Ticking off the miles

Well, the world is still round and we haven’t fallen off the edge of it…yet. In fact we’ve just done our second longest ocean passage to date, crossing the mighty Pacific in 16 days and about 3 hours- do you think I was counting…ha ha ha, maybe just a little.

This trip is harder to write about for some reason. We’re still getting our bearings on land and have been on the go quite a bit since we first made landfall. I think there’s always a bit of lag time after a journey. I write a few notes along the way but reading and writing in general are still an issue for me on passage so a bit of time is needed to piece together what’s gone on.

I’m happy to say there were no major disasters on this trip, which is always to do with Mike’s meticulous preparation, Murray’s constant support and some luck.

The head ‘broke’ again and had to be repaired twice in succession, poor Seb using it both times before it malfunctioned. I say poor as he’d had a stomach bug along with seasickness and hadn’t been to the loo for 4 or 5 days. When he did finally go, he was met with that awful ‘noise’ that indicates something isn’t quite right- poor little thing, white as a ghost, a stricken look on his face and those fateful words, “Daaad, there’s something wrong with the toilet” Constipation seems to happen to some of us spontaneously during a crossing and I reckon it’s helped along by the ‘fear’ of that infernal noise!

No skullduggery this time, no stray bits of dental floss mysteriously finding their way into the toilet- no, this time it was a good old case of cal or scale buildup that seems to affect most boat heads and a blockage was cleared… on the second go!

There was illness and for once it wasn’t mine- I wouldn’t wish anyone else to be ill in my place but unfortunately Murray and then Seb seemed to suffer some kind of intestinal complaint. Bad stomach pains and all that goes with those kinds of things was experienced. I’d had a discussion with a doctor before our passage and was absolutely paranoid about Seb having appendicitis or bacterial dysentery or some other horrible thing. I had the medical books out and the information sheets for all the antibiotics we have on the boat, along with the box of sterile rubber gloves… lets just say it wasn’t great. They both bounced back brilliantly and the upshot was, with them eating nothing for a few days and me very little, our provisions lasted that little bit longer!

Our stove fell off its hinges, well one hinge, one morning giving me a hell of a fright. The gimble pin had simply worn through over time. Luckily there was just an empty frying pan sitting on top rather than a huge pot of boiling water like usual. The gimble is what allows the oven and stovetop to move or swing with the movement of the boat, keeping the surface even and flat even if the boat is heeling over. The M and M’s got to work and had it sorted the next day.

Long passages and routine go hand in hand and after the initial acclimatization period, (generally 3 days) you all fall into your daily, (and nightly) pattern. Of course things like illness or breakdowns modify that pattern but generally once established, things run relatively smoothly. Every boat organises their watch system differently, but while Murray’s been with us we’ve worked to our strengths. Mike and Murray sharing the night watches, alternating each night between 20.00-23.00, 23.00-2.00 and 2.00-5.00, then every morning, (well almost every morning this trip), I was on from 5.00 till 8.00 or 9.00am. I felt very lucky to do this shift- I like the morning time, (our wedding guests know this!). I experienced star studded skies extending from horizon to horizon, a full moon for several nights running that made it feel like daytime and of course the transition from nighttime to dawn. Sunrises were spectacular and for me the start of each day meant we were that bit closer to terra firma! It was fun to put our previous days mileage into the chart plotter each morning. Our record was 202NM in 24 hours.

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Kamikaze squid replaced the flying fish for a few days, Seb and Murray counting 18 one morning.

Lilly read like a demon and learnt some fantastic knots including a Turks hat and a Monkey Fist.

Sailing wise our conditions were reasonably good. We had wind the entire way and used its power to take us across that vast expanse of water for the entire passage. We never used the motor at all. 14-15 knot winds are a bit like how Goldilocks felt about Baby Bears porridge, chair and bed- not too strong, not too light but just right! We certainly had stronger winds but nothing too crazy ever. A few squalls passed through, but again, they were minimal. There was no tacking or gybing except once to make our entrance into Fatu Hiva. Champagne sailing was a term used a few times…

This passage was probably the best to date. I didn’t actually vomit once, which has to be a record but I felt slightly nauseas and light headed the entire time. I really tried to enjoy things more, listening to music, practicing breathing exercises when I felt sick and doing meal prep up on deck, however I have to be honest and say it’s just not my thing. The boat movement frustrates and irritates me. I feel discombobulated and spend a lot of time looking at birds enviously. We’re over a year into this now and the boat movement still really gets on my nerves. As I rapidly approach my exactly mid 40’s, I realize the futility of wishing away periods of time, but there we were, crossing the Pacific and that’s exactly what I found myself doing. “Please let it be over, please let this part of the journey be over”… and then it was!

We sailed into Hanavave, Fatu Hiva, the Southern most island of the Marquesas archipelago on Thursday July 13th after the most unpleasant night we’d had the entire trip. We’d shortened sail and dropped the main, slowing us down and rolled the last 60 miles or so to make landfall in the daylight- necessary but torturous. Fatu Hiva literally rose out of the darkness and never a more welcome sight there was, well except for Martinique, Panama and The Galapagos I guess!

Hanavave, is spectacular and Lilly and I set about making crepes as a celebration for arriving- simple pleasures become a really big deal after a passage. There was a slight miscommunication between Mike and I, which I think was driven by updated weather information but it meant only staying in the bay for 2 hours before upping anchor and sailing another 5 hours to Hiva Oa- I was nearly crying into my crepes let me tell you. As always, there’s a positive side and leaving when we did meant bumping into an old friend, meeting new friends and a very special few days.

More on that later- It’s now 2 weeks since we arrived, all of the above has been and gone, including dear Murray. I’ll leave it here for now and hopefully be able to post this tomorrow- (fingers crossed for working internet) We are about to leave for the Tuamotos, about 3 days away- yes, only 3 days- yippee, another crossing…

For now, Slice of Life provisioning and standing by!

Oh and the front head just made that noise…

4 thoughts on “Ticking off the miles

  1. This portion of your oceanic adventure has been the most difficult for many of us land bound souls to endure as well. It is/was a very great distance – not only so far from any landfall, but also so very far from any help!!! Our hearts have been in our mouths for over two weeks, and it is so reassuring that you have described an almost perfect passage for all of you. Though the balance of your journey is, and will still be a lot of island hopping, we understand that there will be much open ocean traversing, so our nerve endings will not totally settle for a good while yet. Needless to say, we have been carefully watching your progress and enthusiastically observing the steady rate at which you have been moving – understanding that things must have been going somewhat well in the vaaaasssst(!) Pacific to carry you so steadily toward your destination. Now is the time to rest, do some island hopping, as we have seen going on, enjoy the sights and culture around you and “cuddle close” for a while, with solid ground beneath your feet. The photos are spectacular, as always. Have a good respite and, for the next leg, good winds at your back and lots of love to carry with you. Home – real home, is not too far away.

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  2. Hi Kylie Mike Lilly and Seb, so fantastic to hear your adventures the good and the bad. Well done SOL crew. Sounds like everybody needs a Murray. Hey just a note on the head blocking. Dave and Melinda from Sassoon put us onto a algaecide that eats the calcium and is enviro friendly and doesn’t damage o rings called benzalkoniumchloride . look out for it in pool shops when you sailing by but also found in other cleaning products that you may come across sooner in 5 percent. Anyway msg if you want more details. fair winds to you. We just arrived in Broome and I start work next week. Peter looking fur work here but lots of places to see. Xxxx bernadeen and all the Gibbs

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