The famous Pacific crossing, the longest crossing there is when going around the Equator, it’s been hanging in the back of my mind since we even started talking about the idea of buying a sailboat, creeping in my thoughts like something I had to do but really didnt want to. But as the months passed by and more and more miles were added to my experience, the sentiment for it, started to change and it became more of an exciting thing to do instead of a dreaded one.
Even with my new found courage to do the trip, I still knew I didn’t want to do it only the two of us; a third person would be perfect to help out and give us all a bit of a break. But the time was getting closer and none of our friends and family members were coming forward so we started considering looking for a crew on one of those websites, although we were really hesitant having heard many horror stories about crew being found that way. Luckily we didn’t have to continue with our search because one month before leaving, our friend Steve managed to get some time off from work and signed up to be the third member of our crew; it couldn’t have worked any better!
As with any adventure, unexpected things are bound to happen and in our case they caused for our departure date to be slightly delayed.
First, poor Steve, who was flying from Australia and had to endure more than 30 hours of travel nonstop, managed to arrive in one piece to Galapagos but his luggage didn’t. After several phone calls with astonishing information of the whereabouts of the suitcases (Someone saw them in Chile, no they are in Quito, they’ve been sent to Guayaquil, no they are in Lima?), many visits to the LAN airlines office in Santa Cruz, receiving a $50 voucher and some flashy white outfit with the LAN logo to wear and 5 days later, we finally received the missing luggage, Steve finally could get himself a fresh pair of undies and we could move on to our last island in the Galapagos, Isabela.
Over there we had another set of problems having to wait for the gas permit to be able to buy diesel . It took more than a week to get that piece of paper but we finally got some diesel and we had plenty of time to have everything else ready for our departure.
On our last night there, we went out for a celebratory dinner, called our parents to say our last goodbyes and left the Galapagos in the morning of 26 April.
The first few hours after we set sail were all full of excitement in anticipation to finally be starting such a journey. To make it even better, Steve caught a beautiful tuna that we had for lunch and we had very little wind but enough to get Ondular slowly moving. Things were looking good.
Before leaving we never talked about having a set schedule of watches. Mick and I have always done three hours on, three hours off but it’s always been a very relaxed schedule. By the second day I started to feel like we needed some more structure, specially during the day as i didnt like feeling like I should be out on the cockpit when I wanted to be resting. I suggested it to the rest of the crew and that same day we came up with a proper schedule and put it on the wall so we could check everyday who was on and who was off and we also rotated on the cooking roaster. It worked really well and gave us all enough time to rest and recover and no room for any arguments or misunderstandings.
The first three to four days were very light with the winds around 0 to 8 knots which were ok to take because we always knew that the conditions around the Galapagos are usually like that. By the 5th day the wind started to pick up to 15 knots and it kind of fooled us to believe that we had reached the trade winds and that from now on it was going to be a smooth ride.
It wasn’t that way at all. We would have a few days of good wind and then back to nothing which made everyone a bit anxious specially the captain who really didn’t get much quiet time because he was constantly working on keeping the boat moving or whether to change our route a few degrees more to the south or something.
At the end, it took us 26 days to reach the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. From those 26 days, maybe 5 of them were a bit uncomfortable with stronger winds and bigger swells, the rest were very smooth going. We had maybe two nights were we were hit by squalls that reached 30 knot winds and a bit of rain. On those nights, the captain would be awoken by the screams of his crew asking him to come and reef the sails. We all did pretty well and rode the squalls with grace with no major upsets.
We had one morning were we had a front passing through with lots of rain and strong winds. That day was also my birthday which made it even more memorable but after the rush of the morning and after getting off our wet clothes, we got to enjoy a freshly baked chocolate cake and a hot cup of coffee that made everything better. It was a weird feeling celebrating my 37th birthday in the middle of the ocean but thanks to modern technology I was able to be in touch with family and friends and receive all their congratulations so I didn’t feel too far away from them after all.
As I mentioned before, Mick didn’t get much off time during the passage being the captain and all. Between changing or reefing sails, he also had to repair the sink which was falling apart, a sail that got a rip, the fridge who stopped cooling well, the gooseneck which was coming off the mast and finally the engine mounts which got loose. Apart from that, he was either checking the weather or thinking about what he could do differently to make the boat go faster and unfortunately because we had many slow days, there was lots of thinking/worrying time for him.
We also had the other thing to worry about which was getting Steve in time for his flight, which by day 10 we already knew he wasn’t going to make it, so he had to contact the travel agent and make the necessary arrangements. Due to this gime restrain we contemplated/discussed using the engine during days of no wind, but we decided not to use it until we were a bit closer to landfall.
Something else we did to keep us occupied was to collect sample water for the project called Global Microplastics for this NGO from America called Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. It’s a project that you can sign online and commit to get samples of water wherever you are in the world so that they can gather the largest data about microplastics and the health of our oceans and waterways. Because we were travelling 3000 miles, we decided to collect the samples every 250 nautical miles so in total we got 12 bottles of 1 litre water. If you’d like to know more about this and other projects please visit their website at http://www.adventurescience.org
The food lasted all the way and it all worked so well that we managed to have the last spoons of coffee and the last of the milks right on the day we arrived. The fresh vegetables and fruit started dissapearing one by one but without them a new surge of creativity arrived for all the cooks in charge of dinners or lunches. All in all I think we did pretty well, everyone was well fed, we always had a cake or a fresh loaf of bread to snack on and there were no massacres over the last carrot or anything like that.
Some of the memorable things that happened along the way: I spotted a very big meteor falling from the sky one night. All of the crew got to witness countless of falling stars and magic night skies. We got to see the biggest number of dolphins coming from every direction, maybe hundreds of them, it was an incredible show of nature! We found a flying fish that got through one of the hatches at night and landed on our couch. Steve used sugar instead of bread crums one day to cook fish cakes. We got a wine glass (spinnaker wrap) that gave us all a bit of fun to sort out. Arriving at Atuona in Hiva Oa and sensing the smell of the earth and seeing green again.
I’ve heard a lot of people romanticize about this ocean crossing. Some talked about spiritual experiences, others about being one with the ocean, we even heard a guy compare it to being on a trip (as in drugs). I dont know about Mick or Steve, but I kept myself busy the whole time, maybe out of fear of freaking out about the time spent at sea. So I read a lot and watched movies and time went by easily. I didn’t experienced any kind of out of this world experience just days passing by and lots of ocean all around.
I think on a long passage like this one you definitely get to experience a bunch of different emotions raging from exhilaration to boredom but one thing I’m sure of is that it definitely gave all of us a sense of achievement to have made it and I was also very happy not having to experience anything too scary on the way.
So with a pad on our backs for having made it safe and sound and a big thanks to our mate Steve for coming along on this crossing and giving us a hand as well as to our family and friends that followed us from home and sent us words of encouragement along the way we finish this tail of crossing the big Pacific Ocean.
A new chapter has began for Ondular and us, we are now in the islands that we have been dreaming about for years; Will it be all that we are hoping for? Will we find some waves? Will Mick finally make his dream come true of catching lobster and having it for dinner? All of these answers and more on our next blog post. Thanks for reading!