Currently Ticket to Ride is anchored in Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu, HI.
Choosing to anchor where we did was random, but we have found that sometimes random anchor spots allow us to stumble upon something. Similar to an unexpected find on Martinique way back when, we love it when we happen upon an interesting place that we probably would not have heard about in a guide book. It is sort of like cruising lagniappe! (Lagniappe: something given as a bonus or extra gift.)
Photo credit: Google Maps satellite images
Located on the windward (east) side of Oahu, Kaneohe is the largest estuary in Hawaii and covers about 11,000 acres. Although the opening of Kaneohe is more than 4.5 miles wide, outside of the bay lies the only barrier reef in Hawaii which breaks the ocean swell and provides protection in the bay. Even when the trade winds are blowing outside the bay, the anchorages are very calm, especially in the southern part of the bay. This is particularly nice for us on TTR because the breeze keeps us cool but the boat has very little motion at anchor.
It’s interesting to SUP along the coral that rings the sandy areas.
Meandering through the long channel to get to our anchor spot, we passed several shallow areas of sand and coral. These shallow areas are often right next to the channel and the depth on the reef is ankle deep at low tide, but where the outer coral ring ends the depth immediately drops to 30+ feet.
“The Sandbar” is very popular for family gatherings, kiting and fishing.
Boaters often motor right up onto this sandbar then lay a stern anchor. Unwilling to nose TTR onto the sandbar, we chose to drop anchor a bit off of the bar and SUP to get to the shallows. We were only able to stay at this spot for a night or two.
I read that the Kaneohe area was the most heavily populated part of Oahu during the “pre-contact” era of Hawaii. (Research indicates that pre-contact is considered to be prior to the arrival of Captain James Cook sometime around 1778.)
The fact that Kaneohe is an estuary, which means that one or more fresh water streams or rivers mix into the seawater, is important and was influential in the lives of these Hawaiians.
The mixing of fresh water and seawater creates a brackish water that is perfect for growing algae that nurtures fish. As many as 600 – 800 years ago, native Hawaiians recognized that value of this brackish water and put it to use for loko iʻa kuapā; walled coastal ponds. Below is a picture of the He’eia Fishpond that encloses 88 acres of brackish water.
Photo credit School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology, HI
The He’eia Fishpond wall is about 1.3 miles long and has seven gates; four along the seaward wall and three along the He’eia stream, which allows for controlled mixing of the salt and fresh water to create this brackish enclosure.
One of the seaward gates.
Trapping fish in this brackish enclosure allowed Hawaiians to supplement their food source in an area that naturally developed food for the fish and eliminated the need for a caregiver to feed the fish.
“Ocean fishing is dependent, to a great extent, upon conditions of the ocean and weather. High surf, storms, and other associated weather phenomenon influence and interrupt most fishing practices. Therefore, fishponds provided Hawaiians with a regular supply of fish when ocean fishing was not possible or did not yield sufficient supply (Kelly, 1976),” per the Paepae o Heeia website.
It is amazing to me that hundreds of years ago, these Hawaiians had a back up plan for days when traditional fishing methods did not provide enough food for their people.
A portion of the He’eia Fishpond wall.
As you can see in the picture above, this pond is not built with one wall but two. Each wall is constructed of basalt (volcanic) rock and they are 12 to 15 feet apart. The section between the two walls is filled mostly with coral but also with dirt. The purpose of the two walls is to slow the flow of water and create a base level of water in the pond so that even at low tide there is sufficient water for the fish.
Looking over the wall toward shore where early Hawaiians probably lived.
It is estimated that building this loko iʻa kuapā took two or three years of dedicated work by hundreds or even thousands of residents who passed and stacked rock and coral.
Another example of the seaward gates.
In May 1965 a flood ruined a 200 foot section of the He’eia Fishpond and it went unused until 1988 when Mark Brooks began repairing the wall. In 2001, Paepae o Heeia, a non-profit organization, was established with the express purpose of restoring and caring for the He’eia Fishpond.
Today this historic and innovative walled pond is fully restored and in excellent condition. TTR is anchored about 300 yards from the Fishpond and on calm days we can paddle along the wall and see the waters entering or leaving the gates depending on the tide.
Shallow sand and coral just off the Fishpond wall.
Kaneohe Bay is so large that there are many areas to explore, but until our two week, inter island quarantine is finished, we have to remain anchored here, so we haven’t had a chance to see as much as we would like.
But the Q will end soon and we have no complaints about our location. The views are stunning, the temperatures are very comfortable and in addition to learning about He’eia Fishpond, we are taking care of routine maintenance on TTR.
As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog. I posted a video of the He’eia Fishpond on our FB page, so be sure to head over there if you want to see the video or hear from us more often.
After a couple of weeks in Honolua Bay, we decided to change locations on Maui. First we stopped at Mala Wharf but the north winds made the anchorage pretty bumpy. So after just two nights, we moved to Olowalu which is a few miles south of Lahaina.
Mala Wharf anchorage is quite pretty.
The water in Olowalu is beautiful and we dropped anchor in a large sandy area for excellent holding. However, we noticed the wind was shifting throughout the day and we were concerned the anchor chain could become fouled in rocks or worse damage coral. While we were swimming we had located a mooring ball nearby, so we decided to up anchor and tie to the mooring ball instead .
We had quite a time of moving just a few feet away as the wind shifted direction and velocity incredibly fast in Olowalu. When we upped anchor, the winds were about 10 knots. However as we were maneuvering and tying up to the mooring ball, the wind significantly changed directions twice and I saw the wind speed vary between 12 and 30 knots!
TTR has a decent amount of windage, but thankfully with two engines we are able to control her well. Soon we were securely tied to the mooring ball and we celebrated our successful mooring and coral saving maneuver with sundown cocktails.
Sunset at Olowalu.
The next day we decided to take a short walk in search of the petroglyphs reported to be near Olowalu. Frank and I have a history of very little luck finding cave paintings in a variety of locations. While in the Sea of Cortez, we took a dinghy trip and a loooong walk looking for cave paintings near Bahia de Conception. We spent a good two hours traveling to and searching for the caves without any success.
So when Frank suggested we head off in search of the Olowalu petroglyphs, I was a bit skeptical. But hey, it has been forever since we have had a walkabout so I was in.
Here are a few pictures from our walk.
Once we were on this old road, traffic noise receded and bird song could be heard.
After a quick quarter mile walk from the beach, we turned onto this old road and walked about half a mile before we were side tracked by a beautiful spring.
The fresh water was clear and cool.
We couldn’t resist sitting here for a few minutes to watch the water flow and listen to the birds twittering and fluttering nearby. Before long though we continued our search for the drawings.
Happily, we quickly found the old, out of commission pump house which is the marker for the beginning of the petroglyphs.
Clearly that old pump house is out of use.
According to the information we read, the images we saw are known as Ki’i Pohaku which means “rock pictures or images.” The Ki’i Pohaku date back 200-300 years to an era which was referred to as “pre-contact” Hawaii. I thought the drawings would be older than they are but without any protection from the elements they could be erased in time so I guess “younger” is better in this instance.
A portion of the smooth wall where the petroglyphs are located.
The guide we read suggested bringing binoculars and that was well worth the effort. We sat in the shade and spied all kinds of drawings – people, families, a sailing vessel, a dog, etc.
Can you find the sailboat?
The theory is that this area was along a trail between Ioa Valley and Olowalu Valley and that travelers would rest in the shelter of this rock wall. I can almost imagine some mom telling her child to stop drawing and come on along. 😉 However the drawings are chiseled into the rock so I imagine adults made these depictions.
Here is a photo take through the binoculars.
It is kind of interesting how similar looking cave drawings are from different areas of the world. Those we have seen all tend to have triangular upper bodies and stick-like arms and legs. It is probably challenging to make even a crude drawing into rock using hand tools.
The temperatures have been great in Maui and it was a perfect day for stretching our legs and seeing tiny bits of land but pretty soon we strolled back to Ticket to Ride.
The little used, older road along the coast.
Maui is so lush that even walking along the old road adjacent to the new, well traveled road is quite pretty with huge trees and flowers.
TTR bobbing in those gorgeous waters.
Every time I return to an anchorage where we left TTR, I am happy to see her floating there, waiting to welcome us home.
Thanks for stopping in to read this post. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to explore other areas and share that with you. Wishing you all health and comfort during these trying times.
This point can kick up great surf waves.
Honolua Bay, located on the northwest side of Maui, is a very popular stop for local day cruise boats. I have learned that four boats carrying 25-50 people each are often moored here for the day to allow their passengers to swim and snorkel.
“Our anchorage” as seen from the road.
The Coronavirus has changed all of that. Instead TTR is sharing this beautiful bay with three other cruising boats who have also sailed to Hawaii for refuge during this pandemic. A local couple escapes here on their monohull as well.
A variety of fish anywhere we look.
Although our plan to sail to French Polynesia is on hold until boarders begin to reopen, we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to spend our isolation in Honolua Bay.
A school of Convict Surgeonfish.
Nearly every day we snorkel or swim and every time it feels as if I have jumped into an aquarium. The water is chilly enough to warrant a rash guard or a light wet suit for longer water sessions.
I love those eyes!
The visibility in the water depends on the surf but usually it is very clear.
A Wedgetail Triggerfish – love those lips!
I am amazed by the variety of fish we see and how wide the range of colors, markings, shapes and sizes.
A pretty Pinktail Triggerfish.
I wonder if there are more varieties of fish than any other species…. no, probably insects have even more varieties.
I’ve seen a trumpetfish as long as I am tall!
Still, each time I snorkel I realize how few fish I can name and that I will never know them all.
What kind of fish is this? Part bird? Part dolphin?
Here are a few more photos taken while swimming in our Honolua Bay aquarium.
The turtle is unfazed by Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance.
The brightly marked Moorish Idol.
Of course there are a few maintenance items we have to take care of because we do live on a boat! However, with so much time on our hands and restricted movement, these projects are pretty easy to accomplish – as long as we don’t need parts or supplies!
Frank inspecting the anchor light on TTR.
They say timing is everything and that is proven true in the above picture. We have a few college friends who live on Maui and Dave and Nikki happened to drive by the bay while Frank was at the top of the mast. They snapped this photo and sent it to us. It’s fun to see this perspective, so thanks guys!
That’s a peak into life aboard TTR while we are restricted to one location. Hopefully the pictures will brighten your day and offer a slightly different view than one from land. If you are a cruiser who was caught away from his floating home when the pandemic hit, or someone hoping to become a live aboard, maybe these will remind you of what awaits.
We on TTR hope that anyone who reads this is staying well and safe during this crisis. Remember to be especially cautious when restrictions begin to lift. This pandemic has certainly proven that we all share this world, so let’s do our best to be patient and help one another. Wishing each person health, safety and comfort during this challenging time.
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!
We have safely arrived in Hawaii after an excellent passage from Mexico.
We checked in at Radio Bay where we tied to the sea wall for a couple of days.
We are very glad to be in US waters during this unique time in history and we are really pleased with our passage aboard Ticket to Ride.
The officials were exceedingly nice when we checked in and it was great to catch up to friends who had arrived a day or two before we did. Though seeing friends and remaining distant is a challenge. (But everyone knows that nowadays!)
I hope to catch up the blog over the next few days but for now we moved to the anchorage outside the breakwater of Radio Bay and are enjoying some calm water and the beauty of the scenery.
Many thanks to those who followed our trip across the sea. We appreciated having you looking out for us and I look forward to sharing our experience soon.
The photos below will give you an idea of our stopping point in Radio Bay.
We choose to focus on this peaceful bay in front of TTR:
All the best from us on TTR and thank you for stopping by!
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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Although we live on our sailboat, we rarely post actual videos of us sailing Ticket to Ride. So I tried to take a couple of videos on our last two passages and I quickly admit that capturing good video of our own boat is pretty difficult.
Recently we left La Cruz, MX and sailed 354 miles to San Benedicto an island in the Revillagigedo Islands. Our passage to the Revs was very quick! We left La Cruz at 4 am because we wanted to arrive at San Benedicto in daylight. Unfortunately, we were up too late with friends the night before we left and we were quite tired for the start of this trip.
But TTR suffered no such lack of energy! The wind for this passage, although slightly higher than predicted, was very steady in both direction and speed. We had true wind speeds of 17-22 knots and a true wind angle of 85 to 115…. a swift point of sail for our boat.
Our plan was a swift and comfortable sail so we had one reef in the mainsail and flew the genoa. The sea state was good with maximum wave height at about six feet. The result was indeed fast as we completed the trip in 32.5 hours with an average speed of 10.9 knots!
As I mentioned, Frank and I were both tired on this trip and I wasn’t feeling great, so I didn’t take video of TTR sailing her fastest (around 16 knots) but in this footage we were moving along between 10-11 knots.
Moving at 9-10 knots with one reef in the mainsail and full genoa.
Ticket to Ride is stable and comfortable at these speeds. However, we do have to be focused while on watch and arriving in calm water to drop anchor was welcome.
The second video is during our departure from the Revs to Barra de Navidad which is about 150 miles south of Puerto Vallarta. The winds were definitely lighter on this passage leaving San Benedicto but the wind angles were similar. We sailed at true wind angles of 80-120 and the winds were usually around 15 knots with greater variation in speed than on our trip out. This passage we flew the full mainsail and the genoa due to the lighter wind speeds and mild seas which were a maximum height of about 4 feet.
We had expected this passage to take us 48 hours but TTR had other plans. She was moving along very well and we had to decide if we would slow down half way through the passage and take our expected 48 hours or see if we could maintain speed and arrive before dark…
Of course we chose to keep our speed up which put us in the position of deciding if we wanted to really slow down to arrive in daylight or change to an anchorage that was more easily navigated and we could enter at dark if necessary.
Cruising along at 9-10 knots under full mainsail and genoa.
We changed course to arrive in Tenacatita which was slightly closer and easier to navigate at night. This was an excellent decision because we ended up arriving after sunset and using instruments, radar and a lookout on the bow to navigate the anchorage.
This passage we averaged around 9 knots and we had a very comfortable and relaxed trip.
When we decided to buy an HH55, we hoped for a comfortable sailboat that would easily accomplish 200+ nm sailing days. These last two passages, we comfortably managed back to back 24 hour sails covering 250 nm each.
Considering that TTR carries four refrigeration/freezer units, 7 AC units, a dive compressor, a 9kw generator, a water maker, a washer/dryer, scuba tanks and gear and is loaded with spare parts and tools; I would say our hope has become reality.
Ticket to Ride is a very fine sailing vessel. Many thanks to the folks at Morrelli and Melvin for designing this boat and to the excellent crew at HH Catamarans for building us a finely finished floating home.
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So we arrived in Mexico City on Monday and we have been running full tilt since – in a very good way. We had planned this trip with Shellie and Randy of s/v Moondance who are also applying for a long stay visa (LSV) to French Polynesia. Shellie and Mary Grace have spent a lot of time together or via e-mail reviewing and preparing the paperwork for the LSV, and the four of us had appointments at the French Consulate on Wednesday morning.
Working together, Frank arranged for a private driver (thank you, Eduardo, for helping us!!) and Shellie and Randy arranged for a perfect VRBO.
Our first day was spent preparing the final pieces of our paperwork, getting the appropriate visa photos and checking against each other’s check lists one last time.
Oh the paperwork, the paperwork!
Wednesday we arrived at the consulate and had the first four appointments. We were all thrilled that we had every document required and now we only have to wait four weeks to (hopefully) receive our LSV.
Once the paperwork was submitted, we spent the remainder of our time in Mexico City celebrating and exploring some of the historical highlights. Tonight, Saturday, we are suffering from information overload so we are chilling at the VRBO and taking advantage of the excellent wifi.
Here is just a glimpse of what we toured. By the way I read somewhere Mexico City has more museums than any other city in the world.
Right after a celebratory lunch we headed to Castillo De Chapultepec, which translates into “the hill of the grasshoppers.” This castle was a summer home for Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez, who, for our Texas friends, also was instrumental in developing the port of Galveston. We hired a guide who inundated us with this and other information including how the castle became a military school which was once over thrown by the US Marines. For the “one minute” history of the castle, see this link.
Stairway entrance from the outside courtyard.
One of about eight stain glass windows of Greek goddesses.
A balcony view of the Promenade of the Empress, now Promenade of Reform.
Upstairs garden with and observatory building in the middle.
After visiting such high falutin digs , we had sundown celebration drinks at Sofitel, a brand new French hotel on the Promenade of Reform and right next door to the American Embassy.
Cheers to finished paperwork and exploring Mexico City.
Looking down the Promenade of Reform toward the castle.
Thursday was a BIG day. We started at the Teotihuacan Pyramids which are about an hour from our VRBO, then we had lunch in a darling town next to the pyramids and we finished the day with a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
At the pyramids, we again hired a guide and Joel was simply excellent! Plus his English was easier to understand than our guide at the castle.
A model of the Teotihuacan City uncovered so far. (Museum of Anthropology)
Honestly, the pyramids were amazing and extremely interesting. For instance, Joel said that if you cut a bag of sand and let it fall, the slope of the hill it forms will be 45 degrees.
Frank climbing up that 45% slope.
The pyramids were built at a 45 degree angle and the theory is that in the event of an earthquake, relatively little damage would occur. (Architects might disagree.)
View from the Temple of the Moon down the avenue of the dead; Sun Temple to the left.
Another interesting point, the steps, seats and walls of the colosseum were built with a 37.5 degree slant to make perfect acoustics! Joel would whistle facing one direction and the sound would carry counterclockwise all the way around the arena.
The huge colosseum with a sacrificial alter in the center.
Joel told us that a game was played on this colosseum field and the winner of the game was immediately sacrificed to the gods. This meant his heart was cut out and the heart and his blood were offered to the gods. YUCK
Perspective: one part of the colosseum and the alter wall to the left.
Joel quipped that in Mexico they say the reason they don’t win Olympic games is that all their best athletes were sacrificed. Macabre humor.
Walls of the homes where the upper class lived.
We saw remnants of some of the noble’s homes which had running water, baths and toilets, plus aqueducts, collecting pools, all kinds of interesting conveniences.
Inside were some beautiful colors and pictographs.
The Temple of the Sun behind us…. yes we did climb to the top.
The view from the Sun Temple required some time.
Another view from the Sun Temple looking toward the Colosseum.
So this is absolutely just a tiny bit of information about the pyramids which were supposedly built beginning in 100BCE and at its zenith had a population of 125,000. You can follow this Wikipedia link for a quick overview.
Tostadas, tacos and enchiladas – yum!
Walking the temples created an appetite so we went to a nearby town for some local food and we hit the jackpot! We sat at a local market and had delicious fare surrounded by locals eating and doing their shopping.
Colorful and clean, we walked the streets and poked about.
After all that pagan imagery, I was happy to stop at the Basilica de Guadeloupe. On this site, Our Lady of Guadeloupe appeared to a poor Aztec farmer, Juan Diego, who had converted to Catholicism a few years earlier. Long story short, on December 9, 1531 Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego and asked him to build an alter on the hill of Tepeyac. Juan Diego asked permission of the local Bishop who refused until Juan Diego received a miracle. A few days later, Our Lady again appeared to Juan Diego and told him to climb the hill and pick the flowers.
This was December and the hill usually sported cactus and little else. But Juan Diego found a bounty of beautiful red flowers he had never seen before. He gathered the flowers in his tilma (Aztec robe of sorts) and returned to Our Lady who arranged the flowers in Juan Diego’s tilma.
Juan Diego immediately went to the Bishop and dropped the flowers from his tilma at the feet of the Bishop. When the flowers fell out, an image of Our Lady Of Guadeloupe was imprinted on the tilma.
Juan Diego’s tilma: I was stunned by the beauty of this image.
Since 1531, the tilma has been on display and we saw it in person. Honestly, I was stunned by the detail and vibrance of Our Lady! A miracle indeed!!
And by the way, the Bishop recognized those red flowers as Castilian roses which were not grown in Mexico.
On December 26, 1531 an alter was dedicated to Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
One of the older churches erected on Tepeyac hill.
The interior of the oldest church.
Unfortunately I can’t find the reference but one article I read stated that after Our Lady’s appearance to Juan Diego, 9 million people converted to Catholicism!
Currently there are four churches on Tepeyac hill and I didn’t understand enough Spanish to determine which was built when but this appears to be the oldest, though it cannot be the original alter.
A statue depicting Juan Diego’s delivery of the roses and the image.
Sooo, that was our long and very gratifying third day in Mexico City.
Today we spent most of the morning at the Anthropological Museum which was recommended by no less than five different people.
The museum was beautifully done and filled with spectacular artifacts. However, my brain was overwhelmed from the prior days and the fact that all the information was in Spanish and I had to use a translator for every piece. In the end I just looked for things that caught my eye. Here are a few highlights:
A picture from our visit to the pyramid colosseum and…
A restored version at the Anthropology Museum showing how they looked long ago,
Perhaps the most fascinating city to me was the one built on muddy edges of Lake Texcono where the people built “chinampas” which are little artificial rectangular islands. The chinampas were made by planting aheujotes trees that were resistant to dampness at the corners. Then the edges were marked by logs and the plot created was filled with alternating layers of water lilies and mud which provided a fertile base for corn and other crops the Indians farmed.
A depiction of the city built on Lake Texcoco.
This city had canals connecting the chinampas making this a waterway city similar to Venice, Italy. Today the lake no longer exists and Mexico City has grown up all around it.
Most of us have seen the beautiful embroidery and bead work of some traditional Mexican clothing and the Anthropology Museum had displays of old looms and the clothing created.
Such detail and bright color.
This work is all tiny beads individually sewn in place!
I read a few surprising things about the Aztec culture. The upper class would adorn themselves with jewels and precious metals but if a lower class person was found wearing them, the crime was punishable by death! I guess jewelry isn’t always a girl’s best friend!
I thought COSTCO on Saturdays was bad, but 30K?!
Also, I thought this display of an Aztec market was interesting especially since I could see it closely and see the variety of wares on display. But what really surprised me was that the information stated that as many as 30,000 people would visit this market daily!
After a few hours of brain saturation at this museum, we walked back to the Polanco area which is filled with high end shops and sidewalk cafes.
Ahh, the view from a sidewalk cafe!
Today’s lunch was upscale, fat-filled and very tasty!
So we have another half day tomorrow before we fly back to Ticket to Ride. It has been a whirlwind trip and we are ready to get home. But we will miss Randy and Shellie. I cannot imagine two people easier or more fun to travel with and explore this fascinating, extremely large and diverse city!
If you have made it this far into this blog post, you are a champ! This really only covers a portion of our time in Mexico City. Hopefully I can share snippets on the Facebook or Instagram so you can see the lighter side of our trip.
Thanks for digging in and sharing this land adventure. We will let you know if/when we receive our long stay visa for French Polynesia. In the mean time, let us know if you have any comments. All the best from TTR.