Crossing the Pacific Ocean, What Could Go Wrong?? See Our Friends’ Adventures, 1st Ever Guest Blog….#51

You think some of our adventures are on the edge?? Our friends headed out on their sailboat, crossing the Pacific Ocean for 26 days to the Marquesas Islands which is part of French Polynesia. I’d estimate no more than 100 boats arrive each year from North & Central America. Sounds like an amazing trip. Read our “Guest Blog” edition for a crazy tour of John and Janet Harrington’s adventures on Tango.

Remember from our last blog;  Angelique is in Norfolk VA with Dan doing boat projects and looking forward to a reunion with his Flying Fish Crewmen, while I am in Portland Oregon (home) helping my daughter with her tiny outside wedding! 

Dan and I met John and Janet in La Paz, Mexico. We were both part of the Baja Ha Ha cruise rally from San Diego to Cabo, Mexico. We just happened to be sitting at the same table during an event for the end of the rally celebration. (just for those boats that continued on from Cabo to La Paz) We quickly became friends as John and Dan seemed to be brothers from another Mother and Janet and I had remarkable similar personalities. We also realized that we had “kind of” met each other once in Cabo when I was driving our dinghy back to the boat from going ashore and John and Janet were dropping anchor a bit too close to Angelique, as I told them “they might want to move a bit further away.” We giggled about this encounter later once we had really met them. Them saying “I sent them away”…. seriously, they were happy to learn we had a big swing circle and moved down the coast a bit.


rBQmSFSwI’m going to tell their story, some of it will be in their words, so I will use quotes and italics when doing so.

A bit of history about them and their boat:

  • John and Janet met before Janet had a driver’s license!  “Dinosaurs were roaming the earth”   
  • John was in the US Coast Guard 26 years on Active Duty, serving in and commanding various units, retiring in 2000.
  • Janet was a stay at home Mom, “the hardest job ever!!”
  • Kids are grown and gone
  • Tango is a 38-year-old Tayana aft cockpit, cutter rigged sloop sailboat, purchased October of 2013 at Clear Water Lake, Texas
  • Moved on to their boat full time Thanksgiving of 2016
  • Started Cruising October of 2018, participated in the Baja Ha Ha Rally
  • List of their blogs at Tango Blogs 

tangoThey moved on to their boat full time in November 2016 and lived and actively prepared the boat for an extended offshore cruise.

On October 13, 2018 they headed under the Golden Gate Bridge and took a left down the coast south. If you haven’t been in a boat going under THAT bridge, it is truly an amazing event!

When I asked John and Janet if they would do a guest blog, one question I asked was; what some of your most memorable events was. Janet quickly said the swimming with the Whale Sharks in La Paz, and I would have to agree!!!

“Swimming with the whale sharks off La Paz was amazing (and suggested by Angela and Dan). We had friends visiting from California that week and the weather was still pretty warm even in November in Mexico. We went with a great whale watch company within walking distance of the Marina de La Paz. Our small boat with 8 passengers arrived on station with the other tour boats and as each guide got into the water, 4 passengers at a time could come and swim with the whale sharks. These beautiful animals were totally oblivious to the people in the water and would feed around us with gaping mouths. At one point, John and I were in the water as two whale sharks came toward each other with us in the middle, pretty exciting. We even got “pooped” on, bound to happen, right? Our guide said it was a first for her too.”

john-janet-victorsMid-January John and Janet joined us in Puerto Vallarta. We were in the middle of our own boat yard work which took 3 months and they were trying to schedule some work of their own. We did sneak in a dinner one night at one of our favorite Resturante’s, “Victor’s” where the tequila runs for free and YES it can kill ya!! (seriously free) As John and Janet prepared for their Pacific Crossing, we were planning our run up the Sea of Cortez.

In March 22, 2019 John and Janet left the safety of Puerto Vallarta and started the 4000 mile first leg into the Pacific Ocean. Hoping they had provisioned anything they might need along the way. They spent 2 months in Puerto Vallarta including a lengthy boatyard visit, provisioning food & boat parts, fixing/strengthening things that commonly fail. UMuGu6-QThey also had a crew member join them, Paul who is a good friend. They estimated 20-day journey and of course prayed for good weather and moderate winds.

Dan likes to say I’m a sailor now that I have 8000+ miles under my belt. But learning and reading John and Janet’s blog and seeing what it takes to sail rather than cruise our huge comfy boat… I think I have a lot still to learn. 

For the first week at sea Tango and crew had light winds which made for a comfy ride at 3-4 knots of speed, but the wind was mostly from the wrong direction adding miles to the overall trip. Everything was good as they settled in with their journey, Janet worked on meals, meal planning and baking bread, and the boys worked on the travel, weather, sail adjustments and closing hatches as they would pass through multiple daily storms.

By April 2nd, the winds had picked up and they were making good progress sailing at about 5-9 knots speed heading towards the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone).

This is the area where the northeast and southeast trade winds converge. It encircles the Earth near the thermal equator, though its specific position varies seasonally. When it lies near the geographic Equator, it is called the near-equatorial trough.

The intended target across the Pacific Ocean was the Marquesas, which is a group of islands previously claimed by the French. The Marquesas are one set of islands that are included in the Complete set of French Polynesian islands. They were headed for an island called Nuku Hiva.

As the days turn from one to another in the ocean, I can imagine that the doldrums kinda set in and one day blends into another. John Said “Tango and crew had anti-doldrums, being constant heavy squalls with 35-40kt winds.” BUT when something terrible happens, it marks a day in the week that you remember clearly. Two events during this time marked in their memory. 

Here is John’s details of the event on April 2. “During this mornings’ inspection of the rigging (a daily morning event) I found the nylonlock nut for the boom gooseneck on deck and the gooseneck within 1/2″ of becoming disconnected from the mast. The bolt has the mainsail tack hooks that are used to furl the sail; the tack grommet hooks to this part holding the forward corn or the sail in the furled position. The nut working off allowed the bolt to be pull up about 5-1/2″ of the total 6” length. The boom was barely connected and downward pressure of the boom vang kept it from separating. This part was rebuilt and reinstalled in La Cruz. A similar thing happened to the the boom vang gooseneck bolt where the locknut worked off and the bolt was moving upward. This happened a couple of days ago and I used threadlock as a quick fix for this other gooseneck.

This morning was a serious situation, nearly an emergency. Tango’s crew instantly her turned into the wind, furled both headsails, and dropped the main. I was then able to work the bolt back into position as Paul held the bow into the 8 ft seas. Once I got the nut reinstalled Janet turned the boat allowing me a more stable platform for final repairs. I was able to drill through the stainless hardware sets and install cotter pins on both the boom gooseneck bolt and boom vang bolt.”

On April 3, Tango passed the ITCZ and the halfway point. Only 1,443 NM to go

On April 7, “At 1230 local time today (1830Z) Tango crossed the Equator at 125-42.618W. With Paul, a Pollywog, aboard we conducted the appropriate rituals for Poseidon including sharing a glass of bubbly and some of Janet’s freshly baked brownies.”

April 11th, 700 nm NE of Marquesas the evening took a slightly different turn, Janet said it was the scariest day ever… “The day itself started out fairly normal. Rolly seas and a rain shower in the afternoon, enough rain to be able to take a quick soapy shower on deck. Dinner time was fairly calm, we ate in the cockpit as we did all of our meals. John and I were down below cleaning up dinner dishes when all the sudden Tango was heeling so far over to the starboard side that you could see only waves through the windows. John hollered for Paul to head into the wind and he flew up the stairs to the cockpit and took the helm.”

John said, “Out of nowhere, instantly, we had 34Kts of wind on the port side with all sail set. Tango was over on her side fighting to come up. Paul’s reaction was to try and turn down wind, as I’ve been teaching him. However, this was the exception and we quickly got Tango upright by letting her turn into the wind as I took over the helm. With Paul and Janet below battening down the hatches I stuck the nose into the screaming wind maintaining steerage way with 4-5 knots of forward speed. Tango and I fought this thunderstorm like this figuring it would blow out in 45 minutes, like most convection storms. Nope. Not tonight. After about an hour and 15 min the winds started to let up and Janet and Paul furled up the Genoa, I waited for a right feeling time and turned Tango downwind. Off we zoomed under the staysail set about 80% and the main in its first reef. 9.5 kts in a fairly calm sea (going down wind). With time the winds decreased to high teens and low twenty’s and we were aimed right at the Marquesas. We ate the mileage up for the first time in days. Paul went to bed and Janet stayed up with me on the first 2-man watch of the night. Janet and I zoomed easily downwind. At 0200 Paul got up to relieve Janet… and the thunderstorms started in again. So far, only rain and no wind, as in calm again! Right now, Paul is trying to keep the whopping 7 kt wind on the beam. Tango and her crew did really well in a tough situation. This is why we have Tango. She is a blue water boat.”

I asked John how he felt during this event, as I would have been nervous and scared. But with his career in the USCG with so much boating experience he said “I felt like a ship captain, trained, experienced.”

April 15th, “Barring unexpected problems or seriously odd weather, not that that would happen to Tango, we will anchor in Taiohae, Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands Tuesday afternoon, 16 Apr 2019. That’s tomorrow! Our trip will have taken 26 days or 3 weeks and 5 days, or 630 hours, one bottle of vodka and several boxes of wine, about 4 showers for the crew (not counting the free washdowns in the rain), about 2 gallons of diesel fuel for the generator daily (fridge/freezer cooling, watermaking, USB device recharging (perish the thought that we let our cellphones die), 30 gallons of water/day starting out and decreasing to about 15 gal/day ending, no caught fish, and a short list of repairs.”

On April 16th, “Landfall! Radar picked up the peaks of Ua-Huka at 23 NM a few minutes ago. We have a total of 52NM until Tango’s anchor is on the bottom of Taiohae Bay, Nuku-Hiva.   –   Assorted photos below..

The crew will be boat bound until we clear customs and they only receive in-coming boats before 1130 on weekdays. We’ll be anchoring around 1330 so we will have to wait until Wednesday to get all the paperwork done. We have several things to keep us busy, like, not rocking and rolling, no engine noise, no sail tending, etc. We also have several important projects that we could start on. Some must be done before I’ll leave harbor. The important ones are:

j-j sailMend the mainsail and move those durn jackline cleats that catch the sail and tear it. Threadlock the sail car screws, again. This is a repeat, but we had the sail off in MX. Reattach the boom vang to the mast. This could be a multiple day job, but only if I don’t have the appropriate bolts aboard. Change fuel filters. The vacuum pressures have doubled since we last ran the engine for a long time. Crud in the MX fuel… Inspect the hull zincs and probably replace them. The MX piers were very electrically HOT, and this quickly wiped the zincs. Also need to scour the bottom of any growth. Adjust, lubricate, check this and that including the Hydrovane autopilot, the Hydrogenerator mount system, Tango’s basic steering gear (wire rope, chain in the binnacle, etc.” 

j-j NZTango, along with John and Janet, are now in New Zealand enjoying their stay during the Covid pandemic. They have tons of stories I didn’t have space to report on due to the length of this blog… Please visit their Blog if you would like to read more about their adventures @ “Two To Tango in the Wind” Blog

List of locations Tango traveled.

  • Puerto Vallarta to Nuku Hiva of the Marquesas Islands, 25 days to cross
  • French Polynesia for 90 days
    • Nuku Hiva to Rangiroa,Tuamotus
    • Rangiroa to Tahiti
    • Tahiti to Moore
    • Moorea to Taaha
    • Taaha to Raiatea (back and forth between Taaha and Riatea several times (both islands within the same reef)
  • Checked out from Raiatea French Polynesia to Suwarrow Cooks Islands
  • Suwarrow to American Samoa (lost auto pilot en route)
  • American Samoa to Tonga (83 days in the Vava U group of Tonga)
  • Tonga to Minerva Reef to New Zealand

I really enjoyed telling a story from another couple’s experience. Hope you enjoyed reading it too!

Stay tuned for the adventure!

Stay Safe, Happy & Adventurous…… Cheers!

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