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June 24, 2012

(a day late: noticed this morning the below did not send last night)

Day 3

Local Noon Position (June 23, 12:46pm Hawaii Standard Time): By GPS: 28.59.310N by 162.00.174W
By Sextant: 28.58.5N by 162.04W

Course: 340 degrees true
Speed: 5.5 to 6.5 knots
Wind: 10 – 16 ESE
Sea: 4 – 8 feet E
Sky: 10% occluded. Just small, cottony cumulus
Bar: 1025 and rising…still rising.
Air Temp (in the cabin): 74 degrees F
Water Temp: 73.4 degrees F
Sails: All plain sail with a reef in the main and the mizzen run way out to reduce weather helm. Wind between abeam and starboard quarter.

Since last noon: 149
Total for passage: 278
Daily average: 142

Debris: In fact I did see debris yesterday: a basketball sized wad of fishing net I didn’t think to report until I started to see other pieces today: just now a broken fish float at water top; around 1pm another length of fishing net then a liter sized white plastic bottle, submerged, and then another, smaller; then what looked like a tortilla; then what looked like a slice of bread. Am half expecting to come upon another cruiser, maybe a Mexican one. All this went by quickly, so no better description available. No expectation of tsunami debris until around 40N, but am keeping my eye open.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and other Ships: none

Birds: Another long visit by a White Tailed Tropic Bird that flew off east. A few Black Storm Petrals. Slow day for birds.


I haven’t touched sails or wind vane in two days. Murre rolls along, lifting and dropping with grace, dipping her rail, wetting her bow. The sky, the sea are endlessly the same, endlessly different. Like time travel through a timeless realm…I could be anywhere…I could be no where…I am right here.

I could drift on like this for a good many paragraphs, but…

..snap to. Today was a work day.

I tend to stick my head into the bilge, engine room, storage lockers, etc., with some frequency. Murre is an old boat, and she likes to deliver the odd surprise now and then. If, for example, she intends to surreptitiously leak away all our fresh water, I’d rather catch her in the act. Now.

Take today. Since departure, the main electric bilge pump has been running frequently, like every minute or so, for no obvious reason. Early on I had thought this was due to the heavy movement of the boat, that the water always in the bilge was sloshing around and engaging the float switch. So I forgot about it.

But today that seemed bad logic, and besides, the water in the bilge was clear. Murre takes on little water, so what is there is usually rank and greasy, not clear.

Exploration before breakfast showed no water coming in via hatches or stuffing box or any obvious place until I lifted the bilge pump from its socket and saw that as a wave raised the stern, water drained in through the hose. Not much. A few cups. But its a cardinal rule with bilge pumps: they’re not suppose to let water in.

The check valve had failed.

This happened to friends of mine on Gypsy Moon as we both trended down the Baja coast before Christmas of 2010. I remember the “Mayday” call vividly. Water was already above the floorboards when they caught the problem and called for help. I was an hour ahead and steamed back with all the haste Murre could make. I found them still afloat–they’d figured it out, but we were all shaken.

Murre’s main bilge pump system is the same as theirs: the trough hull is above the water line only when the boat is at rest; the pump hose is not looped or protected against siphoning. It relies on a blocking valve in the pump. It’s a weak design, but Murre’s hadn’t ever given signs of failure.

So in La Paz I bought a spare check valve, tossed it into a locker, and got on with cruising.

Till today.

It only took an hour to insert the new check valve into the line, but I was lucky to find it before the frequent switching burned up the pump.

I made a video of this operation for those of you wishing to seem what I look like in a penitent mood.

Then I made oatmeal and tried to relax.

But the day kept calling.

I checked the solar panels for output. The radar uses only 1.4 amps, but if run all night and our days are cloudy, the math quickly looks bad for full batteries. In fact, one solar panel wasn’t pumping. Had to clean the terminals.

Then I greased the squeaking wheel. One flaw in using a Monitor wind vane on this boat is the side load it puts on the bronze wheel’s shaft. Salt water washes the grease away as quickly as I apply it.

Then I shot the sun, thrice, and worked up the sights, one of which made my head hurt.

Then I observed birds and searched for debris.

Lunch was tofu, a bell pepper, carrots, and bread. One goal is to eat through the fresh stuff by 40N so I can shut the fridge down. It’s our only hope for battery charge in the north.

Then another video, but outside, so you too can appreciate the beauty of trade wind sailing before the wind dies. I tried wrapping the camera in foam so as to protect against wind noise. No go. It appears the entire camera is a microphone. How it can also be water proof, which it claims, is beyond me.

Then this write up…

..and suddenly its 5pm.

You see, it’s not all tea and cakes on a sailboat.


  1. Lawrence Killingsworth permalink
    June 24, 2012 9:13 pm

    Stuff happens…
    Glad you made the diagnosis quickly and had the right medicine on board.

  2. June 25, 2012 2:43 am

    Wile we push the scurrying grey clouds to the east preparing for your arrival we think of you pushing Murre north through the debris. Well at least it is an improvement on looking out for FADS. Good to hear you are always checking those items that ca trip you up. No-one wants to be taken by surprise.

    So, while you are off slogging your way north wr are going off to a misic festival to see Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, Laurie Andetson,K. D. Lang and a host of others. So, turn up the stereo and put on your favourite music and contemplate how fortunate you are to be out there!

    All the best…

  3. June 25, 2012 3:06 pm

    Ah, Randall, I remember it like it was yesterday. So glad you were able to recognize and repair quickly. We are loving your stories and you continue to inspire us.
    Cyndi and Marcus: Gyspy Moon

  4. June 27, 2012 10:19 am

    Hi Randall,
    really enjoying your blog.
    We use lanolin to grease our windpilot windvane, it resists seawater better, we find. You can buy lanolin at places that sell diy supplies for those who make homemade soap, maybe healt stores or such.
    Nina and Henrik, Bika

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