The Crossing

Category: Ships Log

Time Period: Monday, 4/21 -

Read the latest updates from our Pacific crossing here!  Green Panther and her crew are on their way.


While we are crossing to the Marquesas, we will update this blog post as often as we can.  New reports will be added to the bottom of this post, so just scroll down to read the latest!


Day 0 (4/21)

We cleared out with the port captain and with customs this morning and hoped we would be ready to leave this afternoon; however, we still had a couple small, but important projects to finish, which took a bit longer than planned (this seems to be a recurring theme with us :)). Luckily the weather system is a bit delayed as well, and not supposed to hit until about midnight. We will throw off the docklines tomorrow morning!


Day 1 and Day 2 (4/22-23)
We are finally underway! We left Paradise village marina in Nuevo Vallarta (Banderas Bay) yesterday in the very late afternoon. So far we didn't experience the predicted NW wind which is supposed to push us offshore, but we have S wind and are making about 2.5 kt sailing west.
     The highlight yesterday was the spectacular bio luminescence when going by the Tres Marietas Islands. Around midnight we had a pod of dolphins following us and could see them hunting and chasing each other all around the boat. It was a dark and moonless night, but the outlines of their bodies were highlighted in a bright fluorescent green - it was spectacular and looked almost like a Disney Land ride, just better because it was real. A little later I saw a huge fluorescent green donut in the water, about 10m (30ft) in diameter. As we came closer the donut starting emitting a lot of fluorescent green blobs which came directly and very fast towards us. Eventually the entire donut transformed into a more snake like shape heading our direction and swallowing up the blobs in the progress. Everything happened so fast, so I didn't have time to think about what if this is an alien star ship hiding here and looking to bring some human samples home to its world :-). Anyway as the snake came closer I could see what it was. It consisted of thousands of small blobs. They all were about 1/2m (1.5ft) long, had a short torpedo shaped body, and  fins - everything coated in the green bio luminescence. So the donut was a huge school of fish which came over to check out our boat, no aliens this time.

position at noon on April 23rd:
N 20 deg 45' 26.2"; W 105 deg 18' 11.7"


Day 3 and 4 - Birds, Bolts, and Big swells (4/24-25)
People wonder sometimes if we get bored out here at sea with nothing to look at other than the vast blue ocean. So far the answer is no. We adjust the sails, plot our course, watch movies, listen to music, read all the books we never had time for,  plus we have a well staffed entertainment team giving us all its attention. The members of this team take care of you in the middle of the night as well as during the day, whenever they feel like it. And yes they are seabirds. The rules of the show go like this. Seabird scores points when he/she is able to land anywhere on the boat. Bow pulpit or dinghy is okay, but spreaders and the top of the mast count double. Bonus points can be achieved by covering as much surface area as possible with fresh guano. The sailor scores points for each abandoned landing attempt, and gets bonus points for the most creative ways to achieve this goal. So far we've had brown boobies and frigate birds visiting us. The brown boobies circle the boat like sharks hunting their prey and come closer with each circle before they go for it. Frigate birds being the more elegant air acrobats only perform one or two flybys before they aim for a spot to land.

Before we left, we prepared our boat for this game and mounted "cable tie spikes" on top of the mast. A brown boobie tried to land there anyway, pushed our small VHF antenna out of the way and touched down right next to the cable tie. However the antenna being flexible snapped right back in place, and scared the brown footed fellow away. One of his mates however, managed later on  to land on the bow pulpit and on our dinghy on the foredeck, scoring points. The frigates came during the night and aimed for the mast top. The swells were still pretty high 7-8ft and Green Panther was pitching and rolling, so I am not sure why the birds would like to sit where the motions of the boat are amplified. Our defense strategy was to point our handheld searchlight at them just right before the attempted landing. When timed correctly, the beam of light distracted the frigate enough that she (the birds were females) missed the landing window and had to abort the mission. So points for the sailor here. However we got tired of the game after an hour and the frigates might have tried it again after hours.

Other than that, we did get the predicted NW wind and the large swells of 6-10 ft yesterday. They came with high winds (>25kts) and made for a bumpy ride. We talked to the couple from "Crazy Love" yesterday (they are headed for Hawaii) on the radio and they had an even harder time with the "mini storm" since their 26ft vessel has a low freeboard and its bow got buried in the waves several times. By night time though, the wind died down to 5-10kts, although the swell remained the same, so the ride shifted from bumpy to very roll-y. We're still working on getting used to the different motions!

The not so good news is that our windvane steered very sluggish yesterday. A quick examination revealed that the bolts between the windvane and the metal mounting brackets on the transom were loose, and the locking washers and nuts were gone! We found one spare 7/16 locking nut in our screw collection and could re- tighten at  least one of the two bolts.  We want to find a second nut or a  different bolt before we use the windvane again, so the autopilot does extra shifts now. It is a wonderful thing to have a back-up auto steering method so we don't have to hand steer! We will work on the windvane once the sea calms down a bit.

Position: 19 deg 46'N, 108 deg 29' W

Days 5-7 (4/26-28):
Over the last several days the wind and large swells have found us. Our first couple days we were barely moving along, but now we have had a fairly consistent NW wind blowing. Generally the winds have been around 12-15 kts, although sometimes we'll get a few hours of 20+ kt winds. These are not the trades yet, but rather the remnants of systems moving down from the California coast. The wind below 20 kts is great, but when it gets much stronger, it is too much for our autopilot to handle so we end up hand steering. We are hoping at some point the swells will die down a bit so we can try to temporarily secure the bolts better on our wind vane. Then we won't have to depend on our autopilot so much and risk burning it out.  Along with the wind, the swells have also increased and are not so much fun. For the last several days we've been averaging about 10 ft swells. When the wind picks up, these swells start forming whitecaps and occasionally we'll get some of the spray blowing over our boat.  The worst part of the swells though is the uncomfortable rolling motion. As swells go under us, or hit us from the side, we can roll from a 45 degree angle on the port side to a 45 degree angle on the starboard side. This makes walking, cooking, and doing pretty much anything other than sitting at the wheel or lying down and sleeping, very difficult.  As an example, this morning I was making a german pancake with apples for breakfast. I placed the batter on our gimbaled stove so it wouldn't spill. But of course a good sized wave hit us broadside, which made the stove dip very sharply downwards, and the bowl tipped over, spilling half the batter behind the stove. Lesson learned: you can't leave anything unattended on a moving boat, even on a gimbaled stove.  For the past few days, we also never quite feel 100%. We aren't really seasick, but if you hang out in the cabin too long trying to cook food or do some other task, you get a headache pretty quick and just feel exhausted..  Hoping we'll either get used to the motion of the swells or the swells will die down soon!

Here is a quick excerpt from our onboard logbook  from yesterday, which was the craziest day we had so far:
am: winds with 15-20 kts from NW, genoa furled to towel size, first reef in main
4pm: wind calmed down to below 15kts
5pm: wind blowing again with strong gusts over 20kts , autopilot is overwhelmed, now running downwind with 3rd reef in main, no genoa
8pm: wind calmed down to below 6 kts in last hour, swell is still running at ~10 ft, sails flapping, we bob around like a cork > started engine @ 1500 rpm
9pm:  wind from NW ~10 kts, stopped engine, set full genoa, heading 240deg

Our position as of Monday at noon: 17 deg 44'N, 111deg 53'W


Days 8 -9 (April 29th-30th) Good sailing and a day off
The strong winds subsided on day 8 and we finally enjoyed a good day of sailing, well except for the swell which was still running at 8 ft from the NW, but at least the large waves now had more distance between them which makes for a more gentle motion.  However, at 11pm, as predicted from our weather reports, the wind decided to take a break. First it calmed down a bit and then there was no movement at all (except for the swells, which of course never go away); it was dead calm. That reminds me to watch Dead Calm the movie again, a great sailing suspense thriller but a bit scary and it makes you think twice before picking up a random dude in the middle of the ocean. Anyway we decided to call it a night, took all the sails down and enjoyed a good night of sleep bobbing along. Yes it was a bit rolly due to the swells, but we were pretty exhausted and slept like stones. We did get up once an hour to check for other boats, but there was nothing out there. Actually we haven't seen another boat for several days now.

The next day was our day off since there was still no wind and no way to steer without turning on the engine (we are trying to save our fuel to get us across the doldrums near the equator).  We slept in, enjoyed a nice breakfast and a solar shower on deck. Alena didn't want me to jump into the water because of  possible sharks, but I don't think there are more out here than closer to the coast, so I am still planning to swim at some point on our trip. We also cleaned the boat and had time for all the tasks we couldn't do when the wind was blowing. We started our water maker and after finding another air leak and replacing another o-ring, it did what it was supposed to do: make drinking water out of seawater! Also I had time to fix our wind vane mount and after a long search in the darkest corners of the boat I finally found a nut which fit the loose bolt. Another problem was to straighten out the wind vane again since it shifted backwards when the bolts got loose.  Our Aries wind vane is a heavy beast but with the help of both winches I managed to pull the vane towards the transom, straighten it out just right, and secure the bolts. We'll have to wait a few days to test it though, since there are only very light winds in the forecast.  Also I ran a few more lines today and mounted our big spinnaker pole. The pole holds up our jib sail in light winds, and should be very useful once we finally reach the trade winds. In fact it is doing just that right now while we have our happy hour of Pacifico and popcorn.

Current position: 16 deg 22' N, 113 deg 42' W

Days 10 - 12 (May 1st-3rd)
For the last 4 days we have been becalmed, meaning there has been almost no wind at all. In this time we traveled a whopping 84 nm, or about 21 nm per day.  In total, we have only traveled about 600 of the 3000 nm we need to reach the Marquesas. At this rate, we'll be lucky to reach the Marquesas in 4 months, let alone 4 weeks. :)  And no we are not in the doldrums yet, we just hit a calm patch. We are not motoring because we really want to save our fuel for the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ aka doldrums) where besides no wind there are also lightening storms. So for the time being, we are making the best of peacefully bobbing along the ocean.

This interlude has actually been quite nice. The swell has died down to 3 to 5ft, so the motion is more smooth and it almost feels like we are at anchor. The days are sunny and warm (mid 80s) and the ocean is a gorgeous deep royal blue.  At night, because there is barely any wind, we just let the boat drift (checking outside about once an hour) and are each getting a full night's rest.  We've made water twice in the last four days and have a full water tank. We've also had showers twice in the last four days, so are squeaky clean by cruising standards. With the conditions so calm, I've also been able to make some proper meals and bake bread and cinnamon rolls.  And last night we even had an outdoor movie night with popcorn, smoked salmon dip and chocolate pudding. As a result, we are feeling completely relaxed and re-charged for whenever the wind decides to come back. 

Another nice thing about having so much free time on our hands is we finally have time to do things we've put off in favor of boat projects. For Chris, this is learning how to use his new GoPro camera and starting to read some of our cruising guides for the Marquesas. For me, I finally started growing sprouts with this awesome sprout kit my friend Cynthia got us before we left. Now that our produce is starting to run low, it will be great to still have some veggies! The first crop should be ready in 2 more days.  I also started learning to use a sextant to determine our latitude and longitude.  In the days before GPS, this was how mariners determined their position. In case something happens to all of our GPSs onboard, I figured it would be good to know how to use this (not to mention that it is a fun exercise)! My first attempt today with 3 daytime fixes of the sun was about 150 nm off from our actual position, but I'm hopeful with a couple more fixes, and maybe some nighttime fixes on stars, I can get a bit more accurate.  Thank you very much to my old boss Skyli for the great sextant and CelestiComp calculator!

Anyway, although this becalming has been quite pleasant, it does appear we will be back on our way soon. The latest weather files show an east wind should start blowing about 5-7 knots tomorrow and changing to a NW wind at 10-12 knots by Monday. Hopefully this will finally carry us into the Trades!
Current position:
15°04' N, 114°24' W

You can also follow our progress via the Pacific Seafarer's Net with our HAM call sign KG7GAM: or

Hits: 7114


+1 #8 Holden 2014-06-21 03:06
My husband and I are preparing to live aboard in a few weeks, and we found your blog to be inspiring and fun. I don't know that we'll ever be able to make such a great trip, but cheers to you for doing it!
+1 #7 Roy Wessbecher 2014-05-31 20:08
I had a Monitor vane and attached a small push-rod autopilot to the vane counter-weight. In my opinion it's the only way to go on a Columbia 34 MKII. (The concept should work with any vane.)

Keep up your spirits - you're almost there!
0 #6 Althea Pribyl 2014-05-30 16:39
(The blog is on strike again, so here's the latest post..--Althea)

Days 33 - 37 May 24-28): In the South Pacific

We saw the island pretty late because it was rather low lying and pretty tiny. When we came closer I noticed that there were a bunch of buildings on it. Actually it was a little strip mall and one of the stores there was grocery outlet. They had a wide selection of fresh vegetables and fruits, a good variety of dairy products and lots of chips and other snack food. I was so happy we could re-supply and have fresh produce again.

This is what Alena explained to me this morning when she described the very exciting dream she'd had last night. Of course there is no island here. However the dream shows that we really learn to appreciate certain things that one takes for granted back home. Fresh fruits and veggies for example. We did stock up on both before we left, but of course they hold up only for a while, and we are underway for 37 days now. Looking at our produce net, there is only one apple left, 4 bunches of garlic and some limes. We also grow sprouts which helps, but it is about time that we hit land. :-)

We are already south of the equator and have about 400 nm to go, which means about 5 to 6 days of sailing before we hit the Marquesas. Our speed will depend mainly on how much we have to beat into wind and swells to make our way south. The good news is that our windvane finally cooperates, with the main in the 3rd reef to balance the full close-hauled genoa. The vane has been holding Green Panther on an okay course for the last 300 nm. This makes it much easier on us, especially at night, because now we only need to check our course and sweep the horizon once in a while and can read, relax, cook, clean, and watch movies between checks. However, most tasks such as cooking and cleaning are quite challenging with the boat's constant and unpredictable lurching back and forth; we are both looking forward to finding a stable anchorage soon. It has been a long trip and we can't wait to see the Marquesas in a few days!
+1 #5 Patrick Schwientek 2014-05-28 00:57
Hey cruisers,

I am crossing fingers that the second half of your journey will be as smooth as the first one, and that you have less swells ;-)

Keep up the great postings, I enjoy reading them and seeing the awesome pictures!

0 #4 Lora 2014-05-18 03:21
wow.... :-x
0 #3 Larry B 2014-05-17 04:27
So cool about the bioluminescence around the school of fish! That's some wave motion you were talking about. Bummer about the balky wind vane—wish us landlubbers could air-drop some spare parts to you, Hunger Games-styel. The petrel story was great.

Thanks for sending the tracking link—really neat to see your position live.

Having fun with more citizen lobbying over here. Also recently went north to Anderson Valley for camping, beer, disc golf, wine tasting, and s'mores.

All the best!
+1 #2 Bernhard 2014-04-27 21:01
Hi, nochwas: geht das eure Position auf der Route zu aktualisieren?
+1 #1 Bernhard 2014-04-27 19:50
Viel Spass beim Vögel - vertreiben! Dieses Problem muss sich doch mit zunehmender Entfernung von selbst lösen, oder??
Wir fiebern mit euch mit - und warten schon gespannt auf eure nächsten Erlebnisse!!

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