Pacific Passage Northbound: Mexico to Hawaii

Steve Olson and his girlfriend Chelsea recently completed a 26 day voyage from Mexico to Hawaii aboard their 35 ft Lord Nelson monohull named Jean Anne. This was there first offshore voyage of more than 4 days. Here, they reflect on some of the highlights – and lowlights – of their trip, including lots of great tips for those planning a long offshore passage for the first time.

Published 2 years ago

Yacht with sail on the water
SV Jean Anne under sail.

While it was still fresh in our minds, Chelsea and I thought we’d answer some questions that we had been asked about our 26-day trip from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii.

We came up with this list of questions and each answered them before reading what the other person wrote. This was a voyage we’ll always remember! 

1.) What was your favorite part of the trip?

STEVE: The day where we had the least amount of wind was actually one of my favorite.  There was nothing we could do, but to relax.  Swimming surrounded by those large fish hundreds of miles from anywhere was an experience I’ll never forget.

CHELSEA: Ironically, the day we had no wind and only went 32 nm. The seas were so flat and calm, the water was so blue and the boat was still. We swam with a hundred mahi mahi that day and got to look down into the water and see the endless blue that it was. It really was a once in a lifetime day.

2.) What was the most difficult part of the trip?

STEVE: Just dealing with the swell at night when the wind would die down.  The boat would rock a lot, making it very difficult to sleep at all.  Everything became more difficult and you constinatly had to brace yourself to avoid injury.

CHELSEA: The constant rolling of the boat. Everything was more difficult: brushing your teeth, cooking dinner, getting dressed. You ALWAYS needed one hand for the boat, sometimes even both hands to hold yourself still.

3.) What was your biggest concern before leaving?

STEVE: Dealing with squalls at night.  This was our first time dealing with them.  Our new doppler radar was pretty awesome, as it really highlighted these when we put it in weather mode.

CHELSEA: Injuries. I was constantly reminding myself and Steve to move slowly and cautiously to avoid accidentally hurting ourselves underway. We have a medical kit onboard and of course, we know how to basic first-aid, but I was worried about the bigger injuries (ie broken bones, deep burns, etc).

4.) How was the trip different than you expected?

STEVE: I never 100% felt great.  I never got sick to my stomach, but, even weeks in, my stomach always felt just a little bit “off”.

CHELSEA: It was definitely bouncier. I figured once we hit the trade winds, the swell would even out, and while it did, we still rocked quite a bit.

Photo of yacht at sea taken from the forward deck.
SV Jean Anne at sea.

5.) What did you bring, thinking you’d need, but hardly used?

STEVE: I loaded my Kindle and brought a bunch of DVD’s, but didn’t read or watch as much as I thought.  Also, we thought we’d use the Hydrovane almost all the time, but our new autopilot was just so great that we used that a lot more.  I’m glad we did have the Hydrovane though, for peace of mind in case the autopilot failed.

CHELSEA: Mostly seasonings for food. I bought so much to make all these meals, but when you’re out there, the less flavor the better. Plain green veggies, lightly (if any) seasoned chicken. Plain applesauce. Bread with only peanut butter. Don’t plan crazy meals. The simpler, the better!

6.) What do you wish you would have brought?

STEVE: Honestly, I thought a lot about this for a long time before the trip.  I didn’t want to really be missing something, so I think we planned well.  The only thing I really wished we had was an installed wind generator.  I will be buying one before we leave Hawaii for sure.

CHELSEA: A good, supportive pillow! The boat rolls around a lot and when trying to sleep, your body and head tosses and turns. I woke up almost half the nights with headaches from a tweaked neck. Also, I wish I would have made more already-made meals for the first week. Something easy to throw into the oven or on the stove. The sea state was uncomfortable the first 10 days or so. It made cooking difficult.

7.) What did you learn from this trip?

STEVE: That we could actually do it.  The longest we had sailed non-stop prior was only four days.  This trip really required that we manage all of our resources (electrical, food/water, etc.) and think long-term.

CHELSEA: That I know more about sailing than I thought I did. Steve has always been the sailor and I just kinda helped, but after this trip, I realized that there’s quite a bit I know how to do. I kinda always saw myself as “the helper” but now I think I could single-hand if I wanted to. Just to be clear – I don’t want to!

yacht next to a dock.
SV Jean Anne at dock.

8.) What advice would you give others about to make this voyage?

STEVE: Make sure you are able to easily reef your boat and have a plan to be able to get the sails down/furled even under load.  We planned for this and it made the trip SO MUCH less stressful.  Getting caught with too much sail up was one of my biggest concerns.

CHELSEA: Patience. For the boat, for yourself, for your partner. Shit’s going to break. It’s going to suck and make the crossing more difficult, but there’s nothing you can do. You and your partner are alone on this tiny, little boat and you’re going to get annoyed, but let it go. Tempers are going to get heated during the more trying times, but don’t let it simmer. Just let the issue go. There’s plenty of space and time for fighting when you reach land ha!


About the Authors

man and woman looking at the camera
Chelsea and Steve.

Steve and Chelsea are originally from Seattle and have been cruising together for about nine years after going sailing on their first date.  Together they have sailed all over the Puget Sound, up into the San Juans, the Gulf Islands and to Desolation Sound as well as chartering together in the Bahamas and parts of the Caribbean.

In 2018 they left Seattle and sailed down to Mexico, first with the Coho Hoho Rally and then the Baja Haha Rally.  While there, they sailed all over the Pacific Mexico region, to the far northern end of the Sea of Cortez, to the southern-most point and then on to El Salvador.  Their original plan was to sail to Panama, but Covid restrictions started closing countries, so they returned to Mexico, where they cruised around until April 2021, when they headed for Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or World Cruising Club.

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