Posting - Pacific Ocean Crossing
(San Diego to Pago Pago, American Samoa)
April 24 to May 31, 2004
View Photos from Pacific Ocean Crossing:
April 24th (Departure) - We departed from San Diego Harbor under clear skies and light winds at around 4:00PM, Saturday April 24th. We motored through most of the night until the winds picked up to a consistent 6-10 knots from the NW. Fog descended after midnight, requiring us to use radar, who's mounting promptly broke! After an emergency repair we were able to spot a large tanker off our port bow. Clouds persisted into the next morning.
April 25th (Day 1) - Daylight broke over clouded skies and steady 6-10 knots from NW. Auto-helm steering chain broke, requiring repair which was successfully completed by mid-afternoon. Spotted scattered heavy tanker traffic occasionally. Sun attempted to but never fully emerged from behind cloud cover. Uneventful night watch.
April 26th (Day 2) - Sunrise came to clearing skies and steady 10 - 15 knots from NW. Color of seas changing to deep indigo blue. Small plastic bucket floats by as a jellyfish bloom becomes apparent. Sailed through small jellyfish population for several miles. Seem to be entering trade-winds as afternoon approaches. Winds picking up and slightly changing direction. Classic puffy white clouds forming on horizon. Great sailing!
April 27th (Day 3) - Fantastic night of smooth sailing. Clear skies, no issues. Weather warming up nicely. visited by a few dolphins during night watch. Could hear them breathing as they breached in parallel with boat. Sunrise broke over perfectly clear skies. Went below for a good sleep then came back to deck just in time to see more dolphins converging on boat. Absolutely fascinating! Got video to prove! Steady winds keep us on target for a 20 - 22 day passage to Fanning Island.
April 28th (Day 4) - Another nice night of sailing. Moon getting brighter and bigger as we head west. Definitely in the trade-winds now, although they are not coming from the Northeast as expected. This should not pose too huge a problem as we can close-haul if necessary. Averaged over 7 knots throughout the day. Installed new 12 volt outlet for iPod :) Attempted to install old car stereo w/ CD player but was corroded beyond use. Ate and slept well.
April 29th (Day 5) - Well, tough night of little sleep, not because it was windy or dangerous but instead lack of wind. When that happens the main-sail begins to luff (flap in little wind) which results in the boom swinging back and forth resulting in a boat-jarring racket! Sounds like things are falling apart, but they aren't. Sunrise brought with it our least wind to date. Luckily we ran up the "fisherman" sail and were able to maintain an average of 6 knots throughout the day. Had to run engine for 2 hours to recharge batteries. Other than my first attempt at salt-water laundry, nothing of note happened today out here :)
April 30th (Day 6) - Another tough night as winds have died down and coming from unfavorable location. Heading more west than southwest currently. Might end up in Hawaii instead...bummer. Very loud evening, thanks to Javi for the ear-plugs. Auto-helm broke again in the night, requiring manual steerage until morning light revealed cog fell off motor and locking nut was welded to it. Several hours of mechanical mayhem resulted in successful reinstallation...hopefully. Worked out weather-fax issues on high-frequency radio and are now trying to interpret received images. Somewhat like looking at an ultrasound and saying: "hey, looks like a healthy girl at latitude 23N with winds of 10 knots from the head"?!??
May 1st - Day 7 - Holy crap are we rolling! Speed has picked up, but so has the seas which results in us heeling up to 30 degree effectively tossing a salad inside the cabin without actually touching the salad. Saw my first flock of flying fish, I suppose they're a flock until they hit the water and become a school again. Whatever....
We're now over 1000 miles off-shore, meaning we're over 1000 miles away from ANY shore. Hmmmmm, hope the auto-helm doesn't decide to break again. Interestingly enough, I do see birds everyday. They are pretty small and skim the surface, sometimes rising up to dive into the ocean. They must spend their entire lives out here!
May 2nd (Day 8)- Toughed it out again last night in very rolly swells. Makes sleeping difficult, especially knowing I have watch again in a few hours. With 4 people, we've split the watch shifts into 2 hours on, 6 hours off, 24hours/day. This usually allows for ample sleep time, when you can get it. I've got a sunrise, mid afternoon and midnight watch which suits me nicely. Been followed by a long-winged petrel of some sort for last 30 hours. Different type of bird than we've seen in the past. Now we're below the Tropic of Cancer and officially in the tropics! Doesn't feel like it yet :(
May 3rd (Day 9) - Another pretty loud night of banging around. Kept me very alert at the help while manually steering to wind and not accidentally jibing. Managed to safely negotiate many an askew swell. Day was overcast and a little cool. All around the clouds looked menacing, but thankfully nothing materialized. Our course has been more westerly then south, but we'll continue like this until at least 140 degrees West. According to conventional wisdom, after 140 the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone is most narrow (that's the Doldrums)
May 4th (Day 10) - Full moon tonight! We finally made a jibe to the south after breaking 140 degrees west. Making good southerly progress now, but still have to be diligent to stay west or we'll drop too low. Took my first bucket bath on bow. Water was refreshing and getting a good cleaning was certainly necessary after 10 days on a boat. Squalls are beginning to appear in the horizon and no doubt we'll get one soon, but for now we're skirting between all systems sailing away.
May 5th (Day 11) - Shifty night, had to jibe again suddenly when wind changed directions. Very noisy and bouncy ride, not much sleep. Daylight brings squalls on all sides of us, luckily though we've been dodging them up till now. However their variable winds certainly play havoc with our course heading. Water temp is steadily rising, but the air temp seems to stay the same. Mostly because we haven't seen the sun since living San Diego. I hear it's nicer in Seattle right now :) Thinking about finally fishing for some tuna, if the winds cooperate we'll likely do that tomorrow. This is also a good day in that we're now 50% of the mileage to Fanning. Now, this does NOT mean we're actually half way there though, because we may need to do some extra sailing depending on the wind. Today is Cinco de Mayo and fittingly we'll celebrate with taco/fajitas and Tecate. Ole!
May 6th (Day 12) - Well, last night was finally a good night of not crazy swells. We didn't move very fast, but we did sail a bit more smoothly. When I had my morning watch, I spotted a sailboat way out on the eastern horizon...however that sighting was not corroborated and therefore I guess I only saw a "ghost-ship". Shortly there after, I spotted a small pod of dolphins off our port bow, also unconfirmed. Each of these sightings I take as real....hmmmmm what will 12 days on the ocean do to my brain? ALSO this morning, we woke up to several flying fish stranded on our decks. I took some pictures and poked and prodded them a little bit. Then we got a bright idea to use it for bait and went fishing. Not more than 30 minutes later, we had something big on our reel. Off goes the line and into action we go to hove-to the boat (come into wind and drop a few sails) so that we can reel the leviathan in. After about 20 minutes of straining, the silver streaked, sleek tuna came up from the depths. We had caught a beautiful, powerful tuna and we were going to have fresh shashimi today! After filleting the sucker we took a look at its stomach and found at least 6 anchovy things and a squid. Bummer for him that today he tried to eat an already dead flying fish on a big hook. Light air means we put up our colorful spinnaker sail. Big blue chute that runs out at the front of the boat. Looks beautiful, but we're still not making much time. Just about 4 knots an hour. (we've got 1389 nm to go...so you do the math :( ) Great sunset tonight, pretty much the first of the trip.
May 7th (Day 13) - Some more excellent sailing. Winds have finally gotten around to blowing the right direction and velocity for us. Now we're holding a good course for Fanning Island and if the trades keep it up, we should be sighting land in next 10 days. Evenings have been very pleasant, weather is warm enough now to forgo using foul-weather jacket and the moon has been able to illuminate the horizon nicely. Spectacular sunsets with a vivid multi-layering of reds, oranges, yellows and blues have been beautiful. Two unidentified, but verified sightings of marine mammals occurred today. Either small whales or big dolphins. They swam circles around Seawanhaka for about 30 minutes before finally going on their merry way. - Darren
May 8th (Day 14) - It's been a fantastic two weeks since we left San Diego and we've sailed nearly 2000 miles. For the third day in a row, the wind continues to be steadily from the northeast and we've made great progress right on our course toward Fanning Island. Last night, as we sat around the cockpit enjoying our sunset beers, we were treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. The whole sky lit up with a million shades of purple, blue, pink, orange and yellow as the sun made its way over the western horizon. Late last night, the wind picked up and we dropped the spinnaker and hoisted the jib sail. In the middle of this sail change, a suicidal flying fish flung himself up onto Seawanhaka and right into Mike's big, fat melon head. The fish was unable to avoid the massive obstacle. Mike was understandably shocked as the fish went splat and then buzzed right back into the water. The fish must also have been shocked, after a life of seeing nothing except the blue, blue ocean. This morning, the Captain cooked a fine meal of (tuna) steak and eggs and the spinnaker flew again, carrying us southwest to our destination. - Elizabeth
May 9th (Day 15) - We broke the 1000 miles to go barrier this morning at 1:45am. The four days of sweet sailing we have had, with following seas and a fair easterly breeze putting us on a reach to Tabuaeran, is apparently over. The wind has backed to the NE, and a "snotty swell" has risen from the SE, abusing the boat sorely on the beam. Darren was pitched ignominiously from his bunk to the deck twice. We have furled the stays'l and now run with the main and a closely sheeted jib, still making 6 kts along our intended heading. Dolphins continue to visit the boat, and yesterday several were seen breaching high into the air. We have shut off the freezer to conserve power, and now must eat the remaining fresh meat soon. Darren would also like it known that we have been free from vomit and blood for the last 24 hours. His treatment of my finger, chewed by the drill when fixing the Autohelm, is coming along great, although he still mentions amputation. I think he is just looking for an excuse to use his new knife. - Mike
May 10th (Day 16) - Okay...now we're talking! 25 knot winds gusting to 30 has really got us cooking along, and to make things more exciting...it's dark out. Fun for all and real party in the galley too. This morning we were greeted by numerous small whale and a pod of dolphins who were playing together around our hull. They hung around for an hour before departing for late morning tea. I believe we pushed the 30 degree heeling mark a few minutes ago, and that's always exciting to be looking down into the water on one side and the sky on the other. It's more like a continuous rollercoaster that you don't have to wait in line for. - Darren
May 11th (Day 17) - What a crazy night! The heavy winds from yesterday just kept getting bigger throughout the night (steadily 25-30 knots with gusts up to 40!) The swells knocked us around pretty good so it was another rolly, bumpy, wild night. Just after dinner, we dropped the mainsail, leaving only the jib to carry us along. Even with only that one small sail, we were cruising along steadily at 7 or 8 knots. Not long after the mainsail came down, the lights went out on Seawanhaka..."uhhhh guys....?" Suddenly, we were invisible to the world with no lights or sailling instruments to help guide us through the seas. Luckily, Captain Bill and Darren fixed the electrical problem quickly and we roared on through the wild night. Today, the strong winds continued through most of the morning but thankfully dropped off a bit by mid-afternoon. Seawanhaka also took a couple of big waves and sailed through several rain showers so we were happy to see the sun breaking through a few times today to dry everything out. This evening we are enjoying GREAT sailing and looking forward to a night of calmer seas and good sleep. - Elizabeth
May 12th (Day 18) - The crew are well rested after some relative peace and quiet. The winds continue at 15-20 kts from the ENE, and boat swims along at 7 -8 kts under jib, stays'l and main, but the seas are a bit confused following the higher winds. we could make Tabuaeran as early as Saturday. We have seen more birds, shearwaters and Laysan albatross, gliding effortlessly in the wind, swooping down amidst the wave crests. In the night, the bioluminescent dinoflagellates were brilliant, like stars in the water, a glowing mirror of the constellations above, the mastheads of Seawanhaka carving their loping rhythmic arc across the backdrop of the Milky Way and more stars than i have ever seen before. The low clouds on the horizon lifted, and i saw the southern cross for the first time, guiding us ever southward! the bread turns green and the fruit brown, but we continue to eat well. i found a squid on deck this morning. Perhaps he will catch a wahoo for us. Somewhere out there, a wahoo's days are numbered. - Mike
May 13th (Day 19) - Well...it looks like the Doldrums were not so dull. After two days of gusty winds (up to 40 knots), lots of rain squalls, slightly confused seas and a bouncy boat we have popped out the other side into a beautiful south-easterly wind with blue sky, large puffy white clouds on the horizon and the makings for another spectacular sunset. With Fanning Island within two days striking, we will begin another round of fishing tomorrow with the hopes of catching some big fish to share with the island. Birds have been with us this entire voyage and today was no exception as we passed numerous flocks of sea-birds who gathered to binge on surface fish of some sort. - Darren
May 14th (Day 20) - Small whales joined us again in the evening watch, sleek black torpedos arcing through the water, much in the way that torpedos don't normally arc. The night proved busy, with the crew furling the stays'l as a squall would hit, often with 30-40 kt gusts, then unfurling in the ensuing calm, and on and on through the night. All told, a wet and noisy evening. In the morning, the horizon appeared on fire, with orange and yellow hues of a distant rainbow setting just above the water. A large squall found us, and i used the relative privacy of being alone on deck to shower in the cockpit, and even do some laundry in the downpour. Luckily, Darren failed to capture the event on film. We hope to make Tabuaeran on Saturday night or Sunday morning, and enter English Harbor during slackwater at 11 am Sunday local time, 2300 ZULU(Monday, as Kiribati is across the dateline). - Mike
May 15th (Day 21) - Lightening was all around us last night and unnerving at best. However, the winds were in our favor and although we did get a little wet, the storm cells containing the electricity skirted to the northwest of us and we were spared. For the last two nights, we seemed to be trailing an illuminated apparition on the forward port side of our vessel. Nothing appeared on radar and no visual sightings were confirmed until last night when Mike crept up on a large fishing craft with its lights blaring and an even larger freighter seemingly idling in the ocean. Today, after a beautiful sunny beginning with light winds, our forward motion has been slowed dramatically by a complete falling off of wind. Oh well, this is our first and I'm sure we can float here contently until it picks up again scoots us along to Tabuaeran. - Darren
May 16th (Day 22) - Seems like we have successfully located the dreaded "Doldrums". When the wind decreased yesterday we ran downwind with the spinnaker for a few hours…unfortunately, it proceeded to drop off to nothing. So, we took down the spinnaker, sheeted in the mainsail, drank some beers and went swimming. Can't say that I've ever been swimming in 18,000 feet of water before. A supercool experience. It was amazingly exhilarating to jump into the inviting blue waters of the Pacific after 3 weeks of gazing longingly at it. Last night we enjoyed a rare "crew night off" which basically meant no one was on watch and we all slept soundly through the night. Unfortunately, Seawanhaka drifted several miles north as we slept. Today we are motoring for a while, charging up the batteries, napping and doing our wind dances. As I type this, we have sailed 3000(!) miles and are only 50 miles away from Tabuaeran. So close to land and yet so far away…and an awesome reminder for this sailor of the power of the wind. - Elizabeth
May 22nd (Day 28) - Well, our wind hasn't been exactly the most cooperative today so unfortunately Jarvis Island will have to bear the sad loss of not seeing the crew of Seawanhaka. Instead, we are now hoping to give Suwarrow Island the pleasure of our company. This is a small historic island that was once inhabited by a single man named Tom Neale. He lived there until 1977 and his house has become the unofficial yacht club. If our winds choose otherwise, then we will let that island go as well as we press on to our next major destination of American Samoa. As we near the equator (it's only 51 miles from us as I write this), the champagne is cooling and hours-devours have been ordered from catering. Currently, our skies are clear and the moon is just a well-defined sliver on the horizon. Star gazing will be spectacular this evening! - Darren
May 23rd (Day 29) - A big day here on Seawanhaka. We crossed the equator! We toasted the event with a noble bottle of champagne from Darren, with a slosh over the side for Neptune and our departed mates. The event was witnessed by a pod of whales, many dolphins, and hoards of birds. We all agree that the south Pacific is more beautiful than the north Pacific we left just a few miles in our wake. While the weather is fair, and the seas as calm as one could imagine, the wind is light. Time becomes an issue, and Suwarrow looks more doubtful with each hour we make only 3-4 kts south. Soon we must turn to the southwest and make for Pago Pago. A month out of San Diego, we are eating quite well, with fresh baked bread and cookies from Elizabeth and Bill. Even the gala apples prove tenaciously crisp. - Mike
May 24th (Day 30) - A pretty uneventful day so far here on Seawanhaka…but when you are sailing through the sunny, tropical South Pacific, even the uneventful days are great. We haven't had much luck fishing these past few days and after a month on board the boat we are all becoming more creative cooks. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset last night. Mike reports that the water is flushing down the toilet in a counterclockwise direction. While this is certainly true, no one can quite remember which way the water flushed at home in the States so a little help on this matter would be greatly appreciated. The only other thing that happened today was that in honor of crossing the equator, I cut my hair short. Life goes on, Seawanhaka continues to make her way south and we are still having a great time. - Elizabeth
May 25th (Day 31) - Wow, our wind is light and we're still ghosting along just south of the Equator on our way to American Samoa. It's beautiful in a slow, meandering way. Occasionally we're visited by birds, dolphins and curious but shy whales. Diving off the bow into the pristine ocean is both exhilarating and cooling. Despite doing this for several weeks now, it still is quite a sense to have 15,000 feet of water beneath us. The stargazing is phenomenal and we're learning a new constellation or two each night. Still no verified alien sightings though. I'll be keeping watch for those especially! At this rate, we expect to be dropping anchor by June 6th in Pago Pago Harbor. We're hoping for brisker winds, but will take whatever is comes our way - Darren
May 26th (Day 32) - We are hopeful we have escaped the maddening light and variable winds after 3 days of ghosting along at 2 kts, the only sound the thunderous clap of the mainsail flapping as the boat rocked on the oily swell. If sails can be heroes, then mine is surely our asymmetric spinnaker, pulling us faithfully in the lightest of breezes, mile by mile, from the equator. Likely the other sails would see us still bobbing in the equatorial blue oblivion. We caught a small dorado (mahi mahi) this morning, which went well with fresh biscuits and coffee. Now that we have proof of concept, we look to scale up and catch a proper one, our increased boat speed more conducive to trolling. Of course, we must abandon our swimming under way, diving as far forward from the bow as we can, reaching back to grab the dolphin striker before Seawanhaka slides by. It is striking how much faster 2 kts feels viewed from in the water compared to standing on deck. - Mike
May 27th (Day 33) - Today brought us two more delectable treats from the sea. Although small, they were tasty nonetheless as we reeled in a pair of blue-fin tuna. This combined with some coconut curry rice and stewed tomatoes which Mike cooked, provided a fresh feast after a month at sea. We're closing in on American Samoa. Our initial estimate of 7 days for this 1300 mile passage will turn out to be more like 12, but that's fine since we've got plenty of water on board and a case of Top Raman noodles too! Elizabeth is learning the finer points of noon-day sightings with our sextant (but for the moment we'll continue to rely on our GPS system) and she's educating us all on the southern constellations as they rise around us. - Darren
May 28th (Day 34) - Great winds today and yesterday. We are moving along nicely at 7 knots and hope to be in Pago Pago by Monday or Tuesday (of course, we are making no official predictions because it seems like when we do that, the wind changes). We found our position using celestial navigation again today. While we wouldn't compare to the navigators on Captain Cook's or Magellan's ships, Mike successfully located us within 16-1/2 miles of our GPS reading at noon. It's very cool to find our latitude & longitude using only the sun, the horizon, the sextant, chronometer(clock) and a nautical almanac. Meanwhile, we are still looking to hook that big fish…he's out there somewhere, and his days are numbered! Lastly, if you see my brother Andy tomorrow, wish him a Happy 24th Birthday! - Elizabeth
May 29th (Day 35) - More great sailing, with each day more beautiful than the last. Fair skies, moderate seas and fresh breezes, and Seawanhaka made 160 miles in the last 24 hours. We hope to reach Pago Pago Monday morning. On morning watch, I hooked a striped marlin, maybe 50 pounds. As we tried to land him on deck, he broke free and fell back to the water. But Darren captured the moment in pictures, so I at least have evidence of the one that got away. A flying fish has just crashed on deck, so hopefully with fresh bait I will nab the "big one" tomorrow. Every fish we have caught has been with me at the helm. The fish like the way I steer, I guess. - Mike
May 30th (Day 36) - Mike finally caught his Wahoo today! What a sleek predator this fish is. Beautiful blue and deep purple stripes on a silver back. Tonight I'll work my culinary magic on it and serve the freshest fish you can obtain. The menu included individual sautéed pepper rubbed Wahoo fillets with thinly sliced garlic and sweet onions. This is served with a white-wine reduced Provincial sauce featuring stewed tomatoes and thyme. For a side I made a Basmati rice pilaf with toasted walnuts placed over the top. Since our last four days have been very successful with the wind (155 nm average in 24 hours), we will landing in Samoa tomorrow. This will be our first major land-fall since departing 36 days ago, and with that our adventures will begin anew. Fresh food, fresh water, surfing, snorkeling and who knows what else awaits us. We'll be keeping you posted so stay tuned! - Darren
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April, 2004 - San Diego Bay, California