Itemizing the ditch bag in case we have to abandon the boat while at sea.
Honestly, the preparation is a whole lot of work!
All aspects of the boat and sails must be in good working condition and spare parts for repairs need to be on board. Planning meals and buying enough food for the passage plus extras in case we encounter delays, or restricted land access (thank you Coronavirus) requires organization, many trips to the grocery and time finding and recording storage locations on the boat.
A pretty sunset prior to leaving the dock at Paradise Village.
However, the real answer to the actual passage experience depends on your vessel, the weather and sea conditions you encounter and the crew on board.
We were confident that our crew was excellent and experienced and that our HH55 Catamaran is strong, fast and comfortable. Our variable would be the weather.
The unique circumstances created by COVID-19 made us especially cautious about our health once we left mainland Mexico. As a precaution, we sailed from Puerto Vallarta to San Benedicto Island, part of the Revillagigedo Islands, about 320 nm off of mainland Mexico. We spent six days in this completely uninhabited marine park waiting for a good weather window and insuring that none of us had any symptoms of the virus.
Revillagigedo Island with buddy boat Kalewa at anchor. (Photo by C. Stich)
While anchored at San Benedicto, we once again enjoyed some excellent scuba diving and relished the opportunity to see the giant manta rays again. It was fun to share this special place with Clayton and Connor.
Mary Grace swimming with giant mantas. (Photo credit s/v Migration.)
This time we saw more sharks at San Benedicto and perhaps because there weren’t any dive boats, they seemed to hang around TTR more than the last time. Surprisingly the sharks swarmed when I dropped some lettuce off the back of the boat. Perhaps these were vegetarian sharks??
That’s close enough, Mr. Shark. (Photo by C. Stich)
Once we were confident we all felt well and we saw predictions for good weather and wind, we upped anchor and departed for the remainder of our 2660 nm adventure across the Pacific Ocean.
We are often asked if we stop at night during passages and the answer is no. We are always moving and we must have someone on watch 24 hours every day. We settled into a pattern of 3 hour watches per person when the weather was good. If we anticipated big seas, winds or storms, we had two people up for six hour watches with a ‘primary’ watch person at the helm for 3 hours while the alternate slept in the salon. For the last three hours, the twosome would switch roles.
All in all, the watch schedule worked well and the vast majority of the time we only needed one person awake. I had the easiest watch schedule of 7-10 am and pm. I think they gave me the easy watch because I planned the food and we ate very well.
Clayton cutting the dessert pizza.
Clayton and Connor made a dessert pizza with a layer of Nutella on the bottom, then half of it was topped with cinnamon-apple and half was blueberry pie topping. Delish!
We are also asked what we DO ALL DAY while “stuck” on a boat, but the days go surprisingly fast. One reason the days go quickly is that being constantly in motion is tiring physically and mentally and all of us rest, if not sleep, more while underway than when at anchor.
There are duties that must be accomplished often:
- enter the log: lat/long position, boat speed, wind speed, wind direction, state of battery charge, water levels, etc (every two hours)
- check the bilges of the boat and make sure they are all dry
- run new weather reports (think slower than dial up data speeds)
- manage water levels
- manage boat energy levels
- take watch
- prepare meals
- watch the skies and seas in case unusual weather develops
- check the sails, lines and attachments
But what do we do for fun? In addition to reading, watching movies, playing games, listening to books or podcasts, how about a little fishing?
Connor has something on that line.
A small Mahi but enough for dinner and sashimi.
Connor created a pistachio crusted Mahi! YUM
He who catches, gets to cook the fish and Connor did an amazing job after Frank expertly filleted it! Many thanks to those back home who helped with the recipe because it was fab. I told you we ate well! Farm to table right there.
When surrounded by water with no land in sight, watching the nature that surfaces or flies into view is interesting.
Clayton caught this Booby as it dove for a fish!
Dolphins always bring a smile and everyone awake goes outside to watch them.
This pod of about 10 dolphins stayed with us for 20 minutes. (Photo by C. Stich)
This trip we were absolutely blessed with excellent conditions. We had manageable winds with only one night of rain with winds gusting up in the high 20s. For the majority of our passage, the wind was between 11 and 22 knots. We did have several days of cloud cover which made for cool days. At night it was cold enough to require long pants and a jacket and that was excellent for sleeping when off watch.
The moon was waxing and became full during our passage.
I seemed to have the luck of catching some spikes in the wind during my evening shift and at one point as we surfed down a wave and I saw 17.9 knots of boat speed! You’ll have to trust me on that as everyone else was asleep. (25k wind, R1 main, genoa)
Interesting shot of TTR blazing along. (Photo by C. Stich.)
We had engaged the services of Bruce, a weather router, for our planned trip to French Polynesia, so instead he helped us with the trip to Hawaii. We think having Bruce advise us was helpful to anticipate weather troughs that were not predicted through our PredictWind weather service.
Based on Bruce’s forecast of squalls and unstable, increasing winds, we had our main sail reefed for about 30% of our trip. In actuality, we missed the unstable weather and in hindsight the reefs were mostly unnecessary. But better to be prepared than caught overpowered.
Sunrise is welcome and beautiful when on watch. (Photo by C. Stich)
Even with our conservative sail plan, the whole trip took a total of 14 days and we averaged 8.2 knots. Pretty impressive considering we want for nothing and were able to cook meals every night.
Since Hawaii was an unexpected destination, I was trying to read a book our friends Katie and Kevin of s/v Kalewa had lent us when we were at the Rev Islands. Trying to figure out where to go on each island was slightly overwhelming. Also, we were concerned we might be restricted to one island once we arrived and we wanted to choose a good place to hang out for an extended stay.
Frank studying sunset from the galley. (Photo by C. Stich)
I suggested we each take a Hawaiian Island and give a presentation on that island. This idea quickly became a competition of who could best “sell” his island to the others on board.
Clayton and Connor delved into their personal skills. Clayton drummed up some long forgotten high school expertise and made a power point presentation about O’Ahu. Connor was very secretive about his presentation for Molokai and I knew I needed to step up my game…. I have NO computer skills, so I thought I would draw pictures of rainbows, waterfalls and unicorns to demonstrate how wonderful Kauai is. BUT I have no drawing skills either, so I quit after drawing the rainbow and instead tried to paint with words! Frank was the straight man and his presentation about Maui was filled with facts and persuasive reasons to make Maui our island of choice.
Clayton hammed up his PowerPoint presentation!
Turns out Connor had written a poem about Molokai which I have copied and put at the end of this blog post. I’m sure a compendium of Connor’s poetry will soon be available on Amazon!
Lest you think life on a passage is all rainbows and unicorns, like on Kauai, I will tell you we did have one rather interesting event. Prior to leaving, we had tried to determine why our steering system was making a noise that was continuing to grow louder.
Frank testing and retesting the steering system.
Frank was in touch with the maker of the steering system and several other experts. After trouble shooting and trying the suggestions, the noise remained, but thankfully no one thought this would create an issue…. other than making it hard to sleep on the port side where the master cabin bed is. Imagine having Chewbacca mouthing off every 5 seconds behind your headboard while trying to sleep and you will understand what we heard when resting. Thank goodness for earplugs to dampen the sound!
One clear afternoon about 10 days into our trip, Frank was on watch and Clayton and I were chatting when the boat suddenly rounded up toward the wind. Clayton looked up and said, “Where ya going dad?” Frank’s unhappy response was, “I don’t know!”
We had lost all steering!
Talk about all hands on deck! We quickly rolled in the genoa and centered the main. I took the helm, started the engines and kept us into the wind. Clayton opened the port engine compartment and Frank and Connor took the starboard, all trying to diagnose the issue. Somehow the bolt of the steering rod on the starboard side had completely backed out and we had no steering!
Frank and Connor after replacing the steering bolt.
Fortunately the bolt, washers and nut were found in the engine compartment and within 15 minutes we had steering again! At least now I know what happens when we loose our steering while under sail!
This issue was completely independent of the Chewbacca noise which stayed with us the whole trip. (Now we think this is an issue with the roller bearings but we probably need to have TTR out of the water to attempt this fix.)
Frank on the foredeck at sunset. (Photo by C. Stich)
We expected to have unstable conditions as we approached Hawaii, but instead the wind died, the sea flattened out and we had enough of a rain shower to wash the topside of Ticket to Ride! Except for when we were fixing the steering, we only used the engines for the last portion of our trip – about 16 hours of our 2600 nm trip.
The verdant hillside of Hawaii was a welcome sight.
Even though we had a great trip, land was a welcome sight. Knowing we would be back on U.S. soil during these turbulent COVID-19 times was an added benefit.
A quiet and relaxing view in Radio Bay, Hilo.
This trip was exceptionally easy especially for two weeks of ocean travel. We could not have asked for better weather, wind or sea conditions. The crew was pretty special too!
When we arrived at the seawall in Radio Bay, s/v Moondance and s/v Kalewa were there to grab our lines and secure Ticket to Ride to her check in space. While we couldn’t greet our friends with hugs or touch of any kind, seeing their smiling faces was joyous.
Surprisingly, what I most enjoyed about coming to rest was not the lack of motion, but the quiet. My ears tend to be sensitive and two weeks of noise from the rushing of water and the wake created by TTR was very tiring for me. I ended up wearing noise cancelling headphones at times during the passage to give my senses a rest. The hush of Hilo was magical.
During our trip, several friends reached out via IridiumGo to say hello and let us know they were watching our progress. I found great pleasure in these short messages and looked forward to the little “pings” announcing a new message. Thank you so much for keeping me company as we traveled and for having us in your thoughts and prayers. Your messages warmed my heart and added a lift to my days! A special thank you to Laura who made a concerted effort to contact me every other day with newsy notes that were entertaining and more welcome than she realizes.
- Banderas Bay, MX to San Benedicto: 320 nm, average speed: 9.2 knots or 10.6 mph
- Total time from Banderas Bay to San Benedicto: 1 day 10 hours
- San Benedicto to Hilo, HI: 2500 nm, average speed: 8.2 knots or 9.4 mph
- Total time from San Benedicto to Hilo: 13 days, 2 hours
- Total distance Banderas Bay to Hilo, HI: 2820 nm or 3,245 miles
- Total under engine for both segments: 16 hours
- Highest SOG to Hawaii: 17.9 knots or 20.6 mph
A special thank you to Clayton Stich for most of these great photos!
By Connor Jackson
*This poem includes some inside TTR passage jokes and might be confusing.
WOW, if you made it through this looong blog, thank you. We appreciate you taking the time to share our journey. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out or add them to the comments below. Stay safe out there!