Galapagos to Marquesas 3200nm

Sorry no photos with this blog, 2G internet in Nuku Hiva.

Thursday 15th March 2018 was our last day in Galapagos and  we had to check out with customs and immigration. We met with our agent Javier at 9am and the process went smoothly and by 9:30 we were in the market buying fresh produce. After a final provision we caught our last water taxi back to KS. The fresh food was rinsed in sterile water dried and stored. We finally slipped anchor from Academy bay Galapagos at 14:30. We motored out of the beautiful harbour and began our longest journey so far 3200nm to Marquesas. After 2 hours we hoisted the sails and carried reefed main and full geona on a beat overnight (reefing the genoa for balance later. The wind was very light but we were making ground of 3-4kts so has a peaceful 1st overnight sail. The slight spoiler was that after spotting a dense raincloud on radar and taking avoiding action at 23:30 it caught up with us and although no wind increased it rained heavily for 2 hours.

Friday 16th March arrived and in the morning, we shook out the reef and dried out the kit as the sun came out. Prior to leaving Galapagos we had joined a group of  sailors who were crossing the pacific at similar times,  give or take a week. A yacht called Magic arranged for us all to email each other each morning with a brief summary of wind, distance, speed and any problems encountered. We had also arranged to speak using SSB radio to friends John and Stella on Exocet Strike. All these communications gave us a little more comfort as we crossed the world’s largest ocean. We managed a brief chat on SSB with the Panama net but was unable to get any response from Exocet Strike or Mad Monkey although we are in daily email contact. We saw a large pod of pilot whales, about 20  but they were not too close. We sailed and motored, as the wind went light, for most of the day then took down the sails to motor overnight. We encountered 5 fishing vessels with no AIS on but they did have good lights this just shows the importance of a good watch system and not relying solely on AIS alarms.

Sat 17t as we swapped shifts at 04:00 Geoff mentioned hearing an animal following us, we can usually hear the blow as they breath out, but as I was concentrating on missing the last of the fishing vessels I did not notice until 06:30 that is was a sea lion jumping and swimming around KS. We had motored a lot of the night to get through to ITCZ but as the sun came up we switched off the engine and hoisted the sails for a slow drift/sail, conserving fuel as much as possible. It was this reduction in speed that gave the sealion an opportunity to jump on the sugar scoop for a rest. We considered our back steps to be too vertical for the sea lion so were happy for him to sit on the scoop. But within 5 mins there he was, Sammy (we name everything), sitting then laying on the back deck. He was looking tired, so we thought if he stays there it will give him a short respite stop. Oh no he wanted more space and had his eye on the cockpit, this was a step too far for skipper Geoff who encouraged him back with a broom. He wasn’t a happy Sammy and barked a lot but did finally retreat to the back step and into the sea again. He was determined to stay with us and came back on board at least 6 more times but we fixed a couple of fenders to stop him getting on deck that he spent time trying to nudge and bite them out of the way and did puncture one. He became a permanent feature for the rest of the day if we slowed down he would jump on if we were going faster he swam alongside jumping and twisting. Then about 16:00 we noticed he had gone. We were sad to see our entertainment go but also was not looking forward to fending off a barking sealion in the darkness of the night. We managed to sail until 21:00 when our forward motion was no longer apparent so on went the engine again.

Sunday 18th March the wind increased overnight and at 3am we hoisted the sails. Rain accompanied the wind and it rained heavily for 3hours. We did switch the radar on to check for any escape paths, but we were literally surrounded. Once the rain did stop the heat of the sun dried all the decks and we continued with our program of systematically re-caulking KS. This is replacing the grippy black stuff on the teak decks that over years has been knocked out or as we had noticed recently started to melt in the heat due to age degradation. We sailed all day and marked in the log that we had now completed 8000miles since leaving Portsmouth 24th June 2017. By the time we reach the Marquesas’ we should have achieved 10000.

Monday 19th March dawned and once again we had an even wetter night with a mixture of wind strength and direction. We sailed and motored 50/50. The days have settled into a routine. After SSB and email check in we do any essential boat work.

Tuesday 20th sailed overnight with reef main and genoa in very wet conditions. We always check the decks and visually check the rig and we now daily throwback squid and flying fish. Orion has lost reef line 1 due to chaff so checked our sheets all OK, we received lovely emails from home. It is great to keep in touch and up to date with life in UK. The wind has finally gone more SE, so we moved the boom off centre and put a retainer on.  The wind was now on the beam and a we were sailing well SOG (speed over the ground) 5.6kts. we were joined by a juvenile bird that flew around us caught a flying fish and then just sat on the pull pit overnight and was to with us for days, finally going on Thursday 29th. We spent Good Friday cleaning the poop off the deck.

Day 7 at sea 21st March, we had had a good overnight sail, no rain , no boat just a bird on the bow. Managed to speak with both John and the Panama net today, there is life out there. Due to the problems encountered by Greg and Jane on Orion we shortened our reefing line one and jib sheets to move the wear point, although there was no evidence of chaff.

Day 8 at sea 22nd march 2018 we started the night making good down wind progress but at 3am the wind dropped and our speed was halved to SOG 3kts. We were unable to contact Exocet strike or panama net today so instead we fired up the generator ran the water maker and we had a shower. It felt like luxury and made me feel human again. We had run out of fresh bread so although we have plenty of wraps it was time for me to try bread making again. I followed the instructions of the bread mix but it came out like a brick. We still ate it as we had no other and a bit of salted butter makes anything taste good. The wind did gradually stabilise but it was a slow day.

Day 9 at sea 23rd March 2018 as I woke ready for my 8am radio net Geoff was excited to show me a ship. An enormous cargo ship was not only spotted on AIS but visible on the horizon 5 miles away. The ship was called Eco Future, 336m x60m and destination Uruguay.

As this blog shows the days became routine, and Geoff loves a routine, coffee, emails, breakfast, SSB, rest, boat work, plot fix, lunch, rest, boat work, coffee & cake/biscuit, Tetras (high score 99000) pointless, reef sails, dinner, popmaster and trivia quiz, coffee (and single small chocolate) and night watch patterns start.

As we have moved west we have not adjusted our watches but have adjusted our eat sleep and watch times according to the sun rise and sun set. When we left Galapagos, it was dark at 18:30, as we approach Nuku Hiva the sun sets at 21:30. In fact they are 9.5 hours behind GMT (10.5hrs behind BST) Keeping the same time reference makes log keeping and emailing simpler.

Some of the boat work has been

  • Daily rig check for loose shackles and chaff etc and to remove flying fish and squid from the decks that didn’t quite make the leap over KS bow.
  • Deep clean small areas at a time as the lack of air circulation and dampness can lead to the start of mildew forming.
  • We made some fly nets for the overhead hatches. We have been advised that a fly called the no no (not a razor ladies!) has a particularly bad bite.
  • Remove old deck caulking and replace with new.
  • We researched French Polynesia entry requirement and ensured all medication and alcohol is listed.
  • We run the generator every other day to top up the batteries and to run the watermaker without concern of draining the batteries. Especially important as there is reportedly no good portable water supply in Nuku Hiva. We have managed to keep consumption to approx. 15 liters a day.
  • Check engine fuel and oil

The internet and SSB communications proved to be priceless for one boat in our convoy call Vata. On the 24th we received an email that said in the night he suddenly lost all steerage. On investigation his rudder had ‘torn clean off the rudder post’. They tried a rudder out of plywood but eventually used a man made drogue to steer with just a small genoa up. Through the power of the internet a very kind and helpful catamaran 47ft called Element  caught up with them and towed them 600miles  Hiva Oa under sail. Amazing.

On Monday 26th March (day 12 at sea) we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. What more can a girl ask for, 1500nm from land in all directions, on a boat that is never flat, a shower every 4 days, and no more than 3 hours sleep. We did have a G&T and opened a can of our precious tinned curry and hope cebrate a little more traditionally in Nuku Hiva.

Over the next days we were joined by pods of dolphins, one enormous pod stayed with us for over 3 hours just jumping and riding our bow wave. We received emails that our friends in Exocet strike and Orion had arrived in Nuku Hiva on Friday 30/3 and Saturday 31/3. We still had a week to go.

On Saturday 7th April at 20:45  we spotted land for the first time in 24 days. We had decided to slow KS down as we did not want to arrive at an unknown anchorage in the dark. We finally sailed into the bay of Taiohae at 08:00 Nuku Hiva time on Sunday 8th April 2018.  We were greeted by loud cheers from Exocet Strike and Orion. As it was Sunday we were unable to check in with immigration and customs until Monday. We dropped anchor, called Matt Jo and my mum, had a compulsory arrival beer (it was 7pm in the UK) and celebrated our longest, 3200nm and 23 days 21 hours and 40mins, double handed leg across the worlds largest ocean to an island that promised to be a true island paradise.

We were invited to afternoon drinks on Orion to celebrate all our achievements. We are 3 yachts with only husband and wives on board, I think Geoff and I are the youngest, we all felt rather smug as we exchanged tales of the Pacific crossings.