Archive for April 9th, 2011

A Way Home

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

As one of our favorite songs goes, “there’s more than one way home”. As we considered how the heck we were going to sail Khamseen back to Seattle attractive options seemed surprisingly limited. The north- and south-easterly trade winds that pushed us nicely along through the tropics last year would definitely provide some unpleasant sailing if we tried to go against them back the way we came.

One famous cruising route guru recommends heading straight east from New Zealand, reaping the benefits of the favorable mid-latitude winds, before sweeping north through the Austral Islands of French Polynesia, on to Tahiti, then up to Hawaii, before hooking up over the summertime North Pacific High pressure system that’ll be waiting for us off the U.S. west coast (not much wind in the High) and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Here’s a plot of what that looks like:


The thing we don’t like about this route is the first leg, which along with its promise of wind also comes the promise of at least one gale. Many boats report having been treated to several, as low pressure systems march one after another across the southern mid-latitudes.  It’s autumn down here after all. We’ve already had a taste of these gales as we hunkered down on the Coromandel.  We couldn’t help thinking there must be another way.

So we consulted our friends Garth and Wendy who have years of experience sailing around the Pacific. Garth suggested we head north from New Zealand, island hop through Fiji, Tuvalu, and Kiribati up to the Marshall Islands, then over to Midway Island, and on to the Pacific Northwest.  That sounded like a splendid idea.


We knew we’d need a permit to stop at Midway, which is part of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument created a few years ago, so we started our permit application process last summer.  Unfortunately we quickly hit a budget-related snag. Long story short, we’re not going to Midway. In fact, they warned us not to even think about stopping there unless we plunked down about $4k for a vessel tracking system. They helpfully offer three types of government-approved systems to choose from, but each would wind up costing us a couple of months of cruising budget.  Never mind that there are low-cost alternatives, the then-President only okayed those three. We’d also need a rat inspection, a haul out for bottom cleaning, and an agreement not to use our dinghy which they say is too small. And all for the one week they would allow us to stay – um, no thanks America, you have the stingiest bureaucracy in the Pacific.

But we really like the idea of going up through island chains we haven’t seen yet, and making the big jump from the Marshalls to British Columbia is doable, so that’s still our plan.  We’ll just be sure to steer well clear of forbidden Midway.  Something like this:


Comparing them, both routes are about 7,000 nm long and would take us about 60 days on passage. So while Keb Mo’s right, “there ain’t no right way, ain’t no wrong”, there is one way that pretty much guarantees we’ll have our dupas handed to us by Mother Nature, and another that’s more scenic and that might just let us off a little easy.

It looks like its time to go. We have 2 legs of lamb and a few other groceries (about $700 NZ worth). We sail for Fiji.

35°18.70’S 174°07.54’E 09-Apr-11 06:45 UTC