Why we were meant to depart a second time

Our first attempt to do the Pacific Puddle Jump (the way the Pacific crossing to French Polynesia is known in the sailing world) was an enigma for us for a couple of days.

Despite the decision to come back was a clear call (we had problems with the backstay structure that holds our mast in our second day of the passage), we were very frustrated with it. After all, we had invested so much time in getting Pesto and us ready for this passage. For at least the last 6 months, our main objective was to get everything settled for the crossing. Alex told me he felt even embarrassed when we had to come back, since we had such a solid boat and had overinvested in planning and preparing. “ I gave her so much love and tender…how she dare to do this to me…”

But things happen for a reason!

We might have had a hard time making meaning of the first attempt. But now, a few weeks later, and with the crossing already on our back, this is why I believe we were meant to restart our journey.

Balancing doing with being.

The week prior to our first departure, Alex and I were basically exhausted. We had huge to-do lists to accomplish before setting the sails for the long passage (including the endless maintenance aspects of the boat, planning and purchasing our provisioning, preparing homeschool program for the next year, filling the taxes… and the list goes on). As we got closer to departure, we felt our stress levels going up as it sounded impossible to be ever 100% ready to leave for a passage like this. And truth is, we are never 100% ready to depart.

The boat needs to be solid and reliable, and the crew needs to be confortable and excited. But you are never 100% ready. There is not such comfort zone in sailing. Departure is always a mix of happiness and butterflies on the stomach. There will always be unexpected challenges along the way…and you need to be ok with that and ready to deal with them. That is why doing only is not enough; you need to invest on being ready as well.

After returning to La Cruz to get ready for our second depart, we managed to get the backstay in shape very quickly. And as we had a few days to leave again, Alex and I agreed we would do the final preparations in a different mood – more easily, in a more relaxed way while enjoying our final days in La Cruz… with the intention of being fresh rather than exhausted as we departed. Our final days were more on the being ready for a long passage than doing stuff for it.

Our agenda for our final days included watching Superman vs Batman, enjoying meals in our preferred spots in La Cruz , enjoying the local festivities of Easter including the amazing Fresh Market on Sunday .

Boat kids at our second – and last – farewell dinner in La Cruz


Jumping together.

On our first departure, we left from Barra de Navidad, where just another sailing vessel was also departing for the Puddle Jump (S/V Athanor). While we were blessed to have company of S/V Coastal Drifter, Terrapin, Cape D and Shawnigan, they were not unfortunately doing the crossing this year. And this was indeed one of the reasons we decided to depart from Barra: to be able to focus more on our preparations while getting less distracted with the so many festivities and socialization from La Cruz (where majority of jumpers were based).

However as we came back to La Cruz for the repairs in the backstay, we realized how much we missed the place and how much we appreciated the connection with the other sailing vessels that were also embarking in the journey.

On our second departure, we left on the same day as S/V Enough, and they became our family in the big ocean. As much as we felt alone out there, it was reassuring to connect with them. Our distance from them varied from 50 to 200 miles depending on our strategies to approach the crossing of the Equator. But the sharing of experiences and challenges (the endless squalls, lack of winds) and joys (the gorgeous sunsets) was so comforting!! It is really indeed a bonding experience to connect with other vessels that have done a similar crossing and share similar dreams.
During our passage, whenever we managed to join the daily radio (SSB) network for doing the check in of boat positions and status, I felt warm in my heart as we listened to SV Sarita, Enough, Batu and Athanor.

We were not alone! And what a difference it makes…

With our friends from sv Enough


Clearing the space.

As we mentioned before we spent a good amount of time getting Pesto physically ready for departure. Likewise, we also invested time getting the crew both physically and emotionally strong for such a long passage. No wonder we were so concerned with what was ahead of us – despite having been living on the boat for more than 1.5 year, the longest passage we had done was 5 days long (from San Diego to Los Cabos in Mexico). In total we had sailed 4,000 nautical miles. We were now about to sail more than 3,000 nautical miles at once in a 20 days passage! It was definitely a first long offshore sailing for us!

Before our first departure we did a ceremony at Pesto to set our family intention for the passage and our journey on board the boat. Each one of us made drawings and wrote about what our intentions were, and based on that we created a family intention. We also requested support from God, the spirits and ancestors to support us on having a safe and enjoyable journey towards French Polynesia in a small ceremony with the four of us.

For our second departure, we felt something was still missing and that had to do with cleaning the energy from Pesto and creating space for a new story. The boat had 3 other owners prior to us and we never really did a ceremony for getting her ready for our family story with her.

I had the help (indeed the lead) of my dearest friend Allison from S/V KantaAnae to clean the energy from Pesto. With her help we invoked the support of the Universe and spirits to clean any fear, doubt, suffering or negativity that could still be present on Pesto and welcomed love, joy, friendship, safety, creativity among other qualities to be present. It took us about 3 hours going through every single space of the boat, opening all drawers, spreading smoking sage and playing drums to move the energy.

At the end we were exhausted but could so much feel the different energy on Pesto. We had cleared her space for our story to unfold.

Our letters of intention and the lovely “messages in a bottle” that we received from family and friends


A few weeks later, now that we have completed the passage, the episode of coming back in our first attempt seems irrelevant in our journey.

Any feeling of loss that we might have had by coming back was so much compensated by what we gained and created instead.

Puddle Jump in Images – Part II

This is the sequel and complement to the previous post, with a pictorial update of our 3,111 mile voyage between La Cruz, MX and Taiohae Bay, French Polynesia. Hope you enjoy.

We made excellent progress during our first week at sea, catching the Trade Winds early on, and riding them at high speeds. With that, we were fast approaching the Intertropical Convergence Zone, an area where the Trade Winds of the North and the South converge, and all the humidity they wipe builds up and falls back in the form of Squalls.

As we entered Latitude 7N the sky changed abruptly, and as night fell, we knew we were entering squally territory:


The first Squall hit us in the night – of course – and already gave us quite a show, with wind gusts of up to 30 knots while we still had all of our sails up. As day broke, another Squall wrapped around us, and it felt like it was trying to “eat” us. We switched on the engine and motored away from it to safety:


Each Squall is a relatively small formation of clouds, but they discharge an incredible amount of rain, and are often preceded by strong wind gusts:


The rain is so compact in fact that they even show up clearly on the radar. On this picture, the Squall that tried to “eat” us early that morning:


Whereas this one gave us a “pinch”:


And things were about to aggravate. Nearly two days into the Squall zone, as we approached latitude 4N, we discovered a large area of Calm had settled South of us and were forced to turn back to latitude 7N and keep going West until the calm receded. That would add 350 miles and nearly 3 days to our voyage – all of it inside the Squall zone. This was the absolute low point of the trip:


Those were wet days …


… the torrential rain constantly washing our deck over …


… and the gusty winds requiring constant adjustment to the sails:


With all this activity day and night, we were soon very tired (and constantly wet):


And then, an unexpected and incredibly welcome surprise. On April 9th – Paulo’s birthday – day broke and it stopped raining. There was even some sun out. Nature’s birthday present to him:


Everything came up on deck to dry up under the little sun there was:


Mood improved onboard at an exponential rate:


Paulo worked with Adriana in preparing pao de queijo – the treat he chose for his day:

Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-086In addition to the dry day, he got a box of legos, and started playing right away:


Raquel also took advantage of it:


Afternoon came, and we were all on deck soaking in the sun:


Adriana even evoked a limoncello to celebrate:


And Paulo got a b-day cake in the form of a bunny (note to self and all – trying to light candles outside is a huge challenge, as we were about to discover):


Nature brought yet another present:


Followed by this beautiful sunset:


Before the end of twilight, though, Mother Nature made clear the celebrations were over, as this ominous thing approached us from the North:


We were lucky, tough, as we only got rain (our friends from sv Enough were clobbered by a 50-knot gust coming from that same system that night). Our  case was the opposite. That thing sucked all wind from us and we stood still all night and the subsequent morning, floating hopeless some 200 miles away from the Equator. We were wet, sleep-deprived, and there was now an area of good winds blowing not too far from where we were. And we kept under the grip of that cloud, desperate to leave. That’s when I saw this:


This sequence of Squalls lined up on the direction we wanted to go. I asked Adriana if she was ok to get more wet – VERY wet, and she agreed. I pointed Pesto’s bow toward the first Squall, got its wind, and we were catapulted into the next one, and so on. We rode this sequence of squalls for all day and managed to get sufficiently near the Equator and far enough from the Squalls zone. The next day, before crossing the Equator, we took the Mexican flag down for the last time:


The Equator itself we crossed at night, on a bold beam reach and running fast straight to Nuku Hiva:


The next morning I prepared pancakes and offered the first one to Neptune, thanking Him for allowing us to have such a safe passage on his realm, and asking for fair winds and currents for the remainder of the voyage, and our stay in the Pacific Ocean:

Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-133 Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-134

That day we also hoisted the French Polynesia flag, and that wrapped up our Equator Crossing ceremonies:


We were now sailing fast under twin headsails, straight toward Taiohae Bay in Nuku Hiva:


Mind you, there were still some more Squalls to negotiate. But we were sailing so well – some of the best we’ve ever had – and were so poised to make landfall that nothing would deter us now. 5 days later it was Land Ho ! Adriana was the first to see Ua Huka on the horizon:


Nuku Hiva, our destination, was much more guarded, and only revealed itself under a blanket of clouds just when we were a few miles away, as we approached it from the North:


We were SO happy to make landfall.

Interestingly, we didn’t feel the overflow of senses that we have heard from fellow cruisers – the scent of land, the colors, the sounds. Everything felt quite natural and “normal” to us in fact, almost as if we were returning from a weekend sail.


On the other hand, we were all feeling in IMMENSE sense of pride. And that has been with us since then.

I don’t think we are the same anymore.

Probably won’t ever be.

Puddle Jump in Images – Part I

The time here has been split between sightseeing, bureaucracy, resetting Pesto to Coastal Cruising, sleeping, and swimming. Not much left to download, sort and process all the pictures taken during the Puddle Jump. But here it is, finally – a visual update of our 3,111-mile voyage across the Eastern Pacific.

But a quick disclaimer before proceeding: unfortunately there’s an awful lot of pictures of me barechested … it was way too hot/humid during most of the way, and I just didn’t think of dressing up before pictures were taken. For that, I apologize.

Ok, here we go now:

Departure #1, from Barra de Navidad. From left to right: Phil (sv Terrapin), Debra (sv Coastal Drifter), Janet (sv Cape D), Adriana (sv Pesto), Julien (sv Cape D), Jessica (sv Terrapin), Phil (sv Coastal Drifter), Aimee (sv Terrapin), Emma (sv Terrapin):


We were making good progress on a tight reach in light winds – we would soon learn Pesto sails really well upwind:


But the backstay fitting broke, and we had to turn back. The kids took advantage to reacquaint themselves with their friends in La Cruz. Here, Paulo receives a haircut from Adriana under close surveillance of his friends:


The hydraulic fitting was fixed – despite the odds – making the skipper very happy – we were good to go again:


Another departure, another occasion to bid farewell. Here the crews of sv Pesto, sv Kenta Annae and sv Enough met up for one last dinner at the local German Restaurant in La Cruz:


We left early morning on a Monday. When the sun set that day, we were already out of sight of land:


Back then, blankets were still necessary for the night watches on the cockpit:


On the second evening we were glad to receive visitors:


The boobies were so cute! We welcomed them on our back solar panel:


We would soon regret it, but on the meantime, we were happy and distracted by the parade of sunsets and sunrises – one more beautiful than the other:

Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-011Other than the boobies, we also had the occasional visits of Dolphins:


Adriana and Paulo, in particular, are very fond of these visits and often spent long times on deck watching the dolphins swim by:


On one of these visits, we were at the bow, camera on hand, waiting for the dolphins to surface again for yet another picture, and then THIS happened:

Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-024This dude was a large bottleneck Dolphin, and he must have jumped at least 2 meters above the water, right in front of us. It was breathtaking – and even a bit unnerving!

Back on deck, the boobie situation now was getting out of hand. This guy landed on deck, and he was clearly different from the others. He looked of advanced age, was very tired, and had green feet. I tried to evade him – gently – but however I tried, he would fly back onboard. I figured he was nearing absolute physical exhaustion and didn’t have anything else to lose. I ended up letting him stay, and the kids named him “Lucky”:


Familygonesailing-PuddleJump-Apr16-038The condition for Lucky to stay was that the others would have to go. Here, Adriana tries to evade one daring boobie who landed on our Radar:


This sophisticated contraption (empty plastic bags) kept them away from the Radar for the rest of the voyage. The solar panel, on the other hand, would require ongoing surveillance (and a lot of cleaning):


As a revenge, the boobies were now trying to land at the top of our mast. If they succeeded, they would destroy our wind sensor, and that would be a big nuisance for the rest of the voyage (we used the sensor during the night to adjust Pesto’s position to the wind). We learned from sv Enough, who were also enduring similar problems, that loud noises prevented them from landing. We spent many hours blowing our whistle as a result:


And the days went on, together with the parade of sunsets and sunrises:


After just three days at sea, we found ourselves at the edge of the Trade Winds already. It was Spinnaker time!


With the big chute up, speeds were now steadily above 7kts and we were making excellent progress straight on to Polynesia. Pesto was happy, and the crew was happy as well:



Every day there was something to fix on deck. Here, I am setting up a jury system to replace the boom vang which was giving up – not coincidently, another hydraulic fitting !


Other daily chores included cleaning the decks from the flying fish that met their fate onboard during the night. Every morning there would be between 5 and 10 of these creatures lying around:


Early morning was also the time to check in with the Pacific Puddle Jump net on the SSB radio. At that time I would broadcast our current position and take note of the positions of other boats doing the Jump as well. There were over 15 yachts along the way back then:


For a while, Paulo and I tried to plot these positions on a large map. It was cool, but I confess the activity required a discipline that neither Paulo or I had. The seas were building and Pesto was rolling a lot. Moreover, the air was getting hotter and more humid, and time inside the cabin was reduced to the absolute minimum necessary:


We had a fantastic time with the spinnaker up, flying it for 72 hours straight:


But the winds kept freshening up, and it was now time to douse it. Boy it was quite a chore to bring all that canvas down in 25 knots of wind!


Paulo wasn’t too happy at first:


But he would soon realize conditions were getting a little too sporty. At this stage, we had the largest waves that we would (thankfully) see on this trip – at up to 3 meters. Paulo and I spent some time at the stern watching them roll under us:


At one point, winds were so strong that even our genoa sheet broke. It was quite a fight to get a replacement tied to the wild sail under those conditions !


With all that wind and all the action, time was flying, and we were gaining a lot of Latitude toward the Equator. Something was lurking in the horizon and we hardly noticed:


That, and more, will be the subjects of the next post.

Stay tuned !


WHEN: Saturday April 16th 1335Local (Marquesas) / 1905EST / 2005BRZ / 2305UTC

WHERE: 08:55S 140:06W – Tahioae Bay, Nuku Hiva, The Marquesas

MILEAGE: 3,111 miles since La Cruz, MX (sailed)

We have arrived !
It took us 19 days, 8 hours and 5 minutes to cover 3,111 nautical miles, with at least 10 days battling light winds and vicious squalls.
It wasn’t easy.
But it was a highly successful passage.
One might think that we had a surge of emotions at the first sight of land, an explosion of senses as we approached the lush island of Nuku Hiva, and the ground moved under our feet as we came ashore for the first time. At least, this is what I expected.
None of these happened.
In fact, our arrival felt almost “trivial”. As we entered Tahiohae Bay, it was almost as if we were returning from a weekend trip. We talked about it, and our belief is that we were all so focused on this passage, on taking care of Pesto and ourselves, that our minds are adjusting and taking in the new environment’s stimuli gradually.
The one feeling that we are all sharing, is one of Pride. Never before have I felt so proud of something I’ve accomplished. That’s a bold statement, and it’s true. And Adriana, Paulo and Raquel are all having similar feelings.
This will be the last post of the Passage Daily Updates, as we are wrapping up this (major) step of our Journey.
And when one chapter ends, another one starts. As I write this, I am surrounded by the most lush ground I may have been to. The terrain is impossibly steep, looking indeed like the Jurassic Park or King Kong islands. People speak a lovely language of which we can’t understand a thing. Chicken, dogs and horses roam free on the (few) streets there are. It’s a new world for us. One that we worked hard to get to.
But this is already the subject of other stories.
Thank You so much for following us along this voyage. And a special, heartfelt THANK YOU for all those who shared messages with us, before and during the trip. I have been trying to find words to describe our appreciation of these messages, unsuccessfully. We were overwhelmed by the amount of love, wisdom and care that were put into them.
Have a great Sunday.
Pesto Out.