In just a few weeks Deanna and I will sail away from Mexico and won't stop sailing until we reach the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. The total distance is over 2800 nautical miles, which is over 5300 km. To put that in perspective, it's 1000km further than driving from Victoria to Toronto! It is one of the longest ocean crossings that cruisers need to face and can be a real endurance test.
A long sailing trip is very, very different than a long car trip. There are no rest areas, no Motel 6's, and no stopping at McDonalds! Instead of travelling at 100kmh, we will instead average 10-15 km/h, or about 6-7 knots.
Taking into account that the winds are not steady, and that we can't always sail directly towards our destination, this trip should take between 17 and 24 days during which time we will be sailing 24 hours a day, non-stop.
While underway, the boat is largely steered by an electric autopilot, but one of us still needs to be up and on watch at all times. We prefer to avoid hitting whales, other boats, and freighters. On our last sail to Hawaii, we only saw on freighter and luckily it was a long way away.
Instead of a nice sleep each night, we break up the 24 hours into watches of 4-6 hours and alternate. For the entire voyage we will never be sleeping at the same time and will be trying to nap during the day to catch up on lost sleep. Our sail to Hawaii took 19 days and we were exhausted when we arrived. After stuffing our faces with tasty, greasy food, we slept for almost 24 hours.
We will leave from LaCruz, Mexico near Puerto Vallarta somewhere between the 15th and the end of March. We need to wait for a well developed high pressure system in the Pacific so that it sends down enough wind to get us away from the coast and south to the north east trade winds.
We'll sail a south west course getting closer and closer to the equator, looking for the best place to cross. This is an important decision since there is a band thunderstorms and squalls near the equator called the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone) that is uncomfortable and which can be dangerous. We will be looking for an area where the ITCZ is the thinnest to cross this area.
Once through the ITCZ and across the equator, we should get into the south east trade winds which will carry us to the Marquesas Islands. Crossing the equator will be a big deal as we have never done that in our boat before. Hopefully it happens in daylight for us!
Landfall will either be at Fatu Hiva (in the picture above) or at Hiva Oa, a bit to the North. I'll leave it to you to Google these islands to see for yourself how incredibly beautiful it is. These are the famous tropical islands that have seduced sailors for centuries.
Other than crossing the ITCZ, the weather is expected to be relatively benign with 10-20 knots of wind from behind for most of the trip. Keep in mind that the weather doesn't read the forecasts...
As long as all of our communication systems work well, we plan to update our blog everyday on our progress and add our current position to our map. If you haven't figured out how to find our position on the map on our blog, you will definitely want to do that!
If you fancy yourself an armchair navigator, let us know how long you think it will take for us to reach the Marquesas. I'm betting on 19 days, but just by writing that I probably cursed myself!
That's about it. If you have any questions, post them in the comments or send us an email. Just so you know, the comments that you post on the blog we receive through our satellite email system, even when we are a thousand miles from land. It's great to hear from friends while we are on passage.