Wednesday 22 April 2015

20 Days at Sea Part 2: 2/3 Of the Way There

Wednesday April 22nd 2015

Setting up the head sail as it's downwind all the way !

This sea gull is far from land ! 

School underway

Making pizza in the middle of the Pacific

Our 3000 nautical trek took us a little less than 20 days

Mark fixing the washing machine while we are underway

MC and the kids doing school while underway

Day 14 : Galápagos to the Marquesas 

Latest Position: 

Latitude: 08 deg 49'.000 S (read as 8 degrees, 49 minutes South) 

Longitude: 125 deg 00'.95 W (read as 125 degrees, 0.95 minutes West) 

The hours are slowly changing as we move further west, and we have gone through two time zones (15 degrees of Longitude per time zone), although we decide when to change our clocks back mainly by looking at what time the sun sets and rises. 

We are a bit more than 2/3 of the way there, less than 900 nm to go before we get to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas (whoo hoo!) Everything is going very well, not much is new, the days all seem to blend into one these days.The big excitement comes when we catch a fish, usually they get away it seems on this passage unfortunately, although when we get a big marlin or sailfish, I am secretly happy when it snaps the lines and goes because I am not sure how we would bring on such a large beast on deck !!! We are more into catching Tuna and Mahi Mahi (My fav.) of course, nevertheless any bite and a call of: "FISH ON!" is a thrill on board Amelie these days ! 

Since the days are all are starting to resemble one another and there's not much more to tell you about the crossing, I thought I'd answer a few questions instead. We love when people ask us questions and here are a few that have cropped up recently, so keep those questions coming ! 

Frequently asked questions 

Regarding Otto : 

"When you are letting Otto do the steering, isn't there a danger that you and other boats who are also relying on their auto pilot collide ?" I just LOVE this question, because I had not realized how it may be perceived that we were just sitting down below deck and no one was watching, no, "Otto" is great (as is his brother "Frotto"- in case Otto bites the dust). He makes our lives so comfortable because we don't need to stand and hand steer the entire time (like some of our friends had to do for most of this crossing!). But there is someone in the cockpit 99.9% of the time (in fact that is where almost everything takes place: games, guitar, school, meals, movies, (heck even showers!), all take place in the cockpit and we are always taking a look around us, plus, remember this is a slow way to travel (6-7 n.miles an hour average!), and its a big BIG ocean with so much horizon aroundf us , tons of time to readjust course if we see anything in the distance with a good scan every 15 minutes or so, and finally, we have a ship monitoring system (called AIS) which picks up any registered vessels on our monitor and sounds an alarm if they are going to get to close to us, but mostly, there just aren't many other boats out here ! We go for DAYS and DAYS without seeing a single boat, in fact seeing another boat becomes THE EXCITING EVENT of the day (after almost catching a fish!)! Our cruising friends who are doing the crossing with us are all between 50 and 1000 + nmiles away from us, we haven't even been able to reach them with the VHF radio (only by daily emails). Today though, we were contacted by another boat who was barely visible on the horizon (about 5 nmiles away) and were able to speak on the VHF (They are SV NOE from Europe). 


"How much fresh water do you have to carry on board?" We have 1000 liters of fresh water in our tanks but also we have a desalinator (watermaker) so that we can make fresh water from sea water, handy n'est-ce pas ? We also carry emergency fresh water rations. 

Fresh food : 

"Is it hard to keep lots of fresh food onboard or are you eating canned only?" 

I think Mark spoke of this a little bit on FB when we were getting ready to leave the Galápagos. Before leaving we had to carefully plan the purchase of fresh fruit, eggs and veggies. We went to a market to buy as much unrefrigerated produce as we could. I also took care to buy some at different stages of ripeness (so many green tomatoes, and pineapples for example) Everyday I have to babysit these fresh foods. It’s like taking care of children: "How are you doing today my littles ones ? Are you all staying good ? Oh look, one of you has turned bad overnight, well, its going to be farewell for you, overboard you go ! We would not want you to corrupt all the other fruits and veggies around you now would we?" On day 14 we still have a few fresh things (apples, carrots, cabbage, onions, lots of eggs, green peppers and we had our last fresh tomato today! The bananas and pineapples did not last as long as we had hoped, but , on the plus side, we managed to make LOTS of banana bread and some banana ice cream! 

Garbage : 

"How do you manage garbage ? Do you have to keep all smelly bags inside with you ?" 

Today, April 22 is Earth Day, or we think it is, we can't verify our sources right now, anyways, that lead us to talk about how we use energy and how we try to reduce waste while on board. When you think about it, on board Amelie : "Everyday becomes Earth Day!" The little electricity we use largely comes from our solar panels or wind generators. We very rarely need to turn on the generator (diesel), we only do if it's been overcast or we want to use the washing machine (to wash a small load of clothes), but since it sprang a leak a few days ago (and gave our bilges a nice wash !), we aren't using it at all now ! 

We try to have as little garbage as possible because garbage disposal is not easy while out at sea. One of my favourite pieces of advice which I received from a fellow cruiser before the crossing was to get ourselves a 5 gallon plastic jug of water and use it as a plastic disposal site. Any plastic that we have on board gets rinsed and cut up into pieces and then stuffed into this empty jug, A dowel (or any stick) is used to push the items down. This has greatly reduced the space (and odour!) of plastic waste on board, and when we get to our destination , all we'll have to do is carry the jug to the garbage disposal/recycling place. Organic trash, paper , glass as well as tin and aluminium cans can all be disposed of in the deep sea out here. The glass breaks, the metal cans corrode and rust away to nothing and the organics get recycled into nutrients for the sea. 

Well, it is almost time for me to start preparing dinner for the rest of the crew, tonight we will be using the last of our chicken, as I attempt to make a stir fry using canned vegetables I found in the BVI's almost a year ago ! I'll let you know if it becomes a new favourite ! We hope that you are all well where ever you are, and for our Canadian friends and family: that Spring has finally Sprung! Loads of love, 4Ms at Sea


Meghan on Amelie (Written in June 2015)


Before I start my blog, I would like to say that yes, I am going to post my blog about our great  Pacific crossing but at the moment, I apologize, I am not able to. To make a long story short, a water glass spilled onto my laptop during rough seas and it doesn't seem to be working. Luckily, I have everything backed up but I can't open my blog on my parents' computer. Again, I really apologize for the mixup and I'm hoping to get that blog posted as soon as possible but I promise you it will come eventually.

Well, it’s finally posted! Now, let’s just pretend that this was posted at the beginning of May, right after we arrived in the Marquesas so everybody take your time machines and read this as if we had just finished the crossing!

!!!WE DID IT!!! We did our longest crossing yet (and probably the longest crossing we will ever do): 19 and a half days from the Galapagos to the Marquesas! This blog will not be about land but about life when you are literally floating amid the waves of the biggest ocean on Earth for weeks! Before you do a long crossing, there is quite a bit of preparation to do ahead of time. I really take “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best” seriously. I pictured in my head that the worst that could happen to us is we flip completely over (but, if we did, we would come right back up after) so I prepared my room for that! We never actually got even remotely close to the sail touching the water but I’m glad to see that I can prepare my room for that kind of condition. During the preparation stage, it can be stressful but once we get out on the open ocean, we become like rasta men say: “Hey mon, what were we fighting about mon?”!

I was actually very surprised. I thought that being out of sight of land for a long time would freak me out a lot because I would worry about storms, high winds and something happening to the boat like a fire or a leak but actually it did the opposite; it relieved me of my worries. After I realized that the way things were going on the crossing, there was about a 5% chance those things would happen.

Now, if somebody asked whether I like it better at anchor or out on the ocean, I would honestly say I like it better at anchor but if I was measuring this on a seesaw, the difference would be almost not noticeable. When your’e out at sea, you can do anything and I mean anything. You can scream as loudly as you want (which my dad is not a big fan of) and not a single soul either than your family will hear you! You can blast the music on your speakers as loudly as you can and no neighbours can come to complain. Even if the entire continent of Asia blew up, you would have absolutely no clue! You may wonder how we hand steer the boat for 3 weeks without stopping and the answer is: we don’t. Thanks to our friend "Otto” the autopilot, we just enter our course into “Otto” and the boat will just keep going on that course until we change it. It’s very efficient because that way, we can just relax and do our normal things while “Otto” drives us all the way there (but at anytime, we can always hand steer ourselves). As my dad phrases it, “I find that Otto has more patience than me”! Still, at least one person always has to stay in the cockpit though to make sure “Otto” doesn’t go off course and the autopilot still can fail if it is stressed too much in heavy winds or storms. That is why we have “Ottto #2” just as a backup because if it fails, we would have to steer the whole way there which would not be fun. Of course, some boats do do that because either they don’t have an autopilot or their autopilot breaks (which is what happened to one of our friend’s on the same crossing). About school underway, that went actually pretty normally. I was surprised that I was able to do all my subjects without ever feeling seasick at all! Of course, it was sometimes extremely frustrating in the swell and wind because my textbooks wouldn’t stay on the pages I needed them on. I did lose one handout in the wind! 

Despite all of that, I still managed to do school everyday except one which now that I look back at, I actually feel pretty accomplished. My dad did an exceptional job at getting us there safely, my mom did an amazing job at cooking three meals a day despite the challenges with the rocking, Matthew did an excellent job at finding new hobbies either than swimming and I feel I did a pretty good job at school everyday including weekends. School only took up about half to two-thirds of the day so I definitely did other things to keep me busy during the day because you can’t just say, “I’m a bit bored, I think I’ll just go for a walk around town,”! I always like the quote “Music saves my soul” but on this crossing I truly believe that movies saved my soul! Thank goodness for a hundred thousand movies out there because almost every night is movie night on long crossings! I also enjoyed practicing guitar (I am working on my first song: “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young), making dozens of elastic bracelets to give to the local kids around the South Pacific, playing so many games of I-Pad Monopoly until I was able to beat my dad and lots of other stuff I can’t remember right now!

We obviously put out our fishing lines to see what there really was out there in as far as we could tell, the vast nothingness. Sadly, we only landed one small dorado fish (mahi mahi). We had actually hooked about 10 fish but all of them got away or we threw them back because they were too small (when they were still alive). The most impressive ones we hooked were about 6 and half foot sailfish and about a 5 foot marlin! The way we had arranged our lines is we attached a bungee cord with an empty pop can to the line and when a fish would grab on, the line would stress the bungee cord which would make the pop can bang against the deck alerting us there was a fish so we could go pull in the line. When we caught the sailfish, it went a bit differently than that though! The pop can went insane for about half a second and then we heard the fishing line being unwounded extremely fast and then WHAM! snap went about a quarter of the line, including our lucky lure which we had caught all our other fish with! We were looking frantically everywhere and then in the distance, we saw it “tail walking” (jumping out of the water but keeping it’s fin on the water making it look like it was walking on water), probably trying to get the lure out of its mouth!

Either than the fish, we also saw some other, not-good-to-eat animals such as dolphins, whales and birds. I had thought that 10 days from the nearest land, birds wouldn’t be around but that was obviously wrong because I saw birds every single day on our crossing. They weren’t even big birds, they were little blackbird sized birds coming for some offshore fishing!

One day, the same day we caught our mahi mahi, we got a spectacular dolphin show! There were about 20 5ft long dolphins splashing at the bow with a surprise pilot whale friend with them. It was very, very odd that one pilot whale was, first of all swimming amid all of these dolphins and, second of all, was also swimming right next to the boat. 

You might think that all the good stuff happens during the day which is partly true because you can definitely see things better during the day but when you see things at night, now that is special. One time, my dad saw dolphins when it was a full moon (which sounded really cool) but when we had our dolphin show it was a new moon. It’s true that we didn’t actually see the dolphins themselves but the phosphorescence (plankton that glow green in the water at night) outlined them so we could see where they were moving and the spray that came out when they breathed!

Also, on the first few nights, we saw some Galapagos night seagulls. The Galapagos night seagulls look exactly like normal seagulls except they have red eyes which let them see at night so they can fish! That time, there was a moon so we could kind of see them flying but the coolest part is that there were many of them so they were communicating back and forth making ticking noises.

I don’t think the animals are the most breath taking things on night watch though. I think the stars are. The only light pollution within hundreds of miles was our navigation instruments (which is very minimal light) so no stars are hiding. You look up and everything you see looks like a diamond. There is no way I could count all of them but I would guess there are probably 100 million or more! You can even see the milky way which you know is countless miles away because the stars are extremely hard to see. You see them for a second but then you don’t a second later but you know from that one second that there are more stars in that milky way than people on Earth!

I know that I am saying, “beautiful this, beautiful that” a lot in this blog but it’s not beautiful sunsets and stars and dolphins all day everyday on a 19 and a half day crossing. Everything takes longer when your’e moving. It takes two minutes to put on pants instead of 10 seconds. It takes five minutes instead of one to get up, go downstairs, get your notebook and come back up. 

Life in the kitchen on a moving boat, well... that needs a whole paragraph just to itself. I know I didn’t cook so I’m definitely not taking credit for that but I did do dishes sometimes so I have some experience in a moving kitchen. First of all, I can’t stack the dishes on the side of the sink like I always do because in the waves, they will just crash clang and it will end in disaster. I have to put them on one of our countless life saving anti-skid pads. In science this year, I learned that a stable structure is wider at the base than at the top and I think that washing dishes was the situation I thought I would least need that tip. Turns out, it was very useful because spreading my legs wide like the yoga warrior pose was the only way to stay standing. 

I hope you did not mistake my words as complaints because that is certainly not what they were meant to be. In fact, I think we were extremely lucky at how well the passage went. Some of our friends were not so lucky and had some bigger issues but if I start telling the stories, none of you will ever want to cross an ocean and I don’t want to eliminate that option for you. Yes, the continual swell we had was hair-ripping-frustrating at times and we didn’t have much luck with fishing but we had no serious injuries or illnesses, no storms, no boat problems (either than a minor laundry machine issue), we made pretty good time and let’s face it: we had A LOT of fun! 

For those of you who are wondering, when we stepped foot on land, oh yes, did it ever feel like the ground was moving! 


  1. Merci pour ces nouvelles. Quelle aventure !
    Je vous ai mis en relation via Facebook avec une amie à moi qui vit à Tahiti, Isabelle.
    J'espère que vous réussirez à vous rencontrer.