Day 22. LAND HO! Pitcairn Island

By Sabrina and Kristian

In comparison with the blue horizon, clouds, and water we’ve been staring at for weeks, where seeing anything at all was worth noting, it was surreal to see a shape so extraordinary. Pitcairn island emerged from the ocean like a heavy-set cloud, more impressive and tall than we had imagined.

Over the course of our approach for 5 hours in light breeze, we could see increasing detail. The Canyons and peaks took shape. The imposing ridges became clear. Then we could see trees! What a delight after weeks on the ocean.

It was a lush green jungle of palms, bare crumbling steep cliffs and birds circling overhead. We feasted our eyes on all these details, hungry for so much variety. Look at the red rocks, the salt spray hanging above the foliage! Look at the pinnacles jutting out… and now the houses of Adamstown perched on the cliffs! It was all rather unbelievable.

Approaching the island reminded us of Isla del Coco: a tall rock sprouting in the middle of the ocean. Once we got close, it was reminiscent of home in the Channel Islands of California, yet morphed with tropical islands from fantasy paintings. It was fortress-like in its steepness, yet soft hued from the sun backlighting the sea mist, which clung to the cliffs.

Hearing the voices of the islanders over VHF with their strong Kiwi accents & jovial spirits caused our minds to wander with intrigue. ”Welcome to Pitcairn!” they beamed. It’s hard to imagine the lives of solitude and isolation Pitcairners have on this rock in the middle of the Pacific with only 49 residents and very seldom visitors.

We circumnavigated the tiny island of 2 miles before sunset to scope out potential anchorages. Everywhere was very rough, with intense surge and swell. We settled in at Bounty Bay for its good sandy holding ground, which would at least keep Aldebaran in place.

As night fell, the golden sliver of the Moon and the Milky Way traced an arc over the tall island. A few dim lights twinkled from the houses. Watching this magnificent scenery, a sense of accomplishment came over us. We had sailed three weeks to get here, which is the main way that Pitcairn gets visitors: approximately 30 yachts per year make a stopover.

We’re excited to go to shore tomorrow morning, weather permitting, and see what life is like here!

Day 21. Three weeks at Sea

The sun rose to a dramatic ocean. Big swells were criss-crossing like a physics experiment from 3 directions, occasionally meeting in synch with Aldebaran to give her occupants a good roll-over. Hang onto your tea cups!

Sabby was in the galley fixing up some lunch, when the crash happened. There was a brief moment of silence, then the screaming expletives began… “F*@k you Blender!!!”

Here’s Sabrina’s take on what happened:

“I never thought it would come to this, nor did I realize we were in a relationship… But after the mess he pulled today, Mr. Blender and I are through!

For one second I took my hand off him… I should have known better. But ever since the accident that left him with a broken base he’s so needy of attention all the time, plus he’s old and slow and sometimes smells of burnt motor. Not sure why or how I put up with him for so long, but I guess when you’re stuck in the middle of the Pacific with a freezer full of frozen bananas, he’s your best friend.

But after today, we’re done! He had the audacity to spill an entire pitcher of pineapple, guava, orange, yogurt and milk all over me AND the rest of the galley! It was a total disaster. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. ”


Our mood on the “3 weeks at Sea” milestone was sober. Even though the wind dropped to a more comfortable 15 knots, we could only lay about groggily from mild delirium after a rough night’s sleep, and feeling sad about the casualties from the battle. Even our tea time conversation was markedly grumpy.

On the bright side, we had made excellent distance towards Pitcairn Island- sometime during the night we noticed it was now less than 100nm away! Just like that, we were within shooting distance to arrive on the late afternoon of April 30th, as hoped. That lifted our spirits.

The powerful winds and jumbled seas subsided as quickly as they appeared, down to a pleasant 10knots. Then after dinner (leftovers from yesterday: more of Sabby’s delicious sweet potato veggie burgers!), the wind fizzled completely and we awoke Mr. Isuzu from his slumber, just as the crew of Aldebaran was ready for sleep.

The Southern Cross and Scorpio shone bright on the night sky, guiding us towards our first land sighting in over three weeks.

0900 hrs. April 30, 2017
S 24 55 W 129 14
Last 24hrs 140nm
Average speed 6.4kts
Distance to Pitcairn: 77nm
Wind 5knots NE
Boat speed 6.5kts (motoring at 1700rpm)
Heading 250 towards Pitcairn.

… we went by Ducie Atoll in the early morning and Henderson Island around midnight, each more than 30 nautical miles away, so we did not see them.

Day 20. Squalls, Sail Changes and Stormy Winds

By Spencer

Dropping in to latitude 24º South and longitude 127º West, the wind and sea conditions changed with each passing hour. The ocean was a confluence of mixed swells coming from every direction, which made our trimaran feel like a tractor climbing over an impossible terrain. We encountered squall after squall, some with deluges of rain; others with strong winds; and the worst encompassed both, all while crawling over the sea swells like a rubber ducky adrift in a turbulent river.

The setting sun of Day 20 illuminated the skyline into a gorgeous peach so ethereal one has to see it to believe. Cumulus clouds curtained the horizon and just beyond the veil the sky was peppered with a verdigris hue.

The dinner bell sounded and we ate like gods. Sweet potato black bean burgers between fresh “naan” buns made all from scratch by the hands of a galley goddess. Sabrina had outdone herself yet again with a meal suited for a five star restaurant.

We finished this glorious dinner and to our surprise it was not over! She unveiled dessert: handmade sweet potato empanadas sprinkled with sugar. With just a small bite into the delectable dessert we all gave a sigh of bliss, a sure sign this recipe would make the cut into the cookbook she was writing appropriately named “Moan of Approval”.

As dinner was finishing and my afternoon 1700-1900 shift was coming to an end, the sea was beginning to take on a new face. Large swells were bashing the hull from all directions and the wind was building steadily. I asked Kristian if he wanted to do any sail changes before I retired to my chambers for some sleep before the graveyard shift.

He was about to say no, but then wind gusted up to 25 kts and we decided to take action. With Sabby on the helm, Beadle and I went on deck to swap the genoa out for a working jib. Genoa is just a fancy way of saying a head sail (the one at the bow) that is larger than 100% of the space from the bow to the mast. We had switched out to a 110% genoa earlier in the day; which is significantly smaller than the 160% blue reacher sail we used during the majority of our crossing.

[Since he was about to go to sleep, Spencer had no foul weather gear on and proceeded to get a “free bath” by the plumes of white water;but luckily the water is still reasonably warm in this latitude!]

The process of swapping sails on this boat is relatively easy save for the fact that one must be harnessed and tethered in to the bow of the boat some 30 feet from the cockpit, in order to remove and replace the sail.

I took the liberty of being the bow man while Kristian was retrieving the jib from the sail locker. I busied myself with lashing the genoa to the pulpit for use the next day.

Taking walls of white water over the boat with each wave the bow of Aldebaran felt like a sick amusement park ride. The wind was gusting in low 30s by now and flung spray high and white water tumbled across the deck dousing the cockpit where Sabrina steered and Michael manned the sheets.

As we were about to hoist the 80% working jib I noticed a tear in the fabric along the leech. We spent the next 20 minutes removing this sail and changing out for an even smaller approximately 20% storm jib.

Drenched from head to toe, we now slid our tethers along the jack line back to the mast: it was time to reef the mainsail down to a second reef.

With our brand new reefing system in place, the process was easy and we had her made up beautifully in no time. Reefing at the mast was a welcome comfort after being strapped to the bow partially underwater moments prior.

The wind and waves were now consistently stronger with 2-4 meter swells leaping out of the sea surface to be hurtled into the boat by the 25-30+ knot winds that filled our sails and propelled us at a clipper ships rate. Despite the tiny jibs and double reefed main, we sailed through the night at a vicious speed. The sight of three sheets to the wind (storm jib, inner jib, plus double-reefed main) was a beauty and we flew along at 7-10 knots for the next 12 hours.

Saltwater dripped on me from the ceiling as I lie in bed trying to find a yarn of sleep. A leak, of course. My eyes fluttered and I smiled as I drifted into deep unconsciousness knowing that we were sailing through some of the most challenging conditions of our trip thus far and my knowledge and experience was invaluable to the safe passage of the ship.

As the dawn broke, the wind subsided and we could see the swells before they met us. They were extremely confused, but now we could steer actively to smooth the track of the yacht which had yawed so violently through the black of the previous night.

Now we only had 180 nautical miles to Pitcairn and the strongest winds, we were quite sure, were behind us.

S 24 23 W 126 49
Last 24hrs: 140nm
Wind: last night 25-30kt down to 15-18kts this morning

Tea time

It’s 4pm and you know what that means? It’s tea time! It has been our daily ritual on the passage, and has helped keep everyone sane. The motivator for tea time was, of course, our British crew member Michael.

Prior to committing to the long Pacific Passage, Michael had one pressing question. “Do you have a way to boil water for tea?” he asked over Skype.

“Of course” I chuckled at the silliness of this question.

“Oh, and what about milk?”

“Well, have you heard of powdered milk?”

“Powdered milk!? My mother would roll in her grave if she knew!”

I could see this was an issue, so I suggested, “No problem, we can make room for boxed milk.”

A week before flying out, Michael was still asking about said ‘boxed milk’.

“What does it taste like? Will it be okay with fine english tea?”

For a man who was more concerned with the quality of his tea than the safety of the boat, I was surprised to discover Michael might not have enough tea to get him through the voyage.

He had brought 80 tea bags for the month. As a proper Englishman who uses 2 tea bags per cup, for both morning & afternoon tea, he was entertaining a daily consumption rate of 4 tea bags; which meant a total of 120 tea bags needed for the month with us… he would be 40 tea bags short!

An intervention was needed- lest he experience withdrawals later in the voyage. With some remorse, Michael reduced his tea bag consumption to one bag per cup. Disaster averted.

Everyday at 4pm we stop for tea time. We might be working on projects, cooking, or writing, but we stop and come together to chat and “have a cuppa”.

Unlike meal times, which involve the work of cooking and cleaning, tea time is more simple so promotes fresh creativity. We might play Mexican train dominos (fun!). Or share something – Spencer will teach us new knots; Kristian will read a satellite report from a fellow cruiser; Sabrina will share comments that people post to the blog (yay!); and Michael might read a chapter of his novel about Pitcairn (that’s right, he didn’t just write a poem!)

Tea time is a lovely ritual which on a passage-making boat is especially delightful. Without these consistent breaks to come together and laugh, all the days would blur and we’d start going cuckoo.

So take a load off and have a cup of tea with your friends to brighten up your afternoon 🙂

Ps. Favorite anecdotes of Michael and his tea consuming prowess can be shared below! For example we heard he stopped for tea even while running the Boston marathon? The guy is committed!

Day 19. Teleported

Photo: Michael at the bow. Note sea anchor in yellow bag lashed to inner forestay.

The ocean was idyllic. Aldebaran sailed peacefully past slumbering swells at 4 knots with a North wind.

Up ahead, however, were changing/strong winds. The weather models gave us 72hrs to arrive in Pitcairn before a small rainstorm made landfall. To gain ground, we had motored the previous day in the calm. But we only have 50 gallons of diesel left in the tank (equals about 350 nautical miles). We need to use this wisely to make it all the way to Pitcairn (400nm away) and finally Gambier (700nm away) where we can fill the diesel tank.

We must sail when there is a breeze, so heck, let’s make the most of the relaxing conditions! In fact we felt “teleported” to another place, as if we were hanging out at Santa Barbara Harbor on a typical Saturday.

It started with the hearty Huevos Rancheros and a nice talk over VHF radio with the Royal Klipper’s captain (see previous post). We might have been walking past the gates to Marina 4, chit-chatting in morning sunshine.

We laughed all through lunchtime as Spencer made us “fish&chips” wrapped in a basket with newspaper – a nod toward our British crew mate’s enthusiasm for landing at one of the Queen’s remote outposts. Recently fermented Kim Chi was available to vinegar lovers. Gin and tonics were poured to complement this greasy feast; just like lunch at the Harbor alley!

Meanwhile we carried on with boat preparation for strong winds. I rigged up our 15ft parachute sea anchor; should we not arrive in Pitcairn and stormy conditions unfold, we can deploy it and hold position. To the delight of all, Spence and Sabrina drilled out new cam cleats for the jib winches, which makes trimming the sails infinitely nicer. Michael gave the cabin and cockpit a thorough tidy up. The boat was so steady under sail, we could momentarily imagine being secured to an end-tie at the marina; hammering away at projects before going to the Channel Islands for the weekend…

The day’s final hurrah was the long awaited “Movie Night”, where we rig a bed sheet and the projector to create a brilliant 4 foot wide screen. As Aldebaran crawled at 2knots under sail and autopilot, we watched a BBC episode about the South Pacific, and a terribly funny youtube series (downloaded by crewmates) called True Facts about animals. The creaking of the blocks as the sails stretched was our only reminder that we weren’t in the movie theater. The sensation of being teleported to another place was so distinct we had to rub our eyes to remind ourselves where we are.

Then around 8:30pm the good times were over. Lightning began to appear in the distance over a dark horizon. We packed up our “fun day” and fired up Mr. Isuzu. The wind had dwindled to nothing and we were entering a transition zone with rain showers and variable winds. Through the pitch black night we motored, harvesting 10 gallons of rain from our roof and discovering some new leaks from the solar panel installation.

Even though we were using more diesel than hoped for, we were pushing to get to the “other side”, where we expected a high pressure with strong SE winds that would propel us the rest of the way to Pitcairn.

0900hrs. April 28, 2017
S 24 00 W 124 24
(Great numerology!)
Distance to Pitcairn left 316nm
Traveled last 24hrs: 113nm

“Pitcairn”, the Poem

Shortly after 8am, a quiet alarm went off. Beeeep. Beeeep. Beeeep.

It was alerting us of an approaching cargo ship!

Ironically, we had talked about the (un)likelihood of shipping traffic just yesterday.

“Down here? I doubt there are any shipping routes…” I imagined, incorrectly.

The Royal Klipper, 115 meter cargo ship, passed within 3 miles of us. We were glad for our AIS (automatic identification system) which alerts us of the presence of ships.

“Sailing vessel, sailing vessel, this is Royal Klipper, you have a copy?” The ship was hailing us! That’s a first for us.

“This is sailing vessel Aldebaran, good morning!” Spencer responded on the VHF.

They were the third ship we’ve seen during this passage. The fellow on board was wonderfully friendly.

“Good’ay, just thought I’d say hi. I always admired sailboats which are in far flung places, as I have a lake boat myself. Say, where are you from, and where you going?” Said the skipper of the ship.

“We’re from California, traveling via Galapagos enroute to Pitcairn,” responded Spencer.

“Ahh Pitcairn! Yes, we’ve unloaded some cargo there before. We just drift the ship as we unload, because we’ve lost anchors in the rocky bay there. Nice people though, only 40 some on the island, I believe?”

“49 people, if we’re not mistaken,” chimed in Michael. Since he’s British – and this is one of the most remote and bizarre relics of the Great British Empire – he’s fascinated by what Pitcairn symbolizes. To add to that intrigue is what Michael calls the “air of dark mystery” surrounding this most unique island; one of the few colonies established by mutineers in the world, with equal parts of isolation, corruption, and freedom-seeking as its founding principles.

The Royal Klipper ship was traveling from New Zealand, which is the closest Commonwealth nation to Pitcairn, and their foremost connection to the world. During this trip, however, the ship was bound for the Panama Canal with several tons of kiwi fruit from NZ, enroute to Belgium with planned arrival by May 16.

The ship’s skipper was so affable, he volunteered to take a photo of Aldebaran under sail and email it to us.

“Wait, we’ll get up on deck and wave at you!” Sabrina jumped with enthusiasm.

“Well,” he remarked, “Since you’re doing that I will go to my quarters and fetch my nice lens.”

It was the type of conversation one might expect on the patio of the yacht club as the boats go around the buoys; not mid Pacific, 2800nm from Chile, the closest continental mass.

As a token of thanks, we then volunteered that our own resident poet – Michael Payne – read his poem about our upcoming destination to the skipper.

“This poem is appropriately named, ‘Pitcairn’,” said Michael, as Spencer held the VHF radio near him. “Here it goes.”

“Pitcairn why do you beckon me so
It’s not as though I’ve got nowhere to go

“You’re oh so far away
At the bottom of the world
A dot in the ocean blue
What am I supposed to do?
Sail for weeks and weeks?
Boy do you have some cheek!

“You must be hiding something from me
That I just must be dying to see

“I’m on my way as you know I should
Pitcairn, Pitcairn it better be good!

– Michael Payne, Aldebaran, April 2017.

Followed by cheers and applause at the performance – which was our poet’s first ever public radiowave appearance -the skipper then bid his farewell and we went our merry ways.

So began possibly our oddest day at sea, the 19th day of our Pacific crossing.

Day 18. Southern Latitudes, here we come

We motored in the calm of the southern doldrum. Big, rolling swells converged from 3 directions with impressive, but gentle effects.

Within two days we expect a moderate 25-30kt wind from the SE, funneled by a high pressure (clear skies) entering our zone. Then a small low pressure (rain) is supposed to come right along our path on May 1-2. Which is soon! So decisions needed to be made.

Our general route strategy has been to take a more southerly course than the “rhumb line” to Pitcairn, so that once we got to this latitude and experienced south winds, we could “turn right” and not take them on our bow. Steering towards Ducie Atoll, which is 300nm east of Pitcairn, was part of that rationale. But now with the low pressure front coming in a few days, the wind will become much more squirrely, and we need to find protection if it happens to get stormy.

So… time for a course change: let’s go direct to Pitcairn! Although it has reputedly challenging anchorages, it still has better shelter than the low-lying, sandy atoll of Ducie. And friendly people to help us.

Dang it. Landfall was so close (just 300nm to Ducie), now it will be a few more days away, (600nm total to Pitcairn, about 4.5 days. Oh well, just a few more days!

The timing is a little tricky. Ideally, we need to arrive in Pitcairn by early afternoon on Sunday April 30 to get situated before the low pressure front approaches. This requires an average speed of 5.7knots from our current position.

That boat speed is doable with the trade winds, but not with the light puffs of 5-8kts from this doldrum area. So Mr. Isuzu got woken up back to life- to help us make ground while conditions are calm.

With the sun shining in smooth seas, Mr. Isuzu rumbled along with Ziggy at the helm. Spence and Kristian installed new hardware for reefing: better cleats and a block for the boom hoist. Epoxy, caulking, and Lanocote were brought out with the power tools. The boys were pleased with the results at the end of the day: the reefing system was now solid!

Under the glow of Lucy lights and a peaceful sunset, we enjoyed Sabby’s Mexican Pizza – boatmade corn gorditas (thick tortillas), mozzarella, plus beans and veggies – as we powered along on our new course: 250 degrees, west-southwest. We were heading into the sunset more than ever.

(end of Day 18).
0900 hrs. April 27, 2017
S 23 39.507 W 122 26.423
Distance to Ducie: 140nm (but will bypass)
Distance to Pitcairn: 427nm
Wind 6-8kts NE
SOG: motoring at 6.4kts, 1700rpm for moderate speed and fuel usage. COG: 250 degrees (WSW)

Day 17. The End of the Trades

At midnight on our 17th day at sea, two momentous things happened:

First, we jibed the boat! That’s right, we went 2150 nautical miles without ever changing the direction of the sails.

It’s the world’s longest port tack (wind coming over our port side)! Earlier in the evening, the wind began shifting towards northerly (from NE), and finally a small rainshower went by and we could only maintain a heading to SE — that’s going to Easter Island. No time for that! So the headsail came to a starboard tack for the first time in 17 days, as the clock struck midnight.

The trade winds were officially over. In fact, within three hours, we began motoring in the calm of the ‘doldrums’, with hazy clouds masking the stars; in contrast with the trades, where crystal clear nights were framed by big puffy clouds.

By 5am there was sheet lightning in the distance and miserable gray skies, reminding us of the ITCZ. We had just crossed the entire trade wind belt, and popped out the other side. What’s on this side, you ask? Further south of us are the westerlies, and we’ve been watching a stream of strong high and low pressure march along towards the west. Fortunately, the “meat” or the systems is way to the south (the infamous Roaring Forties) but we will now be subject to some of their renegade offshoots.

This is the latitude of Easter Island, Pitcairn, and Gambier — all straddling a no man’s land between the trades (which actually fill in this far south during their summertime) and the westerlies (which get much closer during their wintertime, along with stormy, cooler weather).

A second event occurred at midnight. We passed the longitude of Santa Barbara, California, our home port (119 degrees West). Somehow we felt connected to home, by visualizing it exactly to our north (by ahem… more than three thousand miles). Interestingly, if you flipped our latitude (23 S) you’d end up in Cabo San Lucas (23 N). It’s amazing to think of the huge loop we had to take to get here – down Central America to Galapagos then to where we are.

For our last day in the trade winds, Sabby made two masterpiece food items. One was a Quiche with a potato crust, cooked on stovetop (recall our oven got busted three days before we left Galapagos). This truly is a wonderful dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

And to top it off: she made raspberry vanilla ice cream! it was absolutely decadent, and what a treat at this point in the journey. Frozen yogurt, cream, with vanilla and dehydrated raspberries. Don’t ask me how it’s possible. We try not to question the little miracles coming out of the galley…

0900 hrs. April 26, 2017
S 23 01.154 W 119 45.946
Distance last 24hrs: 112nm
COG 249 SOG 5.3kts motoring at 1400rpm to conserve fuel

Day 16: New Reefing System, mid-Pacific

A beautiful steady breeze blew all day, once again… But in the next day or two, we knew Aldebaran would be approaching latitudes where the trade winds break down and stronger/variable winds can occur.

We used the fair conditions as an opportunity to work à la “Boatyard of the Pacific”!

As Aldebaran sailed with the consistent breeze of 10-15kts from ENE, run by Ziggy the autopilot, Spencer and Kristian were on deck revamping the reefing system.

Reefing is the “reducing” of the mainsail with a number of lines to keep the sail shape intact, while having less sail area for stronger winds.

There was an issue with the level of the boom when reefed, which vexed Captain K for years. Seems that Master Mariner MacRae was able to figure it out! “Just lift the boom” he said. Seems obvious now, but this required a shift in the setup. The boys spent hours fine tuning the three reefing lines before retiring for tea time.

Then ironically at 5pm, after a day of steady breezes, a darker than usual band of clouds appeared behind us.

“Geez could this be a proper squall?” Kristian wondered. After two weeks of consistent winds and mellow rainshowers, it was hard to imagine the weather packing a punch. But this one looked different.

“Maybe we should reef!” Spencer remarked happily. He is the world’s greatest geek about sailboat rigging and was visibly excited to test out his new system.

“As they say, if you’re thinking about reefing, we should do it,” Sabrina chimed in.

The boys were lolligagging, buckling their harnesses, and eventually got on deck. They were halfway through reducing sail and suddenly the gusts sped up to 28knots and the rain began pelting down. The headsail heaved forward with power, and the double-reefed main drove the boat like a dagger.

“Whoa that came up quick!”

Soggy but satisfied they returned to the cockpit, shaking their heads and re-affirming the salty old rule: “if you’re thinking of reefing, you should reef.”

We are now just 400 nautical miles from our first potential landfall, Ducie Atoll, which is situated in a latitude 24 degrees South, just outside the trade wind belt. It’s nice to know that now we can reef quickly and effectively, with confidence in the new system.

0900hrs local time. April 25, 2017
S 22 00.362 W 118 15.180
Distance last 24hrs: 120nm
Light winds 8-10kt NE continue with short pulses to 20-25kts with squalls, same direction. Course is SW 245 degrees, boat speed 5kt average.

RIP Spinnaker?

This red spinnaker is a colorful large, billowy sail that always invokes ‘Ahhhhs’ from the crew. It is also nearly 40 years old! Just last year, we learned that it has an amazing history. The previous owners, Bob and Jackie McMahan, who owned our trimaran for two decades, gave us a magazine with the spinnaker flying on the cover of the magazine — from March 1979 ! (photo taken by Bob himself). That was two years before I was born!

During Day 10-13, we had a period of lighter trade winds. So we hoisted our trusty spinnaker for the first time on the passage. The wind had lightened to about 8 knots from ESE, and our boat speed was down to 3 knots. Once we trimmed the spinnaker, we were grooving again at a full 6 knots. Awesome!

Basking in the downwind calm, making good progress in the light airs, we had a fabulous lunch of Fish Tacos (with Sabby’s yellowfin tuna catch) wrapped in cabbage and stuffed with grated carrots & beets.

Suddenly, Rrrrrriiipppp!… the sail simply split in half right near the base and collapsed in the wind, twirling around itself. “All hands on deck!” We quickly donned our harnesses, clipped in and ran to douse the spinnaker. But sadly the damage was extensive, and the cause probably just old age. It ripped right along the fabric, and also along a seam, for about 20 feet… Major bummer!

We’ll have to show the material to someone who understands spinnakers to see if it’s worth fixing… naturally the effort & materials to make such a repair will be significant, so we want to get a second opinion on whether it still has life in it, or if this tear was indeed a spontaneous break in compromised, aged fabric.

The trusty blue headsail was re-hoisted, and we plodded along again, commiserating over our old friend the red spinnaker. Many good times were had, and some tough times too (when we ran over it near Cabo San Lucas; when it gave Michael C serious rope burn and a twisted ankle from dropping him 6 feet.) For all its challenges it kept Aldebaran moving under sailpower when things were calm, and was always a sight to behold.

Without the spinnaker, we will have to chug along at slower speeds when the breeze is light… farewell for now, old friend!

Day 15. Showers on Aldebaran

Steeper swell coming from behind us today, but the boat is happily surfing down the waves with a 10-15kt NE wind. Fine conditions prevail.

Rainshowers pass by once or twice a day, but when they hit us it’s usually for only a few minutes and quite light. They can be fun though, as the wind accelerates and Aldebaran starts galloping downswell.

When the bright rays of sunset mix with dark rain showers in the horizon, as they regularly do, the result is exquisite. The puffy clouds of the trades have a distinct quality of “fluffiness”, and the entire panorama becomes a cartoon of playful beauty.

We just passed our two week mark into the voyage, without any real rain collection — “so how’s our water level?” I wondered.

Aldebaran’s 140 gallon water tank level was down to 60 gallons left on day 15 — which means we’ve been using about 6 gallons of fresh water per day on the boat (1.5 gal per crew member) for cleaning, cooking, boiling water, and showering. This doesn’t include our drinking water, which we produce with our small capacity Katadyn Power Survivor E40 watermaker.

At this rate, we have another 10 days of fresh water, which will get us to Pitcairn but not all the way to Gambier. We are anticipating rain in the first week of May, so that should help.

We are already rationing showers to every second or third day. Further, showers are mostly salt water; we just rinse off with fresh water at the end. In cold climates we’ll heat all the water on the stovetop, but during this passage cold water had been refreshing.

At anchor, we’ll often shower off the back of the boat, soaping up and jumping in the ocean. But mid-passage jumping in for a dip is not feasible! So we setup a shower in the head (bathroom) which is tight but delightful. We use a fantastic “camping” shower by NEMO that pressurizes the water using a soft air filled foot pedal at the baw, and has a shower hose off the top.

Big thanks to Brian Rossini for bringing us this gift during his visit in Galapagos last July! It is much more water efficient that scooping water with a mug from a bowl – which is what we use for the salt water. Plus, it sits on the floor, preventing it from swinging dangerously like our previous solar shower bags that hung.

Incidentally, cleaning dishes is the same: they are mostly washed in salt water, with a final fresh water rinse, and during a passage we even limit that fresh water rinse to just the essentials: cups and silverware.

So we’re going to keep our normal water rationing techniques, and if we need to supplement a little with our watermaker to tidy us over, we can do that.

NOTE. Our Katadyn watermaker only makes 1.5gallons of water per hour – which is way less than most boat’s watermakers – but it has the distinct advantages of being able to produce water manually by pumping, which is important for emergencies; and it runs electrically on relatively low power at just 4 amps. It just takes a long time, and limits us to just making drinking water.

0900hrs. April 24, 2017
S 20 55.985 W 116 31.724
Distance traveled last 24hrs: 125nm
Distance to Ducie: 507nm
Wind ENE 8-15kts gusts to 20kt
Course: SW 245
Boat speed: 5.1kts average

Day 14. Bluefin Tuna

Two weeks at sea!
For breakfast, Spencer pulled out some salami to make a delicious egg and potato dish, spicy southern style grits.

Then by 2pm we had the fishing line zinging … fish on!

When I grabbed the rod and felt the line unspooling fast, I knew this fish was powerful. Spencer brought down the headsail to slow down the boat, and steered to keep the fish from snagging the underside of the boat.

After a solid fight, I got him alongside Aldebaran and Sabrina landed him with the net. We were dazzled by his shimmering blue and silver colors, speckled with black. This was a magical sea creature whose colors dance in the sun’s rays. We gave him a prayer for his life and deep thanks for the gift.

Wow… this blue fin tuna was quite heavy for his size, I’m guessing 14lbs, which yielded enough meat for the four crew to enjoy four meals. Each meal has since been extraordinary. Marinated tuna with mango-almond cabbage salad. Seared ahi with beets, rice and beans. Fish cakes on a caper sauce.

For two days now we’ve kept the fishing lines resting. We are enjoying this remarkable blessing from the ocean.

Huge kudos to Sabby’s Cami feathered lure, which has been producing, and helping us eat like kings and queens in mid-ocean. It lost a few feathers to this magnificent fish, which Sabby pledges to make an earring out of…!

S 19 46 W 114 43
Distance covered 24hrs: 135nm
Wind ENE almost astern, mostly headsail alone. Boat speed average 5.8kts, course SW. Distance to Ducie: 630nm
Beautiful starry night, breeze steady at 10-12kts.

Day 13. Sanity on the High Seas

Today we started feeling a light chill…The temperatures began to drop around latitude 17 south, which was refreshing. We also noticed that we’re a crossing time zone, because sunrise is now at 7:30am instead of 6:30am. It must have been gradual, but it felt very sudden! At 1800hrs we changed our Ship Clock to an hour back, which should be the time in Pitcairn. This was carefully executed because it affected our daily crew rotation for driving the boat.

Although the boat is practically driving herself in the extraordinarily consistent conditions — winds do shift, unpredictable rain showers roll thru, things can break, or we can encounter a boat — so someone always needs to be up and alert. The boat is moving 24hrs a day!

Routine is very important for boat operation so everyone can get adequate sleep, food prepared, cabin cleaned, and chores done. Each person on Aldebaran is on watch for 4hrs per “night” (9pm-1am, 1-5am, 5-9am, and 9am-1pm) and an additional 2hrs per “afternoon”. Below is our daily schedule:

9a: BREAKFAST, Calendar update, Position Report with statistic overview of last 24hrs, Crew meeting. 9a-1p: Morning Shift. Daily chores.
1-4p: Boat projects
1p-3p; 3p-5p; 5p-7p; 7p-9p (2 hour Afternoon/Evening shifts)
6:30p: DINNER* (we eat early so the person on graveyard shift can go to bed by 7:30p and get sufficient rest before their 1am shift) 9p-1a: Evening shift, 12h Position Report with statistic overview 1a-5a: Graveyard shift
5a-9a: Dawn Patrol

Each morning at 9am we ceremoniously cross off a day in the long strip of green tape labeled DAY 1 – 24; and a new day is welcomed! Without the green strip as a reminder, all the days would be morphing. It is also a crew favorite to celebrate each time the “Distance to Destination” drops by 100 miles, which occurs every day. This daily “victory” is also a tangible reminder that we are actually approaching somewhere, and not just here forever.

To keep things interesting, we change up the rotation every 3 days; so if you do the 1-5am “graveyard shift” for three days then you’ll do the 9pm-1am shift for the next three days. The cooking duty is also tied to the driving time; so if you’re on watch for the 9pm-1am shift, you’ll cook breakfast. This way everyone has the opportunity to get plenty of sleep, and a few “nights off” every 12 days. In comparison to solo sailors who often set alarms every 15 minutes while they “sleep”, in order to check things every 15 minutes, I’d say we have it pretty good!

Speaking of conditions, the day began with the same mild breeze we’ve had for 3 days: relatively light NE winds 8-10knots from nearly astern. Then it swung around to the more conventional ESE, which is actually a better angle for our mainsail, and our boat speed also jumped up, and helped us make a 137nm day (in contrast with the last two mellow days, which we traveled only 105nm)

Breakfast: banana smoothie (we froze all the bananas and have been making daily smoothies with a squeezed orange & apple, or oats & peanut butter.
Lunch: Seared Ahi Tuna with asian cabbage salad (the yellowfin tuna we caught yesterday) Dinner: Boat-made tortillas and Fish Tacos (the last of the yellowfin)

see our current location at 0900hrs. April 22, 2017.
S 18 30.95 W 112 48.84
Av Sp 5.7knots
Distance to Ducie 761nm

Photo: our green strip of days marked off, just when we were crossing the 1000 miles to destination mark!

Day 12. Pelagic Visitations and Good Vibrations

By Spencer

Dreams of migrating whales and pelagic fish filled my thoughts prior to embarking on this sea voyage across the South Pacific. To my surprise we have hardly seen any life at all! Every day we see a plethora of flying fish, some which leap towards the cerulean sky and end up hitching a ride aboard Aldebaran. Blue and Brown footed Boobies circle the trimaran every few hours and very occasionally we find a squid or two on deck, however no other life has been spotted other than the occasional cargo ship in the distance.

….Well today was a completely different story. Our slowest day of passage yet, cruising around 3 knots, the whole ocean seemed to have taken the day off. As I was trying to decipher which day of the week it was, we heard the zing of the fishing line. With Kristian working the reel and Sabrina poised with the net we landed a beautiful 9 pound yellow fin tuna on our starboard aft deck, it was our third fish in the two weeks underway! We hooked up using “Cami” our affectionately named “CA Lure” brand trolling feather. Not moments after bringing the catch aboard, Sabby the Salty Cruising Fisherwoman produced four expertly carved fillets for us to put on ice.

If you have ever filleted a fish you know it can be quite tricky and often very messy, Sabrina finished the job in record time with a smile on her face, her feet and the deck covered in a sanguine tint. Realizing we had left a pretty smelly trail of fish astern of us, we decided it would be a good opportunity to do some site seeing for our afternoon entertainment. We strung the remainder of the catch onto a long piece of hemp line and let it “swim” a few meters astern hoping to attract something exciting…

Just before tea time as I was engulfed in studying my celestial navigation book Beadle exclaimed Holy Guacamole theres a Hammerhead! The four of us practically flew to the aft deck to watch the majestic shark swimming thru the clear, lapis lazuli colored water investigating the tasty morsel we were flaunting. The shark seemed a bit timid, probably because the fish was so close to our hull; we decided to extend the line. Paying the fish out another 10 meters caused the tuna to swim erratically just like an injured fish twirling and fluttering at the surface. This commotion was attractive to our stalker the Great Hammerhead who appeared to be around 10-12’ long.

Pelagic sharks like this one are known to be extremely dangerous due to their hunting habits. A shark swimming through open ocean doesn’t get to be picky about its meals and therefore will strike first and decide whether or not the meal is worth eating after. We kept this in mind as we sat on the stern trying to catch a good angle for filming our visitor just a few yards away.

Four or five times the Hammerhead stalked from a few swells back, darted in close and then thrashed violently just feet away from our hookless lure. Interestingly enough this shark must have been a picky eater because even with some manipulation of the line to help entice the predator, he swam off without even a tiny taster….. Bummer! It would have been epic to see this beautiful creature feed.

The rest of the afternoon graced us with more fair weather. Sabrina and I made fresh sushi rolls for dinner and I attempted to recreate the Poke Tuna Ball I love to order from East Beach Tacos in S.B.. My attempt turned out to be delish albeit a bit of a sticky mess. I think next time I’ll leave that one for take out. 😉

0900hrs. April 21, 2017
S 17 02 W 110 53
Distance last 24hrs: 104nm
Distance to Ducie: 901nm
Wind: 8-10kts ENE with a few spurts to 12kts.
Course: 240 degrees

Day 11. A Shift in the winds

A little over halfway across the Pacific, there was a change in the wind. It seems like a good moment to reflect on the experience so far.

[Note… We’re very grateful for the ability (not taken for granted!) to share these posts and pictures amidst our passage. We have our Voyage Patrons to thank for this gift of sharing. With the support from almost 50 people, each contributing $2-25 per month, we’ve been able to fund an impressive satellite internet gizmo (the Iridium Go) that lets us stay connected to share media AND enhance safety. Thanks to this “passing of the hat”, we’ve also been able to purchase two amazing cameras for capturing the South Pacific experience in all its glory (the Sony RX100 with an underwater housing; and the Mavic Pro drone). If you enjoy these posts and photos, please consider supporting at (we do plan on restarting our video episode production at some point once we catch our breaths!). Special appreciation goes to our most supportive patrons: Jean-Claude & Jackie Littée, Bob & Jackie McMahan, Travis Dewater, and Brian Rossini; but ALL OF YOU have been integral in making our media sharing possible. Thank you!! ]

Ok, so Day 11. The wind has shifted… slightly! The ESE fresh breeze that was cupping Aldebaran on the beam during the first 10 days, giving us a delightful if slightly bumpy ride; has now turned to the ENE, which is enough to smooth out our ride to a delicious downwind run! Who thought we’d get this much comfort during our passage to the lesser-traveled southern latitudes!

This smoothness has brought something to attention, which sheds light on this experience. Although we are only moving at the speed of a bicycle (8-12 mph), the actual feeling is that the boat is moving at great speed. After deep discussion, we’ve concluded that sailing downwind in the trade winds is remarkably similar to something very very distant: sledding down a snowy mountain!

We hope you have all felt the unabashed joy of sledding down a snowy hill and hysterically laughing your way to the bottom. In sledding, you’re not necessarily going that fast (compared to a car let’s say); but when the sled is accelerating across the snow, you are feeling every little bump underneath, the wind is blowing your hair, you sense a side-slip here and an edge-grab there; and you can’t help but feel child-like joy as you plummet into a snowy bank. It’s just so dang fun.

Sailing – in nice conditions – is quite similar. Although the ‘G’ forces are quite small (!), there is a constant sensation from the waves lifting and pushing the boat, the wind gusting and heeling her over, the sound of the ocean gurgling in response to each changing moment. It is a non-stop stream that the body is absorbing and the brain is computing.

Motoring across water is quite different. Propulsion by diesel (the engine) is not necessarily in synch with the elements outside – unless you’re an excellent driver! Propulsion by wind (the sails) must be in line with the elements, so it’s essential to be present with their every nuance and change in the sea. This unending sense of “presence” is actually quite blissful.

Like a good jog or workout, an afternoon sail for 2 hours can reset the funk of the workday. The mental anxieties haunting us must take a backseat, so that we can move our body gracefully in the activity; in this case, through the wind, waves, and horizon.

Now extend that 2 hour sail into the nearly 2 weeks we have been underway. Besides some brief confusion in the ITCZ, we haven’t experienced a moment of sailing upwind or rough seas – which can be truly miserable. Instead, we are just going with the endless downwind flow of the ocean. We eat breakfast with it, we take showers in it, we read in it, we are immersed and saturated by its moment-by-moment expression. In this way, the constancy of the trade winds makes this passage downwind across the Pacific a true phenomenon.

During our 11th day at sea, everything got mellower. Not only was it marked with the wind shift in direction (to ENE winds) but also in wind speed, as it dropped to 6-8 knots. After an exhilarating ride for so many days, we now plodded along at a relaxed 3-4 knots under very smooth seas. The ocean’s pleasant lull heightened our bliss, and we’re quite unconcerned that our daily mileage dropped from 140nm to 105nm.

This was a wonderful opportunity to sit on the foredeck. It was also a productive day for chores, like compacting the trash (cheers Michael!), cleaning the head (cheers Spence!) and reviewing all the fresh food (cheers Sabby!). A crew meeting was held and projects were assigned for the remaining half of the voyage… ever giving back love to our vessel and home, Aldebaran, who has been taking so much good care of us.

0900hrs – April 20, 2017.
S 16 09 W 109 21
1000nm to Ducie Atoll
Last 24hrs: 105nm covered Av Sp: 3.9 knots
Wind 6-8 knots NE. Sailing with blue reacher headsail only — in order to maintain downwind course.


There are many “fair weather sailors” who will go out for a weekend with a few apples and claim to eat fresh. But when multi-week passages are concerned, and produce conditions are likely to deteriorate to high levels on the “BeauFruit Scale”, real sailors show their true colors!

In the worst food storm since “Bananagedon”, the crew of Aldebaran found themselves at bedtime with a rotten bunch of gooey fruit sliding around the closet.

It all began with the port bench being a little wet. Recall that the wind is always blowing over the port side of Aldebaran – from the East, as we head South-West – so all the waves wash over the port side of the boat. Our hatches need new gaskets, so they leak some water into the “wings” and those leak onto the port benches. An unfortunate problem for sure! Get off your lazy bum, Capitan, and install those gaskets.

Ok, back to the story. We were using the shop-vac to dry out the wings, when we discovered the festering brew. Sudden sensory realization: we had forgotten about our second papaya! Oh noooooo

Unfortunately we had consumed the first papaya (and checked it off the inventory) but for some reason we thought both had been eaten. As we all know papayas go off quickly. As it melted in its rotting goo, it afflicted everything it touched — including a beautiful large watermelon, which disintegrated in half, and our second to last pineapple, which became fermented nastiness.

Invoking emergency powers, the captain stopped all activities onboard until the rotten fruit was dumped overboard in the darkness for the fish to enjoy, and the crew began the arduous cleaning of the bins.

One bright note: we discovered that Michael doesn’t have a well-attuned sense of smell, as he hasn’t been bothered by the odors emitted by the food being stored in the vicinity of his sleeping quarters. We are all envious of his lack of smell right now.

The conditions were waaay too rough during Papayagedon to take pictures. So I hope you enjoy another image from Bananagedon, which was perhaps a “3” on the Beaufruit Scale, compared to Papayagedon’s “6”. This is of course the traditional measurement for fruit deterioration aboard a vessel. Y’all can share your stories below in the “Respond” section of produce disasters, and their BeauFruit Scale for comparison!

Gambier Storm Tactics, Stella Polaris

Beside the catamaran Coco de Mer, there was another sailboat that weathered the recent storm near Gambier: Stella Polaris, a Norwegian boat with four crew that we met in Galapagos, and we have been in touch with via satellite.

(Actually a Finnish sailboat called Manta also was in the vicinity, as you’ll see in the story below. They were buddy-boating with Stella Polaris, but we haven’t met them yet; they left together from Easter Island.)

(Also, for all the worried Moms out there, the weather forecast for Aldebaran’s arrival in Ducie/Pitcairn in 5-6 days is currently looking favorable!)

…We first got Stella Polaris’ report when the easterly wind had died out due to the incoming low pressure. See map of routes at bottom for context. Here’s what they were debating:

“We are now properly becalmed and are motoring at 5 knots. We ran out of wind yesterday at this time and have been motoring since. We have used about ¼ of our tank since leaving Galapagos, so we still have juice for a bit of motoring.”

“We have been downloading GRIB files [ie. wind charts] and have in the last 12 hours seen that conditions ahead are deteriorating. Worst scenario: 4-5 meter waves, 30-40 knots wind, on the nose. That will suck!

“From my limited knowledge of the area, I see three options: 1. Weather the bad weather on anchor at Pitcairn (453 nm to go).
2. Get into the lagoon on Ducie and stay there in protected waters while the weather passes (150 nm to go)
3. Aim straight for Gambier and gamble that we’ll steer clear of the worst. (717 nm to go)”

…The crew opted to do neither of the three options. Instead of continuing west, they turned 90 degrees and went north, to get some distance from the storm and wait it out. Reason: fellow cruisers informed them by satellite that the lagoon entrance to Ducie is impassable for sailboats, so that option was out. Furthermore, there is limited info on anchoring at Pitcairn and it’s reportedly not easy; so neither Stella Polaris nor Coco de Mer, which sailed within a few miles of the island, opted to stop at Pitcairn for shelter.

…speaking of Coco de Mer, they were 250 nautical miles ahead of Stella Polaris when this was happening, so they opted for going straight for Gambier, and taking one of the low pressures on the chin (as they did, described in my previous post).

…In contrast, as their storm tactic, Stella Polaris next went into a “holding pattern” by heading north.

“We’re currently on COG 010 [almost due north] doing 4 knots in 8-12 knots of wind. The waves are calm and the weather is good. Obviously steering course 010 is not conducive to reaching French Polynesia, but we’re sticking to our strategy.”

“We have sailed north and will hopefully be out of the trajectory of the 2 lows currently marinating in and around Gambier. We are hoping that an opportunity to dodge between the lows or at least minimize our exposure to them will materialize. Right now that window will hopefully open on Sunday/Monday, but the forecasts change every time we download them, so we’ll see. After the current lows are out of the way, a third low is set to arrive, so unless we want to be in a permanent holding pattern, we need to make a decision. Should Gambier prove to be a cauldron of lows, we’ll sail for Marquesas, but that’s something we really don’t want to do unless we have to.”

“Manta (a Finnish boat) that left the day after us from Easter Island are also in our vicinity waiting on an opening for Gambier, so it’s good to see that others also went for the same tactics that we did.”

…Stella Polaris spent two days zig zagging towards the north (see map of routes below). Low pressure systems typically shift the wind from east towards the north; then to the west; and finally back to a south-south-east. Their course for Gambier lay to the south-west. So they were waiting for a weather window between the lows, such that they could make it to Gambier before another low pressure hit the area, which turns the winds haywire.

“We are out of our holding pattern and are aimed for Gambier steering a COG 255 and we were doing 5,5 knots in 20 knot Northerly winds. The waves are around 2 meters and building and are not right on our bow, but close enough that we’re trying not to go too fast.

It’s quite bouncy onboard now, so it will be interesting to see what it’s like when the waves are close to 4 meters. We should be through this first low within 24 hours and then we’ll head into the second low, which is the one with 3,5 meter waves and close to 30 knot winds. By waiting, we’ve reduced the [forecasted] waves from 5 meters and the [forecasted] wind from 35-40 knots, so hopefully it will work out well.”

… Stella Polaris got underway while the North winds were still blowing, to help them get south from their “holding pattern” position. But next they’d have to push through the tumultuous “edge” of the front (the low pressure system), as they moved towards a high pressure, which was following on the heels of the low.

“We are currently sailing on COG 250 aimed straight at Gambier. The wind has been variable, since we exited the low pressure system yesterday. The low pressure system packed a bit of a punch and we saw winds up to 35 knots and steep and short period swell- and wind-waves coming from different directions. It was quite bumpy, but under a triple reefed main and a heavily furled jib, it was no problem.

“When we entered the area between the high and low we were pounded by a thunderstorm with lightning everywhere, and of course strong winds. They abated and we ended up motoring for a few hours in the night, to stay on course in unsettled seas and winds that were pulsating.

“Now we’re sailing, doing around 5 knots, waiting for the high pressure system to embrace us, with winds expected to be around 30 knots. They will be coming in from ESE, so hopefully we’ll have a good angle on Gambier and good wind to push us there. The big question will be how the 4 waves will behave, but hopefully the winds in the high pressure system will have had time to make them more uniform and less confused. Fingers crossed 🙂

“Emailing back and forth with Manta, it sounds like they have encountered more wind, more rain, more confused seas, etc. more of everything, so I feel like our holding pattern strategy paid off. I’ll know for sure when we enter the high.”

…as they moved into the high pressure, the winds swung around from North to west/variable and then to South-east as expected.

“We are sailing in 22-27 knots of SE wind. The waves are around 3,5 – 4 meters, but the period is good, so it’s relatively comfortable sailing in them. We altered course a bit, because the waves were hitting us on the beam, so now we’re aiming a bit north of Mangareva. We’ve had an uneventful night and are happy that our holding pattern has worked out: we missed the severe weather and only had to deal with a blunted version of it.

“We have 333 nm to go, but it doesn’t look like we’ll get there before Friday, because we’re sailing with a conservative spread of sails (especially at night), in case squalls should come through.”

“We’ll see. We’ll get there, when we get there :-)”

…I imagine they were feeling tired; everything seemed to be going ok for Stella Polaris until they had some equipment damage.

“So things have proceeded quite nicely for us, until an hour ago: then the autopilot stopped working, flashing the error message ‘Current Limit’. I’ve turned the power on and off a few times, but nothing helps.

“The one good thing is that we have a complete new autopilot in spare, but I don’t want to mess with the hydraulic hoses in these waves, so we will handsteer till we get to Mangareva and install the new one, unless we can fix the one already installed.”

…it’s kind of amazing that they have an entire spare autopilot on hand; and it’s ironic because we were talking on Aldebaran about the need for spare parts the other day. Sailors say that when cruising you “need a spare part for every single thing” and I always thought they were exaggerating but that is exactly what’s necessary.. If you don’t have a spare, you better have an alternative ‘jury-rigging’ option (after all we can’t bring a spare mast).

…For Stella Polaris their ‘jury-rig’ was easy: they would steer the rest of the way by hand.

” We are moving along in 19-22 knots of wind, with the wavestate now reduced to under 4 meters. The past 4 hours we’ve been going through squall after squall, so I think we’ve found their favourite route. It is also pissing down, which is great, since we’re hand steering. We can now mix steering and showering, which is a good way to get the most out of our watches.

“We have 190 nm left to the SE entrance of the reef and from there we will probably try to aim for the first anchorage, so that we can drop the hook there tomorrow evening. Don’t have much information about which anchorages are good, but after 15 days at sea, the rolly anchorages of Rapa Nui and 2 days of hand steering in mind, I think any of them will be awesome. ”

“We dropped the hook in Baie Gahutu, a lovely scenic bay on Ile Taravai [inside Gambier], yesterday, right before darkness fell. Manta (the Finnish boat) was the only boat there and they had supplied us with directions. After anchoring we pulled out champagne, beers, gin, rum …

This morning we woke up in the quietest anchorage we’ve been to in months, with clear blue skies, flat seas and NO rolling. Life is grand 🙂

… happy to hear that Stella Polaris is nicely tucked away with Manta and Coco de Mer in Gambier!

There is obviously a lot more weather around this latitude (23-25 S, compared to where we are now 18 S) so we are keeping a close eye on the forecast.

The good news is that the weather is looking very decent for our arrival in 4-5 days! (Knock on wood). There is anreasonable level of confidence that no lows will migrate into our area.

(You can view what we use for forecast data by downloading the app “Predict Wind Offshore”, and signing up on their site; it is free for basic features)

Hook to Fork: Sushi rolls

By Sabrina

“FISH ON!!!” Kristian yelled rousing the rest of the crew. “We just passed a bunch of birds circling overhead” he reported, as he grabbed the unspooling rod and starting reeling in. “I think we have another fish on our handline too!” DOUBLE HOOK UP!

The boat was under full sail, cooking along at 8 knots. Excitement was high to say the least. Like an intruder in a beehive, these fish riled us up. Hand over hand Spencer pulled in the handline on the port side while Kristian reeled in our trolling line on the starboard. I bounced around gathering the necessary tools to bring the fish on deck safely and Michael steered the boat as we surfed down waves flying with the trade winds. The boat was buzzing with energy. With so much going on at once, from all sides, it’s tough to recount the details, but in the end we had two beautiful little yellow fin tunas on deck ready for filleting! Sweet success! It had been 7 days since we caught our last fish.

“IT’S SUSHI TIME!!” Sushi is one of my all time favorite things to eat and prepare. The sweet sticky vinegar rice that hugs the fresh raw fish rolled in a blanket of nori… My mouth salivates at the thought of it. I was beyond excited that we were finally out of our fishing dry spell!! Not only was I thrilled for the delectable sushi that awaited us, but also actually catching a fish, bringing it on board, filleting it, and then preparing it into a mouthwatering feast for all to enjoy is such a thrill!

We’ve hosted so many friends who have been passionate about fishing, that I have always taken a back seat. This year, I’m now the motivated one. Fishing has become my domain. I read my book* to learn new tricks and often I feel like I don’t know what I am doing, especially when days pass and there is no action on our lines. However, when those reels start zipping, the sense of accomplishment that comes over me from having a fish on make the effort worthwhile, and makes me want to do a little dance!

So now, Im gonna dance my happy butt into our galley and start making SUSHI. Recipe below.

*If you own a boat, whether power or sail and want to learn to fish, you must read/own this book, The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing, by Scott & Wendy Bannerot . It is our almanac for everything one wants to learn about fishing and all things related – such as outfitting your boat, picking the right lures, what knot to try and how to tie it, techniques for bringing your catch on deck, filleting techniques, preparing your catch, and so much more. This is where my journey with fishing began.

How to make Sushi:
(I can thank my mom for teaching me how to make sushi from a very young age! Love you!)

Sushi is a wonderful dish, even if you don’t have fresh fish – use creative alternatives. It is a multi step process, best done in a fun group setting. You need – Nori (seaweed) sheets
– Rice
– Rice Vinegar/sugar/salt to transform your rice into sushi rice. – Fresh fish cut into long thin strips (or alternatives)
– veggies/fruit fillers cut into very thin strips. Place a sheet of Nori on a bamboo roller.

How to make it
– Add a thin layer of Sushi Rice on top of your Nori sheet, making sure to leave an inch uncovered at the top for sealing purposes.
– Once rice is distributed evenly across the nori sheet, place your fish and veggies across the midline of the nori sheet in a linear strip.
– Using the bamboo roller, grab the bottom edge or your nori sheet and pull up and over enclosing your innards in the middle. – Squeeze gently as to not break the nori.
– Now wet fingers and dab water across the top inch of uncovered nori, then wrap the final edge to seal.
– You should now have a sushi log in front of you. Take a sharp knife and slice individual sushi rolls. You may need to wet the knife in between to clean of sticky rice. – Serve with wasabi and soy sauce and pickled ginger on the side.

Sushi Rice
(Note: Very Important to plan ahead – Cook your rice 1 to 2 hours ahead of time so rice can cool. Otherwise, rice paper will sweat then tear and your sushi will fall apart).

1/3 c Rice Vinegar
generous pour of Sugar
pinch of Salt

Cook Rice (We use 1/2 c uncooked rice per person) – can be white or brown, or even fancy short grain sushi rice if you have that luxury. While your rice is cooking, combine vinegar, sugar, and salt until dissolved. Taste test, may need to add more sugar depending on sweetness preferences. Once rice is done cooking, the trick is cooling down the rice as quickly as possible. This is best accomplish by folding the rice over in the bowl. Fans help to cool.

Veggies/Fruit options
– Cucumbers
– Avocados
– Carrots
– Mangoes
– Apple
– Jicama
– Tofu
– egg omelette
… get creative

You can add all sorts of things to your rolls. This is where the fun begins. We often use dried mangos for a secret flare (you can rehydrate by soaking in water for 30 minutes to soften). The trick is to cut very thin strips so when you go to roll your sushi, you can make a thin layer of veggies and fish and across the middle of the nori sheet.

Eel Sauce
This is great for a very sweet drizzle on top
1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c mirin (Japanese sweet wine, you can also substitute with sherry, or sweet marsala, or white wine)

Heat soy sauce, sugar, and miring in a small pot over medium heat. Cook and stir until liquid is reduced to about 3/4c.

Spicy Mayo
This is great for making spicy tuna roll
3 Tbsp mayo
1 Tbsp chili hot sauce
1 tsp lemon/lime juice
1/4 tsp soy sauce (optional)

Combine all ingredient and mix with diced fish.

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.