Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fun and some boat projects in paradise

December 29, 2013
Anchorage Position: 08°18.62'N 171°09.18'E
Tabal Island, Aur Atoll, Marshall Islands

We're loving the Republic of Marshall Islands. It's very similar to French Polynesia's' Tuamotu Archipelago, but totally undeveloped aside from Majuro and the missile base on Kwaj. Snorkeling inside the atolls is far better with significantly more species of fish to enjoy and lots of WWII wrecks. Aside from some rain and squalls during the transition from fall to winter, the weather has been spectacular with comfortable temperatures and a steady breeze. In two weeks of sailing we've seen two boats. We're sharing an anchorage with s/v Confederate with Robin and Anna aboard hailing from New Zealand and looking forward to some kiteboarding with them the next few days in the southern end of Aur Atoll. If you wanted you could get lost in the Marshall islands for months and never see another boat.

Yesterday we had a rip of a 29 mile sail from Maloelap to Aur. We covered the 9 miles of open water between the atolls in far less than an hour with a top speed of 13.6 knots in fresh 20-24 knots with a reef in the main. Once inside the lagoon the sailing is bliss x 10 with flat waters, clean air blowing over the reef and boat speeds always in the 9-13 range.

Yesterday we pulled into the Tabal Island anchorage where we found s/v Confederate. We invited them over for dinner and had a great evening until finding their dinghy missing. Robin and Dave made a search, but strong winds in the lagoon would have taken their dinghy away quickly into the night. Sad and frustrating for Robin and Anna, but fortunate that they are close to Majuro where they can replace their dinghy both cost effectively and quickly. The next few days we plan to kite with them, so we can share our dinghy until they head to Majuro.

Daily adventures keep us busy with lots of snorkeling in 85F waters and lots of beach combing looking for Japanese glass floats. I've also been working on some major boat projects including the install of new mast head wind instrument, depth, speed and new displays for the cockpit. A multi day project of pulling wires and configuring the new components to integrate with our Autopilot. Since we have two really nice Simrad AC42 Autopilots and new AP 24 autopilot control heads I was pleased to find matching IS20 wind, depth and speed instruments on sale.

Our quite new wireless Tacktick wind, depth, speed, GPS and NEMA interface were ok, but they didn't play that nice with our Simrad autopilot in 'wind' mode. So, I'll sell the 3 year old Tacktick system on ebay. The new Simrad stuff was a royal pain to wire as pulling wires into our mast is a real B!ch. I was at the top of the mast for nearly 4 hours today!

The other new super cool project is the addition of a Simrad 3G 24nm broadband radar. It's low power consuming so we can run it all the time and the close range target discrimination is far superior to old magnetron technology. The best part is that we can run it on a laptop running OpenCPN, so no expensive $$$$ multifunctional display is required. On LightSpeed we'll have the radar image displayed on a 22" LED monitor at our navigation desk which will make navigating in restricted visibility a lot less stressful. With several thousands of miles of sailing in fog on our schedule for next year this is a major safety item. Unfortunately, the install is a huge project as I need to build a mounting pole as we are moving the radar from the mast to a new pole on the stern that will also house a stern/anchor/boarding light and wifi antenna.

That's it for now.

Friday, December 20, 2013

UPDATED: Kiteboarding and WWII relics Maloelap atoll

December 21, 2013
Anchor Position: 08 44.42 N 171 11.57 E
Pigeeyatto island, Maloelap atoll

Yesterday we headed to shore at Taroa Island to check-in with the acting mayor, submit our permit and pay our $25 visitors fee for the atoll of Maloelap. Landing in front of the conspicuous pale blue Protestant Church we sadly encountered an adult Hawksbill tethered to shore. The turtle had a few holes drilled in the trailing edge of its shell affixing it to a line leading up the beach to a palm tree.
Just behind the palm tree was outdoor an kitchen, so we can only guess what might be the main course for Christmas dinner. The turtle was fruitlessly swimming away from shore in the shallows and it's imminent demise tugged at our heart strings.

 Turtle for Christmas dinner awaits it's fate tehered to shore.  It's about 3' (1m) long.

Further ashore in front of the Protestant Church we encountered several men, women and children all of whom were quite shy.
 Church at Taroa, Maloelap Marshall islands.  Second blue house on left is the home or Reverend Standin.

Eventually we met Reverend Standin (it makes me smile every time I say or type that name:) who was very nice and let us know that the acting mayor should soon arrive from the island of Ollot Island. In the interim we were welcome to go anywhere we liked on the island (Taroa) or sail towards Ollot island if we so wished. It was all very casual. The Reverend Standin lives near the church, has 5 children a friendly wife and two mother cats and lots of 1 month old kittens. We enjoyed holding a few of the kittens and the Reverend Standin offered a few to us. We were tempted to bring a few back to the boat, but they seem a bit young to leave their mother.

We headed off for a walk on the north side of the island, drawn by the lonely anti-aircraft gun on the sand spit.

 After a few photos of the rusty old gun we walked the beach toward the ocean marvelling at the number of broken blue bottles on the beach. Did a ship full of blue bottles sink sending 1.5 liter blue bottles adrift or were these war relics. Taroa was the heavily fortified home to 3000 Japanese troops supporting 2 airstrips and a contingent of Zeros and Betty Bombers.
 Remains of Taroa after US forces bombed and shelled it to oblivion. 
We anchored to the North of the pier seen in the upper left of this photo.  And found remains of airplanes on the top right near the end of the runway.

Remains of the fierce battles between the Japanese and US warships and planes literally are everywhere. Walking the beach, concrete pill boxes pock marked with bullet blasts line the shore, and big guns, that weren't blow to bits still point seaward.
 Anti aircraft guns
 Kathy stands in the shallows near a gun that must have been blown from it's base.
 Close up of blasted gun.
 I picked up a few rounds for this photo, but put them back where I found.  Bullet second from right shows rifling marks indicating it was fired.  I think it's a 50 cal round that would have been fired from a US fighter or bomber?
Japaneese Rice bowl with a print of Mount Fuji on the bottom.  

At low tide metal war debris still litters the scoured coral abutting the atoll. In certain places you can look closely and see 2 or 3 rifle bullets resting in coral crevices. I picked up a few bullets for a photograph, but didn't take any home as the historical significance of these scattered artifacts should not be sullied by collectors. I did identify several large 50 caliber? rounds complete with rifling marks that were fired from a US Hellcat? And there were tons of Japanese rifle bullets in the 6-8 mm range mostly missing the cartridge, but not fired. More big guns, some still standing on their turrets and others half buried in coral.

On our way back we cut across the edge of the island amongst the palm trees and weaving between huge shell craters from B24 and B25 bombers or huge naval guns? To our surprise we discovered many many planes in the bush. Mostly Japanese Zeros and Betty Bombers filled with strafing holes that must have been shot up on the ground. Pretty much all the pieces were there, but deteriorating in the salty tropical heat.

Did a bullet hit this propeller?

  Zero Wreckage
 Betty Bomber
 Zero Wreckage

Back at the village, the acting mayor had yet to arrive so we headed to the boat for lunch and a snorkel. Just off the island of Taroa lies a 300' Japanese supply ship Terushima Maru, sunk by US forces. Its all snorkel-able with the maximum depth at the huge stern propeller of 47' (prop center is at 43'). The lagoon waters are clear (I've read best at low tide) and the ship ranks as one of our favorite snorkels of all time. The wreck is easy to locate as the ships masts still stick more than 40' out of the water and provide a convenient locations to secure the dinghy for a snorkel.
Terushima Maru mast with LightSpeed faintly visable in the distance on the left.  Taroa Island, Maloelap atoll Marshall Islands.
Terushima Maru yop masts still stand 70 years later.  We made 4 full passes of the ship exploring the top sides and port and starboard and even some of the holds. Lots of fish, but no sharks.
The partially submerged wreck of the Japanese freighter Terushima Maru, off Taroa Island, Maloelap Atoll. The vessel was sunk by US aircraft during World War II.
(Photograph © 1989-2001 Dirk HR Spennemann)

 The Terushima Maru is particularly interesting as it still contains LIVE depth charges. I'd seen a photo of Majuro's Matt Holly posing next to seven canisters and was curious to see if we could located them without SCUBA setups.  For some more photos and great history check out this link:

Kathy focused mostly on the marine life and I tested my free diving skills checking out the nooks and crannies and diving down to the bottom to measure the depth with my free diving watch. It was on our third pass of the ship from bow to stern that I explored the holds forward of the aft masts. Swimming between some huge cross beams I peered into the second below deck level and spotted the depth charges. Kathy took a looks as well, then tempting fate I swam down between the decks and some dangling wires to get a close and personal view of the depth charge canisters. Not a mom approved moment. These depth charges are still live and some say that if the ship deck collapses over time and the charges roll or fall down to the depth of 33' they may very likely explode as it was customary to set the charges to blow at 33',, my dive watch puts them at 26'. It may seem a bit crazy, but the Marshall islands still have plenty of unexploded ordinance in the form of bombs near many of the best wreck dives.

As a side note the war ships used in Bikini atoll nuclear tests atoll were fully loaded including fuel, planes bombs and ammunition to see what would happen when subjected to a nuclear blast. For those enthusiastic divers with re-breathers and enough cash for the dive charter to Bikini, it's possible to dive the flight decks of the USS Saratoga and swim amongst the planes.

Today we tried to track down the mayor and eventually proffered our permit and cash to another guy at Taroa and received full permission to do whatever wherever we wanted within the atoll. All we really want to do is kiteboard, snorkel and walk the beach a few times. So, we cruised up the lagoon to Pigeeyatto island for some kite-boarding. We found a decent pump up and launching beach (coral rubble and sand) just to the north of Pigeeyatto that works well at low tide.
 Looking SE toward Pigeeyatto island.  Sandbar as shown at low tide.
Kathy ready to go kiting at Pigeeyatto island sandbar.

After kiting we had a nice snorkel from the boat and enjoyed healthy coral and tons of fish of every size and description.
Dave flying the new F-One bandit 12m and wishing for a little more wind.  We're still total beginners, but having fun.
 Kathy kiting... her sixth session.

Kahty popping up, but winds are a bit light.

That's it for now.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cruising the Marshall Islands- Aur and Maloelap atolls

December 20, 2013 8:11 AM local
Position: 08-42.34N 171-13.38E
Anchored off Taroa Island, Maloelap atoll

After three fun filled weeks in Majuro we need a vacation in the solitude of the outer atolls. Majuro has an incredibly robust social scene that's included 2 yacht races, 1 triathlon, a thanksgiving feast, 2 skippers meetings, 3 Yachtie nights out for dinner, girls card game on Tuesdays, a Saturday swap meet, picnic at the beach, snorkeling many times, 2 kite boarding sessions, a concert at the American Embassy, lots of shopping and even a few boat projects. We've even managed to make the news at least twice and probably three times, but I haven't seen the Marshall Islands Journal this week. Kathy made the front page with her Triathlon win on the second week and the first week we had a photo of the boat to go along with first win in the Yacht race.

It's small town living where you chat with friends at the post office, know your local grocer and hardware store manager. The expat community is very well educated and primarily comprised of teachers, professionals and volunteers. It's both unfortunate and ironic that we've met very few Marshall Islanders. However, now that we're away from the hustle and bustle of Majuro we'll be fully immersed in the local communities and will meet no one else.

Anticipating an early morning start we staged LightSpeed at the Enigu 'free' moorings located about 6.5nm west of town. Our alarm roused us at 5:30AM, but intense rain delayed our departure until 7AM putting us under pressure to sail fast to cover the 72 nautical miles with enough daylight remaining to safely navigate inside Aur lagoon. The wind cooperated for the most part providing many hours of average speeds in the mid-8 knot range. Our worst hourly run was 5.5 miles, but that was due to landing a beautiful HUGE rainbow runner. We arrived at Aur and sailed through the pass on the SW corner with ease, dropped sail and motored the few remaining miles into the anchorage and dropped our hook near s/v Astarte with Mike and Barbara aboard.

The next morning we decided to push on and had a beautiful 12 mile sail across Aur lagoon exiting at the NW pass. Once in open ocean between Aur and Maloelap we made several tacks to lay the south opening in the reef, sailed though and across the lagoon, tacked and sailed about half way toward Taroa island until getting headed. We could have kept tacking, but stiff winds in the lagoon were splashing the deck and since a rain shower had just washed the boat we decided to motor the last 8 nm in the lee of the reef and keep the boat clean, dry and salt free. Now that we're north of the convergence zone and it's dry season we may not see rain again for weeks.

We'll head into town this morning to deliver our permit and pay our $25 visitors fee and then ask for permission to move up the lagoon a bit further to a good kiting spot.

The anchorage here at Taroa is littered with World War II relics. Taroa was a major Japanese base, before US forces obliterated the stronghold. Many sunken ships, Japanese Zero fighter planes, unexploded ordinance and more await our snorkeling adventures. On the NW tip of Taroa stands a lone howitzer mounted on the small concrete base, it sure looks strange sitting on an otherwise pristine sandy beach.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Marshall islands map

Marshall Islands map.  LightSpeed is moored at Majuro Atoll.

Mieco Beach Yacht Club yacht race December 1 2013

 We've been super busy since arriving in Majuro, Republic of Marshall Islands two weeks ago.  Yacht races, fashion shows, cruisers nights, Thanksgiving feast, picinics, snorkelling, kiteboarding and even a triathlon.

Majuro atoll is home of the Mieco Beach Yacht Club

From left to right: Off Tempo, Seal, Aka and LightSpeed charging for the start line marked by the race committee boat Navigator.
Off and racing in near perfect 15 knot conditions and clear skies.
Off Tempo, LightSpeed and Seal at the first mark.  LightSpeed took line honors and won by a few minutes on corrected time.  Great fun.

Kathy wins womens division of KIO club Triathalon

Nearing the finish in first place for the women's division.

 Hanna, Kathy and Sophie gearing up for the Kio Club Triathalon on Majuro atoll.
 Number 12 wins the women's division and second overall.
Kathy at the startline

Friday, November 22, 2013

Arrived Majuro, Marshall Islands

LightSpeed arrived safely at Majuro atoll on Friday.  No internet until Monday.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LightSpeed- Underway Kiribati to Majuro, Marshall Islands ETA Friday

TIME: 2013/11/20 20:07
LATITUDE: 05-17.06N
LONGITUDE: 172-32.92E
SPEED: 5.4

About 150nm remaining to Majuro, Republic of Marshall Islands. Light winds mixed with squalls and lightening overnight. GRIB model suggest we'll get NE 15 later today which would be nice compared to the 4 knots and lump seas we have now. We're about 50 SSE of Mili atoll and hope to pick up the stonger NE winds as we round Mili and reach overnight toward Majuro.

So far we've traveled 1362 (as a crow flies) from Vanua Levu, Fiji.

Vanua Levu to Rotuma 42 hours underway, 1 yellow fin tuna and 4 squalls mentioned in log entries.

Rotuma to Tarawa, Kiribati 172 hours underway and 1 yellow fin tuna eaten and 1 grey shark released 12 squalls mentioned in logbook

Kiribati to Majuro, Marshall Islands 57 hours (estimated) and 1 Mahi Mahi and 4 squalls mentioned in logbook.

Despite the light winds and squally weather, it's really been a pleasant voyage overall. Looking forward to picking up our new Kiteboarding kites in Majuro, uploading photos to the blog and catching up with cruising friends.

That's it for now

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

LightSpeed- Underway Kiribati to Majuro, Marshall Islands

TIME: 2013/11/20 01:30
LATITUDE: 03-21.80N
LONGITUDE: 172-32.55E
SPEED: 6.4

About 260nm to Majuro, so we should arrive on Friday with just enough time to check-in with Customs and Immigration. Excitement for yesterday was departing Tarawa, Kiribati. Our four day stay at the capital city of Kiribati was too long. Trash of epic quantities line the lagoon shore the roads and pretty much every square inch of the dusty dirty town of Betio. We're sure that more remote portions of Kiribati are beautiful and I have no doubt that I-Kirbatians are friendly, but onerous regulations discouraged us from spending more time in the capital waiting for permit approval to go elsewhere.

Everyone was friendly enough, but it's a sad place.

On a positive note we met Tom and Vivienne of s/v Imajica and enjoyed a fun evening aboard sampling Tom's homebrew beer.

We caught a really nice Mahi Mahi today breaking our streak of fishing with some catching.

It's HOT HOT HOT at 3 degrees north of the equator.

That's it for now.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Safely in Kiribati

LightSpeed arrived safely in Tarawa, Kiribati at noon today after 7 nights and 8 days at sea.

Having a dinner and a beer ashore, more updates tomorrow.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Champagne toast to Neptune crossing the equator.

TIME: 2013/11/14 08:19
LATITUDE: 00-00.00N
LONGITUDE: 173-28.04E
SPEED: 6.0

Enjoying a glass of bubbly champagne with my lovely wife Kathy as we toast to Neptune under a moonlit sky.

LightSpeed is back in the northern hemisphere.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Doldrums sailing daily runs Fiji to Kiribati

TIME: 2013/11/13 07:19UTC (7:20pm local)
LATITUDE: 00-03.96S
LONGITUDE: 173-30.80E
SPEED: 4.8

LightSpeed- Day 7 @ 7pm sailing from Rotuma, Fiji to Tarawa, Kiribati

Doldrums sailing daily runs 9am to 9am

Day 1 = Begin voyage at 9am
Day 2 = 124nm
Day 3 = 124nm
Day 4 = 108nm
Day 5 = 135nm
Day 6 = 118nm
Day 7 = 150nm

Days 1-7 = 759nm at average speed of 5.27 knots

Day 8 = 6.4 knots average since 9AM

At the moment we are 4nm south of the equator and planning a small party for our equator crossing. The big question of the evening is should we stop at Tarawa, Kiribati tomorrow afternoon or continue on for Majuro, Republic Marshall Islands. Stay tuned.

That's it for now.

LightSpeed- Day 7 @ 8 am sailing from Fiji to Tarawa, Kiribati

IDENT: kf7tdy
TIME: 2013/11/13 20:01
LATITUDE: 01-04.00S
LONGITUDE: 174-08.13E
SPEED: 5.8
WIND: NNE @ 9 knots

Good sailing the last 10 hours. Knock on wood, but I think we might arrive in Tarawa on Friday with just enough time to complete the check-in process with customs/immigration.

Anticipating a champagne celebration around 9 this evening as we cross the equator for our third time.

That's it for now.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 6 @ 8am sailing from Fiji to Kiribati

TIME: 2013/11/12 19:42UTC (7:42AM local)
LATITUDE: 03-09.27S
LONGITUDE: 175-21.25E
SPEED: 4.0
WIND_DIR: E (100T)
CLOUDS: 20% with squall clouds to East
BARO: 1008
AIR_TEMP: 31.1C (88F)
SEA_TEMP: 30.0C (86F)

Flying a asymmetric drifter since yesterday afternoon. It's working well to keep us moving in 3-6 knot winds from 100T on a course that's almost perfect to lay Tarawa, Kiribati. Clear skies overnight, but now we have some cumulus clouds moving in from the east. Looks like it's gong to be another light day with a high potential for squalls. In the cabin at 8AM it's 91F with 67% humidity which slightly diminishes my interest in a cup of piping hot morning coffee.

Update: It's now 9:40am. The wind shifted to NE at 4 knots and we dropped the drifter and went for a swim.  Tarawa, Kirbati is 300nm distant.

Excitement overnight was encountering a 135 foot fishing vessel named the Sho Jin Maru #38 (MMSI 432365000). I noticed the lights and then noticed that our AIS was offline (likely a result of SSB radio interference earlier in the evening), when I rebooted the AIS we were within 4nm of ship and ultimately passed within 1.5nm. They were going E at 5 knots and we were headed NW at 2-6 knots flying our drifter with the autopilot in wind mode.

Autopilot 'wind mode' keeps the apparent wind at a predefined value such as 110 degrees, thereby allowing a sail to maintain proper trim despite shifts in the wind direction and strength. It's a nice feature at night when you can't see the sail and it's like a human steering the boat, but better as it never looses focus or complains about watch schedules.

Wind data currently comes from our Tacktick wireless wind instruments and is fed via a multiplexed NMEA 0183 data stream to the autopilot. I'm not sure what the data rate from the wind instrument is, but it's good enough for slow speed sailing.

I've been thinking about replacing the TackTick mast head wind instrument with a wired NMEA 2000 unit with a super fast data output frequency 20 times per second and directly connecting it the Simrad Autopilot.

That's it for now.

Day 5 @ 8pm sailing from Fiji to Tarawa, Kiribati.

TIME: 2013/11/11 08:19
LATITUDE: 03-52.11S
LONGITUDE: 175-45.38E
SPEED: 5.0

Tonight we reaching north with with our asymmetrical drifter. True wind is ESE at 9 and we're sailing at 120 app at 5 knots with the main sail stowed. The main is a pain in light conditions as backs and slats nosily in these light conditions. The a-sail is perfectly quiet, just the whooshing of water along the hull as we coast along through the night.

Around sunset we arrived at the seamount fishing spot I'd identified this morning and almost on cue the reel started to sing. After a clunky take down of the a-sail we reeled in and released a 3' grey shark. No other fish decided to join us for dinner so we opened a can of chili con carne and Kathy made up a pan of homemade cornbread. Delicious!

That's it for now.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day 5 @ 9am sailing from Fiji to Kiribati.

TIME: 2013/11/11 21:35UTC (9:30AM local)
LATITUDE: 04-50.67S
LONGITUDE: 175-43.93E
SPEED: 7.9
BARO: 1007
AIR_TEMP: 30.6C (87F)
SEA_TEMP: 30.6C (87F)

Lovely sailing conditions for a change, steady winds for the last 13 hours driving us at 7+ knots for the last 9 hours in a row.

The goal for today is catching dinner. About 50nm to the north lies a 5340 meter (17,355') tall seamount that rises to within 160 meters of the surface. Upwelling nutrient rich waters should support a rich ecosystem near the surface and make for some good catching.

That's it for now.

Day 5 @ 3AM Sailng from Fiji to Tarawa, Kiribati

TIME: 2013/11/11 15:04 (3am local)
LATITUDE: 05-36.84S
LONGITUDE: 175-51.24E
SPEED: 7.6
BARO: 1006
AIR_TEMP: 28.3C (83F)
Sea_temp:L 30C (86F)

We finally found some wind! At 8pm last night the wind started to built to 5 knots with gusts to 7 knots. In the 7 knot peak winds we were hitting 5's through the water for short periods of time, a nice increase from mid-day speeds of only 2.5 knots! Utilizing our autopilots 'Wind' mode to maintains a constant apparent wind angle and has proven indispensable in these fickle shifty light conditions.

The wind has continued to build and now we have an amazing 11 knots true out of the ESE providing nearly 10 knots of apparent wind and yielding boat speeds around 7.5 knots. Our worries of low fuel and a possible stop at Nanumea atoll are fading into our wake. We're 12nm to the west of Nanumea atoll, the northern most island of Tuvalu and looking forward to a only 3 more days at sea if the wind holds up.

That's it for now.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 4 @ 6am sailing from Fiji to Kiribati.

TIME: 2013/11/10 18:04 UTC 6AM local
LATITUDE: 07-18.77S
LONGITUDE: 176-10.42E
SPEED: 4.6
BARO: 1007
AIR_TEMP: 28.3C (83F)
SEA_TEMP: 30.0C (86F)

A little wind has us sailing this morning after a long night of motoring in calms and a few squalls. Skies this AM look more characteristic of trade wind conditions, so we are optimistic that sailing conditions will improve throughout the day. Yesterday I reworked the SSB ground plane installing new copper foil amidships under the floor boards. Kathy did a big Yoga session and made a delicious pizza for dinner.

Dave & Kathy
s/v LightSpeed

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Sailing from Fiji to Kiribati. Day 3 morning report.

IDENT: kf7tdy & w2df2150 (LightSpeed)
TIME: 2013/11/09 21:18
LATITUDE: 08-42.67S
LONGITUDE: 176-35.52E
SPEED: 5.2

Our trip thus far has been plagued by very light winds and it looks like we'll have more of the same for the next few days as we inch toward latitude 5 south where there's more promise of steady easterly flow. Overnight it was 2-4 knots from variable directions with a handful of squalls packing 25+ knots. From 8PM to 7AM we ran the port Yanmar 3YM30 diesel engine at 2000RPM pushing us at 5.2 knots slowly to the north. Typically, we run the engine(s) at 2500-2750RPM burning approximately ~2.5 L/hr or ~0.6 gal/hr (per engine). Running at slower speeds can cause carbon build up in the exhaust elbow, but with precious little fuel aboard and spare exhaust elbows onboard, I throttled back in an effort to maximize our range under power.

This morning around 7AM extra ugly low black clouds brought 20 knots from the NNE and we sailed fast with a double reef main and partially furled jib to the NNW. As I write at 9:30AM we have 100% cloud cover and the wind has diminished to 10-12 knots NNE. No complaints as we're still making decent VMG toward Tarawa, Kirbati which lies just north of equator some 650nm distant.

Day 1 we sailed 126nm making 109 good.
Day 2 we sailed 123nm making 120 good. 7 knots average wind speed mostly NE as taken from our hourly log entries.

Yesterday the Simrad autopilot stopped working. Murphy must have been on vacation as the breakage occurred mid-day with mild conditions and Kathy easily hand steered while I investigated and quickly fixed the problem. I worked from the Autopilot computer toward the hydraulic drive motor located in the port engine room. I determined that the motor brushes had simply worn down and I swapped in new ones from my spare hydraulic drive motor, a much simpler task than swapping the entire motor and pump. We were back online in about 30 minutes and we should get at least another 10,000 nm of use until the brushes wear out again. Just in case I'll order a spare set when we get to Majuro, Marshall Islands.

Thinking about our voyage to Alaska next May/June we'll need to purchase some special gear for the more extreme conditions. Shipping to the Marshall Islands is USPS and the rates are very reasonable, unlike everywhere else in the South Pacific (except American Samoa).

On the list:
Winter clothes- Hopefully we can get some hand me downs from our friends (YOU) for the chill of Alaska. We're not total bums and plan to get new gear when we get jobs in San Francisco, but until then we need some used gear for beach fires, fish guts and to fit in with the rough and tumble Alaska fishermen crowd. Luckily I still have my Xtra-Tuff boots from our last trip to Alaska.

We need: Mens XL and Womens S jackets, hoodies, fleece, foulies, gloves and hats or whatever you have filling up your closet that could keep us warm. We'll gladly pay the shipping.

Immersion suits- Big orange survival suits for worst case scenario situations in the frigid arctic waters.
Jordan series drogue- A drag device to limit boat speed should we encounter a nasty low and heavy conditions in the high latitudes.
Replacing the battery in our ACR EPIRB.
Replacing exhaust lines on our Espar forced air diesel heaters.
Hot water heater- Replacing our old hot water tank and installing a new header tank.
Head Sail- Spare small head sail for heavy conditions.
Furler- Inspect top swivel and or replace with high load version.
Duct Engine room venting so possible infiltrating water in heavy conditions will be routed to bilge and not splash engine.
Damage control kit- Expand existing repair kit should we have a collision with debris that requires patching the hull or break out a hatch or window.
Motor mounts- Yanmar 3YM30 with SD20 drive.

Other excitement for the day was a big squall that had us catch 15 gallons of water using our new cockpit awning. We could have tanked twice as much if we had a bigger hose as the rain was coming down much faster than our 1/2 hose could handle. Standing in the driving rain we experienced a novel sensation of feeling cool, a nice reprieve from the tropical heat.

Enjoying a sundowner in the calm evening conditions a school of huge tuna lept pass the boat. At first we thought they were dolphins for their enormous size and I reeled in my fishing line thinking they would frolic around the boat. As the school neared it became clear they were giant tuna and the fishing line quickly went back in the water, but no takers.

Wind is now under 10 and NE (45T) with slightly lumpy seas that have the main slatting.

That's it for now.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Day 2 South Pacific Convergence Zone

IDENT: kf7tdy & wdf2150 (LightSpeed)
TIME: 2013/11/08 18:03 UTC
LATITUDE: 10-58.31S
LONGITUDE: 177-04.79E
SPEED: 6.1
Wind: 085T @ 8kts

We're underway from Rotuma, Fiji to Tarawa, Kiribati a 900nm sail crossing the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ). The SPCZ is an area of low pressure where warm moist equatorial air collides with cooler drier air of high pressure systems passing to the south. It's a grab bag of chaos characterized by light winds punctuated with intense rain and fearsome squalls.

Between December and April the SPCZ hatches budding cyclones that can grow into monsters as they track to the south.

Weather models struggle to make sense of the ever changing chaos and GRIB files for the area are notorious for their inaccuracy. Fancy routing software and onboard data downloads offer insight, but mostly it's a take what you get voyage.

When we decided to initiate the customs/immigration check out procedure in Rotuma a few days ago it looked like we'd have a nice weather window as soon as we reached 8S or about 270nm north of Rotuma. Now a few days later we're underway and we may be stuck with light SPCZ winds until 4S for 530nm. It's going to be a slower passage than expected, but so far the seas have been pleasantly small and we've made good use of the light winds.

Overnight the wind dropped to 4-5 ESE with clear skies and we motored NNE for about 6 hours and considered a stop at one of the smallest countries on earth, Funafuti, Tuvalu 200 nm to the NE.

This morning we have super flat seas and 8 knots of wind pushing us along at 6 knots. This makes us happy, so we're once again fully committed to continuing on to Tarawa, Kiribati.

That's it for now.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Underway for Kiribati

TIME: 2013/11/07 21:28
LATITUDE: 12-26.70S
LONGITUDE: 177-07.12E
SPEED: 5.0
Wind NE 7

Underway from Rotuma, Fiji to Tarawa, Kiribati this morning.

That's it for now

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rotuma, Fiji

TIME: 2013/10/31 22:47 UTC (10:47AM local)
LATITUDE: 12-29.23S
LONGITUDE: 177-07.20E
Anchored near wharf on NE corner of Rotuma Island, Fiji 15' sand with super holding.

Early this morning around 1AM LightSpeed was 12nm from Routma, so we dropped sail and drifted until 5:30AM. Our drift rate lying beam to the seas and wind was 0.6 knots/hour with a 8-13 knot breeze overnight. About 9 miles from the SE corner of Rotuma we had Digicel 2G data. Closer to the East end of Routma we lost the Digicel and now in the anchorage on the NE corner near the wharf and it appears the signal comes from west end of the island near government station.

Despite the lack of internet we had a great morning fishing for Yellow fin Tuna on the east side of Rotuma. Hundreds if not thousands of sea birds and lots of jumping Yellow fin. We started with a double hook up. I landed the first fish pretty quick and then went to work on the second fish that was now down deep and much larger than the first based on the fight to reel him in. After getting a look at the fish near the surface he dove again with a powerful rush. Then tug tug tug and no more pressure on the line as I reeled in just a fish head. Shark!

The anchorage at Rotuma is gorgeous with white sand contrasting dark black volcanic rock clad with rich verdant green vegetation. Ground swell from the north creates a bump, but after being at sea the movement is no bother. A large red ship sized mooring buoy lies in the center of the bay and could be a hazard during a night approach.
 Rotuma Bakery
 Wood fired ovens turnout some beautiful loaves.
 Feeding the flames
 Hand kneeded dough
 Typical segment of Rotuma road.

 This is the happy home of a family of 9.
 Dave and Philip our amazing island host.
 Curry dinner near the wharf with a few fresh coconuts.

 Beautiful beach near the wharf

 Philip bringing in bikes for our 27km round island ride.

 Pandanus leaves drying in the sun.
 Looking west at Government station is the big town on Rotuma featuring many small government offices, post office, police station, customs, immigration, biosecurtity and a small grocery store.
 Looking east down the main road at Government station.
 SE bay looking south.
 SE bay looking SSE

 Cool coconut scraper in the form of a animal shaped bench called a Tau or Tua?
 Kathy with a skipjack and yellow fin we caught near the whaf.

That's it for now.