After spending an unexpected but excellent year cruising the Hawaiian Islands, it is time to seek new cruising grounds. Although our original intent when we left Mexico in March 2020 was to sail to French Polynesia, the decision to turn toward Hawaii proved one of our best. During the difficult times of a world pandemic, we were fairly isolated from risk because of our location, the precautions taken by Hawaii, and by our own actions which were guided by safety.
Cruising Hawaii during Covid 19, while restricted, also allowed us a glimpse into what Hawaii must have been like 30 or 40 years ago when tourism was not the mainstay of the economy and fewer people were exploring the trails and beaches. Certainly many attractions and restaurants were closed due to Covid, but the ability to walk trails that were almost devoid of people and have the natural beauty of places to ourselves was a unique gift that we will always treasure.
As lovely as Hawaii and its people have been, our original plan of traveling to French Polynesia is still our goal. We prefer to arrive in FP with a long stay visa in hand, which would allow us to stay for a year rather than three months. Long stay visas are not available at this time, so we have decided to point our bows in a northeast direction and “reset” our itinerary.
The plan is to leave Hawaii, sail north and east to Alaska and spend several weeks exploring the northern most state of the U.S. By the time weather forces us to seek a more southern location, we hope the Canadian borders will be open so we are allowed to stop in Canadian ports throughout the Inside Passage. From Canada we will sail to Seattle, then make a long jump to San Francisco, followed by stops in Long Beach and San Diego. Of course, all of these plans are “written in sand, at low tide” because we will be directed by the weather and border restrictions.
Unlike our east to west trip across the Pacific which was driven by the trade winds, this passage in the opposite direction will be influenced by the Pacific High weather system. We await its formation because once that high is in place, the low pressure systems are less numerous and our travel weather should be more stable and predictable.
But there is no guarantee that we will be able to avoid low pressure systems completely because the trip is expected to take 11-18 days and weather forecast predictions are not accurate that far in advance.
We have hired Bruce “The Weather Man,” a weather router located in Perth, Australia who studies the Pacific and will send us daily updates and course recommendations based on the information he has available. In addition to Bruce, we use the PredictWind weather application which gives us weather updates a few times each day.
Hopefully between Bruce and PredictWind, we will be able to find a comfortable and reasonably fast weather window. If you would like to follow our trip, here is a link which shows our location and speed.
Those who have sailed Alaska tell us the beauty of the area is amazing and that one season is simply not enough to adequately explore all Alaska has to offer. We are certain this statement will prove true and we will decide later if we want to extend our exploration beyond one short season.
We have also heard a wide range of reports about the weather in Alaska and I am certain those reports vary greatly depending on what weather each summer unleashes. Obviously the temperatures will be much different from the warmth of Hawaii. But we also anticipate encountering fog, ice, big winds, no wind, fishing boats, fish traps and perhaps a few cruise ships. To say the least, we expect our experience in Alaska will be about a 180 degree change from Hawaii.
We will trade the lush landscape and warm waters of Hawaii for the unknown and cold temperatures of Alaska.
We have mentioned often that the “aloha” we have received in Hawaii is amazing. If our saying so wasn’t enough proof of that, perhaps the fact that we have three crew members, all of whom we met in Hawaii, on board for this passage will cement our statement.
Our three crew are: Erik who we met in Maui in May 2020, Tommy who we met in Kaneohe Bay in June 2020, and Amelia who we met in Kauai in July 2020. Needless to say, we would not have asked these people to join us on a long passage unless we enjoy their company and they are capable hands on board Ticket to Ride. Inviting three Hawaiian residents to crew for us certainly proves that we have been well blessed to meet many excellent people while also enjoying the beauty of Hawaii.
So, when you see this post, know that we are somewhere along our course toward Juneau, Alaska. Hopefully the weather window we chose is a good one and we are enjoying a smooth, comfortable, safe and uneventful trip across 2700 nautical miles of Pacific Ocean.
Thanks for reading our blog. Take a peak at the link above to check our progress and perhaps add a little prayer for our safety. We have no idea how much internet/cell service we will have while in Alaska, but we will update our Facebook and Instagram pages more quickly than this blog page. See you soon from the chilly north!
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.