Tales

Notes from the Pacific Crossing

By justine

WEEK 1-DEPARTURE AND DRIFTING

A month at sea, that’s what it became. We departed La Paz Mexico on March 9th at 12pm and dropped anchor in Nuku Hiva on April 9th at 2am. Two days prior our friend, Andrea, arrived from New Orleans to accompany us on the journey. Like us this was her first ocean crossing but she was eager for the experience. On departure day the wind forecast was not promising, but we were so ready to go it didn’t matter. Our departure was not only unceremonious but rushed due to chaos in the anchorage but thats another story. We motor-sailed our way south down the peninsula. We anchored in the evenings and awaited higher winds to carry us out of the Sea of Cortez.

On the 5th morning we raised our anchor at Los Frailes and finally headed off into the big blue where we found confused seas but good wind. After half a day we lost the latter of the 2 unfortunately. With just a handkerchief of head sail for stabilization we drifted towards our destination. The going was rough. A boat adrift does not handle like a boat sailing. A boat sailing has the potential to be quite stable, but with nothing to pin the boat to one side Rhythm just bobs back and forth. So the next 4 days were long and slow with a low speed of 35 nautical miles in a 24 hour period. There is no good reason to turn on the motor, other than sanity, though. We only carry 85 gallons of fuel so motoring isn’t a good option. We needed to conserve fuel for a time that we are desperate.

Being uncomfortable is the least of our worries in these conditions though. The boat is not accustomed nor efficient in these seas: our sails got slapped back and forth, plumbing became loose and leaked onto the floor (and some vegetables), the windex fell off and hit the deck (luckily we were able to save all the pieces), and a bearing in our auto helm failed (also repairable).

We felt frustrated. All this time, money, and hard work and the trip was not starting out well. To pick up the mood we decided to abandon ship. Well, sort of. We took turns jumping over board. We were at a depth of 10,000 feet but the water was glassy calm and the temperature was at least 80 degrees. Its color was a deep dark, but clear, blue that I have never seen before.

WEEK 2 - WIND, FLYING FISH, AND BOOBIES ONBOARD

boobie on board

flying fish

Then came the boobies (birds). At first they were flying near the boat, soon they were landing on the boat, and eventually they shitting on the boat. Most notably shitting on the solar panels and flying near our wind generator. We were loosing our power sources due to these stow aways. So after a bit of admiration we started shooing them away. Unfortunately, we had a few casualties. One red footed boobie hit the generator and was deflected into the cockpit right as Andrea was beginning her night shift. The little guy spent the night on the cushions in the cockpit, once again shitting everywhere. He was also pretty pissed every time you approached him. I guess he didn’t realize he had parked himself right in front of our jib sheet winch. By morning he was alert and with some encouragement he flew away.

We finally got some wind, and not to complain, but this wind was accompanied by a side swell, meaning conditions were better but still not comfortable. I should mention that despite all this discomfort we never had any issues with seasickness.

Now that we were moving faster, averaging 130 NM daily, we settled into a routine. John took care of the captain duties like weather checking, fine tuning sails, system management and repair, and course navigation. As first mate, I kept the boat ship-shape, monitored water and propane usage, and handled waste.  Andrea and I took turns making meals and doing dishes. We were all generally awake and alert throughout the day with the occasional nap. In the late afternoon, we played a game of scrabble and ate dinner together. In the evening, we had 3 shifts: 9p-12p, 12p-3a, and 3a-6a. We rotated every 4 days. It seemed to work out well for a crew of 3, but is much different then how John and I handle it when its just the two of us.

night watch

Our only scenery besides big blue are the sunrises, sunsets, the moon, and the stars which were all magnificent. This week were enjoying the light of the full moon.

WEEK 3 - CARE AND FEEDING

laundry

We filled our days with things like doing laundry in a bucket, solar showers on the deck, reading, a bit of a strength work-out or some yoga, and if we are lucky some marine life viewing. We still had a fair amount of fresh veg/fruits thanks to our friend Martín, from the La Paz farmers market, who set us up with some unripe organic produce. We voted our green tomatoes as the MVP and we were still enjoying the third week out. Dinners were our “fanciest” meals: sweet potato and bean enchiladas, salmon cakes, yellow veggie curry, falafel, goat cheese pasta, and cheesy grits with brussel sprouts to name a few favorites.

We were fortunate enough to have a school of dolphin, of up to 1,000, swim with us for a half hour before getting bored with our slow speed. That half hour was magical.

WEEK 4 - EQUATOR CROSSING

gps equator

equatorial toast

This week, on March 30, we crossed the equator at 124 degrees west. We hit this milestone and had a celebration. We felt lucky to have gotten this far without hitting the doldrums, an area where winds can die for days. We managed to get through with a light winds. The following day we were briefly becalmed and took advantage by going for another quick swim. The heat and the humidity at this latitude are intense and the swim was welcomed.

Despite our luck missing the doldrums, the weather near the equator still gets confused and thus begin the squalls. We were chased by rain and sometime lightning several times a day. The squalls mess with the wind too so we kept the sails reefed in the evenings when its more difficult to see them approaching.

WEEK 4.5 - ARRIVAL

dolphin

With this major milestone of crossing the equator behind us my mood seemed to worsen; we were only 2/3 of the way. Fresh food was limited to a few eggs, a bit of cheese, potatoes, onions, carrots, and cabbage. As if the gods knew I couldn’t take it anymore they grant me the reprieve of cooler evenings for sleeping for the next few nights.

Days continued and finally on day 26 we saw land, first on the GPS and then, finally, with our naked eye. The sunset against the islands brought tears to my eyes with the awareness that very soon we would stand on land. I knew it would happen but still I couldn’t believe it.

In the dark of the night on April 9th, we approached Nuku Hiva and smelled the floral scent of land. Without any moon to guide us we approached with caution and wove our way through the 40 boats already at anchor in Taiohae Bay. We dropped anchor in 25 feet of water near the shore and fell asleep with smiles on our faces and pride in our hearts for what we had accomplished.

LASTLY

Thanks to all our friends and family for all the positive energy and thoughts you sent us throughout this journey. We appreciated the emails and apologize for any worry we may have caused. We are safely in the arms of French Polynesia now ready for 6 months of exploration.

southern cross