What We Learned Sailing the Pacific - SailNet Community

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  • 1 Post By Doreen Gounard
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Old 02-05-2004
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What We Learned Sailing the Pacific


Throughout the last year of cruising through the South Pacific, fish have made regular appearances on the menu.
Hanging on a mooring here in downtown Majuro, Marshall Islands, the crew of Imani finds itself in a very reflective mood. In short, we have had an incredible year—some of the more noteable highlights include swimming with humpback whales in Nuie, attending a Sevusevu ceremony at a Fijian village, and being surrounded by incredible displays of sea life while drift-diving the pass of Beveridge Reef. After covering more than 10,000 nautical miles and crossing the equator twice, we realize the success of our journey stems from practical lessons we learned along the way, the helpful tips we received from fellow cruisers, and the great, yet simple gear that has served us well along our way. So to keep that good karma flowing, here's some of what the Imani crew learned in the biggest school we ever attended—the Pacific Ocean.

Wet Suits    Bring them. And yes, we did spend the entire past year in the tropics, but we wore them more than I ever would have expected—especially yours truly. I am five feet tall,105 pounds soaking wet, and thus somewhat thermically-challenged. After just 30 minutes into an exciting snorkeling adventure in 85-degree water, I become a shivering leaf heading back to the boat and out of the water. To beat the chill, I learned to put my suit on, especially if I wanted to spend a long time exploring  large coral areas. My full-body wet suit kept me warm and comfortable, and in Tonga I was able to swim longer than I ever have before.


Snorkel for long enough and even 85-degree water will seem cold. Wet suits are on the list of must-haves, and are effective at keeping small marine life out of places they don't need to be.
Wet suits are also helpful when scraping the krill and other hitchhikers off the bottom of your hull (or hulls, as is the case for us). Once you scrape off the little buggers, they inevitably want to latch on to you and have a propensity to dive deep into the recessess of your swim suit—yuck! Wearing a wet suit gives them a much tougher time to find a way in, and that keeps that creepy, crawly feeling away. Last of all, bring spare wet suits from home to trade for other goodies like fruit and pearls. The locals were very happy to get hold of good used wet suits, especially in the Marquesas and the Tuamotus, where many depend on such equipment for their seafaring livelihood.

Good Boat Gear     This past year has been quite a test for our boat and her gear. Our one-year-old, six-horsepower Yamaha has been terrific, provided great performance, and been easy to maintain. We are also happy with the performance of the four-year-old Garhauer engine hoist on our back transom, which has saved many backs and kept our dinghy engine safe. As a precaution against any sudden change in weather, we hoist our engine off the inflatable and onto Imani every evening. The labor-saving device has made hoisting the engine so easy that anyone in our family crew can do it—even seven-year-old Tristan. For hauling our dinghy on to beaches, often times over flat coral, our four-year-old Happy Wheels on our dinghy have been great, very sturdy, and reliable.

"We hoist our engine off the inflatable and onto Imani every evening. And that has kept all backs healthy and allowed everyone of our family crew to lift the engine—even seven-year-old Tristan. "

Our heavy, eight-year-old Zeppelin inflatable has done a yeoman’s job, yet we can’t help but have dinghy-envy as we eye the easy-to-handle AquaPro, an aluminum hard-bottom inflatable that is so easy to lift and plane. We sure wish we had one, especially when we are lifting our heavy dink on to Imani's deck to stow for a passage.

Good Service    We did have some equipment wear, which is normal in the over 20,000 miles and five-year-old sailing life of Imaniand e-mail has become a great tool to use when sending things back to the States. Our autopilot, a Simrad/NavicoWheelpilot 5000 gave up the ghost and took a long trip through the mail back for repairs. Upon receiving our unit, Simrad responded quickly by e-mail and completed the repair in less than three weeks for a very reasonable amount. We are pleased with the very professional and straightforward support they have given us, all by e-mail.

We have also replaced some of our rigging wire. This was accomplished with the efficient support of Svendsen’s Boat Works, Rig Shop in Alameda, CA. Douglas Frederbaugh and Chris Evanoff were incredibly responsive to us from so far away and their turn-around time had the rigging replaced and tuned just three weeks after we sent the initial e-mail. That’s service! [ Ed note: Don't forget to check out SailNet's own rig and spar shop!]


Off the beaten track, provisions may be harder to come by than at the last port of call. Querying other cruisers in the region helps to know what to stock up on where. 
Provisioning Tips    Make sure when leaving French Polynesia to stock up on lots of the government subsided products—the ones with the orange price tags, such as canned butter, powdered milk and European pastas. Amazingly, French Polynesia offers the best prices in the Pacific all the way to Fiji/ New Zealand or Australia for such items. Also, while in French Polynesia stock up on couscous, paté and wine, for you won’t find these items again until Wallis/Fortuna or New Caledonia and the wine won’t be as good or reasonably priced until you  find the Australian wines available in Fiji and even here in Majuro, Marshall Islands.

Good provisioning ports across the Pacific include Rarotonga in the Cook Islands especially this past year with the strong US dollar; Pago Pago for good old American products; and wonderful Fiji with its varied and very reasonably priced selection of foods and spices. And of course New Zealand and Australia brings you back to availability standards of the States and Western Europe.

Every country that we have visited had New Zealand lamb for sale. Consequently, we found ourselves eating more meat than we have in many years. Lamb is everywhere, very tasty, and reasonably priced, even in French Polynesia.  A leg of lamb feeds plenty of hungry cruisers during a celebratory meal.

Mildew Control    Mildew and extra dampness are two of the biggest enemies to the quality of life aboard and those little devils have a way of wrecking havoc with video tapes and laptop computers. To protect our computer from moisture, we now store it in a waterproof case with plenty of desiccant to keep our laptop in good working condition and keep the damaging moisture away. Our videotapes have had a tough year and some of our older tapes have large blooms of mildew inside. We are currently in the process of taking each of them apart and cleaning them with alcohol and paper towels. It is tedious, but has worked, and many of our tapes have bounced back and are looking good.

Fishing     We got hold of the best all-around book about fishing and cruising we have ever seen. The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing by Scott and Wendy Bannerot, published by International Marine, a division of McGraw-Hill, and would recommend it highly if you plan on eating as much fish as we do. The 418-page book covers everything from lures and fishing technique to recipes and is a welcome addition to any cruising boat’s library.

Good Trade Items    When leaving the Marquesas for the Tuamotus, know that you're leaving a tropical lushness and bring lots of fruit for the journey and your stay. Very little grows in the atolls other than coconuts, so pamplemousse, limes, bananas, are heartily accepted by the locals. Know also that used gear such as binoculars, hand-held VHF radios, and the like trade very well for black pearls in the Tuamotus.

As we prepare for the next leg of our journey—exploring more of Micronesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and finally Thailand—I am sure we will learn more lessons and look forward to passing them along as we go.

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