74. Pan Pan Tomas

I arrived here in Nuku Hiva two weeks ago. And I am sorry that it has taken me this long to provide you all with an update. Particularly since I went ‘missing’ during my passage and there was a Pan Pan and a Bolo issued on my behalf. In this post I will attempt to describe what this means and how I perceived the situation.

It all started with a rogue wave on day twenty. I was sailing through a squall. Nothing serious. A couple of reefs in the genoa and all was great onboard. Back to the film that I was enjoying. When suddenly, a large wave decided to break against Saoirse’s port hull and send a bath tub of water cascading in through an open hatch in her coach roof. All of it landing at the nav station. You could argue that it’s stupid to sail with roof hatches open, and in this case you would be right in doing so. But you have to remember that it was piping hot and that this was a freak wave. I was sailing downwind in open ocean and for water to enter the boat the wave would have to break forward of the mast. If not a once in a lifetime, at least a once in a month kind of wave. Things went from wonderful to chaos in seconds, like they so often tend to at sea. But these things don’t just happen by themselves. They happen because of things you did or didn’t do ten minutes earlier. And it is experiences like this that make you a better sailor. Unfortunately they often come at a price. In this case in the form of a soaked piece of electronic equipment that allows me to download weather information, show people where I am and communicate with the rest of the world. My Iridium satellite router. Not vital to my safety or comfort, but something that makes friends and family more comfortable with what I’m doing and me feel less alone.

So there I am. In the middle of nowhere, knowing that people will be looking for me and with communications restricted to my AIS tracker and VHF. Both needing to be within within line of sight of another radio antenna. With 10 days to any form of land that meant that I needed to find another boat. The only problem was that I had not seen another boat since I left Panamá almost three weeks earlier. I knew from my last Iridium update that one of my buddy boats, Cinnamon, was roughly 60 Nm behind me and on a more northerly course. The only thing I could do was to gybe and change the course so that maybe we would intercept in a day or two. Provided that they didn’t make any changes to their course. The added advantage with changing my heading was also that if my AIS signal for any reason was to be picked up by a satellite or a ship that I didn’t see, it would be obvious that I was still onboard Saoirse.

I didn’t find Cinnamon. Or any other boat for that matter. It took a whole week until a Dutch catamaran, Second Wind, found me. They had been asked by the Tahiti Coast Guard to change heading to get within radio distance and were finally able to report back that all was OK and that I was planning to arrive in Nuku Hiva in a couple of days.

When I finally arrived I was greeted by Mike and Daisy on Traveller in their dinghy. Armed with an anchor beer and a baguette for breakfast. I was told that they had been able to track me all the way via my AIS signal through PredictWind and that they had sent regular updates to friends and family. I’m not entirely sure how that works, but as I understand it I was ‘missing’ for 36 hours before my AIS signal was picked up, either by a ship that I didn’t see or a satellite. In Nuku Hiva I quickly learned that everybody in the anchorage knew about me. Whenever I introduced myself to a fellow cruiser I would hear ‘oh, you are Tomas on Saoirse. We’ve been looking for you’. The reason for this is that there was a Pan Pan with a Bolo issued on my behalf. A Pan Pan is an official emergency call and Bolo means ‘Be On the LookOut’. The difference between a Pan Pan and a Mayday call is that with a Pan Pan there is no immediate threat to life. It didn’t take long for me to get nicknamed ‘Pan Pan Tomas’.

It’s a little overwhelming to know that there were so many out there that followed my progress across the Pacific. And that so many worried for my well-being when my tracker stopped working and there were no more silly posts on fishing lures, gender observations or reasons for happiness. Fortunately though, people like Mike and Daisy, Rob on Avant and my parents took it upon themselves to ‘find me’ and let people know that I was OK. Often communicating with people that they have never met. In some cases people that I’ve never met. I really can’t thank them enough.

I want to wrap up by saying that I actually do have one more way to communicate with the outside world via satellites. It’s called an Epirb. Essentially an electronic beacon that can be activated manually or that activates automatically when submerged. Truly something that should cause concern for my well-being. A piece of a equipment that I hope I will never have a need for. I’m happy enough to be called Pan Pan Tomas. I really don’t need to be called Mayday Tomas.

IridiumGo. Looks waterproof. It isn’t
Steef and Lizzy on Samadhi got me this t-shirt

12 thoughts on “74. Pan Pan Tomas

  1. Tomas,

    Glad you’re safe! Love reading these emails from you! Thx for sharing your adventures. 


    div>We are sailing ⛵️ to Europe this summer and spending a year there. If you’re th


  2. delighted that all is well tomas.

    just shows the importance of having all hatches closed while sailing even on a calm day. could have been a lot worse if you were hit by a really big wave.

    I have obviously never heard of nuku hiva even though I am familiar with french polynesia. wet place i believe with only 3000 inhabitants!

    you appear to be halfway to australia although i presume that you will visit loads of the other islands on the way

    look forward to tracking your progress

    regards, fergal


    1. Hi there Fergal. Yep. Wet and roughly 3000 on the island. I believe the Marquesas is the most remote inhabited place on earth. At least if you count furthest away from any continent. Also very beautiful and fabulous people. Moving on towards Hiva Oa in a couple of days. Then Tuamotus. Best. Tomas


    2. Hej på dig Jonas. Ledsen men jag lär inte komma till Sverige den närmsta tiden. Det hade verkligen varit kul att vara där. Grattis i förskott dock. Ta hand om dig. Tomas


  3. Tjena kompis!

    Missat det här, haft dålig/ingen koll på min mejl! WWWTTTFFF! Vilken grej!! Skönt att höra att det gick bra. Vilket flyt att någon dök upp; det är ju ingen rusningstrafik på Stilla havet gissar 😜.

    Ta hand om dig och hoppas att livet leker! Var når man dig nuförtiden? Vore kul att höra lite hur du har det.

    Big hugs!



    1. Tjena mannen. Har haft lite dåligt med mobiltäckning på sistone. Dags för ett nytt VC tycker jag. Tror att det är enklast om jag ringer. FaceTime eller Whatsapp. Så länge jag har täckning. Jag är 11,5 timmar (!) efter er här. Saknar dig. Bästa. Tomas


  4. Tjena Tomas, vi var nog många som undrade vad som hänt när GPS pricken slutade röra på sig. Skönt att höra att allt ändå gått bra! Skulle vara riktigt kul att höra hur en ” vanlig” dag ser ut på Nuku Hiva! Också nyfiken på känslan att komma in i första baren och ta första ölen efter att i30 dagar endast konverserat med fåglar o fiskar?! Bra intervju på podden också!
    Segla lugnt!
    /Daniel MV


    1. Tjena Daniel. Alltid kul med kommentarer. Jag kommer att skriva nåt om resan över och hur det känns att komma iland efter månad. Livet här är en salig blandning. Men mycket kretsar naturligtvis runt havet och vänner på andra båtar. Igår simmade jag med mantarockor, idag ska jag försöka motstå mina vänners övertalningsförsök om att tatuera mig med dem!

      Har fixat en ny satellit router nu så trackern funkar igen. Ha det bra. Tomas


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