The Pacific Crossing: Give him an inch and he’ll take 3000 nautical miles

How the autopilot broke.

I don’t realise how much I love fishing until I hear the reel whizzing and feel my body go into an instantaneous physiological spasm. Senses are heightened and my field of vision narrows with panic, the edges penumbra-like and dark. Heart rate quickens, blood rushes to areas where its not required and often an unintentional vociferation or unintelligible outburst, or even just a series of atavistic groaning’s occur. Sweat beading, throat closing up with shallow, laboured, quickened breathing. I’m sure there would be some sort of pupil dilation …  I might get Elayna to check next time.

Despite near total panic, or perhaps because of it we have generally landed the fish.

Until recently.

I’m sure it is in part because of the size of fish we are dealing with here in the Pacific. Something peculiar has been happening though, despite having lost quite a few, some identified as marlin, some we think behaving more like large tuna. I’ve become not just a little bit keener but literally dreaming of landing one. Especially in those half awake, guided mind-wanderings that occur on long passages as shift work changes sleeping patterns and free-time is in abundance.

Usually I would think that disheartenment, particularly at the loss of gear, would cause us to fish less, only during the day maybe, using smaller lures to preserve our dwindling supply of very expensive fishing equipment,.

“Tackle the ones you can handle” I hear Dad saying.

In practice, what has happened is an almost obsessive contemplation of the fish in question, line handling techniques, gaff placement and gaff tactics, most suitable crew for certain roles and night time vs day time scenarios etc. We are about as well drilled as we could be without actual role play with a dummy fish, which I considered very carefully and put to the crew on our 3rd night.

On a sail boat there is much more to think about than just the rod, reel and fish. We are travelling at generally near 7 knots with a forceful impetus that needs to be slowed immediately in order to tackle a big game fish or you will lose your line far too quickly. A particularly game fish we hooked about 3 nights ago and I have never heard a reel fizzle and crackle like it. Narrowing vision and panic aside the sound alone would have been enough to frighten any person with a typical evolutionary response to stimuli. As the sparks flew from the reel I yelled, “ugh a prfffttt”, at Elayna and had an apoplectic fit when she failed to decipher and didn’t start slowing the boat down as per garbled instruction. Millions of misfiring neurones providing conflicting information, I could feel my head start to heat up and as I stumbled around on deck like a raving drunkard, pulling ropes and shouting “water”, which I thought I must need because hydration is key I read somewhere, I could hear the reel relentlessly fizzing in the background.

*****

Key to staving off the ever-present sanity erosion of deep-blue ocean transit and avoiding a Crowhurst type response to the inexorable multitude of frustrations that are hurled at one daily is to document a list of grievances onboard, rank them in order of severity and move through them as steadily and reasonably as possible. An untidy ship can quickly devolve into a cacophony of creaks and clinks that can give one the howling fantods and has sent many a sailor overboard. The din has been compared by reliable sources to “a thousand screaming banshees.”

*It is widely recognised that grievance list length and severity is/are directly proportional to free time onboard. So say if one was to hand steer across an ocean, shunning the autopilot narry a clink would be heard. This would obviously be a last resort because NO ONE hand steers across an ocean.

“If that pen rolls and clinks into the wall, then back again into that plate one more time, I’m jumping overboard,” is a good example of a grievance, as moving the pen is quite easy. At any given time one person or another might be in a better mindset or, “motivationally charged,” as we call it on SLV, in which case the pen relocation would befall that particular person. A system of trust as fragile as any economy built on the ostensible-house-of-cards like foundation of ‘you move my pen I’ll move yours… when you can’t be bothered at a particular time moving the pen or indeed other annoying object such as clinking cup or spilled pasta sauce or flapping sail or sliding toolbox in hard to reach place.’ We ask guests sign words to this effect before boarding LaVaga in a series of emails titled the pen clauses. E signatures are obviously acceptable.

This is quite a long passage. 3000 nautical miles from Galapagos to the Marquesas. It should take us closer to 20 days but we provisioned for 30. We did three huge shops, one in Colon, one in Panama City and the last in the Galapagos. The last was poorly executed as, because of the Galapagossian nightmarish bureaucracy, we were unable to sail from one island to the other in order to pick up supplies and therefore were forced to take a ferry.

The fresh groceries that we picked up then had to spend two to three hours in cardboard boxes getting squashed by baggage handlers and cooked in the front of the hot ferry on the return journey. When we got back to the island of Isabella the last of the myriad of complications were worked through over a day and a half.

The coast guards there were pretty good guys trying to work within highly regimented, uncompromising rules and regulations that I personally can see no use for. We ended up getting some black market diesel from the townsfolk as for some reason you can’t even buy diesel there without filling in forms and waiting four to five days.

Between the food and the diesel being so difficult to obtain it was almost as if the Ecuadorian government were unconcerned about the safety of the cruising community. It’s not a small journey from there to the next island along, so surely they have a duty of care to sailors who are pretty much forced to stop there.

I get frustrated quite easily by all that stuff though, I will admit. I ended up getting food poisoning (we think) from the ham (we think) which spent those hours in the sun, and I was out of action for a very difficult 36 hours at the beginning of the journey. I think I slept for about 30 of them though which was fortunate because I didn’t much enjoy my time awake. Had some pretty cool fever induced dream wanderings though and I believe it may have led to some breakthrough introspective cognisance and maybe even an epiphany. I will be sure to send the supermarket, ferry service and Equadorian government a letter entailing my gratitude for the insights.

That night there were a few little storms which Dad and Elayna had to tackle alone, both getting drenched and having to change sail plans regularly, so that was very well done by both of them. After that it was smooth sailing for the next week and we broke into our pre-determined roles laid our before departure. I was to start the day at 6am for five hours then Dad for five hours then Elayna for two hours. We would repeat this in the pm.

Elayna also had to do all the cooking and dishes, whilst Dad and I tried to catch fish, effect repairs, preventative maintenance etc. It was really, really, really good to be away from civilisation. Whilst revelling in the solitude though, I was aware that I might not have the same sentiments after 20-30 days at sea. The recommended route is to head south west from the Galapagos for a few hundred miles then clock onto the Marquesas from there. This should push you south into the trade winds and this was exactly our experience in the first week, after a couple of days of south in your course the wind picks up into a consistent 15 knots SE.

Darling Elenita was pretty concerned about this crossing mainly because of the duration and I’m really glad she decided to come. In the preceding months trepidation and anxiousness mounted until there was talk of perhaps skipping this one. In the end I think she would have felt too bad if she were to leave me to go it alone (she said as much, so I’m not really as perceptive as I’m pretending here, having received unequivocal communications to that effect) and I’m really really happy that she made the decision to come. I completely understand if a 22 year old girl doesn’t want to spend a month on a boat in THE middle of nowhere, and she did do the Atlantic, but as I said I was very happy she decided to come. I mean who else would make the sandwiches?… Thats her line.

We started the trip with winds so light that the gennaker wouldn’t even fly properly. It was deflating and then filling with air again and making a loud crashing noise until we doused the sail and motored, Dad was quite disappointed to be motoring. We caught a tuna pretty soon into the trip and Dad taught Elayna two different recipes which were both delicious. One was a ceviche with a special marinade and the other was a plain tuna steak but with spicy seasoning, the key here being the bleeding of the tuna beforehand which I found out I had been doing completely inadequately.

What we ended up doing is cutting the whole head off and dragging them behind the boat with a rope through their tail. This seems to get rid of all the blood which is crucial to nice tuna meat. In the Gibraltar Strait, Elayna and I had caught a couple of tuna and the meals came out so bad we have been off them ever since. The steaks were much darker than I now realise they should have been, with coagulated dark clumps interspersed throughout so that trimming would result in almost no meat at all. It is therefore good to get a few lessons from the old man. What isn’t so good is that he keeps sleeping naked with the door open and his ass pointing towards the doorway. It is quite funny for Elayna and I.

The most interesting thing so far has been the Autopilot dilemma. It stopped working after about four days. With only three of us onboard the Auto Pilot really isn’t a luxury it is a safety issue. This fact was confirmed after only one and a half days of hand steering. Morale dropped, sleeping was interrupted and fatigue ensued, there was now very little time for anything other than sailorly duties, no reading, no movie watching etc.

It got difficult very quickly, not to say it was impossible or even horrible but more that it would have turned a very pleasant journey into a battle of endurance and hardship. Definitely not what Dad signed on for which was displayed by the tossing of a tea towel across the cockpit: “If its not the bloody gennaker its the fucken Auto Pilot.” In one of those tired and down moods this really made Elayna and I laugh and eventually Dad too. We cracked up for a long time and I had tears rolling down my cheeks. It really lightened the mood. I sailed from 8pm until 4am that night, breaking into a giggle every now and then, to give everyone a break and when I woke up around 11am, Elayna had the wheel and myself and Dad decided to try to fix the still nonfunctional Autopilot.

Safe in the knowledge that we couldn’t make a not working piece of equipment worse we took up Elaynas idea of using the hair dryer, having previously decided that water ingress was the most probable cause of the malfunction. Removing everything from the starboard locker to undo some bolts, we popped the unit out of its little hole whilst every tool I own went sliding around the deck with each roll of the boat I could feel myself getting frustrated, probably dehydrated, and tired. Removing the two cables, power and GPS (probably, I don’t know), I took it downstairs to disassemble, which was surprisingly easy. Having located the hairdryer in Elaynas haystack of superfluous accoutrements we went to start the generator.

It wouldn’t start. I was about to give up so Dad had a bit of a look at it. Reading through the manual and following the troubleshooting guide we noticed there was no spark being emitted from the spark plug. After finding some old sandpaper we cleaned it up, started it, used the hairdryer to dry the obviously damp patches on the circuitboard and rubber button casing on the Autopilot unit, reassembled the Autopilot screen thing, plugged it back in, hit the Auto button and it worked! The singular elation of hard work payed off, the generally guilty pleasure of avoiding hard work in the future, teamwork, shared experience and our own little piece of successful ingenuity whilst battling unfamiliar technology way out of our skill set was very nice.

Very nice indeed. I was a proud Captain. Everyone lay down and we didn’t have our well earned beers until the next day, we were too tired.

Once an hour for the next three days I would say “how good is having an Autopilot?” smile and sink a little deeper in my chair. To which everyone replied on day one “oh I know, its amazing, I’m so glad we fixed it, we really nailed that one.” On day two “yeah its good” and late on day 3 both of the other members of the crew took me aside and told me that it would probably be best if I knocked it off.

As I am writing this we are about 1300 nm from the Marquesas, have 210 Litres of diesel left and the water maker has been working fine so no issues there. We have not been without dramas though:

Injuries

– Anthony (My Father) – Nasty rope burn and locked knee. Blisters have popped now and after extensive coconut oil application the knee appears to be back in shape. He has also fallen over a lot. haha. I have asked him today if he has had any other mishaps I should put in my blog and he shook his head too quickly and vigorously, suggesting that he might be withholding further injuries.
– Elayna – Many, many bruises from being thrown around the boat. UTI. Can I say that?
– Riley – Food poisoning and a niggling back problem probably due to constant readjustment/counter balancing as the boat rocks. Miscellaneous cuts and bruises.

Elayna re Rileys refusal to skin the Wahoo:
“Stop being a sooky la-la.”

As the days wear on we all settle into a groove. The moon was full at the start of our journey and now it is slowly disappearing. More and more stars are visible and Elayna has taught me to keep an eye out for shooting stars.

I swear the satellites move quicker than they used to and I’m constantly mistaking them for shooting stars. As the days passed I just sort of slipped into the role of nightshift which I don’t mind at all. I get up every now and then to have a look at the sky. I have a look for ships but there are never any around.

We have seen two.

If the wind picks up a little I will get up and have a look for any sign of a storm. If there is a moon then you can see quite clearly, if there is no moon then I look for missing stars that foretell of a cloud, it is usually easy to distinguish how low and dark they are. I will look to where the wind is coming from and try to judge the likelihood of an interception or the possibility of a course alteration if there are “angry” looking clouds.

They haven’t been too fierce in the Pacific, rarely getting above 20 knots, especially compared to the storms we encountered out from Crete in the Mediterranean. As we find our groove so to does La Vagabonde’ begin to find some rhythm getting out days of +150 nm with ease. She tells us if she isn’t happy or would prefer more or less sail by sitting a little straighter or listing over, making a different groan. With the consistent trade winds in place a sail pattern can be left up for days with only small alterations to boom angle or taughtness of either sail.

A lot of the time we will go for what is most comfortable for the crew rather than boat speed, although fortunately those two things generally coincide. With winds from the south east we have tended to head a little south with full or single reefed main and full headsail, dragging the wind forwards with our momentum, gradually peeling off and attaining an acceptable bearing. With the compounded advantages of speed, increasing the wind speed by heading more into it and also once we have changed direction far enough west we find that the swell is behind us and because we are moving so quickly, LaVaga can surf or get a ‘lift’ from the odd wave.

Dragging the wind forward and surfing were much better done when the Autopilot was down and we had to hand steer as ‘feel’ responds much better than dogged instrument observation or reliance. Once LaVaga gets up over 6 knots she slices through the water, becomes very responsive and is a smooth ride even in quite rough conditions. We found that with a clean hull and having made a few tactical changes to sail plans we have regularly been able to push eight knots. I wouldn’t call us a particularly speed-motivated crew either. Wish we had a folding prop. We are all happy doing a bit over six knots though most of the time.

Having less sail up doesn’t necessarily equate to safety on long passages. We have found that with more (correct) sail up and a little bit more of a list that our speed through the water creates a much more comfortable ride. Fatigue and the resulting mistakes I believe would account for a lot of problems encountered in longer passages. It is very important for safety and especially for just enjoying yourself on a huge passage you have probably been planning for years to make sure everyone gets a good sleep. Especially on nightshift, I will wait until the crew arises in the morning before making any big change if I can.

On La Vagabonde’, fortunately it isn’t such a fine line to tread between where we really start to move and get a good motion and to be putting her to the limits and placing unnecessary strain on the rigging. We feel we have enough systems and knowledge in place that if it were to really blow up, very quickly, we would be ok.

There are many, many flying fish seen during the day that are spooked by La Vagabonde’ into flight. Occasionally there are many hundreds of them, generally to port for some reason, breaking the water in unison and flying for hundreds of meters before re-entering their aqueous home. I have to throw one or two off the deck every morning as they sometimes land on LaVaga. I wonder how on earth another fish could possibly get to be eating one of these flying fish. We caught a wahoo today and whilst filleting it I found it had a flying fish in its stomach.

Short of one accidentally landing in its mouth I couldn’t figure out how it could possibly have gotten to it. I then thought it must be a pretty lucky wahoo if a fish had accidentally landed right in its mouth and I said to him “Oh well, you win some you lose some hey buddy.” It seems an unfair advantage to have a winged fish. Like having a lion chasing a buffalo that suddenly flew off into the sky or a cat chasing a mouse that suddenly turned into a bear and ate the cat. That is on par, I feel, with the advantage of being a flying fish.

We have a sat phone now and I decided to use it to tell some people about the Autopilot and the flying fish/mouse bear comparison. We have been using it to update our twitter, get the weather and keep up to date with emails. We get a lot of emails now. I called some friends from back home and gave mum a call, compared to the Atlantic crossing this one has been quite easy. Having the sat phone and weather is a real luxury and we probably talk to friends and family more now when we are on passage than when we are at port. The weather on this crossing has normally been about 12-14 knots of wind with less than one meter waves where as the Atlantic for us was about 15-22 knots and two to three meter waves. That is a HUGE difference in comfort levels. From lying in one spot all day long to actually going forward and doing some pushups and getting out the scrubbing brush for a clean up. I imagine we will arrive fully regenerated. Dad has already been talking about his fully charged batteries.

One night there were storms. The lightning lit up the sky like daytime for what seemed an exaggeratedly long time. It would get really bright and then I would look around at everything and then I would think, ‘it has been really bright for an awfully long time here,’ and then I would wonder how long it would be until it was dark again, then I would wait for it to be dark again and then it would be dark again. Then we would be hit by this hugely thick wall of thunder that chilled me to my primal bones.

The hairs on my neck stood up either from a magnified sense of terror or from some unseen electromagnetic force, probably both, and it rained so hard all I did was unscrew the back water tank and it filled itself up in under 30 mins. Everyone got up but Dad was naked again so I sent him back to bed whilst Elayna and I prepared the cockpit for battle, but anticlimacticly the wind was not to match the fearsome lightning and thunder. We soon both agreed that I would be fine alone on deck and she got some well deserved rest.

I spent the next five hours putting up and taking down sails, changing course by 20 degrees and then changing back again. The winds were flukey because of the surrounding storms and I found I would get everything set up perfectly and have us sailing again, go downstairs, hang up my rain jacket, dry myself with a towel, sit down and immediately hear the head sail flapping and flogging in the wind again. I ended up just going up in my soaked towel to tackle the ever-changing wind patterns until I gave up, and to my ultimate shame and embarrassment turned on the engine.

It felt incredible to have been beaten and yet be winning anyway. We were travelling at six knots directly at the Marquesas and f*&% you wind and *&%k you too rain clouds. We only had to motor for about five more hours until the stormy weather abated and the trade winds inexorably pushed through to La Vagabonde’ and started moving us west again.

Despite the difficulty obtaining diesel on Isabella, the subsequently unmarked containers and ensuing problems determining diesel from petrol, which I am now well versed at, in the Galapagos we ended up with our tank full, which holds 200 Litres, and took another 110L in Jerry cans.

After the initial patch of doldrum-like weather for the first 200 nm or so, which is well documented, we had used 70L of diesel and had used the engine for 40 hours. 40 h @ 6 knots = 240 nm (quite conservative). We figured we had about 800 nm left of diesel if we absolutely had to which is a very long way indeed. Go the Yanmar!!! This was a lot more than I had anticipated. After figuring this number out I had to decide whether to inform the crew, or rather Elayna because I knew that she would have perfect grounds then from whence to pitch her, “you never use the engine,” argument, stemming from our time in the mediterranean in general but also in particular from nearly two days of being completely adrift out from the Canary islands enduring a swell with no wind to create forward momentum. The vessel’s stability quickly plummeted into just a rocking, creaking, noisy, insanity producing frustrating boat with no semblance of steadiness.

No advancement towards destination, which can nullify the psychical battering doldrums will inflict, that would test the most stoic of philosophers and is, Elayna would posit, the equivalent of a medium cyclone in terms of bad times onboard a yacht. I decided to keep that to myself for the time being and use the engine as sparingly as I had done in the past. I felt it was for the best and if questioned I knew I could circumlocute with the best of them.

I find that the night time is the best time for sailing. I was speaking to Dad about how beautiful it is to see the water ripping past when we are doing about maybe 6.5 knots and he pointed out he likes to watch the water disappearing behind us lit up by the aft navigation light. The wake of the boat leaves a bit of whitewash in the water and, like my following sea that I love, it is the sort of thing that you can watch for hours whilst pondering the mysteries of the universe, or why or how U2 were able to get their entire album uploaded onto my (I think everyones?) computer and why they weren’t arrested for that.

Does Bono have a team of hackers he employed? Was a big deal made about this at the time because it should have been, we do miss a lot out here. There are birds that you can hear, some small ones that land on the water. The furthest point we will be from land is about 1500nm and these birds are little bigger than spoggies (these are Australian i’m not sure of the international equivalent, suffice it to say they are small) and from the looks they don’t appear like they could go that far.

Now I’m not suggesting at all that I can look at a bird and ascertain from that sole arbitrary glance how far that bird might be able to travel. The complexity of flight and particularly the aerodynamics of feathers escapes me, there must be a whole range of factors involved, like weight, ability to rest at sea, feeding habits and a calorie deficit on a per mile basis, wind direction and direction of travel, migratory patterns and instincts, ability to rest in rough sea, thermals, upper atmosphere super-winds. Just to look at though, they look too small. I’m not sure if it’s a turtle egg/sperm/salmon type thing where there are lots and most just don’t make it but that would make the most sense I suppose.

The forward navigation lights are red on the port (left) and green (on the right) and light up the railing forward of the bow so that it looks like green and red bull horns charging through the night. There is bioluminescence in the water a lot of the time and if you flush the toilet you can see it in there too! Haha.

Dad, on some other birds – “They’re big birds, you can tell because they’re not small.”

*****

Between the rolling seas, the darkness and the hysteria, surprisingly few ropes were tangled and during the debrief I was told that I only fell down maybe twice. Arbitrarily grabbing whatever ropes I could find and tossing them overboard, unsnapping shackles and disarming loaded snap-locks whilst screaming aloud to Elayna, I believe it was about now that she started very seriously emploring me to calm down.

As I turned to face her my head torch shone in her eyes and she screamed, which in my already delicate frame of mind really sent me over the edge. Mixed now with the panic were fleeting feelings of remorse, and a prescient sense of foreboding. Elayna had fallen over and was becoming annoyed, perhaps my erratic behaviour had put her on edge also because as I stooped in to try help her regain her feet she frantically waved her arms at me begging me to leave her. Deeming that for the best I left her to regain herself and made a conscious effort to do the same until I remembered the reel. My legs were tangled in rope as I turned and glanced up at a beautifully tranquil sky, void of clouds and with only a small moon the stars pierced through the mental turbulence to be remembered vividly.

During the lost fish investigation spanning the next three days and two nights it was revealed that here I blanked out for maybe a minute or so and Elayna was forced to wipe foam from my mouth.

I try to set the drag on an EXTREMELY roughly calculated 30 kg’s using 100kg nylon and this behemoth was effortlessly ripping it out of its tightly fed drum as if it were simply coiled neatly on the deck frictionlessly flowing overboard. Also we were travelling at six knots in the other direction so it was pulling against that as well. It was a big fish. Opening my eyes I pushed past Elayna and jumped up heading straight for the wheel. I managed to turn La Vagabonde’ down-wind and Elayna faithfully located and ditched the correct rope, finally, that began to slow us down. Shrieking with delight I turned and was then able to get to the reel with its quickly vanishing line. Leaping up onto the aft seat with a ‘whoop’ I straddled the reel and started grinding it around, reeling it as fast as I could whilst the water below us rushed by glistening in the illumination of the aft nav light.

“Wait until it’s stopped running before you reel it in.” Elayna yelled, now sitting down on one of the cockpit cushions quickly losing interest. Having been interrupted I turned quickly to her, blinding her again, (unintentionally despite what she claimed at the inquiry), and quickly back again still furiously winding the lever of the reel to no effect as whilst the fish is dashing in the other direction no amount of winding will help. “Wait until its stopped running,” Elayna repeated more softly.

Walking over Elayna placed a calming hand on my shoulder and said, “Just wait a bit.” Startled beyond belief at the contact, I jumped into the air and with the ropes around my legs and being on a rocking boat I crashed in a heap to the deck, knocking over Elayna and snapping the rod holder off so that the rod was now only connected by a secondary “safety” rope to the vessel. I pushed Elayna out of the way and lunged for the rod once again. I put my fingers on it to try to stem the tide of outgoing line and immediately burnt them. I kept them there anyway, whilst I gathered a handful of sleeve in my other hand and moved it into position placing further pressure on the giant to slow.

*n.b. I find it really difficult to tighten the drag on my Shimano once the fish is flying away, I don’t think your supposed to, so I use my hands as extra friction when needed.

La Vagabonde’ was slowing down she must have been in no small part I would suggest from the gigantic fish attached to its rear moving in the opposite direction at about 50 knots.

I believe that about now Elayna departed the deck amidst the chaos claiming that she was going to make a cup of tea whilst I pressed the burnt nub of my finger ever deeper into the all but free spooling drum of the reel. I could smell the salt air in my nostrils and I felt free, I could also faintly smell the ammonia like waft of urine as I think I had had an accident a little earlier mixed with the singed flesh of my finger. As I regained my feet I envisaged the fish thinking about me. What it would think of me? Would he consider me a worthy adversary or a young man out of his depth, would the fish be feeling pain, did it know that I too felt pain and would it forgive me magnanimously for eating it if I got the chance as it had done to so many other fish lower on the food chain than it, or would it become hateful or worse just scared? I wondered if it would think I was a nice person. I wondered if it would like my moustache.

The boat was definitely slowing down now, I could see blood on the floor where I had landed on my knee earlier. With less forward momentum the waves were able to have more effect on La Vagabonde’ and the sideways motion became violent I was thrown onto the guard rail with such force that I was winded and then tossed across the other side of the boat, but as I came skidding to a halt, my head slamming into the adjacent wheelhouse, I realised that the fiz of the reel had slowed. The fish was becoming tired. The fish was becoming tired! “THeee…” I heaved trying to regain my breath. “The fisss…”

“The fish is TIRED.” I screamed leaping to my feet once again. “Elayna, ELAYNA the fish is tired.” I screamed over and over running back to the reel and slamming into different pieces of equipment as La Vagabonde’ bobbed around in the ocean like a top-heavy bottle. The rope tying the rod to the railing of the yacht had become loose and it was a small matter to flick it free, grasping the handle with one hand and inspecting the drum I moved a little way back into the cockpit, passing the rod over an aerial and the outboard, fearing that I may fall overboard in these conditions.

There was only a little line left, perhaps only 20m from 1000, and if he went for another run I was done for. Grasping the rod with one hand I turned on the engine with the other and hit it into full reverse, 3000rpm. We were to chase her down.

The autopilot was behaving strangely whilst we were in reverse so I had to steer with one hand and hold the rod and wind it in with my other two hands. This went on for a good ten minutes and was quite difficult to organise trying not to get the line tangled around the prop, keeping constant tension, grasping a rod with muscles bursting and tendons straining, reversing and steering in the dark, all at the same time. Then it started to rain. What I had thought was just bobbing from having no forward momentum turned out to be an incoming storm. The clouds moving quickly overhead were to drown out the previously brilliant stars and unleash torrents of thick heavy rain. I was, however, gaining line.

After another maybe half an hour of relentless and fearsome battle I had gained back perhaps all but 50 m of line and thats when I heard the splash. I didn’t see how far it jumped into the air but I felt the line from the rod move up at about a 45 degree angle into the air so I would guess that it had probably jumped maybe 5-600 meters into the air and thats when the hook snapped through the corner of her mouth and came rocketing back towards La Vagabonde’. For what must have been the fourth time that evening I found myself on the floor, this time cowering behind the table as the unseen lure sped towards our yacht like a missile. I heard a crash. I put down the rod and reel, exhausted. I wept for a long time on the floor in the rain then fell asleep.

The next morning Dad and Elayna arose to find me asleep, headed way off course with the autopilot broken, smashed, and the lure on the ground next to it.

*****

Elayna didn’t bring self-raising flour. She pulled the same stunt on the Atlantic crossing and twice now we have been eating brick-loaf bread. The type of stuff prisoners impolitely refuse. I was in the supermarket with her both times for the purchase and she played charades with the supermarket man acting out ‘a loaf of bread being put in the oven and RAISING’. It seems for both crossings, due to translation errors and very bad games of charades, she was sold a useless white powder that definitely was not what we had mimed. We subsequently discovered that pizza bases are actually really nice without self-raising flour.

Maybe you aren’t even supposed to put self raising-flour in a normal pizza base I’m not sure, but if you spread it very thinly you can make a pizza without self-raising flour which is just as good as bread. This is very lucky for Elayna as she was about to be hull dragged. The cooking has actually been superb I think the fact that it is a little calmer than we are used to and both being much more used to LaVaga helps.

One of my favourites was a chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese with veggies on the side. Pretty epic mid-pacific nosh for mine. Muoy deliscioso. I’m not sure if I say this too much or not enough but that girl works very hard. It is hard to explain how difficult it can be in the kitchen of La Vagabonde’ on passage. Imagine your own kitchen, now imagine that you are inside it and there is a huge giant that can lift it without crushing it.

Now the giant tilts the kitchen slightly so that all the drawers open, all the cupboards open and everything spills out onto the floor. Then he moves it back to level again. Whilst you are trying to clean up he tilts it over again so that you fall over and the drawer you just closed bangs open again. I would just eat canned food if it was up to me to cook because I know what the giants going to do next.

He starts tilting it more and less and at irregular intervals so you’ll never know how much or when its going to move. And sometimes he shakes it. He shakes the kitchen quickly whilst tilting it so that everything that was in its place isn’t anymore. That’s where Elayna has to cook and I just wanted to say thank you. And sorry.

Skinners Box of all sorts of fish.

It has come to my attention that perhaps the aforementioned insight provided by the (we think) ham may have something to do with a variable ratio schedule and fishing.

If I were a rat then a variable ratio schedule would be how many times I am fed a pellet compared to when and how many times I push my feed bar, having of course been locked in a box by a scientist. For example the rat may have to push a bar once for the first reward, five times for the second reward and twice for the third reward it all varying around some average. A good example in real life is a slot machine or, now I believe, fishing. I sometimes go fishing and catch nothing. Sometimes I get a big tuna and sometimes I hook something and it gets away. A variable ratio schedule produces the highest rate of response and the lowest rate of behaviour extinction which pretty well falls into line with my personal experience. With fishing.

After not too long on a vessel you can tell when something is wrong or different, I remember the first time Elayna sat bolt upright at exactly the same time that I did. I smiled but I think she maintained her look of concentration and we both listened to the wind and the water under the hull, felt the boat list and scanned the sky. It is really good to see Dad doing the same now and to explain to him what I’ve been doing for the past few years and how. He has been on the yacht before but when people come to visit in groups and we are all drinking and socialising it is all but impossible to impart a true fragment of what it is like aboard or to get a feel for the boat and how she moves in the ocean. To me the beauty is the arcana. Safety springs from there.

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Comments 162

  1. Pingback: We Crossed the Pacific Ocean! HELLO PARADISE (Sailing La Vagabonde) Ep. 45 | Sailing La Vagabonde

      1. Maybe you need to find another site to look at or maybe you need to get out of your parents basement and see the real world. The man is writing from the heart of his real world experiences sorry it does not fulfill the fantasy world you live in. Your life must be one long boring ride, nothing fantastic there. Include the fact that you would use the name Smith in your juvenile post is doubly insulting. These two kids have done more living then most people do their entire lives yet you don’t think what they have done is exciting enough for you, you’re pathetic. What they scraped off the bottom of the boat is more important in this world then you are.

    1. Cathartic read, Riley! It was like I was there with you. And, yes, you and I are quite alike in our reactions when a fish hits the lure! I’m only a bit more than half done watching your videos and find them so inspiring and uplifting. The best part? When you and Elayna are silent for about 3 seconds and then both burst our laughing like mad! Keep laughing…

  2. This was beautiful written, I’m going to be looking out for these now. You guys do a great job, the videos are amazing, The blogs are amazing and everyday I work at my boring desk job I think, dream and prepare to go on my own true adventure. I am both envious and impressed that you have managed to build this amazing life for yourself, I hope you know that your adventure and the content you produce from it power my dreams, its hugely inspirational to me.

    Thank you again,

  3. I loved it…laughed so hard I cried. But seriously Riley, in the interest of your health and even more significantly LaVagabonde’s health, I’d highly suggest you find a hobby your more suited for then fishing…..my god man if you had video of the escapades you described here you’d have a major comedy here. Your really lucky Elayna came with….I honestly can’t see you surviving without her!

  4. Fantastic Riley. Brought me back to our recent crossing from Mexico to Hawaii. A wonderful read that allowed my mind to wander into my own memories.

    Erik
    S/V Resolute

  5. Riley, you need a sub-editor. I would be happy to weed out your clangers.

    1. Maybe when they put it into a book… would be great to parallel some of the episodes with Elayna’s recollections.

  6. wonderfully expressed blog Riley. It appears you enjoy writing. Perhaps you should make it a career once you decide to live on land. I wondered how the U2 music got on my computer. I haven’t listened to any of their music since they were young, as I was still in high school when they started. I’m about their age (and your Dad’s age it appears). “Lessons from the old man” you say…ha, I hear that often from the millennials. Thank you for sharing your life, Elayna’s and your Dad’s whilst at sea. Be safe and on-guard, mate.

  7. Great reading, I must congratulate you all for the crossing, it is the one spectacular sail in the whole world that is legendary, all the great sailors have written about doing the trip…I finally got to skipper the trip, delivering a 42′ yacht from St Martin to Bunderberg. I have sailed around the pacific a few times, and really love the islanders.
    I’m a little concerned that you didn’t back-up you autohelm before you left the Caribbean, may i suggest you could buy another raymarine just the Head part and keep the the other as a backup as it still works….
    Hand sailing is a very good way to learn about the boat and how to set the sails for the best performance. I had to hand sail from a couple of days out on my way to noumea New Caledonia from Brisbane. I only had one crew on board, we learnt how to balance the boat so it sailed itself for 15, 20 mins before a hand had to be placed on the wheel.
    Well Done guys and enjoy the Marquesas its the jewel of the pacific and check out Opha its magical.

  8. Good writing. Interestingly, we have just had a similar auto pilot issue, eventually traced back to a 1 mm gap which rain water and probably spray from the hose pipe made its way, cumulatively over many years into the motor through a pretty contorted route. The scary thing was it would not disengage. The motor housing was full of water and it was amazing it was working at all. To fix your stuff offshore, is impressive. The Oldman has earned his stripes, let him sleep naked if he wants!

  9. Wow! Excellent writing Riles (can I call you that?). I was completely drawn in. You need to write much more often on night watches!

    We love to watch every minute of your YouTube videos (and now reading your blog), and look forward to our own voyage in the not-too-distant future.

    Thanks for the insight and entertainment. I hope all is well for all of you.

    Fair Winds SLV!

  10. Awesome read Riley. It seems with every Naut.Mile put behind you, you gain even more wisdom. You are accumulating a vast amount of knowledge & experience.

    Keep up the great work.

    Peace & Love & Happy Sails

  11. Riley’s, a great read and insight into your thoughts and observations. There is no doubt you enjoy reading and now endeavour to express and entertain with your own writing. Remember your audience, your are not submitting a University paper for peer review. The occasional use of words that are not in the standard vocabulary can actually subtract from the story being painted and therefore the enjoyment. I’m not asking for you to dumb it down (you’re too intelligent for that), but most times *Kiss* delivers the desired outcome. Please continue with these snippets of thoughts and insight (I realise how time consuming they must be) as they really do help with understanding the where, why’s and how’s of your travels. Take care of each other and LOVE to you both.
    Thank you
    Richard

  12. I do not know how she cooks with that situation but I would be serving you peanut butter and crackers if there were no bread. And trust me, I have acted out in foreign countries what I wanted in stores and they gave me something and you learn to make do or do without. I lost 38 lbs in 6 months in Korea not knowing if I were going to eat dog, so I ate rice and water and green tea. I figured the green tea would kill off whatever was in the water.

    Bravo to all of you for being brave enough to do the journey and here is to wishing you many in the future. You all seem so calm on the videos but I am sure tempers flare and just the sheer boredom of nothing at some points can keep you crazy. I would have brought a cat on board and some knitting needles. But by now , after reading, maybe that isn’t such a good thing. I might have used one to stick into something or somebody………*smile.

  13. A riveting read mate…well done. Thanks for taking the time & putting in the effort to bring us landlocked dreamers “on deck” with you for a spell. Very enjoyable & educational! It’s these type of experiences that would be nearly impossible to film as they happen unexpectedly & unscheduled. Love to unpolished style…actually adds to the realness…CONTINUE!

  14. Great storytelling. Based on your fishing adventure, it appears you and Captain Ahab have a lot in common.

  15. I loved the Blog. I follow your videos, and this felt like a much more personal and detailed look into the reality of your crossing. It was cool to see your Dad join you for the crossing. Hope you get a good reliable autopilot setup, with a backup. Please write more.

  16. Great read Riley! Love all you and Elayna choose to share with us, videos and the written word (and Elayna’s music)

  17. Thank you for the glimpse into your journey. Tell you dad that it is okay to be naked but that he should consider his actions if you are going to be writing about it.

    Best wishes and thanks for sharing.

  18. I read a little DFW caffeinated academic-clever prose bleeding through yours. Read some Hemingway to detox. Then forget it all and write with your gut.

  19. That was a very interesting sailing story. Keep them coming if you can find the motivation to write.

  20. Absolutely amazing writing and storytelling. Please update as often as able. Thanks 😀

  21. Congrats Riley and Elayna,

    It’s an awesome accomplishment.

    Bastien
    Toronto, Canada

  22. WOW , Buddy. I have a lot of respect for you (putting it all out there, your honesty, your sharing of your experiences) I would have your back, and buy your book anyday.
    Anyway I’ve been with my wife 18 years, lots of chalanges. She would be the only girl to do what she does for me , and would be the very few that would do what you guys are doing , for me if I asked her to.. Riley you got to put a ring on her finger.

  23. Some fish you won’t catch even with a fighting chair, a bucket harness, and the captain backing down so fast there’s water coming over the transom. That said, you might want to get a stand up harness–be careful to have the rod tethered to the boat because you are attached to the reel and the fish can pull you in. Also set your drag with a scale, it ought to be about 25% of the line rating. And no, you shouldn’t increase the drag because the fish is still pulling line off, the more line in the water, the more pull that just the line alone exerts on you. Looks like you have a Shimano 50? Even with a harness you probably can’t handle more than 25-30# of drag. If you don’t believe it, try pulling 30# on a fish scale off the tip of the rod. Spool the rig with braided line, you can get a lot more on the reel with a lot higher breaking strength. Will need a long monofilament leader, at least 100# test. (45kg) Good luck. Great read, nice description of what it’s like to hook a big one.

  24. To read about the true beauty of what mother nature can throw at you and get to the point of being one with home (your yacht) and the ocean, brings a joy to my soul.
    Great sailing and a great journey to see unfolding. Keep it up

    Keep her pointing true
    David

  25. Your “telling” of the Pacific passage paints an indelible vision in the readers mind of your adventures, and misadventures, that no video camera can come close to capturing. Thank you for sharing in both mediums. Stay safe, and land a monster!

  26. You have both taken many chances and leaps of faith to get where you are. I’m so glad Elayna did again on this leg of your journey. Life is about sharing, and you both have shared so much in a short period. You are the envy of all of us! Keep up the good work and continue to share what you can with those of us which are land locked.

  27. Amazing blog riley! you made us feel for some minutes how it’s to be in the middle of the pacific! the flour you need it’s “harina leudante” for cooking “un pan MUY rico!”
    greetings from argentina

  28. Great read … some of it I can imagine, but most leaves me in awe and wonder. There’s another S/V whose vlog I watch and who normally operate with four aboard, for the Indian Ocean crossing took on 3 additional crew. They had 7 and I remember thinking “what on Earth do they need so many for?”

    And now we know.

    Such a great voyage during which you all faced down your own personal demons and survived, coming out the other end better for the experience.

  29. Riley, toss the internet editors overboard. Just f’em. The ones who write the rules most often can’t do jack squat other than to bug the crap out of those who can. Nuf said on that.

    Elay on board with those 2 hariy asses deserves a bunch of back rubs……. Aussy women are the best.

    You will get that fish and it will be epic. Im thinking commercial gear. Toss the light stuff!

  30. There is a method for balancing the helm using a tiller that is held with bungees and then there are lines coming from the head sail that tweak the tiller when it goes off course.
    I have sailed this way single handed. It works well. No need for autohelm thingy then. Perhaps there is a diagram on the internet. I learned of it from a book.

  31. Fantastic read Riley. My husband and I really enjoy your videos as we are about 3 years or so out from cutting our ties to land. Thank you for letting us peek into your life, we enjoy hearing about the good and appreciate the more challenging times you two go through. Keep it real guys and Thanks again!

  32. Riley, is it OK to say that your grasp of the written word was a very pleasant surprise to me given your relative reticence to speak on the videos?

    I thoroughly enjoyed your well crafted comments, and I certainly disagree with the person who suggested you could use the services of a sub-editor, but wholeheartedly agree with another who suggested you could make a living out of writing. Well done mate!

    PS. I hope you make a big meal of exploring New Caledonia, I once spent three months working there, and was entranced by the place (Catamaran Impi has some great insights).

    Alas, as an old fart of 70 now, my sailing adventures are limited to brief ocean trips in my Hobie Tandem Island, but I am vicariously crewing on La Vagabonde!

  33. Congratulations on the crossing. Love following along with the videos and blog. Best wishes in all your travels.

  34. While reading about the fishing adventure, I couldn’t help but think of The Old Man and The Sea. Or Moby Dick!;-)

    Great enlightening post Riley!

  35. Riley, you have quite the knack for writing and storytelling.

    I’ve spent big money on books and novels that have done much less to keep and hold my attention.

    Let’s put it this way, if your blog was a book I could not put it down.

    Great job!!!

  36. Throughly enjoyed the read Riley. Can’t wait for more of the same and Moby Dick is my all time favorite. Best wishes to you and lovely Elayna. Now that’s a catch! If my sons were to land such a gem, I would be elated.

  37. Congratulations on a safe (minus a few bumps, bruises, burns and ruffled nerves) arrival. And well done Riley! What an artistic and creative way to capture and express the experience! Have you read any Earnest Hemminway…perhaps The Old Man And the Sea would be fun? Story telling has proven to be a timeless art that you seem to have! Keep probing the depths of your creativity with Elayna…. Now,….I want to re-read your story one more time.
    Enjoy the ride🐬

  38. Riley, I spent about a month traveling around OZ on a camping bus. I also spent a couple of years traveling here and there with Aussies. The average Aussie has about the same vocabulary as the average yank. I noticed from the beginning that your written vocabulary goes much further than average. I studied a few other languages so, I’m much more aware of English. Your construction, grammar and precision are quite a bit above the norm. You haven’t wandered off into the undecipherable so, I wouldn’t worry about it or change.
    If you get a chance, you should read up on the life of Sterling Hayden. He was a ; dory fisherman, fought with the partisans on the Dalmatian coast and finally, an actor. Before he was an actor, everything that he did was very REAL. That made his acting that much more convincing. You should build on the base that you already have and seek more adventure,,, with Elayna, of course.
    You should put more effort into writing. You mentioned that the patreons would get an invitation to the wedding. I’m guessing that you plan to marry Elayna. I don’t think that you 2 could happily settle down to a “normal” existence. A writing career could help you avoid the humdrum live. You might read up on the Zapp Family too.

    1. Yes indeed Riley’s vocabulary leaves my mouth hanging open in shock, “What did he say?” But indeed he does have a knack for putting words in writing that amuse, entertain, shock, and also endear you to him. If he wrote a book today based on what I know I would buy it immediately and hope dearly that the editors publishing companies make you use didn’t lose Riley’s special flare by trying to make it too correct.

  39. Nice read Riley. I especially liked the part about how you get “…the feel of the boat…” and know instantly when something changes. I’ve experienced this many times even on short passages and the sooner you can perceive the “feel” the easier and safer the sail becomes.

  40. Riley,

    If you wish to package this up as a book for future perusings, many publishers will not take any content that has already been published on the internet.

  41. It is both comforting and surprising that the nighttime ramblings of a guy and his sailors at sea somewhat make me feel at home on a boat in the middle of the ocean that I have (and probably never will) actually see. Thanks for making my currently stagnant life a little more free flowing.
    Alice
    Wollongong, Australia.

  42. Interesting read. I don’t know if I’d stay sane out there very long. Elayna is definitely a special blessing. Your dad seems to be someone I’d be proud to call a friend. I’m sure he is proud of his son; I would be, too.
    I hope the shopping for a new auto-pilot goes well. I’d never considered the importance of the device. I’m curious about use of the sat phone. I’d be delighted for you to all me up to chat sometime, if you’d want me to email you my number here in the states. I suppose the cost might be prohibitive for you. I know nothing about sat phones accounts.
    Great video episode. It’s too bad you couldn’t use your drone to investigate the goats, though.
    Safe sailing all the way. I hope you have better luck fishing, too.

  43. Great writing. It was very interesting and enjoyable.
    About the problem with the autopilot and the resulting lack of sleep. In my humble opinion you need a bigger crew for such big travel.
    If you had 4 crew members on board, everyone could easily sleep 8 hours and steer the wheel manually for 24/4 = 6 hours. There would be also enough helping hands available in moments when they are needed.
    Depending only on an autopilot with the need to get up every 15 minutes to check for ships is quite risky in my opinion.
    For following Atlantic and Pacific crossings, i would increase the crew numbers.
    It’s also a good idea to have a sextant and some paper maps onboard. Always keep in mind, the GPS might fail too.
    I would also try to learn to steer by looking at the stars just to have enough options for backup if everything else fails.

  44. “Cowering behind the table as the unseen lure sped towards our yacht like a missile” Brilliant sir, Made me chuckle. Thanks for the video’ss and the prose. A great adventure, that most will never experience and you will never forget. Especially the time with your Dad.

  45. A top tale Riley….rivetting. Really shows how the smallest things are fodder for the brain.

  46. I have to say Riley that I have enjoyed your journal very much. The beginning was a bit chewy but then you came into your own with the vivid descriptions and the stories and dreams. You convey very well the haphazard brutality of the voyage. I hope that you will continue to write like this because I for one find it fascinating, especially that fishing story.

    1. My thought, trying a little too hard at first, but then once he got rolling – I think they call it “steam of consciousness – watch out, just wonderful, muscular prose, lots of energy. I was spellbound by the fishing story, the edge of madness, conversing with the fish… great stuff.

  47. Awesome video and inspirational
    We are heading north to Whitsundays soon
    You give us oldies the reason to go do what you are doing
    Fantastic

  48. Loved reading this Riley! The humor and insanity of these moments come alive. Thank you.

  49. Crackin’ bit of literature there dear fellow .. it has to be said your vernacular elucidates the vigorous flourishes and eloquent dainties of a man at sea with naught to do but keep things headed true and straight, though the odd virtual squall of poetic confabulation serves to buffet the readers interest a bit, like a boat at sea with lovers at the helm and clear skies ahead. Dive deep into that thesaurus of a mind of yours, man, for it is clear there are more than a few word gropers and sentence’y squids to be speared for your delection and ours …

  50. As usual, an awesome read mate. Love your sense of humour and the fact that you are articulate with your writing to successfully portray your account with such vividity! I laughed so hard and so many times. Being an avid fisherman myself, I truly understand your plight! 🙂 Especially when such an unknown beast manages to break the hook at the crucial moment and after such a lengthy battle. To never see it or know what it was is the most frustrating.
    I absolutely love your videos and story telling and often wonder how I will manage to get by when they cease! Both you and Elayna are such wonderful people and you have the most beautiful personalities that truly capture the hearts of us landlocked adventurers. I love being at sea and although I rarely get an opportunity to get out on a boat, when I do I feel totally at home. What are your plans from here? Where do you head to next? How much longer do you guys plan to travel on this wonderful and magnificent voyage? I think anyone lucky enough to spend time with the two of you on La Vagabond would feel they have won the lottery! 🙂
    Regardless, I will keep following your every nautical mile with great anticipation. Thankyou both so much for sharing your wonderful adventure with us!

  51. Thank you Riley! A perfect compliment to the videos and so evocative of your life onboard. Good luck and best wishes for your life and travels.

    P.S. my two daughters love Elayna nearly as much as you do.

  52. Reminded me of the episode of friends when Joey discovers the synonyms button and changes every second word to some obscure derivation! Made me laugh and it was certainly an interesting insight, keep them coming and as always I’ll await the next video with baited breath.

  53. Loved the description of the giant torturing Elayna in the kitchen! Thank you for the videos!

  54. Woke up this morning to the new video & for the first time the blog. Unlike the videos, your words describe wonderfully the deep soul searching solitude along with the primal, instinctive reality of a long ocean passage. Very similar to weeks alone backpacking the wilderness. Thanks for painting the picture.

  55. You need a 24/7 dedicated rearward cabin cam, to document the inherent calamities of the reel deck. You have a way with words and a way to follow. Use them both.

  56. or would it become hateful or worse just scared? I wondered if it would think I was a nice person”
    Bahaha…love your work Riles…

  57. Great writing, articulation and insight into a story that no-one else can tell. Mate – It’s time to let go of the “how did U2 (apple) upload to my phone go however”. Giving me a free album. Listen to song for someone.

    But of course, i suppose the sea can do that to you, im sure i would be worse.

    Thank you for this special entry.

  58. What they all said, most informative and entertaining. Well written, good read. And btw, we used to have a large plastic rubbish bin, 2 for very long crossings, on the aft deck to store bags of rubbish. Anything that can feed maggots can feed fish and other critters. Overboard it goes. Rinse the rest and store it.
    You guys are doing great. I’m doing this trip with you on my iPad. Thank you.

  59. Thanks Riley!
    I loved it. I’m gearing my own boat up for this trip. And in between ordering parts, waiting for them, finding you need more, and that Canada is on vacation for 2 months etc, in between the joys and frustrations of getting ready, I can relax and watch your videos and read your thoughts and it keeps the goal in sight. Thanks for doing this!
    Fair winds,
    Bart

  60. Great writing. Great story telling. Hell of an experince!

    Sailing is not for the timid! Mono hull no less.

    I sailed the Spirit of Syndey based now in Ushuaia, Argentina from there down the Beagle, stopped at Cape Horn for a rare on land visit, then across the Drake Passage. Our auto pilot was broken, one of two rudders broken, no heater, broken frig, broken generator. It made for a hell of documentary I filmed. If interested, I will send a DVD to a port of your choice.

    Also, if you’re looking for paid passenger/sailor let me know. I’d love to sail with you and Elayna.

    Tell her I bought her music! Beautiful voice and talented singer. Hang on to her. She has a career waiting for her in folk music!

    Fair winds and following seas!

    CHEERS MATE!

    Bill Doerr

    San Antonio, Texas.

  61. Riley you write really well and that was great to read. You’re out there living your dream and there is nothing else a man could want in life. Good on you.

    With your writing though you don’t need to go so crazy with the thesaurus, you’re a clever bloke and it comes across without you trying so hard. I really enjoyed your Hemingway-like staccato sentences at the start but the reason his writing works so well is because he uses every day language so that it still flows. The more convoluted the adjectives, the less it works.

    Thanks for taking us all along on La Vagabonde. It’s inspiring to watch the adventure and I have learned a lot about cruising from you. The best bits are the parts that aren’t so instagram filtered… Where you can tell it’s not all roses and puppies out there. Elayna is a talented filmmaker and has become more and more accomplished over time!

    Here’s to maybe one day pulling up my boat beside La Vagabonde. Fair winds.

  62. Great to glimpse into the mind of a sailboat captain upon the open seas! You guys fought a good battle for sure.

  63. The Fish Battle took me back to Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea. Your descriptions and solutions to mechanical issues like the auto-pilot, spark plug and points on the generator are appreciated at a much more gratifying level because you’re in the middle of the ocean. Elayna’s video editing skills/music and your real-world teaching applications with philosophy intermingled are on-point and I never want the minutes back after watching an episode or reading the blog posts . Thank you for sharing.

  64. Riley and Elayna

    I like you to know that I look forward to your vids each time. Perhaps I am vicariously living your life as I would like mine to be. Your Vlog is very descriptive and I hope you keep it up.

    I am retired now family scattered from Montreal to Calgary to Vancouver and Texada ( an island off the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia and Hong Kong.)

    It would of been wonderful to do what you do now and your sharing it with us gives me great insight as to what the life I dreamed about would have been. But instead I stayed safe at work at the same job for 48 years, raised the family with help from a great second partner after the first one left me with all the baggage ( not my kids they are the reason I did what I did). Reading and viewing the vids are very entertaining

    I also view Delos but you doing what you do with Elayna or one other at times instead of the crew of seven on Delos I find a remarkable feat that most viewers can not imagine the degree of difficulty that is overcome when more crew is available

    Please keep up the uploads and know that at least one Canadian is very envious of you life

    And too Elayna your patience and strength in having to Deal with Riley day in and day out puts you on a level of a near saint. I strongly believe that Riley also knows this and his blog only touches on his feeling towards you. I THINK HE KNOWS HE IS A VERY LUCKY MAN

    Keep the blogs and vids coming

  65. Hi you two crazy kids! OK Riley, I liked the blog and have learned so much from watching the video’s. I’ve never been on a sailboat, but it is on my bucket list of things to do. I’ve never heard of a flying fish, but I know now there is such a thing.
    I have felt the lonely desperation you felt about losing the fish. In my case it was was too far into a costly project to back out. There was no way to go but forward and finish and it all worked out. I just need to regroup and start again.
    I think it would be so hard to be up night after night and having no choice but to become sleep deprived. It would be great to have two paying guest that either knows how to sail or would like the real life experience of learning from two of the nicest people on the planet.
    My only advice about writing your blog is to remember that big gigantic words doesn’t make it better. Write it as if you were telling it to a friend so it says what you want it to say and it’s still an easy read so the reader doesn’t have to think what does that mean.
    You both have a wonderful story about succeeding as a team, and that life isn’t always roses, but sometimes comes with a few tears along the way (especially in tight quarters.)
    I think it was cool having your father there, and if you are like me and my sons, we don’t always agree, and it’s sometimes very hard for a parent not to be a parent. The protective instinct seems to always be there. That being said you could tell he was very proud of his son.
    Stay safe and enjoy even the rough times. “Nothing lasts for ever, neither good or bad; All will pass! “oer

  66. Wow! Beautifully written. I would love to ride with you! What a magical life you live.

  67. I always eagerly await the videos, as they are beautifully done, but it seems I have been missing out on another brilliant media with your blog. Won’t be making that mistake any longer. You may not land every fish, but you have hooked yourself a new reader.

  68. Thank you for sharing this extremely well written and very personal insight into your travels. What makes your blog/videos stand out from the rest of the crowd is your humble delivery, which is completely free of arrogance and egotism. It’s an absolute pleasure to read the blogs and watch the videos! A huge congratulations to you both on your achievements to date. I’m looking forward to many more details of your experience to come!

    Paul.

  69. Very interesting. Great writing skills. For someone who knows nothing about sailing and stumbled onto your you tube channel less then a week ago I have watched all the episodes and love them. I will still stay on land and live through you. Keep chasing the sun

  70. Amazing read, thank you for taking the time to share these stories. Watching and reading the ordeals from sailing La Vagabonde as a college student in Washington State offers a great way to live vicariously through another’s life adventure.

  71. Quite enjoyed the read and laughed out loud on a few occasions.

    Thanks for the insight and a ‘behind the scenes’ reflection of life onboard La Vaga.

    Always looking forward to the next episode…

  72. This was awesome. Funny, engaging, and wild; just like Riley. I found myself reading passages to my wife out loud and laughing at what was most certainly an adventure of a lifetime. I hope you are planning to write. A book on your travels (a memoir of life aboard the vagabonde) – I would most certainly purchase and read when my wanderlust flares up and I am sick of “sailing a desk.”

    Bravo. Keep up the great work.

    Glenn

  73. Riley, thanks so much for sharing your blog. I enjoyed it immensely. You have a wonderful writing style that keeps me reading to see what you have to say next. Loved your description of loosing that huge fish. I had to go back and read it again. Better luck with the next big one. I think that you have a future in writing, so at least keep up the blog. Hell what else do you have to do on those long nights? Ok just kidding, but seriously, some self published stuff, I’d buy it.

    We love your videos, wish they were longer. And I like that you are giving us the down side of 24 /7 on board. I knew that living on board was not always smiles.

    Elayna, thanks for the music while cleaning the hull. I enjoyed the music that I purchased from you, and would love to hear more on your videos. Good job guys, you have no idea how much I look forward to each new video. Please keep them coming.

    land locked for now

  74. I can not find words to describe how blessed you have been to in-vision sailing around the world in search of paradise and true freedom, finding a talented and beautiful woman that would share your vision and embrace it as her own to accompany you, ease your mind and smooth the voyage, a genuine treasure Riley. You both have written an amazing and beautiful chapter in your lives. Keep it simple and real as you have done, never let things that happen now and then harden you out of happiness, consider it all joy, those things come and go and you must quickly erase them and continue the course. My wife and I have sincerely enjoyed and lived a little more through your videos and story, thank you both for that. God Bless and guide you in all you do.
    Willy and Margie

  75. Well, now you know why the luxury level cruising yachts all have redundant autopilots. Great achievement! You are a fine sailor, and I wish you smooth sailing.

  76. Fantastic to get insights like this… I’m exhausted just reading it from a comfy chair in my office! I have done night-crossings across Lake Michigan as a child with my parents (only 90-miles and 12-hours) and always loved the peaceful, calm times as well as the more adventurous ones. Congrats on another epic crossing and keep up the great job of logging, blogging and story-telling as you continue your wonderful adventure. My wife and I plan on “Vagabonding”, as we now call it, when our kids are out of the house. I look forward to the fish battles, star-gazing and everything else we have ahead of us some day.

  77. Love it!

    You guy’s should definitely write a cookbook.
    How to eat well thousands of miles from a supermarket.

  78. No Editors Needed…Be Free as you are.

    I was laughing every other paragraph:

    Specially, “Dad, on some other birds – “They’re big birds, you can tell because they’re not small.” LOL!

    and…”There is bioluminescence in the water a lot of the time and if you flush the toilet you can see it in there too!” LOL!

    Fair Winds…To you guys and LaVaga!

  79. Hey Riley, great read!
    Elayna from the other hand is also very original during the Video’s. The two of you could do a nice “Dialogue” by collecting your thoughts in writing maybe even in MP-3 recordings (they can capture the moment sometimes even better) and transcribe it later into a book. It would be a great to bring the different perspectives together as they are seen from different hearts and souls at the same time. You guys rock and I am looking forward to more original stories. I like how you reveal the “Bunny Trails” that your mind goes down, sometimes in bursts of milliseconds and how you observe yourself, which shows that you have a good amount of self awareness. It is essential to survive in long periods of monotony and solitude as you encounter out there. It actually is key to staying sane and wonderfully shown in your great episode here.
    Keep it coming and you have an admirer for the two of you in me.
    Thank you to both of you.

  80. Fantastic Riley. Keep sailing, keep writing, keep going. We are all living vicariously through you both..

  81. Just bought a boat very little experiece heading out July 26 66 years old retired you really did inspire me to do it thanks grant jones

  82. Awesome writing, keep them coming. Learning so much out of your adventure and getting inspired by it.
    Following you all the way

  83. Hilarious and immensely entertaining! I’ve enjoyed your blog and the videos of your travels much! Thank you!

  84. Congratulations…Riley…Great blog! Eleyna ….Beautiful Music. Dad..nice exhibition??? (put some clothes on for Petes Sake)…

    Enjoyed this story and your video immensely. Keep sailing! These are the best days of your lives…

  85. Your words remind me of my old (near retirement age) and very wise workmates from my first job. They were blue collar workers who had graduated from The University Of Hard Knocks, starting off with the Great Depression, followed by a finishing school called World War 2.

    (BTW Riley, I’m about the same age as your dad).

    Wishing you all happy and safe sailing.

  86. Wow! Ha! What an initiation to your blog. So descriptive I was actually visualizing much of it. I shivered hearing the thunder. Great read.
    I love watching SV LV on YouTube.
    Thanks for sharing

  87. Bloody good read mate. Epic fishing tales!

    To me the beauty is the arcana. Safety springs from there.

    Inspiring.

  88. again me:
    Reading about going backwards on the autopilot and its strange steering made me smile.
    It will do the exactly wrong steering when you go backwards unless you have a “going backwards mode” on the autopilot, which I have never seen, but also never were looking for.
    With the trouble of the Autopilot: Did you ever think about a wind steering system? Like this:

    http://www.heinz-kratz.de/segel1.htm

    http://www.ebay.de/itm/Windsteueranlage-South-Atlantic-S-470-C-/162113502772?hash=item25beb7be34:g:ct8AAOSwOVpXatw6

    It saves a lot of the electric resources, is very solid, almost noisless and safe steering even in storms. It takes some investment and work, though…

  89. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It takes a brave person to put yourself out there. I really enjoyed reading your experiences. Sending you all love, good wishes and fair winds 🙂
    Erin and Jim Jeskey

  90. Riley, you are a great writer! It was like I could see your adventure and it was heart-warming, inspiring and hilarious! So happy that you all made it safely across the Pacific! I love the videos and Elayna does a great job with those as well! It is great to see all these places through your eyes. Even though I doubt I will get to more than a couple of them, it is so nice to experience them through your adventures.

  91. Fantastic read Riley, If the Good Lord decides one day that Riley Whitlum can no longer go to sea then you have a career as a writer. It gives an insight into the otherwise “GoodLife” that is portrayed in the videos you and Elayna upload. Injuries, Fatigue, Mood swings, Highs and Lows It’s all there. Thank you for sharing that with us.

    Stay Safe and Look after each other. looking forward to your next upload, as always.

  92. These sound like the ramblings of a madman… out to sea too long… overpowered by the romantic notion of casting away all responsibility and sailing around the world; needlessly putting their lives at risk in the pursuit of an idealistic and quixotic existence . Read too much Steinbeck and Hemingway, I say.

    On another note, my boat arrives in 2 weeks and I am setting sail this Fall. Thanks for the inspiration guys and I hope to cross paths someday!

  93. I also wonder if the fish would have liked his mustache? Lol
    Thanks for sharing your adventures.

  94. Riley,
    about the wet electronics… I posted elsewhere that you should use a sealed bag of white rice (if you have it).. the rice will absorb the moisture that is deep and you can’t get with a hair dryer.. just a tip..
    The fishing story about the one that got away is hilarious.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPm702bWl-g
    a video (when you have a signal) from Wicked Tuna,,explaining how to reel in a tuna…
    complete with a Boston accent..
    you need to reel in at least one big boy on your circumnavigation… in case you didn’t know that is what you are doing… more than 1/2 way there now! You should milk that tagline.. on your videos (46% there.. etc)
    One entertaining things we did on long passages is to have a notebook with a pen attached (you could use more modern approach) and someone would start a story and write a few pages and stop writing at a interesting points ,,, “and then she said…”, or “the last thing he expected to see was…’ we would leave it in the head… read it at some point towards the end.. always entertaining.. just an other suggestion..
    enjoy the ride!

  95. Awesome read Riley! I find your random observations incredibly interesting to read, because on any adventure after the initial “glamor” fades away, these are what you’re always left with. The day to day small things are ultimately what add up to the whole picture and usually people only tell about the high points. That style of documentation is very reminiscent of reading anything by Slocum, which I’m sure you have.
    Listening to you talk about fishing reminds me heavily of reading the old man and the sea (which I read on your recommendation). It also makes me want to grab my kayak and go fishing.
    Absolutely loved reading this, I hope you post more in the future!

  96. You write very well Riley. When you learn to edit as well as you write you will be fabulous. Or maybe you can edit now and the circumstances don’t give you enough time to do so. Anyway keep at it. You will get better and better.

    I am an old man. A happy old man but too old to do what you and E. are doing. Both of you lift my spirits. Thank you and stay safe.

  97. Great read, Riley! Putting the blog together with the videos…well, it’s a whole different experience. I feel as though I have actually been there with you…the blog plus the videos gives “the good, the bad, and the ugly” so to speak. Thanks and keep ’em coming. (The blogs and the videos!!!) Oh, and BTW, love the music, songs and Elayna!!!

  98. Yup, that was a pretty entertaining read.
    Nicely written.
    The fight fight with the big fish reminded me of Hemmingway’s ‘Old Man and the Sea’.
    Maybe a shark took it off the hook…..

  99. You write very well, great humor, keep on writing, it is lovely to watch the videos too, you are really a fabulous couple
    Nice greetings from Vienna, A

  100. How did all the tribulations of sailing compare to reading David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’?

  101. I have to words for you (and an apology if someone else made the comment earlier – i only read the first 20 or so):

    WIND VANE

    You’re not in a hurry, why rely on a piece of electronics to steer for you? Just saying’

    Craig

    PS: thanks for all of the amazing inspiration. The SV Persuasion (and I) will heading off into the big blue this fall!

  102. Fabulous read mate. Love you guys! Look forward to every new post. Thanks for letting us experience your experiences.

  103. Great read. I’m lreaning a lot from your experiences which will help me greatly when I decide to buy a sail. Thanks mate. And so sorry for the big fish that got away 🙂

  104. I recently replied to one of your FB posts re favourite episode, I answered the one where the fish got away, of course this was a jest at the amount of failed gafs. I replied to the post before reading this blog entry, turns out the struggle is real. I am sure you will land the big game soon enough Riley.

    I’ve followed the videos from the start more or less and have truly been inspired by you both.

    Turns out the blogs are just as entertaining.

    keep it up, (although i must say, i will be saddened when the cyclades will be replaced by a Cat)

    Poor Vaga

  105. Hey ocean goers. I hate to see Elayna struggle in the galley with sliding pots, pans, dishes, whatever. Have you thought about non-slip placemats? Or even damp paper towels or cloth towel will work wonders in those pesky sliding utensils. Try it you’ll like it…..Cheers.

  106. Fantastic! Just started following your blog. Love the videos, and just now, your intensely interesting writing. I’m a surfer, mariner, and avid fisherman myself, but never have, and never will sail around the world. But I can very much appreciate your journey, and your reasons why, from afar.
    And yes, certainly you’ll need to write that book someday.
    Cheers,
    DC

  107. Looking forward for a Book in the future 🙂 oh man You guys are an inspiration to us all ! As much adventure as we take in our day to day lives there is nothing more satisfying, awakening, challenging and connecting than sailing the globe. We are only half way through your videos on u’r Youtube channel and loving every single minute ! Enjoy it all you guys & spread the love xx Alexa from Israel

  108. Thank you guys so much for taking the time to film your travels,, I loved each episode, I’m an aircraft mechanic stuck working in the desert here in Saudi Arabia, I grew up in Florida and miss the ocean terribly sometimes, thanks again for sharing and please continue filming, and I also like your choice of music interludes in your videos can you tell me what groups or the names of the songs you have chosen are? happy sailing.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks for your comment. You should find the artists / song titles in the description of each YouTube video.

  109. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not maybe you have I didn’t read all thousands of these blogs but Riley you’re getting more views that Elena. this should tell you something.

    I was personally surprised the cool guy sailing versus the hot girl. And at the same time not surprised I would rather watch sailing actual sailing.

    Everyone makes videos of sailing where you show us your time on the land. We all know what to do on the land.

    I personally and I’ll bet thousands more would watch hours of mind-numbing tedium on an actual voyage then 10 minutes where two minutes is spent on the water in 8 minutes on land.

    feed them young man and they will eat, and they will pay.

  110. Thanx a lot for your story, this is a good one!

    I’m still a bit confused about methods of fishing out on the big blue.

    When on depth about 70-200 m, I never seen anyone fishing at bottom level. Nor you or anyone else on blue water sailing. Could it be that it doesn’t fit for filming, or isn’t it used in those areas? I do it a lot up here in Scandinavia and it pays off very good.

    I’m really curious about this.
    Please, can anyone experienced comment?

  111. Thanks Riley, what a great read! Really enjoying your videos, keep up the great work. I’m going for my first sail tomorrow, i’m so excited 🙂

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