Pacific Ocean Crossing

This blog was written by Sean Kearns, who came with us aboard Duet when we crossed the Eastern Pacific Ocean from Mexico to the Marquesas, French Polynesia. Sean is the first person we have ever had travel with us on Duet. He did a great job of not only living compatibly with us in close quarters, but also fulfilling his role as a key member of the team throughout what was an incredible, but sometimes difficult, 17 day journey.

This chapter of crewing on Duet is where my adventure begins and ends. My first visit to Duet in LaPaz gave me an opportunity to anticipate needs both for myself and for the boat. I was lucky to be welcomed by Ron and Nancy with ideas I had. It’s easy to invest your skills and time into any endeavor when you are collectively working as a team. As crew I could see some things from my past experience that would make things more efficient for me or the task in the long run.

I say the “me” part as I’m afflicted with the firefighter organization OCD complex of neat and orderly, it’s a curse, let me tell you folks. A couple of examples include bringing organizing bags for the Ditch Kit and a D handle pull start for the little Honda 2.3 hp engine, as well as reworking the shower curtain in my head. Back at home these little additions kept me busy, which is a good thing for a boat geek to be doing weeks before leaving on a big trip.

Ron and Nancy also shipped me lots of last minute equipment and gear. Every day seemed like Christmas when a package arrived. And now that I’ve been back home I’m sad not to be getting boat related packages for Duet a couple times a week. With a bag of goodies for Duet and a bag of stuff to keep me clothed and happy I headed back to Mexico. I was stopped in customs and had to empty out a bag and explain why and what I was bringing into Mexico. Good old fashioned honesty got me through without any troubles. I just told them these were for the boat and I was free to proceed, which was a relief as we’ve all heard horror stories.

Ron and Nancy met me in a rental car and it was great to see them again and relax. Once aboard Duet I fell into place quickly thanks to my previous visit. Time flew by very fast and before I knew it we were crossing the breakwater heading southwest. After the initial excitement wore off it took a couple days to get into the swing of things and establish a routine. Once in the routine the only changes were the weather and any technical discoveries.

All three of us had our watch schedules and we all had time solo and at least one shared meal per day. Ron typically gave us a update on fuel burns each morning after Nancy awoke. Nancy kept us informed on the goings on from the outside world either via email from friends or world news, which she had emailed to her. For me I enjoyed the simple pace of things. The slower the pace the finer the clarity in which I could see my surroundings.

I remember seeing my first flying fish that perished on the deck. I picked it up and studied it as the wings seemed very fascinating to me. Later on after watching these fish fly randomly through the air I noticed that they also have small rudders on their tails like airplanes. Rudders isn’t quite the right term, but I’m no pilot so I apologize.

The other fascination I found was the sea state. The ocean is in constant motion and, although Ron and Nancy might never invite me back for saying this, I actually enjoyed the ever changing wave action. Like snow falling in front of your car while you’re driving down the road, the waves passing under us held my attention. I will say though I wasn’t prepared for 8-10 foot following and quartering seas for 4/5 days straight. On day 4 my patience was thinning as it seemed I couldn’t synchronize with the movements of the boat while attempting simple tasks, like clothing myself after a shower, or laying in bed trying to sleep before my midnight watch and bouncing around.

That night was the only time I couldn’t sleep and so with blanket and pillow in hand I made the walk to the salon and slept on the settee. I awoke hours later feeling like I had been run over by a train and at this time I’d say I was at rock bottom. Lucky for me this didn’t last very long. My midnight watch was filled with so much beauty I had to give in to positive feelings. First, the stars were out in such brilliance they almost obscured each other in numbers and depth. I then noticed the phosphorescent glow in our bow wake. The ocean was alive in tiny bursts of lightning dancing through the waves, our wake, or a flying fish passing by. My frustrations melted away in the symphony of the sky and the show on the ocean’s surface. I verbally apologized for my lack of patience and placing my tiny needs of that over the ocean. I honestly couldn’t say if it was my perception or that the sea state actually lessened that night, but I was good to go from then on.

As we got within a few days of crossing the equator I became very excited. Once again, being a boat geek, I studied all I could about the shellback ceremonies. Since we didn’t have any shellbacks aboard Duet we did our best to devise a honorable, yet fun, induction into King Neptune’s realm. We collectively decided to keep the details of the ceremony private, but I will say that we presented ourselves fully to King Neptune when we jumped off Duet and swam across the equator. And yes I was wearing my wife’s swim suit when I made that swim. How many of the people who can claim they’ve swum across the equator can also say they did so in their wife’s swim suit? That simple action was one of the highlights of the trip that I’m sure I’ll be sharing for years to come.

A few more days passed and we sighted Nuku Hiva in the distance and our ocean crossing was over. We deployed the anchor and turned off the lifeblood of our world, the main engine. Without the required helm watch we transitioned into the slow and easy life one hopes to live while cruising. Each day we had chores or tasks to complete, however we didn’t waste effort when it was time to soak up new sights and enjoy an afternoon swim to cap off our day.

I had another 2 and a half weeks aboard Duet after we made it to the Marquesas. Ron and Nancy graciously invited me to stay aboard in the very beginning when we planned out this trip, so I could experience the Island life and be rewarded for making such a long journey. However, without the focus of our major crossing to galvanize my attention I quickly grew homesick. Guilt crept in as I was playing around on Duet while Celia was home wrestling our kids and working full-time.

I’ve never been away from the kids for this long and I was starting to think needlessly that my 2 year old son might forget who his daddy was. Celia never placed any ideas of guilt via our limited communications and she always assured me our kids loved and missed me. I couldn’t have thought of anything more Celia could have done to support me better and maybe that in itself added to my homesickness. The double edge sword was my place on Duet. Ron and Nancy were a part of my close circle of friends and I wasn’t excited about leaving Duet either. As my time was nearing for me to leave I was excited to get back home, but also sad to be leaving Duet.

Ron and Nancy rented a truck and drove me to the airport. On paper this sounds straightforward and easy, however it was a bit of an adventure. First Ron loaded me and my gear up in the little dinghy. I could probably write a book about all the things I packed, and my goal was to pack light, but I can’t say I actually met this goal. We didn’t have a nice level dock to tie off to when got into town. Now picture two grown men wrestling 40 pounds of awkwardness above their heads on a inflatable bottom dinghy while balancing with the swells of the open bay. Oh and just for fun lets add in 80 something degrees and 95% humidity. Lucky for me Ron is strong and my bags didn’t go swimming.

Ron doubled back to Duet to get Nancy, as with my gear she didn’t fit on the first trip. We had a very nice drive over the tropical mountains of the island to the other side where the airport is located. I was worried my bag might be overweight, so Ron and Nancy waited with me to make sure I didn’t have to ditch any last minute items from my bag. Just as they picked me up from the airport weeks ago in Cabo I was relieved to have them help me here on my way out. Once again luck was on my side and my bag was good to go. We had our last lunch together and did our best not to make too much drama in saying our goodbyes, as I’m an emotional cry baby at times.

Ron and Nancy assured me that Celia and I would be welcome anytime our schedules allowed. Wow, how lucky are we? I don’t know many folks that can fly to a tropical paradise and have a world capable cruising yacht to crash on. This boat geek is a lucky guy! Thanks for allowing me to share my experience aboard Duet- 1st crew Sean

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