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PICTON TO THE MARSHALL ISLANDS, PACIFIC PASSAGE, LEG 1

 

 

 

As is usual we were kind of ready to go, but the lists are never finished.  We certainly were ready to go mentally.  We were back on board Sunstone and it was just as if we had been away for a few weeks (actually 14 months in the house) and were back 'at home'.

 

A cruisers life has three components.  Once on the go, repairing, fixing and jury-rigging become important.  Sailing is there of course.  The third component is about management - lists, planning and deadlines.  One must ensure that every one of over 1,000 items are on board:  food stores, spares for all the moving parts, medicines, clothes for the tropics and for the glaciers, sail repair kit, reading glasses, electrical wire, spare bulbs, plastic piping, water catcher, rags, plastic bags, gaffer tape, toothpaste, paper towels and more.  There are an amazing range of 'bits' that every cruising boat should carry.  At Day 13 we came up with one forgotten item.  Sunstone does not sport a shower so we wash in salt and used a garden weed-spray bottle to rinse off with fresh water.  The 'spritzer' was not on board!  We'll just have to use a small plastic bottle or a flannel.

 

Leaving on an extended trip is stressful in the last few weeks.  Drop the shore lines and you drop all the tension.  There is a glorious sense of relief in getting going.  It is too late for what's not done; you will have to make do with what you've got.  Now it is two people, one boat and a big ocean.

 

We settled into our watch routines very quickly having sailed so many ocean miles together.  At last count we have sailed 175,000 miles on board Sunstone.

 

A cruiser’s life is also about change.  Picton was the best departure point for our intended route.  First stop was to be Rarotonga, then Hawaii before the start of our Alaskan cruising from Kodiak Island.  As we ticked off the last few jobs in Waikawa Marina and worked on a few new ones – the new inverter failed as we sailed over from Nelson – the weather patterns in the south Pacific were not looking promising.  The wind predictions for a passage east then north-east to Raro showed fresh easterlies for days with little lows dropping down from Rarotonga.  Going to windward is one thing when racing, it is not that desirable when cruising!  We are definitely getting 'wimpish' in our older age.

 

So we changed our minds.  There are many different routes to find our way to Alaska.  We cleared out from Picton on 4 April and headed north.  Our change of plan was to head up the west coast of the North Island and then keep going north with stops in Funafuti, Tuvalu (2,000 miles), Majuro, Marshall Islands (1,000 miles) and Dutch Harbor (3,000 miles), somewhat to the west of Kodiak Island.  Tom did have to return to the house in Nelson to pick up some additional charts.  In any new harbour locals always seem to help.  Aaron, manager of Oddies Chandlery, drives over to Nelson every Wednesday to sail with Kevin in the Wednesday night series; Tom accompanied him in the ute.

 

Each day, moves to evening, moves to night – over and over.  By Day 12 the water temperature had risen from 20'C to 30'C.  Most people probably like that – on Sunstone we prefer the cooler conditions of the 30-30 latitudes – that is south and north of 30'.  Tropical sailing is not our thing – sweaty and hot with all the chocolate and cheese melting!  We have a very small fridge where immediate use food is kept.  The chocolate bar taken out for lunch has taken on some odd contortions after its melting antics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily highlights, or lowlights, are interruptions to the routines or it maybe just beautiful sailing.  On Day 5, Tom said after his one beer and supper swishing along at 6 knots on a beam reach in 10 knots of wind, "This is just gorgeous; amazing sailing."  That was before it got too hot.  On Day 7 we caught a big Mahi-Mahi.  It was over 1 metre long and fed us for days.  Vicky had to ring the changes after a bit, to cook a non-mahi supper.  But the fish was delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night sky on Day 12 provided an awesome exhibit - a full eclipse of the full moon.  We had a 'blood red moon' for 85 minutes.  The whole decline and re-appearance of the very bright moon took over an hour.  This was an amazing phenomenon to witness.  On the ocean the view is large, no hills, trees or buildings to interrupt the expanse of the big night sky.  It is quite understandable that our early ancestors gave some mystical story to such a special sight.

 

 

 

 

 

The change of plans continued.  Together we took the decision not to stop at Funafuti.  We have been there before (2010).  It is a very small crowded atoll only 2m above sea level.  The stop would have taken at least five days and we are on a mission to make the most of the short summer season in the far north.  We had enough of everything on board, including diesel for some motoring in light airs – so we decided to keep going. We kept going, but the sailing was not quite so amazing.  Unusually we had 10 days in the ITZC (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone).  This gave us buckets of rain, short-lived squalls, lighter head winds and a foul current.  That made for some slow daily runs and frustration on board Sunstone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At last after 24 days, 2,970 miles, we arrived – at Majuro in the Marshall Islands, at 07'N/171'E.  This is a small atoll supporting around 30,000 people.  Although it is an independent nation, the Marshalls have many links with the USA using American dollars as their currency.  There are twenty and more US cruisers 'hanging out' here;  it is usually typhoon-free.

 

We are topping up the food and beer supplies, diesel, water and propane.  And of course fixing all those little things that require maintenance or renewal.

 

The best part of the end of a long passage is a long, uninterrupted sleep.  We did NOT get that on the first night; it rained.  We have no water maker so we were up on deck collecting rain-water to top up the tanks.  With no shower it was also an opportunity to wash our very grimey bodies.  On Sunstone it is back to basics.  The second part of the sleep was very 'clean'!

 

The second leg is another 3,000 miles into the North Pacific to Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  It will get much colder and the sailing will be more challenging.  It's all about change.

 

 

Vicky and Tom Jackson, Sunstone, 3 May 2014

 

 

 

 

 

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