South Pacific Passage – Day 1

Miles traveled last 24 hours: 111
Miles traveled to date: 111
Miles to Hiva Oa: 3,033

It’s very very slow going out here. Actually, we’re basically drifting with the current watching the spinnaker fill and drop about every 4 seconds. The good news is the current is 1-2 knots and in our favor. And the better news is that there is wind south of here – it’s just going to take a few days to get to it. Our current plan is to drift and sail as best we can during the day and then motor slowly at night. Last night we got incredibly lucky and had 12 knots of wind on our aft port quarter and sailed along with a spectacular full moon until about 3:00 am. We’re hoping for the same tonight.

Not much else to report yet. We’re both actually feeling pretty good for our first day on passage. I made some banana bread this morning to have for breakfast this week, and some Phad Thai for lunch/dinner this afternoon. Maya is bored already and does not like the noises of the sails when we roll with the swell and they bang around.

Oh but the best news is that our insurance was approved by the German company that Hello World uses and Soupsie is taking care of the money transfer to Germany to keep us insured for this season. Thanks Soupsie. No fishing report yet. Rob has tons of new lures he’s been making and got some great advice from the guy who was the guru in Panama this season. But no joy so far. Maya and I are both hoping for a strike soon.

That’s all for today.


Where Did That Wind Come From?

Miles traveled last 24 hours: 99
Miles traveled to date: 210
Miles to Hiva Oa: 2,937

Shortly after I posted yesterday’s blog the wind filled in enough to keep the spinnaker full. Then at dusk it settled in to a nice 8 knots, which with a spinnaker up and on our beam gave us about 3.5 to 4 knots (including the current) all night. The swell was down significantly and the motion of the boat gave us both the best night’s sleep we’ve ever had on passage. It was absolutely magical on watch with the full moon and clear skies as we slipped through the water with that big sail pulling us along.

This morning the wind piped up and by the time Rob woke up for his 8:00 watch I had turned us downwind because we were screaming along too fast to keep the wind on our beam. It was up to 14 knots true, which is about out limit for the spinnaker while we’re out cruising. I know our friends we used to race boats with are thinking we’ve gone soft, but remember that this is our home and we’re very interested in keeping it all intact. Besides, we’re a long long way from a hospital if either of us gets hurt trying to get an out of control sail down in too much wind.

Now we’re still plodding along making 5 knots with about 10 knots of wind, which doesn’t show on any of the forecasts we’re getting. But we won’t complain, that’s for sure. We’re heading more south than southwest, trying to get into something resembling tradewinds, so once we hit steadily stronger winds we’ll turn west.

We will haven’t hooked any fish yet, so tomorrow morning Rob is going to put the lures out when he comes off watch at 5:00 am. I hesitate to while he’s sleeping but they don’t bite as much mid day so he’s willing to wake up to land one if that tactic helps. Maya got a big helping of hamburger I was cooking up for some lasagne today so she’s willing to wait another day for fresh fish.


That Math Just Doesn’t Work

Miles traveled last 24 hours: 100
Miles traveled to date: 310
Miles to Hiva Oa: 2,853

No, I haven’t completely forgotten how to do math. Sadly, just because we went 100 miles yesterday does not mean our miles to the Marquesas is 100 miles less than it was yesterday. We’re not actually even pointing towards our destination yet, and last night at one time I swear we were heading for Peru. We’re still going south to hunt for wind. But we’ve been exceptionally lucky so far and have only burned 16 gallons of fuel to get this 310 miles.

We had our spinnaker up from 11:00 am on the 9th to 10:00 this morning. But, sailing with a spinnaker in light wind and swelly ocean limits your maneuverability quite a bit. Last night the winds were really really light so I had to stay on a beam reach to keep it full. And the winds just kept shifting north as they lightened up. But moving that huge sail to the other side of the boat so we can change course requires two people, and I just couldn’t bring myself to wake Rob up to do that. So we lost our current boost (the current is running east to west down here, thankfully) and didn’t make very many miles.

Overnight the clouds settled in, so this morning we dropped the sail and motored a bit to get through some huge areas of rain. We’re not sure down here yet how much wind these squalls may have in them, and we didn’t want to learn the hard way that it’s alot. We were hoping on the other side of the band of rain there would be better wind, but the opposite happened and now we’ve got only 3 knots so we’re still motoring.

On the net this morning when Axel checked in he reported 8 knots of wind from the southeast, which is exactly what we’re looking for. OK, we’re looking for more than 8, but we’re waiting for it to turn to the southeast. They were about 100 miles ahead of us at that point, which happens to be about a day’s travel right now. So we’re heading that way watching for it to turn from the northeast to the southeast where it belongs.

The good news is that on the forecast I pulled up this morning it shows that in 72 hours there are 15 knots of southeasterlies all the way from where we’ll be to the Marquesas. So we’ll just keep plugging along to get down to there and find it, then hope it stays that way for a while.

This morning I had to figure out what to do with all the bananas that became ripe at the same time. Silly me, I thought I could find some interesting recipes that used bananas, but there seem to be only three things you can ever do with bananas. Banana bread (already done that), banana cake (too sweet sounding) and bananas flambe (not going to light a plate of rum on fire in the boat). But I did discover that I can just mash and freeze them and still make banana bread later. In the next couple of days the pears will all be ripe and I’m not finding much in the way of pear recipes either. Guess we’ve got a bunch of pears to eat today and tomorrow.


Where Did That Come From?

Miles traveled last 24 hours: 117
Miles traveled to date: 427
Miles to Hiva Oa: 2,741

The wind never did fill in from a constant direction yesterday and the seas were huge and confused (meaning big swells from lots of directions), so we decided to motor through the day and into last night hoping to get out of whatever we were in. The evening reports on the net weren’t too positive from the boats south of us so we kept on motoring. And then the rain started.

When we were in the rainy season in Central America it would absolutely pour, but just for a little while. Even in the ITCZ the squalls usually rained themselves out in a half hour or so. Not down here. It poured and poured for hours last night. And this morning when I came on watch at 6:00 am it was pouring again like here was where all the water on the planet came down from the skies. At 8:00 on the net Axel reported again that it was not any better south of us, so we just kept on motoring through the rain.

Suddenly the wind picked up and was blowing 25, then 30. We were in a monster storm cell and the winds and rain were huge. This was definitely not on the forecast charts! It howled for about 30 minutes and we were finally out of it. Eventually the winds quit getting sucked into the big squally areas and have settled down to the southeasterlies we’ve been looking for. They were 15 for a while, which is perfect, but now they’re down to 8 knots. We’ve got the jib out on a pole and the main prevented to keep it still, but with the residual swells from the squalls it’s rolly and noisy out here. Hopefully the wind will pick back up a bit and the seas will settle. But at least the engine is off again and we’re making 3.5 knots mostly in the direction we want to go.

Maya’s in the kitchen trying to figure out what the little flying fish is about. There were several of them on the decks this morning, so I got a little 3″ one and Rob even cleaned it for her! She’s been gnawing on it and bapping it about for 15 minutes now. Last night at one point Rob was on watch in the cockpit and one flew right into his lap.


Yohelah is here

Found The Wind!

Miles traveled last 24 hours: 117
Miles traveled to date: 544
Miles to Hiva Oa: 2,583

We slogged along all day yesterday listening to the sails slat and making about 3 knots. It was tiring, that’s for sure. Then after we listened to the net at 5:00 we realized the wind really wasn’t that far south of us, so we decided to roll up the jib and motor south for a while.

At 8:30 I woke up to hear Rob rolling the jib back out and turning off the motor. We had 17 knots from the east and that put us on a course directly for the Marquesas! The wind filled in enough that our friends on Carina, who are about 150 miles north of us also reported wind on this morning’s net. So now it finally feels like we’re on our way.

So far we’ve had few equipment issues. When we had the spinnaker up for 2 days it was on the other side from where the halyard hangs, so it was laying over the top of the roller furling. Unfortunately I didn’t tighten up the halyard when I jibed it over and it was chafing. Luckily we dropped it before it chafed through, but it was only another day from parting and sending our chute into the drink. We also had a reefing line for the mainsail chafe through at the end that ties the sail to the boom at 4:00 one morning when Rob was on watch. That’s also a minor problem since it was at the end of the line. One thing we do know for sure, though, is that you can never have too many bow shackles onboard. I wish we had another dozen right now.

And I wish I had another can of baking powder. Rats. No more beer bread, because it uses a bunch of baking powder.


Fishies From Heaven

Miles traveled last 24 hours: 132
Miles traveled to date: 676
Miles to Hiva Oa: 2,454

Last night about 7:00 Maya came out into the cockpit and found a flying fish in the cockpit well. After bapping it around a bit she decided it was a worthy snack and brought it downstairs to bap some more and then eat. Then she came back looking for more and couldn’t understand why there weren’t more to be had there. About midnight one flew up onto the aft corner of the side deck and she smelled it from inside the boat and was up to fetch it immediately. But it was a pretty big one so I pitched it back in and she went back downstairs.

This morning when Rob woke me at 5:00 he turned on the light above the nav station and found Maya on the seat with a live squid! She had no idea what to do with the thing and we didn’t really want squid guts (and ink?) all over the inside of the boat so Rob tossed it out. The funny thing is she hadn’t been outside in over an hour so she didn’t bring it into the boat. Our overhead hatch was open and it must have hopped up onto the boat and fallen in. I’ve found squid on the top of the house before so I know they’ll get that far.

Normal people with outdoor cats have to worry about the cats bringing home rats or birds. On our boat, Maya now expects free flying fish and squid to appear from heaven.


The first week of our Marquesas passage

I’ll leave the mileage count and math to Teresa, just a few thoughts on our first week.

We left the Galapagos with fuel tanks bulging and jerry cans topped up – enough fuel to motor 600 miles of the 3100+ to the Marquesas. Sailing around the equator is never a joy since there are no steady winds there, in fact it’s traditionally an area of light winds. We listened with interest to the ‘nets’ on the SSB everyday, listening to each boat check in with their location and wind information. Teresa religiously downloaded the ‘grib’ files of wind information from NOAA for the area we would be traveling. As we left it looked like the best course to wind was to the southwest, so off we went expecting three days of motoring to get to wind. Leaving the same day were friends on the ‘Hello World’ and ‘Carina’.

We sailed most of the first day in local winds around the islands and over the course of the next few days managed to motor very little. We ran the spinnaker in relatively light winds and flat seas for two days, making much needed time south toward the trade winds. The problem with sailing into the trades is a little physics lesson in wind and waves. A 15-18 knot trade wind will produce 6-8 foot seas. When the trades die off toward the north, they do so rather abruptly. Unfortunately, the 6-8 foot seas continue for a very long time. Traveling south in search of the trades it was inevitable that we would have to pass through an area of light winds and big seas. We expected uncomfortable and slow, and it was. Fortunately the trades did us a favor and moved north, reducing our time rolling and pitching uncomfortably.

So here we are on our eighth day and one third of the way there. Expecting to sail the rest of the way, we’ve used 26 gallons of diesel and have 100 left so fuel shouldn’t be a problem as long as the trade winds hold. The sailing has been fabulous. There’s nothing better than sailing along at night under a full moon, sky full of stars, and the wake of the boat glowing in the dark water. Night or day, the flying fish leap from the water in large schools and flee over the waves as our boat approaches. On the rare occasion we’ve seen schools of over a hundred flying fish skimming the waves, rivalling any flock of birds for synchronous flight. Maya has discovered that flying fish make a dandy midnight snack and regularly visits the cockpit at night looking a few. They land on deck and in the cockpit regularly so she is rarely disappointed. A few nights ago a fairly large squid landed on the top of the house, dropping inside the open hatch. I found Maya and it, playing on a cushion. If Maya has a religion, it’s based on seafood falling from the sky in the dark hours of the night.

The fishing has been OK. I had doubts about fishing in 6-8 foot wind waves but the presence of so many flying fish encouraged us to try. Something must be eating them and I doubt if they lose weight when the wind is up. So far we’ve hooked two Dorado, one got away but the other was lucky enough to catch a ride on the boat! This morning we hooked something mid-sized that escaped halfway to the boat. When I pulled the lure up it looked like it had lost a fight with a razor knife.

The boat is doing well. A half day out of the Galapagos the electric auto pilot lost it’s little mind and didn’t know which way was north. It still worked to the wind and now seems to follow a course without wandering, it’s just 150 degrees off or so. A little problem with the compass module, I’ll leave it alone unless it gets worse, especially since the Monitor wind vane is doing the steering now. Aside from a few chafe problems Teresa has mentioned everything else is good with Yohelah.

This is our longest passage to date, both for distance and days. We’re both settled into our routines on board and feel rested and happy. Of course, on any passage the impatience grows as the destination gets closer so we’ll see if it exceeds the usual single day of ‘wishing we were there’ after a 25-30 day passage. There’s always Valium.


Quick Update

Miles traveled Day 7: 129
Miles traveled Day 8: 146
Miles traveled to date: 951
Miles to Hiva Oa: 2,184

Well we’ve definitely settled into a routine here after 8 days at sea. The tradewinds seem to be sticking and we’re rocketing along pretty well (6.2 knots at the moment as I look at the GPS). We roll quite a bit and cooking is a major challenge, but rest assured we’re not going to wither away. I just can’t let my hand off of anything in the galley even for a second. Every dish and container has to be on non-skid and leaned up against a rail. Today’s dinner is courtesy of our hunter-gatherer who landed a lovely little dorado yesterday, so it’ll be fish tacos. Yummy.

I’ve made a little chart for myself of how many days to landfall if we’re doing 5 knots and how many if we’re doing 6, which I look at probably a little more than I should. It’s a lovely passage so far, but it’s just tiring. And we’re so excited to be getting to the Marquesas. Right now we’re doing pretty well managing 6 knots and Brit emailed this morning that they’ve picked up another knot of current (they’re probably 400 miles ahead of us by now), so we could speed up a bit. But at 6 knots we’re 15 days out at this point.


Yohelah is here

Now We’re Flying

Miles traveled Day 9: 135
Miles traveled Day 10: 145
Miles traveled to date: 1,236
Miles to Hiva Oa: 1,906

The wind picked up this morning and before I came off watch at 8:00 we took the jib off the pole and reefed it a bit. For the non-sailors reading this, the pole is our 22′ carbon fiber spinnaker pole that holds the corner of the sail out. We use it when we’re sailing deep downwind and the winds are lighter and/or the seas are big and rolly. Without the pole the sail will collapse, refill and pop back open every time we fall off a wave, which is frequent in these big seas. The pole keeps the sail in place to help us maintain speed, and minimizes wear and tear on the sail. Reefing is the action of rolling in the sail a bit to reduce sail area, which slows down the boat, makes a more comfortable ride, and also reduces wear and tear on the sails and rigging.

We’ve also picked up more favorable current. Before we reefed up we were making 8 knots, which is astoundingly fast for our little boat downwind. Now with the sails both reefed in 20 knots of wind we’re averaging 6.5 to 7 knots. No more need for the part of my mileage chart that says how many days to go if we’re making 5 knots. I’ve made one for 7 knots and it says we’re 11.5 days out. Likely it’ll be 13 more days.

Today’s food lesson has to do with eggs. I bought 4 dozen before we left Wreck Bay and keep them in plastic egg containers in the stove. I have read that with eggs you have to turn them frequently or the yolks will stick to one side of the shell. I had no idea it would happen this fast. I tried to fry eggs for breakfast this morning and they came out of the shell scrambled. But just for the record, I don’t need any scrambled egg recipes. I love my friends and family for sending pear and banana recipes, but I’ll make do with the scrambled eggs!

And while we’re keeping track of things, Rob’s book count is 7 books read in 10 days. Not too bad. Luckily he’s got another 60 or so to keep him occupied.


166 Mile Day

Miles traveled Day 11: 166
Miles traveled to date: 1,400
Miles to Hiva Oa: 1,748

Wow, 166 miles in one day. For us that’s astounding. If the seas weren’t so huge and it was a flatter ride it would be nice, but it’s great to be ticking off the miles so quickly. At night we turn the boat downwind a bit and put the waves behind us a little more to make a slower and calmer ride. This morning I turned us upwind to a beam reach because we had diverged from our course quite a bit and right now we’re taking the waves much more foreward of aft than is comfortable. But we should converge with our course late this afternoon and we’ll turn back down again.

Yesterday while we were still going deep downwind we got totally pooped in the cockpit. The wave that broke into the back of the cockpit was so big that it got the underside of the bimini wet. The bimini is high enough that I can stand up straight on the seats, so it’s 5’4″+ above the cockpit seats. Luckily the wave didn’t get into the inside of the boat, but it was quite a surprise for both of us. Buoyweather forecasts these seas (12′-20′) to last through tomorrow, but hopefully they’ll subside sooner.

Tomorrow afternoon we should hit the halfway mark distance-wise. But given our significant increase in boat speed compared to the first four days when we were drifting along, we should now be well past the halfway mark time-wise. I won’t look at the chart again, but I know that 1700 miles at 7 knots is 10 days. But I’m not looking!

Rob landed another Dorado last night just before dark. I was going to deep fry some of it tonite but it’s a little too bouncy for a hot pan of oil to be on the stove, even with the gimbals. It’ll just be pan fried fresh mahi for dinner again; oh what a pity.