Day 10. Halfway to Landfall!

1250 miles done, 1250 miles to go!! We are seriously in the middle of nowhere!

Around April 28-29, we hope to catch our first sight of land: Ducie Atoll, an uninhabited island.

Ducie Atoll is a low lying atoll encircling a lagoon, the easternmost island of the UK protectorate “Pitcairn Island Group”. To the east about 1000nm is Easter Island, the only inhabited island towards South America. To the west about 300nm is Pitcairn Island itself, with population 50. Another 300nm after that to the west is Gambier, which is in French Polynesia.

I sit in the cockpit at midnight of my 9-1pm shift. The boat is sailing beautifully in the 10knot breeze mostly from behind (130 degrees on port). The breeze curls around our cockpit windows, zipped shut during nighttime for the chill, and caresses the inside of our cockpit like an open air Balinese bungalow. Aldebaran’s wake gurgles with surprising volume, like a rhythmic fountain. At this speed, the boat pulsates and shudders from the waves like it might happily do so for eons.

It’s almost bittersweet that this amazing passage is now on the second half… like this magical sail will come to an end too soon. Or perhaps we’ll reconsider by day 20 of eating cabbage, and we’ll be ready for a change !

0900hrs. April 19, 2017.
S 15 02 W 108 00
Last 24hrs 126nm. Av Sp 5.1 kts. Max 9.5kts.

Current: SOG 4kts COG 200 wind NE 8kts

Day 9. Possibly first ever Solar Array Installed mid Pacific!

Like a slow motion roller coaster, the boat was rising and falling all day long over big, gentle swells from the south, produced by the storm near Gambier.

Michael was steering the graveyard shift (1-5am) when the wind picked up to 16knots. We had the mainsail up, and the boat started squirreling down swell 9kts with a wild motion. Sabrina and I rallied 2:30am to drop the mainsail – which at least is easy to bring down. Still exciting to clip into harnesses on deck in the wee hours!

After that we just cruised under headsail in the dreamy constancy of the trades, making great progress (we’re doing 125-150 nautical miles per day, basically 5-6knot average).

The only worry at hand was finishing our solar panels to get some juice into the batteries… and today {Drum Roll} was the Grand Unveiling!

At high noon on our 9th day at sea, we did our “ribbon-cutting” ceremony. This was a special moment. After all, how many solar arrays have been installed from start to finish in the ocean between Galapagos and French Polynesia?

For the Grand Unveiling, Kristian and Michael watched intently the Power Monitor down below, while Sabrina held blankets covering the new panels (to keep them “off”).

“Ok it [our solar production] has been hovering around 12-15amps with the old solar panels.”

“There’s a few clouds but it’s pretty sunny. Let’s turn off the fridge to get a good reading.”

“Ok go for it!”

Sabrina whisked off the blue Mexican blankets from the cockpit roof, exposing the gleeming new photovoltaics. Cries of delight were heard from down below.

“Whoa the total system is now 25amps!”

“31 amps!!”

“No wait – it went as high as 36 amps!!!!”

This was better than we even expected — flexible panels producing this much? In combination with the old array, now we can produce theoretically as much energy as the diesel engine’s alternator – during peak sunshine without sails shadowing.

In all, it took us about 30hrs of work in the bumpy ocean – similar conditions to being in a constant, gentle earthquake – to get all the panels, wiring, fuses, breakers, and charge controller installed. Aldebaran’s new Solar Era was well earned!

Neptune the God of the sea added to the festivities with a steady, fresh breeze all afternoon. We turned the boat over to our fifth crew member – the autopilot “Ziggy” – and just simply enjoyed the ride. Aldebaran barreled along under her trusty blue headsail at a sustained 8knots to the SW, with the 18knot ESE breeze powering her.

We marveled at the wind and sun, our powerful companions. One day, we thought, we’ll relearn as humans to live in happiness with the wind and sun, for transportation and comfort, even if that means simplicity and sharing become an integral part of our ethos – as they are on the boat.

PS. I have Brad Johnson at Sojourn Marine in Ventura, California to thank for teaching me how to install a solar array – by letting me be his assistant during the installation of our rail mounted solar panels in Feb 2015. Cheers Brad!

S 13 43.807 W 106 22.798
Trip 57nm (12hrs overnight)
Odometer 1259nm
Av Sp 4.7kts Max Sp 8.8kts

Current: SOG 5.7kts COG 244 Wind ESE 9kts


Gambier storm tactic… Coco de Mer

I introduced you to our friends on the catamaran Coco de Mer, on a recent post. While enroute from Easter Island to Gambier (1000nm), they copped an early season storm on their path.

Here’s Coco de Mer’s experience from their satellite updates (also see

“Yesterday was a very relaxing day… we have all heard of the calm before the storm, well we got to experience it… glass and smooth is the best way to describe the ocean state. Coco’s wake was the only ripple in the ocean. ”

After getting becalmed somewhere east of Pitcairn, they got flying with strong East winds, heading west to Gambier.

“So we have been strategizing because a low pressure system is moving through to our south which will throw some wind and waves our way. Really starting tomorrow mid day we expect to see some effect of this. Current weather models show it about 250 miles south of us, so quite a ways. It’s going to make for a rough ride never the less and we are watching it closely.”

The wind then clocked from the East to strong North before eventually switching to due West- which was the direction they were going.

“We have been bashing the front of our Boat into waves all night and taking a royal shaking up. We were able to sail until around 3am then the wind shifted hard directly opposite where we would prefer to go, Gambier. So being as how we are needing to arrive by end of day Saturday, we have been motoring since then. Our data shows we got the same conditions here for the next 24 hours then maybe a small improvement as the winds start to shift south.”

Coco de Mer passed very close to Pitcairn but elected not to stop, instead proceeding direct to the more protected waters of Gambier, in anticipation of the next front coming.

“Well our 24 hour hell period just ended and literally was exactly 24 hours starting at 3am yesterday and ending promptly at 3am today. Presently we have excellent conditions of calm seas and 15kts of sailable wind.”

“Yesterday was probably the roughest ride I have ever had on board Coco. We were taking a disorganized 10-15 foot waves on the bow direct hits. Wind was on the bow direct at about 28-30kts. And we are totally shaken up and tired of motoring.”

“We all were lethargic all day, deciding not to endure the difficult task of standing or walking. Despite this a few among us must have wanted some exercise as there were some sprints made to the rail of the boat followed by some intense abdominal exercises. The men of coco are close to our 6 pack abs. ”

After the worse of it passed, the weather moderated and Coco de Mer motored into Gambier.

“The men of coco are officially anchored in Gambier among 11 other boats. The islands are gorgeous we are surrounded by about 7 that rise sharply out of the water. They feel deserted compared to Galapagos and Rapa Nui. We are tucked in nice and snug behind a reef to get ready for the big winds coming in tomorrow for a few days.”

The third front was coming soon and Coco de Mer was in the waters of the lagoon safely, we were glad to hear… they now get a well earned rest!

We have about 5 other cruiser friends we met in Galapagos whom we communicate with daily via satellite – checking in, giving condition updates & current position and most of all providing moral support as we all traverse the Pacific. Reading these emails aloud over 4pm tea time has been a favorite ritual of ours.

Day 8. 1000 Miles for Master Mariner MacRae

By Sabrina
Today marked an important milestone in Spencer’s life! He became “Master Mariner MacRae”, whom I now respectfully refer to as M-cubed; and simultaneously hold up his special ‘gang’ sign shown with my three central fingers “M” and flicking my wrist 90 degrees three times.

The occasion: he completed today his “sea time” of 1,000 nautical miles of continuous sailing, which entitles him to be an illustrious instructor of blue water sailing! (We departed Galapagos 1000nm ago.)

Presiding over the important ceremony was the Pirate King of the South Seas (ie. Kristian’s alter ego). Per the “code of the Equator”, the Pirate King ordered Spencer to crawl around the deck on hands and knees. Like a good mariner, no squabbles were had with the Pirate King’s word, so he donned his life jacket, clipped in to the safety jack line, and began his crawl across the rough “Galapagos grit” deck, scrapping some skin off his knees.

En route, he came across a large flying fish on deck, which he jovially picked up with his bare mouth and clenched between his teeth. It was hilarious, but I believe he immediately regretted it! The ceremony ended with a celebratory shot of rum, and henceforth, all now acknowledge Spence as “Master Mariner MacRae”

Spencer needed to add a few clarifying points to my report of the events…

“So, in order to obtain the American Sailing Associations Offshore Passage Making Instructor credential, a candidate applying must have skippered and crewed on a passage no less than 1,000nm continuous in addition to a plethora of other qualifications and the approval of the ASA Board of Directors.

A huge moment for me as this is the highest level of instructor rating, short of becoming an Instructor Evaluator. I am always attempting to up my captain’s license rating and teaching credentials.

This voyage aboard Aldebaran is expediting my dreams and aspirations.

Sooooo STOKED!!!

9am. April 17, 2017
S 12 20 W 104 37
ODO 1128nm, distance last 24hrs 128nm. Distance to Ducie: 1360nm. Wind 13-15kts ESE, SOG 5.9kts COG 230


By Sabrina

Like a winter day that undresses the leaves from the trees, we had a similar situation with the swell and our Banana stalk.

Each wave that passed grabbed a banana loose as it slapped our hull. At first it seemed rhythmic and slow, but then the bananas must have lost their support and the rate at which they fell seemed to increase exponentially until all that remained was a bare stalk with two lone soldiers.

Below, strewn across the starboard bench and cabin flour, lay a heaping pile of fallen bananas. There were 75 and we were completely taken aback by the absurdity of it all. It was a mushy crime scene! We were bent over laughing, bracing ourselves, with legs crossed trying not to pee and tears rolling down our cheek. One glance at the mess and we’d start right back up again, incapacitated by deep guttural laughter.

Surely, we’ve gone delirious.. It’s day 8 with at least 2 weeks remaining. With only 4 crew and 75 very ripe bananas to be consumed, the one pervading thought we all shared – “Who wants a banana?”

Time to clean up this Banavalanche mess and start getting creative with banana recipes.

Our buddies on Coco de Mer catamaran, who just arrived after bashing their way to Gambier, also noted:

“You know you’re a sailor when…

You have an important quota of eating 5 bananas a day because we brought 80 and they all stopped being green at the same time and will be rotten tomorrow.”

Perhaps this is where the superstition with bananas came from…!

Day 7. “Boatyard of the Pacific”

Seven days down, 14 left to go to reach land, more or less!

This marked the longest time we’ve been at sea on Aldebaran. It also meant we were on the cusp of an “Energy Crisis”.

“We need more power,” I told Spencer. “Our batteries are super low.”

“They’re just below 12volts… we need to shut off electronics and lights to save power for the fridge.”

We don’t want our food spoiling! There’s been a moratorium on fan use (they are power hungry). Now stricter measures were required to preserve our ship’s battery (and fridge’s) health..

Aldebaran has four solar panels on our rails, as you may know – but the system can’t quite keep up with our energy use, typically lasting only about 5-7 days before the batteries become depleted (depending on how hot the weather is).

This time is halved if it’s cloudy; all this assuming the boat is fully crewed, which takes more power. In addition, when we are sailing all day long, the sails also create a significant amount of shade on the panels, and voila, we run short on power.

Hence the effort to install a new solar panel array on the cockpit roof !! This is a project we started on day 2 of this voyage and have been chipping away ever since, making great progress in the last few days despite the precarious work conditions…

We started calling it the “Boatyard of the Pacific”. To work on the roof area under sail, in the middle of the bumpy ocean, as you can imagine, is tricky… so we started running a course downwind during “work sessions” so the ride became smoother. We’d alter course from 230 to 260 degrees which means we’re going down swell.

“Huh… this is pretty much the bearing to Marquesas,” Sabrina noted. “No wonder everyone is going that way, it’s so nice!” We called it our comfort heading.

It’s still the open ocean though, so it’s a true ab workout to be caulking and bolting panels atop deck. Then later wiring the the panels belo decks began to test Captain K’s resistance ro queeziness down below… not to mention testing the crew’s patience in dealing with the clutter of electrical parts strewn about.

Per the protocol of “4pm tea time”, we take a break on productive activities. This day we had a special treat: a cargo ship called “Sea Cross” was going by, 11nm behind us.

It was Spencer’s turn for using the VHF for a good “chat” with the fellow at the helm, who sounded Persian. They had left Los Angeles 7 days prior and were heading around Cape Horn to reach Brazil in early May. This we found most intriguing (not going via the Panama Canal) but they would only say they carried “general cargo”…

9am. Sunday, April 16, 2017
S 11•02 W 102•55
COG 229 / SOG 5.6kts
Distance to Ducie 1478nm (300nm further to Pitcairn).

Rain fronts near Pitcairn

Although we are smack in the middle of the trade winds, cruising without too much short term concern, we have an eye out for down the road… namely, our first destinations of Ducie, Pitcairn, and Gambier, which are at fairly far latitudes to the south (~25 degrees S).

Turns out some early season fronts (early April) are making it tricky to visit these places. Here’s what we’ve heard so far:

Our friends on the catamaran Coco de Mer, from North Carolina, did a fast passage to Easter Island, and then just yesterday were getting their butts kicked by a storm near Pitcairn, on their way to Gambier.

We’ve been getting their daily reports by satellite; as well as another boat called Stella Polaris, with a Norwegian crew, who opted to backtrack north for two days to avoid the bad weather. They were waiting for a weather window to shoot towards Gambier, which is the southeastern most archipelago of French Polynesia.

It’s troubling to see there’s been early season fronts with strong winds and stormy seas moving through the area of Pitcairn and Gambier. These places are often affected by the low pressures from the roaring 40s especially in June-August (their “winter”) but unfortunately the autumn has got a head start on the storminess…

I believe you can read Coco de Mer’s updates on – they battled some westerly winds and 10 foot seas with the front, and made it to Gambier yesterday fairly frazzled. Stella Polaris is just now sailing west towards Gambier with north winds, about to weave between two fronts and then get big seas from the south. Not an enviable situation.

Also to our east 300 miles is a catamaran called Pakia Tea (second word is pronounced “Teh-Ah”) with an Austrian couple, they are tentatively bound for Easter Island. All three of these boats we met in Galapagos and have young crews in their 30s/40s, which is the minority in the cruising community.. now we are all heading to the same region so staying in close communication.

It is great to have this impromptu community of friends underway, to share our positions with one another on a daily basis for safety — and also for encouragement that we’re not all alone out here!

We are intent on our plans to visit Pitcairn and reach Gambier but the priority is for crossing the Pacific safely, so we’ll be keeping a sharp eye on the weather (and experiences of our friends).

The optimal scenario is that during our approach in 2 weeks time, around April 27, the low pressures will stay further south (as they should this time of year!) and we’ll be able to safely navigate into that region with the reliable south-easterly winds. We hope not have to change our plans, if these fronts keep brewing…

Photo: shows the current rain band moving across a big area of the Pacific, and converging wind barbs around Pitcairn which will produce very rough seas. This is a screenshot from our Open CPN navigation software, you can download your own weather charts at and put our ship’s lat/long position with their route tool.

Day 6. Good living in the high seas

By Michael Payne (Ideally read in a British accent)

Happy Easter everyone!

Once upon a time I had a dream. We all have dreams but few get realized. Mine was one day to find myself on a small sailboat in a far distant corner of the planet. Away from the trials and tribulations of daily life, the absurdity of the political scene, the siren call of the internet……simply gone. And here I am in the middle of the Pacific, hundreds of miles from anywhere, sailing thousands of miles to the South Seas. With wonderful companions allowing me to join them on their trimaran my dream is becoming realized. The rewards include witnessing the simple magnificence of the sun setting over the water horizon and at the same moment watching the full moon rise rise over the opposite horizon.

Another reward, surprisingly, has been the food. Anyone thinking that life on the high seas is roughing it (on the culinary front) could not be more wrong. Just this morning we breakfasted on crepes, fresh lime juice and sugar; for the sweeter pallette there was Nutella and jams. To drink? Banana granola smoothie! That was just breakfast; and with dinners of green bean ravioli, the most amazing squash soup ever, Bonita (freshly caught) burgers, Spencer’s steamed green peppers stuffed with chorizo sausage and a black bean-corn filling.

Did I mention daily helpings of avocado, pineapple, plantains and more bananas (we do have a tree and they’re ripening at once). Sandwiches for lunch include whole wheat bread, ham, spinach, cheeses, eggs, lemon pepper … it’s all positively gourmet.

To top it all off, Sabrina somehow concocted a banana crumble cake just using the stove top, and she froze icecubes of boat -made natural yorgurt to make a most extraordinary dessert. We may well be in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific but we’re eating extremely well, which makes the experience all the more remarkable.

Sailing-wise, the wind has been consistent to the point of being uncanny. For the last 48hrs we’ve been powered solely by the big blue headsail, and there has been no sail changes, just delightfully fast steering. Our Garmin unit reports we’ve been averaging 6kts with this sail alone, making 144 nautical miles per day, as we plunge deeper into the Pacific.

9am. Friday, April 14,2017
S 08•25 W 099•22
COG 226 / SOG 6.1kts
Distance to Ducie 1767nm (300nm further to Pitcairn). Odometer: 734nm.

Day 5. Boob Fish

By Sabrina. We were sailing fast at 7-9 knots, flying along the wave crests. The wind and swells are always on our port side, and occasionally splash into the boat..

Besides the white caps, only one thing disturbs the water surface: flying fish. All day long, we see them fly out of the water in swarms (or is it flocks?) of up to twenty fish at once, flapping their little wings, barely skimming the surface. This is their escape tactic to get away from predators.

The waves were building and wind speeds were just above 20 knots. I turned off autopilot to manually steer us and surf the side swiping swells. I was very focused on steering when out of nowhere, something came flying into the cockpit, clear over Spencer’s head, and nailed me square in the left breast. I screamed! I had been boobed by a flying fish!

It bounced onto the cockpit bench and lay there. I laughed infectiously, gasping with tears running down my cheeks. This fish was a big one too, almost 5 inches!

The boys joked that the boob fish could now die and go to heaven. Of all its life at sea, it suddenly found itself in a hard place surrounded by huge humans. At least it had bumped into a titty. His friends won’t believe him! Kristian threw the stunned fish back overboard.

Later on deck we found 7 more flying fish of various sizes wedged between surfboards, ontop our skiff, and other unexpected places. You’d first see the gooey blue scales and investigate more closely to find the fish stuck in some corner of our deck. It was like an Easter egg hunt – except instead of plastic eggs filled with candy we got to search for little fish. Happy Fishy Easter!

We even found two squid smothered on the deck, which brought back memories of our first year off Puerto Vallarta when I got struck by a flying squid on the back of the head during dinnertime. It’s ironic they always find me – the littlest one of all possible targets to get hit..!

We never bothered to raise our mainsail all day, the wind was steady 15-20knots, just behind our port beam, and the big blue headsail galloped us along. It was a magical initiation to the power of the trade winds – and the sea creatures we are sharing it with 🙂

9am. Friday, April 14, 2017
Distance to Ducie Atoll: 1767nm
Distance traveled in last 24hrs: 144nm (sailing) Average speed 6kts

Current conditions.
SOG: 6.1 knots COG: 226deg Wind: 13 knots ESE

S 08 25.737
W 099 22.386

Current position…

Day 4. The Trades

We had passed the “curtain of Mordor”, leaving a thick band of dark cloud to our stern… it was the boundary of the ITCZ, at 6 degrees South. Without a threat of a squall at any minute, we enjoyed our French toast with pineapple and boat-made yogurt.

Meanwhile, the winds settled into a vigorous 15knot average from ESE… perfect! Aldebaran was now finding her stride, going SW at a consistent 7-8knots.

The lumpy seas of the ITCZ still lingered, but our trimaran pounded along gleefully, as we were unwilling to slow her down. It was gorgeous sailing, we didn’t want to hamper Aldebaran’s enthusiasm. But the crew on the highside of the cockpit paid consequences with a few soakings of white water.

“Ahoy, a fishing float!” cried Spencer. This was of significant interest, something to look at in the great expanse. More surprises emerged. “Whoa, there’s a sea turtle,” he noticed an hour later during his morning watch.

Then at 1130hrs, the most unexpected: “Cargo ship, 2o’clock!” We could hardly believe it but our AIS showed we would come within two miles of the ‘BBC Scandinavia’.

“Can we say hi?” Michael asked. Next thing we know he’s on the VHF with the helmsperson on the cargo ship, ‘having a good chat’.

“You having any trouble?” Asked the ship’s helmsperson, who sounded Eastern European. We called him Ivan.

“No, we’re just calling to be friendly,” Michael responded. “Are you glad we called?”

“Well sure, not much else going on out here,” said Ivan. “Where I’d like to be is on your sailing yacht, I’d like to do that someday.”

“Is that so?” Michael said. “After spending so much time working on the ocean, you’d like to travel by boat for fun?”

“Well sure, it’s a nice place out here.”

And so it is. The ships passed each other under the blue skies and puffy clouds of the trades. The bigger one was going to Peru, originating in South Korea. The little one was headed to French Polynesia, originating in California. We met for a brief instant in the great Pacific.

We sped all day long at an average of 7.2 knots, reaching a big milestone: there’s now less than 2000 miles to go! We’ve already gone 1/5 of the way, 500 miles. Even more significant, we crossed this imaginary point precisely during Michael’s tea time at 4pm, which pleased him to no end.

To slow down the boat for night time comfort and safety, before sunset we dropped the mainsail. This also gives it a much needed break from chafing on the aft lower shrouds, where it is rubbing whenever we are doing a beam to broad reach (wind at 90 degrees or more). The big blue reacher headsail is now pulling us along on its own, at a more relaxed 5.5 knots.

I write this from my graveyard shift at 3:30am, the wind has eased a tad, and the headsail is yawning and full. It is framed by the full moon above and Jupiter to the west. The moon glitter on the sea is occasionally softened by passing clouds, which float along like passing ships in the sky.

9am. Thursday, April 13, 2017
Distance to Ducie Atoll: 1907nm
Distance traveled in last 24hrs: 143nm (sailing) Average speed 6kts

Current conditions.
SOG: 6.8 knots COG: 232deg Wind: 13 knots ESE

S 07 12.534
W 097 19.603

Current position…

Day 3. Crossing the ITCZ

A light breeze from ENE started on the morning of our third day at sea. At 7am for the first time we hoisted the blue reacher headsail and mainsail, and start plodding along at 4knots.

We celebrated the quiet of the wind in our sails with a hearty breakfast of fingerling potatoes, scrambled eggs, and banana/blackberry smoothie…thanks to frozen pulp in our little freezer.

We were not yet in the trade winds, however. The wind proved fickle, and grey blooming clouds up ahead reminded us: we need to first cross the ITCZ.

The ITCZ is the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone, the equatorial region between the northern and southern trade wind belts, with disturbed weather and inconsistent winds. The ITCZ is known for a predominance of squalls and confused seas.

Our logbook became filled with entries as we dealt with the variable conditions. – 1400 hrs. Wind dies after passing rainshower, motor for 30min.
– 1500hrs. Angry squall comes thru with reefed main, 20knots of wind, moderate rain, lasts 25 minutes – 1600hrs. Tea time. Even the ITCZ doesn’t stop Michael!

During dinner we get a lucky break: the wind is a lovely 11 knots, and we enjoy our Ravioli with green beans and avocado cream sauce along with a glass of chilled white wine. Then the lumpy seas return, slapping the hulls violently all night, bringing the crew up to the cockpit more than once, wondering if we have collided with something.. smack smack! Michael said it was akin to being inside a drum getting beat at irregular intervals. Not a great sleeping environment!

Spencer tackles the 9pm-1am night shift, with a reported 10 course changes. Sabrina does 1-5am, then Kristian is on 5-9am, with Michael “on training”.

As dawn breaks, we count six distinct squalls – ie. dark clouds with sheets of rain – surrounding us in every direction. The wind varies between 7-20 knots, swinging from NE-SE direction, always strengthening as a rainshower approaches. Our cockpit windows are zipped up and we are dry and cozy inside. The blue reacher sail handles all the gusts, occasionally sending Aldebaran galloping at 9 knots. We are lucky not to make too many sail changes, just reefing the main once.

Then at 7:45am, as if we went over a geographical boundary, like the backside of a mountain pass where the clouds can no longer form, the full moon peaked out from the clouds for the first time, and blue sky appeared ahead. Behind us, like the curtain of Mordor, was a line of darkness, impressively distinct. Ahead of us, friendly puffy clouds scattered the horizon. It was cartoon-like in precision, I could imagine a highway sign behind us pointing to “ITCZ” and another ahead of us pointing “Trade Winds”. Could this really be?

We had walked through the Earth’s doorway, arguably the real “Equator”, the centerline of her belly which groans lightly… stuck between the freshness of her NE and SE tropical trade winds.

9am. Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Distance to Ducie Atoll: 2049 nautical miles
Distance traveled in last 24hrs: 118 miles (sailing) average speed 4.9knots.

Current conditions.
SOG: 6 knots under sail COG: 233 deg Wind: 10 knots ESE

Location: S 05 49.793 W 095 25.047

Current position…

Consellations and Wind Vibrations

By Spencer

The giant upside down question mark of the sparkling constellation Scorpio dazzled the night sky. Sabrina and I gazed aloft the cabin top, watching the masthead dance circles around the full moon high overhead. We wondered what celestial beauty was in store for us in the coming weeks when the great lunar light would shut off for the rebirth of a new moon cycle and the Milky Way would engulf the night sky showing unimaginable amounts of celestial bodies.

Looking for bioluminescence below and birds aloft we feel the beginning of a breeze which at dawn of day three would finally fill our sails for the first time and with fingers crossed will keep us sailing all the way to our South Pacific destination.

Complete with big smiles and high morale the crew aboard the Sailing Trimaran Aldebaran is currently sailing through salubrious weather on a broad reach at 6 knots. With the edge of the trade winds close by, and hundreds… I mean thousands of miles (!) of ocean ahead, we are very excited for this next chapter of our voyage without the use of the beloved Mr. Isuzu.

Hook to Fork: Bonito Burgers

6am. The night sky glowed with the oncoming sunrise. I let out the fishing reels – ie. our trolling rigs, with a newly secured lure. (The day prior we lost a lure to a very large fish who nearly unspooled our entire reel in the chase; the 30pound test monofilament snapped after a jerk and the beast disappeared into the depths of the blue without ever being seen.)

I was still on shift at 7:30am, motoring the boat into the wind-less expanse when the sweet sound of a zipping line unspooling awoke the rest of the crew. No better way to wake up right? FISH ON! I immediately slowed the throttle down to ease the drag, then jumped out of the cockpit to attend the unspooling reel.

A few hard quick yanks on the rod ensures the hook is set, and the fight can begin. Spencer took to the other rod and reeled in the slackening line. I reeled my line frantically keeping steady tension while Kristian guided the fish into the fishing net. SUCCESS! By 8am we landed ourselves a beautiful sweet bonito!

We gave thanks to the fish for the gift of his life, and then immediately began filleting him on the back deck under the hot sun. By 0830 we had nice filets stored in our small dorm sized fridge.

Bonito is not my favorite fish – it can be quite ‘fishy’ tasting due to its bloody meat. But we have learned that if you bleed the fish immediately, it can dramatically improve how it tastes. Further, my cousin Sophie who joined us last year for a couple months introduced us to Bonito burgers which has morphed my upturned lip into a delightful smile when seeing a Bonito knowing a delicious meal awaits us!

That night we had an amazing dinner: Bonito Burgers crusted with toasted sesame seeds and adorned with boat-made avocado ranch aioli. To top it all off, Michael brought out a box of chilled red wine (tropical style = with ice cubes!) which gave this middle of Pacific meal a serious “moan of approval”. (Recipe below for Bonito Burgers and Avocado Aioli)

Bonito Burgers:

Minced bonito (or other “red” fish)
2 Shredded carrots
1 diced onions
equal parts yogurt & bread crumbs
Diced fresh parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sesame seeds (optional) for dipping patties
Coconut Oil for cooking patties

Mix ingredients together, add more yogurt or breadcrumbs to get mixture to stick together. Form into patties, then dip patties into a plate of sesame seeds on both sides. Fry on medium heat with coconut oil. Serve ontop of toasted buns. Avocado Aioli:

1 ripe avocado, mashed
1 c buttermilk (we substitue with 1c milk & citrus/lime)
1/4 c mayo
1/4 c sourcream (we subtitute with plain yogurt)
1 small garlic clove, pressed
2 Tbsp Hot sauce
Chili pepper diced
2 Tbsp minced shallots
4 tsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in refrigerator. Great as salad dressing, on Bonito Burger, even as a pasta sauce!

Day 2. Installing Solar Panels

As if on cue with the sunrise, light puffs of breeze began from the south-east. It was the end of our second day of motoring in glassy seas with barely a breath of wind. Was this just a teaser, or were these the trade winds finally?

I didn’t mind yesterday’s smooth calm, as I wanted to install our new solar panels. We had purchased five semi-flexible 100watt panels for our cockpit roof in March. (They are Sunpower panels, sold by Windynation in Ventura). Our friends Jesse and Anna brought them from the US when they visited us in the Galapagos. They packed them inside a bodyboard travel bag. Total legends!!

We had a good team to install the panels. Michael lent his design aesthetic and Spencer lent his boat-building pragmatism and we started bolting them down. As we were measuring angles and drilling into beams, on the stable trimaran Aldebaran, we could momentarily forget we were in the middle of the Pacific. We worked into the night with a “work light”, after watching the sun set and full moon rise simultaneously, backdropped by puffy clouds, in a spectacular show of colors. Today we hope to finish bolting and caulking them to prevent water ingress.

These solar panels will be in addition to the 4 rigid glass 100w panels currently onboard. We installed that first array in California, and they’ve served us well throughout Central America, where we motor every few days. The total output of that first array is as much as 20amps during peak sunshine, or as low as 0-5amps when it’s cloudy. So when we have a few crew mates on board (more fans, more lights etc) and it’s cloudy, our batteries suffer. This will be especially a problem for our long sailing passages in French Polynesia. Although the new array will be partially shadowed by the mainsail, we hope it will almost double our solar production and keep our batteries healthy and topped off.

Of course, the downside of having no wind is that we use about 18 gallons of diesel for every 24hrs feeding Mr. Isuzu. So we just went through 35 gallons of our 135 gallon diesel tank capacity. But all good, Mr. Isuzu will now get a long rest, I hope! The breeze is nearing 6 knots and seems to be rising… Time to raise some sail!

9am. Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Distance to Ducie Atoll: 2153 miles
Distance traveled in last 24hrs: 161 miles (all motor)
SOG: 6.8knots (motorpower) COG: 234 deg Wind: 0-4 knots variable Location: S 04 12.054 W 094 28.335

Current position…

Day 1. Hunting the trade winds

Distance traveled in first 24hrs: 165nm (all motor)
SOG: 7knots VMG: 7knots
Bearing: 234 deg COG: 234 deg
Wind: 0-4 knots south. Location: S 02′ 31.834, W 092′ 21.223. (

Glassy seas all day and night. Since leaving Galapagos, Aldebaran is cruising along at 7+knots, aided by a favorable 0.5-1.3 knot current, and Mr. Isuzu our diesel engine. Our next waypoint is a long way away: Ducie Atoll, in the western edge of the Pitcairn Island Group, is 2473 nautical miles, bearing of 234 deg (south-west).

It is odd to point the boat into the open ocean, heading to some tiny island. But the atavistic pull is strong… Many of our ancestors have sailed these oceans and our blood has those memories engraved. “Somewhere to the south are the trade winds”. My memory banks tingle happily at this thought.

According to the wind charts (eg. the trade winds fully fill in around 5 degrees South, which is 300 miles away. However, “puffs” of SE wind push up toward the Galapagos. We are hoping to find one of these puffs in the next 12-24 hrs, perhaps 200nm south of the Enchanted Isles.

We anticipated this doldrum and brought 25 extra gallons of diesel in cheap jerry cans to help us make it to the trades. These are the times we feel fortunate to have a good diesel engine.

Yet, there is always an obstacle to challenge one’s determination at the beginning of a new project.

30 miles from the harbor, with Isabela and Floreanna Islands to either side, the engine alarm went off. Brrrrrrreeehhhh!!!!! Wait, isn’t this a replay of our departure from Bahia Caraquez??

The engine temperature was overheating… Instantly I shut off Mr. Isuzu and saw the alternator / coolant circulation belt had snapped. I sweated buckets shuffling between wrenches and keeping my arms from touching the 200 degree engine. Who needs a sauna??

Thankfully Mr. Isuzu has a spacious engine room in Aldebaran – the envy of most sailboats under 50ft. One hour later we were back underway, grateful to have all the spare parts, including some extra washers to better align the alternator bracket, which was the culprit of the premature breakage.

Our first sunset of the passage was glorious with a rising full moon in the east. All night, the ocean was silky smooth.

The sky out here feels distinctly clean, like a quartz crystal, with sharp, twinkling lines.

Departure Hiccups

Santa Cruz island, Galapagos. The morning felt like a blue bird day in the Sierras – everything was crystal clear and sparkling. The sea lions and brown noddies were chasing schools of sardines. Yacht owners sat in their cockpits drinking coffee.

I looked at the horizon past the anchorage and remembered those casual day sails when we had joked, “oh yeah, let’s keep sailing west, next stop Tahiti!” Today that was actually happening…

Two days ago, we hit our lowest point. The oven repair guy finally came, but instead of a pseudo-working oven, we now have no working oven. Let’s just say the repairs didn’t go so well. That terrible news came at the end of an exhausting day when we felt the crunch of departure, with unpaid bills pending and impossibly slow internet to get thing done.

Moral of the story: plan your departure day, then actually leave the following day! We were happy having an extra day to tie up loose ends. We got underway with a good nights sleep and a big smile on our faces. Our crew of four is Michael, Spencer, Sabrina, and Kristian. At 9am we were motoring in glassy seas aboard Aldebaran. Next stop: the Pitcairn Islands, about 2500 nautical miles away.

Port-itis: the disease of getting stuff done

Delayed by a day! We’re now leaving Sunday morning April 9th on our passage. We are so exhausted from all the work of getting ready.
Thankfully we found these epic hats (best $3 spent!) that help us endure the hardships of passage preparation. Example of adequate head protection when scrubbing anchor chain in the burning tropical sun.

Port-itis: the disease afflicting sailors, suffering from the need to get stuff done when in port. The condition expresses itself in anxiety: “When I’m at sea, I won’t be able to do …. [insert anything modern here] so I better pack it all in now! ”

Seriously, I can’t wait to be underway and have less of this compulsion to buy boat parts, food, and send out emails.

Oh yeah and did we mention we bought more food?? Today is Saturday, an AMAZING fresh food farmers market here in Galapagos’s Santa Cruz Island, as good as anywhere we’ve seen… it took us three hours to put food away though, as the fruit and veggies must be individually wrapped in aluminum foil (carrots, oranges) or newspaper (Apples, cabbage), wax the ends of squash, and so many other details…

Mr. Payne aboard Aldebaran

Michael Payne

“Ever since I owned my own 40ft ketch – which dare I say was a lovely vessel – I’ve yearned to do this voyage. I’m 72 but I’m fit enough to do it, so it’s now or never,” said Michael Payne in his distinct British accent. 

“Yes.. very well,” I responded. “But Aldebaran is not a typical ‘yacht’… It is more like a VW Camper Van of the Sea, a community ship built in 1968 with lots of character..”

“So I’ve heard. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. In my 20s, I hitchhiked thru the middle east, and since then I’ve had some great  adventures, but frankly, this has been my dream for so many years.  Doing it with good people is more important than a fancy yacht. I couldn’t think of a better boat to do this passage with.”

And thus we signed on the one and only Michael Payne for our passage from Galapagos to Pitcairn and Gambier. He’s with us for 5 weeks sailing across the Pacific. 

You probably know our adventure cooperative’s motto is “Harvesting Stoke”. So it’s remarkable that we’ve rarely seen someone quite so stoked about being aboard the boat! Ever since Michael joined us a few days ago in Santa Cruz island of Galapagos, we’ve been flabbergasted at his genuine delight and keenness to live as we do. 


Sabrina made sure that Michael was wearing appropriate technical garb for hull cleaning. We dove in and scrubbed the boat’s three hulls so that we would reduce drag in the next 3000 miles of ocean passage.


This English gentleman, whose successful practice as a high end interior designer has spanned 30 years, had one primary concern: can we make a cup of tea aboard the boat? And is there milk for the tea?


We have our dear friend Erika to thank for connecting us with Michael, who is a family friend of hers. We have now added more wisdom (and joie de vivre) to our sailing community. And also to our passage across the Pacific!

The Final Provisioning Push


Spencer wasn’t sure if our rum stash was adequate so he decided to bring a personal addition. just kidding.


Two days to departure! Here’s how we are getting the ship stocked up for the trip… 


We’ve done 98% of our provisioning, which includes a huge amount of shelf stable food in our pantry. The local supermarket in Puerto Ayora (the town in Santa Cruz island of Galapagos) was quite good and we got 3 shopping carts worth of food. This supplements the 4 shopping carts of food from Bahia Caraquez, Ecuador. 


all the food items need to be migrated into plastic bins for storage


Aboard Aldebaran we’ve got many kilograms of pasta, rice, flour, granola, and everything else you can imagine, all carefully stored in containers in different bins, or vacuum bags to prevent bugs and moisture. Organizing all this is a huge project in itself which Sabrina has been mastering. 

All that is left… on Saturday morning 6am we’ll buy fresh fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market and then get underway!! 

Oh yes, we also need to buy another case of wine – we discovered we can stack the boxed wine cartons under the beds 



Along the way, we make water for drinking with our small capacity watermaker (1.5gallons per hour, running off our 12volt batteries) but we don’t like to run it inside harbors like Puerto Ayora. Unfortunately there are sooo many ships here running generators that the water smells like diesel. 


we’re hoping to catch lots of rainwater. A lot easier than carting around heavy jugs of water!


Recall there is no dock here in Galapagos to tie up to and fill water. So the main option is to pay a water taxi to bring us water, which costs about $50 for 100 gallons. 


We collect water from friendly tourist boats with these 5 gallon jugs. underway we keep these for our drinking water only


Instead we learned a trick from our buddies Diego and Carolina who live on a sailboat in San Cristobal: going to all the tourist cruise boats asking for water. They have massive watermakers with multiple filters and enough water to pressure wash their decks, so we ask them for 15 gallons at a time. With her sweet smile Sabrina asked all the boats here in the harbor and filled 100 gallons of water to top off our 140 gallon tank. Awesome! 

We estimate this will last us about a month for 4 crew member, with just over 1 gallon per day, which is kinda skimpy! The way we pull this off is by using a lot of salt water – to wash dishes, bathe ourselves, even for some limited cooking – and then do a final short rinse with fresh water. 

 We hope to catch some rainwater along the way with our new cockpit roof, and we’ll make a little surplus water whenever we are motoring and using our watermaker… although that is a very slow process.


I’m not sure how long our 135 gallons of diesel will last, theoretically it can move us about 900 nautical miles. Our total distance to Gambier is close to 3000 nautical miles! Thankfully we are crossing the SE trade wind belt which is one of the most consistent breeze areas in the world, so we expect to arrive with plenty of diesel, in fact enough to get us to Marquesas (another 900 miles). 


we purchased a few cheap fuel jugs for diesel just for the passage, and since the diesel in mainland Ecuador was so cheap ($1.50/gal delivered; whereas in Galapagos it’s $3/gallon delivered)


We’re also bringing 20 gallons of gasoline for our dinghy and scuba compressor, which are efficient engines, and will hopefully be easier to replenish along the way…


Bob hanging out at the end of the rainbow on Isabela Island


The last “flammable” item is propane for cooking, which we have 2 big bottles worth (16lbs each). This is a tricky one as the propane fill in French Polynesia has unusual fittings, and it might be awhile before we’re able to fill those back up. Yet, those two large bottles should last us a little more than two months. 

Route Planning… to Pitcairn Island

 The faint line shows our proposed route from Galapagos to Pitcairn and onwards to French Polynesia. This is the software “Open CPN” which enables us to look at our route with overlays of wind, historical weather, and much more. Note the tropical low pressure just south of Tahiti is affecting the trade winds in the region of the “Austral Islands” such as Rapa. 

Talking about uniqueness of community… what Floreanna is to the Galapagos, Pitcairn is to the South Pacific. Is there another island in the world colonized by mutineers? 

So we are very keen to sail there, especially because it’s on the way to Gambier Islands, which look fabulous themselves. 

Only about 25 sailboats visit Pitcairn every year, a low number because of its isolation. Most sailors leaving from Galapagos head toward Marquesas. At latitude 10 degrees South, Marquesas is a remarkable downwind sail for almost 3000 miles along the trade wind belt. 

Meanwhile, Pitcairn, is at the low edge of the SE trade wind belt, like Easter Island, which is 1000 miles to the east. Its closest neighbor is Gambier islands of French Polynesia, 300 miles to the west. At 24 degrees south, Pitcairn is subtropical and its weather can be more fickle- it is influenced by low pressure systems in the southern ocean, particularly in June-Sep (their winter). 


This wind map shows the trade wind belt nicely, which is sandwiched by Galapagos (green circle) and Pitcairn (red circle). The trade wind belt moves north June-Oct. This software is Predict Wind, which communicates with our satellite phone (Iridium Go) to download weather updates wherever we are. 

Instead of going straight downwind, we expect a broad or even beam reach to get to Pitcairn. If we get unlucky, there’s even potential for close hauling (into the wind) during the last portion of the trip, as low pressures cause the winds to clock around. As we get to that point (3/4 of the way there) we’ll need to decide how best to weave our way there. 

The Southern Hemi summertime (Dec-Mar) would be more straightforward to sail to Pitcairn as the SE trades are more fully in place. As winter approaches the trade winds move north and the islands become situated in an area of wind variability. This is the main reason we are deciding not to head to Easter Island – it is a little too late in the season, and we don’t want to get “stuck” there. 

Unfortunately, Pitcairn’s only landing area is exposed to the predominant SE trade wind, and also the south swell, which makes it quite rough. This is none other than Bounty Bay, where the infamous ship Bounty was  burned and sunk by the mutineers in 1790 to hide their traces. 

No wonder Pitcairn was a good site for the mutineers. Nobody ever wanted to land there, the charts placed it in the wrong spot, so they could stay undetected! 

From what we heard several yachts try to stop at Pitcairn but keep sailing by because the anchoring conditions are too rough. So that’ll also be a test for us once we arrive. 

Calculations for arrival:

 Total distance from Galapagos to Pitcairn (via Dulcie atoll, in the Pitcairn group, add one or two days for a visit): 2800 nautical miles. 

Boat speed for Aldebaran: 3-8 knots

Boat average velocity made good: 4.5-5.5knots

Add one or two days at Dulcie atoll. 

2800 miles @4.5kts= 26 days +1 = 27 days

2800 miles @5.5kts= 21 days +2 = 23 days

Departure date: Galapagos, April 8

Estimated Arrival date: Pitcairn, May 1-5

Captain Spencer aboard Aldebaran

Our updated departure date across the Pacific!

–> Saturday, April 8th

I first met Spencer in the Santa Barbara anchorage in 2010 when we had both had recently purchased our boats: I had bought a 42ft trimaran named Aldebaran, and Spencer had bought a Islander Freeport 41 ketch named Okiva.

Our most memorable times were buddy boating to the islands, our two boats anchored together at Ladies’ Cove, at Cuyler Harbor, at Willow’s Anchorage. Such amazing trips!!
Spencer just turned 27 yrs old but is already a reknown sailing instructor in Santa Barbara, especially when it comes to advanced cruising skills (navigating around islands, anchoring in challenging conditions, etc). So we are incredibly fortunate to learn from his sailing knowledge, and natural passion for teaching, during the next three months. He is joining us now for the crossing from Galapagos to Pitcairn, and onwards to Marquesas.

Even more of a blessing is his joyful attitude. The guy just beams with positivity and good energy. He arrived March 22 nd and cruised with us around the islands of Isabella and Floreanna. We are now in Santa Cruz island, the busy hub of the Galapagos, getting the boat ready for our big ocean crossing.

Contact Spencer for sailing instruction at:

Check out our Route across the Pacific:

Sent via phone in Galapagos.

Snorkeling in Floreanna

Dozens of sea turtles go by the boat every morning – it must be their morning commute! They cruise around the rocks surrounding Black Sand Beach, which is the main anchorage in Floreanna’s town, called Puerto Velasco Ibarra. I imagine this black sand is silty, because the visibility underwater is not as good as other islands.

Perhaps because this isn’t a great site for snorkeling, things are more relaxed around here. Probably also because it’s a tiny town of 150 inhabitants with less tourist pressure; hence the capitania said it was fine for us to head to offshore rocks with our dinghy to go snorkeling. This is very unlike the other inhabited islands of Galapagos, where they only want you to go between your boat and the dock. In this way, Floreanna felt a lot more free than the rest of the archipelago.

We were happy as clams, heading a mile south of the anchorage to “Roca Botella” – as it looks like a bottle in the water. The viz was quite decent at 35 ft, there were tons of fish, beautiful formations in shallow and deep water, and some big parrot fish– although the surge was strong. The Aldebaran crew was stoked to be exploring!!

Photos: Check out this camouflaged “scorpion fish”, which Anna found. He didn’t move at all!

Birthday! and How to visit Floreanna

I woke at 5:40am after sleeping in the cockpit (to ward off the persistent sea lions from our dinghy…) Running lights from a sailboat appeared in the distance. It was none other than “The Beagle”, a replica of Darwin’s ship!

The Beagle is a cruise tourist boat. Private sailboat visits to Floreanna are now quite rare, dropped off to just one every other month – mainly because the Galapagos National Park strong arms the agents (who do all the boat permitting). They discourage visits to this island because they lack regulatory officials here to keep an eye on things. But all sailboats with an ‘autografo’ permit are technically allowed to visit “on the way” to another inhabited island. Fortunately we became friends with Jorge from Capitania in Isabela, who gave us this info.

Today I’m celebrating my 36th birthday and feeling super lucky for all this! Last night we were taught how to make delicious Yucca cheese patties called “mochin” by Angel and his wife Cecilia, who have been on the island 25yrs. People here are genuine and friendly unlike anywhere we’ve been. I feel blessed to be spending this week in such good company!

Photo: Sabby & I with friends Jesse and Anna, and “The Beagle” in background. Crewmate Spence taking the pic!

First Impressions of Floreanna Island…

We are anchored in the island of Floreanna, a place that breaks many rules… Although, the Galapagos is known for its flora & fauna, this island is most famous for its unusual inhabitants.

Another quirk: we weren’t really supposed to sail here… more on that later!

The story of the “murder of the Baroness” made Floreanna famous. It was set in the era of “back to nature” German pioneers circa 1930. Their crazy personalities became the focus, but it was truly the accomplishments of the ‘more-sane’ pioneers, living on this island with total self-sufficiency, that has blown us away.

We toured the highlands with Claudio (see photo), son of an original Ecuadorian settler in 1939 of the Cruz family. Naturally visiting the “Pirate Caves” was incredible, but it was Claudio’s stories that seemed out of a storybook. Making candles from cowfat. Making pesticides out of tobacco and chilli pepper infusion. The list goes on.

His ranch was mindblowing. Frigates did acrobatics to dip their heads in his lake-reservoir. An abundant overflow of crops and livestock was everywhere. Each tree had a story of when it was planted.

This is actually our first blog post via satellite, with 1 low resolution photo, and this much text allowed! Hope it works, and we’ll share more tomorrow.

We’re crossing the Pacific!

Approximate wind pattern expected across the Pacific… we’ll be sailing south into the trade wind belt (E-SE winds) and crossing into the latitudes of Pitcairn and Gambier, where the winds are more variable, before heading back north towards Marquesas.Only 10 days to departure on our  biggest passage ever, across the Pacific Ocean, almost 2700 miles!  Follow us on our Blog by subscribing on this link.

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