The Long Voyage to Polynesia

This is April 9, 2003 and we have now been at sea since the first day of the war with Iraq. That was quite a surprise to listen to the BBC four days out from the Galapagos and learn that our country was at war in order to find hidden weapons. We had always thought that war would be declared for other more easily understood and acceptable reasons.

During the initial week of our journey we had estimated arrival at the Gambiers on April 12th; however, since we have 700 miles to go to our destination, this estimate has had to be readjusted. Now we do not even dare to think about when we will arrive.

At the start of the trip we had 350 gallons of diesel fuel aboard. At this point we have used 100 of those gallons and continue to use another 1-1 ½ gallons each hour that we run the engine. After the 700 miles to the Gambiers, we then have another 1100 miles to travel before we will be able to refuel. We trust that this gives you a fair idea of why we need to conserve fuel. Back to the beginning…

We wrote to you as we were leaving the Galapagos on March 20th about the wonderful currents helping to push us west and south. Well, after dark that evening we were motoring under a beautiful starry sky when we saw a very bright light heading straight towards our boat, closing rather rapidly. At sea we do not like to have visitors, of the human type, so we immediately went into our protective mode. The light continued to come closer until we could tell that it was a fishing panga. These are usually fibre glass boats of about 16-18' in length. This one carried three men aboard. By the time that we could see them about 10 yards off the stern, our hearts were beginning to pound. One of the men yelled to the others, "Esa Yachte" which means, "It's a yacht!" After that they immediately turned around and zoomed off. We had to assume that in the dark they could see our lights and our masts and thought that we were their mother boat. They were probably disappointed…we were most relieved.

The first few days of the trip brought very little wind but we did have that nice 2 knot current to draw us on at fairly good speeds and low engine rpm. The second night out trouble came. Do you remember that theory that we have developed? The boat system as a whole cannot bear to be running with all parts in good condition. It produces too much strain on the boat and something breaks. The first to go was the brake on our shaft. A leak had developed and was spewing transmission fluid all over the bilge. From 2 AM until 5AM Sander worked at a repair. He formed a plug for the whole brake system and removed the shaft brake assembly. (the plug was used to plug the hole in the transmission after the brake fluid line was removed) That means that we have no brake on the shaft and it continues to rotate the propeller when the engine is not running. This could cause us problems when we arrive, but we cannot worry about that now. When we got far enough south on the third day, we reached an area of squalls which lasted about 24 hours. These squalls made things uncomfortable but the top winds clocked at 22 kph…really not too bad. After the squalls we found the SE trade winds and moved along under sail with 10-15 knots of wind most of the time.

Now we were seriously into the act of being at sea! We discovered some interesting problems that we had never thought about - nor had we ever read about them. When the boat is moving at those speeds it leans over to the side away from the wind - it heels. Our boat was heeling at about 10 degrees towards the port side which is where our galley sink is located. The base of the sink is normally right at the water line. Adding this heeling we had a sink half full of seawater all the time. How would I do the dishes? We had to turn off the thru-hull valve to keep the seawater out, do the dishes in a bucket, carry the bucket up to the deck to dump the waste water over the side and, finally, use a turkey baster to suck out the residue water from the drains. This is a long process but we have been doing it since we left and gotten quite used to it.

Another challenge! Try to picture taking a shower when the boat is heeling over 10 degrees, rocking back and forth with the motion of the waves and suddenly lurching when a wave hits the boat from a weird angle. The trick seemed to be keeping hold with one hand and washing with the other. That makes shampooing a real challenge. At first one is tempted to say, "The heck with it. I am not that dirty tonight." When you know that you will be underway for nearly a month, the argument in favor of bathing holds a lot more sway.

One morning while making a batch of bread, Jane reached the limits of frustration. We had finally gotten most things down to a science but, never everything. We always keep the lid open over the fridge and freezer compressors to allow for more air circulation. They are located just where all the action happens when I am cooking. This trip has seen the total disappearance of two knives into that cavity. That morning I had just finished sifting 2 cups of flour into my large mixing bowl when the boat took one of those momentary lurches from a side wave. Even though the bowl was on a non-skid, the motion toppled the bowl straight into the cavity with the compressors - white flour all over everything. You can probably imagine that Jane was not the happy cruiser that morning!

We despaired at first. It was easy to get cranky with each other and to get depressed about the whole situation…and we did. Then one day Jane decided, "We have dirty laundry that has to be washed." Setting about the task and being successful at it convinced her that she could continue life 'almost as usual' if she put her mind to it. Sander was suffering from a case of diarrhea and that kept him down for a while. Once that was past he set about finding projects around the needed to be done. The aft toilet even received some attention and now works brilliantly. And Voila! We had our sea legs.

Please do not misunderstand what I am writing here. Neither of us has decided that we like this 'long voyage at sea' business. Once we got our sea legs and later had to sit around for days waiting for wind, we have decided that it is downright boring.

We have regular meals each day. Most of the time the meals are soups or stews that can be cooked in the pressure cooker. We cook beans and vegetables in almost everything. At this date we have one onion left and will sorely miss the vegetables until we make landfall. Jane bakes bread and Sander enjoys his beer as well as rum & Coke. We bought about 18 cases of Ecuadorian beer before we left. Life goes on…and on and on and on at sea.

Later - April 17, 2003 We have reached 80 miles to our destination and hope to make landfall tomorrow, Good Friday. We need to enter the reef area at slack tide, just as the area experiences low tide and changes to an incoming. It is recommended that the easiest way to transit the passes into the reef areas is to go with the tide but just at the slack time when the current is the least. At some of the reefs we plan to visit over the next few months, this timing will be very important as their currents can reach 6-8 knots when the passes are narrow and water cannot enter or exit the reef at any other points. The Gambiers' reef is awash at many places so the current is quite low - all favorable for our first experience.

We have had a very long slow and tedious time on this long passage. We cannot complain too much though because nothing terribly scary has happened and nothing terribly serious has happened to Satori. Sander did find a big problem with our steering yesterday. After a few hours of work, the steering was back to normal. We are very lucky that he found and fixed it when he did.

We will write again before we leave the Gambiers and head on west. We have a tentative schedule as follows. We hope to be in Papeete, Tahiti by May 15th. This is the date when our 90-day visas are to begin. When we leave the Gambiers at 23 degrees south and 135 degrees west we will sail directly west to the Australs. We will visit the island of Raivavae at 24 degrees south and 147 ½ degrees west, a distance of 690 nautical miles. From Raivavae we travel nearly directly north to Papeete at 17 ½ degrees south and 149 ½ degrees west . We know that some of you are following our trip in your atlas and those lat/longs should help.

We have also had some very positive comments about the ship tracking system that you can visit on the web. That address is You will need to enter our ham radio call sign in order to bring up a map showing our last month's path. Friends have commented that the site is easy to use and quite fascinating. We will not be adding any waypoints to the site until we leave the Gambiers in a few weeks. We hope that spring has reached most of you and that you are excited about the coming summer. We will be in the winter months here, but we can assure that we will be warm and comfortable. Jane and Sander aboard S/V Satori

A reminder: Please communicate with us via our ham radio e mail address which is ***.