A 2,000 mile passage from Fiji to Majuro brought 2018 to a close. It has been another amazing year of adventure and Douglas and I are so grateful that we have been able to spend this time together and that we have been able to visit the places we have. In the past year we have sailed from New Zealand through the islands of Fiji to Majuro where we are poised to continue north for Japan. We have met so many kind and generous people this year, we continue to be humbled and inspired by the people we meet as we sail around the pacific. The people of Fiji were among the most kind and welcoming that we have met and our fellow sailors have been a wonderful community. I am reminded continually of the writings of Miles Smeeton and his brilliantly titled book “The Sea Was Our Village”, it has certainly been true for us.
The big news of the new year is a recalibration of our travel plans. We had held on to the notion that we could spend a year in Japan and that visas would not be a problem. Many sailors had told us of friends that had stayed a year or more by going out of the country and having their visa extended on their return. What we are now facing up to is that yes, people have had their boats in Japan for a year, but that without a special visa that is difficult to obtain, visitors have up to 6 months to visit Japan in a one year period and that is that. The people who have stayed a year, have actually left the country for at least six months. We have met with the Japanese consulate here in Majuro to apply for a long term visa, he was very kind and offered us green tea and nice conversation and promised he will try to do what he can to assist us, but in his gentle way let us know we were asking for something difficult to obtain. We have been having discussions with a couple that are cruising in Japan at the moment and they were more blunt.
With that in mind, we are changing up our plans that had us originally in Japan for a year before sailing to Alaska and down the west coast to Port Townsend at the end of 2020. We are going to move our plans forward by a year. We will leave Majuro once the weather settles and we can get a nice window to Chichi Jima hopefully by the end of January or first of February. We’d like to visit Chichi Jima, in the Ogasawara Island group, about 500 miles off of the mainland of Japan, for a few weeks. Then we’ll sail for Shikoku or Kyushu and explore what we can of Japan until late July. At present the plan is to sail for Port Townsend at the end fo July from somewhere in the inland sea, putting us into Port Townsend probably in September. It is 4,700 miles from Tokyo to Seattle, a mega-passage that will be twice as long as the longest passages we have had before, but will not cross the doldrums.
Tumbleweed has a berth in Port Townsend beginning in September and we are trying to find a spot in Seattle, but since we left on this adventure the cost of housing has skyrocketed and marina space for live aboards is at a premium. We waited a few months for a slip at Shilshole when we first bought Tumbleweed, the current wait for a live aboard slip is 3-5 years…
Those are the plans of the moment. We are open to change and will see what develops. For the time being we are moored in the lagoon at Majuro with plenty of work to keep us busy the next few weeks. Below are the updates we sent in daily to Farkwar with a few photos from the last passage.
Douglas and I wish you all a happy new year and hope that 2019 is filled with adventure and joy.
November 21, 2018
We set sail from Denarau, Fiji for Majuro in the Marshall Islands yesterday. With headwinds we added a few miles to the 14 between the marina and the pass, tacking our way south. It was a glorious day to be on the water and with the mild headwinds the tacks were pleasant and it felt like a Sunday outing. After being in marinas the past couple of months it was ideal weather to work out a couple of gremlins. We cleared Navula pass around 17:30 and made a bit of westing to get us away from the reefs and islands west of Viti Levu. Last night and today continued the pattern of light winds, we've average 4 knots and at this time can still see the outer islands of the Yasawas. We'll be some time clearing Fiji. We have a large 80 percent waxing moon, it reflected off the clouds and was beautiful last night, it set around 4 this morning, red and glowing. A good beginning to the passage. Winds forecast to build later tonight but at the moment the seas are calm, winds are 12 knots, we are making 4 knots with all sails set.
November 23, 2018
We have had an excellent run of weather the past few days, sailing average over 7 knots often making hull speed of 8 knots with 13-15 knots on the beam settled seas, comfortable. Last night was a full moon, made for a beautiful night on watch. Temperature is climbing but we have decent airflow and fans at full. The restored wind generator and solar panels are keeping us topped up. One pod of dolphins joined us two nights ago, many flying fish and sea birds. All's well aboard Tumbleweed.
November 24, 2018
Lighter winds today, dropping down below 10 knots, but still on the beam and we are making 4.5 knots on average. Funafutti is 130 miles to the north, seas are calm, sun is tropically intense. Lightning in the distance last night, today we the classic tropical sea clouds, giant cumulus building on the horizon into towering structures that look like nuclear detonations. 95 degrees in the cabin, hatches and port lights covered with tinfoil is helping some. Cooking is a cruel chore, Mexican food for lunch today but will consider salads for the near future. Full moon last night, watching the moon set while the sun rose with the sky cast in pinks and oranges was magical. All's well on Tumbleweed.
November 25, 2018
A calm day of gentle South Pacific sailing after a wild night of lightning squalls that chased us for hours. Around 22:00 I glanced astern to see a massive black front had formed with pockets of lightning across the horizon. Douglas was off watch and trying to sleep but the lightning would fill the cabin with blasts of light that forced him from sleep. We spent several hours trying to dodge the weather front as it bore down on us. We were hit with a refreshing downpour before the winds died to a few knots. We ran under motor for several hours, the cabin was in the high 80's before we fired up the engine and opened the engine compartment to increase airflow, the heat in the cabin soared. I did not glance at the thermometer but I felt like a chunk of sous vide pork when I tried to catch some sleep. John Prine writes in "Mexican Home" about lightning burning the sky like alcohol and I saw the phenomenon he described - we'd have flashes of lightning that were like the blue flash of burning alcohol, sections of night sky going up like a flambé. Reefing, dousing, hoisting, reefing. It was a busy night. Today has been light winds, mostly under 7 knots. We are still making way - a surprising 4 knots or so on average. Slowly making our way toward Funafuti, should pass by the island early this evening. We have been trying to check in with a couple of SSB nets, we could hear Eric on Scoots very clearly but he could hear us this morning, we could also hear a yacht en route to NZ who came in fairly clearly but their yacht name was hard to catch, a mix of Kiwi accent and interference. All's well on Tumbleweed.
November 26, 2018
One week down. Last night we passed Funafuti, it appeared as a warm glow against the clouds on the eastern horizon. We lingered some 15 miles to the west for hours as we dawdled through a series of squalls and were entertained by frequent displays of lightning. In the hours before sunset a series of cumulus clouds built along the horizon in all dirctions, towering systems with the tell tale black vertical bands of heavy rains under many of them. We had another night of squalls, light winds piping up in moments to 18 or 20 knots, winds chasing around us from all directions, intense rain. Light winds would come from the north for a few minutes then move around to the south, then back up to the north. At first each of us tried while on watch to keep working Tumbleweed around to stay on our northerly course but as the winds were light and we were only making 1.5 knots or so, each of us figured out in our time to drift in circles with sails furled until a legitimate breeze picked up. We were hit by many massive rain showers through the night. One that approached sounded like an army of beetles, the rain pounding the sea with such force it was like a million insects clacking until the rain hit and I was immediately drenched. Today was a slow but pleasant day out here, cloud cover helped to keep temperatures down, the few rain showers that passed were light. Winds are keeping us a bit further to the west than we had planned but we are still a bit east of our rhumb line. All is well on board.
At 11/26/2018 03:40 (utc) our position was 08º16.693'S - 178º03.533’E
November 27, 2018
We had an excellent day out here. Only two distant flashes of lightning last night and a few rain squalls. Last night we had a few bouts of flakey winds but for the most part we settled in with 14 knots, sailing close hauled, making 6 knots. The winds can be contrary though and our overall average is much lower. We continue to be squeezed to the west by the winds, we try to snatch back whatever easting we can but find ourselves dodging the islands and atolls out here mostly on their westward side. When the wind is up the sailing is the stuff of South Pacific dreams, making 6 plus knots over gentle seas, but when the winds drop out the sails slat and bang, Tumbleweed wallowing side to side in the swells, and it begins to drill down on my nerves. Happily, the dead winds have mostly been occasional pockets and we are soon back to sailing. Very little out here. A boobie investigated us a bit this afternoon, three nights ago we crossed paths with the tanker "Andes", a coconut, a length of PVC pipe, an adrift fishing float and a plastic bottle that looked like it might have once contained iced tea, have all drifted past as well. Today we had our last avocado, the fresh fruit has gone - much of it killed by the heat. As I write this we are being visited by a pod of dolphins, about 10 have been playing around the boat for a few minutes, such amazing creatures. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 11/27/2018 06:10 (utc) our position was 06º36.577'S - 176º59.978’E
November 28, 2018
This morning as the sun rose we passed the small island of Nanumanga of the Tuvalu group. Winds from the north forced us to the west of the island by a few miles, it was a nice sight after so many days at sea. The morning light washed the sky with pastel pinks and light oranges with small well defined puffs of cumulus clouds on the horizon, like the cover to a Jehovah's Witness tract, missing only a lion sleeping peaceably among the sheep. The sea around Nanumanga was a bit choppy I think due to the elevation gain from the seabed to sea mount. Winds continue to keep us a bit more to the west than we'd like but we are still on the rhumb line to the Marshalls, we might have to make up some easting up the line but for the moment all is well. Forecast is for very very very light winds, as in maybe no winds, for the next few days. But we are in the doldrums, no surprise there. No lightning last night and only a couple short lived bouts of squally confused winds. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 11/28/2018 06:10 (utc) our position was 05º50.312'S - 175º41.049’E
November 29, 2018
A calm day out here, light winds as forecast with a slight swell. Our average speed over the past 12 hours was 1.5 knots. We have just finished setting the whisker pole as winds have moved to the SE (by winds I mean air moving around 5 or 6 knots, "winds" sounds a bit large for the reality). This morning as the sun rose, pod of dolphins visited as they made their way west, a few would swim around the boat, spouting, diving under the hull, but as we were moving so slowly they soon were bored and moved on. It was a nice way to greet the new day. Moving slowly but still making progress, the whisker pole is adding a half knot or so but will come in handy as the wind fluctuates, below 6 knots the Genoa starts to flog and snap without the pole up. Current course over ground is 345, speed over ground is 1.5 knots, wind speed is 5.5 knots. I watched a large tanker move across the horizon last night but otherwise no sign of other vessels. All is well aboard Tumbleweed.
At 11/29/2018 04:24 (utc) our position was 04º53.168'S - 175º29.211’E
November 30, 2018
This morning a medium sized turtle swam up to and passed us. We were drifting north at 1.5 knots when Douglas spotted the turtle off the stern. It slowly swam up to the monitor wind vane and caught sight of its reflection, it spent some time admiring itself and trying to kiss the shiny stainless version of itself. It spent a half hour dawdling alongside us with a small collection of fish gathered around. The sun was ruthless and I think it enjoyed the shade. Soon it tired of our slow speed and paddled off for the horizon. Wind has been light since the last posting but picked up in the last hour while changing direction. We tacked the Genoa and are now making 4 knots or a tad better. Hoping this holds. Seas are very calm, there is a long slow swell that keeps us rolling when the wind drops but otherwise we are comfortable. Night sky was amazing last night. We spotted a Chinese fishing vessel in the distance but it has drifted off astern. All is well on Tumbleweed.
At 11/30/2018 03:48 (utc) our position was 04º09.601'S - 175º32.510’E
December 1, 2018
Slow going out here. Although the forecast calls for no wind we are enjoying sporadic winds that are keeping us moving north. Last night we had a few small squalls come through and were able to make 6-7 knots for a few hours, we also spent much of the night with the sails of the edge of collapsing. We are currently making 2 knots with winds hovering around 5 knots. We are on the edge of our ability to sail, below 2 knots we start to lose steerage and below 6 knots the sails are unhappy. But somehow we are managing to make mile after mile just on the edge. Maybe a current? The slow going makes for a kindly motion, we are just rolling gently side to side making tasks aboard a bit easier to pull off. Cabin temperature dropped from yesterday's high of 99 degrees to a comfy 90 degrees at the moment. Time for a pot of soup and a cardigan. All's well on Tumbleweed.
December 3, 2018
Another fine day on our passage from Denarau. Light winds continue to be the rule, though this morning winds piped up to ten knots and we made a mad dash to drop the whisker pole, tack and hoist all sails for the hour or so we had those winds. They are in the process of dying down and our speed is slumping from our exhilarating 6 knots to a more familiar 4 knots. With these calm seas the 6 knots with a very slight heel felt amazing after days of very little wind. Yesterday we passed the small island of Tamana, a tiny spot so removed from the outside world, we could see the roofline of a large building, perhaps a copra shed, shining in the sun, but otherwise all was quiet. It took us hours and hours to make our way past the island, skirting a few miles to the south before tacking up along the east side. In the light winds of yesterday is seemed at times that we were stuck to the island and would carry it with us on our hip to the north. Last night we were visited by a pair of boobies, just as Ed and Fran predicted, they squabbled noisily from their perch on the solar panel, crabby angry squawking , resisted our attempts to dislodge them with a bright light, defecated shamelessly, and finally under threat of a waving mop, flew off. Also visited throughout the night by several pods of dolphins, one group timing their arrival with the sunrise, surfacing and breathing noisily with a background of golds and reds, South Pacific magic. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/02/2018 23:48 (utc) our position was 02º05.663'S - 176º18.420’E
December 4, 2018
Light winds but with a solid current boosting us along we are inching our way to the equator. Last night we sailed ever so gently based the island of Beru, getting the smallest glimpse of the island off in the distance this morning, a thin line barely breaking the edge of the horizon. We had been working our way around the southern tip and along the east side of the island through the night with very little wind but enough current to push us along. Our friends the Dolphins paid us several visits again last night. The sliver of moon that rose during my night watch was spectacular, set against a sky vivid with stars. Seas continue to be smooth with long period swell rolling underneath. Currently making 4 knots with 6 knots of wind speed. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/04/2018 03:01 (utc) our position was 00º44.716'S - 176º08.535’E
December 5, 2018
A pretty quiet and calm past day out here. We were again visited several times by pods of dolphins, both during the day and in the dark of night. The moon was an impressive orange sliver when it rose this morning, we had clear skies letting the stars shine clearly. We are inching our way toward the equator and looking forward to once again being in the North Pacific. Fifteen miles to go. With a bit of current in our favor and occasional puffs of wind that visit us we've been able to make some mileage by sailing but much of the past 24 hours has been more dependent on drifting in the direction of Majuro. The cycle is we'll have enough wind to sail for an hour or so, then the winds will wander off and we'll sit in a pocket of calm for a few hours, then on again. Forecast continues to be for very light winds in the area though there is some hope early next week to the north of us. All is well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/04/2018 22:26 (utc) our position was 00º15.058'S - 176º25.899’E
December 7, 2018
After drifting east with a touch of south we have picked up a light breeze and are making our way northwest once again. We have given up around 30 miles drifting to the east over the past few days so it feels good to take some of that back. Only 4 miles until we cross back over to the North Pacific. Our days of the South Pacific idyll are about to be in our wake. Looking forward to all that the North Pacific has to offer. Forecast continues to be for light winds for a few more days but we hope that this light breeze holds out for a while, we are making 2.5 to 3 knots over the last few hours and happily in the right direction. All is well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/06/2018 23:00 (utc) our position was 00º04.116'S - 177º30.691’E
December 8, 2018
We are back in the northern hemisphere. Yesterday we crossed, then drifted back south, then recrossed, then drifted south, then crossed again, the equator. At the equator we put aside our fears of a monster from the deep and took a quick swim. The water was as warm as a bath and the clarity of the water was like nothing I've experienced. We had little pockets of cool water below the surface but it was very warm at the top layer. Tumbleweed was drifting at a knot but with the stays'l we could just make way northward, then the wind would die and we'd slice south again. Feels good to be back in the North Pacific. We had a nice late afternoon meal, made a toast to Neptune and considered the past 21 months we've spent in the Southern Hemisphere. We last crossed the equator heading south on our passage from Mexico, it was a bit after 22:00 if I recall correctly and a fairly low key affair. All is well on Tumbleweed..
At 12/07/2018 23:02 (utc) our position was 00º16.047'N - 177º55.899’E
December 9, 2018
This morning we are sailing again after a night with a bit of excitement. We had a large 190 foot fishing vessel near us most of the night, with a strong current - up to 3.5 knots - we drifted toward them in the middle of the night and unable to sail we motored for two hours to put some distance between us. Where we stopped had stronger current than where we started and we were soon racing eastward on the current. They decided the fishing looked better where we were and came at us at 10 knots, cutting across the 10 mile gap in quick order. We motored again. They picked up their operations and motored uncomfortably close. We hailed them to ask how we could best avoid their operation but the language gap was tough to cross. They asked our destination, we told them Majuro, but that we were heading due north. They repeated Majuro, then at 10 knots altered course on heading for Majuro and disappeared into the night. What passes for excitement out here. We also had several squalls roll over us, distant cloud to cloud lightning, heavy rains. The full ITCZ package. Overcast this morning but we have a steady 9 knots out of the NE and are making 5 knots at the moment. Seas are calm but have a bit more action to the swell than we've seen in the past few days. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/09/2018 23:00 (utc) our position was 00º50.424'N - 178º38.123’E
December 10, 2018
We are traveling through prime ITCZ weather. The past day has been overcast, rainy, frequent squalls of high winds, lightning in the distance followed by patches of no winds leaving us rolling heavily in large swell. Sunrise was beautiful, brilliant red piercing the cloud bank on the horizon, reflecting across the sea off the clouds above the western horizon. Forecast is for winds to fill in by Wednesday, though we are watching a low that is to develop over Majuro Thursday or Friday with potential high winds in the 40's. We'll aim to arrive at majuro on Monday if we get the winds that are forecast. All is well on Tumblweed, a bit bumpy, but well.
At 12/09/2018 23:55 (utc) our position was 01º45.823'N - 178º23.124’E
December 11, 2018
We have been enjoying sailing for the past 12 hours. This morning brought steady winds in the mid-20s and have now subsided to 20 knots. For some time we were making 7 knots under trys'l and stays'l. Our goal is to time our arrival to Majuro behind a low that may or may not be forming, depending on wether the GFS or European weather forecast is correct. The GFS model is projecting a low over Majuro with winds between 40-50 knots, the European models shows much less wind. If possible, we'd like to arrive over the weekend but that depends on wether we can clear in or have to wait for Monday for customs and immigration. After so many days of drifting it does feel really good to be sailing, though the waters in this region are confused and we are dealing with 2 wave trains at the momen. One wave pattern is pretty hefty and every few minutes we get a pretty good wallop that staggers us for a moment with a loud bang. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/10/2018 23:55 (utc) our position was 02º37.286'N - 178º09.358’E
December 12, 2018
The weather is very settled today, a nice change following the bumpy ride we've had the past few days. Winds are 12 knots out of the east, we are making 4 knots. Managed to tear the topmost strop connecting the headboard on the mainsy'l to the car, will need to rig that back together to get the main back up. Will try a dyneema lashing. A much more pleasant ride with a gentle rock from side to side with none of the crashing cross wave train. Very distant lightning last night and a couple squalls but otherwise a good evening. We are now following the rhumb line to Majuro. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/11/2018 23:08 (utc) our position was 03º32.775'N - 177º45.648’E
December 13, 2018
Bit of a wild morning today. We just passed through a squallgusting to 45 knots, heavy rain and large seas. Glad to have only the stays'l and trys'l up. We had a good punch thrown in a few times, one strong enough to shoot a few ounces of water through the galley hatch, something that has never happened before. Early this morning was beautiful and ideal sailing, calm seas, brilliant night sky. We are through the squall now and it is much calmer, fair skies ahead. Last night we dealt with a crazy fishing fleet. Near 22:00 I watched a vessel pop up on AIS, I marked its position 7 miles away and kept an eye on it, then another vessel 8 miles in the other direction turned on its AIS. Our course took us well between them. Soon two other vessels had turned on their AIS, we were now sailing through a line of four vessels, none with any lights of any kind on, with 2 vessels to port and 2 to starboard with a healthy gap in the center, all drifting at a knot or so eastward. I was nervous that not all the vessels were on AIS or had turned them on. None of the vessels were lit. As we made to pass through the center of the fleet I noticed a very faint red flashing light directly ahead, of the sort that brought to mind a bicycle light. The boat turned on their AIS as we came closer. Only 1.3 miles away from it, still no lights on deck. I had jibed twice to give some distance between us and thread the fleet with more room and quickly jibed again and tried to make out the vessel with binoculars. Other than the faint red blinking light the vessel and the rest of the group were dark. Thankfully they all had AIS, baffling that they would keep their AIS off until we were upon them, also that they had no lights. A word of caution to others sailing this area. All is well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/13/2018 23:08 (utc) our position was 04º42.282'N - 176º22.260’E
December 14, 2018
This morning all is calm, winds are light and we are making our way slowly north west to Majuro. Last night we had winds mostly in the high teens with a few squalls that swept through and as they do hit us with blasts into the high 30's holding steady for a half hour or so in the 20's. Kept us on our toes and made the watches go quickly. We have been aiming to arrive in Majuro Monday morning but briefly toyed with the ideas of a Sunday arrival, but it would be close and we would like to arrive mid day, so instead of picking up the pace we are going to see how we can lose a few hours between here and Fordyce channel so we don't have to heave to through the night. Yesterday was Douglas' bday, it was far to rough for cake and pizza, he has a rain check burning a hole in his pocket. He loves being on passage and loves boisterous weather so I think he had a great day. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/13/2018 23:31 (utc) our position was 05º33.119'N - 174º59.915’E
December 15, 2018
Another night of squalls, high winds and blasts of rain. All time sea going gust high of 60 knots with several gusts at 50, sailing in high 20's for several good stretches. Thankful to be under only trys'l and Stays'l, we romped along comfortably. This morning the winds have died down and the sea state has calmed to a slight swell with only an occasional large bump every few minutes. We continue to roll from side to side but not as abruptly - this has been a 26 day mega core workout, I think I'm clenching my stomach while sleeping. A visit last night by a cranky bird that wanted to set up shop on the end of the boom, shrieking out its good find to all friends, neighbors, winged fellows in the area. I tried firm voice directives, bright lights in various patterns calculated for mental anguish and finally brandishing our mop. No reaction other than more indignant squawking. In the end I resorted to draping the ends to the mop over its head, that was too much and it flew off and took up a position off the starboard stern quarter where it cursed me for some time. A gorgeous moon last night that once it dropped behind the horizon left the sea utterly black. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/14/2018 23:34 (utc) our position was 06º16.756'N - 173º33.994’E
December 16, 2018
The strong winds that had been forecast to sweep us along the final miles to Majuro have not appeared. Last night we had a forecast for several hours of 30 knot winds and never saw anything over 18, mostly much lower. Today the winds are back to low teens or single digits directly downwind of our course and we are slogging along at a few knots. Tomorrow's much anticipated arrival is looking to be receding back to Tuesday. Today is overcast with a long period swell coming off the starboard quarter. It's a fairly settled motion today and though we're both a bit disappointed that the prospects for arriving tomorrow look poor we are comfortable and it's not raining. All's well on Tumbleweed.
At 12/15/2018 23:55 (utc) our position was 06º40.060'N - 172º39.844’E
December 18, 2018
We arrived yesterday afternoon in Majuro capping our epic 28 day passage from Fiji. It feels really good to be on a boat at rest. We had a mix of weather coming in our last day, had some fine sailing in the final hours, gave into the temptation to motor through most of our last night. Cary from SY Seal met us at the mooring field and helped us with what I think was the last mooring, for which we are very grateful - it was partially submerged and we would have never found it. We met with customs yesterday and will go in to see immigration shortly. Sleep deprivation caught up with us and we were out pretty early. Majuro looks interesting and all that we have met have been friendly. Christmas vibes are incongruently in full swing here, lots of classic holiday tunes on the radio, decorations out in the tropical sun.
At 12/17/2018 21:53 (utc) our position was 07º06.166'N - 171º22.440'E