Mexico to French Polynesia Part Two – Days 7 – 11

This blog is composed of some of the emails we sent and/or received during our recent 2,700 mile journey from Mexico to French Polynesia

Part Two – Days 7 – 11

Ron emailing our weather router, Day 7

We are having more problems with our hydraulic stabilizers and I am trying to assess the potential benefit of heading further south. We are currently at 11 52’N /119 25’W. Apparent wind 18 knots, from NE. SWH is at least 8 feet and we have certainly seen a few 10 footers, as you predicted. The wave pattern direction seems a bit confused, as there are trains arriving from both our port and stbd quarters.

The concern I have is complete loss of stabilizers, which would make for a more uncomfortable ride. That has not happened yet. Should this occur some time in the next 24 – 48 hours, would I be in a better situation by having headed on a more southerly course? How far southerly do you think I would need to head to make a difference?

Part of Ron’s Dialogue with Chris Fontaneau, NAIAD stabilizer expert, Day 7
Hi Chris,

No tracking alarms. Boat is stable. I’m sure it would be stable even even if the Naiads quit entirely, though the ride might not be very pleasant out here ๐Ÿ™‚

The engine:pump pulley ratio is way more than 1:1. The crankshaft pulley on the engine is easily 2-3 times the diameter of the pulley on the overhung load adapter. So, there should be plenty of flow?

Chris’s original email to Ron

You are very good at diagnosing problems. With big fin movement you will get high demand for flow. At low rpm the pump will provide less flow.

The pump should provide sufficient flow at 1200 rpm assuming your engine to pump ration is one to one. ( that is, both pulleys are around the same size)

If the vessel is stable in spite of these pressure drops do not worry about it. I liked your idea of changing the speed so as to reduce the fin movement to 80%.

Are you getting tracking alarms? Is the boat stable? Do what you have to do to make it to the next fuel stop. I hope that answers your question.

Fonteneau Yacht Repair, Inc
1229 Shafter Street
San Diego, CA 92106

Weather Conditions, Nancy emailing a friend, Day 7

We have winds to 20 or so, out of the NNE and swells to 10 feet, with the occasional big one thrown in, almost directly behind us, so NNE. This is a considerable improvement over the 30 knot gusts last night and the larger swell. Sean was on watch from midnight to 4AM, said it was solid white as far as he could see. Nancy is glad she slept through that part. The boat handled it without drama, but there was quite a bit of rolling. We are not shipping water, other than spray over the rails occasionally and some coming up through the scuppers.

The motion is tolerable, the stabilizers doing fine, still showing pressure drops when there is high demand for pressure. No alarms, so the issue is too transient to be a problem. The seas are a bit confused due to the wind wave, so the fins are really working. We have stopped using the dishwasher for fear of breaking it in these big seas. Will need to borrow some dishwashing soap from Daybreak when they get closer.

The fuel bladder is still in the cockpit but doesn’t affect her behavior, so we will wait until Sunday to empty it. We are turning 1300RPM, doing 5.5-6.2 knots delivering about 2.2NMPG, perhaps more. Plenty of reserve right now but Ron wants to get south of at least 5N, where we expect a counter current, before we think about speeding up.

Crew doing fine, sang happy birthday to the Lugger main when it crossed 4,000 hours today. Hope to get a little more sleep tonight, now we are used to the motion and the noise. Also more tired ๐Ÿ˜‰ Changed the watch schedule tonight, so Ron gets to bed earlier. Nancy will stand his watch and he will do hers, then Sean will take over for him at 8AM, so he can get some more sleep. Ron needs his sleep more than Nancy and Sean.

Weather Forecast from OMNI Bob, Day 7

Captain, your problems with the stabilizers are noted. Please let me know if you adjust your course to the south. If you do adjust, please advise when you adjust back to a more direct route to the Marquesas.

You should see a gradual improvement in the sea/swell conditions after Saturday. They won’t go totally away, but they should improve as you near 05N. Heading more south should get you into those better conditions a bit sooner.

I don’t know if you have been in contact with Jerome Fisher but he is about 250nm or so your ESE near 11-17N 115-25W and he reported seas of 4-6ft. So adjusting more to the south should help get out of the conditions a little sooner when compared to heading along the current route.

There is the risk of higher swells building again from the SW and NW during Tue/28 and Wed/29 as you get closer to the equator.

So, adjusting your course to the south is a viable option in order to get you out of the highest sea/swells sooner. You may also get into winds that are closer to the lower range (closer to 14-18kts instead of 18-21kts), but it will take a good 24hrs for those conditions to develop.

Bob always provides a 7 plus day forecast in detail, which is not reproduced here.

Ron emailing a friend, Day 8

Agree on the hi speed autopilot setting. I also have been experimenting with sea state filter. It was set on ‘auto’ so I tried manual maximum allowable yaw (6 degrees). This really quieted the rudder down, and appears to not increase cross track error, at least with the rather lengthy waypoint I have plugged in (only 1623 nm to go).

This has been the Naiad Stabilizer trip. First tracking error on a fin which did not correct with nice expensive potentiometer replacement. Ultimately tracked down to low voltage at the control board during periods of peak DC power utilization. Low RPM = lower alternator output!

A day or so later a new problem: the hydraulic pressure in the Naiads began to fluctuate in time with large range fin movement. Dropping from 1200 psi to 800, and then back up. At this point, we were in 8-10 foot seas (from behind) with wind of 20, gusting mid to high 20’s;. All I could think was that I really really didn’t want to complete the journey with no stabilization. The problem does seem to be at least partially RPM related, as it improves considerably (but does not go away completely) with increase to typical cruising RPM (1500-1600 rather than current 1300). Chris Fonteneau reassures me that this is likely related to low hydraulic flow at low RPM with large demand due to sea state. So long as no alarms, carry on.

One thing this trip has taught me is that these are truly wonderful boats. She handles these sea conditions without a single ruffled feather. From a boat stability standpoint I’ve no doubt we could carry on with complete Naiad shutdown (in fact, we’ve had small samples of those conditions as I have screwed around with them these last few days). The ride wouldn’t be very pleasant, and Nancy might never speak to me again. But, we would make port in one piece. This is very nice to know.

Thus far our average speed has been 6.0 kts, 1300 rpm, 2.35 nm per gallon. That includes adverse affects from sea state this last 48 hours.

The Arrival of the Counter Current, Nancy emailing a friend, Day 8

Daybreak is stuck in the counter current now and expect to be in it for 3 days. We are probably in it too, may be stuck for 4 days.

To: Captain Fisher – M/Y DAYBREAK

Thanks for your position/weather reports. It appears you are still in/near the area where ocean currents from the north and your ESE are converging. It appear just as the currents settles in you will move south of 10N and this is where the ocean current will begin to become more adverse.

Quiet Time on the ITCZ, email from our weather router, Day 8

The latest satellite shows the equ/Trough is very, very weak. One of the few times I can say it is not there.

This is a good thing which will lower the risk of showers and, possibly, eliminate the risk of thunderstorms.

Either way you should get only a few showers over the next day or two.

The Halfway Point, Nancy emailing a friend, Day 9

We do have another belt, but we can’t install it because to do so would require turning off the main engine. (editorial note; at this point the belt that drives the hydraulic pressure for our stabilizers is showing signs of strain) Ron isn’t willing to do that, particularly after our little starter experience right before we left. So we are now on one fin, dialed back to 60% of full rotation. That reduces the draw on the pump and the belt is doing a lot better. We turn the fins off completely at night, since only one person is in the pilothouse anyway, and it doesn’t affect the sleeping watch much. She is rolling hard in some of these seas, but it isn’t much better with both fins on at full rotation, frankly. Large seas from the stern are hard for the fins to compensate for in the best of circumstances.

Going to one fin has speeded us up a bit, we’ve picked up at least half a knot. We also upped the RPM by 100 to give her more authority through the water while we pump out the fuel bladder. It’s about half done, will be finished tonight. That will remove her slight stern squat and take more stress off the fins as well as improve her performance.

Yes we hit halfway tomorrow, and with our additional speed we should get in sooner, which will be nice. Sean wants a milkshake, Ron wants a martini and I want the boat to stop moving ๐Ÿ˜‰

Dawn Day 9, email to friends and family
Speed 6 knots, turning 1300RPM
Wind 10-15N, Seas 5-7 feet NNW
Position 8 49′ N / 122 27′ W

Hello Everyone

Duet is now 1,200 miles from the nearest land and 1,600 miles from Nuka Hiva. We have been at sea for 8 days. It’s a bit like the movie Groundhog Day, our days are essentially the same, over and over again. Ron rises at 8AM, takes the watch from Nancy, who woke at 4AM, and took the watch from Sean, who came on at midnight. Ron watches until noon, while Nancy and Sean sleep. Sean takes over again at noon, Nancy at 4PM and Ron at 8PM. Sean gets up at midnight, takes over from Ron….

Everyone is doing fine. It took Ron, and Nancy in particular, 5-6 days to get used to the motion, while Sean was fine after 36 hours. Nancy and Ron are still on full doses of seasickness medication, although we hope to begin reducing that in the next week. The boat’s motion is often boisterous and takes some getting used to. The saying “one hand for the boat and one hand for you” is very true in these conditions.

Duet is running well. We’ve had some minor mechanical issues, all solvable. We are traveling at 5-6 knots, or very slowly, to conserve fuel. As we’ve gotten closer to the Equator, we’ve encountered a counter current which will be with us for another 3-4 days, until we cross the 4th parallel. That, and the usual tidal conditions encountered at sea, have slowed her down further. Fuel economy has been excellent, we are averaging about 2.4 nautical miles per gallon (NMPG). We need to stay above 2.1NMPG to reach Nuku Hiva with a good fuel reserve on board.

Fuel constraints also mean that, as it gets hotter nearer the equator, we get hotter too, as there is no fuel for air conditioning. We do run the generator to make water, and we understand from chief diesel rationer Ron, that there may be a laundry day in our future. This would be a good thing, as the crew is running a bit short on essentials, like underwear. While these items can be washed in our daily showers, laundry would be a much better answer. We don’t completely lack creature comforts, however, as the dishwasher runs every day and we have music, TV, electric fans, lights, electric toilets, refrigeration and hot running water whenever we want. Duet’s electronic are all running 24/7 as well.

The weather has been pretty good, we are just coming off several days of rougher conditions. All of the weather is behind us, so the boat behaves well, regardless. We have seen seas of 10-12 feet and winds to about 25 knots. The bigger seas are impressive seen from the salon, but Duet takes them in stride, rising up to meet them and then sliding slowly down their backs as they pass beneath her. Our weather router, OMNI Bob, has been spot on with the conditions. We are expecting near perfect weather for us, namely almost calm with little wind and sea, from now until our arrival.

We get an updated weather forecast via email every other day, as does our buddy Nordhavn, Daybreak. Daybreak is about 150 miles SSE of us now and slowly passing us, as she travels about a knot faster than we do. She carries more fuel, so she doesn’t have to slow down as much. Daybreak has had one serious equipment failure, their dishwasher broke several days into the journey. Fortunately, her crew is bearing up well under this hardship.

We have plenty of connectivity aboard, between Duet’s Iridium GO and Sean’s InReach. We get texts and emails regularly from friends and family, and exchange information twice a day with Daybreak, including the positions of both boats, weather conditions, etc. Sean is also plotting Duet’s position on paper every day, using pre GPS skills, which is helpful in case we have an electronics failure.

We change autopilots (Duet has two complete autopilots) every other day, as well as switching from one of our hardwired GPS units to the other. That way all the equipment gets exercised. Duet is completely automated, the autopilot steers a course given it by the computer, while various instruments monitor everything from the main engine coolant temperature to windspeed.

The crew’s job is to watch everything to make sure all is well. Engine room checks are conducted at every watch change, with one watch crew doing the check while the other watches them on the camera, to make sure all is OK. Detailed records of various indicators are noted at each check and the oncoming watch is informed of any changes to anything, from the weather to the number of bilge pump cycles. Captain Ron is woken for any significant change in anything, such as Sean finding a tiny leak in the supply side of the main engine high pressure fuel pump. This was easily fixed, but could have evolved into a major problem if left undiscovered or unreported.

The fuel bladder is still in the cockpit. We expect to empty it today (Saturday), now the weather has improved. Duet handles the weight aft without stress, so we decided to wait to empty it. The process takes 8 hours, and we didn’t want to be wrestling with a half empty fuel bladder in rough weather.

The crew has meshed extremely well. We knew it would work out after Sean’s visit to La Paz in February, but it has gone even better than any of us expected. There is plenty of humor, but we can all pull together if needed and everyone knows their job. Our biggest daily decision is usually what to have for dinner, and we have plenty of time for conversation, quiet time and sleep. We even sang Happy Birthday to the Lugger main engine a few days ago, when it crossed 4,000 hours of running time.

We are all a bit sleep deprived, especially during the rougher weather. It is hot and noisy, so sleeping is an acquired skill, made easier by exhaustion. The noise is due to the sea, it whacks Duet from all directions. The boat itself is pretty quiet, although we have had several incidents, including one where the coffee pot launched itself across the galley around 2AM on Sean’s watch. He consigned it to the sink and the next day we cleaned it up and bundled it off to the laz in a large plastic bag. Fortunately it is undamaged.

The star of the trip has to be the Pacific Ocean. It is ever changing, depending on the time of day or night, the weather conditions, etc. It reflects the light in all directions, changes color constantly and rises and falls, endlessly moving. As Sean said early on, it’s mesmerizing. It’s also incredibly big, we’ve seen no other traffic for four days, since we crossed our last shipping lane. We do see lots of birds and the dolphins have come to visit several times.

We also have the flying fish, which land on the deck all night. Two have had starring roles, one came in through the overhead pilothouse hatch during Nancy’s watch, giving her quite a fright and covering the hatch screen with scales. The second flew in the pilothouse door, right by Sean’s head, at around 2AM, landing with a flop on the carpet. He corralled it, tossed it back over the side where it belonged, and did a pretty good job cleaning up the carpet.

The birds view Duet as a good thing, because, as she moves through the water, she disturbs the flying fish, which launch themselves into the air to get out of her way. The birds then try pick them off, although the ariel acrobatics required to catch a flying fish in midair are not in every bird’s repertoire. We don’t seem to get flying fish aboard much during the day, probably because they can see the boat better, but the night is constant cacophony of flapping and thumping. We do try to rescue them but have mostly given up, as there are so many.

We’ll write again, or not, before we arrive in Nuku Hiva. Remember, no news is good news. You can follow our track at, enter “Duet’ in the block on the left and make sure to enter a start date of March 17th or later.

Ron, Nancy and Sean
Aboard Duet, crossing the Eastern Pacific Ocean
8 49′ / 122 27′ W

Dawn Day 11, Email to Friends and Family
4AM PST Monday March 27
Position 5 11′ N / 126 02′ W
Speed 6.5 knots, RPM 1425, burn rate 2.25NMPG, approximately 2.75GPH
Wind NNW less than 10 knots, waves NNW 4-6 feet

Hello everyone

Phosphorescence in the water and the Southern Cross. Nancy got both of those on her watch at 4AM today. Actually she can’t really see the Southern Cross because of the clouds, but both Ron and Sean assure her it’s there. We passed the halfway point yesterday and are about 1,100 miles from Nuku Hiva. The weather has been steadily improving, and is expected to remain mostly benign for the rest of the trip. Duet is running well, with some small mechanical issues, none are significant. We have speeded up a bit, we are now turning 1,425RPM up from 1,300 several days ago. As we get closer, Ron gets more comfortable with our diesel reserve.

We are now traveling through the band around the Equator known as the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), where weather from the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere come together. This intermingling can result in large squalls and rough conditions. Fortunately for us, right now the ITCZ is uncharacteristically quiet, our weather router says it almost doesn’t exist. We have had one large squall, but it was mainly rain, which was most welcome as Duet is becoming seriously salty. We will be out of the ITCZ by Tuesday and should cross the Equator late Wednesday evening.

We emptied the fuel bladder on Saturday. The process went fine, and on Sunday Ron and Sean washed the bladder off and stowed it away. It served it’s purpose, at the halfway point we had burned only a couple of hundred gallons from Duet’s 1,400 gallon integral fuel supply. We have been running the generator an hour or two each day to make water, run the dryer and charge up the batteries. The boat’s 12V alternator is working hard just to keep things going, so the batteries need a little top up every day.

We even had air conditioning (wonder of wonders) for a couple of hours yesterday when we passed through the squall. It does seem that laundry, and running the dishwasher, are off the list for the rest of the trip. Duet is rolling enough that we are worried that one or both machines might break, which is a risk Nancy isn’t willing to take. So we are doing dishes by hand (horrors!) and trying to avoid the subject of laundry.

The crew is doing well. We have plenty of time for reading, rest, humor and even some serious conversation. Everyone is sleeping and eating, although it is getting hotter and more humid as we approach the equator. Duet is also pretty noisy in the bigger seas, due to the waves slapping the hull, and she’s moving around a lot. So sleeping is an acquired skill. Everything is staying put, most of the time, although the coffee pot did take flight. Sean recaptured it and we stowed it in the laz until we arrive.

The assault by flying fish continues. One flew into the pilothouse, missing Sean’s head by inches. Another somehow got in on Nancy’s watch and she didn’t notice it until it had been dead for some time. We aren’t sure what that says about her level of attention during a watch, but probably the less said about that the better. Nancy and Sean cleaned up the Portuguese bridge yesterday, as it was beginning to get pretty smelly, so things have improved out there.

It’s funny what you talk about at sea. Sean wants a milkshake and sautéed zuccini, which got a resounding boo from the rest of the company, as it qualifies as a vegetable, for heavens sake. Ron wants a martini. Nancy wants the boat to stop moving. Sean and Ron both want macaroni and cheese, thanks Bare Naked Ladies. Nancy thinks that might be a pretty good idea too. A very serious discussion of what kind of mac and cheese went on for some time, canned (not so good), freeze dried (terrible), frozen (no one but Ron had ever had that kind) and boxed, which got the big thumbs up from everyone. Nancy then rashly committed to trying to find some in Nuku Hiva, so that will be one of our first missions when we land. Jerome on Daybreak has offered up his wife Karen’s recipe for homemade macaroni and cheese, which we are sure is even better than boxed. Depending on what we find, we might even manage that.

Daybreak is chugging along about 135 miles to our SE. They are slowly catching us, although, since we speeded up, that timeline has extended a bit. We text them at least twice a day, all is well over there, although they are anxious to arrive, as are we. The Iridium system has been delivering email and text flawlessly thus far, enabling us all to keep in touch with friends and family.

We expect to arrive in Nuku Hiva early the week of April 3rd. We may not write again until then, not much happens out here. Remember, no news is good news from Duet

Ron, Nancy and Sean

Weather, Nancy emailing a friend, Day 11

As you know, we are running without stabilizers now. She handles pretty well actually and we’ve speed up to 1550 while keeping the fuel economy over 2NMPG. Average speed around 7.75 knots. We are running hard to get as far south as possible before Wednesday, when it is forecast to get a little bumpier. We are all used to the motion, but it’s still hard work getting anything done.

Otherwise, all is well, we have three hand lines in the water and Jerome is still behind us!

Weather Forecast, Day 11
To: Captain Goldberg – M/Y DUET

Captain, Thanks for your position reports. Satellite imagery shows some showers to the west/south between 3.0N-1.0N/125W-130W. The area has not moved much and over the last few hours and the intensity has not really changed. This cluster may produce some locally heavier rains/maybe a thunderstorm or two if it continues beyond today. Activity could increase in the area during the daytime heading, then lessen during the night/overnight. Once you are south of the equator showers/thunderstorms are not expected through arrival.

Still watching the active storm pattern across the North Pacific the next few days. As the storm centers move eastward across the central to eastern Pacific through Fri/Sat, increasing NW-ly swells will spread southward toward your location. Any swells you experience from the north/west will be long period 12-17sec. Swells could reach as high as 6-9ft, possibly, 10ft, but they should be few and far between. Swells still seem to have the highest potential from Tue/pm through Thur/am. After the swells will gradually become more WNW to W then WSW-SW and ease. Another chance for some long WNW-NW swells on Mon/03, but you will be getting pretty close to arrival by then.

Winds should stay on the lighter side through arrival. A more ENE to ESE pattern should prevail, but until you are across the equator and even south of 04S, the wind direction could be variable at times. The only real chance for thunderstorms will be the next few days as you get closer to the equator. Once you are south of the equator, convection is not expected.

The ocean current should stay west setting in the 0.6-1.0kt range. There is a chance you pick up some south to north setting current about 0.5kt between/about 04N to the equator. From the equator south to the Marquesas, east to west setting currents are expected to be closer to 1.0kt, that gradually ease to 0.5kt to the Marquesas. This north setting current is based on the April Pilot Chart for the area.

One thought on “Mexico to French Polynesia Part Two – Days 7 – 11”

  1. SUBJECT: Re: Mexico to French Polynesia Part Two – Days 7 – 11

    Hi Ron and Nancy,

    Glad to hear steady progress is being made and you are dealing with some boat/
    Mechanical problems (stabilizers?) that we do not completely understand but you seem in fine spirits. Our condo has been sold, our bank account fattened, and we leave tomorrow for a 4 day sojourn in Santa Fe New Mรฉxico and vicinity. We arrive in Davis the 25th. And move into our rental house the 29th. Then we begin anew the house

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