Friday, May 31, 2013

Getting our Butts Kicked from the Marquesas to the Tuamotos

On the 14th of May, we waved goodbye to the Marquesas and set out for the Tuamotos.  We had figured the trip would take between 3.5 to 4 days since it was just over 500 miles to the island of Kauehi, our intended destination.  The winds were predicted between 15-18 knots directly on the port beam (left, middle of the boat for you non-sailors).  While that’s a very fast sailing angle for us, it’s not optimal in ocean swells as the waves hit you directly on the side of the boat causing an uncomfortable rolling motion.  But that’s the prevailing wind direction most days, so what’s a sailor to do?  At some point you just have to GO!

So go we did and our first 8 hours were almost pleasant, even though the winds were higher than predicted.  We even had some very pleasant lighter winds right around dinner time – nice to be able to eat without holding on to something!  But after that it pretty much all went to hell in a hand basket.   Right after dark (of course) the winds picked up and overnight were in the 18-25 knot range.  When the wind is behind you that is a very comfortable ride – but unfortunately the wind was on our beam and with the waves building to about 15 feet it was like riding in a big nasty washing machine.  Nothing like pitching forward and back, rolling side to side, combined with a little shimmy, shimmy coco-puff thrown in for good measure.  I actually threw up for the first time in I don’t know how long – that’s how bad it was!

I’m sorry to report that is exactly how it continued for the rest of the trip.  Winds in the 18-30 knot range with about 12 to 16 foot seas on the beam.  It was impossible to move anywhere in the boat without holding on for dear life.  It was easily the worst trip we’ve had since coming down the Washington/Oregon coast last September.  Adding to the fun was that seawater was spraying into our cockpit about every 20 minutes, drenching everything and making it impossible to stay dry.  In our entire 20 day trip from Mexico to the Marquesas I think we got water in our cockpit about 5 or 6 times.  I’m here to tell you that wind angle is EVERYTHING when it comes to comfort.  

The second day out the wind shifted forward a bit, which means a lot more water on deck and with the seas that big the boat was flexing a ton.  We’ve been having issues with our forward hatch leaking when sailing to wind in rough seas, so with all that water on deck the hatch was pretty much a constant issue.  We did what we could to capture the leaks inside with buckets, but when you’re being tossed around like a bobbing cork it’s hard to keep water contained.  This trip was long enough and bad enough that the boat actually sprung all sorts of new leaks that we’d never had before – minor ones, but still a pain to deal with.  Suffice it to say we had a LOT of drying out to do upon our arrival in the Tuamotos.

Unfortunately we also got another small rip in our mainsail – so looks like we’ll have to fix that ourselves as there will be no sail lofts to repair it until we get to Tahiti in about a month.  Good thing I got all the supplies from Fisheries and North Sails before we left!

So after 72 hours of hell; sailing with a double reefed main, a handkerchief of headsail, through multiple squalls with the threat of lightning (one of my biggest fears) we finally arrived at the “pass” into the Atoll of Kauehi at the time of slack tide – the best time to enter – PHEW!  We got through our first “pass” with no issues (we’d picked an “easy” one for the first attempt) and motor-sailed the length of the island to the town before gratefully setting our hook and collapsing in a heap of complete exhaustion.

At this point I would like to know why all those books, articles and blogs about cruising we read before leaving never talked much about the bad stuff.  All they cover is the wonderful, the beautiful and the fantastic – no discomfort, no fear, and certainly no throwing up!  Is it because everyone wants to just believe in the DREAM of cruising?  That for the sake of dreaming we can’t introduce the actual FACTS of the experience?  

Well dear readers (few that you are!), I promise to give you the complete and unvarnished truth about OUR experiences.  I will write about the good AND the bad so that you will know the REAL story about cruising.  I’m sure that there will times you will be jealous and wish you were here with us, but there will also be times (like this) when you are SUPER glad to be sitting comfortably at home reading this post!  Either way, I guarantee you will get to vicariously experience the REALITY of this life with all its various ups AND downs – not just the high points with pretty pictures.  

So what goes down must come up, right?  After our 72 hours of hell we arrived in a place where it seems every picture perfect postcard of the South Pacific must have been photographed.  We were surrounded by white sandy beaches with palm trees swaying in the light breeze and perfectly clear turquoise water – unbelievably beautiful.  

After our worst passage months, we have finally found paradise.  


  1. I appreciate your honesty on the trip. After cruising ourselves, I know there are days you just have to endure. Glad that this is over and hope you continue in the future to have fair winds and following seas.

    S/V Changes

  2. Love the stories and pictures!