Kiwi Electron Sailing Log 2003/2004 Voyage from Portland, Wa to Panama City, Fla.


Kiwi Electron Sailing Log

December 11, 2003

Latitude 45° 37.088" N, Longitude 122° 41.945" W

December 16, 2003

Howdy Y'all,
We finally did it and have moved! Its pretty cool here and there is snow on the hills. WE are just downstream of Longview WA, and will be in Astoria OR tomorrow. Loaded 2 tons of diesel today, so could not finish river trip. The USCG closed the Columbia river bar on Sat cos of safety, so we will see when we can get out and get the cobwebs out of the sails.

AJ and the crew of the Kiwi Electron
02:56:30 GMT
21° 04' 54" N
101° 42' 29" W

December 17, 2003

Avast ye scabrous dogs!....Oops , we watched "Pirates of the CArribean" last PM at Crims island, even though the Skymate may have said we were near Jamaica...
We are waiting here in Astoria for USCG to lift the Columbia river Bar closure, since there are 25' seas and breakers on it today. We have gale conditions out 60nm from OR, so it will be lumpy for awhile!

05:24:21 GMT
46° 08' 23" N
123° 49' 21" W


Decenber 21, 2003

Hi y'all,
We are about 45nm offshore the OR/CA border. We left Astoria OR on Weds at 1.15pm 'cos the Columbia bar had been closed to small vessels for a few days. We crossed when it ws closed to craft under 40 feet. Thursday they closed AGAIN to all small craft.
The bar crossing was quite a ride, about 20 foot swells/seas with breakers both sides of the channel . Our bow got buried down a couple of times but Kiwi is stout enuf for that crossing- visually exciting!

We found "Georgina" the autopilot compass was fritzed after the crossing, so we have to hand steer now! Thursday was a full gale with 35+kt winds and about 20 foot seas. ZAna's nice new bimini at the aft steering station was ripped to shreds by the 50+ gusts. We ran with the gale for about 4 hours, since we could make no way into the seas and then turned south again to make up the lost ground

We now plan to make for SFO and get there before the next gale on tuesday. In SFO we plan to get a new autopilot compass and control head, and fix the bimini. We have solid noserlies frojm the south, so we are motorsailing at a fine point of sail to push for SFO. We will likely have Xmas in SFO

All is fine, and everyone is getting their sea-legs after a couple of rough days. Boat is performing well.

Will give another update tomorrow.
01:23:13 GMT
43° 03' 24" N
125° 29' 32" W

December 23, 2003

Hi there,
We are now anchored at Noyo River (near Fort Bragg, CA) anchorage about 120 miles from SFO. This is the only bolt hole for a long stretch. We will rent a car tomorrow and go down to SFO to forage for a new autopilot and other stuff. Had great sail here today, after realizing we could not make SFO before the Tuesday PM gale and not wanting to trapped out there for 3 bad days without an autopilot to keep station for a weary crew. Depending on the am forage, we will likely sail to SFO on 25th or 26th Dec for crew exchanges and more diesel.

05:35:38 GMT
39° 25' 25" N
123° 48' 40" W

Decenber 26, 2003

Merry Xmas,

We are now at anchor at Sausalito in Bay Area/SFO. Will be at GRand Marina tomorrow. We left Noyo River at 3pm yesterday since we were all so tired of a rolly anchorage and anchor watching. We ran all nite and got in just an hour ago under the Golden Gate at sunset.(film at eleven) At Point Arena we got some good winds and many other vessel targets, and this mornin ran down to Point Reyes for run into Farralons/SFO bay. The winds then got real frisky at 35-40kts and we ran the SFO main ship channel with breakers following. I would not have taken a yacht in under 50' with those conditions- this is CA in winter!!! There were high surf and swell advisories, and we seemed to be the only nitwits out there in a sailboat...

Tom drove up the SFO Ship Channel with a lot of surfing and action and much helm pumping of biceps, then Paul arm-wrestled for the chance to drive in under the Golden Gate. Was pretty cold, since the winds were now from the NW, instead of the Southerlies/Noserlies we got for last week ( including Gail and Abigail...) So now we are safe and sound here to fix things that we broke.

We will not go out without a working Autopilot since we just did 962 nm without Georgina , who counts for at least a doubling of crew effectiveness. We would have gone back to Astoria for repairs if that bar was open, and Noyo river was the first bolt hole we could make from Juan de Fuca (WA) to SFO that did not have a hazardous bar crossing.

A good piece of Xmas cheer happened as we were leaving Noyo. A little blue crabber came by and Laura flagged them down. The came alongside and threw over 7 huge dungeness crabs the size of dinner plates and then proceeded up the river bar - no chance to barter or pay them. This was an exceptionally generous Xmas present to us ands we are very grateful to the town and its people. We will be having Crab instead of Turkey for XMAS dinner.
After we reset our anchor the locals noticed we had moved and called the Coast Guard with concens that we were dragging, and the CG roared out to see if all was well. Very hospitible and caring wee town. (Fort Bragg CA)

We chased the crabs into 2 green buckets and had them in the cockpit in salt water to keep them fresh. During the nite the buckets fell over in a rough patch and we had to go up to do some sail trim, hoping we didn't get bitten to death by Laura's new pets....One seems to have missed there are only 6 and a big mystery...

All for now, they are cooking Crab and country fries, and after sailing most of Xmas day and having a nice hot shower it is time to eat...


03:25:56 GMT
37° 53' 15" N
122° 25' 28" W

December 31, 2003

Hoppy New Year!

Hi, We are here in Grand Marina in Alameda CA working on various repairs. I started another report the other day but Mr Gate's Wonder software ate it, and I gave up in disgust...(my fingers were sore from pecking the keyboard).

We got here to Grand Marina the day after Xmas, which was spent making the passage from Noyo River (micro-anchorage) to Sausalito. After anchoring at Sausalito the Anchor winch decided it was bored and began to retrive the anchor on its own volition. We had a mad dash to find and pull the 200 Amp fuse link to turn it off..!! It then went on the list of things that had "fallen over" (and couldn't get up). We had xmas dinner of 6 Dungeness crabs that Laura had scored on departure from Noyo. The last of the crab was transformed into Crab Bisque here in Alameda- was quite a treat!!

Here at Grand the team have cleared most of the list of work items. I worked on Georgina and found a couple of overlapping problems that made diagnosis difficult. I think it is now fixed and we will seatrial her in the next couple of days. We have almost completed installation of a new fancy Raymarine autopilot "george" and we will also seatrial him as well as Georgina.

This will give us two working A/P's and I hope we can now steer in the next Abigail without making donuts...

The anchor winch is now serviced and fixed. HAd a bad switch and it took a lot of heaving to break it down for repair. It is a 3,000 lb pull winch and is pretty stout. It has worked flawlessly since Hawaii in 1989. The new watermaker RO membrane is fine but the HP pump refused to pressurise so we spun some wrenches and yanked the poppet valves. They were siezed, so we tapped them and voila the pump then pressurised Ok and we got RO water. The diverter valve then refused to budge, so we fedexed in a replacement and hope we will now have lots of fresh water...

Tom hugged the Starboard fwd head for awhile with some tools and found it bound up with "baby wipes", which cannot be processed by a MArine toilet...

Zana has almost fixed the Gazebo cover and will do some service on the Patio cover as well. At this rate we will have the boat ready to leave in a couple of days. We will probably depart Sunday when our rent expires, after loading more diesel.

More later


16:59:51 GMT
37° 47' 58" N
122° 17' 11" W

January 3, 2004

Happy New Year,

We got forecast Westerlies and Norwesterlies, so on the 2nd Jan we tanked up with Diesel and left Grand Marina for the sea. Had a bouncy ride over the SFO ship channel, and rang the bell a couple of times on 18 foot swells with breakers on top. That UK guy from Bournemouth (David) hoovered up all the spare food and seemed quite content to surf out to the Farralons with the Great Whites...Tom and Paul on the other hand made donations of their rented food to these verysharks..

Ran all nite on Georgina at about 200 deg true, and this AM were about 90nm . off Monterrey with lots of sailing room. Zana did some surfing in 35kt winds this AM. Now we have tacked to about120T to run with the NW winds down the CA coast. Great sailing with sun up and boat being driven now by George to get some experience with him. He holds very tight course, better than the venerable Georgina.

Hope to be in SDO in a couple of days if the sea and weather gods take pity on us wayward mariners... If we do meet Mrs Gale again we will be in excellent shape with 2 working AutoPilots.

all for now,
prayers for good winds and conditions gratefully accepted
22:03:52 GMT
36° 19' 50" N
123° 19' 34" W

January 6, 2004

Hi Y'all,

Your prayers must be working for good sailing and seas! Thanks....
We had a great sail from SF sea-buoy to off Santa Barbara. Georgina held 7-9kts and we had nice sunny weather. In fact we have held 1 tack since we turned 90nm off Point Sur, which allowed us to sail parallel with the CA coast and rack up the miles. with NW winds. This is the reason we left Alameda Friday and not Sunday. On Sun evening we reefed the mainsail at about 30kts NW winds and it was quite exciting...was an e-ride.

Early this am the winds died so we started "Gardening" (Gardner is our Iron Spinnaker..) for some hours. The winds came back from the NE so we sailed some more. Now we are about 90nm from SDO and will make this Tues Am, but are now again Gardening.

Everyone is doing well and all have good appetites. Zana made real bananna pudding and no food goes to waste....with the Tom and David Gooly-hawks. Have had exceptional sunny weather for CA in winter and the swells are quite modest. It is now 70 deg F so we are are now transitioning to "pina colada" weather.

We are enjoying the new George autopilot and are playing with the MARPA tracking of the new radar to dodge container ships etc...

Wind instruments are on the fritz, so in SDO will probably get new wind gear. The watermaker now works fine, but the Fresh Water de-priming mystery is still to be solved by Paul and David. The underway pump finally died from running dry for hours on end, so now we are using the alternate turbo-pump...

all for now
01:15:33 GMT
32° 25' 43" N
119° 02' 30" W

January 8, 2004

Gidday Y'all,

We are at Shelter Island Public Dock in beautiful downtown San Diego for a couple of days. Installed a new Wind Instrument system, and found it DOA out of the box, so had a frantic afternoon to try and get it working. Finally bought a second unit and found that the original masthead unit was on the fritz. Anyway, now we have a nice new working Raymarine Wind unit that also will tie to the autopilot and allow the boat the new option of steering a constant wind angle under sail. Also added an autopilot remote doo-dad that allows all the nav and sail info to be displayed from out on the handheld remote on toys as a Xmas present to Kiwi.

Tom had a grand time being the "mast monkey" installing the new masthead Wind unit. We had to entice him down with bananas, 'cos he really likes to sit up 75' in the air in the Bosun's chair and take pictures (interspersed with real work). We are kinda worried he'll move out of the food locker (Ruby room) and perch permanently at the top of the mainmast......
He had a rascally tub of Annhydrous Lanolin spin out on him and jump down to the briny (75'+)....He then managed to borrow a dink and had a splendid hunting adventure trying to track this big game item around the marina. He did bag it OK. That's another story.... [ It is such a job to 'hoss Sharky or OneTon into the water once they are lashed down for blue-water passage making that I had written off the Lanolin as being beyond economic recovery]

Meanwhile Dave and Paul cracked a few knuckles on the Fresh water Pump mystery project. They gave it a college try, but in the best of 3 falls, the fresh water manifold was clearly the winner....THey did find that they could pressurize the manifold to more than 60psi with no leaks, but maybe 5 feet of suction would draw air bubbles in. Go figure. Beat by the H2O monster. So now we are going to make a fused/glued PVC manifold so the MIP threads cannot screw us up. They developed some clever diagnostic methods, so maybe it would be more charitable to call it a draw....Still have to repair the Underway pump that locked up from excessive run-dry time. We are using the alternate Godzilla water pump that gives great flow but really mows down the water...San Diego is a neat city, and with so much boating activity there are wall-to-wall support shops and services, and it is very easy to forage for materials. Weather continues to be sunny and warm. Zana and Laura foraged for some Mexican Lunch, Pringles and other food and also got the Laundry beaten into submission.

We will grill filet steaks tomorrow on the grill to celebrate the first 1,600 nm of the trip.

So, all in all, we have cleaned up most of the loose ends and hope to be able to clear outbound to Panama Canal on Friday am. Tomorrow we will go to the SDO Boat show and some will also go to Balboa Park to see Trains and Planes.
07:45:22 GMT
32° 35' 02" N
117° 26' 01" W

January 10, 2004

Hi Y'all,

You should now be getting the position link OK. I talked to the the big Kahuna at Skymate and we found the issue that was blocking the position reporting. Bon Apetit...

We are now about 80miles north of Guadalupe Is, 100 miles off the coast of Baja California. The weather gods are really smiling and we have had a terriffic sail out of San Diego Harbor and south to here. We blew across the SDO harbor at about 8-9kts with lots of sail up. We wnet for a joy ride down SDO harbor since Zana and I did not have time to go to Coronado, so we went under the bridge. Very pretty city. Wish we had a week to spend there. Zana and I got 3 hours at the Boat SHow on Thurs, and it was fun to see all the latest toys. Looked at a Hunter 48. Pretty spiffy for Coastal and Intracoastal cruising with its pretty finishes and knick-knacks, but seems pretty light for Offsshore bluewater passagemaking compared to Kiwi....We are spoiled. The Hunter "engine room" is under the stairs.....

We now have about 2,200 sq feet of sail up; Genoa, Main, Mizzen Staysail and Mizzen, and are doing about 8 kts to the south with 130 deg apparent wind at 15kts. Ideal conditions with about 4ft swells. Is very sunny, not many clouds and it is getting warmer. No frozen ponytails here. We are surfing on some of the swells and we have about 50 tons of boat doing this, along wiith Tom abd Daves food lockers. Everyone is in good sprits and no seasickess since we did not have to beat through a bar into breakers to get to blue water. George is driving now and seems to work OK, although I can adjust Georgina more easily after 30,000nm of practice..(shes a holdover from the prehistoric period just after they discovered valves) We will probably tack to the SE sometime tomorrow, past Guadalupe, to follow the Baja coast and have something to do....

In SDO Dave added some Vaseline to the Fresh Water Manifold and voila, the priming problem was cured. He figures this is pretty good stuff. We also replumbed the Watermaker fill lines and the Gray tank controls.

Last PM Paul got worried on his watch we were going to sink, 'cos the E/R bilge pump annunciator light came on and stayed on solid. This pumps the water drip from the propshaft packing gland out of the engineroom bilge. He got me up at 11.30 pm and we worked the pump out and cleaned it up along with the float switches. Was jolly tuff wrestling it below the VP propshaft mechanism. Got pretty greasy hanging upside down in the bilge....All works fine now so we will not sink on account of that. [We have a half dozen other alternate pumps to manage this, so no rurries at all mates]

Had potstickers for lunch and we'll have Enchiladas and Coronas for dinner (maybe Margaritas too...), ....andalay already. Well I better go pump the black tanks to make room for all this food...

22:41:32 GMT
31° 06' 14" N
118° 10' 39" W


January 11, 2004

Hi Y'all

We are about 40 miles south of Guadalupe Is and about 200 miles off Baja. The wind died this morning, so I guess the wind gods relax on the sabbath...?
Lovely sunny day and small swells, but we have to "Garden" to keep going to Panama. How about a few more prayers or hail-marys or other request to speed us along. We raised the MPS (spinnaker) this AM but were only getting 2.5kts with 4kts of wind so we doused it after about an hour- was really pretty in the sun, tho Dave complained it was kinda like a big beach brolly and mucked up his bronzing since he was laying in the sun like a lizard on a rock.....

In fact Dave just had a wee adventure with the Stbd. fwd marine head. Kinda got slow after an abution, so now he and Tom have to pray to the god of the "great white phone" to get it running again....More later on the progress of this. We sailors are a superstitious bunch!!!

see ya

Latitude 28° 4.266" N, Longitude 118° 56.342" W

January 14, 2004

We have been sailing for a couple of days since passing Isla Guadeloupe, in Northerlies of about 15kts or so about 170 miles off Baja California. Have had wonderful sunny weather, sunrises and sunsets and reasonable sailing conditions, as we have been trying to go SE at about 120 deg apparent wind. We have been flying the MPS and Mizzen staysail along with Main and Mizzen as well as other combinations.

At sunset today we were 5 miles from Roca Alijos rocks which stick up 100 feet in the middle of the ocean (in the middle of nowhere!). That was our days objective to see. Found a flying fish this AM and offered it as a kipper to Dave but he did not believe our fishy tale...

We should be finished with Baja in a day or two and then look forward to getting more NE winds so we can zip down the Mexican coast at higher speeds. The winds have been a little light to date for a power sail.

In fact, we had to sacrifice a virgin Xmas candy-cane to the wind gods to get any wind the other day. Zana and Dave did not believe me, but performed the ritual and incantations. Lo and behold, 5 minutes later we got 15kt Northelies after being becalmed. Have had these winds for a couple of days, and may need to reinforce (or grovel) for more wind speed...In any case Zana and Dave are well on the way to becoming sailors by now accepting supersition over reason. We all are looking for a fast passage, so we may have unreasonable expectations of the weather, and the realities of sailing (this is not the "LoveBoat")....

Paul cooked his favorite Chicken Paprikosh for dinner, and Tom noted that we could use the dumplings for valve packing in an emergency.....

We just went through a rain squall and are now on night watch and motor-sailing (Gardening) to minimize need to adjust the sails at night.

SInce Dave refused the flying fish, Paul drowned it for awhile on some monofilament, but then something big and hungry took it and his tackle. This this now fish:2 Paul:0, so now Paul has very little fishing stuff and may have to troll in the freezers for food...

all for now
06:42:06 GMT
24° 57' 52" N
115° 41' 31" W

January 16,17 & 18, 2004

Dave has become the Weatherfax guru at this point and is trying to get forecasts from NMC (Pt Reyes CA) for the tropical area around Mexico and south. DAve has also been analysing ocean navigation and has decreed that we must have a unit of "Magnetic speed". It kinda figures if you look at SuperSymmetry etc, if the Physicists can have Strange and Charm, and if there is already True and Magnetic bearings on a Chart, then Dave asserts it follows that there must be magnetic knots of speed. Maybe he has had his scopolamine patch on too long....

Zana's head has developed Reflux and we need to add an input vented loop as the isolating bushing has developed a leak. For now we have a 3" wooden plug in it. Two other heads are still OK.

Tom now goes to the "beach" (sunny spot on foredeck) every day. Has his little daypack with his beach stuff, and like all of us, is getting some sun Even that pasty Brit from Bournemouth is getting some serious sun bathing in.....

Sat 17th Jan 2004.

After Zana's racing watch, we were making about 240T, and since we did not want to go to Hawaii at this time, we decided it was a good point to begin a port tack to begin Easting.Started off well with about 7kts at 110T. Then we got into a series of rain cells where the wind dropped from 15kts to about 6kts. SO we motored (Gardened) for a while till we got sick of that. In PM the winds returned and we sailed at abt. 6kts.

Laura's bilge had a problem at about 17.00hrs. The FWD gray tank pump stopped its automatic operation and the FWD gray tank overflowed into the Laura FWD bilge. Unfortunately the 1.5" line to drain to the FWD sensor bilge and automatic bilge pump was blocked with foam chips!!! SO, after smelling the fwd bathroom being a little "gray", I lifted the floor to find the Laura bilge awash in gray water, phewwww.... In fact, the little 24V water puppy pump that emptys the tank was actually about 3" under gray water....So, we had a little exercise to unplug the bilge drain and dump the shower and toothpaste water over the side.

All 6 of us were involved in the repairs: in getting the wet/dry vac from the Lazarette (basement) and getting a fresh hose to wash down the bilges, dump the bad water and get the pump out to strip, along with the control relays which also had a bath. The pump was stripped and dried and it all went back together in about an hour. Tom added an extension to the gray tank vent. We all had showers and everything worked fine. Had Salad, Roast Pork and Red potatoes and cherry cream pie for dinner. Boat sailed well all night and the winds stabilised at NNW at about 18kts. Just what we wanted.

Sun 18th Jan 2004.

Good winds. NNW at 15-18kts, so pulled out full Genoa and raised Staysail after breakfast.

Sailing at 7-8.5kts at close hauled to beam reach at abt 70 wind angle.
As I pulled out the full Genoa the Mainsheet Block on the traveller let go and the Main started to luff with the boom outboard. Lots of noise! Had fwd block on the mainsheet so we could winch boom in again and lashed it down with a fiddle rope. The Ronstan 1099 Beckett block had its internal nut release its threaded base insert and was unthreaded.

First thought was to MIG the Stainless parts together again. Then we were going to use a Yankee sheet block here (and replace that with a Snatch block), but found we could re-engage the threaded insert in the original block. SO a little later we were able to replace the Main block with a reworked unit and it is all working well again. This worked loose because of all the offwind thrashing of the boom and preventer in the swells. Onward to make lots of foam...
Beautiful day, full sun, swell at 3 feet little cloud and no rain cells. Water is 77F and air temp 78F. Had lunch on the Patio. Great point of sail for Kiwi, and this is now a passagemakers dream. Not quite Trade Winds,(typ 25-28kts) but good for fun sail. The NE trades are not usually established this far east of Hawaii, since Mexico breaks the prevailing airflows, but some NE's are common, and we can make good time to Gulf of Tehuantepec with this airflow. Being so far off the coast allows many options for tacks and strategy, but we went about 180 miles further south than I had wanted. We are over 400 miles W from Manzanillo and are now heading for Panama at about 8.5kts and using the Vind Vane feature of George on a Port tack. We are now about 1/3 of way to Panama,and I hope we are over the slow an sloppy part of the trip which was expected to be the Baja section. Still got lots of diesel, and stopped making water for a few days so the tanks would not overflow...
Hope to get a few days of this performance and wind, and Meterology Dave thinks this is the case. Keep up the prayers for fair winds, thanks....

Gotta go and work on Zana's Head

23:50:42 GMT
17° 02' 19" N
110° 43' 58" W

January 22, 2004

Gidday mateys,

We are still 1600nm from Panama, so are close to half way. Sailing is pretty good, 18kt from ESE, but we have "noserlies" from the east (where we need to go). We are about 10-15days from arrival if all continues OK. We are getting all the Southing we can shake a stick at but Easting is pretty tough right now. All is well and everyone is healthy and in good humor. Its really hot now, and humidity is high.

Zana and LAura got another chopper visit at their 7am watch yesterday. Another Robinson spotter with floats buzzed us (400nm from land) and then came alongside, hovered and waved to the ladies on watch. Their mother Tuna boat closed later to 3nm and tagged along for awhile but were not as rude as the Azteca-7 was, and did not cause the same consternation for navigation.

Had a great sail Yesterday and were 7-9kts most of the day at a course around 110T which was directly on track for the Gulf of Panama. She really got the bit between her teeth and started to rack up the distance, no sail changes or helm inputs needed and she was well balanced. All of this was on George running the Wind VAne steering, and I am getting more confidence in this A/P and how she works with Kiwi. Still not really the trades but a fair wind all the same. Last PM the wind veered to ENE from NNE and we started to go South at a great rate of knots. WE can get to the Galapagos pretty easily now.....So now we have done the Wind god sacrifice thing in hopes for more Northerly winds so we can make an Easting dash for the canal.

Paul continues to drown bait but so far Paul:0 fish:2. He is using flying fish we pick up off the deck every AM for bait. Also have many dead squid in AM on deck. Also have quite a zoo of critters visiting us. Had 50-100 dolphins around the boat this AM, they seemed to be fishing for squid....

Have a flight frigate birds tagging along with us for the last few days. It is quite funny to look up at the TV antenna on the mizzen top and see it sprout a beak and tail feathers. Its a sight to watch the bird try to make a landing, sometimes thay have to make a dozen approaches and get waved off by the LSO until they get it right and snag the third wire. A couple of days back there were 2 of these gooney birds at the top of the main mast, but they intereferred with the wind vanes and they really were whipping around in the rolling. I guess they finally got seasick and gave up, after about 1 hour of hanging on beak and claw. We currently have a frigate bird hood ornament on the front of the bow pulpit...They are fun to watch but not fun when they poop all over the decks...

all for now, gotta go and sweat some more

18:43:21 GMT
11° 23' 20" N
105° 14' 34" W

January 24, 2004

Hi Y'all,

We just tacked back north for a day to try to clear persistent Easterly winds. A northerly break just did not appear, and we were getting way too far we did what sailboats do....Tonite we are trying an easterly course, but I think we will need one more Nth beat to get past Mexico with expected winds...
We are conserving diesel since we have quite a way to go and the seas are not flat, so sailing is an option, albeit not a direct path to Panama Canal.

Not much other news, passed a Longliner this afternoon and another ship this PM. Got plenty of fresh water so nobody is smelling too bad. The Onan generator Raw salt pump has a small leak, so we will standby this unit for the Isuzu genset. Worked on the gray tanks a little. Surgery to Zana's head (marine toilet) was a qualified success.

all for now, still needing northerly winds
04:58:14 GMT
13° 53' 49" N
104° 52' 50" W

January 24, 2004

Hi Y'all,

We are going EAst somewhat at about 105T, so we have got NE winds driving us. We will likely tack to Nth in 18hrs to take advantage of more likely N winds closer to the coast of Mexico. So, we are slowly making progress towards Panama...

23:45:25 GMT
14° 07' 33" N
103° 40' 05" W

January 28, 2004

Hi Y'all,
We are waiting for Dave's Gale here at Tehuantepec. Had a false start a couple of hrs ago. Had been Gardening for 18hrs and then we got SE 15kt winds. Thought this was precursor to Gale. Put up lots of cloth, and presto 1 hr later back to ziltch now we are Gardening again! Still have reasonable Diesel reserves. Only about 1300nm to Panama now!!

Had nice evening drinks on Gazebo (aft steering station) at sunset. Had Pistachios and Cashews and Rum and cokes. Still pretty warm and we had a nice sunset. Before Sol dipped below the waves we had a visit from a gooney (frigate) bird we named "Dopey". He literally landed on then fell off the Gazebo cover and onto the Lazarette hatch. He then adopted one of the Primary winches. Here were 6 homo-sapiens having a tipple (with the sun being way under the yardarm) when we get a visit from a wild ocean animal not 3 feet away. He had no fear of humans. He did not want to go back to the ocean!! Tom gently tossed him over the side (without being pecked by the wicked beak) several times, but he flew back each time. We do not want all the guano on deck and sails, so even though we enjoy animals, we want to view them from a distance in their natural habitat and not spoil their natures (ie. tame them)
The "spinner" dolphins did not come back this evening, unfortunately.

Still racking up the miles and eagerly awaiting some favorable winds!

02:53:19 GMT
14° 32' 57" N
96° 43' 14" W

January 28, 2004

The Tehuantepecer gale started about 2am. It is pretty wild and impressive. GAle force winds 35kts with gusts to 40-50kts+ and seas about 12 to 16ft. It is sunny, no clouds in sky and a little cooler at about 78 deg. No rain.
We are being beaten up pretty good by a heavy beam sea and we are making 8-9kts under reefed sails, to the SE. We get regular "window washers", green water over the deck and George screams a bit when Kiwi tries to round up a swell occasionally. We are making lots of foam and boiling water. Some lockers have auto-emptied and we have got some water through hatches that were not secured...

So, basically its a great day sail! But, I'd not want be be out here in a 40 footer!! I can see why most cruisers time their passage to avoid this well known Orographic gale. Kiwi is handling the conditions very nicely and sailing well. I'm also pleased George can drive her OK in these heavy conditions. If the Gale stays at this ferocity all is well, we still have options to shorten sail and have plenty of room to run it if it gets too feisty HAve some good video and still footage of breaking swells and driving spray. This is kinda like N Atlantic weather?

Tom and Dave went out at first light to take a reef in the main and also the Mizzen because wew were a little overdriven . Also retrimmed Staysail. The guys seemed to enjoy a spectacular ride on the foredeck with driving spray and seas and a thorough soaking in warm water, and they were well clipped in with safety lines and harnesses. Now they see that KIwi can handle these conditions, I don't think they are looking at the liferaft so anxiously anymore....We had to shoo them to bed 'cos they were enjoying hanging out in the cockpit and watching the show. Kinda like 2 dogs hanging out of the window of a pickup truck....
We should exit these conditions in 14-24 hrs and be able to go more south down the coast of Guatemala etc...At this time the wind and seas have let up a little.
more to come

20:49:59 GMT
13° 54' 18" N
95° 39' 36" W

January 31, 2004

Yeah !,
After a bazillion miles of blunted lures Paul ( our Fishing Officer) finally caught a fish. So now it is Paul:1 Fish:3. We were off the coast of Guatemala and Tom noticed the lure line had sunk down. We had a 3lb Bonito. Paul converted it to steaks so fast it probably did not know it was caught...

The night before Paul caught a 5 foot Juvenile Blue Marlin! We brought it alongside and Paul gaffed it and we were waiting to stun it when it made an almighty heave ( its tail and back 1/3were in the water while its 16" bill was above the cap rail) and managed to get off the gaff , and also the hook I was holding it with. Real bummer, but the body was about 4' long and the pig-sticker part was about 16" and was pretty menacing. None of us really wanted any body piercings!!!
We get dazzling displays of dolphin exuberance several times a day with the spinnner dolphins. It starts with little "geysers" on the horizon and progresses to dozens of splashes and dolphins leaping in all directions doing spirals, back flips and slam-dunks. They often do it in unison. Sometimes they bring the display close to Kiwi. It is the highlight of the day.

We stopped for about 1 hr last night before dusk and Dave and Tom went for a swim alongside. No sharks were spotted trying to get this bait....

We have been Gardening for a day and a half since the Dave GAle, since we have almost been becalmed. Wind forecast got by our Weather Officer (Dave) is not good for next few days so we are converting some diesel into distance.....Not as much fun as sailing.

Dave just missed an unlit fishing dory and net 50 miles off El Salvador early this morning and this was an object lesson to landlubbers on not relying solely on the magic "Radar box" to provide collision avoidance.

ZAna made cinnamon rolls this AM which were very tasty.

17:37:55 GMT
12° 32' 33" N
89° 08' 21" W

February 3, 2004

Yo All,

We are now 1/2 way down Costa Rica and expect to be in Panama about friday. We are not getting much wind so we are Gardening and motorsailing at about 6kts in lite airs, where we expected stronger NE winds, like we had abreast of the Gulf of Papagayo 2 days back. Should have enuf Diesel to get there (I hope)...Still got lots of fresh water and fresh bread, and Zana and Laura made a birthday cake for Dave's daughter Kate to have here as a surprise. It was.

We will let you know our transit date and you should be able to see us live locking up on a Panama Canal Web cam.....
It's pretty hot here and it is hard to find shade at low sun angles, the wheelhouse is warm and the engine-room is a sauna!!
Paul caught a small Yellow Tail tuna the other day, and we persuaded him to return it. We almost snagged another Marlin today. IMHO, Tuna and Bonito are kinda like Alpo and 9 Lives, although are pretty good in sushi.. I prefer white fish like MahiMahi or Snapper. We asked Paul to use a fish filter...
Haven't seen many "Birtles" in the last couple of days ( a gooney bird mounted to a turtle). The birds realy get indignant and squark as we go by, who knows what the turtles think of this arrangement...No spinner dolphins today...Lots of big ships to dodge to/from Canal area.

I understand there are a number of Digitrax customers who now visit the Kiwi Electron web site. Welcome. I would like to assure you that there is no surcharge or extra burden on decoder costs posed by Kiwi on Digitrax customers, since I built this and ran it 30,000+ blue water miles years before Digitrax was started! In fact I had negelected Kiwi in Portland for 12 years as we built up Digitrax....

Anyway, every one is healthy and eating well . We had Terriaki NY strip steaks and cottage fries tonite, cooked by Paul [luckily he caught no more Tuna :-) ]
more later
03:15:50 GMT
8° 40' 50" N
85° 07' 10" W

February 7, 2004

That about says it all. Paul got about a 5' blue marlin (SECOND ONE), and we brought it alongside. We got this one on video and still camera ,since it was about 2pm in the afternoon and pretty exciting. SO we have filmateleven.....Brought that beast alongside and felt such pity for a pretty fish that Paul decided to do catch and release. So he allowed the fish to saw through the stainless leader and did not gaff it. It got away with my veteran squid lure, but it would have been a pity to kill the fish since we did not plan to eat it.
We had a number of problems at Punta Mala, so we were kinda snakebit in that area....Had a problem with the plastic aft gray suction hose rotting out and Paul and I had to modify a 1'' hose to fit over 1 1/2 barb fittings! It was a worthy boj, and about 10 on the Richter scale, but it works well.(I did not stock the larger hose)
Dave and Tom wrassled with the anchor locker drain and ended up winning that bout. The new anchor solenoid also went on the fritz and started to operate itself once more (an echo?..).... So we found that there was excess saltwater in the forepeak that caused all the shorting problems- boy we were glad not to have to crack the winch case again!!!
Today the saloon mid bilge level went off and we finally found out that Laura's filtered water 1/8" line had a slight split in it which slowly dumped 25gals into the saloon bilge. WE had to cut an acess hole and drop in a sump pump to dewater. Was hard to find the hose split!!
The staysail track stop slipped and the traveller car raced off the track with great violence at 3 am. Had to retrieve the flapping boom and restrain it with a safety line, so now it works OK again...
So now we are motorsailing hard on the wind to get to Panama asap. Wish you were here...
see ya soon from downtown sunny Panama- don't let the snow and ice get you down
00:34:13 GMT
7° 20' 24" N
79° 46' 24" W

February 8, 2004

We are in beautiful downtown Flamenco Island in Panama. The marina here is quite nice and we are enjoying eating ashore on tables that don't rock , being waited on and no dishes to do, and having plates instead of uni-bowls...
We have organized the locals to do a month of laundry (whew!!!). Will be loading Diesel fuel tomorrow and getting admeasured for the canal transit. We are looking at a Thursday or Friday transit, since we still have maintenance to do. No news from the boys ashore yet so as long as the Federales dont call for us to spring them from jail all must be well with them (Tom and Dave)..
Did get the 1st reef line changed and upgraded the main traveller lines. Tomorrow will also go into the big burg and try to forage for pump spares and groceries etc..esp. fresh fruit and veggies. SO all is well here in manana land and the weather is quite pleasant and breezy-tropical. So, we are just going with the flow...

03:53:27 GMT
8° 54' 21" N
79° 33' 02" W

Feruary 9, 2004

Howdy sports fans,
We got admeasured today for Canal after we went alongside the barge/dock here at the new Flamenco Is Marina. Also loaded full diesel tanks and got Laundry off to be done. So, now we will likely transit on Thursday AM, probably will be at first PAcific side locks at 7:45 to 9:00 am. Time this close to the equator undergoes relativistic dilation and stretching effects proportional to the boredom of the officials and service personnel, its all manana, so its cool.....
For pictures of trip up to San Diego, check out Tom's web site "" and look for his trip comments that link to some pikkies. Check out the Panama Canal Authority web site (google it!) for live shots around our transit time- maybe someone can work out how to record the web-cam shots??? I will try to give another email when plans more fixed.
Still have a little maintenance to do before we are off. We are really enjoying the restaurants close by and we get a convenient water taxi so we do not need a dink in the water. Its sunny and warm tropical breezes.
Went foraging for stuff today. Rolled snake-eyes on Gardner Raw water pump so I'll have to boj it. The Taxis and traffic here are quite an adventure!! Our first taxi died outside the pump shop, so we had to corral another unit. The first guy did not even have 4/40 air conditioning (no rear window winders, and 4 of us passengers) so it was quite a sweat as well as a harrowing drive (nearly clipped 2 other cars)....his taxi was a real beater- that should have been a clue for us gringos...egads. We went to a mall for groceries and shopped till my shopping circuit breaker blew and we rounded up an newer Taxi with working A/C. Was an e-ride back to boat- kinda like an urban rally.....
all for now,
03:59:38 GMT
8° 55' 26" N
79° 30' 25" W

February 12, 2004 - Pamama Canal

February 17, 2004

We have had four great days of sailing and are only about 80 miles from Georgetown. IN my last note I related that the Yankee lead parted, so we sailed in 20-25kts of wind from the east and made good boat speed without the extra foresail. We have held this tack for 4 days now!!
Last nite we were past Isla de Providencia and the Quito Sueno bank and started to see many fishing boats and trawlers. Did a lot of dodging fishing boats all nite, since the Nicaragua rise has many shoals of about 100 feet, so the fishing is good for them.
Paul caught a Mahi-Mahi but he was not using a stainless leader and the fish sawed the monofil through. He caught a 2lb bonito as well, but released it to grow up..
The Panama transit was fun and quite tiring, but not such an ordeal that we had been lead to believe it would be. The canal is operated pretty efficiently from our perspective.
Today we raised the Genoa to 60% and we had the boat running at over 10 kts to 11kts all afternoon. We slowed down so we would not get to Caymans too early for customs etc..
more later
00:37:00 GMT
17° 48' 35" N
81° 44' 03" W

February 18,2004

Hi There,

For those that have been tuned in we transited the Panama Canal on Thursday 12th Feb. We left Cristobal, Panama on the Friday and have been sailing north fairly fast since.
We were on good northerly track for Grand CAyman, but in the last 12 hours to Georgetown the winds changed to NE and drove us off to the NW about 50 extra miles (of noserlies). Since we are already about 1week behind our arrival date in Florida, I elected to bypass the Caymans. It was sad for all of us not to be able to go there.

We are now exiting the Yucatan Passage between Cuba amd Mexico. For the last 24 hours south of the Yucatan Passage we have been in a gale of 30kts gusting to 40kts with 8-10 foot seas. It has been quite rough and we reefed both the main and mizzen and still were sailing at 8 to 10kts on George. A rogue sea moved OneTon over to touch the Main mast, and we had to relash this dinghy. The Isuzu has some fuel problem that I will have to fix tomorrow, so we are limping on the Onan backup that is quiter but has a leaky raw water pump. This gale was not forecast by Noaa, and we hope that the rough seas and NE winds will change to the forecast Easterlies for us to run up to Panama City FL. We hope to be there in 4-5 days or so, since it is only about 500nm to go..... Wish us luck

01:12:39 GMT
21° 11' 50" N
85° 34' 07" W

February 20, 2004

Hi Y'all

We are about 370 miles south of PAnama City FL, so we expect to make it in by Sun AM or so and hopefully Customs will be able to clear us in then.

The big Isuzu Genset now runs again after I bled the fuel lines. We had not run the Gardner/fuel lift pump since last Friday and the DAy Tank got so low as to run the fuel out to the Genset.... I guess this is good news since it means we will have quickly sailed the vast majority of about 1,300nm miles from Cristobal to Panama City FL!! The seas are only 3-4 feet today and we are making good time of 7-9kts in 15kt easterlies.
From below Yucatan Passage to about 100 miles N, we had big seas and it was as lumpy as the Tehuantepecer!- and the Noaa forecast did not show this.. We had some big seas slam us last night and there was much spray and even some large flows of green water down the decks. Zana and I got drenched with about 5 gallons of saltwater through our closed hatch! Was quite rough!

We had a fresh water line under the galley sinks let go and it dumped about 20 gallons of fresh water around the GAlley, companionway, main switchboards and big freezer. We cleaned it up and are making more fresh water as I type this.

There are possibly a number of notes I sent from El SAlvador onwards that got lost, and I will be sure to give a full copy to Tom so he can load a more complete set to the Kiwi website.

We will take Kiwi out of Service and clean up pretty quickly when we get to PC FL, since we all have a lot of other things we need to catch up on and we are nearly 2 weeks behind our projected ETA

01:01:15 GMT
24° 09' 08" N
86° 55' 50" W

February 25, 2004

Hi everyone,
The rest of the crew have got safely to Atlanta and Zana and I have been busy shutting down the forward accommodations to get ready for hauling out Kiwi in the near future. With this done we can finally shutdown the rest of the boat so now we can also go home to see whats been happening while we were away for nearly 3 months- we hope we still have our cats,house etc.
I has been raining hard for the last 36 hours and most salt and dirt have been washed from the boat. In fact I've been waiting for the animals to appear 2 by 2....The weather is quite cool, and got like this about the latitude of Tampa. Below this we were all wearing t-shirts and shorts and as we got northing, we started to get much cooler, like the rest of the USA....The trip from Cristobal, Panama to Panama City FL was a fast sail at about 9 days and this was because we had good Easterlies and trades, including the gale off Cuba.

This will probably be the last update for this voyage and this list. The incoming spam key will change and we will put the e-mail system to sleep for awhile. I hope these comments provided some useful updates and insights, although we seemed to have some gaps in coverage....We will work on getting the Kiwi web site updated with pikkies and video to provide a more comprehensive snapshot of the whole adventure.

In retrospect the trip was pretty colorful,eventful and successful, and we got here safely and gave some unmatched blue-water experience and adventures to a number of landlubbers. It takes about 6 months of blue water cruising and experience to convert a landlubber to a trained blue-water sailor. I have trained several dozen crew in blue-water passagemaking over the years, and still find that this is complex and stressful task. The world and environment in a boat several hundred miles from land is quite alien to the same vessel in a marina, and more extreme than coastwise cruising. No amount of explaining this substitutes for direct experience. In particular, all the minute and unconscious everyday details and actions suddenly become important and critical to safety and comfort. For example; how you move around, stow or arrange items, cook and clean and operate equipment now has the added challenge of 3 dimensional movement at random. There is the added possibility of a severe pounding from rogue waves with no notice. After a couple of these extreme events the crew may start to realise that you are not "nagging" about how things should be done, but trying to prepare them for the inevitable, and train them to be "blue water" aware in all details and actions. For example if you put a winch handle in without locking it, or place a flashlight or cup of coffee on the deck without securing it fully; it is only a matter of when not if, before these items become a moving hazard that will injure someone, damage the boat or go over the side and a replacement will have to be procured and paid for. To avoid injury and damage 90% compliance with seamanlike behavior is not good enough, and it is mentally challenging to stay one step ahead of the boat and weather, to guage action and reaction. When cruising it is very apparent when you observe clues from a person or boat that they have developed the true "blue-water" awareness and learning in the way they approach life and operations on a boat. The transition to blue-water awareness is the most frustrating and challenging aspect for landlubbers because they often cannot "see" the consequences of these "intrinsic" actions until some upset or injury occurs. It is human nature to resist re-learning how to prepare a meal or ablute when the old habits serve so well ashore in normal life. Every passage teaches you new things about life on the ocean.
Looking back over all the crews I have worked with, it seems younger persons are more malleable and less resistant to changing habits to be more seamanlike, and there is always room for improvements for all sailors. Early in the 40,000+ miles I have skippered Kiwi, I had two retired firemen who crewed for some time in the South Pacific. One guy had "all the answers" and took every opportunity to express these [he had no sailing experience before joining Kiwi!] and the other was very wise and stood back and occasionally quitely added positive criticisms after analysing an evolution based on personal experience. He had circumnavigated on several boats for 5 years and only added comments when_really_ needed. I had sailed 20+ years before launching Kiwi and spent hundreds of hours talking to cruisers and analysing boat configurations and operations before fitting out Kiwi ,so it should be clear which crew-dog was more helpful.
On Kiwi we are thankful for the professionalism and courtesy of our fellow sailors in the Merchant Marine on deck watch. We safely passed some of the busiest sealanes in the world.
bye, AJ
14:40:18 GMT
60° 54' 26" N
87° 28' 28" W