Part 1: Pacific Ocean Passage
I am writing this intro, sitting on a small bench in Nuku Hiva at a tiny cafe, where I finally have received enough internet bandwidth to upload not only photos, but a podcast as well! The owner of the cafe just bid me farewell and said I could stay all night... hah (It's almost 11pm). He must be very accustomed to internet starved cruisers. So, I guess I've given away the the suspense of the blog post... we made it, safely and very successfully at that! I kept a very detailed blog throughout the passage, and what I have included below is just a snippet, some excerpts from the longer journal. Hope you enjoy and get a little taste of life at sea for 24 days.
I'm going to be uploading in several parts over the next several days to allow for playing and less internet time!
Quick Statistics: Sedna’s Passage by the Numbers
Total Mileage to Hiva Oa: 2,751 nautical miles
# of Days from La Cruz: 26 days
# of Days from Benedicto: 21 days
Most miles covered in 24 hours: 150 nautical miles
Least miles covered in 24 hours: 80 nautical miles
Engine Hours Logged: 100 hours
Fastest Hull Speed Sailing: 8.2 knots
Crossed the Equator at: 128.5*W on March 30th
# of Eggs consumed: 90 eggs
# of Fish Caught: 3 small Dorado
# of Boats Seen: 3; two sailboats and one naval motor vessel
Sunday, March 11th, 2018
Outbound La Cruz, Inbound Socorro Islands
We’re finally off, after months of preparation, and several weeks worth of to-do lists, sticky notes plastered to the walls, and daily bus runs into Puerto Vallarta… we’re off. This morning we cast off the dock lines at Marina de La Cruz; Sedna full of water, fuel, produce and all the dry goods that we could possibly need for the next several months. She’s sitting low in the water, weighted down by all the groceries we’ve been collecting over the past four months.
Earlier this morning we slept in, made coffee, took one last long, hot shower, and completed our final check-out with the marina staff. Clif was positively giddy as we burst through the office door exclaiming, “Estamos listo para salir!” We are ready to leave!
And we really did feel ready.
I felt no anxiety, no residual stress or worry, no stomach butterflies— just happiness. It was so fun to see Clif is that state of elation. His dream that he told me about years ago was coming into fruition. At 10:15am we fired up the inboard diesel and were underway. Two fellows Puddle Jumpers (as we ocean crossers are called) tossed our dock lines. We motored slowly and gracefully out of the slip, while many of our new, ocean-crossing buddies stood on the dock fingers, on the bows of boats, and even in dinghies, waving goodbye, honking horns, and ringing bells! Sedna is a loved boat. We feel so lucky to already have great friendships with cruisers who will be following shortly in our wake. It was an extremely sweet departure! No tears, just joy. The boat is ready and we are ready.
On the water, we set our autopilot on while we called family and friends, using the last of our cell phone minutes. Humpback whales and dolphins surfaced around the boat as we putted our way out of Bahia Banderas. Several sparrows landed on stainless steel bars surrounding the cockpit, tweeting a goodbye from land. See you in a month little birds! Whales were everywhere at the mouth of the Bay, more than we had seen in Mexico in concentration. One humpback passed underneath our boat— to which I cringed! Too close for comfort when headed out on a big, unknown adventure. The wind was light. We kept the motor on to get us out of the Bay area. Sedna is carrying 110 gallons of diesel, and she uses about half a gallon per hour, traveling at 5 knots, so we roughly have 200 hours of engine to spend between here and the Marquesas… and we are not afraid to use it!
Before we left the fueling dock today, I made one last trip through the La Cruz Sunday Farmers Market. I used the very last of our pesos to buys goodies for the next several mornings: cinnamon rolls, croissants, and fresh bread. The amount of food we have on board right now is impressive, but I still thought it would be fun to leave La Cruz with some fresh baked treats.
Here, out on the sea, outside of the bay, it doesn’t feel unusual or nerve-wracking— just like a normal day-sail. We put on our swim suits, lathered on the sunscreen, and began mentally preparing for a month of the same.
Dinner tonight… Fettucine and Zuchinni Noodles with Homemade Marinara Sauce.
Day 2 - 135 miles out of La Cruz
The ocean is both beautiful and terrifying.
Understanding (and respecting) what the ocean can become is a part of this lifestyle. However, I can’t live in that fear of what the ocean could look like— it requires a healthy balance.
Last night, right after sunset, just out of the gate so to speak, the wind began to pick up and the seas with it. Both of us stood in the companionway, watching the weather and seas grow. With still many emotions surrounding our ocean passage undertaking, I told Clif I was scared. I wasn’t scared of the current weather; the sea state was fine. I was scared of what lay ahead, what we could encounter further on, and it overwhelmed me. He was quick to correct me and ask— “Are you going to spend every day of this journey worried about what the seas could become?” No, I couldn’t do that. That would be a dreadful way to live for a month.
We sailed hard and fast through the night, and Sedna did well. The strong winds followed us into the daylight, sustaining 17-20 knots from the NW. We have reefed the main, and have both foresails out, the staysail and jib. I keep reminding myself, this is what Sedna was meant to do, she was built for this, and she’s sailing beautifully—- and fast! We’ve seen her cut through swell and continue her hull speed of 7.5 knots. At this rate… if we continued straight to the Marquesas, we would get there in 16 days!
I did start to feel a bit of sea-sickness yesterday, and a tad bit queasy today, but nothing major. I still can be down below without feeling waves of nausea— which is a good sign. Most sailors who suffer from sea sickness, feel it in the first few days of the passage. This doesn’t make me immune by any means— I’m sure there will be a couple rolly days half way through the passage that will get me. Clif seems totally un-touched be sea sickness… in fact, I think the motion of the ocean makes him more hungry.
A highlight today— the ocean turned blue. Yes, of course, the ocean is alread blue, but it turned bright, sapphire blue. The color is extremely bright in the hot sun. Looking forward to swimming in some clear, blue water in the Socorro’s.
Dinner Tonight… Clif’s Choice, as I was seasick. I was going to make Veggie Risotto, but we both ended up just munch on some Risotto Clif made in the Pressure Cooker.
Tuesday, March 13th, 2018
Day 3 - 243 nm out of La Cruz
Alas! I spoke to soon! Not long after I typed my journal entry yesterday, I felt the wave of nausea come over me, and it came on fast! My seasickness tends to be accentuated by reading staring at a computer screen or cooking down below when the seas pick up. Thankfully, after a night of speeding along under full sail, I got on watch early this morning and the winds calmed— and so did my seasickness symptoms. I made a big breakfast (because I skipped dinner the night before) and was able to move about the cabin, cleaning dishes and putting away things with relative ease.
Today was beautiful; some sailing in the morning, until the wind died completely. We knew this was going to happen— it was slightly planned. There’s a big calm patch of weather for the next several days, and we wanted to be diving during that time at Isla San Benedicto. Clif and I turned on the motor, in addition to the sails up, and began motor sailing the last 100 miles to the Benedicto. We should be able to anchor sometime tomorrow morning, if we keep up 4 knots. Hopefully this afternoon the breeze will pick up a tad so we can give the motor a break. We’ve spent most of the day inside the cabin, peeking our heads out frequently to look for boats, but the bright sun is strong and the boat is headed in the right direction, so we can move about our daily chores without getting overheated.
We attempted to put up the Drifter this morning in the light winds, but ran into a literal snag. While hoisting the sail, the snap shackle holding up the top of the sail popped free— sending the Drifter sail, still in it’s sail “sock” into the water. Thankfully, because the spinnaker sock was wrapped around the sail, it was fairly easy to pull the tube of fabric up onto the deck without any mishaps. Hooray for Spinnaker Socks! Now we have the predicament of how to get the shackle end of the halyard back down to the deck. Clif will have to shimmy up the mast tomorrow, when anchored at Benedicto, and pull the halyard down. We can see the open snap shackle dangling in the wind at the top of the mast… waving to us, teasing us.
Other minor things to fix— we broke the toilet seat yesterday! Whoops! Because of the unique position of our head (the toilet) in the bow of the boat, the toilet faces fore and aft. When the boat is on a heavy heel, like it was yesterday, it’s very difficult to do your business. I’ve heard of husbands having to turn the boat downwind, just so their wives can go to the bathroom with relative ease. Thankfully, is wasn’t me that broke the seat. Clif walked out of the bathroom with the toilet seat in hand. Some rusted out crews holding the seat together had sheered. Clif puts in on the fix list, but, ironically, it’s MUCH easier to use the toilet now that I don’t have to worry about sliding off with the seat!
Continuing to motor in the heat as the wind dies…
Dinner Tonight… Cuban Black Beans and Rice, Served with Patacones (Coconut Oil Fried Plantain Chips) and Avocado
Day 4 - Isla San Benedicto, 320 miles west of La Cruz
Wind picked up last night for more easy sailing, and we took short turns with watches— as we are still acclimating to being up at night. With the sunrise, we saw the island ahead of us, and we arrived at the south anchorage of Isla San Benedicto around 8:00am. We anchored up next to three other sailboats, and were joined by three other dive boats later in the evening— it’s a surprisingly busy spot! We successfully managed our Socorro rendezvous with Hilary and Ty on S/V Varuna, with whom we have been planning this meet up for several months. They arrived just yesterday afternoon. The reason why we’re all here, out on this remote volcano and lava flow: this is one of the top diving sites in the world for Giant Manta Rays. Stories of these huge beasts slowly gliding around sailboats in the anchorage is the reason Clif and I are here.
Clif’s sailboat dreams have always stemmed from diving. To be able to access remote dive sites such as this, is a fulfillment of that dream. This is what he wanted from the beginning: clear water and a dive platform he could sleep inside. It’s his inspiration for the ocean crossing.
After anchoring over good holding sand, we swam to the nearest rocky ledge and began to search for the beautiful mantas. Not even 15 minutes into the swim, we had one smaller chevron Manta come circle around us. What luck! Later in the afternoon, we went back to the same spot with several boating friends, off of Varuna and Liahona, and had great luck again! We spent almost an entire HOUR swimming alongside a large chevron manta! The manta swam in relatively shallow water, allowing us to dive down, swim along side, and even lightly touch his back. We had heard of free divers actually riding the manta rays by holding onto the ramora fishes that cling to their top sides. We were able to do the same. Each time we dove down, the manta would actually slow down, as if it was equally as curious and in wonder of this weird creatures with unusually long fins. At one magically, very video worthy moment, Clif was holding onto the ray, and I dove down and held onto Clif, like riding on the back of a motorcycle. We got to ride the manta together.
Day 6 - Goodbye to Benedicto, 2,416nm until Hiva Oa, Marquesas
The wind blew hard again last night. It signals the start of our weekend of wind, our getaway car, the time for us to REALLY start the passage. The two days we spent playing in the water was wonderful, and it almost masked the larger voyage we had ahead of us.
We woke up and heard dolphins breathing around the hull. Clif quickly slipped on his gear again and got in the water. I was lazy to follow, but lucky enough that the dolphins had been spooked by Clif and came right past the bow of our boat, while I was lowering myself off the swim ladder. I stuck my mask under the surface and saw eight or nine small dolphins peeking at me with curiosity! My FIRST time actually swimming in the water next to dolphins, and being able to see them. But, they didn’t stick around long. With a could squeaks from the leader of the pack, they dove below the boat and then disappeared. Although brief, it was still a great last swim before we got underway.
After breakfast, we set to cleaning and preparing the boat for passage. I hauled Clif up the mast to check rigging and lines and lower that spinnaker halyard. We had visits from both the crew of Varuna and Liahona, giving us GoPro video footage of our snorkel with the manta the first afternoon. It was another great goodbye, hauling the anchor, waving to friends. Liahona crew jumped in their dinghy and filmed us waving and hauling back the anchor in a strong wind funneling off of the volcano crater.
This send-off was much more real to me. Much higher stakes. It was hard to say goodbye to friends— especially Ty and Hilary, who are starting their second full year of cruising in Central America and beyond. The strong winds increased my emotions. For me, it was a slightly teary sail away from the island. I felt a small amount of what I experienced when leaving the docks in Douglas, Alaska in the Fall of 2013, four and half years ago: anticipation, nerves, a healthy level of fear, and excitement for the places beyond.
Only now, the “places beyond” are much, much further. We’re not just heading to Petersburg, or the next town south. It’s 2,416 nautical miles further. If we travel 100 miles a day, it still would take us 3 and a half weeks. Three and a half weeks of no land, just sea, and a lots of it.