The crossing

Each day of the crossing we sent out a location update along with a brief daily update. Heres the full set of updates:

April 17th, 2012: 0 45’S 90 18’W

Arrived in Galapagos on Saturday. Equator crossing was a success, pulled up alongside it and dove across. Drank champagne, ate bread shaped like King Neptune, lit off some fireworks (and got reasonably lit ourselves).

Galapagos has been a bit of a whirlwind. Managed to see a few enormous turtles, but the majority of our time was spent dealing with the port captain (which included being quarantined to the boat for a day) and repairing the diesel (which is now operational).

I hear Phil Collins playing now, in 5 minutes we raise anchor and in 18 miles we’ll watch our trip odometer click to 5,000nm. By the end of this passage it should read 8,000!

Day 2: 2 16’S 91 49’W

Trip odometer now reads 5,115nm which means not only did we break 5k but we also covered 130nm yesterday! Pretty sure thats a boat record. After a couple weeks in the doldrums, a full day going this fast feels like lightspeed. To add to our productive day, we managed to catch ourselves a nice looking dorado, first one since Mexico, and peeled a squid and 3 flying fish off the deck this morning.

Currently heading south to make sure we work our way well into the trades, then when the forecast looks good we’ll take a right turn, trim the sails and cleat them off for 3 weeks.

Day 3: 3 05’S 93 56’W

Just turned west, from now on it should be downwind all the way to marquesas.

Day 4: 3 13’S 96 01’W

Hitching a ride on the southern equatorial current that appears to be somewhere between 1.5-2 kts! That combined with strong (and a bit squally) wind means we’re flying. Yesterday (6am – 6am) was a 145nm day.

Day 5: 3 13’S 98 19’W

Saw a glow on the horizon NW of us last night which quickly fizzled away. In case it was a flare went a few hours off course to check it out. No other signs. If it wasn’t a flare, what was it?? Meteorite? North Korean missile failure? [Turns out it was almost certainly Venus glowing orange as it set! Oops!]

Day 6: 3 38’S 100 44’W

I think we’ll forever be spoiled by the view of the stars from sea. On a clear night you can spend your entire three hour watch staring at them. The lyrid meteor shower was last night (and tonight?) and between clouds we were able to catch a few long fiery streaks.

Day 7: 4 05’S 102 41’W

Yesterday was shower day. Set up a curtain on the bow and showered with buckets of saltwater and a fresh water rinse. I think its safe to say we’re the cleanest people in miles!

Day 8: 5 04’S 104 39’W

Wind changes pushed us a bit further south and kicked up some large but gentle 10-12 foot seas last night, resulting in a larger than average harvest of flying fish on deck. Troubles with our autopilot prompted a midnight rebuild by Alex, but all’s well now. Coffee and hashbrowns for breakfast.

Day 9: 5 18’S 106 33’W
Becalmed for quite a bit of yesterday but picked up the trades again last night. Saw a large boat on the horizon last night (first sign of other people in over a week!) which ended up passing about 3 miles of our stern. Small world.

Yesterday was filled with milestones. We broke 6,000nm for the trip, 1,000 for this passage and have now officially been at sea longer than any of our other passages.

Day 10: 5 01’S 108 44’W
Riding the fringes of the convergence zone which is making for some rainy weather. Wind picked up and we’re surfing down some of the larger waves!

Day 11: 5 01’S 112 20’W
Turns out the flying fish are pretty tasty, though unless you get a large one they don’t really have all that much meat. Trick is finding them before they dry themselves to the deck. Rain seems to have past and has been replaced by sun and nice steady wind, haven’t touched the sails all day.

Day 12: 5 26’S 114 42’W

Today we crossed an imaginary line that placed us somewhere around 1,500 miles from any land. That also means we’re just about halfway! When we left San Francisco our cousin Pat gifted us a bottle of Orange Cream Soda that we drank in celebration.

We’d been hearing a creaking noise originating from the top of the mast lately and decided it was time to investigate. Put on a climbing harness and made a trip to the top, an activity that bears similarities with rock climbing in an earthquake. Nothing suspicious so we emptied the better part of a can of WD-40 on anything up there that moves. So far no more creaking … but only time will tell.

Day 13: 6 08’S 117 09’W

Here is a list of today’s accomplishments:

Alex woke up this morning when an onion fell on his head. He now worries that another may be on the horizon.

Nick fixed our windvane, causing us to wonder if his name should be changed from [expletive deleted]-wad to something less demeaning. (The Windvane, not Nick. We’ll still call Nick [expletive deleted]-wad.)

Yesterday Nick made some chocolate banana cranberry cake-bread. We ate some today, but there’s still some left. Stay tuned for further updates.

We saw a tanker! What are you doing out here, tanker?

This afternoon saw us enjoying a few lovely rounds of Monopoly Cards. As Saltbreaker rolled gently side to side in the warm sun and fair winds I thought, “Don’t you DARE try to steal my Park Place! This is ridiculous! I’m never playing with you guys again!” The good thing about Monopoly cards is there’s no board to flip.

On our daily SSB radio meetup we guessed Usutpu’s Hangman Challenge: Rotten Bananas

Day 14: 6 05’S 119 21’W

Winds shifted a bit north forcing us to jibe, after nearly two weeks with everything constantly slanted to the right its now slanted left. Feels really strange.

Tomorrow if the weather is good we’re going to host a theme party, everyones invited.

Day 15: 5 59’S 121 45’W

May Day!

No we’re NOT in trouble, simply celebrating the first day of May. We’d been planning on throwing a party of sorts marking one month since leaving mainland America. That combined with the fact that this holidays name sounds an awful lot like a distress call (M’aidez M’aidez!) gave us inspiration for a party theme. It started by sounding an alarm at which point we abandoned the cabin for the foredeck (where the party was hosted). We gave ourselves two minutes to gather any possessions and camped out for a few hours, enjoying a different perspective, eating cookies, drinking (cold) beer, and watching sunset.

All is well.

Day 16: 6 25’S 124 04’W

No news is good news. Most exciting thing that happened to us today was when a rather large flying fish managed to fly through one of our portholes and into the head. Estimating about a week till landfall.

Day 17: 6 51′ 125 41′.

Been catching lots of Dorado. Each has been a slightly different color, some have a bright green body with pastel blue dorsal fins others are almost entirely golden. Trying to get creative with how we cook them, last night was new england mahi-mahi chowder in sourdough bread bowls, tonight it’ll be blackened.

Tonight after the moon sets we’re hoping to catch another meteor shower.

Day 18: 7 33’S 127 53’W

This morning we woke up to a surprise, another sailboat on the horizon! After trying to hail them over radio we decided to change course to go say hello.

The boat was about the same size as Saltbreaker, though a bit worse for wear. It was sailing significantly slower than us (only using one sail) and at first we didn’t see anyone aboard. As we got closer a man stepped out into the cockpit. Now aware of our presence we struck up a radio conversation.

The french man (Jean) was in the middle of his second solo circumnavigation. He had left Galapagos a month ago and was also (slowly) making his way to the Marquesas. With land as far away as Denver is from Chicago (800nm) its absolutely incredible that we crossed paths. Seeing another human after 17 days was pretty shocking for us and we’ve been able to talk amongst ourselves. I can only imagine how mind blowing our encounter must have been for him!

Day 19: 8 12’S 129 19’W

Slow going last night. Winds essentially died for about 18 hours. Thankfully back on pace again.

Today’s location update is actually only an approximate one. We turned off all our GPS units in order to give celestial navigation a shot, using the sextant and dead reckoning to determine our lat/lon.

Day 20: 8 42’S 131 47’W

Saw another sailboat today! They passed to the north of us. We made brief radio contact, they could hear us but their radio must not be as strong since we couldn’t quite hear them.

At this point, we’re pretty much out of veggies (other than potatoes, onions and garlic). Todays lunch was hard tack (biscuits) and salt pork (gravy).

Day 21: 9 12’S 133 48’W

For almost a week we’ve been telling ourselves we have six days left. By over-estimating we’ve been hoping to not get too anxious for landfall. The truth is though, we’re getting really REALLY close. Just a couple more days and we’ll be scanning the horizon.

This is now our actual position, but after several days practice we were getting pretty comfortable with celestial navigation. This afternoons fix (a combination of several sextant sights and dead reckoning) got us within 5nm.

Day 22: 9 57’S 135 58’W

The past few nights the weather has been like clockwork, 6pm cumulus start forming, 8pm winds get a little gusty, 9pm squall, 11pm clear.

Last night Helmer decided he wasn’t a fan of the 9pm squall and ground his (last set of) gears. Looks like we’ll be purchasing some new parts. The windvane (mechanical auto-pilot) has been treating us well though so it hasn’t been a major inconvenience.

If the wind keeps up we should just barely see land tomorrow at sunset! Regardless we should be pulling into Baie des Vierges on Fatu Hiva sometime on the 10th.

… looks like the winds are getting gusty.

Day 23: 10 05’S 138 10’W

Well, we’ve been scanning the horizon but haven’t seen land quite yet! Fatu Hiva reaches ~900m and we’re 40 miles away so we should be able to see it, but theres a pretty solid haze on the horizon. I suppose our first view of land will be under moon light.

At our current speed we’ll be pulling in around 2 am. Not wanting to try entering under nightfall we’ll heave-to (putting the boat in park) and wait on the leeward side for sunrise.

Tomorrow we’ll set foot on land. Weird.

Arrival: 10 27.8’S 138 40.0’W

We made it! Our first sign of land came last night in the form of a dark raincloud that never seemed to disperse. We slowed ourselves down and pulled into Baie des Vierges a few hours after sunrise. The storm clouds obscured a clear view of Fatu Hiva till we were only a couple miles from shore, making for an incredibly dramatic entrance as we passed through the gate of a triple rainbow to find the awe inspiring backlit volcanic pillars which surround the town of Hanavave. The island itself is really quite small, only a handful of miles wide, and yet it rises to an elevation of 5,000 feet. From the boat we can hear goats bleating as they navigate the large volcanic pillars surrounding us.

We dropped anchor at 9am, promptly took naps and rowed to shore where we set foot on solid earth for the first time in 23 days.

End result: we covered 3,100 miles in 23 days, making for an average speed of 5.6 knots, which is pretty impressive (we think) considering the theoretical max speed of this boat is somewhere around 5.8 knots.

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3 Responses to The crossing

  1. brian says:

    Congratulations on reaching the South Pacific! I have been following your blog since you left last fall and have thoroughly enjoyed your exploits and adventures. If we played the Kevin Bacon game, we’d realize that we’re closer than the 7 degrees that most people think are between them and Mr. Bacon; Saltbreaker knows Panache, Panache knows Bella Star, Bella Star knows Osprey…just 3 degrees of separation…very small world (unless you’re scanning the horizon for that much anticipated “Land ho!”). Will continue to follow you guys for the next 3 months, 7 days and a handful of hours before Osprey cuts loose her dock lines and heads south (from Seattle) to begin her circumnavigation. Until then, fair winds, fair skies, and best of luck!

  2. Lynn James says:

    Hey, you guys are awesome. Safe travels as you go on..Will follow as you go…..Saw you in Redondo Beach hope to see you again in some port. Enjoy!

  3. Hey Saltbreaker,

    Just managed to get a connection- couldn’t get on winlink for the past few days. Anyway, we just got to Ua Pou this morning, so hopefully we’re almost caught up to you guys. We could hear you calling on vhf while we were still in Tahuata, but couldn’t get a tx across. Let us know where you’re at and we’ll find ya. Probably headed to Nuka Hiva tomorrow morning.


    s/v Ardea

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