The first days of a passage are often the worst, even for experienced sailors like Mike and Alisa.

November 25, 2014


Enki Mike Litzow

Our good friends on board Enki sometimes wonder aloud how the heck we do it – making double-handed passages with two kids to look after.

To which we have always replied, “anything’s possible with a short enough memory!”

Meaning, I suppose, that we usually muddle through pretty well.


This one, though, has been nuts.

We left Rapa three days ago to make the 590-mile, roughly four-day, sail to Gambier, our very last stop in this French Polynesian Odyssey.

The send off was, like everything else about our time on Rapa, beyond belief. (You’ll have to wait to see the pictures once we regain internet access.)


And the goodbye was nearly the highlight of the subsequent passage.

The first couple of days at sea are often best compared to a bad drug experience from someone’s misspent youth. Alisa and I don’t usually get seasick, but even so we feel dopey and off our game for those first couple of days. Our sleep schedule is in tatters, our parasympathetic nervous systems are battling against the unstable reality that they find themselves in. Everything feels off and strange. I just want to sit, and when I think of something to do on the boat – some small thing like checking for drips at the stuffing box – I think about it for twenty minutes before I finally rouse myself to action.

All that is more or less the best scenario.


On this outing, Alisa did worse than normal. She was seasick the first few days. Not hurling over the side seasick, but suffering mightily to cook a meal that you definitely won’t be eating any of yourself seasick.

And I was doing worse than normal. A cut on my foot came up infected on the first day out, and by the time we decided to start me on Cephalexin the infection was spreading around my heel and I had a fever.

Both of us were still functional when we had to be. But when we didn’t have to be, we both wanted to be asleep. Luckily Alisa’s worst day and my own didn’t overlap.


The boys have been physically fine. Eric only puked once, when his brother got him over-excited with some big-brother play. Sprinting from galley to saloon, Alisa made the all-time mid-air vomit catch with an outstretched saucepan.

The great ones are great under pressure.

But the boys have very much been playing the part of cooped up kids on a boat. They have been fighting. They have been quarreling. They have been teasing and poking and screaming.

Alisa and I have taken the opportunity, one at a time, to just completely lose our tempers over it all. Whatever you may have read in South From Alaska, we have as close to a conflict-free marriage as you can get. So wherever, we have wondered at great length, and sometimes at the top of our lungs, did our boys learn to fight with each other continually?

All this – the physical symptoms and the difficulty in maintaining any semblance of family tranquility – has been going on as we contemplate the monster before us – the 3,800 mile passage from Gambier to Chile. That’s six of these passages in a row, with an extra three hundred miles thrown in. And ain’t NONE of it in the tradewinds.

There was a bit of subdued morale at the thought, let me tell you.

Ah, but – thank god for the third day.

Alisa and I both had our sea legs today. The water was the effortless blue of the open tropical Pacific. The weather that counts to us – the wind and seas – had been good throughout, and became downright beneficial. Galactic slipped along wing and wing, making plenty of speed on little breeze. The windvane, which has been feeling poorly for much of this crossing, steered us.

It was nice to have the windvane back. It’s definitely analog-era, with the long lazy loops that it steers us through. But it’s so pleasant to turn off the grinding, grasping hydraulic autopilot for a while. The boat really comes alive, for good or ill, when the windvane is steering.

Today was so good that I even put some time into writing a research proposal that my reviewing peers will hopefully find both cutting-edge and fundable.

(How’s that, Alex and Diana – double-handed, two kids AND earning a living [a bit] while at sea.)

So All was Well.

Except that the boys were still acting up. Poor fellas, I suppose they’re experiencing a strange combination of benign neglect and helicopter parenting on these passages.

Gambier tomorrow.

Meet the crew of Galactic: Mike and Alisa Litzow and their sons Elias and Eric. “When we left Alaska to sail to Australia with our toddler for crew, we thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But then we had our second child, and bought our second boat, and sailed across the Pacific a second time. We’ve been living aboard for seven years now. Sometimes we wonder how long we’ll keep at it, but all we know for sure is that the end doesn’t seem to be in sight just yet.” Follow their story at


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