3/28/ 2012 The Big Jump
After years of planning and hard work we've been full time cruisers now for two years. We have logged over 10,000 miles and completed a near total refit of our 35 year old boat. Now , after all of the work, the planning and hours on end of dreaming we're teetering on the brink of what inspired us when all of this began. This next passage has been firmly in the someday realm for so long that it feels a bit unreal. Finally in a few short days we will un-tie the dock lines and store them away with the fenders and the outboard and set off on our biggest adventure yet; the great Pacific Ocean and its 25,000 islands scattered over more than 64 million square miles.
There is plenty of work to do before a big passage but at least the butterflies are familiar. This jump feels very much like our last few months in Seattle and the days spent in San Diego before leaving the United States for Mexico. Each day is filled anticipation and excitement as well as bits of tension and stress. It's not all smiles and bon voyage parties though. We're human and so between the work, the heat and the clock ticking loudly sometimes those bits of stress and tension build and bubble up into big bits of emotion. It all must be normal though because every Puddle Jumper I've spoken with has shared stories of their own melt downs as they work through the lists and piles and jobs to be done.
On a boat, any boat there is always a well worn to do list. We simply seem to move things around on the list and add new ones as we go. There are also the inevitable hard hits on the bank account to pay for all those gotta have items. Eventually the momentum builds until finally the whole process takes complete control of your lives. Someone at dinner said I looked more relaxed than most of the others at the table so maybe that means I'm getting more comfortable with the cruising life. Not pulling my hair out is a simple reflection of having done this often enough to realize that there really are only to important lists: the jobs that will keep the boat from sinking and everything else.
We've loved Mexico and will definitely miss this place we have called home for so long. We're still very happy that we decided to stretch out our stay through these seventeen months and it turned out to be a great primer. We call it "cruising light" because the weather was near perfect, the cruising was easy, provisioning was a snap and we always managed to find a way to get the things we needed along the way. Each new problem from finding someone to "mule" down boat parts and pieces to trying to stutter out a new language was a part of the experience and ultimately pretty easy and simple.
In just a few days we'll set sail across the biggest ocean in the world and with that cover more miles in one jump than we are unlikely to attempt again. We are aiming for Hiva Oa in the Marquesan Archipelago -a tiny dot 2700 miles away (2700 miles at 5 mph = roughly 22days.)
The South Pacific will be very different. We will need to learn to speak at least a little French, Marquesan, Tahitian and Pigeon and I am pretty sure that I'll still be trying to roll my r's for months to come. When we finally sail out at the other end wherever that may be I suspect we will be able to put this big step in the same light as every other big step we've taken: not nearly as difficult as all the hoopla would warrant.
Right now though all I can see are the miles and the remoteness. We will be on our own for three to four weeks and then we will spend the next three months marching from island group to island group where everything we consume beside fruit and coconuts has to be either stored away in the boat or brought in by supply ships at great cost. To that end we have been provisioning like never before.
How many rolls of toilet paper do you think you would need for 4 months? My educated guess is 40 rolls. How many eggs do you think you would buy if they cost $12 a dozen? I'm packing six dozen AND bought a can of powdered eggs that equals 80 eggs. They were a last light bulb idea and cost me $24 and a valuable spot in one friend's carry-on bag- so I hope they work out. When will the next opportunity be to wash down the boat with fresh water? I have no idea but I'm counting on the tropical rain between now and the six months to a year before we see a dock and a hose. When will we see a boat yard with a travel lift big enough to haul Island Bound? Four months from now in Raittea, Society Islands but we've planned and prepared for no haul-out for at least two years. When will we reach a port where we can have things shipped in if we need repair parts or pieces? Four months from now in Tahiti but anything coming in will come with a very hefty fee so that leaves American Samoa, a stop that is so far away though that it's out of the realm of planning.
Another question is how much do we need to bring to trade? And what should we bring? Who knows! We bought dozens of fish hooks and extra fishing gear to trade along with a few bags of lightly used clothing and canned food (Spam and Mexican seasoned meats) some sewing supplies and fabric which we hope will be popular. We won't carry cigarettes or alcohol though we are told they are highly prized items; we're just not willing to leave addiction and bad health in our wake. Sorry guys! We do have piles of crayons for the island kids, bubble wands, popcorn and powdered drink mix for sharing if the kids come to the boat. I have also stashed away a fairy wand and a tiny etch-a-sketch to give away along with notebooks and pencils and extra aspirin and basic medicines to share along the way. A side note, the only thing the Mexican Pangeros ever asked me for was aspirin!
OK, the question many of you want to ask is am I nervous and afraid? Well, no not really. Island Bound is made for this and can take most anything the seas can dish out. We've become pretty competent sailors over the miles and have a tried and true plan for getting plenty of sleep which is the one big danger we could face. Bill is an excellent captain and our sailing tends to lean towards the conservative. Early on we learned the truth about reefing: by the time Kat says it's time to reef it's usually to late. So we reef often and reef early. I trust Bill's leadership and I know our goal is to never be in a position where we have to use any of our emergency gear.
Here in La Cruz one by one the Puddle Jump boats are leaving the marina and starting their crossings and as each one leaves the excitement builds. In one big step each of us will be entering a whole new world. Our marine single sideband radio will allow us to stay in contact with each other and our families and will even let us email in our blog updates -sorry no pictures for awhile. The internet, Google and Google Maps, Skype and cheap flights back to the states will be a thing of the past along with our days in marinas, dinners out at cheap taco stands and 80 cent bags of tortillas.
From here on out we'll be rolling alone. We will roughly follow what is called the "coconut milk run" across the pacific. The ocean is so vast and the islands so small in comparison that running into friends will be a real luxury. It's hard to imagine but even if we leave at the same time on the same day as another Jumper by mid day we may not see them again during the entire crossing.
There are really no impulse decisions in timing for cruisers. There are usually choices in direction to be made but no wild changes to the established seasonal routes. Those who cross go between mid march and the end of May. Period. If something happens to delay your departure (as happened last year with our friends on Buena Vista) you simply have to wait out another year.
We follow in the wake of centuries of sailors pacing along their same routes to take advantage of the best the winds have to offer. The biggest worry is the ITCZ where it is possible to experience squalls -rain, high winds and lightning- or the complete opposite the dreaded doldrums. Once across the ITCZ we are pretty much home free! Once across, like all the sailors before us we will grab hold of the fabled trade winds and be steadily pushed across the miles to our first landing at Hiva Oa.
Once through French Polynesia our plan is to favor a northern route while most of the fleet will be making a slow bee-line for Australia or New Zealand. Around the first of November when most of the fleet flees southward for the coming cyclone season we expect to turn north for the safety of the equator and winter over in Micronesia: more countries, more languages and more experiences to write home about in the fall. Oh and I almost forgot, once we depart you can follow along with our progress if you'd like by going to www.pangolin.co.nz/yotreps/tracker.php?ident=wdf2704 In the meantime I will keep striking things off our lists and somehow manage to find just one more place for just one more grocery run. So far it's been a great ride. Kat.