Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Big Crossing

On May 2nd, after 17 nights at sea, 16 and one half days to be precise, we completed the biggest crossing of the biggest ocean of the world – the Pacific Ocean. Well, we haven’t navigated the entire girth of the Pacific Ocean, but we sailed from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. Along the way, I sent email posts to YachtPals.com via our SSB, single-sideband radio. I have started writing for Yachtpals and encourage you to take a look at their site. Here are the posts, which I’ve changed slightly, hopefully for the better.

Internet in the Marquesas is sparse and it's super hard to download photos so please be patient with us as we’ll post on our blog sporadically and then when we do, you’ll see a bunch of posts at once.

Day One -- April 16
01 degrees 16 minutes South; 92 degrees 09 minutes West

My stomach always bubbles with nerves whenever we haul up our anchor and sail away. Yesterday, at 4 pm, it bubbled as much as a can of coke, not because it was tax day, but because we were beginning the longest offshore passage so far from the Galapagos to the Marquesas --2883 miles.

As I write, the current is favorable and we're on a tight reach sailing fast for Kamaya - between 8 and 9 knots. There are at least six boats within 100 miles of us, but I can't see them. For that matter, the only thing I do see surrounding us are carpets of rolling blue.

Shortly after the sun sets, Tim and I begin our three hour watches. Last night we started at 8 pm. Maya helped this morning and took over at 7 am so I could get some sleep. She wants to do more watches, especially in the middle of the night, which will be super helpful. As per school, we have a loose routine during the day, which includes math (using the sextant), writing (in a daily logbook/journal) and science (astronomy). We've just started looking at our Rosetta Stone French, an instructive language program that we use on the computer. I'm a little sad about leaving Spanish speaking countries, especially after we all became pretty conversant in the language.

This morning, I found a stowaway on board - a Galapagos Leaf-Toed gecko. He was hiding in the pineapple. Tim says he’s good luck. I hope we have enough insects on board for him to eat. 2768 miles to go!

Day Four - April 19, 2010
03 degrees 36 minutes South, 102 degrees 52 minutes West

Today was our first 200 mile day. For the past two days we've sailed with only our big 120 jib and we've been making record time for heavy Kamaya.

It's been a bit rolly with seas up to 7 feet and gusts to 35. None of this was on our grib files, those are the files that we download from the National Weather Service. Yesterday, we sailed with rain rain and more rain. Fortunately, the rain dissipated today and brought rainbows to the sky. As we our keel advances through the water, schools of flying fish skim the surface propelled by the wind and their wings. (ADD PHOTO 3052) I saw one lonely turtle floating on the ocean surface. Where is he going? Where has he been?

When I struggle to stay awake for my 11 to 2 am and 5 am to 8 am shifts, I think about the brave and crazy solo sailors out in the ocean. How do they manage?
Maya and Kai made forts in the aft cabin and lucked out today because I was too tired for boat schooling plus I had to spend most of the day hand steering to save on power. With overcast skies, our solar panels don’t generate enough energy and the raw water pump on our generator broke. Fortunately, Tim managed in the rolly seas to install a band-aid fix and now we can use the autopilot.

2168 miles to go!

Day Five - April 20, 2010
03 degrees 45 minutes south 105 degrees 19 minutes west

We've had strong winds with gusts up to 35 knots and big waves for the past two days. This means that we've sailed 200 miles in a 24 hour period and hopefully we'll get to Fatu Hiva in less than my predicted 20 days.

Ocean passages are a test of endurance. Being cooped up, in perpetual motion and
having to wake up every three hours builds character and tough hands. Yet, sometimes I wonder why anyone would willingly put himself through this?

To keep days from melting into one blur, we’ve created a three day routine: one day is movie day, crepes the next and chocolate the third day. This keeps me sane and the kids excited. Though being boat kids, they've learned to do with less and keep themselves entertained. They've each plowed through books and treat them like candy.

It's crepe night and I need to prepare the batter.

Day Twelve – April 26
04 degrees 57 minutes South; 124 degrees 59 minutes West

More than one year ago when we were sailing across the Gulf of California from La Paz to Mazatlan in mainland Mexico, we met up with a boat called Third Day in the middle of the passage. We had spoken on the radio and found out that Jason, one of the boys on the boat, was celebrating his 10th birthday. So for math class, Maya and Kai had to figure out how we could intercept each other and pass a gift to Jason. We managed to find each other and with light winds toss a gift of Indiana Jones books to Jason. They passed us half a loaf of warm sourdough bread.

This was the first time we had eaten sourdough at sea and the taste still lingers in my mouth. Hot bread smothered with jelly and cream cheese: perfect texture, interesting sour taste and overall delicious. Since then, we managed to acquire some sourdough of our own and, like the Alaskans and the pioneers on the Oregon Trail, we stir the sourdough with a wooden spoon and feed it every few weeks.

Today, with calmer seas and slightly lighter winds of 20 to 25 knots from the southeast, we made sourdough pizza to celebrate being more than two-thirds of the way through our journey. We have also decided to swap out the crepe day of our movie-crepe-chocolate routine for a baking day. Maya baked banana bread for dessert and Tim baked a loaf of sourdough bread. Suddenly, we have oodles of tasty treats!

We're all anxious for the landscape of endless blue waves and flying fish to change to lush green mountains and waterfalls. We're ready to learn about the Marquesan way of life -- to hear them play the ukulele, learn how to swing our hips so that we can dance like Tahitians, and examine the painted tapas, made from mulberry bark.

But before I get ahead of myself, we still have 870 miles to sail. The current continues to assist us in sailing near 200 mile days, but that will change as we head south to Fatu Hiva. Thanks to the SSB radio and our informal Barefoot Net we can learn about the weather and current that other boats around us are experiencing and it sounds like the wind will get lighter and the current less helpful. I'm sure Captain Cook would have loved to have that information when he sailed the Endeavour across the Pacific in 1769. How times have changed!

Day Fourteen - April 29, 2010
07 degrees 36 minutes S; 132 degrees 59 minutes west

We're Almost There!

Today marks our second full week at sea. Fourteen days of perpetual forward motion, endless blue, flying fish and being on watch from 11 to 2 and 5 to 8 in the morning. We have witnessed every sunrise and sunset. As we sail west through three different time zones, the moon grows bigger and full, so full that last night, it lit our path, as if someone from above had switched on the lights. The 1 to 2 knot current keeps us moving at a rapid pace, well rapid for our boat. We have 379 miles to go as of the writing of this blog.

When we left the Galapagos on April 15, the winds gusted to 35 knots and we sailed through squalls and rain. By Day 10, the winds calmed down to 15 to 20 knots and with it the seas. It’s been calm enough for us to transform Kamaya into a mini-bakery specializing in banana bread, sourdough bread and crepes. We squeeze our limes into limeade and nibble on oranges. We take showers every third day, using the fresh water from our watermaker. We're practicing navigating with our sextant, but we rely on our Raymarine Chartplotter to really mark our course.

We send and receive emails with our SSB radio and we also do our daily 6:30 pm check in with the informal Barefoot Net, consisting of 25 boats all traveling west to the Marquesas. We've managed to stay ahead of the pack, because our course kept us north of 4 degrees south, north with the favorable current and wind.

I want to scream and shout and celebrate. We did it. We survived our longest offshore passage. We deserve a huge round of applause when we arrive. Perhaps a reward when we anchor in Fatu Hiva, a place with friendly natives. But then I chuckle. We sailed this passage with a watermaker, autopilot, GPS, radar, SSB radio, and a flush toilet.

This is luxury, first class luxury especially compared to the sailing vessels in the 16 and 17 hundreds like those sailed by Ferdinand Magellan, William Dampier and Captain James Cook. They had it rough. Imagine sailing into uncharted waters, without really knowing what lies ahead, much less having to navigate with the sun and the stars. Imagine using lead lines to determine depth. Moreover, once anchored, not being sure whether the natives will be your friends or your enemies. To top it all off, imagine having to contend with scurvy and other diseases which killed many of the crew. Those sailors deserve the standing ovation.

Yes, when I think of it, we have it pretty easy. But I'm still proud that we made it this far.

Day 17 - May 2, 2010
10 degrees 28 minutes South, 138 degrees 40 minutes West


We arrived in Fatu Hiva at sunrise this morning after 17 nights at sea. I wish everyone could see this magnificent lush anchorage with towering basalt peaks. One peak looks like George Washington, the others perhaps are the reason this place was called The Bay of Virgins. For the French speakers – it used to be called Baie des Verges, but the missionaries added an “i” and changed the name to Baie des Vierges. Use your imagination – the scenery is tremendous.

I jumped in the warm water to go for a swim and was extremely surprised when I looked at our hull and saw green and brown smudge above our waterline and purple goosebump barnacles living on the hull. Who would have thought that anything would attach to a boat after such continuous motion? When we asked the other boats in the anchorage, they all nodded their heads and told us it takes hours to remove the gunk.


Jim and Heather on Meerkat said...

Clap! Clap! Clap! Congrats to you all! "Totem" is there somewhere - I bet the kids will be or are thrilled to see each other again. So happy for you.

Melody said...

Well Done!! Congratulations to the crew of the SV Kamaya!


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