Saturday, 4 July 2015

Galapagos to Marquesa

Galapagos to Marquesa 4 March to 31 March

This is the longest part of the entire journey at just over 3000 miles across the Pacific. The early part of the journey was expected to be in light winds until we got down to 6 degrees South and then we would pick up the trade winds to go almost due West to the Marquesa Islands, heading for Hiva Oa as our first stop. On board were John, Catherine, Martin and Chris.

And We are Off

First three days were very light winds and we were only doing 4 knots or so but decided not to motor to conserve fuel for later in the journey if needed. We caught two Tuna on the second day and as it was so calm we BBQ’d on the back of the boat.

On day 4, just as it was getting dark there was a loud bang as the shackle on the genoa halyard broke dumping the sail into the water. It was still attached to the front stay and was dragging the sail alongside the boat.  It took the four of us half an hour to get the sail back on the boat and secured with ropes to the stanchions – nothing else to be done that night. The halyard itself was at the top of the mast and could only be retrieved by going up the mast.

So I steeled myself for using the spare halyard to go up the mast and retrieve the original genoa halyard with the broken shackle. We had to wait 24 hours before the waves were calm enough to even consider it and I was not looking forward to it. A slight movement at deck level translates into a big movement at the top of the mast and a much faster motion so you get flung from side to side. I wore as much padding as I could before going up and clung onto the mast for dear life to avoid being swung from side to side. Apart from dropping the tools halfway up and having to get them attached to a line to be sent up to me, it went quite smoothly. I was only slightly bruised after my adventure up the mast and it was great relief when I got down and we had the halyard. An hour later the sail was back up and we were on course again.

Martin with the Mark II Lure
Next day we caught a Mahi Mahi which was to be our last of the trip. We (aka Martin) lost all our  lures on route with either fish snapping the line or catching a fish and a bigger fish taking our fish and snapping the line. Martin decided that he would make some lures - Mark 1 was made out of tin foil which did not fool any of the fish and so Martin set work on Mark II with the finger of a rubber glove, some rubber gas hose and a fish hook.  It looked the part from our point of view, but the fish did not agree. It was not for the want of trying that we did not catch anything, Martin was up each day with the fishing line convinced that we would be having fish for dinner. The rest of the crew just got on cooking what we had planned with the occasional innocent question “have you caught anything Martin?”  Not sure who was more fed up with the question, us or Martin. 

 Apart from a few squalls that hit us during the second week during the night (and they always come at night) the wind was perfect and the sea reasonably calm for the most part. A few nights cooking was a challenge because of the waves but that was only a few nights.

First 1500 Miles was fast

We completed the first 1500 miles in 11 days which given the slow start and the problems with the genoa was much better than expected. The wind was good until we reached 1200 miles to go when it started to fade and our daily mileage fell from 135 miles per day to around 60 at the worst point. The sea was very calm and we were doing between 1 and 2 knots under sail supplemented by the engine to charge the batteries and give us some forward motion. However, we could not afford to motor for long as we needed a good reserve to run the generator each day until we arrived. And at the speed we were doing with no end in sight to the calm weather it was going to take us another 3-4 weeks to get there on top of the 2 weeks we had already spent at sea. Food and fuel were both a concern but not critical.

In the third week to add to our lack of wind, the freezer defrosted when we got an airlock in the cooling system. It meant that all the meat we had needed to be cooked and we were not sure if the freezer had permanently given up or was just overwhelmed by the heat and lack of cooling water. It was Catherine who found the airlock and fortunately once it was cleared the freezer started to cool down again but it took 3 days to get back to freezing point. This meant that we could cook all the meat and re-freeze it. If nothing else it gave us something to do to take our minds off the lack of wind.

Next day we decided to go for a swim in the Pacific, in 3900 metres of water. It was with some trepidation therefore that we jumped in and swam round the boat. It was surprisingly warm and very clear although there was no sign of any life but you could hear the faint noise of the Jaws theme music in your head!

Our swim around the boat highlighted how much growth we had picked up on the hull in the Galapagos islands.  It was the worst I have ever seen with growth of ½ inch all over the boat which was slowing the boat by at least ¾ of a knot. The next day we went back into the water, with Chis in the dinghy and me snorkelling along the other side. Half an hour convinced of the folly of what we were trying to do – even the slight swell meant I was bashed against the boat and the barnacles continually which was painful. Chris had no luck in the dingy as the growth was well and truly attached to the underside. In conversation with some of the other boats, it was clear they had the same problem and one other had also tried to swim round the boat and clean it off but to no avail.

With 1000 miles to go, we reckoned we were 9 days away assuming the wind picked up moderately. For the next 4 mornings we looked at the mileage completed during the last 24 hours, the mileage left to go and recalculated the expected arrival date. Everyday the answer was still another 9 days left to go despite an having spent another day at sea - the wind seemed bent on reducing day on day and our mileage decreased similarly.  After 7 days, we finally got 10 knots of breeze and were making a heady 4 knots of speed – almost 100 miles per day. We decided we could live with that and we could see the end in sight, even if it was still 7 days left!

During our Voyage, Chris, Martin and I had a beard growing contest. Apart from anything it was something to do (or rather not do) and none of us had grown a beard before. Chris looked more like a terrorist and Martin was not too impressed with his effort. So after three weeks Martin and Chris shaved off the beard and looked human again. I decided to keep the beard to give me that lived in look.


Team Cribbage

During the light winds we were able to play cards on deck and so we played team cribbage. Martin and myself against Catherine and Chris. We played a rubber each night before dinner and it was highly competitive. Curiously Martin and I kept winning. Curiously because Martin would miss most of the points in his hand when adding up his score which meant he made decisions on which cards to keep based on what he thought the value of the points were. He always seemed to have the highest points in each hand, regularly scoring 15+ points which made the games very short. No-one was sure how he achieved this so consistently!

The Final Few Days

The wind picked up for a few days but then back to 10-12 knots and we were at back at less than 5 knots of boat speed and we were all feeling that we just wanted to get there. Food was getting pretty tight with no vegetables or salad left and it was a case of what to do with the mostly cooked chicken that was in the freezer that had been part cooked after the de-frosting incident. During the light winds it was incredibly hot on board the boat which made sleeping fitful and everyone fairly listless during the day. Needing to change the sails or sort out a problem was welcome as it meant we could rally round something. Otherwise we spent a lot of time reading.

We each spent 3 hours on watch on our own so that we only had to do one watch each night. It was the time when you could read, look at the stars and just enjoy being alone at night in the ocean and everyone agreed that it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the journey.

Nearly There

We were about 20 miles away with land in sight when a squall hit us just as we were going between two islands at night. Winds came up to 30 knots and headed us straight for one of the islands and with the genoa goose winged with the pole up it took three of us to reef the sails and get the boat back under control.  A good wake up call before we got into Hiva Oa.

We arrived at 4am into the bay we were due to stay but could not enter the anchorage because it was too dark and the anchorage too tight. So we anchored outside and decided we would have our first beer for 26 days. The next morning we were rewarded with a lovely setting which in the midst and rain (our first for months) still looked stunning.

We were all up early to get up the anchor and find a spot to anchor in the bay. Windlass failed after a few minutes and we ended up hauling the anchor up by hand – or rather Chris and Martin did. Thirty minutes later we anchored and we could relax.

We are 4000 miles into the Pacific with the French Polynesia Islands to explore over the next 6 weeks. We start in the Marquesa Islands and then onto the Tuamotu group of Islands (Atolls which are sparsely populated) before finishing in Raiatea on 10 May.

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