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Murre’s Two Ocean Passages

November 6, 2011

One ocean passage is one thing, but three crossing allow for some comparison.   Here, then, is a summary of Murre’s Pacific voyaging with commentary on distances, daily runs, food and water consumption, sleep strategy, mechanical issues and the relative stresses of being alone at sea for a month at a time.

Returning to the Golden Gate Bridge

Returning to the Golden Gate Bridge

On November 11, 2012, Murre sailed under San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, completing a two-year, roughly 12,000 mile loop of the central and eastern Pacific that included reaches south and below the equator to islands of French Polynesia, then north to the Hawaiian Islands, and north again to Alaska. Each long jump was punctuated by many months island hopping whose collected mileage and experience is noteworthy but not explored in any depth here

Murre's Three Ocean Crossings of 2011 and 2012. Click for high resolution.

Murre’s Three Ocean Crossings of 2011 and 2012. Click for high resolution.

 

The chart to the right is a record of Murre’s daily noon positions while on passage. These positions were reported via Single Sideband radio to a non-profit, cruising resources organization out of New Zealand by the name of Pangolin and their yacht tracking tool called Yotreps. Those of you who were following Murre during her treks will recognize the chart’s format, but may not know that Yotreps does not maintain a permanent, historical record for the yachts it serves (it’s primary goal is to gather weather data). Thus, many thanks are due to my friend Kelton for saving to his home computer in Los Angeles a daily file of Murre’s Yotreps reports that he then, painstakingly compiling into one chart. The chart’s graphical differences (red dots, blue dots, and then blue lines) are a function of changes in Yotreps display strategies over the two years Murre was away. Click on the chart to enlarge; then click again for super-high resolution.

 

 

Into the Infinite Blue

First Leg: Mexico to French Polynesia, April 2011 

  • Dates: departed San Jose Del Cabo, Baja at 0645 on April 28, 2011; arrived Hiva Oa, Marquesas Islands at 1303 on May 23rd, 2011
  • Total Distance: 2757 nm
  • Days at Sea: 25.5
  • Average Miles per Day: 108
  • Best / Worst Mileage Day: 156 miles on May 22 due to moderate wind and strong west setting current / 18 miles on May 15 due to calms in the doldrums at 01.14N by 131.02W.
  • Weather: Though winds were generally light (avg. 10 knots over entire run), we were rarely becalmed, even in the doldrums where we spent only one night with sails furled.  The several squalls we encountered in the ITCZ were much more likely to be wet than windy.  Temperatures were consistently in the high seventies to low eighties.
  • Food Stores Taken/Consumed: I used the calorie counting method to ensure 45 days of food aboard, not including fresh fruits and vegetables taken on at the last moment.  I ate fresh almost exclusively for the first ten days and well over half of the non-perishable items remained aboard when we made Hiva Oa.  I generally ate three meals daily.  Breakfast was fresh fruit, as long as it lasted, and a bowl of granola in water (no fresh milk–powdered milk was used for coffee).  Lunch and dinner were often the same: tortillas with Mexican canned meats or beans, lentils with rice, or pasta were the favorites.  When cooking I usually made enough for several meals.  Murre carried a generous supply of snacks in two categories: roasted nuts and packaged cookies, both of which lasted the voyage, but just barely.  I caught several small Dorado in the doldrums and one good-sized Wahoo later on,  half of which was dried into jerky.
  • Water Taken / Consumed: Murre holds approximately 65 gallons of water distributed between a large and small  tank (40 gallons under starboard settee and 16 under the port) and several portable bottles.  I drew only from the large tank while on passage and was still drawing from it a week after arrival in Hiva Oa (at which point care in the consumption of water ceased).  Fresh water was reserved for drinking and cooking only.  I drank two litres of clear water per day and boiled approximately 16 ounces for coffee.  Water for cooking rice and pasta was usually a mix of half-fresh and half-salt water.  Salt water was used for all other needs: e.g. washing dishes, bathing.  This strategy meant I used approximately one gallon of fresh water per day.
  • Sleep: In order to maintain what I thought to be an adequate watch, I slept in one hour intervals at night and rarely napped during the day.  I frequently began sleeping soon after dark and stopped when the sun rose.  Sleep was materially interrupted (e.g. reef sail, change sail) less than once per night.
  • Engine Use: We motored for only four hours in the doldrums, ran the engine to top-off batteries three times and on multiple occasions to clear sea water from exhaust (see below).
  • Boat/Mechanical Problems: 1) The main lazy jack parted a few days out of Cabo leaving a five foot length of coated wire rope dangling from just above the spreaders.  Care was needed to avoid fouling the main halyard during the many sail adjustments in subsequent days; 2) Sea water backed into the engine via the exhaust hose causing the engine to start roughly.  Resolved by running engine daily and, later, by building in an elbow between engine and exhaust through hull with PVC.
  • Outside Contact: 1) Daily audio exchanges with SSB Radio Nets, most specifically the Pacific Puddle Jump Net, which was, at the time of our crossing, about five other boats headed from the States to French Polynesia and scattered over 1000 miles of sea.  2) Daily email exchanges with my wife and close friends, again via SSB Radio (Murre does not carry a satellite phone).  3) Daily emails to this weblog.
  • Other Traffic: Murre saw no large ships on this passage but four fishing trawlers were encountered north of the line, usually on a course that seemed to approach.  On one afternoon I woke to a helicopter hovering close over Murre, a tuna hunter attending a large, Mexican trawler just over the horizon.  We were overtaken by one sailboat in the last few days of the passage.
  • Health and Welfare: Other than a slight cold my first few days at sea (likely the result of worry), my only injury was a stubbed, very swollen, and probably fractured small toe.  This happened early in the passage and necessitated the wearing of deck shoes the remainder of the passage to immobilize the toe.  Psychological stresses on passage included “first timers” worry (anything could go wrong!) , Hurricane worry while we were above 10N and, in the final days, an emotional fatigue.  Many things contributed to the latter.  Probably chief among them was a lack of sleep.  While I never felt short of sleep, my one-hour-increment sleep strategy undoubtedly left me “REM deprived”.  This fatigue manifested itself as intense and often acted-out anger at Murre for her incessant, deep, uncontrollable, and uncomfortable rolling, a rolling that required I hang on at all times except when in my bunk.  I was also known to yell vigorously at the wind vane for small deviations from my desired course.  Also, Murre’s small space began to feel confining after a few weeks, especially given our downwind run and closed ports, which allowed no ventilation below.  Daily radio and email contacts combined with the utter novelty of the passage meant I never felt loneliness.
  • Biggest Fear: Hurricanes and Tropical Storms.  My end of April departure meant we would still be within reach of north Pacific hurricanes when the season began on May 15.  I remember well asking for weather routing advice from Baja guru Don Anderson via the SSB radio several days into the passage only to receive a longish, public lecture on the dangers my passage timing had put me in.  As it turned out, we did race one depression just above 10N that was gusting 35 knots, but it never got closer than 200 miles.  While in French Polynesia, I met many boats that had departed well after Murre.
  • Biggest Accomplishment: 1) Learning to change headsails and manage a jib pole in a sea way, also new to me.  The passage was usually down-wind in light airs, but we seemed to be switching between the jib and genoa or wearing frequently.  2) Just doing it!  This was my first long, solo passage aboard Murre–everything was new and exciting, and I spent most of the passage in a general state of jaw-dropping wonder–every cloud, every wave, every sunset, every flying fish, every squid and whale and dolphin and tropic bird filled me with intense delight.

A Fast Passage North

French Polynesia to Hawaii

  • Dates: departed Bora Bora, Society Islands at 1200 on September 28, 2011; arrived Hilo, Hawaii at 0837 on October 20, 2011
  • Total Distance: 2560 nm
  • Days at Sea: 21.5
  • Average Miles per Day: 119
  • Best / Worst Mileage Day: 147 miles on Oct 15 in light wind and a strong, favorable current / 68 miles in doldrums at 09.09N by 146.24W.
  • Weather: Generally light to moderate winds with the first two days of twenty knots on the nose being the strongest of the passage.  Doldrums were almost non-existent, but we picked up the ITCZ in 08N on Oct 12 and didn’t kick it until Oct 18 in 17N.
  • Food Stores Taken/Consumed: There was no method this time; I just filled all the lockers, jammed cans under the floor boards and even had two boxes of canned goods I couldn’t stow lashed onto the starboard settee.  Not sure why I thought I needed more food that the previous passage.  I barely ate my way through the food within arm’s reach.  One tactical change was to bring more canned “meals”–lentil stews, white bean stews, ravioli in the can, etc.  I didn’t enjoy cooking on the passage down and was often too tired to do it well; I rarely cooked on this passage. Two fishes were caught, one small Tuna and one large Dorado, half of which was cut into strips and jerked.
  • Water Taken / Consumed: No change from above except I was a tiny bit less regimented.  I checked the main tank upon arrival in Hilo and it appeared to be between a quarter and a third full.
  • Sleep: Same as above.  Though I never gave myself the night off, I did over sleep the alarm on several occasions but, given the ocean’s emptiness, without much sense of consequence.
  • Engine Use:  I motored for only two hours in the doldrums.  Ran the engine two other times to top off batteries and to ensure it would start.
  • Boat/Mechanical Problems: 1) One night I tore the main sail while attempting to remove some of the bunched sail from the reef clew.  Patched the three-inch tear with sail tape and all was well.  2) Our first two days out of Bora Bora were twenty knots on the nose, rough and wet.  Leaks developed in the toe rail at the bow and around the anchor windlass–to the tune of about two gallons a day.  Waves frequently came over the cabin top early on and made their way in via the companionway sliding hatch, which is not protected by a dodger or its own slide-hide.  The entire forepeak was soaked and much of the rest of the interior that first week.
  • Outside Contact: Same as above except no radio Net participation.
  • Other Traffic: We saw one fishing trawler on one night early in the passage and not one other vessel the rest of the way.
  • Health and Welfare: I experienced no physical problems, no injury or illness, on this passage and generally felt more relaxed than on the passage south.  The sense of awe remained but without the first-timer’s fear that anything could go wrong at any moment.  Our isolation was obvious and intense–we saw nothing but the one fishing trawler–but my reaction was not a sense of isolation but rather a sense of ownership.  The sea was mine; I would have resented seeing another vessel.   As the passage approached its last days, frustration reemerged.  I did a fair bit of yelling at the end.
  • Biggest Fear: 1) Hurricanes.  The odds were extremely low that a north pacific storm was going to make it all the way to our longitude (only one storm had traveled that far west all year).  2) My route.   It was not at all unprecedented (Cook did it–Jimmy Cornell recommends it), but unlike Mexico to the Marquesas, which hosted some 300 boats this year alone, the Societies to Hawaii is an unusual route.  I was alone.  And it was upwind all the way.  Sailing downwind is like falling–you just have to let go–but upwind requires some work.
  • Biggest Accomplishment: 1) I finally got to practice celestial navigation, sun shots in particular, for days on end and now feel capable of wayfinding with a sextant.  Not professional, but capable.  2) Just doing it!  This lost none of its charm, and I felt a Thoreau-like rapture much of the time.
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2 Comments
  1. Connor Dibble permalink
    November 16, 2011 9:41 pm

    Hi Randall,

    I’ve been following your blog and really appreciate your story-telling and the information you include. It’s been great reading. I’m another Mariner 31 owner out of Berkeley, CA and am leaving for a Pacific crossing in a few months. I noticed you have some rather nice looking storm windows on Murre and I wondered if you might share your method for building them. Let me know if you’ve got the time. Also, if you make it back to the Bay before February, I’d love to meet you and Murre. Take care.

    Cheers,

    Connor
    s/v Ardea

  2. November 19, 2011 1:59 am

    Connor,

    Greetings. Thanks for the compliment on the storm windows, but I fear if you saw them, you would not think them so neat and tidy. This was the effect of making them dockside in La Paz.

    Simple to knock up: 1) 3/8ths plexi (no lexan that I could find in La Paz) cut to the size of the OUTSIDE diameter of the windows frames. 2) 3/8ths ply cut to the inside and outside diameter of the window frames to form a ring or donut. The purpose of the ply was to act as a shock absorber against the unlikely event of a really big wave flexing the ply and popping the windows. The plexi was easy to cut with the standard blades of a jib saw.

    The donut of ply was a mistake. It captured and held water giving the view through the effect of an aquarium. Mid passage to the Marquesas, I disassembled and cut away the bottom section of ply so the water would drain. Still, the untreated wood got and stayed wet. The windows sweated–the wood grew mould, etc.

    Here in Kauai I have removed all again and cut small rings of plexi from the leftovers to act as the washer between plexi and window.

    Hope that helps.

    We have hit no wave nearly big enough to call for storm windows. Still, it is nice to know that problem is solved, at least.

    Have a great passage in Ardea!

    RR

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