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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : A Pacific Tale

Distance: 7928 nautical miles (14682 kilometres)
Duration: 66 days at sea + 74 days on stopover = 140 days

Dear fellow travellers who are following me for a long time now, I would like to apologize for the long time without news. Once again though, I come back with a good excuse!

Indeed, the last four months, I have been able to start one of the biggest challenge of the world tour by hitch-hiking: “Crossing the Pacific Ocean by boat-hitch-hiking”. In the city of Carthagena in Colombia, I started to look for a way to get to a new continent: Australasia. The goal is to reach Australia, at more than 16000 kilometres from Colombia.

The Pacific Ocean is the biggest Ocean in the world. Its surface is more than 166 millions of km², contrary to 106 millions for the Atlantic Ocean.

I am today arrived in Auckland in New Zealand, after 66 days at sea and almost 8000 nautical miles. Let me come back on those last four months that I spent on the Pacific Ocean that, I may say, deserves well its name.

GPS map of my Pacific Ocean crossing by boat-hitch-hiking

The research

March 24th 2011, I am starting to look for a boat. I just arrived in Carthagena, almost one year since my first visit in this city. In between, I toured South America, down to Ushuaia the southern city in the world, in the Argentinian side of Tierra del Fuego.

Thanks to my last experiences of boat-hitch-hiking, that allowed to go fro, South Africa to Panama, from the United States to Cuba or even from Cuba to Guatemala, I know that some tips and a lot of perseverance will help me to gain some time in my research. First, I go in the marina of Carthagena, where I let a message on the board, saying that I would offer to be a crew in a captain was in need.

The message on the board of the marina in Carthagena

I go there everyday. I try to talk to the maximum of people in the marina so my offer can be more known. I also try to meet the captains when they are on their boats... Or in the bar!

The bar of the marina of Carthagena

Finally, it will take me 5 days.

In the fourth day, I indeed meet Rupert... In the bar. This one is an English captain working on a delivery from Saint Lucia in the Carribeans to New Zealand. He asks me to come back the next day when I will have think about my request. The following day, he invites me to join him to Panama. For this part of the journey, he asks me to cover myself my personal costs. If this part of the trip is going well, maybe will I keep on travelling with him further on the Pacific. In a way, I am passing a test!

I am passing a test, stirring the helm between Colombia and Panama

The crew, for this first lef of the journey, is made of Rupert the captain (english), Darrah (american), and the couple Rafa and Kate (brazilian and australian).

From left to right: Rafa, Rupert, Kate and me on the wheel


Stopover in Panama

For the third time in this journey, I am in Panama. This little country of Central America is an important naval roundabout. The Panama canal allows to go from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and inversely. I may have succeeded the test because Rupert is keeping me aboard, while starting to talk about the Pacific crossing that we are going to do.

We have to wait 12 days before to cross the Panama canal. We are waiting in the village of Porto Belo and then the marina of Shelter Bay near Colon. We are victim of an irritating event. A night in Porto Belo, we are coming back to the dinghy dock and we realize that our dinghy has been stolen. We will find it the next morning, floating in the middle of the bay, of course without its engine. We won't catch the thief, and even less the engine.
In the other hand, we got more people aboard. A couple of Spanish Nacho and Diana, an Italian Michele while Darrah is letting us here because she needs to go back to the United States to work.

After almost two weeks waiting for crossing the Panama Canal, we can finally reach the Pacific Ocean by crossing the famous Central American isthmus.

The Panama Canal is made of three groups of locks: Gatún, Miraflores and Pedro Miguel. Each group of locks helps the boats to get to different level of water between the two Oceans. In the middle, there is the artificial lake of Gatún, that allows to get between the different parts of the Canal.

Here I am while we cross at night the group of locks of Gatún

The next day, we are ending the crossing of the canal through the locks of Pedro Miguel and Miraflores. The way of doing is a little different because this time we are tying our sailing boat with lines. Indeed, the swirls made by the levelling of the water could move our boat towards the wall of the locks. The previous days, our sailing boat was attached to a catamaran, which was attached to a powerboat, which was attached to one of the two walls.

The lines-throwers in the group of locks of Pedro Miguel

We are finally arriving in Panama City. I find this city even more developed than the last year and the one before. It seems that buildings are growing everywhere like mushrooms, especially in the business centre. In a way, Panama City looks like the Shanghai of Central America.

However, my feelings are somewhere else this day. I just got the offer to join the crew for this Pacific crossing. We will finally be 7 aboard for this journey: Rupert, Michele, Nacho, Diana, Kate, Rafa and myself. As a member of a delivery, all my costs will be covered.

I will cross a good part of the Pacific aboard the sailing boat monohull Benneteau of 45 feet “Khamsin” and I can't be more happy for this!

The sailing boat “Khamsin”, going across the Pacific

The Pacific crossing, from Panama to New Zealand
I participate aboard, as in the Atlantic crossing, by taking the night watches, cleaning the boat and trying to help as much as I can.

In Panama for example, I helped to put the boat back in shape

However, the difficulty of this journey will be its length. It is very possible that we will be 3 to 4 months on this sailing boat. To help you to get an idea, let me show you a map of the Pacific Ocean

A map of the Pacific Ocean

Now, if you have the opportunity to have a globe close to you, I invite you to have this little experience.

Find the Atlantic Ocean. You can see the distance between Africa and America. On one face of the globe, you can see the two continents.

Now, turn the globe towards the Pacific Ocean... Can you see the difference? A full part of this globe is only made of water and this, coming from only one ocean! You can now understand why we are also calling Earth: “The blue Planet”.

From Panama to Galápagos
The first part of this journey allows us to get accustomed with the boat and to know a little bit more about each members of the crew.

After some days sailing, we are arriving in the southern Hemisphere. In a way, we are crossing the invisible line of the Equator. It is the perfect occasion for the skipper Rupert to shave.. .But in a quite original way, check this out!

The crossing of the invisible line of the Equator gives to the captain Rupert the idea to shave...

… A decision that I decided to follow... Order from the captain!

Near the Galápagos Islands, we are slowing down a lot. Indeed, we are in an area called the “Black Pot” where there isn't any wind during most of the year. In consequence, our captain Rupert invited us, if we had the wish to do so, to go to swim behind the boat because this one wasn't moving at all. The whole crew (or almost!) jumps in the middle of the Pacific to swim a little bit.

The crew (here Nacho and Diana) jumps happily in the Pacific Ocean!

We are indeed 7 aboard but there is also 6 nationalities and 5 different languages spoken (english, italian, spanish, portuguese and french). The heterogeneous mix leads to interesting exchanges helping us to get to know each others cultures.

This way, we had the opportunity to taste different dishes every evening, coming from each others countries.

Michele the Italian is preparing here some “Gnocchis”

After 8 days sailing, we are arriving in the Galápagos, after Charles Darwin

To read the article about the Galápagos islands, click here

From the Galápagos to French Polynesia
As some of you maybe already know, there are usually things that don't properly work on a boat. On the “Khamsin”, we also went through this. Indeed, the boat wasn't new, some details change a little bit our life aboard. Indeed, the batteries wouldn't charge more than the minimum of it. The alternator also decided to let us. We couldn't use the autopilot and we had to steer for almost all the part of this leg. The helm, after all, joined the others and stopped working in a good way. The journey becomes an adventure.

However the captain was qualified and experienced. We are taking advantage of the situation to learn to use the sextant. I have the chance to use this astronomical object for few times. Rupert and Michele are realizing different calculations according to the position of the moon and the stars to know where the boat is on the ocean. Although it is more for entertainment than for necessity, the experience was interesting.

My first steps with a sextant

Our crossing is going very well. The winds are in the right direction during almost all the way. The sails are working perfectly and this is what we need on a sailing boat!

We read, converse, admire the ocean. The Pacific Ocean is so big that it is difficult to meet another boat. For 10 days, we don't see anyone or anything in our way.

We read, converse, sleep...

In the other hand, we don't miss the fauna who, curious about us being there, doesn't hesitate to swim on our side. We see groups of dolphins and pilot whales. Those ones take the opportunity to show up and make some incredible jumps out of the water. Their joy and happiness seem infectious. The whole crew look like a bunch of kids trying to catch their attention!

The pilot whales swimming on our side

Les baleines pilotes nageant à nos côtés

Every morning and evening, we could admire the nature during the sunrises and sunsets. Some were absolutely incredible, giving some colours to the monotonous oceanic landscape.

The sunrises and sunsets were sometimes incredible

As I said, the oceanic landscape may be sometimes monotonous. However, it happens that its flatness gives some incredible views. Here, in the archipelagos of the Tumuotu in French Polynesia, the total absence of wind gave me the opportunity to get a beautiful picture.

The oceanic flatness may have some assets

Then we finally arrived in a new stage of the journey: French Polynesia. This is a new continent to discover in this tour of the world. We crossed the half of the Pacific Ocean but we have to take a longer stopover in Tahiti to fix some boat parts. This will be the occasion to discover the charms of French Polynesia.

Click here to read the article about the charms of French Polynesia

From French Polynesia to the Tonga
We are leaving Tahiti with 5 people aboard. Indeed, Kate and Rafa decided to stop. As they are passionate of surf, they took the decision to stay longer in the “Temple” of this sport. They are staying on the Back Beat, a catamaran that needs more crew members and who is travelling much slower than us. Everyone is happy even though we are losing two friends. In the story, I gain a little bit of privacy as I will have a cabin! Indeed, I spent the last two months in the middle of the public area of the boat.

We are leaving French Polynesia and so a part of France. It is the time to take off the French flag, that stayed the whole time we were in the area.

Time to take off the French flag

We are passing in front of the wonderful island of Moorea and we keep going, still following the trade winds from the east. We are going towards the Tonga, where we will then go towards the south. From Tahiti to Nuku'Alofa, the capital of the Tonga, there are around 1500 nautical miles.

We are passing in front of the wonderful island of Moorea

The sailing is pretty quiet and calm. Our autopilot is now working so the life aboard is easier. We are celebrating Nacho's birthday by doing a chocolate cake. It was of course a challenge to cook when the boat is constantly moving from one side to the other!

Nacho's birthday

We were thinking to stop in Palmerston in the Cook Islands but the lack of informations about the depth on the entrance of the pass in this atoll made us change our mind. We kept going on the way to Niue.

The panorama of Niue when we arrived by sea

Click here to read the article about the Pleasant Niue

Three sailing days later, we are arriving in the Tonga Kingdom. We are stopping in Nuku'Alofa, the capital.

Our arrival in this part of the world is subject to a curious experience... We are going into tomorrow!

Indeed, we are crossing another invisible line. This time, we aren't going from one hemisphere to another but we are crossing the International Date Line. We are passing from the Friday July 15th to the Sunday July 17th. Saturday July 16th 2011 didn't exist for us! We are arriving this week-end in Nuku'Alofa.

Our stopover is unfortunately very short because we decide to go to New Zealand as soon as we would have a good weather forecast. This one arrives two days later.

Click here to read the article of the Kingdom of Tonga

From the Tonga islands to New Zealand
This is the last part of the journey but also the most difficult. We are arriving in the middle of winter in the southern hemisphere. The temperature is going down of 15 degrees Celsius while we are going south. In the same time, we add layers of clothes.

We add layers of clothes as the temperature goes down

The meteo, expected as calm, changes. From our first day out of Nuku'Alofa, we are sailing through winds of around 40 knots. During 6 days, the winds come and go with more or less strength. A cloud even reached 60 knots of wind! This one sent me on the floor of my cabin while I was sleeping...

It is difficult to take a picture of the sonar when the sailing boat is moving so much but here is approximately what looks like those clouds on it.

Often, the winds come with waves. Those ones reach easily 10 meters when the storms arrive

We are realizing this crossing of 1200 nautical miles in 13 days, knowing that we were estimating it at maximum 7 days. Indeed, our engine stopped to work during the heavy weather. On top of this, the wind disappears completely for a week! We are going less than 2 knots.

Here I am with Nacho, playing with the sails

We are seeing the 13th day the coast of New Zealand. We decide to stop in Whangarei, in the north of the country, to fix the engine. A tug boat comes to look for us on the bay, as the wind didn't reappear.

A tug boat comes to pull us on the way to the marina of Whangarei

We are all very tired but happy to arrive after this very long crossing

Some days later, we are arriving at our final destination: Auckland. We are passing in front of the city center the Saturday August 6th 2011 at 10am, more than 4 months after having left Cartagena in Colombia.

We are passing in front of the city center of Auckland when we arrive in the biggest city of New Zealand

The owner of the boat is so happy to see this successful delivery that he invites us to a major sports event... We will watch the rugby game New Zealand /Australia in the Eden Park stadium!

I stay few days to clean and paint the boat in Auckland before to go back on the road and start to hitch-hike on this new country: New Zealand.

… Without forgetting the next rugby world cup coming up here in few feeks!

See you very soon!

Jeremy



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