Mexico to Marquesas
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Crossing the Pacific - Zihuatanejo, Mexico to Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

We departed Zihuatanejo with enough provisions on board to see us through to Tahiti, not knowing what would be available in the Marquesas and Tuomotus.  Fresh produce was washed, dried and packed very carefully.

Since the NE trades leave a big "wind hole" off the mainland coast of Mexico, often up to 400 miles out or more, our route plan was to head as west as possible, motoring if necessary until we reached the steady trade-winds.  I debated long and hard whether to carry extra fuel on deck in jerry cans, but decided in the end that we'd chance it and try to sail as much as possible.  Since we weren't able to find an affordable spinnaker we can't sail in less than 6-8kn of wind if there are any seas at all.    We were aiming for 5 degrees north, and 130 degrees west.  When we intersected the doldrums (Intertropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ), we'd turn straight south and motor if necessary to cross as quickly as possible to reach the SE trades on the other side. 


We made two HUGE trips to the supermarket for dry goods and staples, leaving the fresh stuff until the last minute.  There is an enormous public market in Zihuat daily, so local fresh fruit and veggies were cheap and obtainable.
Kellie had an inventory list of what we had on board, and what we'd need for the next three months.  Rumor was that provisions were shockingly expensive in French Polynesia, so we tried to carry as much as possible with us.

We purchased 400 liters of fuel from a local that delivered it to the boat in 40 jerry cans in his panga.  We filled the (2) 50 gallon main tanks and (2) 5 gallon jerry jugs, giving us a total of 110 gallons.  We burn about 0.8 gallons an hour at 5kn, giving a powering range of almost 700 miles.  This sounds like a lot, but if we have to motor for three day right from the start to get to the trades, we'd burn up 2/3 of our fuel right there.   

We left Zihuatanejo in the late afternoon of 3-29-05... literally sailing off into the sunset!

Clipperton Island

The wind just happened to blow us farther south than planned, so it wasn't too big a detour to swing by  Clipperton Island.  Normally boats pass several hundred miles north of it in their quest to reach the NE trades in as short a time as possible.   Clipperton is just on the edge of the doldrums, so we were a bit hesitant to dip any further south.   We were riding a weather system out of Zihuat and trying to sail as fast and comfortably as possible, figuring every mile we make SW is still in the right direction.. even if it is not quite what we'd planned.  We could always motor NW if absolutely necessary to find the trades.  A squall caught up with us just as we were approaching the atoll, limiting visibility to about 50ft... not good when trying to approach a coral atoll with an elevation of about 6ft above the sea!  We'd sighted it before the squall and were within about a mile when it disappeared for 45 minutes.  We changed course to make sure we wouldn't find it the "hard" way in the rain.  Eventually the rain let up and we were able to anchor in about 60ft.  We were expecting it to be deserted, and were surprised to see shacks and signs of habitation.  Someone called us on the VHF radio and we were told that the support crew for a French science expedition were in the process of packing up the camp and would be leaving in the next few days.  They came out to the boat in a 20ft Zodiac to say hello and gave us a ride to shore.  We wouldn't have been able to land gracefully with our dinghy, as there is no pass thru the fringing reef.   So you have to go thru the surf in water too shallow to keep the motor all the way down.  There was a big pile of mangled propellers next to their support hut at the landing site as confirmation of the difficulty!  We got a tour of their camp, which shared space with thousands of boobie birds and bright orange land crabs.  Have a look at the expedition's website. 




We trolled two lines for 1000 miles before catching anything other than the flying fish that frequently landed on deck at night.  The flying fish were small, but taste like trout when fried up for breakfast.  I know... fish for breakfast sounds a little weird, but after being on watch since 3am, having fish at 7am isn't all that bad.



Our first big catch!  It was rather gory dispatching and filleting this ~40 lb yellowfin tuna, but we were able to stuff our freezer with enough for 10 meals!  We stopped fishing  until we had room in the freezer again.



We had all kinds of different clouds overhead.  We got rain dumped on us by a few squalls near Clipperton Isl, but otherwise had pretty settled weather the whole way.    Sometimes we had not enough wind, never too much,  mostly between 10 and 20 knots, and never over 22 or so.  The doldrums caused the most anxiety because it is common to encounter many squalls and lightning.  Fortunately we didn't meet either firsthand and just had to deal with no wind and sloppy seas, which can be very trying and hard on the boat if the sails are allowed to slat.  Without any sails up, the boat would roll uncomfortably, so there was always a balance being sought.




Halfway there!

 We added some distance to our total with our detour to Clipperton, but felt it was well worth it.

Crossing the Equator

(OK, so the GPS doesn't quite read 00 00.00 latitude, but I switched to the video camera for the big moment)


We had a little party with hats and sparkling cider. 

And went for a swim with 4500ft of water below.

Land Ho! 

We sighted Ua Huka from 20 miles away on the afternoon of the 22nd day.  Unfortunately, Ua Huka is not a "check in point", so we had to pass it by and continue on to Nuku Hiva, another 20 miles behind it, with a projected arrival in the middle of the night.   The wind died and we had to motor the last 20 miles.  We entered Taiohae Bay by the light of a full moon and had the anchor down a few hours before dawn... finally a calm few hours of sleep!


We had made a French flag underway and hoisted it, along with a yellow "Q" flag upon arrival (although no one really cared).

Green sure looked good after nothing but blue and grey for so long!

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