Apr 11, 2014

Pacific Crossing Week Three: April 4 - 10 - Bonjour les Marquises

Some friendships are water soluble.
Deborah on Elan 

Our route over 21 days.  From Punta Mita, MX to Hiva Oa, FP
Day 15 - April 4 - Boat Fever - How Do You Find Space?
Mileage: 115
Position: 01.18.7 N and 129.56.1 W
Total mileage: 1,994 nm

By the time you read this, we will have sailed 2,000 miles (we are 6 miles away). We should be in the Southern Hemisphere by midnight!

The new moon is with us playing peek-a-boo between the clouds. It looks upside down compare to when we see her in the Northern skies. She is bright orange, beautiful and a welcome sight.

Rainbows are everywhere, but one in particular is striking. It is so bright that it's reflection in the water makes it look like it reaches all the way to Music's stern and we can grab it. Maybe Music is the pot of gold. BEAUTIFUL

The humidity is reaching higher and higher making for sweaty bodies, curly hair, damp paper and towels, and higher usage of fans.

So how do you find your own little bit of space while living on a postage stamp size floating speck on this vast ocean with nowhere to escape? The possible choices are cooking, immersion in a good book, following the rhythms of music, writing, fixing things, sewing, cleaning, reliving sweet memories, sleeping extra hours or simply watching your surroundings while zoning out.

All is well
Day 16 - April 5 - How Pollywiggles Disappear
Mileage: 116 nm
Position: 0.24.1 S and 130.44.9 W
Total mileage: 2,111 nm

The proof.......
We crossed the equator under sail at 03:25 this morning! We are now officially in the South Pacific Ocean after sailing over 2,080 miles! More than 2/3 of the way there.

Since there are fewer clouds on the horizon it seems we can see much further out as if the ocean is flatter in this area of the globe. We haven't had to dodge a squall for over a day now. Cushions, seats, canvas covers are finally drying. It is warming up - even during our night watches we no longer need jackets.

At about 3am our Captain was on watch and it was my turn to take over. He was rummaging in the galley asking for the 'Dramamine' (sea sickness medicine) and looking in the corner where it used to be. In my half awake state I replied that I had put it back in the medicine cabinet in the forward bathroom on the port side. He looked at me really puzzled and asked again if I had seen the 'Dramamine'. Being a little more awake this time I thought his question was strange since the seas were very still. How could anyone need Dramamine in such calm waters? I reinstated my reply and I could see/feel a look of irritation. Then I saw the glasses on the counter and realized he was not saying Dramamine but Grenadine. Our captain was making Tequila Sunrises to celebrate our crossing of the equator… We finally found the Grenadine which used to be stashed near the Dramamine… We got it worked out in time to celebrate!

We spent the next 20 minutes, all 3 of us, waiting for this moment - becoming Shellbacks and losing our Polliwog or Pollywiggle status. Shellbacks for those who do not know are seasoned sailors, especially if they have crossed the equator via water. Polliwogs or Pollywiggles (another name for tadpoles) are inexperienced sailors… I prefer the older name, Pollywiggles, before it evolved into Polliwogs but either way, it is now irrelevant.

All is very well
Day 17 - April 6 - The Doldrums Within
Mileage: 133 nm
Position: 2.21.8 S and 131.45.2 W
Total mileage: 2,244 nm

As typical Type-A personalities, owners and good caretakers of our own sailing vessel, it is a little numbing to be on someone else's boat where they are, understandably, completely in charge. Too many cooks in the kitchen would lead to confusion. After over two weeks it brings a little of the doldrums within however. Itching to do more...

We are each used to making our own decisions, choosing our course or plan of action, prioritization, etc. Here we follow needs, directions, and wants, something a tad foreign to us used to leading teams or projects.

We are not saying good, bad or indifferent, just that it goes against our natural inclinations. Some things we would be doing differently but we understand and accept it is not our own vessel. Adaptation is needed, letting go being the lesson.

On one level it is liberating: the ultimate burden is not on us but because we truly care about this boat, our normal tendency is to share more of the load. On another level it is constraining because we are itching to pass on knowledge and improvements (perhaps easier/better ways to do things). To observe and help is what is favored so we do just that.

Again, we are reminded we have different sailing philosophies. We normally tend to go for comfort and ease of sailing over following a line and attaining speed. As one of our best sailing mentor always reminded us: "Take it easy, don't break anything, don't fight it, and let the boat guide you…"

This is not about personality clashes, just observations of our reactions and feelings to neither be in command nor sharing the weight of decisions that other personality types would probably more than welcome.

All is well
Day 18 - April 7 - The Journey of Oranges
Mileage: 151 nm
Position: 4.12.4 S and 133.20.5 W
Total mileage: 2,395 nm

I laugh at the tenths of miles. Measurement of distances in moving waters with currents, counter-currents, waves, and swells is imprecise at best. We probably did 160 miles just moving side to side through the tall swells just to cover 150 miles or so. Everything is very relative yet taken, for me anyway, too seriously.

More dancing through the squalls we thought we had left behind once crossing the equator. They do not warrant my fears anymore. We joke that they are now French squalls - better beware! I say 'dancing' because I don't believe you can dodge (i.e.: avoid) most of them. They appear and disappear so quickly that by the time you are aware of their presence, the best you can possibly do is skirt the edge, perhaps not get engulfed in their very center or simply get ready to dance with them. They are so large; no amount of motoring can get you out of their rapid paths. Should the winds go higher than say 35 knots (varies upon boat size, sail configurations, sailor's skills, etc) you are ready to reef or 'let out' or adjust the sails accordingly. Between 20 and 35 knots you point into the wind as far as you dare to slow her down as much as you can. When the winds die, usually on the other side of the squall, you wait their, sometimes slow, re-introduction. It's a give and take, a push and pull, the reading of clues, a fine dance to the music of winds and waves.

Today our highest squall gusts at 35 knots; we are sailing at 9.2 to 9.4 knots, a 'sleigh ride' as they say.

My mind meanders between yoga stretches during my night watch and I recall an old occurrence. As I get older, saw, tasted, and experienced more of what life has to offer, I understand more what an old lady meant when she refused to sell me all her oranges one sunny afternoon back in the early 1980's.

A very old lady dressed in hand-sewn burlap bags of various shades of brown and states of wear was sitting on an old wooden crate near an olive grove by a crossroad where traffic would slowly come and go. She was selling the usual fruits, vegetables or nuts so many in this region of Northern Spain did. I just inquired about the oranges and she was outraged I didn't speak Spanish even though she had enough French or English (I don't recall which) to understand me. "You are in Spain young lady, speak our language." She was right. She was shriveled by years of hard work, sun, and life but she was still fierce and strong.

I switched to the little Spanish I was just learning and asked about buying her whole bag of oranges. Again, she was annoyed with me saying NO. I couldn't understand. I thought she'd be happy to have a good sale for the day. She explained she would only sell me 3 or 4. How dare I ask for more? She had spent a lot of time gathering, choosing, packing, and then carting these oranges here, she wasn't about to sell all of them at once.

She was here to spend as long as possible talking with people, sharing stories, checking on families, enjoying the weather, etc. It was the quality, not the quantity; she wanted to share with as many as possible. She didn't want others, probably regular customers, to go without.

I am just now getting to understand and/or feel the full value of what she was telling me. It's the moment that is important, not the end product. I wouldn't want this journey to be any shorter; it's truly part of the full experience of getting there.

And they were delicious oranges.

All is well
Day 19 - April 8 - We Are Thankful
Mileage: 168 nm
Positions: 6.14.6 S and 135.23.4 W
Total mileage: 2,563 nm

Our fastest sailing day so far! Less than 300 miles to go. We could be there in 2 days! Winds have been in the mid teens and above for 24 hours. We are averaging 135 miles/day.

70% overcast for the past two to three days. Not much sunshine for the solar panels to help keep the batteries topped off so the engine is used more often, not to propel us forward but to help keep us going electrically. On Déjàlà we have a tow behind generator and considering how many hours are sans-sunshine, we are better off with this small generator than with additional solar panels. At an average of 5 knots, something easy to attain in the trade winds, we would be making 10 amps/hour, more than we need.

"May I never experience all that it is possible to get used to." Julia Alvarez, In the time of butterflies.

The quote above is from a book that described some of the atrocities experienced by the people of the Dominican Republic. Julia was referring to imprisonment in that context but it could pertain to many other distressing events.

From the few radio broadcasts we can hear or read (some highlights are transferred to words and emailed), we have learned that a boat that left the same day we did, sailed approximately 1,450 km (or about 900 miles) before having to call the US Coast Guards for medical rescue; their one or so year old baby girl really ill. We know the rescue happened; we know the boat was taking on water when the motor was running but what we don't know is the outcome yet. Hoping all is well for the baby particularly but for everyone overall.  Later on we found out they had to sink the boat as part of the rescue. 

On another boat, a brand new 53' Island Packet, the owners decided they weren't ready. Solar panels weren't up to par; whatever the true reason may be is not important. How many more either cannot or will not make the journey they so long prepared for?

The boat we are on, Music, did prepare for this passage last year but last minute emergency repairs made him delay a year but at least the dream still lives on.

Again, thinking of a very small sick child far away in the vast ocean and the ability of two medics to be flown to help and rescue. Our thoughts are with them.

WE thank our lucky star.

Happy birthday to our little furry mascot, Nikki, who turns 11 today...  She is lovingly taken care of by Sam and Adam in Spokane…  Thank you.

All is well
Day 20 - April 9 - The Real Heroes
Mileage: 162 nm
Position: 8.12.9 S and 137.15.3 W
Total mileage: 2,725 nm

We could be there tomorrow morning, less than 100 miles to go.

Further information from yesterday's post: The people are safe; the boat had to be sunk due to too many failures. This had been their home for 7 years, quite devastating I'm sure. This puts our journey in a completely new perspective.  We left Punta Mita on the same day at the same time.  We could see their boat on our AIS system for a couple of days.  They were a smaller vessel so they couldn’t travel as quickly so we eventually lost track.

To the optimist end of the spectrum, our ITCZ crossing was only a few hours long. Overall we never had less than 3 knots of speed during this whole trip, no true doldrums. To the pessimist end, we didn't hit 100 mile two days in a row and then we had to deal with squalls, thunder, lightning show (without lightning ever touching ground, just in the clouds), rain and it lasted days. Take your pick. We think we had a marvelous, uneventful crossing. Averaging 137 miles/day is nothing to sneeze at.

"Nights were a long slog of the mind, her thoughts sliding past one another but never catching, the gears of her brain stripped smooth." Brady Udall.  This expresses well how I sometimes see my mind work during my night watches.

We are called courageous, brave, daring, bold, or heroes (and sometimes crazy) by some of the people who hear we are making this long journey. I dare say we are none of the above. The true heroes are the likes of John, a sea loving man who at 30 became blind. Not letting his blindness stop him, he has sailed from the US to Mexico and is now on a passage from Mexico to Hawaii, taking on crew members to help him along. It's one thing to be blind in a known environment with recognizable money, language, foods, and urban landscape, it's quite another to be blind in a foreign region. My hat to John!

The true heroes are the likes of another John who lost part of his leg trying to save someone in distress in the Sea of Cortez. Putting himself at high risk to help someone else!

The true heroes are the likes of this elderly couple, she, knowing he doesn't have many years left to complete his vision of crossing the Pacific, him having had heart surgery the previous year with a prognosis of another surgery he now refuses to have. They both know he could die during the trip. They are at peace with it. Although difficult and scary, she can continue alone if need be. He'll be dying doing what he loves to do; sail. She is supportive of his dream.

The true heroes are parents with small kids making the difficult and most time infamous decision to uproot, to fight apathy, to buck the system and dismiss what people say about them as 'bad' for risking so much with kids. Doing home schooling, giving them lessons from Mother Nature, the love and better understanding of the natural elements and of global diversity. Leaving the boob-tube and the internet for stars, ocean, new worlds, real chores, and life and death situations to handle. Learning of true life.

There are many more examples I will not list here.

We, in the comfort of 3 very able bodies, are not the heroes these people are but we still hope to be an inspiration to others to follow their dreams regardless.

When we reach the anchorage, there will be mountains surrounding us, other boats nearby, lots of radio distractions. If our shortwave link isn't able to get out, we'll post from an internet cafe of some sort when finally on terra firma.

All is well
­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Day 21 - April 10 - Les Marquises, Fenua Enata
Mileage: 145 nm + 5 nm
Position: 9.49.9 S and 139.01.2 W
Total mileage: 2,875 nm

Total of 2,875 miles (including an extra 5 miles to enter the anchorage and find a space to call home for a few days). Average overall = 137 miles/day or 5.7 miles/hour. In 21 days + 1 hour! 

Full anchorage with about 22 other boats. It feels especially crowded after not seeing anyone for 3 weeks.

2014 Pacific Puddle Jump advertising
Ia Ora Na (Hello)

Early morning, as the fog over the island lifts, dark clouds are rushing in to take its place, getting caught and anchored at each of the high peaks surrounding the small bay. Everything is lush and verdant but you don't notice it until the sun lights things up bringing shades of grays and brown into sparkling green focus.

Speaking to some of the other cruisers who arrived the same day or a day or so before us, we find we have had the shortest (easiest) passage so far. Many had no wind for up to 6 days. There are tales of broken autopilot and self steering. Again, we have fared very well.

In a nutshell, we would say that a passage like this is just like coastal cruising but with fewer obstacles (lobster pots, nets, kelp, trash, long lines, fishing boats, pangas, rocks, etc) or safety nets. Otherwise it is pretty much the same.

It feels a little anticlimactic to be here - not feeling the big hurry I expected. It is another day in the journey rather than a climax. It will take time to assess, digest, and understand all that is or will be percolating. We are still digesting what we have seen, learned, or experienced in the past two years in Mexico.

All is well

Nana (Goodbye)

Week Three:
By the time you read the numbers below Music has gracefully glided over many more waves but, for consistency, we keep these updates 24 hours apart.

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