You know that the boat we lived on for five years (called Smartini – what else?) was NOT a sailboat. It was a trawler, a slow, comfortable, motor boat. Neither of us had any sailing knowledge when we decided to buy a boat, so we went the easy route – buy a motor boat. But the majority of people we met and became friends with during our crusing years were on sailboats, and frankly, our conversations with them about sailing reinforced our choice of a motor vs. sails. (Here’s the gist of it: a sailboat big enough to live on comfortably has every system that a motor boat has – including a motor – and it also has all of the sailing stuff: mast, rigging, and sails, all of which need to be maintained and periodically replaced. So in our minds, the ONLY benefit of a sailboat is that, sometimes, you get to go somewhere without burning fuel. I say “sometimes” because every sailor we’ve met admits that they run the motor – either in conjunction with using the sails, or instead of using the sails – about half the time.)
However, if you want to take your boat a really, really long way – like, say, around the world, sails make a lot more sense, simply because it’s difficult to carry enough fuel to do it in a motor boat. (Smartini had a theoretical range of about 1,500 nautical miles, but there are segments of an around-the-world trip that are easily twice that long.) It turns out that two of the couples we met and became good friends with, are both currently in Panama on their boats, getting ready for the first big leg of their (separate) circumnavigations.
We met Whitey and Max (Maxine) in the Key West Bight Marina in the weeks following Hurricane Irma in 2017. Had a blast with them there, then connected again when we arrived in the Virgin Islands in March 2019, then again in Grenada in October of that year, and then we spent the first few weeks of COVID with them, back in the British Virgin Islands in March-April 2020. We’ve also been lucky enough to hook up with them several times when they’ve been in the US. They’re on a 50′ St. Francis sailing catamaran named Nutmeg. It’s owned by Jim and Ruth, a Wisconsin couple, but Whitey and Max have been running it as a charter in the Virgin Islands for several years. Jim and Ruth decided they want to sail Nutmeg around the world, so the four of them are going to do that. They went through the Panama Canal on March 13, and are now doing their final preparation on the Pacific side, getting ready to head for French Polynesia in the next few weeks.
But this post isn’t about Whitey and Max and Nutmeg. It’s about Liz and Paul and Oneiro (Greek for “dream”), who we met the minute we arrived in Puerto Rico in March 2019. They were in the slip next to ours, helped us with lines when we pulled in, and within hours we were having our first Happy Hour with them at the local watering hole. (Big surprise, huh?) We cruised along the southern coast of Puerto Rico together for most of March, then didn’t see them again until Grenada in October 2019. (Coincidentally at the same time that Max and Whitey were there, so they now know each other.)
Paul and Liz (but mostly Paul) have been talking to us about circumnavigating since we met them. They made it to Columbia when COVID put a halt to pretty much everything, and Oneiro was there in a marina, then a boat yard, for many long moons. About a year ago, they made it back to the boat and have been there most of the time since then, getting her ready to start the big trip. Fran and I have had periodic remote Happy Hours with them, and always had a sense that Liz was a bit more trepidatious about it than Paul. About six months ago, we offered to go with them on the first leg, from Panama to French Polynesia, which is possibly the longest leg of the entire journey. (As we know from personal experience, it’s SOOOO much easier to run a boat around the clock for multiple days with four people than it is with just two.) They must have thought it was a good plan, because they said “yes”, and so, on April 1, Fran and I will fly to Panama to get this show on the road!
They arrived in Panama in early March (where they hooked up with Max and Whitey, much to our delight!), and have completed the preliminary steps to go through the canal. They’re hoping to cross over on March 24th or 25th, so unfortunately, Fran and I will miss that mini-adventure. We’ll join them on the Pacific side, spend several days provisioning, then point the bow towards the Galapagos Islands, for the shakedown cruise. It should take about 8 days to get there, during which time Fran and I plan to progress from “we don’t know nuthin’ about sailing” to “seasoned salts with thousands of miles under our keels”. (Not really, of course, but that’s what we keep telling ourselves.)
In Galapagos, Liz and Paul’s son George, and his girlfriend Samantha, will join them for eight days, while Fran and I board the Aida Maria for an eight day nature cruise around the Galapagos Archipelago. It’s a 16-passenger liveaboard ship, built in Galapagos from Ecuadoran timber, that will take us to several of the islands, where each day will consist of two shore excursions, to see the flora and fauna, and at least one volcano, of the Galapagos Islands. (Fun fact: the third of the three couples we met while cruising who we have become great friends with are Beth and Pat, on Olaf, a Nordhavn 60 trawler. They’re flying to Galapagos to go with us on the eight day cruise!!!)
At the end of the eight days, we’ll rejoin Oneiro, complete our re-provisioning, and head towards French Polynesia when Captain Paul says the weather is right. We’ll have our sights set on the Marquesas, one of several groups of islands that comprise French Polynesia. Specifically, we’ll be headed for Hiva Oa, the island where French Post-Impressionist Paul Gaugin lived his final few years, died, and is buried. Galapagos to Hiva Oa will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 days, give or take 4 days, mostly depending on the winds.
While I’m sure some of you are thinking “that sounds really cool!”, my guess is that most of you are thinking “ARE YOU INSANE?!?!?!?”. But, although that was actually MY first thought, here’s why we don’t think it’s insane.
- Oneiro is a 46 foot Hallberg Rassy, by all accounts a boat very capable of handling such a crossing.
- Paul and Liz have the same philosophy about safety and preparedness and boat maintenance as Fran and I , which is to say, very careful, thorough, and conservative.
- We’re going at a time of year when we will have a bigger risk of having NO wind at times than of having any significant storms.
- We will have two satellite phones, with which we’ll be getting daily weather updates and can issue a Mayday if something horrible happens.
- We’ll be getting daily guidance from a gentleman in New Zealand on the weather and our route.
- We’ll have the same satellite tracking / text messenging device we had on Smartini, which yet another way to communicate if necessary. It will also allow you to follow our track and read daily updates about our adventure. (Details below.)
Besides, we don’t think we would have ever decided on French Polynesia as a vacation destination, but who doesn’t want to go to Tahiti and Bora Bora and a place called Teohootepohatu? The scenery is supposed to be stunning, and the snorkeling and scuba diving are said to be some of the best anywhere. So after we arrive (sometime around June 1), we’re planning on spending at least four weeks, hopefully six, cruising to many of its 118 islands aboard Oneiro.
Follow Along / Stalk Us
As noted above, we’ll have our Garmin InReach turned on the whole time, so you can see where we are, and read brief daily updates on our progress. Either scroll all the way to the bottom of the Smartini.Life blog site, or click this link: https://share.garmin.com/FollowSmartini. You can even send us a brief message using the Message icon on the left side of the map.
To Do List While On Passage
- Learn to play the ukelele, or harmonica, or ocarina (I printed one with my 3D printer!).
- Write a short story or get a good start on writing a book.
- Write a song.
- Do some daily exercise – we’ve worked too hard to finally get back in shape to lose it all due to 25 days of inactivity.
- Learn to draw.
- As a group, write a haiku poem each day, about something notable from that day. (I wrote the first one already: Pacific Ocean / Takes a long time to cross it / But cross it we will!).
- Read a lot.
- Listen to music – old favorites and new stuff.
In case you’re wondering, we won’t have Internet access at sea, so a detailed account of the crossing will have to wait until we arrive in French Polynesia. But I’ll try to post something about the trip from Panama to Galapagos, and about Galapagos, before we leave there.