Land Ho!

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

29 days and 14 hours since leaving Puerto Ayora, Galapagos, we dropped anchor for the night in a little cove on Ua Huka Island of the Marquesa Archipelago in French Polynesia. After making this epic ocean crossing people usually comment about how vast the great Pacific is, which I now know. It’s so vast that I can’t even comprehend the distance. If it weren’t for the stars and the sun we could have been going in circles or sailing on some giant treadmill. We counted down time and distance remaining everyday but in vain. It wouldn’t get us there faster and each day we made an almost respectively negligible amount of progress, averaging maybe 120 nautical miles a day. After a week I had to adjust my conception of time and way of life. I told myself that I was starting a new life whose universe consisted of the boat, everything on it and everything around us within eyesight and it would remain that way until we reached the Marquesas, whenever that would be.

We had several ways to measure our progress and to keep us entertained. One was the odometer on the GPS. This told us how many miles we had traveled but, while impressive at times, was not an accurate way to measure how close we were getting. As you know, you can’t always travel in a straight line, even with a sail boat. We were at the mercy of the wind and its whims, which were generous most of the time. A more accurate way to measure our progress was distance, as the crow flies, to our destination, which didn’t always agree with the odometer. The first week or so we went south to 8° S latitude in order to escape the doldrums. Sailing almost perpendicularly to the direction we wanted to go, we didn’t really gain on the islands. But I consoled myself saying it was a strategic move that would allow us to sail ata faster and friendlier angle in the future.

At 8° S we found the wind we were looking for but it was directly behind us from the east and there were 5 foot waves. Ideally you want wind from the south or southeast. Anyways, it made for a really rocky, uncomfortable ride. Instead of keeling over on one side and staying there, the boat was keeling all he way to the left and then all the way to the right with every wave that passed under it. After two days we were fed up with the conditions and decided to go back north where we could catch slower winds and make for a smoother angle to the island and once again we were making miles, but not really getting closer. We were in email contact ith some kiwis we met at Puerto Lucia who had left before us and were farther south. They warned us that conditions were more intense down south where they were at 12°. The conditions they were in wound up breaking their jib foil and they used the spinnaker the whole way. Once we wee north it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. All in all we traveled an extra 600 miles farther than the shortest distance.

Another way I gauged distance was by longitude and time zone, and compared them with cities in America at the same longitude. One day we were in Denver and a few days later we were in Salt Lake City. Galapagos lies right in the center of the UTC -6 time zone, known as Central Time in the States. Our destination in the Marquesas is situated on the western edge of the UTC -9 time zone. In fact, they offset their clocks by 9 and a half hours because of this. A time zone is 15° of longitude, which, along the equator spans 900 nautical miles (15 x 60nm) which is about 1000 statute miles (7nautical miles = 8 miles). According to this crazy method, I’m now somewhere in Alaska.

Most of the time we were hand-steering in 2 hour shifts. This made the days go much faster. By happenstance I wound up with the 3-5 (AM and PM) and the 9-11 (AM and PM) shifts. So I slept from 11 to 3 and 5 to 9 and had 8 hours of free time, 3 of which were usually dark. I spend most of my free time reading. I read Anna Karnina, an impossibly long novel for an impossibly long journey. Also two Paulo Coelho books of Brad, including The Alchemist. I finished Voyage of the Beagle and am now working on the PADI Open Water Diver Manual as I plan on getting SCUBA certified along the way.

We caught 7 fish along the way. 3 dorados, each one bigger than the one before it. A skipjack tuna, a sailfish, a 50lb black marlin (at least that’s the consensus, I still suspect it was a sailfish) and a prized 40lb bigeye tuna (like a yellowfin). All of these fish were caught without rod and reel, simply a fishing line wrapped around a spool and a boat winch for a bit of tension. The bigger fish presented somewhat of a problem because they were more fish than we could eat at times. The bigeye was enough to feed 50 people so we at 3 portions each for 3 meals.


  1. sternbergler Says:

    you are safe!!! sounds like an epic journey?!?!

  2. Canice Murphy Says:

    Dude. I clicked on some ads to keep the fires burning and the money rolling in while you were gone.

  3. dad Says:

    Thanks for the update where are you off to next to and when

  4. Gabrus Says:

    Way to get there in one piece man. Can’t wait to hear more.

  5. Owen Says:

    Man bro you had me worried for a sec…glad you made it safe!

  6. ali Says:

    alright! you made it and you sound pretty sane

Leave a Reply