killer whale orca pacific ocean sailboat travel

Holy S*^t! An Orca Whale!

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NOTE: This video is about five months late.  But better late than never, right?  

Llyr and her crew were halfway through our 33-day crossing of the Pacific Ocean from Panama to the Marquesas Islands. Specifically, we were somewhere west of the Galapagos Islands by about 6 days. We hadn’t seen any wildlife of any sort for a week — the middle of the ocean feels a lot like a big empty desert. We also hadn’t had a good rainstorm since we left Panama City.

First, the rain came one afternoon. Not just a piddly drizzle, but enough to go on deck and soap up, maybe even break out the shampoo. After the boys all finished their rain dance showers, I went up last to enjoy the freshwater blessing. As I reached behind me for a washcloth, I caught the unmistakable sight of a giant eyeball looking up at me from the water.

My brain flashed instantly through the brief image: black and white markings, smooth skin, big fin. My mouth took over before my brain caught up, screaming at full volume: “Holy shit! Orca! Orca! Omigod! Everybody on deck. Rob! Rob! Whoa!”

I saw Rob’s face look through the porthole toward deck with a terrified expression … and realized he was looking out at sea, as he assumed my screaming meant I’d fallen overboard. Repeated “orca” screams got through, and the whole crew piled out to the stern, where we got to watch this lone killer whale check us out. She/he swam under our stern several times, rolling over to look at us with a big, beautiful eye.

It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in the wilderness.

We didn’t see any more wildlife for over a week during that crossing. And I still had soap in my ears that night, since I was too distracted to rinse after the whale encounter.

killer whale orca pacific ocean sailboat travel

 

sail south pacific ocean crossing travel brianna rob

Third Watch

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sail south pacific ocean crossing travel brianna rob

So, this is “fair winds and a following sea:” pitch-poling like a drunk college kid as we surf down dark frothy waves. What the hell would it feel like in rough winds and a big beam sea? Terrifying.

I have third watch tonight, the pre-dawn shift from 3am to whenever someone else wakes up in the morning. It usually takes my mind and body several minutes to get used to night sailing when I start my watch. For some reason, it always feels like we’re going a million miles an hour at night. I check the heading, and make sure the sail plan is still the same: wing-to-wing with the wind dead behind us, careening down 10-foot swells as we sail due west. Even though we had the same gig happening all day, something about the moonless dark makes the boat feel faster, and slightly more out of control than during daylight.

sail south pacific ocean crossing travel brianna rob

I furl in the genoa a bit to see if it eases the motion. “We gotta slow her down!” I think to myself as I winch away at the sheet. Next, I hook up our state-of-the-art navigation systems (my iPhone paired with our Delorme spot tracker) to check our speed. 4.5 knots. Oh. Right. Maybe we weren’t going as fast as I thought. I let the sail back out and settle into a corner of the cockpit to brace against the rocking.

Third watch is my favorite. You know the dark will end. You get to stare at Orion as he ushers in the rising sun. You can watch the water change from black to charcoal to grey to silver to blue. And, best of all, you can drink coffee without worrying about whether you’ll be able to get back to sleep after your shift is over. I love coffee, and brewing a perfect little cup is my reward as the sky starts to lighten at 5:30am. Sadly, my perfect little cup flew across the galley during a big wave, and I ended up with coffee grounds in my hair, eyes, teeth, sleeves. Sigh. I went with instant coffee for round two, admitting defeat in this squirrely sea.

I plot our position and calculate how long it will take before we reach our next destination at an average speed of 5.5 knots. 3 days, 12 hours. I ignore the rattling in the lazarette behind me, the dishes slamming to and fro below, and the occasional flap of the main when it back-winds. Instead, I turn the iPhone to my favorite mix and sing along, write in my journal using the red light on my headlamp, and practice finding southern constellations. I read a bit on the Kindle.

sunset at sea sailing ocean on the horizon line blog

I hand steer the boat for a full hour when the autopilot gives up under the weight of turning the rudder through the swells, pretending I’m Captain Cook steering a tall ship in unknown waters. It is fun to be in control of the boat for a bit, to feel her surf the waves and to use stars as my navigation. But hand steering is not nearly as romantic as one would think, and my shoulders tire quickly.

I’m grateful when the autopilot sputters back to life at sunrise, and the bright light signals the end of my watch. Time for another attempt at the perfect cup of coffee.

 

sailing pacific sunset

Yup, we still hate passages.

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sailboats at sunset south pacific travel

We were scheduled to make landfall in Palmerston at sun-up. But that was when we were averaging 6.5 knots. The wind, as usual, had her own ideas.

Rob and I sat in the cockpit on the last night, watching the crescent moon sink slowly after the sun that just left us. We were making 4 knots in the light air, the genoa flogging and the boat lurching more sharply side to side without the speed to cut through the swells.

“Crack of noon arrival,” I joked. “An exact 5 day passage from anchor to anchor.” I had thought that the 5-night passage from Bora Bora to Palmerston would feel like peanuts compared to 33 days at sea on our Panama to Marquesas leg. But two months of bopping around French Polynesian islands on short jaunts made me weak. I forgot the monotony, the endless frustrating rocking, the noise, the sleeplessness.

sailing pacific sunset
Yup. Passages are just as un-fun as ever. Rob and I tried to be positive while we watched the moon careen back and forth overhead. We listed what we liked about passages:
1) The beauty of the sea, the sun, the night sky. The solitude of this wilderness ocean.
2) The fact that two hunks of canvas can cart us across hundreds of miles.
3) Our increasing ability to manage our bodies and the boat at sea. (No one got seasick this time.)

And that’s about it. We didn’t bother listing our dislikes, as we exhausted that discussion a couple passages back. All this is with fair winds and a following sea! Imagine storms and 30-foot seas (or don’t).

So, if we hate passages so much, why the hell are we smack in the middle of the largest ocean on earth, with plenty more crossings still to come? Because we love everything in between.

bora bora beaches travel

To me, passage-making is like flying or driving long distances. I hate sitting still, being cramped in small spaces and tight seats, breathing stale recycled air, filling the monotonous hours and minutes as best I’m able. Yucky. But I absolutely love arriving at the destination. The excitement about what awaits after the long transit is what gets us through the discomfort. Same with sailing — every time we see a new island on the horizon, it feels like Christmas Day. What will we discover on shore? What presents await beneath the surface?

Maybe Rob and I aren’t real sailors at heart. We are, however, water people, through and through. And to get to the best water, you gotta pay the price of passage. Thus far on our journey, the price is still a bargain for the bounty we’ve received.

rob roberts brianna randall travel sailing blog on the horizon line

On Seasickness

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rob roberts brianna randall travel sailing blog on the horizon line

“No one tells you about these moments. No one writes about this. This is not about palm trees and clear blue water. This is about misery and just being exposed, torn open. It’s colder than I imagined out here. My butt is pruned from sitting on soggy cushions and I’m wedged between a table and the companionway to keep from getting thrown about in this turbulent sea. Can I get this hood cinched tighter around my face? ,All I can see in the inky darkness is the dull glow of the mast lighthead. I’ve never choked back my own vomit before. This sucks. My stomach hates me. I never pictured this in my daydreams of this sailing adventure, huddling against the cockpit to block the driving rain, wondering where in the dark the next wave will come from, while trying to keep from throwing up. Just two more hours to go to finish this nightwatch….”

Such were my thoughts one night, after a few days of building seasickness. Before departing on this multi year voyage upon the ocean, I had some reservations about how I would handle the motion of a boat being tossed around in rough or rolling seas. For good reason: twice before I had been seasick during outings off the florida coast. The first time we were crossing the Gulf Stream in a powerboat headed for the Bahamas. The second time I was on a fishing boat some mile offshore. However, both times were in my college years and involved copious amounts of booze and revelry the evenings before. In other words, I probably deserved it.

But this is different. We will be out here for a long time. And thanks largely to this blog, much of my world now knows that I have continued to have some problems with seasickness, or mal de mer, as its called in French. But there’s more to the story than you probably envision. The following insights are gained largely from a 33 day field test across the Pacific Ocean, as well as other more recent passages.

rob roberts brianna randall travel sailing blog on the horizon line

First of all, seasickness is a result of the imbalance between what your eyes are seeing and the motion felt by your inner ear. Essentially, the world around you is not supposed to be hurtling about in all directions, so your brain things something is wrong when it senses the major inconsistency of not being on solid, stable ground. The scientific/medical community seems not totally sure about why people vomit in response, but I theorize that your body just plain things something is wrong and throwing up is usually a good way to get rid of the bad stuff (think: too much alcohol, get dizzy, throw up the alcohol). But seasickness more than just puking overboard or heaving into a bucket. Seasickness is quite complicated. It can be as simple as a dull nausea or it can be serious enough to incapacitate a person. Sometimes people get so sick and weak that anti-nausea suppositories are the last resort (Bri is glad I didn’t get that bad), and they may require hospitalization.

But here’s how it happens to me. First of all, to set the record straight, I have actually not vomited once since we left Panama. I’ll admit though that I have been very, very close and there were times that I probably would have been better of just letting go. But I fought it, probably because of some weird sense of stubborn pride.. On the initial crossing to the Galapagos, I did not feel very well for much of the time. A friend of ours described seasickness as “being attacked by an energy vampire” and that’s a good description.

I slept often during that first week because I felt lethargic and had a dull moan in my upper stomach. I had a hard time being anywhere but on deck feeling the breeze and looking at the horizon. I didn’t eat much. I also lost my sense of curiosity and had trouble caring enough to have a conversation. I didn’t feel like reading or writing I had some of my roughest moments as a sentient being during this part of the trip. These were very slow days. So with little else to do on the boat, I spent most of my time in a slow state of meditation. Thus began my introduction to the art of Zen that Bri and I have learned is so useful on this trip (more on that someday). But despite my troubles and evolving adaption, I never missed my turn on nightwatch and I never backed out of any task on deck that was asked of me.

I started using anti-nausea medications at this point and experimented with several to figure out which worked best for me. I’ll describe the different options more fully below, but basically, I responded fairly well to medications. After the Galapagos and those blessed 48 hours on land, things slowly got better for me and I have learned how to cope with the motion of the sea and have found tricks that work for me. I thought that information might be useful to some of you out there. So try this…

Prevent

There are a number of things which kick-start seasickness for most people. I’ve found that reading and writing in the beginning of a trip is not the best for me. I also try to minimize my time below if possible and am careful about how long I spend getting things in the galley. Many people, myself included, do better with something in their stomach, so a light breakfast before a morning departure is part of good prevention. Obviously, alchohol the night before is a no no. Good sleep and hydration also help. In general, fresh air and a broad horizon are my friends at this point in a trip.

Relax

When the first pangs of nausea hit, it feels like a have an upset stomach, and I find that my heartbeat gets slightly elevated and I get a bit rushed in whatever I’m doing. If I can bring myself to slow down and focus, I find that letting my eyes adjust on the horizon and slowly breathing through my nose and out my mouth with deep breaths helps calm me. Sometimes I close my eyes for a moment as well to center myself. I try not to dwell on what I know may come next.

Lay down

There are some days when I feel mostly fine, and the motion is manageable. But sometimes all it takes is a change in the wind direction or wave height and things get worse. I have found that – for me – the magical cure is laying down, closing my eyes and breathing. I don’t know why laying down is so helpful but I can do it in the midst of almost any chaos or motion and it helps almost instantly. If I have let the sickness progress to far and can feels the first lurches in my stomach, I can actually choke it back, enter a deep meditation/concentration. Its not fun to feel your stomach convulsing or to think about the consequences if I don’t get my body under control, but it has worked. I randomly learned this trick on a dive trip in Belize many years ago and had this 33 day jaunt to refine it. Sometimes, depending on conditions, I can be up and about in 15 minutes or so and be back to relatively normal.

Medications

If conditions are rough or I’m just having a bad day, I’ve found a few medications that work. I have over the counter meds like Dramamine but I have not actually used it on the trip. Its a backup, because I have found in the past that it makes me real drowsy (even the non drowsy stuff). Bonine is another similar medication that people seem to prefer. In Panama were able to buy Stugeron directly from the pharmacy. Its not available in the US but it is used pretty widely by world cruisers. Its strong, works relatively fast (about an hour) and lasts for half a day or more. It can make you feel slightly foggy and some people don’t like those effects. I’ve used this just a couple of times to get myself back to normal quickly.

If we’re on a multi day passage, I will follow up Stugeron with “the patch” if needed. This is a small anti nausea patch that sticks behind your ear that slowly releases Scopolamine into the body. Its generally used for surgery and post surgical recovery and also works for all types of motion sickness. The patch last several days, but takes anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to begin working. I used the patch a few times on our Pacific crossing and it worked well. While some people have major side effects like blurry vision, I got away with only minor side effects like a dry mouth that were much more pleasurable than seasickness. It allowed me to function at a normal level for several days. When things were bad, the patch allowed me to function like a human again, instead of sailing zombie. You can get the patch in the U.S. with a prescription or just order online from a Canadian pharmacy.

The Bucket

If all else fails, vomiting often provides a feeling of relief for most people with mild cases of seasickness. Its best, if you have to, to puke in a bucket and then toss it over the side. Puking overboard can be dangerous in rough seas and puking in the toilet or sink is generally frowned upon. It will just get all over the place or clog up pipes in an already complicated marine plumbing system. If you are with someone who is at the point of vomiting, you have to watch them carefully to make sure the symptoms either ease or become stable. Seasickness can rapidly progress to a severe condition because of dehydration, and the last thing you want is a medical emergency while out at sea. Thankfully, I’ve never had this problem nor have been with anyone who has.

Anyone who tells you the seasickness is just for landlubbers and that its all in your head is just plain full of crap. Yes, there are people out here who just don’t get sick no matter how rough things are. But we’ve met hundreds of people out here, some who have been sailing for years and decades, and most of them will admit to getting nauseous at one time or another. Some professional sailors and circumnavigators deal with it on a consistent basis. I can attest to the face that it is no fun, but with some forethought and plan for dealing with it, it doesn’t have to ruin a trip. There are times on a long passage when I’m hating life, but the other 95% of this experience has been well worth the trouble.

 

 

sailing through waves in tuamotus on the horizon line bri and rob travel and sailing adventure

The Dreamy Tradewind Passage to the Tuamotus

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sailing through waves in tuamotus on the horizon line bri and rob travel and sailing adventure

Ok. I take back everything I wrote about tough sailing passages. Was that me moaning over rough seas and flogging sails? And did I really write a tongue-in-cheek remix to the lyrics of Crosby Stills & Nash’s “Southern Cross?” (See below for the remix written about 3,000 miles into the Pacific crossing.) Sorry, David Crosby, for dissing your happy sailing song — we finally discovered the joy of “sailing a reach before a following sea” during our 4-day crossing from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus. Turns out that tradewind sailing is awesome.

We had a blast with Ben and Sarah cruising west and south. It helped that Kayanos, a 40-foot C&C, is a fast racing boat, and that Ben is a stellar sailor who loves flying the spinnaker (and, like us, hates running the engine). We flew along at 6 to 7 knots, even when the winds were a mere 7 to 10 knots. And it really helped that the seas were almost flat for the entire 550 mile journey.

sailing through waves in tuamotus on the horizon line bri and rob travel and sailing adventure tuamotus

But the main reason this crossing felt like such smooth sailing is because it was only FOUR DAYS. Yup. Since Rob and I decided to make our first ocean passage the longest one on the planet, everything from here on out feels like a cakewalk. In fact, the Marquesas to the Tuamotus is the second-longest crossing we’ll make this season. After this, we should be able to hop between islands in just a few days.

A few highlights: dolphins off the bow for a full 30 minutes, including plenty of babies flying along next to their mamas. Only having to cook for 4 people instead of 7. Catching (and eating!) a yellowfin tuna. Sailing right up to the bottom of a rainbow. Racing along at 8 knots on the last night in 20 knots of wind with a triple-reefed mainsail and a tiny staysail as we dodged coral atolls. Entering our first motu, Kauehi, through a narrow channel with an 8-knot opposing current and standing waves — kind of like paddling upstream in a Class IV river rapid but in a sailboat.

sailing through waves in tuamotus on the horizon line bri and rob travel and sailing adventure

Kayanos is the exact opposite of Llyr in many ways. It’s been great to learn different systems for sailing, boat maintenance and passage-making. Although Llyr was a wonderful comfy boat for the long passage, Kayanos feels like a familiar friend. She’s more like Spindrift, the 26-foot Paceship that Rob and I sailed for 6 summers on Flathead Lake.

In fact, after our recent brush with tradewind bliss, Rob and I are once again talking about buying out own boat down the line. For a while there, sweating under peeling deck paint on sloshing swells, we were dreaming only of land-based mountain treks through Nepal (which still sounds awesome). Nothing like consistent winds and calm seas to reignite the romance with sailing. Oh, and arriving in one of the most beautiful lagoons on earth after the passage probably helped seal the deal on why having a sailboat would be rad.
SOUTHERN CROSS REMIX
ala ON THE HORIZON LINE

Left the mountains on a boat bound to southern islands
Expecting a reach and an easy sail
We searched for the trades with a motor
Flogging sails and a 10 foot seas
1,000 miles before we reach the Galapagos
We had 50 feet on the waterline, windward all the way
48 hours in port to worship hard ground
And after 2 weeks sailing west, there was no turning back

CHORUS:
Think about how many waves we have rolled over
Slingshot beam seas send our asses flyin’
Don’t believe that shit you read about the coconut milk run
We are sailing cross the Pacific Ocean
Wonderin’ what we were thinkin’
And if we’d ever do it again…
And you know we won’t. And you know we won’t.

When we saw the Southern Cross for the first time
It didn’t look quite as big as we’d hoped
And the cross waves off the beam, they were not small
And winds were fickle, as fickle as spring day
So we’re sailing for tomorrow ’cause there’s no choice
Fighting down the seasick, and fending off boredom
We have a nice steel ketch, but her flags are tattered
Only 8 more days left, until we can kiss land

CHORUS

So we sat, and we napped and we bounced
We ate oatmeal and rice, and longed for cheese and fruit
We will survive this ocean crossing
But we’ll remember there are more ways than sailing for 32 days
To see the Southern Cross.

We aren’t winning any beauty contests.

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BUCKET SHOWER on the horizon line rob roberts sailing on the horizon line

You might be asking yourself: is the title of this post an oxymoron? The answer is: usually. It depends upon a few things, like 1) the length of crossing, 2) the type of boat, and 3) the cleanliness habits of the sailor. Ours was one of the longest crossings you can make across the ocean without the opportunity to stop: there simply ain’t no land between the Galapagos and the Marquesas, much less showers or soap stores. That means we were already prone to lax hygiene, especially if #3 was questionable among certain crew (e.g. Rob Roberts).

Let’s start with how the boat setup can shape hygiene. As you know, sailboats come in all shapes and sizes. Just like cars, you can get ones that are fully loaded or stripped to the bone. One of the “fully loaded” options for boats is a water maker. These nifty devices use osmosis to turn sea water into fresh water, giving you an almost unlimited amount of fresh water to shower, brush your teeth, shave body parts, and have water fights. The limitation becomes the energy supply these handy machines need, which is fairly intensive. You have to pay for your copious water by either running your engine a lot to feed the batteries, or installing solar panels or windmills to keep your water maker happy.

Neither Llyr nor Kayanos have a water maker. They do, however, have a bucket on a rope, which is almost as good. We carry a limited supply of freshwater, roughly 1 gallon per person per day, to drink and cook with. That’s where the bucket on a rope comes in, since boats are surrounded by lots and lots of sea water. We used saltwater pumps to flush toilets and wash dishes, and the bucket-on-a-rope to clean everything else, including ourselves. Joy dish soap and Woolite were the main cleaning agents, since they suds in saltwater. We also went through a hefty amoung of hand sanitizer.

The problem with using the ocean to clean things is that a lot of stuff lives in ocean water … microscopic, nutrient-rich, stinging stuff. After a while, the counters, clothes, dishes and your hair start to smell like plankton (ok, plankton might not smell, but something in the water smells). We use a lot of vinegar and sometimes even bleach to combat the plankton-salt-slime buildup (and you thought your toilet was gross…). But even then, everything becomes thicker and tougher as the salt builds up. I swear my shirts could stand on their own after a few washings in seawater.

laundry while sailing washing clothes on the horizon line travel pacific

As for our personal hygiene, it varies greatly among the crew. We did all brush our teeth every night … sooo, we had that going for us. When squalls came through, we’d all run outside with soap and shampoo, hoping it’d rain hard enough to get some lather going. It never rained that hard, but we still soaped up and caught rivulets off the sails to rinse off the salt. I took a sponge bath each evening with a bucket of saltwater, and Rob took bucket showers when he got hot enough to dump it over his head.

I washed my hair every 10 days or so, though using Joy dishsoap and saltwater didn’t do much for my overall ‘do. Gross. For instance, from April 18 to May 28, I washed my hair twice with freshwater. It was a near orgasmic experience each time. Rob never uses shampoo on land, anyway, so didn’t bother with the Joy at sea. He did buy a battery-powered electric razor in Panama City, which he used 3 times in 40 days to get rid of his beard. The boys also played with the razor when they got bored, giving each other some super rad haircuts. My shaving habits dwindled to every couple of weeks from the bucket, mostly because I only brought 3 razors and you only get one use from each before they turn into a pile of rust.

It may sound horrifying. And it’s certainly true that blue water sailing is not for the faint of heart (or those sensitive to smelly stuff). Luckily, there’s not really any dirt on a boat in the middle of the ocean, and we aren’t physically active enough to smell that bad. We feel clean enough and stay healthy during the voyage. Plus, since there are no mirrors, it’s easy to forget we aren’t winning any beauty contests.

 

kung fu ninja kick on the horizon line blog rob roberts

Magic Mood Mixture (nope, no illegal substances included)

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Dance, Yoga and Fitness, Sailing

kung fu ninja kick on the horizon line blog rob roberts

I know many of you who followed our voyage across the Pacific are secretly asking yourselves this very important question:how the hell did Bri and Rob keep from losing their minds during while bobbing around the ocean blue for a whole month?

First off, don’t kid yourselves: we definitely lost it at times. Second, we each quickly learned what would bring us back from the brink of insanity, and what would keep us as pleasant as possible during the crossing. For me: 1) music 2) exercise 3) caffeine 4) naps. Most of you know that this is the exact same mixture that keeps me sane and bearable on land, too. Just give me some espresso, a dance class or bike ride, and some good tunes to sing along to and my bad mood usually lifts.

Napping is new, though — I’ve always hated that groggy post-nap disorientation, and feeling like I was missing out on something exciting. Nothing like a weird night watch schedule to change my tune about the value of naps. Plus, watching Rob’s impressive cat-napping ability inspired me to follow suit. Rob’s magic mood mixture is about the same as mine, if you double his nap quotient and replace caffeine with mini-projects (fixing broken binoculars, rigging fishing lines, inventing a way to detangle all the ropes at the mast, etc.). Here’s some details on our passage sanity formula:

1) Music: Me playing the shitty nylon-string guitar we bought in Panama City (thank god we found it), and Rob learning how to play his first-ever song on the guitar. Either of us zoning out to favorite tunes with headphones blasting to cover the fact that you’re sharing a very small space with 6 other people, 3 of whom are bickering brothers. Me dancing as best I can, using the stays and shrouds as my partners as I kick, spin, arc, and flail to the beat of a bass. The whole crew singing to Johnny Cash as we cook dinner and do dishes, walking around the tilted cabin like drunk sailors (who haven’t seen a drop of alcohol for a month).

2) Exercise: A fascinating, innovative, hilarious endeavor given the motion and lack of space. I exercised a few times a day, although the definition of “exercise” is totally stretchy compared to what I’d do in regular life. Squats, lunges, pushups and crunches were ubiquitous, along with some fancier strength training moves that required holding on for dear life to something bolted on the deck. I tried out various creative cardio routines, consisting of jumping jacks, running in place, can-can kicks, mountain-climbers, and pretending the single step on deck was a stairmaster. Yoga stretches were a mainstay, of course, throughout the day. The end result? I’m more toned than I’ve ever been in my life, but a dying tortoise could beat me at a 100-yard dash. It’s tough to maintain any sort of aerobic activity when you can’t really walk without falling over.

3) Caffeine: What I would give for an espresso machine … sigh. Next time, I’m bringing lots of good teas and coffee. This trip, though, we made do with crappy instant (Buen Dia!), and some sketchy tea bags that barely tinted the water after steeping. I horded the one tin of stellar green tea, meting out one bag per day when at my crankiest.

4) Naps: Learned to love ’em. Not only do they refresh after getting up in the middle of the night for watch, they also make time go faster, provide an exciting position change from sitting on your butt, give you some alone time, and offer relief from intense midday sun. Rob brought napping to a new level, sleeping sitting up, in the cockpit, splayed out on the yoga mat, or folded into weird positions. While I couldn’t quite match his napping enthusiasm, I’m definitely a convert to taking one per day.

The biggest challenge was trying to add something new or creative or interesting into each day. Something that differentiates it from all the other rolly blue sameness. For me, even a new dance move or a new ingredient to spice up a coffee drink could push me over the edge from a low to a high. Rob and I both learned (and continued to re-learn) that there’s a very fine line between despair and contentment on a boat out at sea.exercise sailing dance yoga on the horizon line brianna randall

sunset at sea sailing ocean on the horizon line blog

Daily Routine at Sea

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sunset at sea sailing ocean on the horizon line blog

The last 33 days at sea seem lost in space. May evaporated like the spindrift from the waves we rode to the Marquesas. Where did those days go? What the hell did we do that whole time? Well, a lot of the same thing.

Mark Twain summed up passage life pretty well: “Being on a boat is like being in prison, but with the possibility of drowning.” We didn’t drown. We definitely lost track of days. And we mitigated the confinement jitters by sticking to daily routines that helped pass the time. Ironically, Rob and I both shun routines back home, preferring impulsive last-minute activities that change as often as the Montana weather in spring.

Out at sea, the routine — boring as it became — was what fended off madness, and allowed us to cope with seemingly endless quantities of time bobbing through the exact same scene. The upshot of making a 4,000 mile passage right off the bat, though, is that the upcoming sails between Pacific islands will feel like a walk in the park.

Here’s a snapshot of our version of groundhog day the past month:
0000 Connor knocks on our berth: “Bri, you’re up for watch.” I mumble and stumble out to trade places with him.
0200 My watch ends, after some yoga, star-gazing, sail-trimming, and storm-watching. I stay up til I get sleepy again, usually around 3:00am
0700 Daily “net,” a radio check-in with ~15 boats scattered over 2,000 miles. We share positions, make sure everyone’s ok, and brag about any fish caught.
0800 Oatmeal and tea. Maybe some granola if it’s the first week. Catching up on interesting night events, like flying fish landing on your pillow.
1000 Read. Or stretch. Or work on a mini-project, like baking bread, macrame anklets, personal grooming, sail repairs, changing fishing lures.
1200 Lunch, ranging from Top Ramen to crepes to three-bean salad.
1300 Naps. Reading. Maybe some guitar playing.
1400 Jumping jacks or yoga or dancing.
1500 Games organized by Gavin, like Scrabble or poker or hearts.
1600 Kids’ game time on the SSB radio. We gathered round to listen to nearby sailboat kids play Battleship, 20 Questions or Hangman. Good times.
1700 Pushups and lunges and situps. Maybe more jumping around.
1800 Dinner preparation: we perfected one-pot wonders onboard.
1900 Story time and stargazing in the cockpit.
2000 Rob’s watch starts, while I read or write.
2200 Rob comes to bed, and I try and nap for an hour or two before Connor comes to wake me … starting the whole cycle over again.

The routine didn’t change much, really. Interspersed at all hours were sail changes (which took up most of the day during the first 2 weeks before we hit the tradewinds), watching birds and flying fish and any visiting marine mammals (which disappeared week 3 and 4 for some reason), and reminiscing about our favorite foods that were currently way out of reach. I’ll write more about a few exceptional events that broke up this routine in upcoming posts.

When I write down here what we did all day, it suddenly sounds like a long, relaxing vacation. Reading, eating, playing games? It makes for a great Sunday. But when you stretch it out to 30+ Sundays with no real choice on ways to break the cycle … well, let’s just say Mark Twain knew what he was talking about.

The Pacific Puddle Jump

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Sailing

Baja 040About a month ago, we had over friends-of-friends for dinner.  Andy and Sandy spent 2.5 years cruising the Pacific a few years ago with their daughter.  They sailed from Seattle to Mexico to New Zealand, stopping at all those awesome South Pacific islands along the way.  We wanted their advice on our upcoming journey through similar islands.

Over risotto and grilled deer steaks, Andy said (about 22 times), “But what do you mean you’re FLYING to Tahiti?!  You’d miss the best adventure of all!”

He means crossing the Pacific Ocean by sailboat. An epic voyage.  Any way you slice it, it’s a long, long, LONG way from North America to the next tiny spit of land.  For sailors heading west from northern regions (Vancouver, San Fransisco, Seattle), the nearest island stop is Hawai’i.  If you sail west from southern latitudes like La Paz, Puerto Vallarta, or Panama City, boats usually head toward the Marquesas.  It takes roughly a month, give or take 10 days depending on wind, waves, your hull-speed, and your navigation skills.

Yup, a month.  At sea.  Across the largest ocean on Earth.  In a small vessel the size of your living room.

The Pacific Puddle Jump, as it’s called affectionately in the cruising community, is not usually the very first crossing people undertake.  Most people opt for an overnight passage at first to get their sea legs under them (and to test their proclivity toward sea-sickness).  Next, they might work up to a 3 or 4 night-long passage at sea — this gives folks the chance to learn how sail continuously through day and night, without stopping to anchor or dock.

Rob at the helmWhile Rob and I have spent over a week at a time living on a sailboat, we’ve never done an overnight passage.

After our dinner guests left, I told Rob that I’ve always wanted to cross the Pacific … probably because I remember the stories my dad told about his crossing from Maui to Santa Barbara, full of stars, whales, waves and life-changing ruminations.  And because I like challenges, and the roads less traveled.

Rob said, “Well, hell, if you’ve always wanted to do it, now’s the time.  Let’s buy a one-way ticket to Mexico and hitch a ride.”

So, we’re doing it.  What better way to start a new adventure than with a giant, flying leap across a big, sparkling puddle?

Watch out, Marquesas.  Here we come!

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