Eastern Pacific Ocean Crossing

In the first quarter of 2016 we departed the west coast of Mexico, sailed across the eastern Pacific Ocean on a 3,000 mile non-stop passage across the equator, and reached French Polynesia.

These two posts cover our preparations for the passage:

We then captured our daily activities and emotions on the last few days leading up to departure:

We departed Mexico on March 18th and were having good progress when a failure on our rigging forced us back to port. These four posts cover this event:

One week later the broken part was fixed, redundancy provided, and a new weather window was about to manifest. We departed Mexico a second time in anticipation of this window, so as to catch it in optimal conditions already well into the open ocean. We wrote and published posts during each day of the passage:

After arrival we published a series of three posts with images from the passage (which we were not able to upload while under way):

And finally, here is a summary of the main highlights and learnings from this experience:

 

THANK YOU for following us on this Journey !
Click here to return to the “Journey So Far” page

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And so it ends …

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The Tuamotus Diaries #59, Day 126 – October 1st 2016

As I write this we are sitting at the expensive comfort of Marina Taina in Tahiti. We came here from Toau, after a rather straight-forward, overnight passage.

It’s been 125 days in the Tuamotus. 4 atolls, 57 entries in our Tuamotus Diaries, hundreds of pictures, and a number of life-changing experiences. The amount of time we had was enough to allow us to not bother about it – time – for a long while. And with that pressure out of our systems, the enjoyment of life got just so intense.

We loved each other, and enjoyed being loved by one another in levels that we had not done before. We have been able to feel our natural surroundings in a way we didn’t do before.

The decision to come this way was made about a year ago, almost trivially, over wine on a casual dinner with friends. And looking back now, it was amongst the wisest we’ve made in our lives.

And the coolest part? The Journey isn’t over – far from it.

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I often write about what happens during our passages, but not so much about the details of them. Given it was a simple one, I will talk about it this time.

As mentioned above, the passage is rather straight-forward, without any hazards along the way – it is basically a straight line from Toau to Tahiti. Moreover, in Toau we stayed in Anse Amyot, which is a false pass on the lee side of the atoll. As such, it can be exited at any time – no need to fuss with tide times as for the other atolls. Similarly, tides are not an issue at the passes we intended to use in Tahiti. With that we could loosely chose our departure time to optimize for wind and time of arrival in Tahiti, our goal being to arrive some time during the morning.

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The first question then was When to depart. The wind had been blowing strong for over a week, and the forecast was saying it would subside gradually starting Thursday morning. We had then two options:

  • depart on Thursday, enjoy more winds, but likely endure a higher swell from all the wind that blew during the week
  • depart Friday, with less swell, but less wind as well, plus running the risk of getting becalmed along the way

We chose the latter. The only caveat was that the wind was forecast to diminish to nearly zero by the time we arrived to Tahiti, meaning we might likely have to motor on the final hours approaching the island. A fair compromise for a smoother passage.

According to the forecast, the wind would be blowing at ~14kts from the East upon our departure, and then gradually veer to the East-North-East and reduce in strength to 8-10kts by the time we arrived.

We left Anse Amyot in Toau at the same time as the sun slid behind the horizon. In my heart, only the now-usual anxiety associated to departing on a passage at dusk. All feelings associated to leaving the Tuamotus had already been processed. In hindsight, my heart had already left this paradisiac place back in Fakarava.

Anyway, just after leaving the pass in Toau, we felt the swell. It was still there, but definitely at a manageable level. During the night, I steered a course some 20 degrees to the North of the straight line route – the rationale being to keep the wind nearly on a dead-downwind angle while it was still strong enough for it, and reserve some “southing” on our direction for later in the passage, for when the wind started to get lighter and veer to the North. We sailed all through the night just with our Genoa out at a tranquil pace.

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During the first portion of the passage, sailed at night, the wind was still strong enough to allow us to sail dead-downwind. We did so, heading on a westward direction, some 20 degrees to the north of our straight-line route. We used our Genoa fully set, no Main, and averaged 6-6.5 knots, with winds ranging from 14 to 20 knots.

At dawn the wind had slowed a bit, the Genoa wasn’t all that effective anymore, and we set the Spinnaker instead. It reached the top of our mast before the sun was completely up from the horizon. Pesto jumped ahead and we resumed our average speed to the targeted 6 knots we had for the passage.

It was a glorious day of sailing, with just the spinnaker up, on a broad reach to a gentle breeze and the seas, which were now getting flatter by the hour. In the afternoon the wind started to veer to the North and got lighter, as forecast, and then we used the “northing” we had built on our track to maintain the wind at a broad-reach direction, thus keeping the spinnaker full. Had we sailed on a straight line since departure, we would now have the light wind dead astern, and wouldn’t be able to sail anymore, having to use the engine all through the night instead.

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During the next day the wind diminished gradually, as expected. We brought the Genoa in and hoisted the Spinnaker – our largest sail and adequate for downwind angles. As the wind decreased, we adjusted our course to the South gradually, thus making the most out of apparent wind to keep the sail full. Pesto’s average speed remained within the 6-7knot range, as we desired.

The decision to keep the spinnaker up and sail during the night was made just before dusk. The sea was very calm, the sky looked steady and the forecast – which had been unusually consistent thus far – pointed for a hazard free night. It was indeed an easy one, with all four of us sleeping at the cockpit and just a few occasional checks required during the night. By sunrise the wind then subsided to a point that we were barely making any progress, the spinnaker deflating constantly and rubbing against the rigging. That was it. We had been able to sail for over 200 miles, and the time had come for our faithful Volvo Penta to do the honors for us for the remaining 20 miles towards Taina.

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During the second – and last – night of the passage the wind kept its diminishing trend. However, we were North enough of Tahiti at this point to be able to sail closer to the little wind there was, thus maximizing the effect of Apparent Wind (a wind component created by the movement of the boat – similar to the wind that blows through the windows of a car as it moves). With that, we were able to sail all through the night with the spinnaker. Pesto’s speed decreased gradually along the night, from ~7kts to ~4kts at dawn, when the spinnaker started to collapse and we finally switched the engine on.

And so it ends. One tranquil, stress-free passage to wrap up the pinnacle of our Journey so far.

 

Go wonder what lies ahead …

THANK YOU for following our Tuamotus Diaries. This is our final entry, and we will now resume our “regular programming” of posts on the blog.

From Makemo to Fakarava

The Tuamotus Diaries #31, Day 66 – August 3rd 2016

The day cleared up on Sunday afternoon (August 31st), consistent with one of the forecasts we had, and I decided that if it remained like that until Monday, coupled with another benign forecast, then we would go.

As mentioned previously, we wanted to be in Fakarava for Raquel’s birthday, and the arrival of my sister in law. But now I had another incentive: a massive Depression (technical name to weather systems which, for practical purposes, are often as strong as hurricanes) was moving in from New Zealand. Whereas the depressions pass us well to the South, they generally spawn Cold Fronts and Troughs that end up affecting the weather here – and I wanted to be in Fakavava before any of these happened. Anyway, back to the story.

The passages between atolls are like Appointments – with tight times for departure and arrival. The reason is the atolls’ Passes – small fractures on the rim of the atoll through where water transits between the inside of the atoll and the open ocean. Kind of the Atoll’s “breathing organ”, if you will. As the tides go up and down, the direction and speed of the water flow vary accordingly – often reaching extreme figures. Vessels need to use the passes to go in and out of the atolls, and must therefore do so at the times when the water flow is at its minimum so as to avoid nasty conditions. Accordingly, we reached Makemo’s pass at 2PM on Monday and crossed it without a hitch.

Despite all the great time we had inside Makemo, it also felt liberating to be out in the open ocean again ! From Makemo we sailed between Katiu and Tuanake still before dusk, and then skirted Katiu and Raraka’s western sides along the night. We had a fair breeze all along the way and, except for a quick squall in the middle of the night, it was an uneventful passage. Our only challenge was slowing Pesto down, in order to reach Fakarava at the estimated Tide Slack at 9:30am the next day.

Pesto was however too happy to be sailing in those conditions and we reached Fakarava’s pass at 7:30am, two hours before the ideal time. We approached the pass to check the possibility of entering, but big standing waves almost 2 meters tall stood as sentinels all across the entrance, and made sure we understood the message. We resorted to tacking near the pass, outside of Fakarava, awaiting for the better conditions of 9:30am.

As we were doing so, though, a fierce squall approached us so quickly that I hardly noticed its arrival. As I scrambled to reef Pesto’s sails, I didn’t notice our drifting towards the area where the standing waves were. The squall hit us right at the same moment as we were wrapped by the waves. It was quite a show.

Adriana came back from her slumber disoriented. Raquel, who had been managing her seasickness all through the night, finally came on deck to discharge her agony. Even Paulo, who is normally the “cup-half-full” kind of guy during passages, got uneasy as Pesto jumped from one wavetop to another. It was not unsafe, but certainly uncomfortable, and anxiety-boosting. Adriana and Raquel were very kind and noble to not voice their thoughts for me having thrown Pesto into that mayhem.

Luckily the squall wasn’t long. By the time it had passed and the sun started to cut through the cloud cover again, it was 9:30am, and the standing waves receded almost miraculously in front of us – proving that my estimate of the slack tide’s timing was on the spot, which helped a great deal recover my internal reputation.

As we crossed the pass into the lagoon, it was already a glorious day, with placid waters and just a gentle breeze blowing. Perfect conditions for us to enjoy our first impressions of Fakarava – but THIS, I will save for another post.

Click on the image below to watch a short video we made during this passage:

THANK YOU FOR WATCHING !!!

Just can’t get Enough

After spending nearly a month on the island of Nuku Hiva, our place of landfall in the Marquesas, it was time to be on the move again and explore the other islands of this beautiful archipelago.

NukuHiva to UaPou Map

We departed one sunny Monday from the bay of Taiohae in Nuku Hiva, and blasted along toward Ua Pou, just 25 miles away to the South.
1.) Pictures Enough 7

One special treat for this passage was the opportunity to sail side by side with our friends from s/v Enough – a rare opportunity to take pictures of our beloved boats under sail. We got caught up with some last-minute-things in Taiohae though, and left some 30 minutes behind Enough. As were would find out, Enough is a fast lady and we struggled to catch up for most of the way.

2.) Pictures Enough 9

It was a great day for sailing and we were having a great ride.

3.) Pictures Enough 4

4.) Pictures Enough 55.) Pictures Enough 6

 

 

Geoff eased the sheets, and we finally caught up with Enough. Here she is, sailing beautifully against the backdrop of Ua Pou’s dramatic geography.

6.) Pictures Enough 8

Here she is again, this time a view from her bow:

7.) Pictures Enough 10

They also took pictures of us. Here is Pesto approaching Enough from behind:

8.) Pictures Enough 1

Here she goes with us, towards the horizon:

9.) Pictures Enough 3

And here we are, taking pictures of one another. Cool.

10.) Pictures Enough 11

It turns out, tough, that Ua Pou wasn’t supposed to be. We reached its main harbor – Hakahau – as the sun was settling, only to find out that the small anchorage was already full with other yachts. With little daylight left, we turned at full speed ahead to the next anchorage, Hakahetau, which we reached when night had fallen, thus breaching one of our internal policies of never entering an unknown anchorage at night. Oh well. To complicate matters, the swell was growing in anticipation of the approach of bad weather, and Hakahetau became very rolly during that night. The next day we scouted Ua Pou’s entire West coast.

11.) Pictures Enough 13

Despite its unique beauty, we were to find out, to our dismay, that all available anchorages were too exposed to the upcoming weather. Without options, and not all too happy, we set sail back to Nuku Hiva. This pod of Dolphins came to cheers us up:

12.) Pictures Enough 12

We arrived to Nuku Hiva just as the weather was turning. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a large swell and this beautiful sunset:

13.) Pictures Enough 15

We stayed within the protected harbor of Hooumi, which we were already familiar with, and awaited for better weather to resume our cruise down south of the Marquesas.

Is it working ?

Today I managed to get a little bit of internet. It was super slow (it took the equivalent of 3 songs on the post office’s clerk’s radio just to open a plain page, like google.com. By the time I was done I’d heard all of that radio station’s song selection). But it was still internet.
I tried to troubleshoot the blog, in hopes to gain access to the remote posting functionality that I had before.
A couple of trials using the super-slow internet seemed to have worked. But THIS is when the rubber hits the road. If this post here appears on the blog, then we will be back to Familygonesailing-ing. Ain’t that cool ???