sailing polynesia blog travel on the horizon line brianna randall and rob roberts

Heading West on Compass Rose(y)

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sailing polynesia blog travel on the horizon line brianna randall and rob roberts

And…we’re on another new boat! Are you dizzy yet, keeping up with our moves? We are.

That’s why we plan to stay put for a bit, right here on Compass Rose(y). Why the parenthesis, you wonder? Because in many countries, especially British-related ones, no two boats can be registered with the same name. When the previous owner bought Compass Rose, a 43-foot Polaris, he registered her in England where a Compass Rose was already plying the world’s oceans…so he just added a “y” and called it good. Our sail cover still says Compass Rose, but the name painted on the side has a faded “y” hanging out as an afterthought. It gives her character. (To be clear, I’m the only one that adds the parenthesis.)

We first laid eyes on Rose(y) in Taiohae Bay in the Marquesas. The owners have since decided to head home by air, and hired our friend, Mark, to sail the boat to Australia. In the small world of Pacific sailing, we met Mark in Taiohae, as well, when he was still crewing on Wizard, the sailboat we spent a few weeks on in the Tuamotus and Tahiti. When Mark learned he had a few thousand more miles to sail aboard Rose(y), he emailed us from Raiatea to ask for some help.

sailing in polynesia on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

Back in Papeete, we promptly said “hell, yes” and bid fond adieu to Wizard. Two hours later, we’d packed up and hitched a ride with our friend Paul aboard Thankful for the 100 mile, 24-hour sail from Tahiti to Huahine to meet up with Rose(y). Paul was conveniently anchored 50 feet from Wizard. He was also the first person we met in Shelter Bay, and we crossed the Panama Canal with him aboard Maunie. Told you it was a small world.

sailing in polynesia on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall and rob roberts

Fast forward to the present: Mark, Rob and I are sailing Compass Rose(y) into the rose-colored sunset without any owners aboard. It kinda feels like when your parents left you alone for the weekend in high school (minus the beer kegs). We plan to hit up a few more of the Society Islands in the next couple of weeks, and then slowly hop our way the 1,300 miles to Tonga. The goal is to stop in at Palmerston in the Cook Islands, and Niue, an island all alone in the middle of nowhere.

Rob and I are pretty excited to settle into our berths for a couple of months, and stow the giant bags rather than live out of them. Rose(y) is super comfy, meeting all our requirements for a stellar sailboat: she has wide, flat teak decks that are perfect for yoga, lots of cockpit cushions for our bony butts, and enough headroom in the cockpit to keep Rob’s scalp scar-free. Oh, and she can sail, too!

sailing polynesia blog travel on the horizon line brianna randall and rob roberts

sailing the south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall

Off To See The Wizard

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Sailing, Traveling

sailing the south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall

The blue-green waters surrounding French Polynesia just turned into a yellow brick road. Rob gets to be the Scarecrow, and I’m gonna try my hand at Dorothy. We’ve nominated a blacktip shark to be Toto, and the thousands of coral heads lurking just beneath the surface play the Wicked Witches and flying monkey things.

I know. You’re asking if I’m writing this while on some weird island mushroom, right? Or assuming I got a tad too much sun, maybe? Nope. I’m just letting you know that Rob and I have joined a new sailboat. It’s motto? “Off to see the Wizard.” Check out the boat’s blog if you don’t believe me. John and Sue Campbell, a semi-retired couple from Sonoma County, California, have generously offered to share their floating home with us for a bit.

sailing the south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall

Wizard is a Choate 40 racer-cruiser, very similar in layout (and speed!) to Kayanos, our last ride. We like her, and we really like John and Sue. The four of us all have a similar sense of humor, which is basically the most important ingredient for successfully sailing around in the largest ocean on earth. Sue’s learning to play the ukelele, and doesn’t mind that Rob and I belt out tunes at all hours. John is a laid-back, mostly-Buddhist captain (unless someone tries to anchor too close) who misses microbrews as much as I do.

We met Wizard and her crew our first day on land in Nuku Hiva after the big passage, and hit it off immediately. A month later, John and Sue offered to take us on a day sail to north Fakarava so we could “look for another ride” when Kayanos sailed to Tahiti. Well, we didn’t look very long … the day sail turned into many days as we sailed north to Toau. We’ll likely make the 2-day passage to Tahiti aboard Wizard, as well. In fact, John keeps mentioning that we should just go ahead and buy Wizard when they finish their sailing adventure this November.

Guess we’ll see where our yellow brick road ends up. Meanwhile, Rob and I will make sure to keep our bare feet from clicking together, since we’re not definitely not ready to go home.

sailing the south pacific on the horizon line travel blog brianna randall

rainbow sailboat marquesas tropical island on the horizon line blog

Check out our new digs.

Posted on Posted in Sailing, Traveling

rainbow sailboat marquesas tropical island on the horizon line blog

We have a new address here in French Polynesia.  Instead of telling people to find us “on the light green ketch called Llyr,” we now give directions to the “dark blue sloop named Kayanos.”

Last night we schlepped our shit over to Ben and Sarah’s 42-foot sailboat.  Somehow our belongings managed to undergo mitosis aboard Llyr and doubled in size.  We transported one backpack each to one pack + 3 bags + 2 sacks of fruit each via dinghy in the wet, dark Marquesan night.  Good thing we only went about 200 yards.

Why move, you ask?  Because transitions are part of our adventure.  Because Llyr is on a tight schedule for getting to Tahiti and we’d like to spend as long as possible exploring the underwater world in the Tuamotus, a series of coral atoll islands that circle world-class lagoons.  Because Ben and Sarah offered us space, and we thought it’d be fun to go with folks younger than us.

Rob and I learned a ton about electronics, provisioning, and how to care for steel boats during our time aboard Llyr.  We had a blast with the Steele-McCutchen clan, and look forward to seeing them in many bays and ports along the way.

How’d we find our new digs?  By chatting with folks in the small town of Taiohae and “knocking on hatches” as we scooted around the bay in a dinghy.  In this case, we made friends with John and Sue aboard Wizard, who pointed us toward Kayanos.  It’s a fairly small community of sailboats hopping Pacific islands, and we’ve already made friends with boats we keep seeing in different ports.

sailing tuamotus crew on the horizon line blog

Ben and Sarah are both in their mid-20s, and grew up outside of Anchorage, Alaska.  Ben bought Kayanos with his buddy in San Diego, and spent a year fixing her up in preparation for the voyage across the Pacific.  He’s a climber and a surfer and an excellent sailor.  Kayanos is a 1970s racing boat, about as opposite a vessel from Llyr as you can get.  Instead of radar, roller furlers and SSB, we have hanked-on sails, a solar panel and paper charts.  She speeds along at 7-8 knots easily, and rarely requires a motor.

We’re looking forward to learning more about Kayanos and her crew for the next few weeks.  The plan: head to the northeast corner of Nuku Hiva to check out the secluded Anaho Bay, and then set off Monday or Tuesday for the ~4 day passage to the Tuamotu archipelago.  We hope to visit 3-4 atolls in the Tuamotus over the following 2 weeks, where we’ll snorkel and dive with sharks, rays, and a huge diversity of fish.  It’s gonna be awesome.


crew of llyr on the horizon line sailing blog cruise pacific crossing

Meet the Crew Sailing the Pacific

Posted on Posted in Family and Friends, Ocean Tales

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and briThe Steele-McCutchin family is awesome.  Rob and I feel fortunate to have found such good people to spend a few months with, and such capable people to sail with across the largest ocean on the planet.  They bought Llyr 4 years ago because they were ready for new expeditions.  None of them had much previous sailing experience, but they took loads of offshore courses before sailing south from Maine to Panama last summer, spending 4 months cruising in the Caribbean along the way.  You might notice their red hue in the photos below, which gives away their Scottish-Irish roots (and indicates it was early in the trip!).

Their grand plan is to set Llyr up permanently in Vanuatu (Melanesia) as a research vessel dedicated to documenting the impacts of climate change on coral reefs.  During the storm season in the southern hemisphere (October to March), they’ll return to their family-owned maple syrup farm in western Massachusetts to collect the sweet nectar of New England maples.  Here’s a snapshot of Llyr’s crew:

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Brooks.  He’s the skipper, the mechanic, and the weather expert.  Brooks is good-humored in his role at the helm of Llyr and his role as the oldest aboard.  He also handles stressful situations calmly (thank god), and loves to converse about theories related to everything from education to climate change to how to change to oil mast most efficiently.  As a clinical psychologist during his first career and a farmer during his second, Brooks enjoys figuring out how and why things work like they do.  You can find him in the engine room, or trouble-shooting random problems from bow to stern.

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Janis.  She’s the head caretaker of this big brood aboard Llyr, keeping our daily operations running smoothly.  A fluent French speaker from Montreal, Janis is a trained anthropologist, and likes to stretch, eat dark green foods, and sew.  If you have an idea, she’ll likely be able to make it a reality.  You can find her cooking up tasty sauces or creating a wind-scoop from old flags.

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Connor.  He’s 18 going on 28, a brand-new high school graduate with an EMT (emergency medical training) license, a great sense of humor and a clear head.  Connor is the first mate, and is intimately familiar with Llyr’s many electronic and navigation systems.  He’s going to spend the fall and winter in Australia this year, and planning to head to college as a pre-med major after that.  Meanwhile, you can find Connor helping his dad with troubleshooting, surfing Facebook (at the marina only), or teasing his younger brothers (gently).

llyr sailing pacific on the horizon line cruising blog

Meet Rowan.  At  15, he’s doing a much better job of leaving his social circle than I would have at that age.  Rowan is a detail guy, and sees the little things the big-picture thinkers might miss.  He loves to dive, and reads incessantly…he actually burned out his Kindle in the first week.  You can find Rowan cramming in calculus (gotta make sure he’s caught up after his few months out of the classroom!), listening to music, or scarfing down sodas or milk.

crew of llyr on the horizon line sailing blog cruise pacific crossing

Meet Gavin.  He’s the life of the party, and the youngest crew member at 10 years old.  Gavin loves to draw and write and fish and kayak and swim and jump and chat and play games.  He provides comic relief for the rest of the crew, and much-needed energy when others might be tired of chores.  You can find Gavin eating PB&J sandwiches, sleeping in the cockpit, or trying to climb the mast when his parents aren’t looking.

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and bri

“Where, exactly, are you going?”

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kiss on sailboatWe leave one month from tomorrow.  Whoa.  As the departure date approaches, the main question we hear (aside from “are you getting excited?!”) is “where, exactly, are you guys going?”  Here’s the answer:

On March 26th, we fly from Missoula, Montana to Cabo San Lucas in Baja California.  We’re hoping to meet up with our friends, Katie and Mark, on their boat, Selkie, in La Paz.  The goal is to spend a couple of weeks decompressing from work, packing, and leaving our way of life.  We plan to leave Mexico refreshed and ready for a big adventure.

Llyr under sail - on the horizon line with rob and bri
Llyr under full sail.

On April 10th, we fly from Cabo to Panama City, where we’ll make our way to Colon to meet Llyr in the Caribbean Sea.  We’ve signed up to crew on this 53-foot steel ketch, and are excited to help Janis and Brooks, and their teenage boys, Connor, Rowan and Gavin sail her across the Pacific.  We’ll have to wait in line for a week or two to squeeze Llyr between mega-tankers, cruise ships and other yachts for her trip through the Panama Canal. We’ll likely head through the Canal by the end of April.  Once through the Canal, we’ll provision with food, water, diesel and other supplies while we wait for a good weather window to begin our “Pacific Puddlejump.”

bri and rob sailing in Baja

By the beginning of May, we’ll start our 40-day journey across the Pacific Ocean, heading south over the equator and (hopefully) catching a smooth ride on southeast trade winds as we sail west.  We should reach our first landfall in French Polynesia’s easternmost island chain, the Marquesas, by early June.  

Rob and I may continue with Llyr to Tahiti, the capital of French Polynesia.  Tahiti is kind of like the “transit station” for the South Pacific, where we’ll find lots and lots of sailboats from all over the world heading to different islands.  We plan to find one to crew on to the next island stop.  From here, plans get fuzzy (which we like).

Baja-rob and bri on the beach


Our goal is to hitchhike on sailboats from July through November.  The sailing season in the South Pacific typically ends in November as the summer months mark the start of hurricane season in the southern hemisphere.  Most folks head to Australia and New Zealand, but Rob and I are hoping to spend the summer in either the Soloman Islands, or north of the equator in Micronesia.  Below is a map of our potential route, though it’s all up for grabs post-June.

For us, the beauty of this trip is our freedom — we aren’t sure where we’ll be in a few months, and we like it that way.

View On the Horizon Line – Adventure Route in a larger map

Crew on a Sailboat or Buy Our Own?

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in Sailing

bri and rob sailing in BajaLately, we’ve been asked often by our friends and family: “Why are you going to crew on someone else’s sailboat instead of just buying your own?” (Check out our Panama Canal post to read more about who we’re crewing with across the Pacific Ocean.)

Great question.  Here are several answers.

1) It’s cheaper.  Crewing means that we will either: a) pay enough per day to cover our share of food and diesel (which we’d pay anyway if we had our own boat), b) get free passage in return for helping sail these boats, or c) maybe eventually get paid a little bit.  Plus, once we crew our way west, we just might find a better deal on a used blue-water-capable boat in Thailand or Bali than in the U.S.

2) It’s safer.  We aren’t experienced blue-water cruisers … yet.  Sure, we’re both capable sailors and fast learners.  But neither of us have sailed long passages, anchored near coral reef, or navigated complicated shipping channels.  The best way to get up to speed and become experts on sailing in tropical waters or offshore is to learn the ropes first-hand from experienced captains.

Boat Outline.PE05983) It’s smarter.  As our neighbor said when we explained the rationale for crewing the other night, “It’s basically like being engaged to make sure you want to get married.”  Exactly.  Why spend thousands of dollars on our own sailboat without making sure we really, really like being at sea for months on end first?  Plus, this way we can test drive lots of sailboats to see what type fits us best.  Basically, we’re planning to date boats for the next year or so.

4)  It’s easier.  Leaving our home, jobs and family for years is tough enough to prepare for.  If we had to find a boat, outfit it, and learn all its ins and outs on top of that … well, let’s just say we’d be on the 10-year plan instead of the 2-year plan.  Plus, getting our own boat means we’d have to sail across the largest ocean on the planet straight away, which seems like an overwhelming task to plan and execute right now.  This way, we can get out of dodge faster and with a LOT less stuff to cart around the globe.

5)  It’s an adventure.  We like leaving room for flexibility in our travel schedule, both for meeting new people and for seizing opportunities as they arise.  Neither of us are wedded to a set agenda, and crewing will give us the chance to let fate determine where we end up.

We’re still hoping to buy our own (used) boat one day.  Meanwhile, we plan to enjoy the heck out of other people’s spiffy sailboats as we hop, skip and skim around the South Pacific.




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