Friday, May 31, 2013

Some facts about Irie's Pacific Crossing

If you have never crossed an ocean, and 6-8 foot waves are all you've experienced while sailing (as was the case with us, prudent Caribbean sailors, always waiting for a good weather window to move), the Pacific will be an eye opener. Whatever its name indicates or whichever stories you have heard, this is real ocean sailing. This ocean is not a peaceful one (where did that name come from?) and should not be underestimated. Cross swells of over 12 feet, winds of 30 knots, confused seas, bumpy wind chop and squalls are very common. We were on all points of sail at some time or another and could not stay on course regularly either, when the wind came from dead behind or in front of us. Some days are sunny; the nights are chilly.

Irie's passage can be broken down into 5 parts: a few days of being becalmed in flat seas and barely moving, eleven days of uncomfortable and unsettled conditions, while making good, but bumpy progress, a couple of fair "transition" days, three days of comfortable and peaceful, albeit slow sailing, and two awful days of beating into wind and waves during stormy, squally, windy and frustrating (many wind shifts, constantly varying wind speed, high and rough seas) weather when a front/low pressure system passed overhead.

Amongst cruisers, this particular trip west is called "the Milk Run" because it is supposed to be an easy, straighforward, downwind journey. For us it was as much a milk run as there was a milk man around: not. I do have to specify here that Mark and I sailed from the Galapagos to the Gambier islands, instead of the Marquesas, French Polynesia's most popular arrival destination. The route to these more northern islands is said to be less challenging than the one to the Gambiers. Reports of frequent squalls and confused seas reached us from that area as well, though, but no fronts go that far north and you don't sail on a beam reach (uncomfortable wind and waves from the side).

Irie Trip info and tidbits:
* Route: Galapagos islands - Gambier islands, French Polynesia
* Distance: 2938 miles
* Time: 21 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes (May 7 - May 28th, 2013 )
* Hours under engines: 12 (half getting into the anchorage of Rikitea)
* Hours under sail: 492
* Average speed: 5.8 knots
* Wind direction: SSE-SE-E-ENE, when front passes: all directions
* Wind speed: an average of a perfect 15 knots, but we never saw 15 knots, instead it blew a weak 10 knots or a heavy 25-35 knots!
* Squalls: 42
* Favorable current: 0 knots: a few days + 0.5, a few days - 0.5 early on
* Sail configuration: spinnaker, main (reefed at night and during heavy weather) and jib
* Sail changes: multiple times a day.
* Gallons of diesel used: 9
* Gallons of water used: 47, including 5 gallons to rinse off after showering and 2 gallons for laundry
* Other boats encountered: 2
* Objects encountered: 1 floating pole with a black flag, some garbage, and one whale shark (we think)
* Planes spotted: none
* Fish caught: 1; a smallish mahi mahi, too rough to fish most of the time
* Lures lost: 3
* Sea life "scooped up": 5 squid, 38 flying fish
* Flying fish whacking Mark on their way into the cockpit: 3
* Time zones traveled through: 3
* Latitude travel: from 1°S to 23°S
* Longitude travel: from 90° 58' to 134° 58' W
* Days of having fun: Mark: 1, Liesbet: 4
* Seasickness medicine taken (Liesbet, who used to be very prone to motion sickness): 5 days - 3 days preventive, 2 because of nausea
* Sky: blue, grey or black
* Water: deep blue
* Waves hitting the bridgedeck: Too many to count
* Books read: Mark 6, Liesbet: 1
* Movies watched: Mark 7, Liesbet: 2
* Casualties ("boat bites"): bloody toes, scratched eye, bruised legs, bumped heads, sore knees, burnt arm - nothing serrious or unusual
* Things we have learned/realized during this passage:
  - Why people take planes to cover 3000 miles
  - How long one can go without a shower (6 days)
  - That it takes a long time of not washing up before one gets smelly (> 6 days) *
  - That we really, never ever get bored; I was going to remove my "Boobie blue" nail polish from my toes, one toe every day. I arrived in the Gambiers with 8 blue toes and the trip sure took longer than 2 days...
  - That crossing the Pacific Ocean is not a leisurely "sit back, relax, and enjoy the weather and the ride" kind of sail
  - That this was the longest amusement park ride of our lives (not in a fun way)
  - That sailing is not easy
  - That the wind is never consistent
  - That living in a "stable" house with conveniences must be so nice
  - That it was much colder than expected, especially at night. Winter clothes and comforter needed!
  - That a passage to the Marquesas would have been easier and more comfortable (a confirmation of what we knew)
  - That the days are short and the nights long (Southern Hemisphere winter)
  - That there is little time or energy to do the things you like or plan to do, because of exhaustion or sea state
  - That the Pacific doesn't harbor as much wildlife (whales, dolphins, ...) as we thought
  - That one cannot be in a hurry

* in non-sweaty, Southern Hemisphere conditions

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