE swell 3’
Sky condition 100% severe clear

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 149 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 1708 nautical miles
Total distance remaining: 989 nautical miles

We occupy a small disc about 8 nautical miles in radius in the middle of a vast, immense, empty ocean. As the sea has settled to minor catspaws over a smooth but not flat ocean with swells that are larger than they look but so far apart, they’re more like a gently rolling field of alfalfa, but blue, not green. OK this is nothing like a field of alfalfa. We are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and you have never been so far away from another human being (except of course the loving spousal unit) as this. This looks and feels other worldly. The sky has transformed from it’s previous iterations of haze, overcast, rain, to absolute crystal clear. So clear you could probably see a hundred miles if the horizon wasn’t just 8 miles away. Cloud tops far past the horizon appear along the razor sharp edge of the world like they’re right next to you.

Meanwhile Moonshadow is puttering along under diesel running at a reduced speed to conserve fuel. With the sea so mellow, we can actually set a glass down and come back to it later right there where we left it. We took advantage of the stillness to transfer fuel from our three 5 gallon gerry cans into the tanks and put the tanks away so we won’t look so much like cruisers. Not that there’s anybody around to see us - and also not that there’s anything wrong with cruisers carrying yellow diesel cans on deck, it’s just that our color scheme is white and grey so the yellow must go!

We are also taking advantage of the flat seas by making arrangements to more easily handle our stern anchor. The guide books talk about lots of boats anchoring bow and stern in some of the coves and anchorages in the Marquesas. When one boat in a cove does this, everybody must follow suit or the swinging boats on a single anchor will come too close to the others who are tethered by their stern anchors. Also, in Atuona, the main town of Hiva Oa, where everybody checks in upon arrival in the Marquesas, EVERYBODY anchors bow and stern because the harbor is small and there are so many boats. Sounds a little like Cherry Cove in Catalina! Anyway, Moonshadow has ample ground tackle for the job, but it’s big and bulky and stowed away (more like buried) in lockers with junk in the way, so we need to get everything out and ready for use. We’ve figured out a place to keep the huge anchor (52” x 40”), and a way to deploy and retrieve it from the stern without creating a comedy scene for all the other boats in the harbor. At least that’s the idea. Some of this remains to be seen.

Finally we keep finding milestones and checking boxes. Today we are less than a thousand miles away from the islands! Also, we’re less than a day from arriving at the magic 00 degrees, 00.000 minutes, AKA the EQUATOR, where my buddy Jeff Cook says he has arranged with the help of Stan Honey for a green line to be superimposed on the water, making it easy to find. For those who don’t know of Stan, he’s the genius who came up with the first down marker on the televised NFL fields, and, Stan is behind the whole sail mail system, and… well you should Google him. AND, Deb and I have now eclipsed our longest passage aboard Moonshadow with this passage. Our previous longest passage was the trip from Norfolk Virginia to Antiqua in the Caribbean. That was almost 9 days. This has been 11 now, and so far neither of us has actually booked a flight home upon our arrival, which is kinda cool.

Sorry if this is rambling, but we have time to ramble, not having FaceBook and all. In fact we could go on and on, but probably should save something for tomorrow’s post. Till then, just know that whatever you are doing, we’re here doing this.

Today’s picture is from last night’s sunset which was one of those that just got better and better.

All is well aboard Moonshadow!

John and Deb Rogers
SV Moonshadow

Doldrum Sunset

This photo was meant to accompany our last post. We believe we know the reason it did not appear. This time we will actually include the photo in our email!

Cheers from Moonshadow, now enjoying a gorgeous sunrise at:
01 deg 33 min N
126 deg 12 min W


Friday, April 8, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 9 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 8, 2016
05 deg. 13.9 min. North
123 degrees 55.9 min. West
Wind ENE at 10 knots
Sea conditions ENE swell 5'
Sky condition 100% overcast

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 144.5 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 1420 nautical miles*
Total distance remaining: 1267 nautical miles*

Last night was fine until we caught up to a line of squalls with imbedded thunderstorms that was ahead of Moonshadow as we sailed on an almost due south heading. The line ran 45 miles from East to West, and our course intersected the dead center. These storms have none of the ferocity of the squalls we saw in Panama, but after those experiences, we have no interest in deliberately sailing under clouds with lightning above. So, we first tried to out run this mess by sailing 20 miles west but watched as the bulk of the storms were traveling west along with us. Rather than attempt an upwind detour 20 miles to the East, we hove to (basically, we stopped) and watched a movie for two hours while the weather continued to the west.

Welcome to the Doldrums! What the above position report does not say is we started the engine at 2000 zulu today, an hour after the data was taken, because the wind completely went dead calm. It has stayed that way for the last 8 hours, 6 of which have also featured constant rain. Before the rain we had time to repair a batten (a fiberglass stiffener that lives inside the mainsail) that had worked it's way out of the car that slides up the mast. At 20 feet long and bearing the weight of the sail on top of it, this is a bit of work, but now it's all fixed. The effort used up the last of John's energy after being up most of the night with the squalls etc. so he took a long nap today and is back in full form. That's why this report is late though.

Another movie tonight. We thought Nicholas Cage in "Bad Lieutenant" would be a good pick when we saw the film at the Wednesday Market in La Cruz, but came away with nothing but the following advice for our friends: Don't watch it! Ugh.

Each morning, at 1400 zulu, we report Moonshadow's position and copy the locations of about a dozen other boats on the Pacific Puddle Jump SSB Radio Net. This is an informal session on HF radios where we all check in and share weather etc. Some days we hear nothing but static, and others, like the last two days, we have much better reception. The boats participating are mostly those who've left from Mexico, but today we learned of a boat that will be leaving from San Diego tomorrow. Some of the boats on the net are those that left a week before Moonshadow and are now getting close to landfall. A few have arrived there which is exciting to hear and realize this all comes to an end one day.

That is not meant to imply that we aren't enjoying this experience, we really are. Many times we've had to pinch ourselves in the realization that we are really here executing the central part of a plan we've dreamed of for over 40 years. In fact, while this passage is the longest single passage most cruisers will ever do, it is broken into distinct phases which helps mark the time: The breakaway from Mexico can be difficult if the departure doesn't coincide with good wind along Mexico's mainland coast. Before our departure, we listened on the morning radio net to boats that left before and were stuck for days in very light wind there. We had some of the best sailing of the trip in that phase, zooming along watching the knot meter read 9, 10, 11, & 12 knots. Next is the trade winds phase. This is the part where the wind is well established and affected more by the Pacific High Pressure centered between Honolulu and the mainland, than by local weather along the Central American coast. The trade winds blow day and night with little change in direction or velocity, and as the name applies trade winds were exploited by the old merchant sailing ships. This is the phase that had Moonshadow rolling so much. The trades eventually are replaced by Easterly winds that become more variable. The next phase is the ITCZ or Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, which features the squalls we've seen. Then there is the Doldrums where we are now and will be for who knows how long. It remains something of a guessing game to know how wide the doldrums will be. Our weather router, Bob Cook has picked the spot for us to enter and exit the doldrums which has the best chances for a fast crossing. Finally there will be the phase where we break out of the Doldrums and sail straight to the Islands with SE trade winds driven by a South Pacific High Pressure centered off of South America. Then one day, looming in the distant horizon will be an island right on Moonshadow's bow: Landfall! Can't wait to see which island that is…

Along the way, we get to celebrate personal milestones like the halfway point, crossing the equator, and eventually landfall! Moonshadow and crew are doing fine and all is well here!


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 8 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 7, 2016
07 deg. 05.1 min. North
123 degrees 04.5 min. West
Wind ENE at 15 knots
Sea conditions NNE swells 8' long interval
Sky condition 90% clear

1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 161.3 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 1309 nautical miles*
Total distance remaining: 1382 nautical miles*

* these numbers don't exactly add up to the 2688 miles along our planned route because we've deviated dozens of miles west of that line.

Last night we had a legit squall with 35 knots of wind and rain. The wind subsided to mid twenties, but the cell, visible on our Radar was 20 miles in diameter and decided to follow our track as we attempted to escape our position in the dead center, first by heading west then south. It lasted about 2.5 hours. Actually all to be expected in the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone).

Now we are sailing with the wind at our backs and a little to the side! Hooray!!! We are back to sailing with a full main and full jib on a broad reach which means…NO MORE ROLLING! This is the kind of sailing everyone dreams of doing some day. Right here, right now.

The bigger news was that also last night, we crossed the half way point in our journey to the Marquesas Islands. We may only move along as fast as a guy drinking beer on a lazy beach cruiser peddling down the boardwalk at Mission Beach, but we never stop and look where it's gotten us! Well, there's half way in distance and half way in time. We don't know if we'll maintain our current speed, but there's now only half the distance remaining to cover.

Speaking of distance to cover, we came up with a fun contest for you followers of our passage:

Guess when we will cross the equator!

You have our exact position as of 1300 zulu today (above).
To help with your calculations, here's some other info for you:
Present course is ###
Present speed is ###
There may be some motoring involved if we get becalmed in the doldrums
We motor at 8 knots sometimes, sometimes not.
Zulu is some guy in England they named their time after
We are having chicken for dinner

If you have our passage email, send us your best guess.
Give us the Date and time (zulu - Google it).
Deadline is sometime before we cross the equator.
The winner gets the following prize package:
Satisfaction of knowing he/she won, and
A Hinano Beer with the Moo Crew in Nuku Hiva (transportation not provided), and
A Dominos Pizza in Cabo San Lucas, complements of Richard Spindler, Latitude 38 publisher.

If you are not into navigation, here's another challenge for you: John has crossed the equator before but Deb has not. As Captain, John gets to preside over some kind of ritual upon crossing the equator, so Deb can transform from a "Polliwog" (those who've never crossed the equator) to a "Shellback" (an ancient seafaring type who really knows their shit). Trouble is, John did not do his homework to learn just what type of ritual is appropriate. We know there's this guy named Neptune that figures into all this, and we brought along some champagne for the occasion, but that's about it. Does anybody know this stuff or want to research for us? Or just have some fun ideas?

That's all from out here.

Cheers from John and Deb Rogers
SV Moonshadow


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 7 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 6, 2016
08 deg. 21.7 minutes North
121 deg. 12.5 minutes West
Wind 20 knots at 040 mag. (NE)
Sea conditions 8' north swell with 2-3' wind waves
Sky overcast, we had showers last night and again today
1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 182 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 1175 nautical miles
Distance remaining: 1694 nautical miles

When the waves loom up on our stern, there is a point with some that the daylight shines through the water from the back side of the peak of the wave such that the color becomes a light turquoise, like the color of the water over shallow coral. It isn't every wave but it happens and is worth watching for. This is what Deb was doing this morning when within that aqua colored section , just below the white foam where the wave was breaking, appeared three dolphin merrily surfing within this glass room silhouetted by the sunlight shining through. Despite all the whining about rolling, we realize this is the reason we're here right now.

We expect that by tomorrow morning we will have reached the half way point, roughly 1400 miles out and 1400 miles to go. About that same time we will be stepping into the area known as the doldrums where the wind is light or sometimes non existent. It remains to be seen if we will have enough diesel (or use it wisely enough) to avoid being trapped for days there.

We are well into a routine of balancing our watch keeping, navigating, cooking, fixing things and resting and find that while tired sometimes, not as exhausted as we feared when we decided to double hand this passage. We've got this.

Cheers from Moonshadow,

John and Deb Rogers
SV Moonshadow

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 6 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 5, 2016
10 deg. 30.3 minutes North
119 deg. 04.1 minutes West
Wind 20 knots at 035 mag. (NE)
Sea conditions 8' north swell with 2-3' wind waves
Sky overcast, we had light rain last night
1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 186 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 1060 nautical miles
Distance remaining: 1694 nautical miles

We are contemplating adding a bruise count to the stats above. We mentioned the rolling in an earlier post, but man, we are rolling. John remembers rolling on his previous Marquesas passage back in 1971, but that was on a big tug boat with no sails to steady things. We never thought we would experience this much rolling on a big sailboat. And these are sneaky bastard rolls. Things settle down and you forget about the rolling then wham: a series of 6-8 rolls each further than the last until we're rolling from rail to rail. You look at the waves which are essentially from the stern and can see no reason for all this rolling. While pondering this your body is being thrown across the boat, usually into something hard, like a corner of the interior cabinetry. Ouch! Before you can pick yourself up off of the deck that glass of water you just set down lands in your lap. Then you put your hand right into a pile of chips that followed basically the same trajectory as you and the drink.

Speaking of stats, we are now further west than at any time in our four years cruising Moonshadow. Then tomorrow, we'll be further south, our previous low point being about 9 degrees North latitude in Panama's Las Perlas Islands. By then, we'll also have eclipsed 18,000 miles traveled.

Since yesterday afternoon we have been skirting along the NorthWest edge of an area of squalls thunderstorms and rain. As we are just outside of the area, so all we have seen is solid overcast with rain overnight. The wind has increased as have the seas so we're moving along nicely through a combination of sailing faster and a bit of surfing. Glad to see our 24 hour distance total over 180 miles again. All this under jib alone. We've been happy not to carry our mainsail because this rolling is very hard on both the sail and the boom, blocks and sheets. With the severe rolling the mainsail inverts from concave to convex with a snap that has an ear splitting noise and the potential to break the battens, pull out D-rings and break stitching. We have likewise opted not to carry our spinnaker in the violent rolling because it is lighter and considerably more susceptible to damage than the mainsail, plus it can easily be wrapped around the headstay in such rolling conditions.

Forgive the repetition, but it has to be said: We love getting your emails!

That's all for now. All is well aboard Moonshadow!


John and Deb Rogers
SV Moonshadow

Monday, April 4, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 5 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 4, 2016
12 deg. 21.425 minutes North
116 deg. 48.984 minutes West
Wind 20 knots at 035 mag. (NE)
Sea conditions 6-7' north swell with 2-3' wind waves
Sky overcast, possible showers later
1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 144 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 823 nautical miles
Distance remaining: 1860 nautical miles

Anyone who knows Deb knows she's a bookworm, so it should come as no surprise she is on her fifth book (in five days). Deb has also done all the cooking and cleanup so far, so it's a wonder she has found tome to read so much. It's also amazing she hasn't insisted John do some cooking etc. (but hey, if it ain't broke-don't fix it!!). We may watch a movie this afternoon, stopping every 15 minutes to pop up on deck for a look around. Night time movies are out though because Deb starts her sleeping watch at 2000 hrs (8:00 PM) local time, just after dinner and sunset. Other afternoon activities have been playing Gin, and Mexican Train. John is enjoying the card games immensely, Deb, not so much.

We're kind of loafing along now doing about 7 knots under jib alone, but sailing almost directly towards the Marquesas. One alternative is to return to mainsail and jib, but then we would need to steer either West on starboard tack, or south on Port tack. We would go faster for sure, but the question is, would we close faster on the islands? Another option is to set the asymmetrical spinnaker (the A-chute) and mainsail where the angles are better, but still require more distance sailed. No decision yet.

We are used to listening to the sounds Moonshadow makes while underway, cataloging each individual sound as an OK sound, or something we should trace down and eliminate. The passage to the Marquesas is notorious for how "rolly" it is, sailing with sails eased so much they play little part in arresting the roll cause by trade wind swells. We roll along almost unable to identify all the sounds associated with this degree of rolling. There is a symphony of sounds that blend together such that an individual sound is indeterminable. About every 8-10 minutes along come a larger package of swells and waves which have the effect of turning up the volume, which is your notice to hang on! It was during one of these sets that our improvised boom vang (line and blocks) broke and went unnoticed for some time.

By far our favorite pastime is reading emails from friends and family. Further down the list is overhauling the toilet, during which it became painfully obvious how much smarter it would have been to tackle this job back at the dock.

All is well aboard Moonshadow!

John and Deb


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 4 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 3, 2016
14 deg. 09.971 minutes North
115 deg. 21.532 minutes West
Wind 12 knots at 040 mag. (NE)
Sea conditions 2-3' north swell with 2-3' wind waves
Sky broken 15% cloud
1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 166 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 689 nautical miles
Distance remaining: 1,999 nautical miles

An astute observer would look at our Day 04 distance covered compared to the distance remaining yesterday vs. today and think "hey, that math don't add up!". But it does because we sailed 166 miles all over the ocean yet only got 126 miles closer to the Marquesas Islands. Not our best performance by a long shot.

We were actually quite happy sailing "wing and wing" where the mainsail is on one side and the jib is poled out on the other side, using the spinnaker pole to hold the sail out. Until the weld on the Harken spinnaker pole mast car let go. While on the subject of broken stuff, our boom vang is unusable. This occurred in the marina in La Cruz, but then, there was time to fix it. We brought a seal kit with us on our return from San Diego, but discovered we were sold the wrong kit. No Problem, our friend Fred happened to drive up to San Diego to pick up a new sail for his boat and brought the "right" seal kit back. That's how cruisers are, always helping each other. Well, turns out that kit was right except for one particular o-ring. Out of time, we're sailing without the vang. The vang holds the mailsail boom down so it doesn't hike up in the air. We've jury rigged a block and tackle solution, but it makes jibing much more of a hassle. Then there's the Iridium Sat Phone which serves as a modem for our email. We're successful in maybe 10% of our attempts to connect with the mail server. In fact, it's just about as successful as my three wood.

But hey, no whining here. Just reporting the facts. Otherwise, we're enjoying beautiful weather, awesome sunsets and Deb's fine cooking plus some movies. All while getting closer each day to landfall in the Marquesas. No whining here!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 3 Passage Report

1900 zulu, April 2, 2016
15 deg. 08.134 minutes North
113 deg. 15.446 minutes West
Wind 12-15 at 035 mag. (NE)
Sea conditions 2-3' north swell with 2-3' wind waves
Sky broken 15% cloud
1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 177 nautical miles
Total distance from La Cruz: 564 nautical miles
Distance remaining: 2,126 nautical miles

Each day, the wind has clocked (meaning veered clockwise) about 30 degrees so our wind has moved from NW to N to NE. Since our direction of travel is roughly Southwest, the NE wind is right on our stern. Everybody says "May the wind be at your back…", but unless it's really blowing hard, that wish, though well intentioned, really means "May you go slow…".

Suppose the wind is blowing 12 knots and you are riding you bike into the wind at 12 knots. Your hair will be blown straight back in what your hair thinks is 24 knots of wind. Now turn around and ride with that 12 knot wind, suddenly you need to take off all your clothes because it's so hot and you feel no wind at all. So here's Moonshadow struggling with "wind at our back", but not nearly enough of it to do the 8 knots like we've been doing the previous days.

We have been able to keep Moonshadow moving though, just not exactly straight at the Marquesas. By steering more westerly, we are able to sail faster and keep our average speed up, but the rate at which we're closing in on the the Marquesas has suffered. This is probably only going to get worse for the next few days as the further south we go, the further away from the high pressure system (located somewhere between California and Hawaii) we get. That high pressure system is our wind engine right now.

Does all this mean we're not having a ball? Hell no. It probably doesn't get any better than this on any passage. And we're still getting closer to paradise every day. No whining from the Moonshadow crew. One thing though: Next time you wish someone well, maybe say "May the wind always be at your back, and a little from the side."

Cheers form Moonshadow.

John and Deb

Friday, April 1, 2016

Moonshadow’s Day 2 report

1900 zulu, April 1, 2016
16 deg. 43.272 minutes North
110 deg. 48.611 minutes West
Wind 16 at 360 mag.
Sea conditions 5-7 foot north swell with 2-3' wind waves
Water temp 80.3 degrees
Sky broken 15% cloud
1900 zulu 24 hour distance covered: 199 nautical miles

Deb and I have been married just over 42 years now, so I guess 40 or 41 years ago, my Mom called Deb to let her know that a Mr. Fox called their house for Deb, and passed his number along.

Today, Deb woke my up about 15 minutes before the scheduled 1400 zulu radio net frantically telling me we were surrounded by whales, huge whales! When I appeared on deck buck naked, to see Deb pointing aft, I saw no whales. Then she turned and laughed her head off.

Both of the above events took place on April 1, and I'm reminded again of one of the many many reasons why I love Deb! By the way, when Deb called Mr. Fox, somehow, the party that answered the number Mom gave her said "Good Morning, San Diego Zoo"!!

So, back to the report, here we are grooving along with fair winds and following seas, just like all the farewell wishes we received. Thanks for that! Things couldn't be better aboard Moonshadow.

John and Deb Rogers
SV Moonshadow