Monday, April 25, 2016

Recap on the Longest Passage We'll Ever Make

All passages take on a personality unto themselves.  You remember the passage, like any other experience in life, by the unique DNA of the experience and the impressions it made on you.  So here is a look back on the memories that made our passage from Mexico to the Marquesas one we'll always remember.

What would any passage aboard Moonshadow be without a stowaway or two?  So about two days out, we noticed these Boobies (that's a kind of bird) were taking a special interest in Moonshadow.  One even decided to land on our brand new Windex masthead wind indicator, and bend it.  It was four days old at the time (the Windex - not the bird).  Then there was this guy who was determined to hang out on the bow pulpit, probably the most difficult perch a bird could find that day.  He fought every roll with wings outstretched and his webbed feet slipping and sliding until after taking several photos, John made it clear we weren't interested in any self-invited crew.  The last view of this guy was of him flying away from Moonshadow with his neck twisted around looking backward at the rude guy that evicted him.

Not far offshore from the Mexican coast the seas built to the point some of the bigger waves were quite impressive.  Enough so that we spent some time just staring aft wondering if some of the bigger ones might crash aboard Moonshadow flooding the steering cockpit.  But no, every one just slipped by under our stern, giving Moonshadow a nice little push towards the Marquesas.  And each one, no mater how big came out looking rather benign in the photos we took.

Then there were the sunsets.  It became a ritual to stop, get comfortable and just watch.

Deb decided to photograph every sunset on her iPad.

Of course there were routines we found fit into each day, including a daily shower on the stern...

 ...and the morning ritual of picking up dead flying fish and squid that thought Moonshadow was the most attractive thing ever... until they smacked onto to the deck.  This guy found a place right next to Moonshadow's name painted on the boom to end it all.

 The sky on this passage was one of the things that set it apart from all our previous voyages...

... especially at sunset... 

Now, there will always be things on a passage that are not so wonderful.  Like finding a large cotter pin on the deck 4 feet from the base of the mast.

So John spent the day taking photos of every aspect of rigging on the mast...

... and finally concluded that every clevis pin in the rigging had it's cotter pin intact. We finally agreed the pin was discarded during some work done on the boom vang in La Cruz, so ...

crisis over!

...and it was back to gazing at the Pacific sky...

 ...and wondering how many sunsets out here go completely un-noticed on an empty ocean with no ships there to see and take note.

We couldn't get enough of them...

...and if you wait just a few minutes, everything changes to a completely new scene.

Then there was the sailing.  We had some moments when the wind was too far aft for fast passage-making or completely absent.  But then there was hour after hour of sailing when it seemed Moonshadow was gleefully romping across the water, glad to be free to stretch her legs.

What a pleasure she is at times like this.  With no more than one spoke of the wheel's deflection Moonshadow would carve mile after mile in straight line headed for paradise.

 Until one day, there we were watching the GPS count down the degrees minutes and seconds 
to the equator.

Of course, all we had to do was look outside to see the green line on the water to know we had arrived exactly half way between the North and South pole.

Then it was time to celebrate:  

Shots of Mexican tequila and flutes of French Champaign were served up, a dribble on Moonshadow's bow, a splash into the Pacific for King Neptune, and the rest down our throats for a job well done.

Of course we had to dress up for the occasion, this being Deb's first time across the 00.000 line, making the transition from "Polywog" to "Shellback". 

The dreaded doldrums, an area where the wind just doesn't hardly blow at all, turned out not to be quite as windless as we'd feared, so we took advantage of every bit of wind we saw.

 Then one day we had an alarm from the auto pilot.  This happened with the spinnaker up.  The boat started to round up and nothing we did could make the autopilot regain control.  Finally while Deb hand steered, John climbed into the space where the rudder post and hydraulic auto pilot ram are located.  The problem was immediately obvious:  the hydraulic ram has a 1" stainless steel rod that threads into a stainless steel ball-joint terminal which is bolted to the rudder's auto pilot tiller.  That rod had un-screwed itself from the terminal so the auto pilot's commands to steer were not being transmitted to the rudder.  A couple of large wrenches later, all was back in place and Moonshadow was back on course for the Marquesas.  The whole episode lasted less than 15 minutes, but in that space of time there was ample opportunity for Captain and Crew to play out in their minds the prospect of hand steering for the next several days, and decide that wasn't anything we wanted to do!!

So instead we returned to gazing at the ever changing and eternally gorgeous sky and sunsets.

At sea on a long passage your are constantly reminded of millions of faces the ocean and sky can present:  Sometimes fearsome, most often indescribably beautiful, always majestic.

 Then, through the magic of GPS, we learned the day had arrived.  We would see land somewhere ahead, and we were pretty sure it would be the island of Hiva Oa.  But even without GPS, we would have known we were getting close when a huge school of dolphin arrived to escort us.  

In the picture below, we count 12 dolphin, but there were more like 80 to 100 surrounding Moonshadow as she rolled ever closer to the islands.  They were ahead, behind and on both sides of the boat, making quite a racket, jumping, splashing and exhaling, sometimes five abreast jumping clear of the water.  It went on for an hour and made us all the more excited for the awaited landfall. 

Deb saw it first:  "Land.  I see land.  No, I'm sure this time that's land!!"  Sure enough, we both described the same shape, very faintly but persistently there on the horizon.   

"Land!"  "God, don't let this be Point Loma!"

No, this wasn't Pt. Loma, it was Hiva Oa. 
The Marquesas.  
French Polynesia.

With nightfall rapidly approaching on a Friday night, we sailed past the island of Hiva Oa with it's tiny, crowded harbor at Atuana, and headed instead for a bay called Hanamoenoa on the nearby island of Tahuata where a nighttime arrival is safe.  In the pitch blackness of an overcast, moonless night, we used our Radar and GPS to slowly creep up to the cove and drop the anchor in 30 feet of water.

The next morning, we came on deck to discover what a beautiful anchorage we'd found.  

With the authorities closed till Monday, we spent the next two days relaxing napping, swimming, and basking in the realization that we'd just completed a voyage of 2800 miles in 16 days 8 hours, grateful to arrive safely aboard the good ship Moonshadow!


Cindy said...

Bravo!! Thanks for sharing the moments!! Keep posting, I love it and you TWO!!

Unknown said...

Beautiful! What an amazing journey, thank you for sharing!

sparky said...

Such a sweet journey. You two are blessed to have the courage to live your dreams.

Dewey said...

Excellent sailing, photos and writing. Keep it up.

Unknown said...

Hi J and D
Wonderful blog. Very well written and terrific description of so many elements of the voyage. Robin and I really enjoyed reading it and looking at the amazing photos.
Keep the dream flowing (so to speak??!!).
Can you get the boomvang fixed where you are?
Safe traveling you guys and we look forward to the next edition of the blog.
Cheers from R and me and from San Diego.

Virginia said...

Wonderful to take the trip through your pictures. It was a lovely ride and beautiful sunsets. And in amazingly fast time. Loved the green Equator line. We didn't have one of those when we crossed on our way to Ecuador. Heyyyyy. But it was 4 AM dark. Must be one of those Stan Honey things like he does for the football yard lines on TV. Loved the land ho pictures and the dolphin welcome. and what a beautiful anchorage you landed in. Well done. You must be so happy and proud of your voyage. Sail on. We're doing well on land, very busy as usual with family and we'll be doing some Bay sailing on the next 3 weekends so looking forward to that. Big hugs, Virginia and Robert

Anonymous said...

Finally I get to see your fabulous pictures! Will share with Nikk when he gets to Portland. Congratulations again to you and Deb and Moonshadow, and thanks for sharing the journey with us.

Anonymous said...

After looking at the booby picture again, I think that is an immature Red-footed Booby. When we sailed across from Cabo to La Cruz in 2012 we had one on the bow pulpit for four hours (it was a little calmer) grooming himself. I have a picture on the blog for Nov or Dec 2012 on if you want to check out the similarity. Pretty hilarious if that is where Red-footed Boobies have learned to perch.

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