All set for a sea passage from La Paz in Mexico, to Majuro in the Republic of Marshall Islands. That’s 5000 nautical miles to go, the longest distance we will have done without stopping. We had MANY good reasons for returning to the Marshall Islands, but why decide to head straight there, without halting elsewhere on our way in the Pacific?

Strategy

Our strategy was to remain north of the equator to stay away from zones of calms, countercurrents, and unpredictable weather. Actually, according to the pilot charts, we would be drawing to steady winds the whole voyage, likely above 20 knots, which is the best for our steal sailboat, for the environment, and our finances. Indeed, it would allow us to use the sails most of the time, instead of the engine that burns 2.5 l/h. Our average speed is usually 100 nautical miles daily, so we were prepared for a 50-day passage, but we expected to be able to arrive to our destination within 40 days.

Supplying the Boat

So, we filled up the boat on food in La Paz before undertaking this long sea journey. But 40 days isn’t that bad. We’ve spent up to three months without resupplying the vessel in the past. Pinocchio is well designed with lots of space for storing provisions. It’s very convenient for our large family of seven kids. We made a habit of preparing a wide variety of balanced meals from scratch with only around one hundred basic ingredients. Nothing cooked in advance, nor canned lunches. We concoct the same type of dishes while on sea passages as we do during our stops. However, after a few weeks, we don’t have any fresh fruits and vegetables left, so we use tinned ones. Plus, the ocean sometimes offers us tasty fish to expand the menu!

Charlotte's video on food supply for 50 days at sea!

Fishing

As a matter of fact, before we left Mexico, Marcus filled up on new fishing gear. It’s always nice to eat fresh fish during those long periods at sea. That’s exactly what we did on the second week of this passage when we hooked a seven-foot marlin! It was our first ever! What a challenge! It took 30 minutes before we managed to pull him out of the water with the mizzen’s halyard! Fortunately, the ocean was calm, and it was one of the only times we were using the engine. Then, a few days later, we got a pretty big Mahi-Mahi. Afterwards, we lost 2–3 catches. Our 300-pound line even literally cut off, at once! It must have been something huge! The following weeks, Pinocchio was going too fast because of the strong winds, and rolling too much due to the big swell. We therefore didn’t put the line back in. There would have been too much movement on board to prepare the catch… Imagine the fish sliding on deck or in the cockpit while we try to cut it into fillets… I’m telling you! Then, we’d have to lean overboard to fill up water buckets and clean up everything. Not to forget the pots and pans that always risk to be projected from one wall to the other in the boat. It requires constant vigilance!

WOW! A MARLIN !
Short video by Charlotte Forns

Four Birthdays

We already have plenty of work in the kitchen on Pinocchio! Especially in January when we celebrate four of our seven kids’ birthday in the same weekend! Plus, they each claim their own cake, with special decoration, please! Charlotte likes to spoil her siblings! Our friends from sailing vessel Renard even gave us a big surprise bag full of little packages to unwrap twice a week, and, of course, a gift for each of our 4 kids’ birthday! Thank you so much friends!


—Hey come and see! There’s a bunch of dolphins all around! Just as if they wanted to say hi and be part of the party! Oh! But remain in the cockpit this time, kids!

Those friends of the ocean jumped and did somersaults in the air! What a show!

—Beware of the wave! Oh dear! Keep a firm grip!

—Okay! Come on in, now! The cake is ready! Hold on to your plate! Hap-py Birth-day to you!

Light Seasickness

This intense rocking movement greatly complicates all our displacements in and on the boat. Yet, aside from that, I see no inconvenience in sailing downwind. It’s my favourite point of sail, because it doesn’t give me severe seasickness! Only a light head ache and fatigue during the first couple of days before I get my sea legs back. Those days are difficult. Sometimes, I wonder why we keep deciding to sail across oceans over and over again! I feel miserable… I overthink our decisions…

 —Maybe we should have stayed longer in Mexico to stay with all our friends and follow them in French Polynesia. Or maybe we shouldn’t have left Canada again…


Then, after two or three days, I start feeling good and joyful again. I can keep my eyes open and do things pretty much as normal. The kids can even do their school work again, and with a much more regular assiduity than when we’ve stopped somewhere! This year, our youngest daughter, Florence, has learned to read. Now, she can devour books from our boat library, like all the other kids. Reading often gives some of us a headache when we’re sailing, but after a while, we get used to it…

Something Broke

This having been said, we mainly sailed downwind during this sea passage, with sails wing-on-wing and a pole on the front sail. The last weeks, the heavy seas carried us west through the foam of the tumbling waves with four-metre troughs. Marcus tried different sail arrangements. For example, he poled smaller front sails such as the Yankee and the gib 3, which are designed for strong winds. It worked pretty well thanks to the block he added on the pole. Until one morning, when, after a very windy night, a major “TONG” resounded in all of the boat’s steel! It woke the whole crew.

—What’s that noise?

Felix was the first one on the deck. He saw, to his surprise, that a wire was tossing around. Marcus then quickly discovered a broken turnbuckle on one of the shrouds that stretches from the mast to the starboard side of Pinocchio! What happened? Well, since the clew on a Yankee is very high, we had installed the pole higher on the mast so that it remained parallel to the horizon. Unfortunately, it vaulted the mast and put pressure on the shrouds. Marcus concluded that it would be better to put the pole lower next time… At any rate, we imperatively had to make the required repair lest the mast had fallen… Whew! Marcus had the needed replacement part in his toolkit! What a farsighted captain!

Caution on This Vast Ocean

And good thing he is, for this isn’t a place you’d want to be in a bind. Apart from the few fishing vessels we crossed south of Hawaii, we’ve seen NO boat, NO ships, NO airplane! Nothing but many drifting buoys left by fishermen, I suppose. Besides, it’s always very surprising to see a buoy pass by at only two metres from the boat… In short, all this shows how important it is to be well tooled for communicating in case of shipwreck. In our survival bag, we have a distress beacon and a hand-held VHF. However we also planned to bring our Iridium Go satellite communication system, which is designed to send text messages and emails… Otherwise, we most likely would have to wait quite a long time for help.

Water Supply

Plus, there has been fairly no rain during the whole 41 days. Only very short lasting little squalls. So little, someone would certainly die of thirst on a life raft. You might have seen all our bleu jerrycans on Pinocchio’s deck. They contain 200 litres of fresh water and are tied in a way that makes it easy to launch them at sea with the life raft in case of shipwreck.

Talking about water, we have a Katadyn Powersurvivor 80 E-2 on Pinocchio. It’s a machine that can transform salt water in potable water. Marcus makes sure our water tank and jugs are always full of water. In total, we have enough water to survive 25 days. It’s pretty good, but it would be insufficient for this sea passage of more than 40 days. What would happen if the water maker broke? We did have a few optional places where to stop: Hawaii, Kiribati… Otherwise, we could simply have sailed down south to reach the Intertropical Convergence Zone, where it’s more likely to rain because of its frequent squalls and storms. In fact, we remained north of that zone, found between the 4th and the 10th degree North, because it’s not interesting to sail in there. The winds are very unstable and can vary up to 20 knots in just a few minutes, so one must always be very alert and adjust the sails in time. Plus, an equatorial countercurrent flows in there. Actually, some sailors in French Polynesia use this current to return the American continent.

Oh! French Polynesia… How I would love to visit this place again… The verdant mountains, the waterfalls and the abundance of fruits in the Marquises! The atoll’s beautiful lagoon… But we’ll find plenty of lagoons in the Marshall Islands!!

Arriving at Destination

So, we spent 41 days at sea. After having crossed six time zones, passed the International Date Line and ridden countless foamy white crests, we finally reached the peaceful translucent waters of Majuro’s lagoon. We started the engine, and lowered the sails before entering the pass of this atoll with long white sand beaches. What a joy to see the green walls of coconuts, but also to hear the reassuring sound of our faithfully running engine!

We spent only 30 litres of fuel in this passage. That’s the most economic ocean crossing we’ve had since we started this voyage in 2016! During all the previous ones, we had to burn a lot more fuel because of long periods without wind. Finally, when the boys were done mooring the boat, the whole crew was proud and happy to be back to Majuro! But the captain was worried…

—What’s that weird noise we heard while starting the engine?

(…)


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About the Author

Je suis traductrice et je navigue autour du monde avec mon mari Marcus, nos 7 enfants et notre chienne Brume sur notre voilier Pinocchio à la découverte des océans, des îles, des gens, de la flore, de la faune, des insectes, des poissons, de la culture, de la musique, des arts, de l’histoire et des saveurs d'ailleurs...
I am a translator and I travel around the world with my husband Marcus, our 7 children and dog Brume on our sailboat Pinocchio to discover the oceans, islands, people, flora, fauna, insects, fish, culture, music, art, history and flavors of faraway...

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