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Passage: Isla Flamenco, Panama to Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia


After refueling, when we sailed away from the Isla Flamenco, just outside the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Joyful, Jeff, Bill, and I were happy and prepared for a remarkable non-stop passage to the lovely island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquises Archipelago in French Polynesia! The passage would take us 40 days of non-stop sailing to travel the 4,000 nautical miles, which is known as the longest passage most yachts ever take in the world! That didn’t bother Joyful or us, because of these reasons:

1. We trust in the Lord

2. Joyful is a great blue water sailing yacht

3. We had food and supplies for three months at sea, and two water makers

4. We had a “Pass the Pigs” game on board

So, what else did we need? Nothing! We were very excited to sail a strong, seaworthy boat out into the vast Pacific Ocean, to see all the stars at night, experience dolphins leaping around Joyful’s bows, watch sea birds swooping around her rigging, and simply marvel at how we were making steady and sure progress every day and night toward our exotic destination! We had fun sailing Joyful, utilizing her various sails and other equipment, and starting an important watch system for three aboard.

This 3 person watch system ensured that a person would operate Joyful and watch for other boats/hazards at sea, etc, 24 hours a day. The watch system allowed each person to have lots of sleep, personal time off, communal breakfast, lunch, and dinner times together, navigation time, weather data gathering time, communication with the BPO rally control center time, as well as time for Joyful each day when we tended to her needs. We cleaned as needed inside and out, checked for chafing and damage, adjusted her stowage, etc. We also allocated time to carry out the goals of the rally, which involved scientific work, educational, and community service. I prepared some Mission Joyful activities by working on some of the Christian books I plan on publishing once we return to the USA. They all employ art, so most of the time because the motion of Joyful through the open ocean in sometimes large waves and swells made detailed painting and calligraphy difficult, I made notes and thumbnail sketches of some of the paintings and other works of art I plan on completing while on land, either along the circumnavigation, or back in the USA. I also practiced my classical guitar for music ministry events at sea and on land.

God blessed Joyful and the three of us on board every day on this passage, as always. Every morning at 4:00 am when I relieved Jeff from his early morning watch, he and I said a prayer thanking the Lord and asking for His hedge of protection for Joyful, all on board, our friends and loved ones back home, for the other participants of the Blue Planet Odyssey and the staff, as well as for all at sea. It was truly evident every day of the passage that God was protecting us, as the sea presented plenty of challenges. Joyful performed beautifully with whatever Mother Nature chose for that day’s and night’s conditions. Sometimes the waves built up to measure 2 1/2 meters high. A meter is just over a yard in length, about 39 inches.

This 40 day passage was a true delight. We had the wind off of our port quarter (not quite directly behind us) almost all of the way. There were a few squalls (rain storms), mostly at night. We avoided most of the squalls; and those which we could not avoid we enjoyed and thanked the Lord for giving Joyful a fresh water rinse!


On the first day of this passage from Isla Flamenco, we received a sailmail email from Jimmy, who was only a few hours distance from Joyful, not far from the mainland of Panama. He announced a change of plans for Aventura: Jimmy and Dunbar will attempt to sail Aventura through the Northwest Passage, rather than continue on the trade wind route around the world with the rest of the BPO fleet. Of course, Jimmy will continue to be the capable and extraordinary leader of the BPO, and will continue to stay in contact with the trade wind part of the fleet, and sometimes rejoining the fleet by flying to different ports of call on the rally. We ask for God’s blessings for Jimmy, Dunbar, and Aventura on their endeavors to negotiate the Northwest Passage. We thank you, Jimmy, for everything you do to make the BPO an enjoyable and worthwhile endeavor!


Jeff and I believe it is quite important to always have delicious and nutritious foods on Joyful, especially at sea! Mealtime to us is a welcomed highlight of the day, where we can all visit with each other as we chow down on the day’s cuisine! While in Florida I provisioned Joyful to have a three months supply of food, including a month’s supply of emergency rations, made by a Norwegian company, that we purchased from the Viking life raft company. We stocked Joyful’s freezer with Alaskan salmon filets and top sirloin steaks, having enough to last us through half way across the South Pacific! I also bought fresh fruits and vegetables in Key West and Panama, which mostly only lasted for about 2 weeks. I bought countless cans of delicious varied fruits and vegetables, fish and meat, boxes of pasta and brown rice, cereals, nuts, dried figs and dates, Swedish dried breads, German whole grain packaged breads, powdered milk, and a huge supply of freeze dried fruits and vegetables. These include freeze dried strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, freeze dried kale, broccoli, carrots, peas, and other types of vegetables rich in vitamins. I bought lots of delicious surprises of candies which I share with Jeff and Bill every day at the 6:00 pm gathering in Joyful’s cockpit. We meet there to first prepare the boat for night sailing usually by diminishing sail area and adjusting other controls as necessary for the night. Then we set up the fold down table in Joyful’s cockpit where we play one game of the simple but hilarious game of “Pass the Pigs” and I disburse the surprise candy of the day. I have a huge container of treats I bought in the USA and Panama. I’ll replenish the candies everywhere we stop along the circumnavigation, so we will enjoy local sweets every day. Jeff and Bill really look forward to seeing what the treat is for the day, then we all enjoy the treat while we find out who the pigs will favor to be the victor of their game!


The reason we are were sailing directly from the Panama Canal to Nuku Hiva is because we want to meet the rest of the Blue Planet Odyssey fleet in Bora Bora around May 24. And the reason we were sailing South, right past the Galapagos Islands without stopping is two fold: because we want to get to Bora Bora by May 24, and because in the month of May, if we sail to about 100 miles south of the Galapagos and turn right (westward) we will pick up the trade winds and favorable current to help us get to Nuku Hiva in the Marquises Archipelago.

We obtained the local weather report daily from the Single Side Band radio. This showed us the predicted wind direction and speed, and wave height in the waters in which we are currently as well as the ones we will be within the next three days. Then, we can plan Joyful’s path to go through preferred conditions, and sometimes to avoid less than favorable conditions. But we always have to “take it as it comes”. So, we just set Joyful up for the conditions and hold on! Sometimes it takes all our strength to hold on! I have very harsh callouses all over the insides of my hands from holding on to Joyful’s standing rigging. Then when I wash Joyful’s bathrooms and sole (floors), the inside of my hands swell up and turn white just as if they have been soaking in the bathtub for an hour!


I wish you could see the night sky from Joyful! Unbelievable! It’s so much fun searching the Southern sky for stars, planets, and constellations not seen from the Northern hemisphere! Every night watch I have, which is between from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm and from 4:00 am to 6:00 am, I try to identify a new star. That is really fun!


This was one of Jeff’s most memorable birthdays ever, as he spent all day and night celebrating at sea on Joyful, in the stunningly beautiful and personable South Pacific Ocean on the way to Bora Bora! Festivities began at breakfast, when Jeff, Bill and I met in the cockpit, and presented Jeff with a special breakfast, then with a lunch of surf and turf, Alaskan salmon and sirloin steak, followed with two birthday cakes and presents! In the photo you can see one of birthday cakes is a very strange bean dip cake! Why? Tradition! Once upon a time Jeff and I celebrated his birthday in the ancient Pakistani city of Gilgit, near Pakistan’s border with China. I had hoped to buy a birthday cake for him in the village market, but instead, I had to give him an impromptu birthday cake of a can of emergency food I usually carried in my suitcase to certain parts of the world….canned bean dip! I put the candle I brought in the bean dip, sang “Happy Birthday” to him, and as he laughed, he blew out the candle. We had fun eating that humble birthday cake, looking up at the Karakoram Mountains, and counting our blessings! So, that tradition has been repeated every year since, and therefore, again on Joyful on the way to Bora Bora!


Yes, we three sailors on Joyful are no longer “Pollywogs” (someone who has never crossed the equator on a boat or ship)! We are now “Shellbacks” (someone who has crossed the equator on a boat or ship)! This is because we sailed across the equator for the first time! There is an old nautical tradition which involves having a pollywog pay homage to the ancient Roman god, Neptune, when crossing the equator by sea for the first time. The pollywog is supposed to pour a precious beverage into the sea, as an offering to Neptune. Bill wished to follow this nautical tradition, so we brought out Joyful’s two bottles of Norwegian Linie Aquavit and Bill poured some into the water and sipped some, too! Jeff and I laughed and enjoyed it all, and payed homage to Jesus for being the one and only God…no more Neptune! So Joyful now has three Shellbacks sailing her, and is quite happy about that. On this circumnavigation, we will sail Joyful across the equator several more times in various seas. Of course we will celebrate each time and become a First Degree Shellback, Second Degree Shellback, etc.! We also celebrate countless other milestones on Joyful, like sailing over a very high submerged sea mountain, crossing a meridian of longitude, a parallel of latitude, sighting a landfall, etc! Each time we celebrate, I make a special desert or lunch someway reflecting what we’re celebrating. Also, we include all 50 of Mr. Mark Muldowney’s science students from Round Hill Elementary School. We open one of the many hand made greeting cards each student kindly made for us to be opened at various places as we sail around the world. They designed each hand made card with beautiful art work, and wrote encouraging words to us on the cards! Thank you so much, Round Hill Bears! You are precious to us and we value you very much! We always look forward to opening a new card from you, and we display the cards around Joyful to enjoy!


NOAA Drifter Buoy –

Shaun, chief of the Drifter Buoy Program at NOAA, asked Joyful to try, if conditions permitted, to deploy the drifter buoy number 114785 that NOAA gave us, between 094 and 095 Longitude These drifter buoys will follow ocean currents until they reach land. During the life span of their battery, usually around a little more than a year, the buoys will transmit important data relating to weather and sea states, and in doing so will aide in search and rescue missions, supply data for weather forecasts, and many other worthwhile endeavors. We had to wait until the heavy seas calmed down a bit before we deployed the buoy. So we managed to deploy the buoy at 1349 local time (1849 UTC) on April 14 at 05º 49’.31 South, 096º 18’.95 West. Before Jeff and I launched the buoy into the ocean, I painted some very special words on the portion of the buoy that floats:

I wrote these words on one side of the buoy using a brush and white acrylic paint:

S/V Joyful April 14, 2015

NOAA Drifter Buoy #114785

Lat. 096 degrees 16 minutes West , Long. 05 degrees 48 minutes South

Round Hill Elementary School

Good Shepherd Academy

The Hun School of Princeton

On the other side of the buoy I wrote a Bible verse:

Jesus Christ said, “He who followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

We were delighted to see Joyful’s NOAA drifter buoy float, knowing that it would immediately start transmitting all kinds of needed data via satellite to NOAA.  Also, we knew that all the young scientists at Joyful’s three schools, as well as possibly thousands of others, would become interested in the NOAA drifter buoy program through Joyful’s endeavors on the Blue Planet Odyssey.  We are proud of you, and thank you for your interest in the Sail the Odyssey Educational Program!  Thank you, Shaun and Jimmy, for offering the program to everyone interested.

Dosimeter –

On April 25, we started taking daily dosimeter readings at midnight (0000 hours) UTC. The readings on this passage were all between 8 and 15 counts per minute (CPM).

Bird Sightings –

During this lengthy passage at sea, Joyful encountered many birds, some of which we managed to photograph. We were very excited and thrilled to see a juvenile sea bird sitting on top of Joyful’s bimini! The young bird was not worried at all that Jeff was only about 4 feet away when he took the photos! Later in the passage we saw several adults, of the same variety. The young bird and the adults were brown boobies, Sula leucogaster, Order: Suliformes, Family: Sulidae. Their conservation status is “least concern”, indicating they are quite common. However, individuals and the entire population of brown boobies are always in danger by eating plastic that ends up in the sea, getting tangled in fishing line, getting soiled by oil spills, and other harmful threats caused by the actions of human beings.

Red Tide Sightings –

Fifteen miles south of the Panama Canal, as we were progressing on this passage to our far off port of call, Nuku Hiva in French Polynesia, Joyful sailed through vast streaks of what appeared to be an algae bloom commonly called, “red tide”. [According to NOAA, “Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae—simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal.”]

This could have been the same type of harmful red tide that I saw every summer in the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, where I grew up. It looked the same. There, in California, it would kill fish and other sea life, which washed up onto the beaches. However, some algal blooms are good for sea life because they are the major source of energy for sea creatures. So, this red tide here in this part of the Pacific Ocean near Panama, might have been one of the beneficial algae blooms.

This red tide all around Joyful as far as we could see in the distance, appeared quite reddish as we sailed through the water. The red tide was a concern for us on Joyful, because while we were sailing through the red tide, we could not make drinking water from ocean water with our reverse osmosis water maker. However, because we always keep a strict record of how much drinking water Joyful has on board, and always try to keep 3/4 of her store of water untouched, we were in no immediate danger. The concern was when would these repeated areas of algae blooms disappear so we could make water again so Joyful’s water tanks would not become depleted. We sailed through streaks of red tide for several days, and finally, we saw no more red tide. Praise the Lord! We could make water again! This encounter with red tide simply reinforced how important our conservative approach to water usage was for our wellbeing on Joyful. So after the red tide appeared to be gone, we started making water, refilling Joyful’s water supply from just below 75% to 100 %.

As NOAA monitors red tide, we reported our field observation from Joyful of red tide algae bloom to them. We hope that this will inspire all the young scientists at Joyful’s three schools, and anyone reading this blog, to be diligent in reporting their field observations of various concerning phenomenon on the earth to the appropriate scientific entities that can use the data.


Spreading the Gospel:

Radio stations, the internet, books, and people speaking to one another are all known, common vehicles to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to others. Well, there is another way! Just paint the words from John 8:12 on a drifter buoy, deploy the buoy in the sea, and it will eventually reach land! If you would like, please take a look at this blog’s photos, and you can see this in action.

Artistic Inspirations from the Lord About this Passage –

One of the things I like to do while on the lonely night watches I hold every night at sea, is to allow my mind to think about all my blessings. I think about how good God is, how powerful He is, and how loving He is. Every day on this passage, as always, whether on land or sea, I was aware of how trustworthy the Lord was, and how He protected us from harm as we faced the omnipresent dangers of going to see on a boat, especially for such a long non-stop, remote passage. I plan to express these sentiments for the book I am making during the circumnavigation through a painting incorporating Proverbs 3:5 from the Holy Bible, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight…”

1. British Admiralty Chart and Jimmy’s notes for a course for Joyful.

2. We saw a lot of Pelicans as we were leaving Isla Flamenco.

3. Joyful carefully made way under engine in the Southbound lane of the busy shipping channel leading in and out of the Panama Canal and Isla Flamenco area into the Pacific Ocean. Anne wore the tee shirt from one of Joyful’s schools, the Hun School.

4. Bill examined a nautical chart. Joyful has both electronic and traditional paper charts for navigation. Joyful also has a sextant on board for celestial navigation.

5. For a few days after leaving the Panama Canal, we encountered lots of red tide in vast streaks several hundred feet in width and maybe a half a mile long or longer. Please compare this photo with the one showing the normal blue color of the sea.

6. This is a photo of the normal blue color of the ocean seen between the streaks of red tide.

7. This photo taken from Joyful’s stern, shows the very red color of the red tide water in Joyful’s wake. Please compare this water to the normal blue color in the next photo

8. This photo shows the normal blue water in Joyful’s wake.

9. Flat Mr. Davis saw the Isla Malpelo first, when he yelled, Land ho! It was not far from Panama between Panama and the Galapagos Archipelago. Bravo, Flat Mr. Davis!

10. Many magnificent birds of this variety and others flew near Joyful by Isla Malpelo. Isla Malpelo is a bird sanctuary.

11. A white long legged bird with a yellow:orange beak flew near Joyful.

12. Jeff took this great photo while on his night watch. This is the third type of bird which rested on Joyful during this circumnavigation! You can see this bird’s sharp beak and webbed feet as it rested on the Joyful’s stern near the helmsman’s seat.

13. Jeff also took great photos of some juvenile brown booby birds. This one approached Joyful’s bimini in hopes of landing on Joyful for a rest.

14. Birds really like Jeff! This juvenile brown booby landed on Joyful’s bimini so he could have his photo taken just for YOUR EYES ONLY! Note the interesting beak.

15. A juvenile brown booby on Joyful’s bimini wanted you to see his striking profile view of his face!

16. The juvenile brown booby sat on one of Joyful’s solar panels, as he took a rest from fishing.

17. We saw more brown boobies flying around Joyful on this passage than any other kind of bird.

18. The juvenile brown boobies who perched on Joyful will grow up to look like this adult brown booby. This photo is from the internet.

19. Flat Mr. Davis posed with Joyful’s chart plotter to show you the exact moment Joyful crossed the Equator with Jeff, Anne, and Bill also on board!. Please see the latitude and longitude reading!

20. Flat Mr. Davis crossed the Equator with the Round Hill Elementary School, the Good Shepherd Academy, and the Hun School of Princeton on Joyful with us in spirit!

21. We opened a beautiful card from Alivia, a student at Round Hill Elementary School, when we crossed the Equator. Thank you, Alivia!

22. While Joyful crossed the Equator, Jeff and Anne displayed the blanket kindly given to them from the congregation of the Huntsville First United Methodist Chapel. They were there in spirit with us! Fun!

23. Bill threw some Linie Aquavit into the sea at the Equator

24. We celebrated crossing the Equator with a feast of salmon tacos and Panamanian rice. Flat Mr. Davis celebrated with Jeff, Anne and Bill.

25. Flat Mr. Davis with two squids dropped overnight by sea birds fishing around Joyful.

26. Blue Planet Odyssey’s flag in South Pacific.

27. Joyful enjoyed wonderful sailing with three sails in use.

28. In the southern hemisphere, the sun transited the sky to the north durning the day and set in the west.

29. Joyful’s mast head with jib, genoa, and mainsail. The round disk on her mast is a radar transceiver.

30. Joyful’s United States of America ensign flying on her backstay, highlighted by the full moon.

31. Typical view of sunset at the beginning of Anne’s night watch.

32. A thoughtful student from the Round Hill Elementary School made Anne and Jeff this great card to open during Joyful’s circumnavigation. It is a Winnie the Pooh honey pot! We like it very much! Thank you!

33. Anne held a flying fish, and a bowl of oatmeal, while she soaked her wounded toe in Epsom salts.

34. Jeff, Anne, and Flat Mr. Davis with NOAA drifter buoy in Joyful’s aft stateroom before its deployment in the South Pacific Ocean near the Galapagos Archipelago.

34a. Jeff and Bill brought Joyful’s NOAA drifter buoy out into her cockpit.

35. Jeff and Bill removed the plastic wrap from the NOAA drifter buoy.

36. Bill held the NOAA drifter buoy as Anne painted the date, Joyful’s name, the longitude & latitude, the names of Joyful’s three schools & a Bible verse on the NOAA drifter buoy before its deployment southwest of the Galapagos Islands.

37. Close up view of one section of Joyful’s NOAA drifter buoy.

38. Before deploying the NOAA drifter buoy, Jeff and Anne posed with the buoy, with the Bible verse John 8-12 painted on the top surface, and the Mission Joyful blanket given to them by the congregation of the Huntsville First United Methodist Chapel.

39. From Joyful’s stern, Jeff and Anne prepared to deploy the NOAA drifter buoy into the South Pacific Ocean.

40. A picture of the chartplotter as Joyful’s NOAA drifter buoy was deployed southwest of the Galapagos Islands. Please look at the red circle on the screen to see the exact longitude and latitude of Joyful as the drifter buoy was deployed.

41. Joyful continued to sail Westbound toward French Polynesia as the NOAA drifter buoy began to drift in the South Pacific Ocean.

42. A magnificent dolphin jumped near Joyful’s bow.

43. Lots of dolphins swam close to Joyful’s bow, sometimes only inches away.

44. Dolphins entertained Joyful’s crew.

45. Dolphins jumped for joy!

46. Flat Mr. Davis and Anne assembled salmon for cooking, which they brought from Key West in Joyful’s freezer. They cooked it all at once in parchment paper and froze it for many lunches and dinners at sea on Joyful. Yummy!

47. Jeff and Anne opened the great Winnie the Pooh handmade card from a considerate student at the Roung Hill Elementary School. The students made us many cards to open throughout the circumnavigation! Thank you!

48. To relax together, Jeff, Bill, and Anne played one game of Pass the Pigs before nightfall almost every evening at sea.

49. Joyful was awed by another beautiful sunset in the South Pacific.

50. The sunset was almost over with Venus in view.

51. Anne at Joyful’s helm. Seas were building!

52. Eight to ten foot waves approached Joyful’s stern quarter. The Hydrovane steered Joyful lots of the time, which allowed the crew to rest.

53. Joyful’s bow wave in eight foot following seas.

54. One of countless extraordinary sunsets at sea. Anne had the watch during sunset, which always was a delight to her.

55. Jeff with his two birthday cakes. The bean dip cake is the smaller of the two.

56. To celebrate Jeff’s birthday, Jeff and Anne opened a cheerful card made by Jojo, a student at the Round Hill Elementary School. Thank you, Jojo! We like your card!

57. Anne used acrylic paint on thin white fabric to paint a French Polynesian courtesy flag for Joyful. To show courtesy, foreign boats should fly the host nation’s flag from the starboard spreader halyard.

58. Anne finished sewing the edges of the French Polynesian courtesy flag she constructed for Joyful.

59. Land ho! From Joyful’s starboard bow, you can see Nuku Hiva on the horizon with clouds above the island.

60. Anne hoisted the French and French Polynesian courtesy flags & the Q flag. The yellow Q flag we flew to announce Joyful was a healthy boat and that we requested entry into their country. We flew the Q flag until we got permission to stay.

61. Nuku Hiva, the Marquises Archipelago’s largest island. If you look closely, you can see the large deposit of crystaline rock in the lava, which forms the Crystal Cross loved by the Marquisan people and sailors approaching the island.

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