21 Days at Sea- Galapagos to the Marquesas

Day 1, June 6th: 

We departed Isla Isobella, Galapagos at 1000 under grey skies, threatening rain and a big swell building outside the calm of the lagoon. We motored out and clear of the head land before setting sail, as we would have spent a lot of time tacking to get clear of the lava reef that fringes the island if we hadn’t.  Sally and Gordo, a young Aussie couple on a catamaran “Morning of the Earth”, came over last night for sun downers and snacks. We’ve spent a fair bit of time with them since seeing them in Isla del Coco so it was a nice fair well. We hope to catch up with them in the Marquesas.  Sal brought us some lovely Banana Date muffins for breakfast, a nice treat since I did not get a chance to bake.  With a favorable current we were making 8kts, the wind held through the night and we made over 150nm, a great way to start the trip.

Day 2, June 7th:

Quite overcast until 1000 when the sun finally broke through. We’ve had a heavy dew these last few nights, settling around dusk and soaking everything making it necessary to drag out the wet weather gear already.  We made water this morning.  The wind decreased throughout the day until we were drifting, all sails down, at dinner time.  We spent the night adrift but still making a knot or two due to current and the early morning hours with a small bit of jib up trying to get a little steerage to quiet the boat rolling and clanking in the 2m swell. Steve reported that the GPS stopped working around 2100, the light is still flashing but no communications with the plotter, will address the problem in the morning.  For now we are doing hourly checks with the hand held GPS, still going in the right direction so not too worried. Well over 2500 mile to go, we’ll figure something out. 

Day 3, June 8th:

A beautiful sunny morning but we both awoke tired and a little disappointed to have equipment failure this early in the trip, especially since we just spent a thousand dollars getting the plotter/radar fixed while in Panama.  However, by 1100 Steve had us back on line.  He had removed the GSP unit from atop the radar mount, not an easy task but didn’t involve stand on my shoulders as threatened.  He found a chaffed wire, reconnected everything a PRESTO!, up and running.  Wish everything could be such an “easy” fix.  We made over 20nm last night drifting around in the current, not too bad, and the wind came up after we fixed the GPS so we were making 7.5kt again by lunch time.  We both managed to catch up on a little lost sleep this afternoon, which was good because my 2200-0200 watch was spent adrift again.  We are trying to get a little further south to find the trades and some consistent wind.  We had chicken lasagna for dinner, delicious.

Day 4, June 9th:

I awoke to a beautiful sunrise behind us and fair winds off the port beam.  The breeze that kicked up at 0200 last night continued and strengthened throughout the day, the seas stayed calm and we made 8kts most of the afternoon and evening. Lots of storm petrels flitting about, swooping and reeling in the breeze, the smaller ones hovering low and almost appearing to walk on water.  Lots of flying fish but only one strike on the line, a small yellow fin tuna that I threw back.  They really seem to like the green and yellow feather lure, a gift from Kim.  The bananas and plantains are quickly ripening and all the tomatoes are turning red already- time to start refrigerating the produce.  We had veggie sandwiches on fresh bannock for lunch trying to eat all the ripe avocados.
* Steve calculates we covered 193nm in 24 hours, our best day yet.

Day 5, June 10th:

The phosphorescence has been so green and bright these last few nights and tonight we were treated to a fabulous dolphin show as we changed watches at 0200.  I thought I had heard some snorts and puffs during my watch but it is hard to hear over the noise of the surf when we are making 7-8kts. Then suddenly there appeared 6-8 dolphins racing about, playing in the wake and waves, trailing streams of sparkling green as they darted around Kate.  We both went up and sat on the bow for a while watching as they played in the bow wave.  They are incredibly fast and agile keeping up with us was not a problem.  We got bored before they left.  I am surprised this is the first time we’ve seen them considering our boat speed the last few days.  I think we’ve both adjusted to the sleep patterns, we often spend 15 minutes or more chatting and catching up as we change watch.  Everything is going well.

Day 6, June 11th:

Well, we found that wind we went south looking for.  After we passed 5 degrees we had a lovely few days, calm seas and 12-15kt winds.  Now the wind has increased.  We hoved-to to cook lunch this afternoon but I still had to sit on the floor and chop veggies with a pairing knife, I think we both just needed a hot meal.  We reefed the main just before 1700, easier to shake it out then tuck it in after dark, and furled some of the head sail away as the winds crept up, the seas increased and a light squalls continued through the night.  With seas and wind aft of beam the boat is riding well in the 20-25kt winds with 30-35kt squalls and 3M seas.   Our wind generator logged a 24amp output in a breeze this afternoon!! We are still logging 7-8kts SOG (speed over ground) but it is rather loud and rolly down below, so much for being caught up on sleep.  We are still both in good spirits and drinking hot tea by the pot full.  I am listening to the SSB net daily, sounds like we’ll have a few more days of this weather.

* Had some troubles with the bilge pumps tonight. I got off watch at 1800 and stood making tea and warming up by the stove. I had just checked the bilges, a little water but same as always. Before the tea was ready I felt something splashing under the floor boards. When I opened an inspection hatch I found the water level had risen considerably in just a few short minutes.  Somehow, possibly due to the heel of the boat and size of the seas, a siphon was created, when Steve took the hose off the bilge pump water just poured in.  I started pumping with the manual pump as Steve figured out what to do.   He disconnected both bilge pumps connecting the hose end to end.  Any water that enters is caught in a loop and should just flow back out.  I continued to pump with the manual pump then used the shop vac to finish the job, a little easier on the arms.  Rigged up the dingy pump and a hose so we can pump the bilges easily and efficiently when needed.

Day 7, June 12th:

The last few nights have been quiet strange, clear skies and stars one minute, overcast and 30kt light rain squalls the next.  It has been quiet chilly at night and with the rain we are in full foulies.  I definitely look forward to the end of my watch when I can crawl below and into the nice warm bunk on the sofa.  Unfortunately our gear isn’t really drying so you step back into damp clothes to sit watch again. This morning on watch I had blue skies behind us, rain squalls and limited visibility from port to starboard and a big double rainbow directly in front of me!!  The winds have abated a little, lots of patches of blue sky and the seas have calmed as well.  I did the dishes and washed my hair in the cockpit this morning in the sun, it was overcast again by Steve’s watch, the grey skies held through the day.

Day 8, June 13th:

Looked like it was going to be another day just like the last four, gusty and grey, then the band of clear skies on the southern horizon began moving north and by 1000 it was clear skies and moderate winds.  The seas have laid down a little, the boat riding much flatter, so we rolled out a little more head sail (still have the main reefed) and remembered why we love to sail!  Made water this morning, and I made bannock and hung some damp things out to dry- how quickly a little sunshine will change the mood on board.  Still making 7-8kts and Steve reported seeing 10.9kts surfing down a wave last night.  Not fishing yet, a catch up and relax day.  Heard from Sal and Gordo, they left Isabella 4 days after us, the race is on.  Weather closed in and picked up again by dusk.

Day 9, June 14th:

Just as I went down to sleep last night the wind piped up again and we had a bumpy night of squalls and +30kts winds.  Neither of us had much pep in our step today, but we are making excellent time, especially since we realized it day 9 not day 10; 1680nm to go.  We are averaging 180nm a day but are thoroughly over the snaky seas and getting soaked by the more than occasional wave slopping into the cockpit.  Steve seems to get the worst of it copping a face full or one right down the back just as he comes on watch.  Needless to say we are a little salty and damp these days.

Day 10, June 15th:

The blue skies can’t seem to win for more than a few hours before the wispy grey clouds fill the sky again.  The sails are still reefed, although we were tempted to shake the main this afternoon, it was a good thing we didn’t, the winds increased again at night, keeping me awake and Steve “30 knot” Hertik wet and busy on deck dealing with more squalls.  Thankfully it was short lived and the rest of the night was cloud filled by relatively calm.  I rigged a couple splash guards in the cockpit with the old binnacle cover and some line this afternoon.  A large one on the port side and a smaller on in front of the outboard on starboard, what a difference.  Although the big waves splash over the top the majority of water is deflected. I hadn’t really had a good sized wave to test them before Steve came up on deck to take a look.  Just as he turned his back we were broad sided by a large swell, he was drenched from the opposite side of the boat, I remained rather dry in the cockpit!  We expect to pass the half way mark late tonight, day 10, so we will start making bets on our arrival date.  Winds closer to the Marquesas are being reported 10-15 kts; maybe we’ll finally be able to shake the reef out of the main.  The SPOT stopped a few days ago I am sending daily position reports via text from our sat phone to my brother, Thomas.  The GPS drops out occasionally, not being able to find enough satellites to triangulate our position and speed. I guess with no one out here they don’t feel it necessary to have a satellite over head at all times. 

Day 11, June 16th:

Finally a clear and starry night, the southern cross on the port side and the big dipper on the starboard.  Lots of meteorites. We had a cloudless sunrise and a bright blue sky day; it’s been well over a week since we’ve had weather this nice.  Steve put a rod out this afternoon and hooked a big bull Dorado that jumped a few times before getting away!!  The cockpit cushions have finally had a chance to dry so we could sit on them and enjoy a beer and watch the sunset-what luxury!  I have surprised myself by cooking a hot dinner everyday, saving the meals in the freezer for some really bad weather.  Standing over a hot stove underway always use to make me queasy but I am having no problems these days, besides keeping the pots on the stove with their contents in them that is.  I have suffered a few big bruised on my bum from being tossed around down below trying to keep dinner off the floor, inevitably I have a sharp knife or a hot pot in my hands when we roll.  The fresh veggies are lasting well; surprising considered nothing has been refrigerated for over 2 week now.  I just put the last of the tomatoes in the fridge hoping to have enough to last the rest of the trip.  The self rising flour we found in the Galapagos is turning out yummy bannock; hopefully tomorrow it will be calm enough to making something a little sweet to eat.

Day 12, June 17th:

A strange and confused sky this morning-odd stacks of rapid forming clouds that vanish in the wind as soon as they take shape.  We tried to pole out the head sail but the seas were to steep and it banged around too much.  We shook out the reef so we could fly only the main and try and gain a little ground to the north, we’ve been unable to steer our rhumb line for days now.  A sudden squall and a 40 degree wind shift caused an accidental gybe- what a horrid noise.  The gybe easy slipped out of the chalks; thankfully we only broke a block on the main sheet traveler.  As I was replacing it and Steve was driving we surfed down a wave and saw 12.4kts SOG! As I was on the lee side I got a little wet, much to Steve’s amusement. The starboard tack was very uncomfortable in the following seas, so after we disturbed everything below decks we gybed again.  A little squiggly but much better back on the port tack.  Running more downwind and under the main only we are able to steer 260-270T and continue westward without losing ground to the south.

Day 13, June 18th:

A busy morning.   I took advantage of the sunny skies and relatively calm sees to do a load of laundry before Steve got up.  Everything we’ve been wearing lately is stiff with salt and therefore always damp.  I was hoping to get away with it until we dropped anchor but the laundry hamper is getting a little funky.  I can only wash a few shirts and a couple pairs of shorts at a time because we have very limited drying room in the cockpit, and even then a rogue wave now and then threatens to undo all your hard work.  I made bannock and a chocolate banana bread this morning as well as a batch of beans for a crappy night when I can’t be bothered to dance with our little stove, while Steve made water filling our two 6 gallon drinking jugs the shower bag and putting 20gl in the tanks.  We both indulged in shower and sat in the sunshine and enjoyed a lunchtime beer together.  Still only doing 6kts but a much better COG (course over ground). I estimate that by sunrise tomorrow we should pass the 2/3 mark and have just under 970 miles to go- not bad for 13 days underway.  We crossed 120* longitude so set the clocks back another hour so that sunrise and sunset is again at 0600 and 1800. We put the rod out today but no bites.

Day 14, June 19th:

We rolled past 1000nm early this morning and by Steve’s watch were over 2/3 of our mileage (still technically day 13 as we departed at 1000).  We gybed this morning to head more north and make up a little latitude as we don’t get caught too far south when the winds come around more to the ENE closer to Hive Oa.  There is no good bunk on the stb tack and so I ended up on the floor again but really neither of us got any rest this afternoon.  Steve trolled the big guns and reeled in a nice 1 meter long Dorado around 1300.  As I surprise for him while he was off watch I decided to give my hand at butchering the fish so he wouldn’t have to get up early and do it before dinner.  I know you’re supposed to say that you “cleaned” or “filleted” a fish but I didn’t do anything of the sort.  I butchered the thing, covering myself and the cockpit in fish slime while at it.  And I didn’t so very well on surprising Steve either as he was kept up by my antics, amused at the faces I was making while trying to peel the skin off the fish laying the cockpit floor while the boat squiggled and rolled.  Boy does he make it look easy!  The nice step by step diagrammed instructions in the guide book are a little deceiving as well.  But I persevered and managed to get some nice steaks despite my hacking and swearing.  However, try as I might I just couldn’t eat any come dinner time- it just tasted like fish smell.  I feel bad for Steve’s efforts in the galley.

Day 15, June 20th:

Another clear day with lighter winds today.  We are still doing at least 6kts and making 120-150 miles a day, our estimated goal, but it seems so slow after our week of sevens and eights.  Steve managed an hour of wing on wing this morning before the swell got the best of it and made it impossible to hold out the head sail and/or gybe.  Neither of us are sleeping much during the day and I can’t seem to get to bed before 1900-by the time dinner is done and cleaned up-so we are both getting a little weary.  This downwind leg is a little rolly with the added weight of the boom all the way to starboard.  Just when you get settled it seems we get a set roll though and you are practically rolled out of the bunk.  I am still finding fish scales everywhere, fortunately the smell has worn off my hands- nothing a lot of scrubbing, a half a bottle of cheap vanilla and a little time won’t get rid of.  Putting the fishing rod away until we have eaten our way through this one, the freezer is still quiet full.  Concocted some yummy fish cakes for dinner, I could have had seconds!  Also made a Marmalade Tea Cake with some of the marmalade I made in Isabella that didn’t set, very tasty.

Day 16, June 21st:

Today is brought to you by the letters W-E-T and the number 1. 

Started out with rain and gusty winds and me in the cockpit holding on and getting wet, but at least it was fresh water.  Steve got up a little early and handed me out a hot bowl of oatmeal and the last mug of Milo to take the chill off, just what I needed.  By noon it was clear skies again but the wind died and we had a rolly afternoon.  The solar panels are being shadowed by the main and the wind generator and radar dome as our course is pointing us westward.  We started turning the fridge and freezer off for a few hours at night to compensate and keep up with the power hungry instruments and running lights.  Hopefully a full day of sun tomorrow will catch us up, if not it might be generator time.  We are still getting wet by the occasional wave and this afternoon we got one from both sides and me with the galley hatch open a crack while cooking dinner- Opps!  A big bright waxing moon is all but outshining the stars at night, setting just as I finish watch at 0200.  It is so bright it almost interrupts sleep.  It should be full by the time we get to Hive Oa making a night approach no problem.  Now if the wind would fill in we’d be set.  The GPS went bonkers this afternoon, we were doing 37kt SOG for a while-those silly satellites again, I should have gotten a photo.  I am looking forward to a full night sleep again; figure it might come before settled seas and consistent winds.  It is the first day of summer back home.

Day 17, June 22nd:

We gybed around 1000 this morning, put the main away and are sailing on only the head sail slightly furled, on a COG of 300T.  We were pushed too far south last night and need to make up some ground.   We decided to stay on the starboard tack all day and through the night.  It is a little tiresome as I can’t sleep in the port side bunk and after 2-3hours of playing musical bunks I finally fell asleep on the floor wedged between the freezer and the engine compartment trying not to slip under the table.  We made water this morning as the tanks went empty as I was having a shower, but of course, and we are drinking lots too.  Lots of flying fish on deck this morning but neither of us are interested in eating them so  they just get tossed back into the sea.  The starboard tack is also rather splashy so although it was a nice sunny day both we and the cockpit are rather damp.  Less than 500nm to go but it is starting to feel like we may never get there.  Hopefully when we gybe back around in the morning we’ll pick up some speed and make up some ground.

Day 18, June 23rd:

Gybed back to port and almost directly onto our course this morning. The sea is much more comfortable and the boat fairly flat so we both got a little sleep today, which is good because we were starting to get a little cranky at each other.  Clear skies all day, the winds a little lighter than preferred but keeping us moving and in the right direction.  350 miles to the waypoint.  I am looking forward to getting the boat back together and cleaned up: salt from our gear and selves has migrated through out the boat and our paw prints from trying to stay vertical are everywhere.  With the ports closed everything is a bit stuffy and the head has a faint aroma of out house about it; the salt water toilet is smelly anyway but ours doesn’t flush great on a port tack.  The constant motion-bracing, contracting, steadying-even when sleeping is exhausting.  And we rarely get a full 4 hours sleep even if it is calm as it is usually the habit to wake every hour to know everything is alright before falling asleep with one ear open again.  Any change in sea or wind direction usually wakes me.  We are both suffering from tired legs and sore backs.

Day 19, June 24th:

Started seeing frigate birds a few days ago. Their ominous angular shapes so black against the sky.  A few gulls and some petrels too. Land birds.  Other than that one night seeing dolphins there has been nothing but flying fish to keep us company out here.  Hooked a small mahi this afternoon, too small to keep, and our first sail fish, 3-4 feet long, which I brought up to the boat but he spat the hook before we got a picture.  I lost my favorite hat from Costa Rica hat in the process. It would be nice to catch another mahi before Hiva Oa as there is rumours of ciguatera there and in the Tutamotus, our dingy fishing trips might be catch and release.  Maybe tomorrow I will try dragging a pink squid; everyone seems to have luck with those. The nights are getting warmer, which is strange as we are further south than the Galapagos, but we are now able to sit our watches in shirt sleeves instead of jackets.  Steve suffered with a bad headache today probably caused by sleeping funny, wedged in and trying not to fall out of the bunk.  With the head sail poled out we ride a little flat, with no apparent heel the bunk feels a little precarious, every time we roll off a wave you feel like you’ll roll off the bed.  If we are this stiff and sore out here I wonder what the rest, the majority being 20+ years our senior, are feeling like.  I am glad we are doing this while we are young and able.  But then again, it seems out here with age come luxury, or is that with youth comes the willingness to do without.

Day 20, June 25th:

The moon set this morning at 0600, almost full.  Passed 135* so we turned the clocks back another hour, GMT-9. Light winds most of the day may have foiled our plans to arrive tomorrow-possible one more day at sea.  Trolled a pink lure today and caught a small mahi-threw it back, enough for a couple meals but not necessary.  Spent most of the day reading and looking at guide books and charts formulating a plan for our time in Marquesas and the Tutamotus.  Now that we are almost finished the passage we are able to think about our destination. Sounds like most boats have gone to Fatu Hiva, despite it being illegal as it is not a check in port, so we figure we’ll spend a few days in Hiva Oa then head down the Fatu Hiva, potentially missing the rush coming up to Hiva Oa to check in.  There are lots of interesting spots to anchor on the north of Hiva Oa, lots of archeological sites here.  The Marquesas are also known for wood and mother of pearl carvings, and some very famous singers and dancers.  Other than by boat the Marquesas are reputed to be very difficult to reach, the flights from Tahiti very expensive, so we are looking forward to some secluded and beautiful anchorages.  Hopefully we’ll catch a supply ship in Hiva Oa or Niku Hiva getting some fresh veg to last a few weeks so we don’t have to rush about.  Also looking forward to some new cuisine and experimenting with bread fruit.

Day 21, June 26th:

Said famously by Phil Collins “Just One More Night”.  The wind decided after 20 days that it had enough blowing and took a break.  We were making 4 kts around noon so still didn’t run the engine, no point when it won’t get us their much faster and just makes a lot of noise.  By night fall the 8kts of breeze was all but struggling to keep us moving forward and we spent the early hours of the morning trying to keep the small, poled out head sail from flogging, but still moving forward…and on course.  With any luck we’ll reach the anchorage in the morning.  We had a partial lunar eclipse last night around 0200 change of watch, Steve said it became half covered before reversing.  Wondering if it has anything to do with the predicted full solar eclipse that will be visible in the Tutamotus on the 11th of July?  In the calm we enjoyed a spectacular sunset over a beer in the cockpit.  We hooked another little mahi at dusk just as we were pulling in the lines.  I stayed up an extra hour as we chatted and enjoyed each others company; it was a really lovely evening.  It was a little disappointing not to have arrived today but spent a nice relaxing day savoured our time at sea despite of it.  After months of rushing around it is nice to finally be able to relax and enjoy just getting there.  However it will be nice to unpack the boat a little tomorrow-not too much if we are beating to windward going to Fatu Hiva- but enough to dig out the coffee pot and put the toilet seat back on (our only catastrophic equipment failure, we broke the hinges on the toilet seat day 2 and have had none since, it slides off while heeled!). Heard from “Morning of the Earth” they’ll make to Fatu Hiva by dark.

Day 22 (but technically we arrive after 21 days at sea as we departed Isabella late morning), June 27th:

Day break brought a LAND HO! The island of Hiva Oa rising sharply from the ocean as a shadow on the horizon.  Steve made us delicious sausage and egg McBannocks and a pot of tea to celebrate.  After spending the night practically adrift we finally relented and 15 miles out sparked up the engine and motored for a few hours, charged the batteries and made water as we inflated the dingy and cleaned up a bit. We pulled in to Tahaukaa Bay and dropped the anchor with the rest of the boats, more than we expected, and then set a stern anchor to keep us into the swell. 

It was nice to stop but we both agree that it was the nicest passage we’ve had and some the best sailing we’ve done since we bought the boat two years ago.  We could easily have kept on sailing.  Kate performed beyond our expectations and Larry (the self steering vane) was finally happy to have miles and miles of sea and good winds.  They make quiet a pair!  We’ve run into a few boats we know and heard that there were lots damage reported: dismasting, rudders broken, wind vanes damaged, forestays broken.  I guess we got off easy.  I put a bottle of Champagne in the fridge, have had it on board for a while now, but we are both too tired to enjoy it, so instead had a couple beers and curled up on the bunk to watch a movie and fall asleep.  It rained through out the evening, rinsing the salt away and cooling the air.  We’ll head to town in the morning and check in with Gendarme and check out the town.  It is slowly sinking in that we are here, still a little hard to believe. Steve fondly remembers when he first said he wanted to buy a boat and sail home, I declared “You want to cross that BIG ocean in a LITTLE boat?!” And now we’ve done it, well the biggest open ocean passage anyway. Who would have thought I would end up here, doing this: 3000 miles in 21 days across that BIG ocean in our OWN little boat.