The Pacific Crossing
Mexico to the Marquesas
March 24, 2002
On this date, Final Straw left Paradise Village in Puerto Vallarta to cross the Pacific. Aboard was our crew of four, with good representation of both experience and strength. A crew of four is ideal on a long passage like this. It allows for shorter watches and an opportunity for rest and relaxation. Since someone needs to be "on watch" at all times, 24 hours per day, having four crew aboard means each person would be "on watch" for three hours and "off watch" for nine hours, two times per day! That makes life at sea pretty easy and a lot more fun.
Our crew for the crossing leg from Puerto Vallarta to the Marquesas consisted of the following:
So, needless to say, we had a really good team of four!
Final Straw underway in early stages
This leg of our trip is by far the longest. Itís 2800 miles! At one point, you find yourself completely out in the middle of nowhere, 1400 miles from land, which is the farthest point away from terra firma anywhere on the planet. Itís a long way from help! To keep in touch with the rest of the world, we used e-mail through the Winlink system and HF radio extensively. This allowed us to stay in contact with other cruisers, to obtain critical weather information and to update our boat position directly to the internet so friends and family knew where we were on a daily basis.
Nav Station - Control Central!
To help facilitate all of this, we joined The Pacific Seafarerís Net which meets every evening at 0330 UTC on 14.313 MHz. These dedicated hams volunteer their time to track the Pacific ocean crossings of small boats. Their invaluable contribution adds to the safety, security and comfort of an undertaking like this. We joined the roll call and gave them our position and additional information about course, speed and local weather observations each night. It became an enjoyable ritual to listen to the other check-ins and see how everyone did on their dayís run. The Net also provided a telephone patch service so we could actually talk home (for free, I might add) despite the fact we were thousands of miles out to sea! Below, is a copy of the map which shows the track of Final Strawís actual position as we crossed the Pacific. This appeared on the Pacific Seafarerís Net website and was available to anyone keeping up with our progress.
Final Straw's position from PSN website
Just a few comments about the chart above. The numbers represent the date we reported our position. The direction of the line shows our course heading. The length of each small line represents our relative speed. The breaks in data are the shorter legs on our passage where we were at sea less than 48 hours and didnít join the PSN roll call. The long lapses in time represent the time we were at island anchorageís. And the two data points up near Hawaii were data entry mistakes where someone transposed our South latitude to North latitude (a common mistake for Americans used to using northerly latitudes)!
During this leg, we had generally good weather and wonderful trade winds. There was an occasional squall. But nothing too serious.
What we did see often were incredible sunsets!
Another beautiful Pacific sunset
As we got closer to the equator, Terry and I were sharing a watch. We were laying back and just looking up at the stars. It was close to midnight and we were doing well over 7 knots on a beautifully clear night. The moon was just beginning to rise behind us. Off to starboard we could clearly see the Big Dipper. And, to port we saw, for the first time on our trip, the Southern Cross. I just had to play Crosby Stills & Nash on the stereo:
"Got out of town on a boat goin'
to Southern islands.
Sailing a reach before a followin' sea.
She was makin' for the trades on the outside,
And the downhill run to Papeete.
Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas.
We got eighty feet of waterline nicely making way."
"When you see the Southern Cross
for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
'Cause the truth you might be runnin' from is so small
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day."
How appropriate it was as we headed for the Marquesas on the same track they took years before when the song was written.
April 5th, 2002
We made it to the equator in twelve days. We crossed early this evening and recorded the ceremony on video. We paid homage to King Neptune for our safe journey so far and watched the GPS flip itís N to an S as we traveled from the Northern to Southern hemispheres across the imaginary line that separates the two.
GPS reading as we crossed the equator
Our 2800 mile passage was pretty fast thanks to some innovation by Terry and John to try using double headsails in the tradewinds coming off our starboard aft quarter. The idea was to tie a block at the end of the boom and use it to hold the spinnaker sheet outboard on the starboard side. On the port side, we poled out the jib in a standard wing ní wing configuration. For stability and to minimize roll, we triple reefed the mainsail. This combination worked spectacularly well and we had our best daily runs when we could use this configuration. Unfortunately, we paid for it one night when we were hit by a squall with all this sail area up. It naturally happened at 2:30 am and it took all hands on deck to get the big spinnaker down before something broke. Fortunately, we were successful!
Twin headsails on Final Straw
April 9, 2002
After 16 days and 23 hours at sea, we finally saw land! Ahead of us was beautifully green Hiva Oa!
To continue the adventure on to the Marquesas, click here!
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