Heroes of The Pacific Ocean
Crossing the Pacific Ocean between the Galapagos Islands and the Marquesas on a tiny sailing yacht- close to 3000 nautical miles; a month without land – is an epic adventure and a great achievement for any cruising family with limited navigational knowledge and little sailing experience, but it is NOT EXACTLY an act of heroism. Not heroes but dreamers and adventurers; not brave but daring, curious, and a little insane are those who have done it, and they are many. We salute you!
In May of 2016, we- Ivo, Mira and 12-year-old Maya, sailed across the vastest interrupted stretch of water on Earth aboard our 38-foot Leopard catamaran Fata Morgana. It took us 23 days and nights of nothing-but-sea; 23 days and nights suspended in space and time, alone in the blue watery desert of the Pacific Ocean. But we were not alone, and this story is not about us. This story has much more protagonists than the three of us- many true heroes to whom we are forever grateful.
During the long passage, the Auto Pilot, the Solar Installation and Watermaker, all the Electronics, and the Sails, became crew members with individual souls and personalities. We grew very fond of them, each day more and more. They are “the good guys” of this story.
The Auto-Pilot steered the boat on course day and night – a trusty invisible helmsman magically turning the wheel, relentlessly adjusting the course, mile upon mile, non-stop for over 500 hours, allowing us to rest and relax and just be lazy most of the time. What would we do without him? We later heard that a couple of boats crossing around the same time like us lost their auto-pilots and the crew had to constantly hand-steer for a month. What a disaster!
Aboard with us were also the Solar Panels (a total of 1500 Watts) filing the electricity bank consisting of Lithium Batteries with enough electrical power for the GPS, Auto-Pilot and all other boat electronics to run non-stop, for the fridge and the Watermaker, as well as all lights, our TV and computers. We never had to turn on the engines to produce electricity- we had plenty. By 10 a.m. we were already maxed-up and all systems worked perfectly. The Watermaker produced water for a couple of hours every second day to make sure our 800 l water tanks are half-full (we didn’t keep them full to reduce weight on the front) with us taking daily freshwater showers, washing dishes and clothes. We missed for nothing. We felt spoiled.
Our Sails are the original ones- as old as the boat, made 16 years ago. 16 years of gentle winds and sudden squalls. Every morning, we would inspect the Sails with tenderness and admiration- faded patched-up old rags on one of their final epic journeys. They should have been retired and replaced long time ago, but sails are expensive and we couldn’t afford it. Ripped in many places and mended many times, the Sails look like a complicated abstract art installation with small and large squares and rectangles patched up all over, which we sawed on ourselves with the SailRite sawing machine every time a hole opened up. We worried, especially for the Jib. We thought that he will not survive the long one-month passage, but he did! Wounded in many places and literally “out of shape”, our veteran of a jib gave the best of himself and once again performed selflessly, like a brave hero, till the end. He got ripped in two placed during a violent gale that hit us with 35-40 knots sustained for one hour in the middle of the passage, but we fixed him again and kept going. Besides the old Mainsail and Jib, we have a small underside second-hand used Spinnaker, which too served us well on this passage, and no other sails.
The Auto-Pilot, Solar Installation, Electronics, Watermaker, and the Sails were the soldiers of a small army unit called Fata Morgana- “a vision” or “a mirage”- and she fought well. Fata Morgana never let us down. Even in that gale, when we couldn’t take it anymore, she took it. Heavy and overloaded, filled with domestic stuff and provisions, Fat Fata was our comfortable safe home and vehicle during our longest non-stop passage. We love her dearly and are extremely proud with her. Well done, Fata!
And we haven’t forgotten a few other heroes- the IridiumGo satellite system and the people behind it. In the beginning of this trip, for the first couple of weeks, the satellite system glitched and we couldn’t send messages or access internet. We could only receive messages and download the weather forecast. Then, Ivo reset the system and suddenly the Sat started working properly again, just in time. The next day, when the bad weather hit, we were able to update our status and send our exact position to a couple of friends on land, in case of search and rescue. It is a great comfort to know that if the boat capsizes and you find yourself shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean (which is something I inevitably imagine during strong winds and huge waves), help will find us, thanks to this new technology of communication; thanks to Mel Ebstein and Kristina Barakova- Albu (Krisha)- both good friends and experienced sailors based in Australia. Miles away, they were constantly with us during the entire passage, sending weather up-dates and forecast, advising and cheering us up, monitoring our position and progress. Mel could somehow find our exact position using Marine Traffic even when we couldn’t send him messages and he would send us very detailed weather up-dates as well as some world-news. And thanks to Krisha we could up-date our Facebook page, so that all our friends and followers could read about our progress and status. Guys, you cannot imagine how much your help and support meant to us, especially in those scary times. Thank you Mel and Krisha, you are our true heroes!
As for the three of us, we did good too. Ivo didn’t sleep for 23 day and nights, staying in the cockpit and keeping an eye on the boat, like those birds who sleep with half their brain at a time and one eye open, while the other eye keeps watch. He kept the boat steady during the squalls and took good care of all systems, making sure everything is ship-shape. My heroic acts were mainly performed in the galley, where I had to deal with 100 pounds of potatoes, 20 expired cake mixes, 120 eggs, and four tunas and dorados. Maya did school almost every day and finished the dreaded math manual with 23 tests at the end- one for each day of the passage. She worked hard on her upcoming book- short-stories about the fish and the sea, and never even once complained of being bored. But most importantly, she was really brave during the gale and never got scared. She even tried to cheer us up, telling us that nothing bad will happen. A brave little sailor, so proud with her!