Pacific Ocean: Panama to French Polynesia – 3000nm

If you’ve been following our GPS tracking and reading our daily updates, you’ll know that we’ve sailed over 3000nm since leaving Panama. As we sail along the final 1000nm to reach French Polynesia, here are some more of my random thoughts from life offshore.

The last 1000nm took only six days to sail; unlike the first thousand which took around nine days due to its calmness as we crossed the ITCZ. Sailing in the low latitudes (between 3-5 south) allowed us to stay in the equatorial current and avoid a counter current south of us. Once we reached 117W, we altered course to head directly to our destination, again with favourable current and wind angles. We’ve managed to sail on a port tack for the last 2000nm at P100 to P120 – a more favourable angle than sailing winged out with easterly winds, which we may have encountered at latitude 9S. For the most part, seas have been less than 2m, although the last couple of days seas were up to 3m. The days were generally blue sky and fine, with no rain. Our ETA is either late on the 10th or the 11th of April.

This Weather4D screenshot from 31st March shows favourable currents at 4degSouth, while below us are light counter-currents. The extra boost helps the overall voyage.

Is there anybody out there?
Three weeks in and we’ve visually seen one yacht, and no other vessel. We haven’t seen anything on AIS for over a week. But I’m sure they are out there.
The day we clocked up 3000nm we were 1100nm from the Marquesas, and 2000nm from Galapagos – a long way from anywhere. Before sunrise, I saw a light on the horizon to the west. It was man made light, white and glowing, like that of a fishing vessel. No chance it was a dipping star as it stayed there until the sunlight washed it away. Anyway, I’ve got a pretty good idea how to identify stars, and fishing vessels, nowadays! Later that day, we heard unintelligible banter on the VHF, so somebody somewhere is out there.
We did pass a huge whale. He was heading east about 100m south of us. The only thing visible, the shape of his hulk under the water, and the spurting out of his blowhole. The only other life we see are flying fish and playful dolphins. The occasional squid lands on deck, but there’s not much life in those by the time we find them.

GPS Tracking allows us to see other boats; this one 350nm south of us took a different track to reach Marquesas.
He likely had wind directly from behind.

My dictionary explains sleep as “A condition of body and mind that typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended”.
Out here, I can’t say our muscles are fully relaxed when we sleep, and our consciousness isn’t quite suspended. The opportunity for anything close to a luxurious deep sleep state will have to wait until we are at anchor.
When the sailing is rough and the boat rocks back and forth, the best way to sleep is to bury yourself in pillows, the body wedged close to the hull. I wear earplugs to block out annoying creaks and squeaks, and an eye mask to block out any light. More than once I’ve been laser-beamed awake by moonlight, or sunlight, penetrating through the hatch. Our ‘hot-bed’ is set up on the starboard side of the saloon, which works fine on this voyage as we’ve been on the one tack for twenty-something days.
Over that time, we’ve settled into a daily routine that goes something like this: I go down to read and sleep around 5pm, back up at 8.30pm; make hot chocolate, then Wayne goes down at 9pm, returns at 1am; then I go back down for a sleep, then I’m back up at 5am and Wayne goes down for a sleep until he wakes by 8am. Once he’s up we have a coffee and breakfast, then I go back down for a couple of hours. He might go down for a break, before I prepare the afternoon meal. That’s a loose schedule, but you get the idea. This is repeated day after day, after day.
With that routine, we can generally get eight hours sleep over 24 hours, although not all at once, and we spend the majority of the time on our own. A few hours during the middle of the day we chat about all sorts of things, including what our future plans are once we get to Australia.

Ship shape
Unless we are resting below, our time is spent in the cockpit. The boat down below stays tidy and we’ve had no dangerous missiles flying across the saloon as we stowed well before departure (except for the mugs, see Tracking update day 23).
Our head (bathroom) isn’t used much and has remained clean, as we are bathing each day on deck with cool seawater washes and freshwater rinses. The head can become quite dank when it’s always wet as we can’t open hatches to let the breeze in, so it’s good to have it remain dry for a month. Now and then I flush clean water through the shower pump and add disinfectant to freshen it up. Not much to say about the loo; we add cooking oil to the pump weekly to keep it operating smoothly. Other than that, it’s just a loo.
Outside, stainless steel has spots of rust where salt has built up and the deck has splotches of fish scales left behind by flying fish. Everything feels greasy due to the salty air and high humidity. Ropes are becoming stiff, and we’ve not had enough rain to wash the salt away.
Corners of cabins are in darkness, probably growing mildew. The remedy; the boat needs to be opened up and filled with sunlight and fresh air. Plenty to do once we arrive.

There is a problem with our fridge. It’s not reaching a low temperature, and it’s running all the time and icing up very quickly. It’s been eleven years since we had it re-gassed and we can only assume it needs re-gassing. At present the contents are remaining cold, but it’s a problem that we hope to sort out in French Polynesia.
Otherwise our fresh food supply is doing very well. Into our third and final cabbage, carrot supply is good, still have six green apples, two green capsicum, and plenty of ripe Roma tomatoes. The eggs are on the edge, but I give them the sniff test before using them. So far so good. Still some chicken breasts in the small freezer, and other salamis, hams, and cheeses, including that tasteless Soylent Orange cheese. (I have a tasty quarter of Danish blue tucked away that I intend us to share with a glass of red upon arrival).
On this trip, for the first time on any voyage, I’ve not baked bread, nor have we eaten much rice, and no pasta. Sitting for hours each day isn’t helped by having to much starchy food, so we’ve had smaller meals of veggies with some meat, and the odd treat such as small chocolates, bickies, and corn chips when I make nachos. I have cooked pizza, so it’s not like we’ve gone full vegans – we’re only human!

The final thousand
Breaking through the thousand nautical mile mark does wonders for morale. The last thousand was sailed in six days, and at our current pace and forecast conditions, we hope to arrive by the 11th of April. At the time of posting this we have 940nm to go.
There are still plenty of things that could go wrong out here, so we continue to sail conservatively, not stressing the boat, or breaking anything through inattention or carelessness. It’s not over until it’s over…

Weather routing from 2nd April – go direct to Nuku Hiva

If you want to contact is while offshore, you can email to blueheelerhr39(at)
Follow our progress here – [end]

About blueheelerhr39

Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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