As the sun comes up over the horizon, through the mixed light and dark clouds, it warms up the earth. It pokes out through the small cracks of the clouds showing its sunny face slowly. There is a bit of pink this morning and it radiates across the sky to hit more than you would expect. With the vast ocean it looks like it can hit the far side of the earth with its color and glow “It’s another perfect morning” on Tango. Janet and I sit giving watch over the morning, the wind, waves, and the sails. Making sure that the morning continues to be bright. Everything feels fresh and new again as it does most mornings. The ocean has more colors of blue then you can even imagine, as the waves hit the hull of the boat and runs away with a bit of a swishing sound. It also causes the tips of the waves to have a bit of foam that has a very light sizzling sound as it runs away.
The sails are out, and we are making good time, but we worry a bit about the dark clouds, hoping the rain and storm stays away. I enjoy the morning watch, not only because of the awakening of the earth but the view across the ocean is just amazing with the dark sky turning into a bright new day.
Each day on this journey is kind of like groundhogs day….. over and over again, the same routine with our watch schedules, food, and a few adjustments as needed. You really forget what day it is. We are lucky that just before leaving, John and Janet decided to get Starlink internet, and we had internet service across the whole ocean. I’m not sure Starlink liked that we were using it for sea travel, oh well. We just needed to be cautious how much data we were using.
There are a lot of other things that we need to be careful and cautious about using and some uniqueness about sailboats… here are some examples….
- Fresh water – The boat is equipped with a desalinator water maker on board, What is it? – water maker converts seawater into fresh water through a process known as reverse osmosis (RO). A high-pressure pump pushes seawater through a semi-permeable membrane that filters out salt, organics, and bacteria. The fresh water is pumped into the water tanks while the remaining brine bi-product is discharged over the side of the boat, back into the ocean. Benefit – fresh water the whole trip Drawback – cost and maintenance of the desalinator, fuel for the generator to power up the desalinator and you can only have as much fresh water as the water tank holds. Fresh water was very limited and used very carefully.
- Showers – What’s a shower??? OK we did use a limited amount of fresh water for showers. They were done on the back deck with your feet in a bucket (explained on #3) you had a bench to sit on (very rocky boat) you had a shower head hose that you rinse yourself off, soap yourself up and rinse yourself off. We only took them every 4-6 day. Yes, we all smelled ripe!
- Laundry – Your dirty clothes were washed in fresh water with detergent, but it was mostly water from your shower. You could add in more water, soak, scrub and hang the clothes to dry. Again, only done when needed. You also wear the same clothes for as many days as you can stand. Helping with that awesome ripe smell!
- Sleep – We all had our rotation watches to be in control of, and we slept the best we could before or after our watch. But with the humidity and rocking and rolling, which is constant never ending, it can be hard. (Janet and John continue to help me learn about the sails, weather, waves and all the important gauges to tell what is happening during my watch)
- Weather/Rain – I guess I knew this was important on a sailboat…. but really had no idea how important and how to read the clouds and wind. Most importantly, which ones to care about and which ones are heading away from you. Also, opening and closing the hatches and window as the rain hits you. It is endless number of times.
- Cooking/Food – This happens of course but remind yourself that NOTHING…. I mean NOTHING can sit on the counter without the risk of it spilling (I had a grand Coffee spillage; it was a mess) So Janet is an expert at this and has found ways to keep the right items upright. Have you ever seen a swinging stove? Yes, sailboats have a stove/oven that is on pins, and it can be stable or rocking. When the water rocks and you want to cook, the stove is unpinned and rocks. This will prevent your pan or food from landing on the floor…but remember you are cooking with a moving target!
- Fueling with no marina – For the most part in any remote island or location the fuel tanks must be filled with Jerry cans. They are carried to the fuel station, filled, and carried back, (mostly by dingy and on foot) the cans lifted back into the boat and poured into the fuel tanks. Then repeat until done. The cans are also kept full so when the fuel tank runs low you can use them to fill the tank.
- Safety – If you are alone on deck or at night you wear a life jacket and you are tethered in for safety.
If you remember, my adventure started by joining John and Janet in Panama on the Caribbean side at Shelter Bay Marina. Dan and I had stayed at this marina for many weeks in 2020 just before COVID hit and enjoyed it very much. This trip gave me the ability to take my second trip through the canal (headed the opposite direction). We had 2 hired line handlers so we didn’t need to do much but enjoy the ride.
Once on the Pacific side, we connected to Maria, a friend Dan and I made when we were here on our boat in Panama. She spent the day with us hauling us around to many grocery and marine stores. We were on count down for leaving and there was a lot to do. It was so nice to see Maria, she helped us so much! She is a beautiful person inside and out… and speaks such good English!! Bonus!!
The direction for this trip was focused clearly on Hiva Oa in Marquesas, French Polynesia. John had analyzed the weather and wind before we left, we knew that the first few days there was going to be a small amount of wind, we just had no idea that it would be 7 days of it. As we were attempting to sail, we ended up motor sailing more than not. On about day 3, as we are using the majority of the fuel on board, Janet and I remembered that the boaters that were next to us at the marina were planning on stopping at the Galapagos Islands for fuel. Because we had internet with Starlink, the search was on. How to stop and get fuel without us having it pre-planned. Galapagos Islands are very strict with visitors to their islands.
John found an agent that was willing to help us. We weren’t allowed to get off the boat and had to leave as soon as we completed fueling. We targeted an evening arrival so we could sleep anchored in the bay before getting fuel the next morning. The fuel purchase was a cash only transaction. They did allow for Janet and me to walk to the ATM while accompanied by hired help from an agent. PIC We finished fueling and off we went. The fuel was a very expensive purchase in that there were lots of extra changes for many fees/taxes etc. on top of the very expensive fuel. But there really wasn’t a choice. We were very lucky that for the next 24 days we had wind almost every day. No more fuel issues.
One thing you have to realize on this kind of a trip, things break, and you don’t know what that will be. You have to be ready to fix, in some manner, what was broken enough to get you to land. I asked John for a list of items that broke while we were underway. The list was long, but we were very lucky that nothing took us totally out of the game. This is a picture of John; he is climbing down in the hull of the boat to try and fix the loose bolts holding the auto pilot. This was probably the closest to a big break we could have had. But John is a Mr. Fix it guy, just like Dan, so it was fixed enough to get us to land.
When I made the decision to join John and Janet on this epic journey, I thought it would be good for me to do an adventure, get away from the normal daily stuff that really wasn’t normal… maybe it would help me with my healing process with Dan’s passing. It certainly gave me something else to think about. It was much different than I had thought though, not sure if that is good or bad, just different.
I now understand why Dan picked a Motor Yacht to have our adventures with. Motor yacht owners just decide if they want to go through or around a storm. Which normally is through it because it isn’t big enough to worry about. But with sailing, there are so many other decisions and factors that come into play. The wind and the risk of it being too much, your sails, how much do you have out, and should you pull some in, and you certainly don’t want to go through a storm with lightning.
A few of my friends said, “did you have fun?” FUN??? I wouldn’t say that….I would say it was challenging, intense, long and can be a bit stressful. The amount of learning is eminence. So, John kept an intense focus on the learning part of the journey. Not much time for fun.
Some notable things that happened on the trip:
- Before we made it to Galapagos Islands, we had some type of Boobie birds that joined us, probably from the Galapagos. (Blue billed and orangey brown feet) They kept circling us around and around and eventually plopped themselves on the bow railing of our boat. We first had 2, but then their friends joined them, and I think we had 7+ by the evening. John thought it might work to try and chase them away…Janet and I got a good chuckle because they just flew away and came back.
- Shortly after leaving the Galapagos, we crossed the equator. We stopped for a short time while we tossed out a bottle that we had filled with notes to Dan. We all had written notes to Dan, and I had a picture of us. We said a little remembrance to him and tossed it in the ocean. Our contact info too, so if someone finds it someday, I will hope they send a note to me! Love you, Dan!
- About ½ way through the trip, I got sick. Not really bad, but just didn’t feel well. Janet jumped to action and made sure I had some electrolyte drink, extra sleep, and a few antibiotics to make sure I was okay, felt like a UTI hitting me. I was much better the next morning. She took good care of me.
- Towards the later part of the trip, I was sitting on the back deck and wasn’t holding on. The cushion I was sitting on slid off the bench onto the floor and I hit my elbow pretty bad. It swelled up and bruised all the way around. I’m fine now and it is healing well. But it was so painful.
On May 21 we hit land, Hiva Oa. We were ready to check in the next morning with the Port Captain for Customs and Immigration.
- 31 days at sea
- 4,100 Nautical Miles
- One stop at Galapagos Islands for fuel
- Left Panama on April 19, late afternoon
- Arrive Marquesas Islands (part of French Polynesian) May 21
I am extremely proud of myself for attempting and accomplishing this long trip. I have no idea what lemonade will come from these hard learning’s that I had to go through, but one thing I know for sure, I Love lemonade and Dan and I knew how to make it good! It will appear when I least expect it.
My next blog will be about my time on the islands!
The rain clouds slip in and out like a song, sometimes they have a heavy base and drop a lot of weight and other times it might be a light melody that drifts by quickly. Either way the clouds show their light and dark variations of shapes and sizes.