Video: Episode 22: Our Pacific Crossing

Watch the French video above and/or read the text version below.
Watch the English video above and/or read the text version below.

During our Pacific crossing in April-May 2019, we wrote daily posts on our satellite tracking page. They are compiled here for posterity and illustrated with pictures.

We gave some numbers about the trip in a previous post.

Let’s cross an ocean!

Tue Apr 16 2019

We raised anchor at 8am. 2975 nautical miles to go if we follow our pre-determined course.

Exciting start (day 1)

Tue Apr 16 2019

We left Banderas Bay at 8am on a calm sea, motoring West. We did some laundry and after lunch when the laundry was dry the wind picked up enough to raise the main and genois. We then investigated the diesel smell we noticed since we last filled up. And we found about 2 gallons of diesel in the forward port bilge, leaking from the mystery tank. We sucked the bilge dry with our vacuum pump (one of our best boat investments) and continued to empty the tank at fault before the Racor filter, like we did on the hard a week ago. We extracted 10 gallons all together that we filtered and relocated in a spare jerrican, a regular jerrycan we just emptied in our starboard fuel tank and topped off all the other jerricans we have on deck. As we were about to finish, a fishing line called our attention. We had an easy time bringing back the trolling line by hand and found a large fish hooked to it. We lifted it on the swim step and immobilized it. We finished the diesel chapter (for today) and got back to our catch of the day: according to Noah, it is a Marlin also known as a sailfish. 165cm from spear to tail. No more fishing for a few days until we get some room in the fridge.
We had crepes for dinner, thanks to Yves.
At this time, low wind, still under sail. 76 nautical miles, 2900 to go! Moving average 5.2 knots.

Lots of blue (day 2)

Thu Apr 18 2019

The cloudy sky broke to give us some sun in the afternoon. The water turned into a nice blue water tone. We had marlin ceviche for lunch and grilled marlin for dinner. We all ate some bananas as they quickly turned from green to yellow in record times: we tried a technique read online to keep the 30+ green bananas as green as possible for a long time. I think we are doing to try them in different recipes the coming days before they change color one more time.
The sea state is generally confused and when the wind came more into our bow, we had to cross the wave at a sharp diagonal making the whole boat jump and slam its belly on the landings. We got on deck in the early evening to tie up the anchor which was rattling in the front. The major events of the night were to cross paths with SV Midnight Blue, returning to Puerto Vallarta after a few days on the islands, and the wind turned a bit letting us take a better westerly heading. The sea state has improved this morning and we should be more comfortable at sea today.
Naomie threw up once yesterday but she was fine afterwards. The adults are working on getting their sea legs but it might take another couple of days, especially if the night shifts are tiring as this night. In order to save fuel, we tried to hand steer most of the night to not drain the batteries with the autopilot. The batteries went down to -40 Amps. Hours with 12.45V. This is good and the sun will replenish our energy when it will pierce through a large cloud at our stern.
Time to rest after a shift. More news later.
250 miles so far and 2732 to go. Average speed: 5.1knots.

Getting in a rhythm (day 3)

Thu Apr 18 2019

The night was tough as the wind and waves were strong and we decided to try and steer Ubi by hand in order to conserve energy. But we got each time to sleep during the day while the sun was feeding the autopilot. The computer acted as the babysitter so the kids were easy to handle and let us sleep. The wind died down around noon and we debated on our course of action. One idea was to bob around and wait for the wind. Another was to fire on the engine to reach San Benedicto. The latter would have given us the benefit of using some fuel and creating some room to store the diesel from the mystery tank. We ran the engine an hour or so before shutting it off: we figured it was better to motor by night to make use of the “free” energy for the autopilot. Soon after that the wind gradually picked up and built to a comfortable 10 to 12 knots from our starboard beam. Ubi has been sailing at around 6 knots since then. We recently passed the 290 nautical miles mark: one tenth of our trip in distance!
We are at 19 29 N 110 29 W with a bearing of 227 magnetic. We are in bound for San Benedicto where we might stop for a few no-wind days. It would be a good time to tackle the diesel leak and clean up to remove the powerful smell of diesel in our bilge. So, it would be a technical stop but with benefits. We could wait at anchor for the wind (some might come Sunday afternoon) and see some of the wildlife here. We heard of Manta rays and silk sharks.
Sky was mostly clear today and the air temperature was pleasant.
GPS tracking seems to have stopped working. We’ll try to get it fixed.
All is good aboard Ubi.

Anchored at San Benedicto (night 3)

Thu Apr 18 2019

We just anchored at the South anchorage. There are two other sailboats and two dive boats. Good night.

A day of rest (day 4)

Fri Apr 19 2019

Zero mile today. We woke up this morning amazed at the sight of San Benedicto volcanic island: a fairly new island that recently emerged from the deep-sea floor and looks completely inhospitable. What a contrast with the life under the surface. Many schools of fish roamed below Ubi maybe confusing her for a sleepy whale. We swam multiple times to admire them and see how the anchor was holding. The chain is stretched out for 60 meters (almost 200 feet) and the anchor is lodged between two large volcanic rocks. Hopefully we’ll get it out without too much trouble. Otherwise, there are many dive boats bringing diving enthusiasts from Cabo to see this world class spot for manta rays and some species of sharks. We didn’t see a ray yet although our neighbors, on a beautiful trimaran called Migration, had some rays visit at their stern in the afternoon. We did see a small shark while snorkeling but it was probably a juvenile considering its size. Nothing compared to the silky sharks we saw in the evening as the full moon was rising over the ocean: a group of 4 two-meters sharks fought for the skin of marlin we threw overboard. One ate a piece of pepper: I guess vegetarians come in all forms. Talking about food, we had for lunch some cheese quesadillas, some marlin / tomato soup (the last part of the soup Bev and David brought us) and some marlin spaghettis. We had rice with marlin curry tonight. One more meal with marlin and we will put our fishing lines back in the water. I think everyone is secretly hoping we will not catch a marlin next.
We had the apéritif on Migration and had a wonderful time with Alene and Bruce. So glad we stopped here.

An exciting second day at San Benedicto (day 5)

Sat Apr 20 2019

What a day!
We started by fixing the leak in the starboard water tank. It had been leaking for some time and each time some water was seeping from the inspection hatch we would tighten it more with a little hammer. It turned out that the hatch had developed some cracks around the edge against which the O-ring is squeezed: the more we tightened it, the bigger the leaks.
We took a break and decided to explore the island. As we cannot step foot on this protected area, we launched the drone as our scout. After an ascent of 500 meters, it captured the crater of the volcano surrounded by a high ridge, resembling Mount Saint Helen’s, without its snow though. We are sorry that you will have to wait to see this footage: we are still slowly working on video number 19, San Diego to La Paz.
We noticed at the end of the footage, in this typically boring time of the flight were the drone comes back to the boat to land on the solar panels, that we had captured a shark swimming by the stern. We stepped outside to see if it was still around and it was. And with a manta ray. After some rush and a doze of caution, we got in the water with the GoPro. The manta ray left but the shark didn’t. He orbited Ubi while keeping a distant eye on us. Still a lot of fish below the hull in very clear waters.

We then made water to fill up the tank. While routine inspection, we laid eyes on the solar oven and decided it would be great to put it on deck to bake some bread without burning propane. However, we ran out of flour in the cooking cupboard so we had to get some more in one of our storage areas: under the table of the saloon. The Ziplock back containing two 1kg bags of flour was slightly wet with diesel. All our food below the table was in contact with some of the leaked diesel from our mystery tank. We were done with procrastinating about this project, it was time to fix it before it took away more of our food. We emptied the whole storage area and sent all the goods in the cockpit for inspection. Lots of rice, flour, sugar got contaminated with diesel – although separately bagged in 1-gallon Ziplock – and we have to get rid of them. We still have lots of food to cross the Pacific so not to worry, but we might need to re-provision sooner than expected in the Marquises.
We sorted the food, cleaned the storage area, removed all traces of diesel in the bilges and emptied the mystery tank with makeshift containers provided by S/V Migration. Hopefully, the smell of diesel in our bilge is a thing of the past. And even more motivation to convert Ubi to an electric engine with a nice park of Lithium batteries. Anyone has a Tesla to spare, for parts?
In the later afternoon, we took another dip but this time there were 4 sharks, lots of big fish and a swirl of decent size fish making what Naomie called a fish tornado. What a treat to swim in their backyard. The kids were not afraid to jump in and see the mesmerizing scene through their snorkeling masks.
At lunch, we finished the marlin: Noah is ready to catch more fish but maybe not a marlin this time.
At dinner, we had crepes in celebration of the full moon (which kinda looks like a pancake if you are hungry).
We might leave San Benedicto tomorrow if the wind window is confirmed. We will all keep a very found memory of this place.

Leaving San Benedicto (day 6)

Sun Apr 21 2019

As much as we loved this place, it was time to get on our way. We have a weather window between two lulls that we want to exploit. After a lazy morning, we had lunch with Bruce and Alene of S/V Migration: one last meal together until French Polynesia. We then fired up the engine and raised the 60 meters of anchor chain that was zigzagging between lava rocks on the sea floor. No trouble in getting the anchor out even though it was wedged against a large bolder.
We had good wind from the starboard beam until 3pm or so when it slowly died down. After some hopes to still get enough velocity, we convinced ourselves that we should burn a bit a fuel to clear out the deck of some of our fuel reserve.
Around 7:30pm the wind picked up right above 10 knots so we shut the engine off and enjoy the quietness of the hull gliding on the blue ocean. The first night shift has started; the crew is falling asleep.
We are running on a SW bearing. 368 nautical miles behind us and 2529 to go according to our new run for the doldrums. Moving average is 5.1 and current speed is 4.5 knots.

No land in sight (day 7)

Mon Apr 22 2019

The night brought us calm winds and therefore our speed was low and reduced our moving average from 5.1 to 5.0 knots. We tried to steer by hand most of the night to spare the battery load. By the end of the night, we had consumed 43 amp.hours by the use of the fridge, the navigation electronics, some lights, an hour of propane solenoid to cook the breakfast bread and the occasional use of autopilot to adjust the trim or check on the bread. By 11am, the batteries were full again despite the low clouds. When the sunshine broke the cloud cover, the solar panels were making over 20 amps. Those little things make our days.
Tonight we will re-introduce the autopilot in our electrical consumption and see where we stand. Hopefully the battery voltage won’t go to low as hand steering is tiring.
The wind picked up in the day and by 7:30pm we not only remained our moving average, we got in one extra decimal point. Good sailing day!!
We made progress on the San Diego to LaPaz video; the kids got to watch a documentary on shark and the day went by peacefully.
Our four fishing lines are dragging behind with nothing to report yet. So, we ate chicken quinoa with peppers for dinner and a large salad with sardines and fresh vegetables for lunch.
Position: 17 50 N 113 05W
Bearing: 225
Speed: 6.35 knots
Moving speed: 5.2 knots
Miles: 488
Miles to go: 2411

A full spinnaker (day 8)

Tue Apr 23 2019

After a night under motor, the wind picked up again to a low 10 knots. Before noon, the wind died again and we decided it was time to change gear and try something new. We took the spinnaker bag out of the front locker and got it ready. We prepare the pole on starboard and two blocks to route the sheets as much outside of the boat as possible. We hoisted the sail and trimmed it to get us to about 4.5 knots. After some more tweaking, we could let it work and we went below to tackle other items on our to-do list. One daily item is a long nap (or two) for the adults. We also had Naomie work on the narration of the video 19. The day was a bit cloudy so we had to be careful with our energy consumption: the video editing is draining the computer battery very quickly. We have big hopes of finishing it tomorrow.
We took the spinnaker down for the night as we expect stronger winds and few crew on deck during the night.
No fish today.
Miles since La Cruz: 602 (1/5 of our trip)
Miles to go: 2283
Heading: 235
Position: 16 38 N 114 32 W
Speed: 4 knots
Moving average: 5.1

Tail winds (day 9)

Wed Apr 24 2019

The winds picked up around 4am, letting us shut down the engine and run only with the head sail on port. As the motor ran for a few hours this night, we could delegate the steering to the autopilot making the shift very comfortable. Nathalie had the first shift, from 8pm to midnight and could not know we would motor so she hand-steered for a large portion making her shift way more tiring.
We have done over 720 miles so far, so we have travelled now one quarter of the total distance. With good winds, we should be able to do the remainder with a better average speed.
We have baked two breads today and lots of small almond macarons with vanilla and rum, shaped into little pyramids. A great treat for a good day, served with yogurt and some fresh mangoes.
Not much to report on the fishing, except that we switched a couple of lures hoping they would be better appreciated by the local fish community.
Not much sail trimming to report either. Once we established the head sail this morning, we tried putting the staysail wing on wing to harness more of the 14 to 20knots winds that was coming from behind us. But not much success there either. So, one sail it is for now. We did gybe it once today to account for a light shift in wind angle, making it more stable to have the head sail on starboard. This makes for very easy navigation, making this part of the crossing like covering a long distance in a train where we can watch the scenery go by, read, sleep, move a bit or eat without being buckled up in an airplane seat. The downside is of course the lengthy duration of the trip. But don’t we have time?
Position: 14 59 N 115 50W
Bearing: 206
Speed: 5 to 7.5
Moving average: 5.2 !!
Miles: 730
Miles to go: 2159

Wing on wing (day 10)

Thu Apr 25 2019

After a rather hard night where the oscillations of the boat occasionally backed the head sail, creating chaffing and then a loud noise when it corrected itself with deep vibration in the whole hull, we changed our trim and went wing on wing. We raised the main sail (no reef) and put the head sail on port side with the whisker pole. In such a configuration, we improved our speed and most importantly our stability hence our comfort. If we didn’t have a 1 to 1.5 knots current against us, we would be going 8 knots!
Some news in the fishing department. In the early morning, we launched our lines again and let them drag behind the boat. When the day light came and we inspected the lines with limited hopes for any bite, we noticed the 4 lines were completely tangled. One of the baits, a deep-diving rapala, must have caught on itself and started to zigzag onto the other lines. Its spinning motion made it wrap around the other lines endlessly. The result: a giant mess of lines and baits to untangle. So, we spent a good part of the morning essentially repeating the same moves as when we were untangling our kite lines after a kitemare. Maybe fishing brings the same frustrations as kiting without having to go in the water We stopped for lunch and hooked the mess-in-progress on the swimming step. But… not well enough as it slipped through and we lost the four lines. The optimist would say that we saved some time untangling the rest, but the crew was a bit disappointed. So, this ended our fishing hopes for today. Tomorrow, we’ll get other lines out and keep this troublemaker rapala in its bag.
We all got a shower today, sitting on the swim step and facing a wall of waves that pushed us all day.
We had a nice appetizer in the cockpit before dinner.
No rain today although the sky was overcast all day.
Moral is good. We are keeping an eye for the doldrums and see how it is unfolding. We are adapting our course to minimize its impact on our trip duration.
Position: 13 31N 116 52W
Bearing: 206
Speed: 6.5
Moving average: 5.2
Trip: 840 nautical miles
Miles to go: 2052

Fresh mahi mahi sushi (day 11)

Fri Apr 26 2019

After fishing out an old kite line from the bottom of the front locker, we rigged one and let it drag in the water. We started with a fresh squid that miscomputed its last jump and landed on the deck during the night. In a typical night, a few squids and flying fish share the same fate. They are normally thrown back in the water but this squid stayed connected to Ubi through a dreadful fishing hook.
We let it drag for a few hours with no bite. We devised a new alarm system with Naomie so that a strong and sudden tension to the line would make a metallic sound that would catch our attention. But no such sounds were heard.
Later in the afternoon, we switched the bait and put back on the one with which we caught the sailfish. Around 6pm the metallic sound made us jump on high alert. Noah confirmed the bite by feeling the tension. We asked the excited kids to step await from the stern so the adults can bring the catch of the day on the swim step. We pulled the kite line in with some ease, letting us think it would be a small fish. Half way in, we saw a bright blue spot at the end of the line, we thought for a second that we got a plastic bag (still better than nothing) but the motion in the water confirmed it was indeed a fish and most likely a dorado with its fighting colors on display: bright blue and yellow. A beautiful fish!
We hoisted on the swim step and tucked it in the compartment made for the life raft. It is a good spot for the fish to spend its last moment without the risk of jumping around with its hook still in its mouth. It is always hard to see the fish die and we need to find a quicker method. Some let it asphyxiate, some stab it in a precise location to cut the spinal cord, some pour vodka in its gills. We got a cheap vodka bottle for that sole purpose: tomorrow we’ll find it and place it ready for a quick last drink for our swimming friend.
Noah participated in making fillets while Bastien and Naomie helped cutting cucumbers and avocados for the sushi rolls. We had to change dinner plans for this unexpected catch but we all gladly accepted the new menu item.
Apart from this exciting part, the day went by like a breeze: some napping for the adults, some reading for all, legos and a documentary on walrus for the kids.
We spent some time on the swim step, with our feet in the water, contemplating the waves forming behind us and guessing which one would flood the step and wet us more. Great family time under hot sun.
Not much sail trimming. The only operation in this category was to take off the slack of the preventer and it took less than 5 minutes. The wind has been very consistent in strength and direction making our sail plan very comfortable for the last few days. We adapted the target waypoint based on inputs from one of our land-based routers but the angle of change was small enough that we didn’t have to change the trim nor did we lose speed in this operation.
The night is calling for gusts above 20 so we will reduce the main sail and put a reef on it for safety. Finally, some sailing action !!
Position: 11 45 N 118 25 W
Bearing: 222
Speed: 6.5 knots (wind speed 17)
Moving average: 5.2
Miles behind us: 982
Miles to go: 1999!!!

High wind maneuver (day 12)

Sat Apr 27 2019

Last night after the previous post, we decided to wait and see how the wind would evolve and not reduce the sail area yet. The wind continued to build up averaging 25 knots and gusting past 30. After midnight, the adults were all up and ready. Not much sleeping before that as the boat was surfing on each wave and sliding from one side to the other as a skier would do to slow down in a steep downhill slope. Each turn made us jump in our bunk. Surprisingly, the kids were sound asleep seemingly unbothered by the movements or by the heat of the low latitude night. Noah fell asleep in the saloon cushion so we relocated him to the starboard bunk as we were expecting a bumpy ride against the wind and the swell. We also closed all hatched and lowered the dodger. We all clipped onto our tether, the helmswoman had two. We walked through the maneuver and when we were clear on the tasks and their order, we started. We went on deck to untie the preventer (protecting the boom from accidental gibes) then started to bring the boom midship while the boat was being turned to the wind. Once the boom centered and cranked down tight, we released the spinlock of the main halyard while one of us was ready to set the second reef tack on the mast. The sail went down fast and smooth; the boom didn’t flap too much. The halyard was tightened back and the clew was tensioned. Then we turned back to our course. Handling the gib was easy too. The pole seems to help keeping the furling under control. We reset our trims and set the preventer on the starboard toe rail. All in all, the maneuver took less than ten minutes and we were happy of the result and the way we got there. Surprisingly we didn’t lose much speed with the reefing but we felt the boat was in better control and definitely less overpowered.
As a result of the last few days of strong tail winds, our moving average increased by two points. Incidentally our max speed for the trip jumped to 11.3knots but such readings must be taken with a major grain of salt.
No new fish to report. Ceviche for lunch; breaded dorado for dinner.
The day contained an increased amount of nap for the night shifters and the kids stayed quite quiet. In the afternoon we sat on the swim step and dig our feet in the huge blue ocean as towering waves approached with speed and appeared to lift Ubi just before breaking on us. So much power and such a magical moment to experience the physics of fluid and density at work.
The night is settling in and the waves seem to wake up. The wind is supposed to increase but we feel ready. We have concluded that the autopilot can safely be driving the boat night and day without battery degradation and a typical sunny day is more than enough to charge them back up after a long night of autopilot/instruments/fridge.
We still have a few fresh produces but they won’t last much longer. 12 days of fresh fruits and vegetables: that is pretty good.
Position: 10 15 N 120 20 W
Bearing: 221
Speed: 7
Moving average: 5.4 !!
Trip: 1129 (139 since yesterday)
Miles to go: 1856

Lightning at the horizon (day 13)

Sun Apr 28 2019

During the first shift, a new phenomenon occurred: lightning. Not that it never happened but it is the first time it is happening for us during this crossing. The last time was in San Diego. We were out and about, at the playground or at Trader Joe’s. We got an automated text alert on our phones regarding the likely flash flood that were about to happen with the expected massive rain fall. It was indeed massive: lots of heavy rain poured on us and lightning flashed very near. We had to go back to the boat with Ubi 1 Canoe B, our dinghy. We waited for a little while in the street public restroom near the pump out station dock but the rain showed no sign of relief. So, we resigned to the free shower and went home. At that time, our outboard engine had digestive issues and frequently stalled but it took pity on our wet bodies and pushed through without fussing.
Compared to that storm, the one we witnessed yesterday was tiny or at least very far but the consequences of a lightning strike on our boat mid-way in this trip would be disastrous. So, we kept an eye on it to observe its trends. It was on the port side and so far, that we could only see that part of the sky flashing but not the lightning itself. As a precaution, we unplugged the AIS and VHF, we sent a last message to our weather routers letting them know we were going offline for the storm, and we put some electrical equipment in the oven. As it is a small oven compared to the domestic ones, we must make a deliberate choice on which pieces of electronic would receive the no-frying protection plan. The satellite phones (regular and backup), the parents’ computer and phones, the handheld VHF, the hard drives made the cut; no enough room for the rest. There is a debate on how much damage could happen on an aluminum boat struck by lightning as it should mostly act as a Faraday cage, but we still wanted to err on the safe / paranoid side.
We continued with our route as it was our fastest way outside the path of the storm but kept on checking it’s was keeping its distance. It passed well at our stern and faded away. We removed the electronics from the oven in order to prevent another disaster: slow cooking our devices when pre/heating the oven for the bread.
The stormy night left a clear sky when the sun rose.
We had otherwise a pretty calm day although the hot weather is making us sweaty and lazy. We recharge our batteries, topped off our water tanks, ate dorado ceviche for lunch and pizza for dinner. Around 6pm, we put the main sail away to keep genois nice and full, and we set it with the pole on starboard. During that process, a dorado bit the hook so we all helped bring in and fillet the fish. It got a shot of vodka and it seemed to do the trick much quicker. After the fillets got in the fridge, the starboard fishing line made its noise: another dorado was jumping behind the boat. As we were preparing reeling it in, the port line got another one. We got the port one first and saw it was a small dorado. As we had enough for a day or two, we wanted to let it free but the hook unfortunately mutilated the animal pretty badly (details are not PG-13) so we decided to honor its death and keep its meat.
The dorado on port side managed to free itself from the hook. We were probably as relieved as this lucky fellow.
Dorados seems to be eating dinner around 6pm. In a few days, when we need more fish, we’ll try different baits during the day and hope we catch something else, and if we are empty-handed by 5pm, we’ll use our regular dorado bait.
Re. weather, the strong wind gave us a strong push for the last few days and our moving average felt the love: 5.5. The doldrums seem to be receding right now so we should be very well positioned to cross it near its narrowest side. We are therefore continuing on this bearing although the wind is shifting a bit to port, hence the change in trim. The water temperature is 29 Celsius and the air temperature is probably above
30. These are the ingredients for thunderstorms. We are keeping an eye on the forecast and it looks like our course should avoid the main systems. So, all looks good.
Position: 8 39 N 122 18 W
Bearing: 217
Speed: between 5 and 6, with 20 knots of winds
Moving average: 5.5
Trip: 1283
Miles to go: 1627
Distance to next waypoint: 225 miles
Next waypoint: 6 N 125W
ETA next waypoint at this speed: 44 hours

Doldrums, here we come (day 14)

Mon Apr 29 2019

As predicted by the weather models, the wind subsided to an average 10 knots from the port beam. This wind force would typically let us make some decent progress but a strong current of about 1.5 knots is slowing us down too much. So, we decided to skip our planned waypoint and shoot straight down south to meet the equator. The engine at 2000 RPM and all the sails neatly furled and folded, we should reach the south hemisphere by Friday. The current is supposed to ease and the wind might pick up so this timeline is approximative at best.
There are still thunderstorms tonight. We couldn’t see any lightning in the daylight but we heard a couple of thunders. We keep our course straight unless it is clear we can do something to avoid a local storm. In order to fight this feeling of not being able to do anything about lightning strikes, we wrapped the dinghy chain around one of the stays to invite the current of a lightning through this easier path back to the sea. The chain is most likely not thick enough to resist the magnitude of such an event but it is better than nothing. Marginally better, maybe.
After dinner we got a tropical rain poured on us. It would have been a great time to send the kids scrub the deck of the salt and bird poop but it was conveniently time for them to go to bed. Somewhere we hope we’ll get more rain in the daylight this time.
The rain also brings some cool to our otherwise heat-charged bodies. The temperature in the cockpit is agreeable in swimsuit, even at night. Inside the boat, it is simply too warm. With the engine on, we are less concerned about energy consumption (although our alternator is acting up a bit) so we can use the USB fans in our bunk and strategically cool off a small section of our body at a time. We typically wait for the kids to be asleep to borrow their fans for our own benefit.
No fishing line in the water today, as we still have fish in the fridge. We almost got a bird the other day. We heard the characteristic noise of the line and saw a big tension on the line. After reeling a few meters, we realize to our horror that it is not a fish but a bird that is hooked to the bait. It was fighting the pull strong behind the boat. We forcefully reel it in completely to save it from a clear drowning on the swim step. The poor beast was a magnificent white tropicbird with a red beak and a long sliver of red on its long pointy tail. It was wet and visibly tired from the struggle. It collected its thoughts as we did ours. The plan was to send one of us with a towel to immobilize its wings and maintain his beak out of danger. The hook was planted through the Lowe side of the beak so we would need to force the hook back with a pair of pliers. We collected the required tools and some courage for the task ahead, and opened the gates to the swim step. Our feathered friend saw our efforts and maybe foresaw our plans and the pain involved in the process. It let a strong last cry and shook its head. The traction of the boat on the hook must have left a pretty serious hole in its beak as that last head spin was enough to free it from its misery. We all cheered; it probably was as relieved as we were. After a few more minutes, it gave us one last look and spread its wings. He flew with grace until it disappeared behind the large swells. In the movie version of our adventures, the narrator will probably quote the last lines of La Fontaine’s most famous fable: “Il Jura, mais un peu tard, que l’on ne l’y prendrait plus!” We all hope so.
Position: 7 16 N 123 28 W
Bearing: 180
Speed: 5 knots (speed over water 6.40)
Moving average: 5.5
Trip: 1400
Miles to go: 1498
Distance to equator: 439

Half way / half day (day 15)

Tue Apr 30 2019

This morning the number of miles we traveled was bigger than the number of miles still to travel; meaning we crossed the half-way point of our Pacific crossing. To celebrate this milestone, we had breakfast on the cockpit, drank fruit juice and coffee and shared the second half of yesterday’s bread. The kids received soap bubble wands and used half of them.
As we were fighting against a strong current, our moving average lost a point but we are hopeful that at some time either the wind or the current will help us get it back.
Soon after breakfast, a heavy rainfall soaked Ubi. It was similar in amplitude and force as in the Caribbean’s: we could imagine having poked a hole in a low-hanging cloud with the mast and getting all its water dumped on us at once. Quite an experience! These rainfalls bring a wave of coolness that is in high demand at our low latitude and especially in the boat where the engine is heating our living space. Some tried to take a nap outside in the cockpit to escape from the heat and getting occasionally splashed by a few drops when the wind is just right; but it is not as comfortable as expected.
We caught two fish today. One was a rainbow runner of about 4 pounds. We brought it on the swim step and released it from the hook as we deemed it was too small for our new standards: it was not 6pm yet so we would rather save the fridge space for a dorado or maybe a tuna. The second one was not identified: we could not find it in our book about Mexican sport fish. Perhaps it is time for a South Pacific fishing guide. It had a golden body with a retractable blue dorsal fin. Unfortunately, it drowned since we didn’t notice it when it bit. We hooked the fish through its nose and pulled it back in the water, as a bait for a larger fish (but no shark please). It didn’t work well. The fish was spinning and each rotation was twisting the line more and more. As we came to fix it, the fish broke loose and that was the end of that. And the dorados missed our regular 6pm meeting… maybe tomorrow.
On a culinary note, we tried orange macaroons with pineapple caramel. It took some time to craft the two spiral-shaped 10-inch wide macaroons with a large first-aid syringe, and to evaporate the water out of the pineapple juice. All that time added extra heat in the boat which in hindsight was probably not a great idea, especially since the dessert didn’t turn out as amazing as it sounds.
The day went otherwise by in its regular lazy fashion, letting the trustworthy autopilot do all the steering. A few maintenance tasks got done but nothing that would qualify as interesting or noteworthy.
Position: 5 22 N 123 49 W
Bearing: 180 Mag
Speed: 5.2 knots
Moving average: 5.4 knots
Trip: 1516 nautical miles
Miles to go: 1383 nautical miles
Distance to Equator: 324 nautical miles

200 miles to the Equator (day 16)

Wed May 01 2019

Our Southbound leg is going well. The current is now partially with us giving us a little boost and there are about 7 to 10 knots of wind from the East filling the genois and allowing us to reduce the engine’s RPM and noise. If we were to continue on this bearing, we would reach the Equator in a day and a half, after 200 nautical miles. At 5 knots, we would take another 10 days from today to complete our trip.
Before lunch, we stopped the engine and swam in the middle of the Pacific. The skies were overcast giving to the water a dark blue tint. The ocean was warm and salty. It is crazy to think that we haven’t swam much in the last two weeks although we are literally surrounded by thousands of miles of water. There might be a few other places on Earth where one would be this far from any land.
Nath and the kids got started on the Equator Crossing ritual preparations. We need to plan special activities and special foods. But above all we need to make sure we are going to cross it during daylight. More on that after the Crossing.
We carried some of our fuel jerrycans that are stored around the mast near the cockpit to refill our starboard tank. In the last two days, we added 100 liters of diesel and the tank should be pretty full by our estimates and our somewhat-inaccurate gauge. With 60 liters on deck and another 300 in our tanks, we are very comfortable for the remainder of the trip as long as the winds pick up and confirm the weather models.
We also filled up our water tanks with the water maker so we are full in those departments. In the fridge though, the report is different: it looks pretty big and spacious with all this good to spare. The chocolate recently got relocated back to the fridge. And we currently have no trouble finding whatever we need from there, whereas it typically takes some time to remove all the other stuff that is above what you need. We have a few more onions, two mangoes and some more limes. Not too bad after 2 weeks at sea.
No fish showed up at the 6pm rendezvous, but we still had some for dinner, from a can.
Moral is good on board. Adults have better moods when they are up to date regarding sleep so we all are very flexible in allowing one to take a long nap during the day. And the easy weather facilitates the process. A quick look at the chart plotter every 15 minutes or so is all we need as this point. We haven’t seen a ship on AIS since Socorro Island. Hopefully, the conditions will stay nice for our sleep time and our sanity.
Position: 3 00 N 124 10 W
Bearing: 180 magnetic
Speed: 5 knots
Moving average: 5.4 knots
Trip: 1657 nautical miles
Miles to French Polynesia: 1240
Miles to Equator: 180 nautical miles

Last day in the Northern hemisphere (day 17)

Thu May 02 2019

We are all sitting in the cockpit looking at the sun setting on starboard and the stars starting to appear in large clusters. The visibility is very good and only a few clouds are scattering away at the horizon. We are expecting to have a night like last one where the only light competing with the planets, constellations and the Milky Way is the trilights atop of the mast. Tonight, though the wind is present: a strong 15 knots from the Southeast providing us with the lift to move 7 knots towards the sun. At dinner, we saw the GPS change from 1.0000N to 0.9999N, marking our entry in the last Northern degree of the Northern hemisphere. At this speed, we should cross the equator in the early morning tomorrow. We plan to have the person on shift to wake everybody else to witness the change. But the celebration is planned for later in the day so we can still finish the night and start this special day on the right foot (or left one for all of us lefties?).
Today the wind picked up mid-morning so our engine could finally take a break after three solid days. As luck would have it, the sun was unobstructed by any cloud so the solar panels happily fulfilled their part of the work. The sun and the air dried our laundry batch and some even had a warm shower with the water heated by the engine.
We had a Thai-ish salad for lunch: fresh mango, coco milk, chicken with tarragon, corn, fresh cabbage and very thin spaghettis. Half a snickers bar for dessert. If nap can be considered a delicacy, the adults are flirting with overdose. The nights are hot and we can’t strategically open the hatch to maximize the air flow because of the risk of other flows. We did recently use our three USB fans that provide some relief. They are used with the kids first and, as soon as they sleep, the adults take them for the same purpose. Now that the engine is off, we should be a bit more careful about their consumption but I am guessing we won’t resist the temptation.
Almost no wildlife today: no whale, dolphins or rays, only a few birds come and fish around the boat. We do not see them floating like seagulls or resting on Ubi so it is a mystery to us as where they come from and why they are so far away from land. Note they probably asked themselves the same questions about us when they see the large aluminum contraption in the middle of the ocean. As we are working on our videos, we see again all the animals we came to expect in the Pacific. Now that we don’t see them as much or at all, we miss them. The kids were watching a BBC documentary on sharks and they could recognize a good number of the ones featured in this three-part series. Surprisingly they could point out some of the ones that were not mentioned, like the silky sharks. Even more amazing (at least in the eyes of their proud parents) is that for about a third of the shooting locations, they said: « remember, we’ve been there! ». Little world travelers.
A year ago, we sold our house. Our yearly calendar showed for this week the picture we used on the pamphlet. The kids looked at it with nostalgia and then discussed about what they miss from home or from land. Nath turned the conversation into how they can picture in our next house, starting to think at the life after the boat. They enthusiastically spoke about their future rooms, garden, play area, schools. It is nice to see that they appreciate the little things they would have otherwise taken for granted before: a bed for themselves, a garden, being able to run around, etc. Their visions and dreams for our future are like little colorful bits of stones and pebbles that we will one day put together as a mosaic to form our future life, intentions for tomorrows.
All the stars are now out and seem to show off as much as they can before the slim moon slice comes to steal the show. Good night to all and see you literally on the other side !
Position: 00 51N 124 46W
Bearing: 195
Speed: 7 knots
Moving average: 5.4 knots (we feel the 5.5 making its return soon)
Trip: 1792 nautical miles
Miles to go: 1081 nautical miles
Distance to the Equator: 55 nautical miles

The day we skipped summer (day 18)

Fri May 03 2019

At dawn, we all got up in the cockpit and counted down the decimal points of our last degree in the Northern hemisphere.
« 0 00,300 N… » we read on the chart plotter.
« 0 00,100N…, the line is right ahead » as if we could see the dotted line on the water a few boat lengths away.
« 10 9 8 7 6 5 » with a built up excitement.
« 4 3 2 1… ». The display showed for a brief moment the long awaited 0 00,000N and then continued on as if nothing special just happened. 0 00,001S and so on. On the other hand, we blew the horn and cheered this milestone and the first visit of this hemisphere for four of our crew (all the Belgian). But it was still the night and we still had hope of going back to sleep. This was without counting on Neptune’s welcome gift in the South side of the planet: a big eye tuna bit our regular portside lure. 3kg maybe of the type of fish we wanted. Thank you, Neptune.
We took our breakfast: a brioche with chouquette-style sugar chunks, served with coffee or chocolate milk. Then the loose day-shift-and-nap pattern kicked into gear. The kids got to play and do some screen. For lunch we got sushi bowls with the fresh tuna, sticky rice, roasted seaweed nori, spicy mayo, soy sauce and pickled ginger: what an unexpected treat. After lunch it was time for the ceremony. Yves received a crown and a trident to represent Neptune. The kids made face disguises: Bastien had wings behind the ears as Mercury, the god messenger; Noah made dorado-shaped eyelashes he taped to his sunglasses, he was the cool fisherman; and Naomie made a fairy costume with a nice dress with wings in the back and a headband with flowers. Neptune opened up with a speech:
« O my dear Ubi and crew
Where is the world have you been?
Not in a house or downtown
Did you know that all of you
Are about to enter the world of the upside down?

But before jumping into a world unknown
Where water in sinks swirls the wrong way
Where the stars in the sky seem to be blown
This way and that in a weird array
Where the sun sways from East to West
In its daily routine
But decided at noon it is best
To go North rather than in between.

But before jumping into this world unknown
You must prove that you are worthy of crossing the line
That you have something to give that you own
And are willing to donate so it’s mine.

It could be a mesh of hair
Or a bit of fingernail
Or something else just as precious
That couldn’t be up for sale

In reward for your sacrifice
I hereby declare you deserve
To enter the other Paradise
Of the oceanic preserve. »

We all obliged and paid the price. A mesh of hair from five heads. Then the kids received a personalized certificate making them now eligible to represent Neptune in a future crossing.
We realized then that we have been robbed from the summer in 2019. By crossing, we left spring and arrived in fall. Our next summer should be in early 2020 if we stay in this hemisphere.
At sunset, as we were finishing up the dessert, Neptune launches his parade: a lot of small dolphins swimming around Ubi and racing us. Even with our sail unreefed they could probably beat us with very little efforts. This sudden appearance of wildlife the day after we wrote we didn’t see much anymore might be a clue that Neptune is reading our blog and might be willing to please us. If that is the case, we haven’t won any lottery lately… even though we feel especially lucky!!
As the wind picked up and it is nicely aligned, we decided to skip our planned waypoints and take a straight tack to the Marquises. We turned 25 degrees to starboard and trimmed our sails for what should be our last bearing until we see the islands, in a few days. This new direction shortened our trip of 20 miles; hopefully it will also reduce our time on the water.

Position: 1 02S 125 59W
Bearing: 226
Speed: 7 knots
Moving average: 5.4 knots
Trip: 1933 nautical miles
Miles to Nuku Hiva: 922 nautical miles

800 nautical miles to go (day 19)

Sat May 04 2019

Today we passed the mark of 2000 miles behind us and less than 800 to go. With the strong and consistent wind, we are getting now we should be there in less than a week. After being at sea for so long, it feels weird that we are getting somewhere. Yes, we see our daily progression on the map but since we don’t see land, it all sounds theorical and lacks the visual clues to make it real, yet. Another indication of our march forward is that our chart plotter skipped an hour, for the third time since we left. So, all seemed to indicate that we are indeed moving in the right direction.
This morning we caught a nice dorado, probably the biggest so far: 92cm. We don’t have a way to weigh it but it felt like 10kg (fisherman’s estimation). So, we are alternating our meals between tuna and dorado these days. We also caught another fish but with a different technique: leaving a hatch open. During the night, we heard something rattling around. The sea was bumpy so we assumed it was a toy or some food that got loose and was moving with the swell. We stood up to tidy up and discover that a flying fish landed on the board covering the stove. Then it rolled into the kitchen sink. It was a good size fish (10cm); we often see them skimming above the wakes of Ubi as it they were afraid that it was a giant predator. This fish jumped right in its belly. We put it in a little glass to shove it back out the way it came, through the window. We discovered during the next morning that the fish actually hit a line or something and didn’t make it to the water. It sadly died on deck, like other flying fish daring to jump over Ubi and miss the safe landing spot.
We had lots of sun today with a few clouds seemingly uncertain to when to pour their load of rain. We sometimes get a free shower but more times than not our paths do not converge. The sun keeps our battery nice and full, and ready to feed the autopilot and the fridge during the night. The water maker is running when the batteries are topped off and the sun still gives us some free power. With the humid and hot air, we are using quite a bit of water to shower. As our trip nears to an end, we are very comfortable with our water reserve and the extra water we are producing is gravy: we could last a number of weeks with the 600 liters we have on board, with some gradual rationing.
We see clouds tonight so we might not have the starry nights we are slowing getting used to, with a very visible Milky Way and lots of stars, even between the regular ones we used to see during clear nights back home. In a few days, a meteor shower is expected. That would be a good time for a clear sky night.
Until then May the 4th be with you.
Position: 2 32S 128 08W
Bearing: 226
Speed: 5.8 knots (gib is almost fully reefed and we have 1 reef in the main)
Wind speed: 12 to 15 with gusts.
Moving average: 5.4 (maybe it is broken!?)
Trip: 2093 nautical miles
Miles to Nuku Hiva: 763

Sea state: washing machine (day 20)

Sun May 05 2019

Last night brought us strong gusts roaring to 35 knots. It is always a dilemma to choose between speed and comfort. An extra knot of speed can significantly reduce the trip, especially on a long trip. On the other hand, excessive heeling is tiring, even more so when the sea state makes the boat rocking a lot. But when the boat is rounding up, it is clear we have too much sails up and we need to do something about it. Of course, it is hard to know what would the night bring; we have been struggling between playing it safe and slow vs. fast and more reactive in case the wind picks up, meaning we all have to get up to perform the maneuver.
Last night we kept the sails up and went to bed in a fast boat. But came 11pm the gusts were too strong so we woke up and reduced the main to its second reef. The refreshing light rain was welcome and the maneuver was relatively easy but it is never fun to wake up. Ironically the wind died after midnight and this time it was the engine that woke us up and increased the cabins’ temperature a bit more. Around 5am, the winds were back to their usual selves: 12 to 15 knots on port beam. And it pretty much stays as such for the whole day.
We adjusted the chart plotter to point to Nuku Hiva; it was still set to Hiva Oa. This added 20 miles to our voyage and we had to correct our bearing for it. Not a big deal on a nearly 3000 miles trip.
We recently discovered water in our otherwise dry bilges. The humming noise of the new bilge pump gave us notice: water was coming in. The first step is to determine the rate at which the water is coming in: how high it is now, compared to a minute ago. If the water level rises quickly, “Houston we have a problem”; otherwise we probably have time, it is not an emergency. In this case, the level was not noticeably rising. We took the vacuum pump and removed the water from the fore and aft bilges, almost 5 liters. It was a good time to taste the water for clues about its origin: if salted, it is likely coming from outside the boat; if it is fresh, it is probably from our water tanks, pressured water system or water maker (three areas where we already had leaks before). In this case, it was sea water. We first thought it might come from the fridge, although it would have been fresh water in that case unless it was from the refrigeration unit which uses sea water to cool the coolant. We noticed the water was following a longitudinal rib so the issue was to be found forward. We looked at the front bathroom’s sink through-hull as it was wet but the problem was actually even more forward, in the front locker. After opening the locker, we saw that everything there, spinnaker, wetsuits and all, were soaked and the culprit was clear: drops were falling down from the windlass. Somehow either the silicone joint just failed or the specific heel we are experiencing on this tack forms a puddle in the recessed space where the windlass sits and the water seeps in somehow. In any case, we knew the source of the bilge water and we put a bucket to collect some of it below the windlass to minimize the water in the bilge. When the sea is calmer, or in the Marquesas, we will reseal the base of the windlass and call it good.
The day went lazily by; the confused sea state makes Ubi and its crew move a lot and simple tasks are harder just due to the extra effort to maintain in one place and keep one’s balance. Whereas the forecast model shows the wave coming from the East, the reality here is that multiple wave patterns from different directions create this washing machine phenomenon that just calls for lying down and get some sleep. But even sleeping is a challenge, you need to block your body with pillows and / or find a position where you would minimally move when the boat does. So, the day feels like a long nap continuously interrupted by some mundane activities.
The forecast calls for easier conditions on Wednesday. By then, we would have one calm(er) day before reaching our destination, if all goes to plan.
Position: 03 48S 130 23W
Bearing: 243
Speed: 6.4 knots (5.7 over water)
Wind speed: 22 gusting 25 knots.
Moving average: 5.4 knots (still suspicious)
Trip: 2249 nautical miles
Miles to Nuku Hiva: 655 nautical miles

80 hours to go (day 21)

Mon May 06 2019

For any long trip on Ubi, it is always a happy milestone when the chartplotter displays the remaining time for the trip. It only happens below 100 hours because of the number of digits allocated for that information on the small-ish screen. As we were zooming last night, surfing on high waves and climbing on the side of large Easterly swells, we covered a lot of grounds (so to speak). The 600 remaining miles divided by the high speed made it such that we had 80 hours left to go this morning. Meaning 3 days and 8 hours. It is still a significant trip but compared to what we have done so far, we can almost feel the sand between our toes. But this data, i.e. the time left, is not to be taken without a grain of salt and here is why. Tonight, with only 500 miles to go, we still have 80 hours and 27 minutes left. Of course, it can easily be explained, but for tired minds that are looking for any sign of progress towards our goal, looking at a number that remains constant all day while it should decrease is bad for the moral. So we won’t talk about it anymore; we’ll focus on the positive figures, like the distance to destination.
The rolly seas makes for uncomfortable nights: we roll in sync with Ubi and no matter how many pillows you stuff around you to block the motion, you end up heeling from one side to the other with this unpredictable rhythm that can be so soothing at times and so nauseating when too strong. And the heat! The breeze outside provides so cool air but we don’t dare keeping portholes open too long as sooner or later a bigger wave will splash or roll over the deck and water will find its way in the boat. So, at night or during naps, you lay down trying not to move, not to be moved and to not touch more layers or pillows that could bring you more heat. All this to say that the naps are a reflection of the quality of our nights and keep in mind that 4 hours of them are devoted to « somewhat » active shifts. There is definitely a spectrum in the level of activity in the shifts, different strategy to cope with this time alone in the dark. I think we’ll cover that another time.
Our water maker, powered by a nice warm sun, allow us to take daily showers. And there is a godsend. Although the water is ocean temperature (around 30 Celsius) because the tanks are in direct contact with the sea, it is still very refreshing. No need of warm water so the water heater is on vacation. We sit naked in the back of the boat, in the cockpit or the swim step depending on the sea state, and enjoy the stream of fresh water. Don’t picture a land-based shower where you can sing the whole Bohemian Rhapsody while washing your hair. We follow more the so-called submarine shower protocol where water is precious: 4 seconds to wet yourself, as much time as you want to apply soap or shampoo (no water is running during this time of course) and then 10 seconds to rinse off. This short time makes you enjoy each moment even more. But the real selling point is the view. Some places have pretty amazing bathroom with views, but I haven’t seen anything bearing this view.
Of course, it only takes 5 minutes inside the boat (or two if a kid wants a fresh hug) to get back to the sweaty state you were in before the whole process, but you can then think of tomorrow’s shower with even more anticipation.
As we are closing in on our destination, we contemplate the long list of projects we thought we would clearly have the time to do in three weeks of crossing, but the mere thought of doing something that is not essential for the crew or the boat is typically too draining to be pursued. So, we procrastinate and expect we will do some of these projects once at anchor.
Moral is good. Kids are very resilient to the sea state: they are not sea sick although the considerable time they spend inside reading, playing or watching movies. The fatigue of the navigating personnel tends to favor sea sickness but we have been lucky so far to be able to recover during the long daytime naps.
Position: 5 04S 132 43W
Bearing: 232
Speed: 6.55 knots
Moving average: not trusted anymore
Wind speed: 16 knots with gust in the 20s
Trip: 2399 nautical miles
Miles to Nuku Hiva: 496 nautical miles

Three more night shifts per person (day 22)

Tue May 07 2019

With our average speed and the projected lower winds of tomorrow and the day after, we are facing a choice. We could decide to speed up to reach our destination in 48 hours in just enough daylight to set the anchor or anchors if there is limited space or some special conditions calling for a stern anchor. This first option gives us two remaining nights at sea and then we will reunite with the comfort of shift-less nights. The issue with this option is that it doesn’t give us much leeway in case we are slowed done for whatever reason and it forces us to optimize for speed until the island, i.e. comfort will be reduced considering the current sea state. Less comfort means lighter sleep, lighter sleep leads to trouble.
The second option is relative comfort. We keep our sail plan as is and control our speed to come in the bay in three days, during the morning. This way, we don’t accelerate in this 20ish knots wind, keeping our comfort at the current level but we have to endure another night at sea. Although the title of the post makes it clear which option we are favoring, we still keep some hope that the sea state will improve so much so that we could speed up without losing on the comfort level. But our window is closing down: as we have about 50 hours to go now, tomorrow morning we’ll be approximately 10 to 12 hours closer. If the winds and seas are playing their part, the average speed at which we must sail might be too big and therefore the first option would then be out of reach. We’ll know more tomorrow and we will keep you posted.
Apart from waking up a night, night shifts are not too bad or maybe we got used to do them. When the autopilot is working, the responsibility for the night shifter is to keep watch for other vessels that might be a hazard for us, monitor our course compared to the ones plotted on the chart plotter and maintain the correct sail trims. Other vessels are a very rare occurrence in this part of the sea. Since we left San Benedicto, the number of ships we’ve seen can be counted on a single hand. Even more, in the last 15 days, we saw none. Commercial vessels are equipped with AIS, making them visible to us, and us to them. Then our relative low speed allows us to eliminate the risk of collision for the next 15 to 20 minutes. This would be the time for a possible collision with a ship that was not visible at the start of the clock. Regarding the course, the autopilot has a low deviation in which a slow drift is possible. We simply need to check how far we are from the course, left or right, and slightly adjust the autopilot heading to bring us back on a convergence path. As the distances are so big and since there is no permanent obstacles, we do not need to immediately correct course, it can be done at the same 15 to 20 mins interval. Finally, the winds are so consistent in this part of the world that we rarely have to adjust the trim. All in all, the night shifts are a 4-hour succession of 15 to 20 minutes checks, with limited corrections to apply. So, the time in between is “free time” for the person on shift. We have seen different strategies for spending them. Some do cat naps: they set an alarm clock and sleep in the saloon fully dressed with a life vest, ready for action. These short bursts of sleep are an option for people who can fall asleep in less than 15 minutes, otherwise, you are simply waiting for your alarm to trigger. But it could be a good way to minimize the tiredness and get some sleep while you are on-call. Some read, on their phone or paper book with a reading light. That can be a good option for people who can read at night without falling asleep. [These two occupations could ingeniously be combined, although we do not know of someone using this strategy.] Some watch movies: we received a bunch of them before leaving so we have a lot of options there. The limitation is the battery autonomy of the computer playing the movies. In theory we could use a bit of house battery to recharge the computer when depleted but we are still very religious about nightly consumption so we do not err on that side. Finally, some spend a portion of their shift preparing bread for the next morning. As we all like fresh-out of-the-oven bread, the last night shift is the best time to make and bake some bread. It gives enough time to combine the ingredients into dough, let the dough rise, knead the dough and then bake it in the oven for an hour. All these steps leave some time for actually performing the boat checks the night shifts are all about.
No matter the occupation during the night it seems we all need one or more naps during the day to recuperate.
Troubling news in the fishing department: when reeling in our line for the line, we saw that the bait has been lost and the leader line chewed up. Probably a bit bite that had some time to break free. So, Rest In Peace our dear purple feather double hook bait, you are served us well. Tomorrow is a new day and we will figure out which bait to put up next.
Other that day, the day went by with no major headlines.
Position: 6 22S 135 07W
Bearing: 232
Speed: 7 knots
Moving average: [banished]
Trip: 2553 nautical miles
Miles to Nuku Hiva: 332 nautical miles

Starry nights (day 23)

Wed May 08 2019

Yesterday’s list of night shift occupations would not be complete without at least two other items. One popular one seems to be texting away with people on land, preferably on a different time zone. Our sat phone subscription offers unlimited texting: tweet-size messages can be sent to and received from an email address or a phone number and the app creates a conversation with that correspondent, a little bit like a slow IM service with the speed of dial-up but with a global range! Quite revolutionary in contrast to the communication options available to sailors 50 or even 30 years ago.
Another way to spend one’s night shift, at least partially, is to look up and watch the spectacle. Rare will be the other places on earth where we’ll enjoy such a visibility and so little light pollution. We see not only the Milky Way but different shades in it. We see now stars within popular formations that we don’t generally see with the naked eye. And, these last days, a meteor shower adds to the marvel. The kids sometimes wake up at night for a glass of water or else and ask to step outside and experience this sky of a lifetime.
Naomie drew a self-portrait of her short time out. Parents are notoriously over proud of their children, but, in this case, we were clearly entitled to some pride about her art ; ) Picture will follow on Instagram in a few days.
Our day before last at sea went by like a breeze. The usual nap cycles, mixed with some light activities, outside lunch in the cockpit and highlighted with crepes for dinner would not stand out compared to other very similar days, if there wasn’t a distinctive je-ne-sais-quoi signaling our near arrival. We heard people mentioned you can smell the earth of the islands a few days before seeing land. Thinking about it now, it doesn’t make much sense considering the direction of the wind but we can feel the land nearby, not by taste, smell or vision, but a sort of false sixth sense rooted in the precise knowledge of our location.
The wind slowed down today but we kept the reefs untouched to voluntary slow down the boat and make our final approach by daylight. Morale is good and anticipation of making landfall is high.
Position: 7 31S 137 17W
Bearing: 232
Speed: 5 knots
Moving average (just for the kick of it): 5.3 knots (Bravo Garmin!!)
Trip: 2686 nautical miles
Miles to Nuku Hiva: 186 nautical miles
Time to destination: 36 hours

Land ahoy! (day 24)

Thu May 09 2019

We see land. 10 degrees off the bow, below some puffy clouds, we start to distinguish the shadows of Roches Epiti, a smaller island at 30 nautical miles from our position. We cannot yet see Nuku Hiva but we know it is there.
Contrary to our intuition, we rolled the gib and purposefully lost a knot of boat speed. It is not that we want to make this crossing last forever, no we are all ready to make landfall. It is for a practical reason: it is always better to come in a new place in plain daylight so we see the obstacles and other hazards that hide under the cover of the night. Fishing buoys, anchored boats, reefs, rocks, and so on are much more visible with the sun.
So we slow down on our last and final leg so we’ll be around the entrance of the bay when the day breaks. The small moon crescent might give us some glimpses of the island asleep but we will need to wait to see the contrast in its green shades. Green will appear much greener after all this blue. Once in the bay, we’ll assess with the other boats around where would be a good spot for us to anchor. We are going to favor something close to the shore, close to the dinghy dock as we will used it often. We will need to put the dinghy back in the water, dig up the outboard from the port locker and check if it still runs. We’ll need to get all our paperwork ready for our entry interview at the locale gendarmerie. We’ll start to look for the essentials and the things we are craving. And little by little immerse ourselves in this new culture, new country, new continent.
One more night at sea. One more night to suffer and one more night to enjoy. This night will be a more active watch than all others in the crossing. There could be ships, lights, currents to monitor, especially the closer we get.
We still have a fishing line in the water even though we lost two baits in the last two days. The leader line is shewed up and the line simply drags behind us. We have not seen what exactly happened so our imagination can fill in the blanks: as we were distracted by the many tasks and choirs on board, sleeping, eating, playing, reading, you name it, we caught a good size tuna that was hungry for something new, something purplish. That tuna with taste could not resist when it saw our bait zooming just in front of it at 6 to 7 knots. “Not bad for a purple fish”, the tuna thought. It was an easy chase that ended when the tuna swallowed the bait whole. It immediately understood the trouble it was in and started to fight the hook planted deep in its stomach. It pulled, it jumped, it flipped, but nothing did it. The hook was there to stay. All the efforts the tuna displayed had for only result the low energy that was left in the fish. It didn’t fight much after that; dark thoughts entered its mind. But before these thoughts got even half-way through its brain, a lone shark that smelled the tuna’s blood spilled in the struggle, open a not so wide mouth and shallow the tuna whole. The shark probably didn’t even notice when its rack of sharp teeth snapped our nylon leader line. The shark simply enjoyed the easy catch and followed its gust feeling that it might be in luck the next day if it followed the same general course. The next day indeed, another tuna got our other bait but the same shark got a similar catch.
Besides our shark and fish filled imagination, our last day was slow and mostly empty, but nice and easy. We topped off our water tanks, we took a shower, we read a bit, we worked a bit on our videos, watched a movie or two. As we were looking out to spot the nearing land, we had a special dinner: appetizers and desserts. It is easy to make, appreciated by all with no complaints and the dish washing is minimal. Why haven’t we thought about this before?
One last look at the horizon to confirm that the land was no mirage and off we go to bed as the night is coming.
Position: 8 32S 139 14W
Bearing: 231
Speed: 5 knots
Moving average: 5.3 knots (we need to address this in a later post)
Trip: 2809 nautical miles
Miles to Nuku Hiva: 55.3 nautical miles
Hours to destination: 13 hours and 20 minutes.

Arrived (morning day 25)

Fri May 10 2019

The anchor is set, after 2864 nautical miles from La Cruz.

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