Before we left Mexico we wrote up an FAQ with the answers we thought were right at the time. This time I'll give the right answers to the interesting questions and add the questions we should have asked:
How far is the sail from Banderas Bay to Hawaii?
The Garmin says the actual distance traveled was 2967 nautical miles. The "as the crow flies" distance was 2789 miles.
How long will it take?
30 to 40 days was our estimate. It actually took 28 days and 18 hours. We thought getting off the coast was going to be the hardest part. We were right. 500 miles off the coast was a bit of an underestimate to get to the trades. It ended up being more like 1000 miles until we had wind on/aft of the beam. We thought we'd get 120 to 140 mile days. In reality we got more like 110 to 120 mile days.
How much fuel?
We had more fuel than we needed. We motored for less than 10 hours, which I estimate burned less than 3 gallons of fuel. Our instincts told us to carry more water rather than more fuel and, for this crossing at least, those instincts were spot on.
How do you keep the batteries charged?
The solar panels were effective, but the skies were often cloudy, so when the sun did come out we made tons of power. Before the battery monitor quit working I saw we were making 7+ amps at 12 volts which I believe is near the maximum output for 100 watts of panel.
The failure of the battery monitor was a disappointment. A little salt water got on the gadget that measures battery current/voltage. The salt water caused corrosion which eventually led to failure. I really like the battery monitor, so I plan to fix it and reinstall it in a waterproof housing. As a backup to the battery monitor, we were able to measure voltage with a multimeter.
How much water?
We had 10, 10 liter plastic bottles stashed throughout the boat. We only drank 8 of them. In addition we had the 25 gallon tank under the v-berth that we barely touched. Then there's the 5 gallon container in the port lazarette that we never even considered. Thinking about it after the fact, we had enough water to last for an 8 week passage, probably more.
We planned on half a gallon per person per day. We didn't end up using that much. Daytime high temperatures were lower than we expected, so we didn't end up drinking as much as expected.
Do you have a watermaker?
A watermaker, even an emergency one, didn't turn out to be necessary. If its just Carolyn and I on the boat, I see no reason we'll ever need one.
What will you eat?
We ate lots of good stuff. Preparing food on the boat was one of the biggest challenges of the trip. The boat was constantly moving, always rocking side to side. Imagine making mashed potatos in your kitchen. You've peeled and chopped the potatos and placed them in a bowl on the counter while you wait for the water to boil. Then your kitchen counter tips 20 degrees and dumps the potatos on the floor because you didn't keep a hand on the bowl.
Carolyn kept a food diary that she'll eventually post.
What will you drink?
We didn't have a drop of liquor, or any alcohol for that matter, during the crossing. We had plenty of water that we flavored with powdered drink mixes.
Do you have a refrigerator?
We didn't need one for this trip. I see no reason we'll ever need one.
What safety gear do you have on board?
I thought that a healthy, capable crew was the most important thing. Turns out I was right.
Fortunately we didn't need the life raft or EPIRB. The AIS was amazing - during the first week it provided confidence that the big ships weren't going to run us over. After the first week, we didn't see another boat until day 29 pulling into Hilo. The Delorme InReach was another great upgrade - we will continue to use it to advertise our whereabouts.
What do you do all day to occupy yourself?
Keeping the boat moving didn't occupy much of our time really. The combination of boat, sails, and windvane took care of itself. By the time we'd finished a few hundred miles, we got the windvane tuned so well that we didn't hardly have to touch it. The only work we really did was reefing and unreefing the sails.
Cooking took much more time than expected. Cleaning the dishes was also quite a challenge.
We did play some games on the iPad. In 11 games of Settler's of Catan, I won 9, Carolyn won 1, and the computer opponent won 1. We're really embarassed about that computer victory.
Do you stop at night to sleep?
Is there someone always on watch?
We said we'd try to keep watch at night. We barely tried. We did the thing with the watches for the first few nights, but once we stopped seeing other boats we just went to sleep and let the boat wake us up. If the wind picked up, the boat would heel and wake us up. If the windvane slipped, we'd round up, the sails would flog and wake us up. It turned out to work well because we were never tired and the boat was almost always moving along.
How long in Hawaii?
Now that we're here, we plan to island hop until some time in September, then find a semi-permanent slip for the boat and an apartment or room in a house on terra firma. Then we'll try to find jobs to pump some cash into the cruising fund. While we're here we have some fixes to do on the boat too.
What if something goes wrong?
Fortunately on this crossing everything went right. We feel very lucky and are extremely happy with our success.
Is it a wet boat?
Oh wow, if only we had known. Everything leaks. Everything! The boat is 30 years old and we haven't rebedded any of the deck hardware, windows, or the hull/deck joint. I have no idea when a previous owner might have done it either. During the crossing, we constantly had a pool of water sitting on the side deck. That pool of water found its way into the cabin through every hole in the boat. While we're in Hawaii, we'll need to pull everything off the boat and refresh the caulking to fix the leaks. That will be a big job, but its one we'll be able to do ourselves.
The Contessa 26 is an amazing boat. Yes, it is tiny. Yes, it does leak. It has also brought us three thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean and not once did we feel that the boat was anywhere near failure. We never had gale force winds, but we did have plenty of wind in the mid-twenties. The waves were alway big and as much as we complained about the motion, Crazy Love didn't mind one bit. In fact I'm pretty sure she liked it.
The WindPilot Pacific Light, we call him The Conductor, is the best crew member ever. The windvane, mounting bracket, and installation cost $4500. It was worth every penny. It steered 99% of the way across - we hand steered while we were motoring.
The sails held up well. We had the sails up and pushing the boat along for four weeks straight. We had a sail repair kit in case of tears or chafe. Fortunately we did not need it.
The 10 liter bottles of water from the grocery store in Mexico were great. We didn't need those expensive 5 gallon jerry cans many cruisers carry. I'm sure they're convenient, but they're too big to stow on Crazy Love.
What didn't work?
The battery monitor failed on us, but that is the fault of the installer (me) and will be fixed soon enough.
The bilge pump. We have one of the Rule bilge pumps sold by West Marine. It was absolutely crazy. It would turn on, pump some water out, and then never turn off. I think the float switch is faulty.
I'm pretty sure our electric tiller pilots are broken, but I doubt a brand new one would be able to keep up with the big steering needed in trade wind waves. If it did work, I'm sure it would draw so much power that it would be unusable on Crazy Love.
The symmetrical spinnaker didn't work for us. We spent an hour setting it during a morning of light winds and it didn't really do much for us. We prefer to run wing and wing which we got a lot (1000+) of miles out of. We'd attach the jib clew to the spinnaker pole and stick the pole out to windward. Then we'd put the boom on a preventer. Running like this kept the sails from flogging and dispensed with the complication of the spinnaker. I doubt we'll take the spinnaker with us on our next adventure.
Our jib furling line chafed through but this was totally my fault. I had the jib rolled up the wrong way so the furling line rubbed on a part of the furling drum it shouldn't. This is an easy fix but we're still considering dumping the roller furling altogether.