There to Here – Finally … Crossing the Pacific – Part 1

A very long passage from Ecuador to Chile ... on the dock in Puerto Montt ... at last!

A very long passage from Ecuador to Chile ... on the dock in Puerto Montt ... at last!

Relaxing in Ecuador was pleasant, but we were antsy to be on the move and decided a long ocean passage to Puerto Montt, Chile might be an interesting way to bide our time till the optimal season for our Pacific crossing. This passage was fraught with problems … the helm hydraulics went kaput; the engine starter went out; the fridge died; the engine had problems; lines chafed; weather was fitful; the primary head stopped working. You get the picture … the list went on and on. We had spares for most failures and the rest were handled by jury-rigging “to get us there”, thanks to my innovative and resourceful captain. We departed Ecuador on 10 October and nearly 4,000 nm later on 18 November, 2008, we tied up at the Club Nautico dock in Puerto Montt, Chile. What a relief!

While getting into the spirit of the holidays with Chilean friends, we managed to effect all the necessary repairs, so Cups was ready to head out just after the first of the year. It was still a bit early, but we hadn’t really explored Chiloé, the largest of Chile’s Patagonian archipelago islands, so we spent several weeks there, exploring and soaking up the local charm and culture.

Just click on the thumbnail images to make them bigger!

Finally, it was the right time for a Pacific crossing. We plotted our course directly to Juan Fernandez Island. Known more commonly as Robinson Crusoe Island, this island is where novelist, Daniel Defoe, placed his marooned sailor, based on the actual life of Scottish sailor, Alexander Selkirk. A huge statue of Selkirk greeted us as we came ashore in the main town of San Juan Bautista. We followed a well-worn path to climb a steep hill overlooking the bay and found the cave that was purportedly Selkirk’s lookout as he watched for the possibility of a passing ship and rescue. Unfortunately, this town and much of the island was destroyed in the tsunami of 2010.

We next sailed to Easter Island where the Port Captain not only remembered us, but showed us a copy of the paperwork from our last visit. This time there was no Submarino Simpson to greet us, but we were offered a mooring which we gladly accepted. The rules had also changed and we were allowed to leave the boat unattended for periods of time and go ashore which allowed us the opportunity to rent a car and tour the island in grand style, taking in several sights we’d missed on our previous two visits.

On to Pitcairn Island … home of the progeny of the mutinous 1789 Bounty crew. The weather was settled enough for anchoring and Brenda Christian (great-great-great granddaughter of Fletcher Christian) met us at the dock and acted as a most generous hostess for our 3-day visit. It was a trip through history and a particularly interesting look at isolated island life.

Way up high on Pitcairn Island ... that's Cups anchored far below!

Way up high on Pitcairn Island ... that's Cups anchored far below!

French Polynesia is comprised of several island groups. When we sailed into Mangareva in the Gambier Island group we felt as if we were really in the South Pacific at last. Small and laid-back, Mangareva is best known for its black pearl industry. We got to know one of the locals quite well and accompanied him to his pearl farm. Not only did we help to harvest some pearls, but in our attempts to re-seed them, we wrecked several of the pearl-producing oysters due to less-than-perfect technique, then, because it seemed a shame to waste them, ate them.

A few weeks in the Gambiers and then we headed north for the Tuamotus and finally Tahiti and Moorea. Remembering that first morning tied to the dock in downtown Pape’ete, what comes to mind is the smell of fresh baguettes and the sounds and murmurs of the early morning market.

Tied up at the downtown docks in Pape'ete Tahiti was almost surreal.

Tied up at the downtown docks in Pape'ete Tahiti was almost surreal.

Realizing that we were here … in Tahiti, one of the most exotic places in the world … was almost surreal. We enjoyed every moment and then, as always, it was time to move on.

Of course, moving on in French Polynesia was definitely not considered a chore. There was Huahine and Bora Bora and a host of other smaller islands to visit and explore.

We’ll cross the rest of the South Pacific in the next installment. A crossing this good can’t be rushed! Join us next week for the Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga on our way to New Zealand.

Read more about our adventures in paradise and see lots of pix by clicking on the links to our website presentations for each location.

Click here for the next in the series: There to Here - Across the Pacific Part 2