Passage from Galapagos to the Marquesas - March 2012

Day 1

After a no-nonsense check out on Monday 27th Feb, we set off on what is probably going to be the longest sail of our lives!  But with none of the frenetic activity to prepare this time – we had changed/sorted/fixed the few things from the last leg whilst we were in the Galapagos – so it was up with the anchor and off!   Half an hour later we had hooked our dinner – a nice little cero!

This leg is around 3000 miles, but the trick is to get south through the doldrums as efficiently as possible, then it's a left turn into the SE trades and off. After much studying of the grib files we came to the conclusion that we would probably not have any wind for the first 300 or so miles so expected to motor sail south for a couple of days.  Yep we were right!  Whilst motor sailing during the day we saw another fabulous display of bottlenose dolphins leaping high into the air.  The wind came in a bit more at around 9pm so whey hey we sailed for an hour!  Then it died off again until early morning when we were able to set sail (and knock on wood it's still set).  Just as Matt was taking a drink of coffee after breakfast, he jumped up, spilt the coffee but he had seen a blue flash steaming across the water towards the lure!  Sure enough we had hooked a maui maui!


                                Dolphins leaping                                                    Maui maui for dinner

                    24 hour distance:  125 miles.      Position: 02.37.403S  092.12.027W

Day 2

We sailed until just after lunch time when the wind died and we started to motor sail.  Spent most of the day trying to sail but only achieved half an hour now and again until the wind finally went light and ahead. Since our strategy is to average 5k and get to the trades asap, it was engine on again. Fortunately our variable pitch prop lets us motor sail very nicely between 5 – 6 k at around 1300 rpm using around 3 l/hr fuel.  By late afternoon the seas had built and the long swell was broken up by short chop making uncomfortable conditions.  No cetaceans today and no more fish – just a few small Galapagos petrels chasing the lure!  Just as we were changing watch at 2am we had a close encounter with a container ship and once again had to call him up on VHF  to ask clarify which side he would pass us – thank goodness for AIS!  As the wind had died completely and the main was just flapping around, we decided to put a reef in the main and motor sail through the rest of the night.  Glad we did as it was my watch and we had several squalls and rain!  7am this morning we got the sails out and are now sailing at 7 knots on a beam reach with 13 knots of wind but lumpy seas.

                      24 hour distance: 127 miles.  Position: 04.11.096S 093.37.40W

Day 3

Great wind all day and night – only problem is the sea – like being in a giant washing machine so both feeling a bit delicate!  Reefed genoa early in evening.  Had to change course slightly to avoid other sailing boat!  Spoke to him on radio – skipper from Bradford – also heading for Marqueses.  Were adopted by a booby for the day – kept us entertained with his flying skills.  He had taken up residence on the pulpit but when we reefed the main around midnight he must've got scared off by the noise and flapping so we lost him.  Still sailing with heavily reefed main and couple of furls in genoa – and doing around 8.5 to 9 knots!  Desperately hoping to find flatter seas now………..

                      24 hour distance:  223 miles     Position:  S06.51.829 W096.11.590

Day 4

First of all thanks to all of you who have sent greetings – great to know we have so many people watching out for us!  Another quite fast day – still heading in a south westerly direction so we should be well into the trades by now –but where is this illusive fabulous trade wind sailing?  We seem to have found the wind but those lovely rolling swells 19 seconds apart are nowhere to be found.  Another 24 hours in the wash – this time complete with several rinse cycles – yep we've had squalls with torrential rain, thunder and lightning (very, very frightening Galileo…)  We had just had a shower (personal one) when there was a change in the wind and Matt had to pole out the genoa – well all our nice clean, dry clothes got soaked!  If it hadn't have been so turbulent we could have just stood on the aft deck with a bar of soap.  We then spent the rest of the day adjusting the sails to find the best angle for the wind – unfortunately it kept changing so we had to keep altering course. 

                     24 hour distance 188 miles.   Position:  S08.21.163 W098.52.297

Day 5

Still at the launderette!  Sailed 230 deg with reefed main and reefed headsail, beam reaching, port tack all day.  We downloaded a couple of different grib files to try and get a read on the wet squally weather we have been experiencing and concluded that we could avoid most of it if we worked our way to around 9S. This seems to have paid off as we now have relatively constant SE wind few wind shifts and no rain or significant squalls.  Had a fairly bright day with some sun and light cloud cover but seas still turbulent and on the beam so not very comfortable.  Just before dark we put the main away and bore away to 260 deg to try to get the waves behind.  No squalls or rain and fairly steady breeze 15 – 20 knots all night. Overnight count of flying fish caught on deck: 20


                       Salted Flying fish

                            24 hours distance:    178 miles              Position: S08.56.602 W101.42.881

Day 6

Happy Birthday Matt!  Don't want to speak too soon but seem to be on our way out of the laundrette!  Seas much better today - not as confused but still no long interval rolling swells.  Set a heavily reefed main and poled the genoa in the morning and sailed more west to try to line up with the bigger waves, but soon became apparent it was better to broad reach slightly higher.  After lunch headed up a few degrees and reduced the reef in the main, changed the genoa back and sailed on port tack at around 250 degrees for the rest of the day and all night – comfortable and making speeds of around 8 to 9 knots.  Our daily SSB net (controlled by Brian on Darramy still in the Galapagos) now includes several other boats also making their way to the Marqueses.  Brian gave us information yesterday suggesting 4 metre seas from Monday, grib files not quite so pessimistic but we will have to wait and see. Around 1700 last night we had a close encounter with a Chinese fishing boat. We assume he was trawling and could not alter course, so we gybed and tacked round in a big circle and let him pass well clear before continuing on course. Amazing how two boats can randomly converge in such a deserted part of the ocean!  Glorious night with early moon then sky full of stars, lovely milky way – fabulous!  Overnight flying fish on deck count: 6 big ones and a bucket full of tiddlers!


                                                   Bucketful of tiddlers

                      24 hour distance:  194 miles   Position: S09.38.608 W104.51.470

Day 7

Sea and wind continued in same vein as the last few days so stayed on port tack all morning making good progress and setting up for a 200 miles run.  A very pleasant day with some sunshine.  After lunch we bore away a few degrees and sailed downwind goose winged. Doesn't seem to be much in the way of cetaceans around but maybe they're all just lurking below the surface!  First day we've had 2 properly cooked meals - home made soup for lunch and stovies (Matt's favourite for his birthday) for dinner and I even made a loaf of bread – well I didn't really - the breakmaker did – the breadmaker has turned out to be a little smasher – what can I say it's the next best thing to… er… sliced bread!  Good to say I'm feeling back to normal again.  Even had a G&T to celebrate Matt's birthday!  As we began to think about reducing sail for the night and Matt was doing the daily check, he noticed a broken strand on the lower cap shroud so we put the main away completely and just sailed downwind with the poled out genoa for the night.  Very slow and rolly so not very comfortable.  This morning we managed to get a look at the broken end and it seems like it's probably been broken for a while, despite regular checks. Nevertheless we have managed to double up on the lower shroud using ¾” braid between the lower spreader and the bottle screw. We managed to get reasonable tension onto it using a big 1” galvanised bottle screw bought in Panama for just this purpose. We will have to take it a bit easy now and it will probably add a couple of days to get to the Marqueses. We need to start investigating rigging repairs in Tahiti, so anyone out there with ideas or info please email us. We are now sailing again under reefed main and headsail on a course of 245 degrees with sunshine!

                     24 hour distance:  160 miles     Position:  S09.31.205  W107.29.461

Day 8

Once we got sorted out with the rig we set 2 sails again on port tack on a heading of 250 degrees.  Made reasonable speed in the same wind and sea conditions as before.  Brian from Darramy had very kindly emailed us some details of riggers in Tahiti so we spent the afternoon composing emails to them.  It's hilarious – I've just spent the last 12 months trying to speak Spanish and ending up with lots of French words – now when I want to revert to French I can only think of Spanish words!   Needless to say we got there in the end with a little help from Trevor on Malarkey, (they are about 180 miles north east of us), looking up some technical words for us. Must have been a strange radio conversation, with us giving an English word, then a long silence, followed by a phonetically spelled French word, followed by “next, over”. (I have numerous French books and dictionaries back in the UK and never thought to bring any of them!)  Then spent a lovely couple of hours or so taking in the sun on the aft deck just watching the sea pass by!


                                     Repair at sea

Time is a funny thing! We've now travelled 20 degrees longitude from the Galapagos, so put back our clocks an hour at mid-day. (15 degrees = 1 hr).  This means that we keep our watch system and sleep times in line with the sun, but our daily radio schedules back to Darramy in the Galapagos and some other boats on passage change for us, but not for them – if you see what I mean?  We've found that a 5 hour (ish) watch cycle works well for us during the night and if we need to catch up on sleep we do so in the daytime – so far so good.

Just before sunset we poled out the genoa and bore away to a course of 260 degrees. We held this all night and are still on that same course.  The wind has died off a little and with it the speed, however calmer seas and glorious sunshine are making it a more relaxing ride.  So far the big waves which were forecast haven't materialised but we're still seeing around 3.0 metre swells which sometimes appear to be getting longer but periodically break up and result in a more confused chop between the swells.

                          24 hour distance:  179 miles   Position: S09.58.334 W110.24.975

Day 9

Another glorious day – started off with slightly less wind but same seas.  Experimented with sailing on port tack on a slightly more southerly course to achieve higher VMG but the wind was going more east so after lunch we came back to having the genoa poled out and have been sailing goose-winged on a course of around 260 degrees ever since.  Took a roll in the genoa overnight.  Wind and seas much the same this morning.

So this morning we hope to achieve our half way point – having now covered 1550 miles (another 10 to go to half way) – yippee!  Still find it hard to believe we're in the middle of the pacific ocean!  However life just goes on – not much different from sitting at anchor (apart from the constant movement) – honest!

Talking of movement, yesterday I had the bright idea to make a quiche for dinner to use up the rest of the leeks I had bought in the Galapagos.  Made the pastry early and cooked the leeks.  Rolled the pastry out into a fairly deep oven dish and baked it in the microwave (which also browns and bakes).  Mixed up the cream, eggs and cheese and put the whole lot into the pastry case with the leeks.  Into the microwave.  Everything was going swimmingly until we had a great big lunge.  Opened the microwave and yep – everything certainly had gone swimmingly – the custard hadn't had a chance to set before the lunge so we had lovely creamy, cheesy scrambled eggs all over the bottom of the microwave!  Fortunately there was still enough in the pastry case to make the quiche albeit a bit thinner but it still tasted good!              

                         24 hour distance:   178 miles    Position:  S09.52.55 W113.24.78

Day 10

Continued pretty much the same all day yesterday without adjusting the sails (downwind with poled out genoa and slight reef in the main).  Still the same seas and steady wind.  Just shortened sail a bit for the night then back out in the morning.  Have just shaken the reef out of the main as the wind is lighter this morning.

Fortunately it looks like the waves are gradually decreasing too so we never got the threatened 4 metre babies which were promised at the end last week.

Not much doing in the way of wild life - apart from what's on the boat!  We see the occasional bird or flock of birds (usually around 6 or 7) but that's it. ‘Nada mas' or should I now be saying ‘rien d'autre'.  Been practicing a bit of French and doing a bit of ‘kindle-ing'.  Certainly no way I can do any yoga or I'd be in the drink!  Might have to be treated for bed sores when we get there!

                          24 hours distance:  177 miles    Position:  S09.49.06  W116.21.22

Day 11

First of all – if you're reading this Graham – happy birthday – have a great one! 

Things moved on in much the same way as the last couple of days – the wind a wee bit lighter during most of the day and the waves a bit less which made for a very comfortable sail.  Continued with the genoa poled out but reefed more again for the night.  Wind got up in the night and fluctuated around a bit.  This morning we have just taken the genoa off the pole and are now 2 sail reaching on a course of around 255 degrees.

We've been fighting our little enemy Chafe all the way with various pieces of plastic hose located at strategic rub spots. However he popped his ugly head up in a new place yesterday!  The trouble is that it's easy pickings for him when you have the sails in the same position every day.  When we shook the reef out of the main we found little patches of him on the outhaul line. Chafe is unique to settings while broad reaching on port tack due to the angle the line comes out the forward end of the boom, then crosses the base of the kicker. We have obviously never spent much time on this point of sail in the last three years! Good thing we have plenty of plastic hose pipe on board, bought specifically for the purpose.  He's a little devil!  We'll re-new and reroute the outhaul line when we get to the Marquesas.

SSB radio propagation not good this morning.  We have gradually been losing Brian on Darramy as we have gone further west and he is still in the Galapagos - now 1800 miles apart. We're going to try different frequencies and times tonight, The theory is that propagation is best in the evening, night and early morning but that makes it quite awkward with the time differences.  Brian's location in a harbour surrounded by hills and boats does not help at his end. We will see how it goes.  Brian has done a sterling job so far and we are hoping to do the same for him when he leaves the Galapagos.

Not much else to report – I'm at an exiting bit in my book just now so spending a lot of time reading!  Great things these kindles – certainly cuts down on the weight you have to carry around and saves space and you don't even have to turn a page!

                             24 hour distance:  183 miles      Position: S09.41.37 W119.25.56

Day 12

Congratulations to Sue & David on your first wedding anniversary.  It doesn't seem like a year since we saw you in the San Blas (and it won't be that long until we see you in New Zealand!)  Have a great weekend.

And was it just yesterday I said that those big waves which had been forecast never really materialised?  Knew I should have kept shtuum – last night the seas grew and we had quite a rolly night – it's still like that – we seem to get a series of big waves followed by a series of not so big waves.  However the boat has handled them very well so far and as we're going directly down wind it's not too uncomfortable.  Unfortunately there are bigger waves forecast again for the next couple of days.  Matt reckons it's now psychological – we have got to not think about the rolliness and just get on with it!  Which is fine when you don't have to cook – I can see a few of those tins coming out of the cupboard tonight for dinner!

So after a pretty speedy day and night we are still sailing goose-winged on a course of around 260 degrees in 20 knots true wind.  We did try coming up a bit for a while yesterday on a 2 sail reach but it wasn't that comfortable so we put the genoa back out on the pole.

We've gone through another 15 degrees of longitude so have put our clocks back another hour.  We're now GMT -8 hours.  Makes it more difficult to chat on SSB with the other boats on passage behind us at different time zones.  Gets quite confusing when I'm working out my daily mileage total but there again I'm very easily confused.

Shower day today!  That should be fun.  We have a ‘trap-door' on the aft deck which we open – the steps are in there so we can sit in the well and have a shower quite comfortably and safely.  That's OK now when it's warm but I can't imagine sitting there in the buff on the way down to New Zealand!

                           24 hour distance:   198 miles   Position:      S09.47.503 W122.46.148

Day 13

Glorious days sailing – despite the big waves, the sea seemed to settle down a bit more during the day to give a smoother ride.  Blue sky, sun shine and zinging along in 20 knots of wind at speeds between 7 and 11 knots!  Stayed with the same sail plan all day – goose winged on a course of around 260 degrees.  Same during the night.

As the dawn broke this morning, I was sitting in the cockpit thinking that the seas had calmed down and got themselves more organised – wonderful.  Then the sun rose and the wind got up and the waves with it – we're currently bowling down the waves with around 25 to 30 knots of wind!  The grib files do say the wind and waves will start to diminish a bit today so you never know I might eventually get some work done on our February website!

We managed to have a great chat on SSB with Brian and Sue on Darramy last night – 2200 miles apart on a frequency of 6 MHz. 

As we now have around 755 miles to go – whoopee – we have been looking at the choice of islands we have when we arrive in the Marquesas.  We are supposed to go to one of the three official entry ports where there is a ‘Gendarmerie National'. However the group lie in a windward to leeward pattern, making it logical to stop at the most windward first – Fatu Hiva. Unfortunately this is not a port of entry. Our friends, Bob and Elaine on Pippestrelle who crossed the pacific last year, also told us that the Fatu Hiva is not to be missed so we are currently planning on making land fall there.  Besides all that, the write up for the Hiva Oa anchorage  (with Gendarmerie National), doesn't sound great (rolly) for an extended rest – for goodness sake can you imagine being in a rolly anchorage after spending 3 weeks in this lot!!!  The other factor is that there are 40 boats in the world arc about a week behind us, who are going to Hiva Oa, so another good reason to delay our arrival there.

For those not impressed (Matt included) with our inability to hit 200 miles for a second day, bear in mind we are running goose winged dead down wind, with zero current assistance.

                        24 hour distance:  196 miles   Position: S10.08.250 W126.02.592 

Day 14

The wind (20 knots plus from ESE) and sea once again continued in the same vein for much of the morning so once again we spent the day with the same sail plan.  As it was Sunday we decided to take a day off and sit in the cockpit reading (for a change!)  Very pleasant it was too.

The wind started to die off a bit later in the day and stayed “relatively” light throughout the night but we still had the big waves so a bit rolly.  Sometimes we look at the sea and it really does seem as if it's more organised then other times………..

I haven't talked about the nights yet and we have had some really lovely ones.  We had a full moon a few days ago which keeps everything bright but now it's up later so we can see the stars in all their glory.  We can identify quite clearly up ahead of us  Venus and Jupiter shining brightly early in the night and in the south, the Southern Cross at the end of the Milky Way with the Plough appearing out to the north later in the night  – quite a spectacular sky – we could do with Patrick Moore to tell us what's what though!  It's very peaceful sitting in the cockpit with just the sound of the waves sloshing along and watching the black contours of the seas from horizon to horizon with the foam lighting up with bio-luminescence.  Last night was probably one of the most peaceful with not too much wind. We've been doing a 5 hour watch system in the night which seems to work well for us on this leg. We met a tanker at 10.00 last night who came within 0.5m. Although we had him on AIS and Radar he did not respond on VHF, but did take action to avoid us. This was the first ship not to engage in a friendly chat.

                          24 hour distance:   184 miles    Position: S10.23.880 W129.06.783

Day 15

A comparatively quiet day – slightly smaller waves and wind.  In fact quite a lot less wind.  Stayed goose-winged as in the previous days on a course of 250 degrees with 12 – 13 knots true wind from ESE.  Matt went up to re-attach the sail protector on the spreader, which he had previously removed when he was sorting out the strengthening for the shroud.   I got the photos sorted out for the February web page and will hopefully do more work on that over the next couple of days.


                Taking aerosol measurements on a bumpy sea

As the wind backed - or is it veered in the southern hemisphere? - we bore away to 240 and stayed on the same gybe all night running dead down wind and then, after checking the grib files for the wind direction over the next 48 hours, at 7 this morning we gybed.  Well actually the gybe was from 7 – 8 am!  A gybe on this boat is a major manoeuvre especially with all the preventers, anti chafe stuff and sheer size of the pole, which has to come inside the staysail.   Another very pleasant night star gazing!  Now sailing on a course of 265 degrees with round 12 knots of true wind from the ENE.

                    24 hour distance: 164 miles   Position:  S10.33.22 W131.50.142

Day 16

Hard work all day to keep the boat going – very light winds – only making between 4 and 6 knots.  The wind died off more in the night and at around 4am we had a rain squall after which the wind died completely and we were just floundering around with sails banging and going nowhere fast.  So I'm afraid the iron jib went on and we slowly motor sailed for around 3 hours.   The wind then came in from the north and we were able to sail for an hour before it dropped off again.  The grib files show very little wind all the way to the Marquesas.  Very frustrating as we only have 275 miles to go.

Well at least the rain washed the decks a bit – they are so full of salt and fish scales it's like the floor of a fish and chip shop!

                  24 hour distance: 137 miles   Position:  S10.39.495 W134.07.561

Day 17

Well it was one of those days!  No wind – null, nada, rien de tout, nothing!  So we motor-sailed.  We tried various tactics to see if we could make the boat go faster but all to no avail.  I got the February page done for the website to upload when (and if) we find wifi.  Matt studied the grib files closely and concluded that the wind should come in around early evening.  So he set up the pole and the spinnaker lines ready to get out the beast once we had wind.  The good thing is that the choppy waves have gone and we now left with a rolling swell.

About half an hour later, the clouds came over and we got wind – but from the opposite direction to where we were expecting it.  We set the main sail but couldn't get the genoa out because of the spinnaker pole.  It then poured with rain so we went out and scrubbed away all the remaining fish scales and blood!  Half an hour later and the wind was still coming from the same direction so Matt changed the pole over and we got the genoa poled out.  So far so good.

An hour or so later the wind died again.  Genoa was flapping around but as we went to roll it in we noticed it had jammed in the rear block and stripped the sheath off.  Fortunately we had a couple of spare lines so were able to rig up another sheet for the genoa.  However the large (very expensive) block was bent.  Matt had a go at getting it back into shape using a G clamp and in the process that broke in half so was thrown overboard!

The wind finally picked back up and we sailed on a 2 sail reach then goose winged with the autopilot set to steer to wind. We were going great at 7-8 knots but it was pitch dark by now and although we could see nothing, it was obvious we were on the edge of a large cloud system which was gradually pulling the boat round onto a more southerly heading. We were going great but in the wrong direction!  At around 11.30pm we decided to gybe. That put us nicely right on course for Hiva Oa making reasonable and comfortable progress on a beam reach.  The wind died off again at around 3am so the iron jib went on and is still on.

                    24 hour distance:129 miles  position:  S10.31.91 W136.13.15

Day 18

After motor sailing through the night we were pretty determined not to have to continue with the engine all day.  The sea was flat with just long rolling waves.  The grib files were showing the wind coming up later in the day.  So despite the lack of wind, Matt once again rigged the pole for the spinnaker.  In dong so the bell housing fitting broke – disaster – that's the 2 nd time it had broken.  But fortunately the last time it broke, Matt was able to engineer a patch and we had bought a spare one.  Once the spare was fitted we were ready to go.


                                                    Matt playing with the spinnaker

When we thought the wind was getting up a bit we decided to get the beast out the bag.  We had spent time in the Galapagos untwisting and re-stringing the spinnaker inside the sock – thank goodness we did.  Anyway up it went in all it's glory!  Came out of the sock without too much hassle.   But there was a distinct lack of wind so the pole was lowered, raised, the guy brought back, put forward, the sheet in and out with limited success – we could not get the thing to fly nicely, but it was pulling!  A very frustrating morning but we kept it up and were doing around 3.5 to 4 knots.  It was mid afternoon before the wind filled and the beast was tamed!  After that it was great – very comfortable and very quiet, ghosting along at 7 knots plus with about the same apparent wind.  We decided to keep it up all night but both stayed in the cockpit and did 2 hour watches. We were lucky – it was another star-lit night and the beast didn't really need that much attention throughout the night.  At 5.30am we had a bit of a squall with the wind going ahead and reaching 20 knots – we were haring along at 10 knots but a bit worried that we wouldn't be able to get the beast down if the wind got up any more as we had no main sail to hide it behind.  Fortunately there was a slight drop in the wind, so a quick bear away and we got it down – it behaved very well and went quietly into it's sock!  It's now stowed away in the locker and we're on a 2 sail reach on starboard tack doing 8 knots.  As we got all the lines sorted we finally looked up and low and behold there was land. The high mountains of Fata Hive to the south west, Tahuata and Hiva Ou to the west. – 6.30am on our 19th day!  Fantastic.  Only 33 miles to go.

                         24 hour distance:139 miles   Position: S09.58.769 W138.28.589


Friday 16 th  March, 11.45 local time, 3091.9 miles, 18 days and 5 hours – yep we're here on the island of Hiva Oa, Les Isles Marquisis, French Polynesia.  Had great wind for the rest of this morning and sailed right up to the island.  Overall a very good passage, in reasonable time and despite the seas, not too uncomfortable.  Although the seas not being what we expected and a couple of frustrating days of very light winds, we both enjoyed it and were very pleased with the performance and comfort of the boat.  Hiva Oa looks very lush, green, prosperous and clean – looking forward to stretching our legs and walking to the village later.  5 more boats in the small anchorage behind a breakwater. 

                        Position: S09.48.2332 W139.01.875


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