Monthly Archives: March 2020
OK, that is a dramatic headline, but certainly COVID-19 has affected nearly every part of the world, including those of us living on water.
Here on Ticket to Ride, we have kept our ear to the water, so to speak, while still preparing to sail across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia. We have spent many days preparing the boat, stocking up on information and supplies, buying food and preparing meals that can be reheated in case of rough seas, etc.
Yesterday, March 18th, I visited the Port Captain to prepare our departure paperwork and we scheduled our appointment with officials to sign us out of Mexico today at 11:00 am. We were excited and ready to depart.
However, this morning we were informed that this port of Mexico will not issue us a zarpé to French Polynesia. (Zarper: Spanish verb: to set sail.)
The information we have gathered from Polynesia concerning sailboats entering the country is contradictory.
Tuesday we learned:
- All arriving into FP have a 14 day quarantine for the Coronavirus.
- Boats would be restricted to the island where they enter the country.
- Inter-island travel for residents is restricted to work, family emergencies or returning home.
Wednesday evening we learned:
- Passage time will count toward the quarantine time for sailors.
- FP will not allow incoming air travelers.
- Non-residents will be repatriated.
Thursday (today) we learned from our entry agent:
- Cruisers can enter the Marquesas and Tahiti to fuel, provision and leave.
- We do not know any news about the Long Stay Visas yet. (We have preliminary LSVs but we also have to reapply when we arrive in French Polynesia and now that acceptance is questionable.)
In addition, there are other sources of information stating stronger restrictions and some stating fewer restrictions and still others saying the restrictions do not apply to sailboats.
The only constant is change, therefore our plans are fluid.
Are we still leaving for French Polynesia? Will we stay in Mexico and if so, where? If we leave but don’t go to French Polynesia, where will we go?
The answer is, we just don’t know. Here are the options currently on the table:
- Stay in Mexico.
- Sail to Hawaii then a: leave for FP when it opens or b: sail to Alaska after exploring Hawaii.
These are great options to have and we definitely consider ourselves blessed to be in this position.
However, juggling the information and determining our destination is a serious decision. We must consider the length of the trip, the sea and wind conditions, where we can land, if we will be welcomed and how the Conronavirus is affecting our destination.
One huge blessing on our side at the moment is having Clayton and Connor aboard TTR; their experience, intelligence, energy and enthusiasm are greatly appreciated.
So there you have our current non-plans. Look for a quick message on Facebook once we decide to depart. Until then, we will continue to consider our options.
Wishing all of you good health and calm surroundings.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog. Our prayers are with everyone affected by COVID-19. All the best from Ticket to Ride.
Suppose you were going to take a three week trip and while you were on that trip, you were going to be completely self sufficient. You wouldn’t stop for any reason: not for any supplies or for directions, regardless of the weather or how tired you were or even if you were sick. On this trip you do not expect to see any people other than those with you and your path is unmarked and without signage. Oh, and if you have any problems, you must fix them yourself using only the supplies you have on hand.
Welcome to sailing across the Pacific Ocean!
This description sounds really dramatic but it is actually pretty accurate.
Of course, we do have electronic charts on board Ticket to Ride to help with directions. We do have a satellite phone system (IridiumGo) that allows us to get weather updates or place emergency phone calls. We have safety equipment and emergency medical supplies. We are well informed and have taken classes to improve our knowledge (100 ton Captain’s licenses and Safety at Sea courses). We will have two extra crew members on board to help us with this trip.
We have done our best to prepare but the truth is, once we shove off, we are on our own for 3000 nautical miles until we reach Nuka Hiva, Marquesas.
So, although we have been having a fabulous time here in Mexico, much of our time and energy is being invested in preparing to leave Puerto Vallarta and sail to the Marquesas Islands.
The trip of about 3000 nm is probably the longest passage we will complete as sailors. TTR is a pretty fast boat and, if the weather cooperates, we hope to complete our trip in just 16 days!
On average, most sailboats take three weeks or more to complete this crossing. When considering passage time, we are fortunate!
We are not alone in our preparations as many other sailors are planning to sail to French Polynesia right now as spring is the best weather window for the trip. Unlike a road trip, we cannot stop along the way if the weather gets bad, so departure timing is important.
Drama aside, this is a big passage and preparation is essential. Fortunately I married an eagle scout who truly embraces the “Be Prepared” motto. Together we are tackling our To Do Lists and getting Ticket to Ride in prime condition.
If you are interested, here are a few of the items we have been and continue to address:
Long Stay Visas for French Polynesia. As non EU citizens, we are allowed to enter FP and stay for 90 days. However, we would like to be able to stay longer, so we have applied to the French Consulate for a LSV which would allow us to stay for one year. Applying for the LSV meant gathering a mound of paperwork, including a police report stating that we are citizens of good standing, financial information, proof of health and boat insurance… well just a bunch of things. Then we had to travel to Mexico City to visit the French Consulate and apply in person. We completed that appointment on January 29, 2020 and anticipate the response this coming week – about a six weeks processing period.
Crew: although Frank and I originally planned on making this passage alone, we decided that having crew would make the passage safer, faster and more fun. To our delight, our youngest son, Clayton, is joining us for this passage! Clayton has plenty of sailing and water experience, plus he is a mechanical engineer and will be very helpful in case of any issues. Our second crew member is Connor Jackson. Connor is a friend of Clayton’s and a very experienced sailor who crossed the Pacific two years ago in his 31’ Hunter sailboat. Connor’s experience and knowledge are valuable additions.
By adding Clayton and Connor to the crew, we have lowered that average age on board TTR by 1/3 and I imaging the energy level will increase by an equal amount.
Every sailboat is like a tiny city that must produce its own power, refrigeration, water etc, so it is essential that all parts are working consistently and reliably for our passage.
For example, we have a water-maker aboard TTR and we rely on this for our drinking water. Frank has checked and triple checked the system to make certain it is working well and we won’t be thirsty while offshore. (We will bring some bottled water in case of a system breakdown.)
Rigging/sail inspection: inspecting our rigging and sails is very important since we are relying on them to propel us across the ocean. In addition to making sure the sails are holding up well, Frank has cleaned and waxed the mast, inspected the rigging and connections, oiled the sail tracks, greased winches, inspected blocks and made adjustments to lines and sheets. (I just had to hoist him up and down the mast.)
Spare parts: Walmart cannot be reached! TTR is full of spare parts and tools to insure (hopefully) that we can repair any issues we find.
Reviewing and changing boat insurance to cover us while in the South Pacific. Because insurance companies suffered huge losses during hurricanes these last few years, obtaining insurance is more difficult than one would expect.
Reviewing medical insurance: international travel requires special insurance and our LSV requires us to have coverage in place for the duration of our visas.
Route Planning: gathering information about the best route to take, where it is best to cross the ITCZ, weather patterns on both sides of the equator, determining how/if we can stay in touch with other boats who are crossing, etc.
Navigating in French Polynesia: more and more sailors are relying on electronic chats and imaging as aids to navigation, especially in areas where the charts are not current and where Google images can be overlaid on charts. Fortunately, Connor has used many of the electronic charts and has graciously shared his knowledge with us and friends who are also heading across the Pacific Ocean.
Food Planning: so this could take a whole post unto itself. But the short story is that we have to have enough food on board for 1.5X our planned passage time. In addition to planning and buying the food, I need to have several precooked, frozen meals available in case we aren’t feeling well or the conditions are rough and cooking from scratch is not possible. Three meals a day, plus snacks and considering that at least one person is up and on watch 24 hours a day…. a lot of food and snacks are required.
Favorite foods: traveling to other countries means we get to try foods that are unique to those countries and are unfamiliar to us. That is a fun aspect of travel. However, when this is your full time lifestyle, you begin to miss foods you cannot find away from home. So, we are trying to stock up on a few special items that probably won’t be available after leaving Mexico.
Expensive/hard to find supplies: along the same lines of favorite foods, there are some items that are reasonably priced and easy to find in one place but cost and arm and a leg or can’t be found in other places. We are trying to flush out this information and stock up on some of those items. This can be as varied as motor oil and canned tomatoes or self-rising flour and alcohol.
Storage: once buying food and spares and tools is complete, we have to find places to store all of our extras. We are very fortunate that TTR has many convenient storage areas, but for long term trips like this one, we have to get creative. Often this means opening up the beds, the floors and the seating areas to store things below them. Pretty much wherever we can find safe and open spaces could be used for storage.
PPJ Meetings: Puerto Vallarta is a popular jumping off spot for sailboats making the Pacific Puddle Jump. As a result, there are many formal meetings where speakers present topics of interest: reading weather files, how to avoid storms, provisioning for long passages, medical emergencies, communication at sea, etc. Frank and I have attended several meetings and enjoy the information and getting to know others who are in the throws of preparing to jump.
Clean your bottom: boat bottom that is! Sailboats routinely need to have the bottom cleaned to prevent soft and hard growth from accumulating. Not only is the growth unsightly, it slows the boat’s progress through the water. Although we have an excellent bottom paint on TTR, growth still occurs and we will make certain her bottom is clean and smooth before we leave for the Marquesas.
Corona Virus: A unique aspect to our trip in 2020 is the unexpected and very fluid requirements and restrictions pertaining to the Corona Virus. In the past week the requirements for entering French Polynesia have changed depending on how you are arriving. Needless to say, we are staying informed about this and we are preparing to get additional health certificates as the requirements change.
So there you have it, a glimpse into our preparation for sailing across the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, good preparation is essential and we are doing our best to be very well prepared. Frank and I are thankful that Ticket to Ride is a strong, fast and reliable sailboat. We look forward to completing the preparations and actually beginning this voyage since it has been part of our distant plans for years!
Our goal is to depart within the next two weeks depending on finalizing some last items, completing our provisioning and finding the proper weather window.
If you would like to follow our progress, you can look for our location on this blog page: look on the right hand column for our location.
Thanks for reading our blog. If you have any comments, we would love to hear from you. We will try to figure out how to send an update or two as we are crossing the Pacific, but no promises at this point.
I am trying to catch up on a few places we have visited but about which I have not written. We actually visited Isla Isabel back in January!
Isabel is a small island of only 1.94 square kilometers and is host to a huge number of sea birds. This uninhabited island was declared a national park in 1980 and in 2005 was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Isla Isabel is sometimes called the Galapagos of Mexico and Frank and I decided it was a must visit for us. So after our brief stay in Mazatlan, we pointed TTR south and slightly west for a quick 93 nm hop to Isabel.
We left Mazatlan around 4 pm and the next morning we dropped the hook in the southern anchorage of Isabel. Approaching the island, we could see many birds riding the wind drafts and once closer we could see many others roosting on the nearby rocks.
In 1975, Isla Isabel was featured in a Jacques Cousteau documentary called The Sea Birds of Isabela, and after visiting, we understand that title completely!
The wildlife on Isabel has been free of human aggression and as a result was completely unfazed by our presence. In fact, we were able to get so close to the birds that I could have easily touched several of them while they were sitting on their nests.
There are several loosely marked paths on Isla Isabel and I think we managed to walk all of them. It felt a bit like walking into Jurasic Park as we ducked below and squeezed by branches. The birds continued to call to one another as we traversed, but not in an agitated or warning voice, more like normal bird calls. Similar to the fact that the birds just looked at us as we passed by rather than flying away, the tenor of their calls made it seem like they were not the least bothered or concerned by our presence.
Neither of us are “birders” but we enjoyed seeing the frigate birds and hearing some of the males beat upon their inflated pouches as they tried to entice a mate. Several years ago we took a frigate bird tour on the island of Barbuda and the frigates were in full mating mode during that tour!
At Isabel we caught the very end of the season and saw only a few males with inflated gular pouches. Hopefully they were eventually successful!
The boobies were our favorite birds, specifically the blue footed ones. Isla Isabel is host to blue, brown and red footed boobies. The color of boobies’ feet and the intensity of the color is dependent upon the diet of the birds.
We only saw blue and brown boobies on Isla Isabel and we noticed that the blue boobies sort of ‘displayed’ their feet when they walk.
Turns out, the more blue the feet are, the more attractive the bird is considered to be.
Boobies are also known to “skypoint” to attract females. Skypointing means that while flying, the male throws his head back and points his beak to the sky.
Come on ladies, you know that is totally sexy!?!
We also saw some brown booby birds and while their feet weren’t as pretty as the blue footed boobies, their dark fur was interesting because it really showed the outline of the feathers against the bird’s head.
Birds were not the only interesting aspect of Isabel.
As we walked we saw a variety of fauna, iguanas, an interior pond and shores that were sometimes high and grass covered and other times shallow with ocean refreshed tide pools.
Although Isla Isabel is basically uninhabited, there is a good deal of activity. We saw two boats bring a photography class to Isabel where the students spent the nights in tents and during the day wandered the island honing their photo skills.
We also saw a couple of shrimping boats out working their nets and later they anchored nearby for a much needed rest.
We found Isla Isabel to be a fabulous immersion into nature after being in the large, busy city of Mazatlan. We spent four nights at the island and wished we could have stayed longer.
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