We are preparing to to set sail to the Philippines in a few days. Meals are cooked, cabin in stowed and we have a keen eye on the weather. But it is always a little difficult to prepare for passage because you’re never really sure what lies ahead.
As we ready ourselves for sea I thought I would post my notes from our passage from Kavieng to Palau. While underway I keep a daily dairy; a page of notes that sums up the events, conditions and feelings of the past 24 hours. If you want an idea about what being on passage is really like this should give it to you. These are not well-groomed or thought out notes, just reflections and reaction about the goings on as we are experiencing them. Here’s an excerpt:
“Dec 15, Day 8: We managed to sail all night, but the winds lightened up after midnight and things got wet before day break. Morning watch was a boisterous ride. Grey all day, just impenetrable walls of grey. Winds NW-NE 10-30kts. We have been able to sail a more westerly course between 275-300◦. Close hauled all morning, of course, but making 6-7kts. The winds were fickle for Steve, abruptly changing direction and turning off as if someone flicked a switch. I made a hot lunch of “Steve Famous Gumbo” from cans and leftovers in the fridge. Rains increased during the afternoon and I sat my watch reefing and furling, seeing the boat speed eek to 8kts. Soaked to the bone and cold by 1800 we were both happy to be putting some miles under the keel. Winds continued through Steve’s evening watch and the rains finally stopped, brighter skies and moon light for me! Cold still, foulies and fleece on tonight despite being at 3◦N. Hoping we have made enough ground north to find the NE trades and progress to Palau can be made in earnest. Dahl for dinner. Port window leaking onto the bunk. Everything feeling clammy after a week of hot bunking. No shower today. Fresh veggies finished.”
If you’re interested in reading the complete blow-by-blow of our 20 day passage you can find it HERE. Safe Sailing!
On the 21st morning of our passage I wake long before the alarm goes off for my 0600 watch. The early morning air is warm so I dress lightly in a short sleeve top and yoga pants then step out into the cockpit to check our position. Steve and I share a quick good morning snuggle behind the binnacle, silently enjoying the dawn light before doing our usual change of watch rundown of heading, speed, weather and interesting observations.
Our last night at sea was calm and as the full moon disappears into a beautiful peach sunrise we watch the light creep slowly across the sky revealing the outline of Hiva Oa, our first destination in the Marquesas. Three weeks of staring at waves, clouds and the wind, if that’s possible, make the island appear large and menacing before us. It heaves steeply out of the ocean, alone and sharp against the horizon, its tallest peaks mired in puffball clouds that seemed snagged on the rock itself.
There is an excitement on board, a sense of pride that we’ve almost completed what, to me once seemed an impossible passage. For months I wondered how we could possibly sail 3000NM, non-stop and all alone, across one of the largest stretches of uninterrupted ocean on the planet, the Pacific Ocean. When we first bought Kate, our 41’ sloop, three years ago, even considering our departure brought a litany of what if’s to mind. What if we were caught in a storm, what if we had a catastrophic mechanical failure, what if we had to abandon ship, what if there was an accident and one of us was badly injured, what if it was Steve. Would I have the skills to sail single-handed? Would I have the fortitude to carry on? The list of questions and scenarios were so overwhelming that some days all I could do was dismiss them, saving them for a time when I felt confident and strong. By the time we left Ilsa Isobela in the Galapagos I knew that this trip would be like every other, not 3000NM today but the next four hours that I am on watch and responsible to keep us on course and out of danger. A series of small event strung together by time, the grains of sand that cumulatively make a beach.