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Cruising across the Pacific

Tue, 5th Jan 2010
By Chuck Skewes

Cruising across the Pacific
Image Credit: Chuck Skewes
GPL DT 1000 miles from any land

The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world.  I have raced across a few times before, pushing the boat to its limit getting little sleep as well as getting very wet.  Working with a crew to get across the ocean as fast as possible is very rewarding and until this winter was the only way I ever thought of the passage from the west coast to Hawaii.  Hawaii offers very few safe harbors and is thousands of miles from other ports so cruising to Hawaii is usually avoided.

My good friend Jeff Gerwin called me in the fall of 2009 and asked if I would consider sailing with him to Hawaii as a cruise in December.  In 2008 we did a similar trip to Cabo San Lucas with this his boat, a Swan 68.  Cruising with Jeff and his friends to Cabo San Lucas was a great relaxing time.  Jeff hires a cook and stocks the boat with fine wine making a very comfortable trip.

I had never sailed across the Pacific in the winter so I consulted a few knowledgeable friends who have sailed across in the winter and talked to trustworthy weather experts to see if this was advisable.  It requires sailing a little further south to get good winds but it is not that different from sailing across in summer.  When I called Jeff back to let him know that I was on and that from my research it was not insane to head across in the winter he scheduled the trip and invited a few more friends.  One of the friends was Matt Stedman who sailed to Cabo San Lucas with him.  Matt is a Wall Street trader, George Larsen a commercial developer from Tucson Arizona and Glen Kerslake a residential developer from Tucson rounded out the guest on board along with the cook Brenda Steele and Captain Trevor Hinckley.

We set out from San Diego on December 10th in a light northwest wind and headed south west motor sailing for most of the first day.  We had nice westerly winds for the first few days and then the weather got a little warmer and some large fronts passed to the north of us giving us steady southerly wind for 5 days.  We had winds from 15 to 20 knots with a medium swell for the first 1000 miles.  The days and nights were actually clearer than any of my summer passages.  We had very little moon showing and a great meteor shower giving us an incredible show almost every night.  We all practiced our celestial knowledge with every constellation in plain view.

The Quality of life aboard this boat is much higher than I am used to.  Despite us being heeled over and going over large swells, Brenda put together some amazing meals with the nicest presentation.  It was at a level of the finest resorts and restaurants. I never thought I would have filet mignon 1000 miles from land.

On the 7th morning just as the sun was coming up 5 Humpback Whales were slapping their tales on the surface in an amazing show.  When you are out in the middle of the ocean it is even more riveting than near land because your senses are more alert from much less stimulus than what you run into on a daily basis on land. 

The Sunsets and Sun rises were incredible and the boat performed excellent.  The Swan 68 had a Ullman GPL DT Carbon roller Furling genoa and a Ullman two-ply Dacron main.  The sails worked great across the range from light air to double reefed while we reached under partially furled genoa.  It was great to have complete confidence in the sails and be able to not worry about approaching squalls. 

We landed in Honolulu on December 22nd and were welcomed by the Waikiki Yacht Club as we arrived.  It was sad to end the trip but also nice to get back to family for Christmas.  I do not do a lot of cruising any more but plan on doing a lot more in the future.  It is great to share the experience of crossing the Pacific and introducing them to one of the most remote places on the planet.  I look forward to our next cruise hopefully next December.

This article was posted on Tue, 5th Jan 2010