The Maiden Factor Blog

Maiden is a Global Ambassador for the Empowerment of Girls through Education

Birthdays, black clouds and birds! A collection of updates from Sharon Ferris-Choat onboard Maiden.


Wind direction 095
Boat speed 8.5 knots
True wind speed 12.9 knots
Time 9:37am NZ time

What a beautiful day! 
The wind came in from the East 80 miles sooner than expected. It got up to a solid 20 knots last night. This made for fantastic reaching conditions with a full moon and flat water. We are now in our reaching mould; if we can keep this speed we have less of a chance of running out of wind again. But- the weather is changing every time (8 hours) we download weather.

A lady sits at the helm of the boat holding the wheel.
Sharon, co skipper and author of this blog at Maiden’s helm. ©THE MAIDEN FACTOR/AMALIA INFANTE

Everyone is well onboard. I have just had my favorite 6am to 8am sleep that I get every 2 days. My watches are opposite to Wendy, starting with 6am to noon, on to 6pm, off 4 hours on, off 4 and on again through the night to have the next day on at 6am to noon and then the afternoon off until 6pm. The afternoon off watch is always the hardest to sleep naturally and makes the next 6am sleep a dream!

It is getting hotter; had to find the shorts yesterday, but still cool at night. Bex and Courtney have not caught that fish yet and it is not from the lack of trying. Amalia is cooking paella for lunch (my fave) and I need to get some breakfast!

We have had no word about the earthquake apart from the alarm warning on the boat. I hope all is well. Out here the world is so quiet that anything could happen and we would have no idea!

S 20’50.950

Boat speed 9.5 knots
Wind speed 15.2 knots
Wind direction 127′
Sea: rolling swell with small chop on top

This morning we past S21′ and now the equator is half way to Honolulu!

Very exciting on board as that gives us a reference to distance and miles. 

A compass, black and close up

Last night, the moon was so bright that it was surreal light. Seeing everything even when it was over cast and raining for part of it, the light was amazing! The rain was very welcome as a relief from the salt spray. 

Just finished my 6 hours on this morning and have left the deck rather over heated. I need to sort out my gear bag and find cooler clothing!

We are all drinking more and are keeping out of the sun as much as possible. 

Still needing to get East. In 28 hours we are expecting the wind to die out. Then we will be back to the motor, not a luxury that we normally do not have!

The fishing still not going well. The ‘kidlets’ of Bex and Courtney now have the pressure on that they have 24 hours to catch a fish or the oldies are going to have a go! Nothing like team banter to get the watches to go fast.

Everyone has been asking great questions about how to drive faster! I think it shows on our tracker that the speeds are getting more consistent.

A shot of Maiden, taken from the back. One sailor is at the helm, another sitting next to her and another doing exercises to her left.

I am now talking the girls through the changes rather than them wanting to leave the helm when it gets tricky and they are learning through doing it. As a result we are all gaining from this. Tash has improved the best and now she cannot wait to get driving! Our watches are pretty much hurry up and wait until you can drive (with a bit of trimming and rotation of position going on). A great situation to be in. 

So from a getting hotter Maiden, we are working out ways to cool down!
All the very best from our happy ship.


Boat Speed 9.7 knots
Wind speed 17.6
Wind direction 104′
Heading 007′

We have Bird Island on our port (left) and a group of the Cook islands on our right. They all look very stunning on the chart. 

It is getting warm on Maiden! Downstairs it’s super hot and we are on the winter side of the equator… it is only going to get hotter! This is the first time I will cross from winter to summer. Normally it is spring to autumn or vice versa. So a new experience that could require swimming across the equator for my 5th crossing.

Everyone is happy on board and coming up with all sorts of ways to keep amused as we have not done a sail change in 5 days. We have up a JT (Jib top) a reaching sail and 1 reef in the main to full main but only twice I think, so every 24 hours we change the halyards to stop any chaffing.

Two sailors work on fixing a sail. Taken from below, looking up, with a blue sky behind.
Team work makes fixing and mending areas of the boat easier. ©THE MAIDEN FACTOR/AMALIA INFANTE

Now, we are talking about changing the meals around so we are not cooking in the hottest part of the day. We are trying to keep downstairs cooler.

The colour of the water is amazing and no fish, so on my afternoon watch, I am on a mission. 

We have 1150nm to the equator and 2369nm to Honolulu! In a straight line that we will not sail!


Boat speed 6.4 knots
Wind 9 knots
Direction 080′
Distance to the equator 930nm
Distance to Honolulu 2160nm (in a straight line)

We have been having really fun thunderstorms which change the direction and the strength up to 32 knots.

Just finished my 6 hours on and to be honest I was very damp and cold by the time I finished. but downstairs is very cosy so in no time at all I have warmed up. I just ate the last of the toast, thankfully not the last of the Pic’s Peanut Butter! Delicious!

We are having halyard issues chaffing on the mast so we are sorting those out. Bex is doing her rigging pro action and we are all good. In the past they have snapped but we seem to be one step ahead at the moment, 2 repairs done already, one each side on the jib halyards. That’s why we have two! This involves taking the broken one out with a mouse line so you can put it back once it is repaired, saves a lot of time up the rig!

Great to be out here and reading the clouds, last night we had a whopper cloud, we saw it getting blacker and blacker and it was so big we had no way around it. So through the middle we went. A massive change in the wind direction and strength, just before it hit us we went to the 3rd reef and we still had heaps on, in horizontal rain and not lots of wind but enough wind at 32 knots. You just don’t know how much more there is too come expressly when it is dark and you are not sure if it is rain or wind at night. 

Jo, Nat and Courtney were trimming and I got the pleasure of driving through the cell. It makes the watch go so fast when you have heaps to do. Just as things were starting to tame down over 50 mins later, we had an event that we are still laughing about. 

As a result of the extreme level of rain Courtney had a surprise visit from the Dan Bouy beside her and she thought for a second that the winch was exploding! With the Courtney squeal and the get out of the way dance go on, I tuned to see this yellow stick thing coming out of the dark beside her! The strobe turn our dark deck into a disco! Once we all realized what had gone off in a hiss of gas, with a yellow long legged monster appeared with a flashing eye! Then the fun came of getting it downstairs while still trimming. 

Imagine this completely serious 50 mins turning into a laugh because it was raining too hard we all starting giggling! The next thing could of been our life jackets! Fun times!


Wind Speed 9.1 knots
Boat speed 6.6 knots
Wind Direction 328′
Sea is flat
Distance to the equator 822nm
Distance to Honolulu 2018nm

We had a great birthday for Amalia yesterday. She is one of the most talented women in the world, her camera work is stunning, she is always hungry to learn and is constantly asking questions to become an even better all rounded sailor. She can do every position on the boat and is now wanting to learn more about engines and water makers etc. 

The Maiden crew all wear party hats for Amalia's birthday. She is at the helm, blowing out candles on a cake that Belle is holding.

We are currently motor sailing. As expected the wind has gone and comes back in all different directions depending on the closest cloud. 

Last night we had the wind decreasing and it was fully dark as the moon had not showed up yet. We turned the engine on to help get us out of the path of one cloud full of lighting and thunder. I left the girls in a downpour of rain to be woken up for my next watch to all sails down and the motor still going. Early this morning, around 4am local time, I was up with Belle on deck when we went under the longest low dark cloud. It was like a low bridge, you felt as though you could touch it. 

As we went through in a pool of light it felt like we were floating above the water with 2 drops of water. They felt like good luck drops. When we got to the other side by 200m, the heavens opened up and there was a wall of black behind us. We felt the down draft as the rain hit the water and we did not get a drop. We were prepared for an absolute soaking!

Lots of spray as Maiden hits the water. The sea is dark blue and the sky is bright.

After the watch change of Belle to Jo, the wind direction changed again. We put the main back up to 3rd reef to stop the boat from rolling around so everyone could sleep better. I have just had the best 4 hours of sleep in a long time. 

We have changed meal times, so now lunch is at breakfast and dinner at lunch to try and get the temp downstairs a little better in the late afternoon, otherwise the whole cabin is an oven. For dinner, it is left overs of breakfast/lunch and yesterday it worked really well.

Today is the job list day: get Bex back up the mast to do a rig check, filling the fuel tanks with the Gerry cans from the lazeratte (back locker), I need to service one of the coffee grinders and mouse out the main haylard to check that. 

So from a busy Maiden, with all the jobs getting ticked off before we get into the next lot of easterly wind that should send us all the way to Honolulu


Wind speed 7.5 knots
Boat speed 7.2 knots
Wind direction 001′ Yep we are on the wind again!
Seas flat with a slight Easterly swell

We have been so lucky for the last 24 hours when all the routing had us at 2 knots of wind we have had up to 14 at times. This has been giving us a close hauled sailing angle that we have been able to get some good east miles in. Our target is W165′ then we are able to turn left and be in the Easterly trade winds, put up our JT reaching sail and send it to Honolulu!! Well that’s the plan… if the weather does what it is supposed to do!

Last evening we had a magic time, one of those special life moments that you take with you forever, with most of the crew awake and on deck enjoying Bex’s playlist and listening to some good tunes. The sunset was magic, a full sky of every shade of orange first and then pink, even the water and the air reflecting on Maiden. To top it off we had a visit of a pod of Hector dolphins. 

A shot of orange and pink clouds

The energy from everyone was pure appreciation of this opportunity and the nature around us. It also highlighted the great camaraderie that is developing within the team. 

On our port side we will pass Penrhyn Lagoon by 62 miles. Looking at it, I wonder by the shape if it had been a volcano in it’s past life. The depth goes from 1024m to nothing in the space of 5m. As you can imagine, we are keeping a very good eye on it and the reefs and odd rock around it. I would love to bring my family here one day. Inside the Lagoon, it looks beautiful. 

One of the modifications we made in Auckland was the U DEK foam flooring from Paul and Adam from Ultralon which makes it much safer downstairs, no more slipping!  It cleans really well with just a damp cloth in the galley and in the changing area it does not stay wet.


NZ time 11.45am
Wind speed 11.2 knots
Wind direction 061′
Boat Speed 6.8 knots
Distance to the equator 701nm
Distance to Honolulu 1741nm

Again we have wind when we thought we were going to have nothing! Not the greatest of directions but it is wind and it is cooling! With the engine on downstairs is really hot!

Down below deck, a sailor is writing and smiling at the camera. The nav station is behind, with lots of equipment.

We had an interesting night with the main sail going up and down as the wind kept on coming and going. With a easterly swell rolling in, we really need some air in it to prevent the main from flopping from side to side. This can cause damage and we don’t want that!

Wendy, Bex, Amalia and Tash had the wettest watch with a heavy downpour of rain. You either get grumpy or you have a shower; shower option in this heat is always a good option!!

We are hopeless fisherwomen, the big one that snapped the line that we did not even know about until we pulled it in. But, to be fair, we had a bit on with a squall at the time. The next time, bird tried to grab it for lunch… and failed thank goodness!

Now the wind is getting lighter so we are about to change to a bigger head sail and get more speed!


Distance to equator 280.5nm
Wind direction 096′
Wind speed 18.8 knots
Boat speed 10 knots
Distance to Honolulu 1,541nm

Life if like a box of chocolates upstairs! You run the shorts/TShirt programme and you get wet, you run the wet weather jacket and you melt inside. I just nailed it for my 6 hours on this morning with the jacket and what started as dry clean shorts!

As we are reaching, every now and then we get a ‘fire hose’ wave that gets certain positions on the boat and it is never the same twice, so no one is safe. 

With that in mind, getting hatches open is difficult. It acts like a waterfall straight onto the crew personal gear space below! So hatch trimming has come into play with a few misses!

A sailor sits on the floor, working with a toolbox in front.

Belle has hurt her wrist so she is a one armed bandit, which is not ideal as it takes all arms, hands and feet to hang on. We are really trying to give her time to rest as she is a very important part of this team and we need her to recover as quickly as possible- but she has trouble sitting still!

Another sail change to the JT this morning, brought more flying fish. Talking about fishing, none of us should give up our day jobs as sailors and take on fishing, we would go hungry!

A shot from the back of Maiden, 5 sailors looking forwards

Everyone happy on board and the banter is going thick and fast expressly between our watch of the kidletts, (Bex and Courtney), Amalia, Jo and myself, great fun, I haven’t seen Tash for days as she is on the opposite watch to me and even though she is sleeping 5m away it is like ships in the night, hopefully the watches will roll over again and I can share her funny jokes and quick wit. Had 20 mins of catch up with Wendy that didn’t involve the weather or the routing, funny Aussie chick, with great stories.

OK… finally ticking off the miles north and great to see them going down at least 9 miles an hour. There are so many beautiful Islands out here and we have not even seen one yet.