[Editors Note: This is the second half of a two-part article. The first part of Naida’s story can be found here and describes some of Ken and Anne’s preparations for departure, aspects of the passage and several challenges they dealt with.]
Prior to arriving in La Cruz in April, we were unaware of the Pacific Voyagers Net aka PacVoyNet. I’m not sure how many years this net has been running, but it originates in the La Cruz sailing community and, like in previous years, was being organized by Dee Dee Christensen and Brent Heaton. The net is conducted by cruisers actually doing the crossing and consists of email and SSB check-ins. The check-in information is compiled by the net controllers and emailed back out to everyone signed up on the distribution list. In this way we all hear daily how everyone is doing, what the weather is like, and if anyone has troubles. Dee Dee and Brent also collect passage plans from everyone that wishes to submit them. Mike Danielson, who was instrumental in helping vessels this year, made use of the information in these passage plans in doing so. While you may have sailing friends or family ashore for your emergency contacts, having someone like Mike, who is connected with the PacVoyNet, the US Coast Guard, and the Mexican Navy, is a huge asset when you need help. When the vessel Niniwahuni was dis-masted this year, Mike helped them organize the removal of Shauna and their three kids to a tanker that diverted to their location. Mike knew where the boats participating in the PacVoyNet were and was able to contact them and arrange to get fuel dropped off to help skipper Travis make his way back to the Revillagigedos and ultimately Banderas Bay.
While on passage, the SSB portion of the PacVoyNet was a great opportunity to chat with other passage makers each evening. We also ended up scheduling a frequency and time each day when we chatted with the two other boats that were a day behind us on the crossing and also had SSB radios. One was Jeanne Socrates, solo sailing Nereida to French Polynesia, where she planned to stop and visit this time, versus her previous multiple non-stop passages around the world! Jeanne was an inspiration as she was always upbeat when we chatted, no matter what issue she might have had to deal with. She also always seemed more rested than us, which led to a discussion of watch keeping. Once we were no longer seeing any vessels on AIS, we took to napping in the cockpit on overnight watches. If all was calm, we set radar and AIS alarms, then set a timer for 20 minutes and napped repeatedly. This definitely helped us to feel more rested. In case you’re curious, our watch rotation was 0600h-1200h, 1200h-1800h, 1800h-2200h, 2200h-0200h, 0200h-0600h. Having an odd number of watches each day means that we are not doing the same watch every day. The longer watches during daylight are easy to do and allow the off-watch person a longer sleep. In practice though, neither of us slept very long during the day.
Things that Worked Well
Many things did work well. We replaced our chart plotter and radar before leaving Mexico and both performed very well. The refrigeration worked great. The Hydrovane was wonderful on passage. The running rigging was fine. It’s reassuring that some of the things we put money and effort into paid off.
The radar was very useful for watching the squalls develop as we made our way through the ITCZ. Our first squall was the most exciting. Around 3 am, I saw two systems developing ahead of us, one to port and one to starboard. I thought we might manage to go right between them. No such luck – they continued to grow and grow and finally merged right in front of us, a few miles ahead and about 12 miles across. Oh well, we had to go through. The main was reefed and I rolled in a bit more Genoa and waited. In our fleet weather course, we learned about these squalls and I tried to remember the phrase – I decided it was “wind before rain, there will be pain”, meaning that if we felt the wind build before the rain started, then the wind would continue to build as the system moves through. I wasn’t quite sure, but it sounded good to me in the wee hours of the morning. It turned out I had that wrong and it is the other way around. I should have remembered something like “wind before rain, not so much pain”. Fortunately, there were no strong winds. As the rain settled in, the wind died and I had to start the engine. It sure did rain though, for hours and of biblical proportions; there was thunder and lightning, lots of it, most of it well off in the distance except once when I nearly jumped out of my skin, the thunder was so close. I never did disconnect any antennas or turn off electronics. I did put our cell phones in a cookie tin when the lightning started. The electronics in the ditch bag are stored in a Faraday bag so I didn’t worry about those.
That was the first rain our boat had endured in about two years and was the only significant rain squall we encountered on the passage. We found some leaks that weren’t there before. It rained right through the dodger and Bimini. I was soaked in no time, but it was warm at first. It continued to rain until 15 minutes before my watch ended. When Anne awoke, just before six am, I had come below to get out of my shorts and t-shirt as I was starting to feel cold. She was surprised I was wet, she had slept soundly through the rain.
Crossing the Equator
We crossed the equator on day 15 around 1400h. This was our first time ever across the equator, so we left our pollywog status behind and became shellbacks. In preparation, we showered and put on some clean clothes and carefully watched the GPS. At the critical time Anne read a short ode to Neptune, we poured some rum into the sea, and followed that with a toast. Anne made fresh pizza for lunch and we prepared some other snacks, put on some music and had a little party in the cockpit to celebrate.
The frozen meals we prepared before departure afforded us good dinners and lunches on those days we didn’t want to be in the galley. Surprisingly, Anne managed to spend a fair amount of time in the galley despite the conditions and despite the prepared meals. One of the drivers of that was using up the fresh food that we brought. We laughed at the irony of packing fresh produce, but what we actually ate was whatever was on its last legs. The items that were still at their peak were saved, those starting to go off were eaten. Anne also kept us supplied with fresh baking, usually done early in the day before the boat warmed up.
We have been in French Polynesia for 2 months now, exploring the Marquesas in between boat repairs. We’ve made use of Tahiti Crew and their agents to bring parts in; it takes a week or two between order and arrival for items a North American vendor has in stock and ships promptly. Tahiti Crew help with the customs clearance and forward the items by air to whichever island we happen to be on, assuming it has an airport. Shipping to French Polynesia may not be cheap but it is convenient.
We have just received our temporary residency cards, or Carte de Sejour. Our plans are to explore the Tuamotos for a couple of months before making our way back to the Marquesas in October. At the end of November we will put the boat on the hard in the yard on Hiva Oa and return home for a few months for family commitments. On our return in the spring, we hope to make our way west ahead of next year’s arriving fleet. How much we explore will depend on the state of the boat and our (mostly mine) mood. We started our cruising with no specific timeline or final location. We committed to regularly (at least once per year) asking ourselves three questions: are we healthy; can we afford it; and, are we having fun? I’ve said to Anne more than once over the last few weeks that my answers to two of those questions are dubious. I’m feeling a little burned out from the passage and the effort to repair things here. I’m not alone; others we speak to mention oscillating between the thrill of being here and being fed up with life aboard a cruising boat. We thought we were prepared, that we had what we needed to fix any issues, and that we had the consumables. We were wrong. Fortunately, it is pretty easy to get stuff shipped in, it just takes time and money. As one cruiser said: “I fixed that with the plastic tool” (credit card).
So, did we enjoy the journey? Our son introduced us to the concept of type two fun; type one is fun while you are doing it, type two is fun on reflection but not so much during. Now, with a little distance, we can say our passage was fun, but mostly type two. We are thrilled to be in the Marquesas. I am a bit envious of others that are moving through quickly and will be in New Zealand by November. They might later say they wished they had more time, but on the other hand they can also feel they accomplished their goal and now have ready access to boat parts and services. In the meantime, we continue to enjoy paradise. The views are spectacular, the water is warm, the Marquesan people and other cruisers are friendly, and the pamplemousses are delicious.